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BLOG OF THE YEAR: A 2011 Review

2011 was what I consider The Year of the Departure.

Oprah, Regis, Meredith Viera, and Susan Lucci all said goodbye to their daytime audiences. Katie Couric peaced out on the CBS Evening News. Harry Potter finally bid adieu to Hogwarts. The Walker clan danced into that good night on Brothers & Sisters (to Lady Gaga no less). Steve Jobs and Amy Winehouse left us too soon. And yours truly left a comfy position at Anonymous Content after four-and-a-half years of working in commercial production. It seems like wherever you turned, someone was embarking on a new chapter of his or her life, whether voluntarily or not, in the first year of this new decade.

Joining the unemployment ranks, I did what any jobless/freelance schmo would do - buy an iPhone 4, go to Vegas, and accumulate enough fast-food receipts to form a sizable pile on my desk at home. 2011 was the year I got in touch with my "inner artist" and attempted to live the life of a writer - whatever that is. In theory, it&…


Lady Gaga Marries The Night (And The Director's Chair)

"When I look back on my life, it's not like I want to see things as exactly as they happened. It's just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way..."

And so begins the 8-minute short film that precedes the long-awaited music video (and by long-awaited, I mean one whole month) for Gaga's personal ode to the city that gave birth to her, "Marry The Night." Upon viewing it a second time - and like most fans and pop culture hounds - I tried to scrape away the make-up and somewhat pretentious direction (yes, she's now aiming for a DGA membership, and from the looks of it, she has a hard-on for Kubrick) to see what the hell is really going on here.

..."And truthfully, the lie of it all is much more honest because I invented it..."

However oxymoronic that is, she goes on to tell us, while being transported on a gurney by a pair of fashionable nurses (one with "a great ass"), that memories are killed by trauma, her past is an "u…


Justin Bieber & Mariah Carey Redo A Contemporary Christmas Classic

Five things about the recent music video debut for Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You (SuperFestive!)," the collaboration no one saw coming because, frankly, we were already used to (or prefer) the dozen or so versions of this 1994 yuletide tune from artists like Michael Buble, Lady Antebellum, and that little girl at the end of Love Actually (God, what a good movie).

1. There is indeed something superfestive about a Jenny Craig spokeswoman lip-syncing to a song she originally recorded 17 years ago, back when her current duet partner was a mere fetus.

2. Cheers to the publicity team behind Macy's for coming up with a way to lure more shoppers to its already overcrowded counters and migrane-inducing florescent lighting.

3. As blatant as that Nintendo 3DS product placement is, it isn't as obvious as the soft lighting Ms. Carey is now regularly utilizing whenever a camera is pointed at her.

4a. There's no way in retail hell that a de…


Random Thought of the Week #28

What if there were a Broadway musical based on the discography of Ace of Base? Hey, if it happened to ABBA, it could happen to everyone's favorite Swedes from the 90s.

If I ran things, I'd simply call it The Sign, an epic romance set against the backdrop of the "turbulent yet carefree 1990s" (as quoted from my hypothetical Playbill). Perhaps we could be treated to an emotional rendition of "Don't Turn Around" in which our hero and heroine are on the verge of a teary-eyed break-up. Maybe our heroine doesn't approve of her man's lifestyle as a jewel thief and con artist and breaks out into a rip-roaring version of "Living in Danger," complete with choreography by Mia Michaels or Travis Wall.

Just throwing it out there. And if it does happen, just remember who came up with the idea first.



H.P.M.


DIARY OF THE FUNEMPLOYED: Free Caffeine Fix

My relationship with coffee didn't begin until I was 21 (call me a late bloomer).

It was a cold autumn morning in 2001. To make a few extra bucks my college roommate and I got up at the buttcrack of dawn to stand in line at the Fleet Center in downtown Boston and wait for the box office to open. The "job" consisted of buying the maximum number of tickets (premium seats, whatever the event) for a local ticket brokerage firm that later sold them "at premium prices" to their "clients." We were to meet a contact who would give us hundreds of dollars in cash for the purchase (they held onto our IDs as collateral so that we wouldn't run off). Although it seemed shady and sneaky, it was a totally legit operation. And it paid in cash. One hundred bucks for two hours of our time.

Anyway, what got me up and ready for the early task was a cup of vanilla roast from Dunkin' Donuts. My roommate, Steve, had introduced me to it. It was warm and smooth and invi…


THE SANTA SESSIONS: The 2011 Holiday Playlist

This was inevitable. After all, if Justin Bieber and Zooey Deschanel can pop out Christmas compilations, then why can't I?

I've always believed that a steady, well-balanced diet of contemporary and classic holiday tunes is necessary for any celebration involving tinsel, candy canes, and spiked eggnog. Therefore I've come up with a small sample of what's on my playlist between now and December 25. I mean, there's only so many times I can listen to Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" on the radio, so I'll be relying on my iPod to deck the halls with boughs of ear candy.

1. "When Christmas Comes" by Mariah Carey & John Legend
2. "Shake Up Christmas" by Natasha Bedingfield
3. "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" by Michael Buble
4. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" by Katharine McPhee
5. "White Christmas (Live)" by Lady Gaga



6. "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by Charice
7.…


Random Thought of the Week #27

There's something consoling about seeing a Rolls Royce waiting in line at a McDonald's drive-thru.

Rich people: they have cravings just like us.

H.P.M.


Titanic 3D: Bringing 1997 Back

So, it appears James Cameron is resurrecting his cash cow from 1997 for a 2012 audience. You know, the one about the big boat that sinks (if you consider that a spoiler, then welcome back from Jupiter).

I guess it's the lesser of two evils. I mean, at least it's not a remake...or a sequel. Oh, wait, that already happened.

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. Let's see how many fools will be clamoring for those 3D glasses come April. After all, if you think about it, there's now a entire generation that hasn't experienced this romantic epic on the big screen, and after devouring the 3D spectacle that was Avatar, these kids today just might bite and a buy an overpriced ticket to see "that guy from Inception" and "that MILF from Contagion" get it on the backseat of a 1912 Renault. Take a look at the newfangled trailer:



*Yes, it's true that I saw this film three times in the theater when I was senior in high school. Yes, it's true that I proudly own Celin…


FROST FACTOR: The 2011 Winter Playlist

Winter technically doesn't start until December 21 (Happy 90th, Grandma), but I'm here to prep you ahead of time. This one's for the Thanksgiving dinners, the Black Friday trips to the mall, the commute to work as you sip on a peppermint mocha and mentally put together what you'll be wearing to the office holiday party.

1. "Princess of China" by Coldplay feat. Rihanna - The collaboration that should've never worked...works.
2. "Love On Top" by Beyonce
3. "Holidays" by Miami Horror - I'm a little late to the party celebrating this Australian electro-pop group. And the title of this carefree jam just happens to fit the season.
4. "No Light, No Light" by Florence and the Machine - My favorite track off the majestic Ceremonials is also one of the best singles of 2011. Rise up and rejoice.
5. "The One That Got Away" by Katy Perry - Because the girl (or her record label) would like to smash Michael Jackson's record a…


Japanglish

At first I thought this PCD-influenced girl group was attempting to cover Republica's "Ready to Go" - you know, with the requisite butchering of prepositional phrases (stereotypical but true). But upon viewing this flashy music video I discovered that it's just your run-of-the-rice-mill single from 4Minute, one of the many pop groups treading water in the ocean that is the saturated J-Pop market.

There are a few English words thrown around ("shining star," "shut up and go away," and of course, the title declaration). And I can't help but think that they're chanting my name at the :51 and 1:53 marks. But that's probably just my ego talking.

Enjoy:


Dancing Around Questions With The Stars

I recently interviewed a couple of celebs for HIH. It was a chance to sit in a comfy suite at a posh hotel, enjoy a free meal, and sneak a couple of disposable hand towels from the bathroom (Shhh...). You can catch one HERE and the other HERE.

*For you Michael Fassbender fanatics, that one's coming soon. *UPDATE 11/29/11 - Here it is.

H.P.M.


Random Thought of the Week #26

To the creative culinary mind at Trader Joe's who came up with the idea to sell milk chocolate-covered potato chips, I thank you. And hate you.

Not only have you given me pure, unadulterated joy, you have also cursed me with yet another edible distraction filled with enough calories to corrupt the healthiest of the healthy (seriously, if you have no urge to try one, then you have no soul).

You promise that "every crunchy bite brings a symphony of flavors and textures that please the palate and bring joy to the world. Or at least to your taste buds." Just admit it - it causes severe foodgasms. You also claim that it "fits right in with a balanced lifestyle." Clearly you haven't seen how balanced my kitchen cabinet has been lately.

Munch, munch,

H.P.M.


FLASHBACK: Chante Moore Anyone?

The year was 2000. And lost in the shuffle was this bumpin' R&B number from a woman who would forever struggle in the shadows of giants like Mariah, Aaliyah, and Lauryn. I'm talking about Chante Moore, the former Mrs. Kadeem Hardison (that's right, A Different World's Dwayne Wayne!), and her single-that-shoulda-soared "Straight Up."

I randomly happened to remember that I had put this jam on one of my European-influenced mix CDs after living in London during the first half of 2001 (such carefree, pre-9/11 times). I had caught this video while watching MTV UK in my flat and was hooked ever since, sadly never seeing it catch on here in the States.

And looking back now, it just screams early 21st century (Tae-Bo choreography! Sports jersey midriffs!). How quaint compared to the glittery dance trash that's currently being forced down the ears of the American public.

You're welcome:


Theme Song of the Month: November 2011

It's not every day you get to have a religious experience while listening to a song.

Well, today is that day. Florence and the Machine's "No Light, No Light" is one majestic piece of pop, a thundering opus of epic proportions (and the rest of the album ain't too shabby either). Those pounding drums. That rousing chorus. And yes, those are harps you hear being strung at the 1:02 mark.

My brothers and sisters, get down on your knees and worship with me:


DIARY OF THE FUNEMPLOYED: Free Movies!

The wise prophet Ferris Bueller once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Clearly Mr. Bueller isn't a 31-year-old unemployed/freelance writer who has Prius payments to make and student loans to neglect every month*. If I may, I'd like to tell him that life indeed moves pretty fast. However, if you've been stopped for a prolonged period of time, twiddling your thumbs, you can still miss it. Having left my employer back in February, my weekly routines of waking up, attempting to hit the gym, watching The View, getting booked on a few writing gigs, and spending hours in almost every Starbucks this side of La Cienega have made these past eight months fly by at a pace I've never experienced.

Nearly seven years ago I had written a "chapter email" to all of my friends and family back home (remember, this was before I ever acquainted myself with a blog) about my first experience as "an …


DIARY OF THE FUNEMPLOYED: The Great Sephora Caper

I am Jennifer Aniston.

Well, I can relate to the character she played in Friends With Money. In the 2006 dramedy, acutely written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, Jen's character, Olivia, is a down-and-out broke girl living in West L.A., surrounded by loved ones who have enough disposable income to fund a small private school for several years. I included the film in a list I compiled three years ago called "10 Great L.A. Movies" (you can catch it here). I also considered it one of the ten best movies I had seen that year.

Olivia hoards small sample jars of designer facial creams and soaps she acquires from various department stores throughout the city because, obviously, she can't afford the full-sized, full-priced bottles. In one particular scene we see her line up dozens of mini-bottles in her bathroom cabinet while she partakes in her nighttime facial ritual. Sometimes she'll even enlist her well-off friends to grab a sample for her; twice the moisturizer fo…


20 Things I've Learned About Living in L.A. (Thus Far)

I thought I'd save this for next year's anniversary blog celebrating 10 years of living in the City of Angels, but why wait? I'm sure I'll stumble upon other discoveries before next summer rolls around. Here are twenty little nuggets I thought I'd share in the meantime (are there any I'm missing?).

1. Arclight Cinemas = Best. Popcorn. Ever.

2. Friends in other cities may gather together for movie nights and board game nights. Here, they gather together for award nominee screener nights and my-friend's-guest-starring-on-CSI nights.

3. Attractive, scantily-clad joggers should not be allowed to stretch and stand on the sidewalks of busy intersections; it's a driving hazard. And just not right.

4. When in doubt, take Fountain Avenue (or Olympic).

5. When the invite says 8pm, arrive at 9pm. Or, depending on the host, don't show up at all.

6. Some casting directors are jaded, former actors with a penchant for pot-smoking, obsessing over the shenanigans o…


Theme Song of the Month: October 2011

Color me indecisive.

I'm going back and forth among three singles that have been tickling my fancy recently, hence my delayed choice for this month's anthemic tune.

The first is Lady Antebellum's "We Owned The Night." The country trio finally won me over during their Saturday Night Live performance last week (btw, Melissa McCarthy, I love you), and I can't help but feel like taking an impromptu nocturnal road trip up the coast or lighting a bonfire somewhere up in Malibu whenever I hear this breezy track.

Then there's James Morrison's duet with Jessie J, "Up," a song with a message I can certainly use to help me get through the rest of this "interesting" year.

But it's Mayer Hawthorne's "The Walk" that has completely won me over, and the video for this soulful throwback stars that hot chick from The Event, who could very well be JoJo's older sister.



All three songs are worthy selections for the season, but you know…


MASQUERADE: 2011 Fall Playlist, Vol. 2

While you put the finishing touches on that slutty Halloween costume you'll eventually throw together at the last minute you may want to play these 25 tracks to help you get into the mood. Soulful throwbacks, mesmerizing vocals, and high-energy dance is what's on the menu. My second fall compilation of 2011 is now being served.

*And yes, those would be download links to some of the tracks below (get 'em while they're hot).

1. "We Found Love" by Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
2. "Just In Love" by Joe Jonas
3. "I Like How It Feels" by Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull
4. "Shake It Out" by Florence + The Machine
5. "Russian Unicorn" by Bad Lip Reading - Upon the first listen, you may not get the lyrics at all. That's because it's one of those songs you need to see to believe. The geniuses behind BLP have produced a single as an alternative to the Michael Buble video for 2009's "Haven't Met You Yet," and the …


You Are Now Leaving Wisteria Lane

*Updated on 5/11/12

A seemingly happy wife and mother named Mary Alice puts a gun to her head and pulls the trigger...and an idyllic neighborhood is never the same.

Not since Knots Landing have television viewers been so enraptured by the weekly dramas of a bunch of cul-de-sac-dwelling suburbanites. For the past seven years, Wisteria Lane on ABC's Desperate Housewives became a ground zero for soapy fun. It quickly became a place where secrets - along with several criminals - were harbored, where wealthy former models slept with their gardeners, where neglected wives went off their rockers and shot up supermarkets, where accident-prone single moms got kidnapped by vengeful ex-cons, where on-the-lam families hid from eco-terrorists, where shady politicians got skewered by picket fences during tornados, where airplanes crashed into holiday parties, where serial killers held pregnant women hostage, where bitchy real estate agents got electrocuted by telephone poles, where...

You get th…