Let’s focus on what’s important: Britney’s comeback

There are a handful of things dominating people’s thoughts in America right now, such as the election, the economy….and Britney Spears’ comeback. Yes, it’s true.

If you’re like me and don’t have a radio handy, you’d have read about it before you heard it. It’s called Womanizer. And, if you’re also like me in the fact that despite yourself you see if the song is any good or not, you were able to hear it and/or download it for free and/or just went ahead and paid the .99 cents on iTunes or wherever else.

The thing is, it’s catchy. I don’t know if it’s as good as my remix version of Gimme More, which I’ve played a few hundred times (okay fine, I made a ringtone out of it, too) but it’s still fun on a very base level. Can someone please find a better opening to a song than, “It’s Britney bitch”? I propose you cannot. But this time around, she’s gone back to acting in a dominatrix kinda way.

One could even go so far as to call the video “Toxic 2.” If you didn’t see the video for Toxic, I have no idea what rock you lived under back in 2004. I was abroad in Paris at the time it hit its peak and Parisians were just as obsessed with it as Americans. All my guy friends immensely enjoyed seeing her in her nude skin suit adorned with sparkly stuff in all the appropriate places.

Womanizer shows her stark naked in a steam room, oiled up to perfection. I’m only the twenty-nine billionth blog to report on this. What’s that? You haven’t managed to see it yet? Here (double click on it to get it to open in a new window or if it keeps saying it’s unavailable paste this into your browser http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbvadq2hY0s:

If Dana Carvey were still on SNL, we could expect a fantastic skit about the salaciousness of that video from Church Lady. But is anybody actually really protesting Womanizer’s existence? Being a divorcee with two children, Britney hardly has to worry about being an aspiring role model. She has more freedom now to do whatever the hell she wants than she ever did. It’s like when Madonna put out her Sex book. There was a bit of an uproar at first but for the most part, people were like, “Yeah, so?” Does anybody even talk about that book when they talk about Madonna? No. Someone’s all, “Remember that?” and people either go, “Oh yeah…” or “Not really but whatevs.”

But back to the video. Who wouldn’t want to look that good while writhing around naked like that? The other scenes depict her yanking some guy around by his tie (I guess it could be a phallic symbol) and having her way with him at the office, in a restaurant, in a limo, at home…I guess it all culminates at the spa or in the shower or something wet like that.

There’s no real “plotline” driving the video. We’re just taken back to classic Britney parading around in as little as she can get away with, seducing us with her electronically enhanced vocals and other girlie parts. Hey, it’s a formula and it works. She’s back in shape again, effectively helping to eradicate our memories of the 2007 VMAs.

I think most intelligent people get that as much as Britney preaches about her being able to spot a love-’em-and-leave-’em player and she’s going to take the wheel in THIS clandestine “relationship”, thank you very much, her real life is nothing like that. She lost control of her kids, has outstanding driving incidents to clean up and her mental stability is still TBD.

Remember the rumor that she was bipolar? That got hushed up super quick, didn’t it? I don’t think we need to go so far as to socially diganose her as bipolar but who wouldn’t have a mental breakdown after living a life as she’s led for over a decade? I think anybody would crack and shave their head. By the way, favorite line of the song? “You say I’m crazy….I got your crazy…” Doesn’t that say it all?

Is it more normal to rise to superstardom at 15, get married to a Vanilla Ice wannabe and have two children in rapid succession (and then a divorce almost immediately after) or have one’s first child at the tender age of 16, as did her younger sister? Good job, Lynne Spears.

The breakdown moment.

I digress.

Britney’s doing what any other star who’s had a major (and I mean, major) downfall in the eyes of the world – she’s picking herself back up and doing what she’s always done best. Even if her best is just dishing out halfassed written songs and the real miracle is the production team who makes her sound like she’s “singing,” it grabs hold of a large part of the population. And she’s making millions off of it. Not many people can make that kind of money regularly, much less a “comeback.”

Diehard fans are creaming their pants at her return (and people, she’s only 26, we have at least three more comebacks to endure), anticipating with foaming mouths her next album Circus. I won’t even tease with a possible concert tour <gasp>.

Then there are people like me. Just regular old gals who aren’t strongly for or against her. I don’t loathe her like I do Paris Hilton, which I’m aware is bizarre and contradictory. I download the song anyway and nod my head and sing along. I watch the video with eyebrows raised. I realize my dollar contributes to her millions. But I can’t do more than just shrug my shoulders about it. I get a catchy song out of the deal to listen to while I go to work in the mornings. Hell, my roommate and I just watched it twice over the weekend. I’m just saying.

Hey, in a time when the country is quite literally falling apart around us, it’s nice to have something to distract us. Perhaps Britney should be hailed as a political hero for keeping our brains occupied for three minutes and forty-three seconds and off of gagalicious Sarah Palin. At least Britney has a catchy beat…and of course her goodies out there for all to ogle at.

That’s right, I ended on a preposition. It’s Zoe, bitch.

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If you don’t know what Tremors is, you’re insulting Kevin Bacon

What has lots of humor, giant man-eating worms, blatant sexual tension AND stars Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire? I know, right? You’re thinking, too good to be true. But in case you weren’t big on films in the early 90s, you missed out on one of the greatest, now-cult-classic films of all time: Tremors.

As I said to my roommate the last time I watched it, it’s kind of like Jaws but it’s about bigass, wormlike creatures under the ground. Just when you thought it was safe to walk around outside…. Even the movie poster looks reminiscent of Jaws, see? For the record, they don’t have giant, nasty teeth like that. But it sure is scary looking.

Some of you might be thinking, are you kidding? But I’m not. I have probably seen this film anywhere from 40-100  times. Somewhere in there. It’s a lot. I can recite dialogue easily. That’s why writing this post will be so facile and enjoyable. It’s straight from the heart and my memory.

If it weren’t for the sarcastic jokes among the characters about what a fucked up situation they have found themselves in, this movie would take itself too seriously and it would have failed miserably. However, the constant banter between Valentine McKee (Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Ward) drives the movie forward with more force than the actual plotline of giant graboids trying to stubbornly get at and swallow each and every one of them.

The other character that simply cannot be missed is that of Michael Gross’s Burt Gummer, an anti-government, warloving, gun toting survivalist (and probably conspiracy theorist). Gross throws himself into his character with a gusto that almost overshadows Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward – almost. But the duo manages to keep the spotlight on them as the main protagonists and thus the audience in stitches.

Then, if you go ahead and watch Tremors II (I cannot in good conscience put my endorsement behind III or IV), you will discover that they expounded on the fact that these creatures are “smart” and they evolve quickly. So it would make sense if the Graboids (dubbed so by Walter Chang, right before he’s eaten alive in his own store) would go where there was slightly more population, even if it was just invading a giant cattle ranch. We can’t really understand why they’d prefer the laborious chase of going after people over less intelligent animals. Perhaps it’s the ultimate thrill for them and they feel deserving of their meal after they’ve managed to suck down a human. We can’t really be sure.

And it begs to be asked after you’ve seen the movie as many times as I have, but: why don’t the graboids move on to another town instead of just waiting out the deaths of 14 people? The town of Perfection, Nevada shows its population to be 14 at the beginning but it easily loses a handful up front before we get to the main crew desperately trying to stay alive.

We just know that the graboids are dumb enough to get killed (spoiler alert!) by running full speed into a concrete aqueduct and taking the bait of a lit homemade bomb. The other one gets shot up by Burt and his wife (McEntire), since their entire rec room is one big wall of guns and ammo. It’s not to be missed. And the last, most “intelligent” graboid, who manages to avoid getting shot or blown up? They trick it into careening through a cliff wall and falling to its death where the filmmakers give us the glorious money shot of its guts and blood exploding out of its gigantic, carnivorous body. The movie is not for those who can’t stand a little gore, I’ll be honest. It’s all in good fun. This movie just had to be as fun to make as it is to watch and take it all in.

There is an entire plot synopsis on Wikipedia if you click here. If you really want the blow by blow without having to watch the movie, then knock yourselves out. But I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t enjoy the film on some level, even if it’s just to shake his or her head and say, “This is retarded.”

My favorite character aspects are the incessant cigarette smoking (this was before the film industry started cracking down on how much influence this has on today’s youth), Kevin Bacon’s southern/hick twang, the constant swearing (“Son of a goddamn bitch…”), the long looks between Val and Rhonda (the Plain Jane love interest who catches Val’s eye eventually) and Val and Earl playing Rock/Paper/Scissors every so often to see who has to take on an unwanted task.

While the entire script is genius, here are some of the best, hand-picked lines from the entire film:

Here comes the starvation. I know what I’m doin’. I’m gonna take one of these, walk right out there with the fuse lit and let ’em take me down. Boom.

We’re sure as hell not gonna pole-vault outta here.

I never thought I’d have to shoot through dirt.

I wish they’d stampede up your ass.

Val: What the hell’s in those things?
Burt: A few household chemicals in the proper proportion.

Oh sure, Earl. Everyone knows about ’em, we just didn’t tell you.

Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room didn’t you, you bastard?

You didn’t get penetration even with the elephant gun.

…and then we run like goddamn bastards.

Earl: Must be long gone.
Val: Yeah, must be. Why don’t you take a little walk and find out?

Val: We could get in People Magazine.
Earl: People? Hell. National Geographic.

Even my father loves this film and now owns it on DVD and he’s a very old-fashioned, classic guy. If it gets a Zoe’s Dad seal of approval, then it must have innate value. Seeeeeeeeeeee it.

Lastly, as a goof, I found this brilliant, two minute “preview” for Brokeback Tremors, with the editor capitalizing on the cowboy look in the film with the music from Brokeback Mountain. Holla if you love Tremors as much as I do!

Those three little words…

     There are three words that comprise an expression that are very near and dear to my heart. People like hearing it, I like saying it, and I like having people say it to me.

     I’m talking, of course, about “I know, right?”

      I don’t know if it’s a Northeastern thing in America, but until I moved to these parts in 2005 I had never been exposed to the phrase, “I know, right?” or “Right?” for short. The phrase has been around circa 2003, I believe. Apparently it was very prevalent in the movie Mean Girls, which Tina Fey wrote and starred in (2004); and she’s from New York so I think I’ve just answered my question about one of its possible origins.

     Anyway. Upon hearing this phrase the first few times from various New Yorkers, including my first roommate (who was from Ohio but had been living in New York for a few years already), I latched onto it immediately and it became a permanent part of my lexicon. (What’s a lexicon?)

     Let’s break it down. It’s not just saying “I know,” which in and of itself is simplistic and also affirming. It’s adding the “right?” at the end; in combination with “I know,” the “right?” gives the phrase a lovely redundancy and succeeds in creating more conversation between two people – or at the very least, tying up a dialogue nicely.

    For those of you who may not have heard of this expression – not only am I impressed but welcome! – there are a few ways to use it. The differences may be subtle, but they are there. Click here to see Urban Dictionary’s take on the definitions. I think what I like most about it is that while yes, you can use it as a generic statement of agreement, Definition 3 of saying it’s a way to relate to a preceding statement is how I like to use it best. For example, if you say to me, “God, I can’t find a single store carrying the Tickle Me Elmo doll,” I can say to you, “I know, right? I went to five different places myself yesterday.” It’s a phrase that extends comraderie and now you and I can perhaps find other things we have in common, as well.

     The shortened “Right?” is great to use with both people you know very well and those you don’t, such as colleagues. I have personally used this at work with my own bosses and there is no mistaking its meaning. It does speak of my age and generation, yes, but my putting it out there demonstrates that I believe they, too, can get in on it and understand me without looking at me like I just used some very inappropriate slang (like maybe saying, “That’s fuckin’ dope” to something positive they tell me).

If ever a facial expression existed for "I know, right?" it's this one.

The classic "I know, right?" facial expression.

    It’s a way to bring someone in on something and close any relational gaps just a bit further. On the other hand, if you use it amongst your friends or family, it’s just utilizing a modern phrase of agreement that is casual and friendly. I believe my friend David can attest to the fact that he himself did not start using “I know, right?” until I had begun using it with him on enough occasions after I’d moved here that he noticed and asked me about it. He also appreciated it and began spreading it to his fellow West Coasters. I even remember him telling me that it had trickled into his girlfriend’s (now wife’s) vocabulary. I’m going to detail for you here two situations from my own life of its use so those of you who are still getting accustomed to it can fully grasp how to begin spreading it in your own groups:

Gchat between myself and David, September 18:

David: Still have just under half a tank. Totally saving money.
Me: Which is excellent. More money to spend on sweaters for Chip.
David: Right?

     That particular Chat is taken totally out of context and it would take a lot to explain why his saving money on gas can buy future sweaters for Chip. Chip’s his dog. But you get the point. It just slides right on in there. He can agree with me or at least just give credence to my statement (if not a “haha”) and then we can easily shift topics.

     This morning at work, I noticed that my office manager who has been out for a week or two was back. I heard her talking and walked past Reception, saying to our lovely Reception guy, “Shirley* is back in the office!” He immediately replied, “I know, right?”

     Up until now I don’t think I would have thought that the phrase could be used for such a benign observation such as that, but it worked. It pertained. It was apt. The meaning of his “I know, right?” could have been anything from “Yeah, I really have to be more careful now at the office,” to “Yeah, I didn’t know she was here at first, either.” A little subtle but it still worked.

     Here’s a photo whose caption is merely, “I KNOW RIGHT?” This makes use of the subtlest use of the phrase, because a person doesn’t even have to do or say anything sometimes when you show them something outrageous or funny. You can just say “I know, right?!” while you wait for them to react. Exhibit A: a Hello Kitty shaped exhaust pipe. IT BEGS TO BE SAID! If you’re like me, you’ve said like this in your head, “I KNOOOOOOW, RIGHT?!”

     “I know, right?” breaks down barriers. It brings people closer together. Won’t you try it out? Won’t you get to know your neighbor? It gets you through lots of situations, even with total strangers in an elevator. Someone can say something very small-talkish like, “It’s getting colder out…pretty soon it’s gonna be dark at 5.” Bam. You have your instant response without having to elaborate. You whip it out smoothly:

     “I know, right? The winter coat’s comin’ out in the near future.” Ding! You get off at your floor. You have avoided any awkward silence and appear to have social skills. Nobody has to know if you’re introverted and shy to the point of being terrified of any human interaction. “I know, right?” or “Right?” is there to save you.

     Use it. Don’t let it get dusty, folks. It might have started out pretty vaguely and kept to a smaller geographic region, but let’s face it – it’s here to stay.

     (Right?)

*Name was changed.

Sebastian Maniscalco: stand-up comedian, Italian, funny, metrosexual

On the occasions when I need a break from work but have to remain at my desk, I go on to YouTube to browse any new comedy videos that a fellow comedian fanatic might have put up. Lately I’ve had a real affinity for watching two comedians from the Axis of Evil comedy tour,  those being Ahmed Ahmed and Dean Obeidallah. Seriously funny stuff. (Check ’em out!)

About a month ago, I was at home watching a standup comedy marathon on Comedy Central and I happened to catch a half hour special by Sebastian Maniscalco. I laughed loudly and heartily and had a feeling he was a strong up-and-comer. I didn’t know at that time that he was one of the comedians chosen by Vince Vaughn to participate in Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Tour. That’s going on the Must Rent list. And so, on one of the days that I needed a laugh break, I looked up some new clips of Sebastian on YouTube. The video clips posted were so funny that I went onto his website and dropped twenty fat ones to get his DVD.

It arrived via snail mail a week or so later, a handwritten return address on the top left corner (my post office is a convenient 15 blocks down the street from me – a real treat), and I watched it immediately. It’s only an hour long but it’s very well done, and much to my delight and surprise, his performance takes place in St. Louis! He’s originally from Chicago, so it sort of makes sense, but still. What’s up homies from the Lou?

The Arch in all its shining glory

The Arch in all its shining glory

But anyway. Sebastian’s persona is that of a macho, Chicago-accented Italian pretty boy. He comes off very close to New Yorkish but you can’t mistake his Midwestern accent. He’s very clean-cut and presents himself well; which he jokes about later when he talks about people who are slobbish when going to places like the grocery store (people like me who “roll out of bed and then [they’re] in the fruit section”). He prefers to scrub himself down thoroughly and put on six sprays of cologne, style his hair and then he’s ready to hit the food store.*

One of Sebastian’s strengths is that while he has the occasional dirty joke, he doesn’t saturate his material with them. I personally find that if a stand-up comedian can be hilarious without always resorting to talking about men and women and sex, s/he can consider him or herself successful. (Let me just insert that I am biased and think men make better stand-up comedians than women. I know, I know. It’s completely going against my own sex but I really do think men are funnier when it comes to this profession. However, people like Ellen Degeneres and Bonnie Mc Farlane give the guys a run.) Sebastian inserts the occasional nuts joke but nothing cringeworthy. Big kudos to you, Sebastian!

Speaking of Kudos, there’s a joke about Kudos snack bars in his act at the grocery store. Can’t miss it.

I watched the DVD on my own and then went over to my girlfriend’s apartment to watch it all over again while we munched on Mexican takeout. The second viewing solidified my decision to write a raving post about the guy. I don’t know if it’s because he’s Midwestern or not but I like that he’s not quite up to speed on all things technological. He refers to “new features” of cell phones like texting and accidentally activating the Web browser for his cell phone material. He then proceeds to compare the people at the gym who have all their music on their “Pods” (on the bicep, no less) to himself, who still wears a portable CD player on his waist. I mean seriously, how old school can you get? But the self-deprecating jokes are fantastic, even if there only a few.

One of Sebastians classic facial expressions.

One of Sebastian's classic facial expressions.

By far one of his best jokes is his “downtown Beirut” joke, referring to a cheap store relative to whatever city he’s in, this one being TJ Maxx. In this instance he is dead-on-balls accurate, since in St. Louis, TJ Maxx is absolutely a nightmare. It’s right up there with Marshall’s. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be, everything’s a mess and chances are, you’re saving money because whatever you’re buying is damaged, or as he refers to it, “irregular.”

Sebastian’s delivery is full of fantastic facial expressions, some physical humor (including the Beirut joke) and lots of sarcasm.

I won’t ruin all of the jokes for everyone but the material flows nicely from one joke to another, and he ends with one of his strongest, that being about Today’s Man. Hints: apple martinis, frappuccinos, flip flop sandals. See the YouTube clip at the end!

I rated his DVD “Going Up” (no idea where that comes from, unless he’s referring to his climbing the stardom ladder) four stars out of five, which is pretty high up there in my lowly opinion. I’m not a stand-up expert but I do consider myself an amateur connoisseur since paradise for me would  be a stand-up comedy marathon sprawled on comfy furniture with good friends and good drinks. I frequently seek out stand-up on my movie channels and Comedy Central, I love the show Last Comic Standing to see new faces and new material and I have even written my own jokes on the side, never to see the light of day.** I love going to comedy clubs but since it can be a pricey adventure, I don’t go very often. I’m content to stay home and laugh my boisterous laugh in the privacy of my home.

As to the “wrap the gift” joke that I refer to in the headline, I will leave that to you to find out on your own. It’s great advice and hilariously delivered.

See him. Decide for yourself. Support one of the next famous faces of comedy. Embrace the mirth. Since my YouTube clips keep getting pulled, go look for a current one to tantalize your funny bone.

*The phrase “food store” is something I had never heard of in my life before I moved to New York and dated a New Yorker. I even Googled search terms looking for it and if Google can’t come up with any relevant information for this phrase, pretty sure hardly anyone uses it except for said ex-boyfriend and his family. Oh and my friend Jim once used it. Maybe now it will catch on. I just say grocery store like most people.

**Note about me: I have incredible stage fright and while I can crack myself up at my own jokes, I would never be ballsy enough to actually perform them.