Saturday, November 1, 2008

Oh, The HuMANIAity!

It's coming it's coming it's coming it's coming...'s heeeere

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Story of Your Life

I've realized that nearly every book I've read this past year, or am currently reading, has been/is a memoir or a biography. So I shall talk about what I've read so far...

*Helping Me Help Myself, by Beth Lisick

On January 1, 2006, author Beth Lisick realized she wanted to make some life changes, so she set off on a year-long journey to do just that. Throughout the year (and the book), the author seeks help for various things, including disorderliness and hoarding, parenting, her financial situation, and success. She reads self-help books by leading gurus and attends seminars and conferences, then summarizes all the information she's gathered and puts it in simple terms for us readers, all the while adding her own insight and reactions.

The journey begins immediately and starts out slowly, and at times I wasn't sure what the author was going to learn or accomplish. But things start to get rolling around the "April" chapter, in which she goes on a "Cruise To Lose" and encounters the one and only Richard Simmons. The whole experience is fun to read about, and though I'm not sure how badly she needed Richard's help in the first place, it doesn't matter. How many of us have secretly wondered what happens on those cruises? It's like a tell-all.

Lisick is a funny writer, and while sometimes she goes off on tangents that don't seem relevant, she always comes back to the point. In some ways it was inspiring, and even though I couldn't pick this woman out of a lineup, I rather enjoyed reading her tale.

--adapted from my review of the book on

*Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, by Julie Andrews

I was excited to read Julie Andrews' memoir because I'm a big fan of her work, especially in Mary Poppins. I quickly discovered, however, that I knew very little about the real Julie Andrews. I didn't know about her unusual and sometimes tumultous home life. I didn't know she'd been a child star (at least on the stage) in her native London. I didn't even know what kind of personality she had when not in front of the camera.

I enjoyed reading her accounts of performing in Camelot and My Fair Lady. But the story ends after she is cast in Mary Poppins, leaving me to wonder about her experiences working on that film, as well as The Sound of Music, and leaving me to wonder how she met her current husband. I assume she may be writing a sequel; but until then, the life of Julie Andrews -- at least in literary form -- seems incomplete.

*Burnt Toast (And Other Philosophies of Life), by Teri Hatcher

I must begin by saying I spent my teenage years devoted to the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, in which Teri played Lois Lane. It remains one of my all-time favorite shows. When this book was published in 2006, I wanted to buy it, but couldn't find it anywhere. Finally, this year, it occurred to me to check it out of the library. And so I did.

Reading Burnt Toast is like listening to a one-sided conversation with a girl friend. Teri addresses you (the reader) as if you are a good friend, and yet, it feels like one of those conversations where it's All About Her. Mostly, it's about Teri's troubles with men and the fact that being a mom is the most wonderful thing ever. So wonderful, in fact, that anytime she can possibly mention her philosophies toward mothering, she does. Her parents? They did all sorts of things wrong. She blames them, even now. But now that she has a daughter, she's going to do things right. We get to hear about all the things she does that are so awesome for her daughter. But wait -- she is not a perfect mother, she admits! She explains this in one sad chapter, in which she talks about the time she made a terrible mistake with her child. Yes, one time... she... wait for it... she snapped at her daughter! SNAPPED AT HER!! Then she felt terrible and apologized profusely and everything turned out okay. Lord, we should all have such terrible mothers.

I respect Teri's work as an actress, but the book was a bit much. She may have a hit TV show (moreso a hit when the book was released) and she may have won a few awards, but I closed the book, going "Wow." And not a good kind of "wow," either. They'll let any celeb write books these days, and I think that's got to stop. A memoir is one thing, but this isn't one. Teri barely touches on her childhood, and she glosses over most of her work as an actress (save for Desperate Housewives, which she wants us to be sure to know was the most amazing career opportunity anyone could ask for. Which is probably true for her, but come on. Enough.) If it's not a memoir, then what IS it? An inspirational book of life lessons? Not really. Teri comes across as someone who is needy and overly sensitive. She's 40+, and she still hasn't figured very much out. Maybe when she's 80 and writes Really, REALLY Burnt Toast. With Jam, I'll pay more attention.

*You'll Never Nanny In This Town Again!, by Suzanne Hansen

Just out of high school, Suzanne Hansen went to Nanny School. After graduation, she decided she wanted to be a nanny in the L.A. area. She quickly landed a job working a rich and powerful Hollywood agent, taking care of his three kids. Like the Beverly Hillbillies, Suzanne had to make the adjustment to this crazy new life, working for spoiled kids and even more-spoiled parents in a land of glitz, glamour, plastic, and bizarre social practices. Parts of her tale are hilarious, others are painful. If you've ever spent any time with people in a higher social class, you can probably relate. They think we're crazy, we think they're crazy, and the ensuing clash can be absolutely priceless. Hansen's method of recounting her tale drew me right in, and I was rooting for her all the way.

*Child Star, by Shirley Temple Black

I watched Shirley Temple movies as a child and enjoyed them. I also watched a PBS biography of her (actually, we taped it, and I watched it dozens of times). I've also seen the TV-movie that was inspired by this autobiography. But I'd never read the book. Unfortunately, I believe it's out of print. Our library system didn't even have it -- I was lucky enough to get a used copy through a book-trading website.

What we have here is Shirley's account of her childhood, based not only on her uncanny memory, but accounts of others and historical fact. Parts are fascinating. Others are dull as dishwater. It's interesting to learn about Shirley's relationships/encounters with her co-stars on movies in the 30's and 40's. I also liked hearing about how she dealt with being a celebrity -- and not just any celebrity... for a time, she was one of the most famous actors in the world. It was surprising to learn that Shirley was kind of a tomboy -- and definitely not as sweet and innocent as she appeared on-screen.

However, there are many times when she drags us into the financial/accounting aspects of her career, as well as studio goings-on and a bunch of technical stuff. Intriguing to the most dedicated history buff, perhaps -- but not to the everyday Temple fan. At the end of the paperback edition, we are told a sequel is being written. But that was 20 years ago, and it doesn't look like it's likely to happen. Oh well.

I am currently reading the following, and will try to discuss them further when I'm finished:

*A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story, by Annette Funicello

*Anne Frank: Diary Of A Young Girl

*Looking For Anne Of Green Gables, by Irene Gammel
(Essentially a biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery)

If you have any recommendations for me, please share. I especially like to read memoirs about writers, but actors and actresses are okay too. (In the past, I have enjoyed Beverly Cleary's two memoirs, as well as Michael J. Fox's Lucky Man.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Goodbye To The Summer (Olympics)

I'm going to miss watching the Olympics, even though NBC showed way too much beach volleyball... and for some reason I kept missing the men's gymnastics. (Women's gymnastics isn't as good, imo. Especially the balance beam. They're always slipping off of it. That's only entertainment if you hate the gymnasts.)

My favorite thing? Swimming, duh! Michael Phelps! ADORABLE! I have a crush on a swimmer, y'all! Me and a million other girls, but oh... so exciting. Especially that race where he won by 1/100th of a second. At first you couldn't even tell who won. It looked like that other guy for sure. Then they showed Michael's name on the board - 1st! And he was so happy! He looked like a little boy, splashing the water and yelling with glee.

And we have the same initials, so that's cool.

I hadn't watched the Summer Olympics in a long time. Okay, maybe an event here and there, but nothing like my viewing this year. In 1988, I remember being at my aunt and uncle's house and watching the Olympics there. And I have vague memories of the events that took place in 1984. Well, mostly I just remember Mary Lou Retton was on the Wheaties box.

Yay Wheaties!

Hey, I was three. I'm lucky I can remember that much!

When my brother and I were younger we used to have games for the Commodore 64 called "Summer Games" and "Winter Games," and you basically got to pick a country and then compete in various Olympic sports as a representing member of that country. Of course, this was back when you had to do everyhing with a joystick and a button. As you can probably imagine, the iceskaters fell down a lot, the horses fell down a lot, the javelin throwers would impale themselves... and we'd get frustrated rather quickly.

But my memories are fond nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


What do you think of when you hear the words "Summer Olympics"? Do you think about beach volleyball? Pole vaulting? Diving? Gymnastics?

How about...


I turned on the TV today and immediately heard the theme song for The Adventures Of Brisco County, Jr. But Bruce Campbell was nowhere in sight. Instead it was an Olympics commercial for NBC.
Because nothing says "Olympics" like the conjuring of images of a rough-riding bounty hunter who talks to his horse.

Come to think of it, there were a few episodes where Brisco had to go up against Chinese warriors. Hey, maybe it all makes sense after all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

French Class

So I thought I should learn some French, or at least attempt. Not that I'm going to France anytime soon, if ever. More like because second-language skills are good to have, and besides, I'll be stopping over in Quebec next week and I want to be ready for Frenchness. My mom says there'll be people at the airport who speak English, but I'm not taking any chances! Unfortunately, even after completing several lessons in my new, spiffy learn-to-speak-French software, I haven't learned much that would help me in an airport situation. I can say "the man is swimming," but I have yet to learn "Where's the restroom, yo?" And here I thought "restroom" (or the equivalent of) was supposed to be one of the first things they teach you. In high school Spanish class, we knew el baño well, and a decade later, I still remember el baño, and
if I ever find myself in a Spanish-speaking country, I'll be prepared.

I took two years of Spanish in high school. Took three terms of American Sign Language in college. Then I went through a phase when I decided learning Gaelic would be the thing to do. That one never went anywhere, big surprise. Maybe I needed some learn-to-speak Gaelic software. Throw in German, Italian, and maybe some Ancient Greek, and I could be the most well-rounded person ever.

I think I'll take my time though. Small steps. Next goal: learn to say restroom en Français!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Whine, Whine, Vine

A year ago, I got asked to join Amazon Vine. It's this program where's vendors offer up free stuff, we snag it, then we write reviews. Everything from books to electronic devices. It's usually a mad cattle call at noon on the third Thursday of the month, when the available stuff is posted, and it seems many people get irked when all the "good" stuff is snatched from under their noses and all they're left with is books. There seems to be an entirely separate set of people who are just ticked they didn't get a Vine invite in the first place. Yeah, it's invitation only, and nobody knows what the criteria for being invited really is. Many of us who got the invitation have written a lot of reviews for Amazon, but that is not the case for everyone. There's an air of mystery to the whole thing, but hey... free stuff. Can't go wrong.

Well, I suppose you can if you had your heart set on an Internet radio and all you got was a lousy book about the romantic liaisons of shepherds. Then there's some complaining to do. Or when you request an item, and you never receive it (but you're still bound to write a review.) Or when you request an item, get told it's coming, and then have it canceled on you. But despite all the things that can go wrong, there's always an upside. Like the time I got free jelly beans. That was a sweet deal.

None of us knows for sure how many Viners there are, but I think there are probably a lot, because I know two others in real life. (Well, sort of. One is a friend on LiveJournal, and another is my cousin's fiance.) Recently, Amazon started mixing things up. Some Vine members were booted out for no apparent reason, and a bunch of new members came aboard. How do I know all this? There's a Vine message board. Where Viners go to discuss... and so much more.

The last few days have been crazy over there. See, there's this... thing... within the Amazon Vine message board system where you can rate people's posts. Below each post and reply, there's the question: "Does this post add to the discussion? Yes or no?" You can click on one or the other. The stats are posted below the message, ie "5 out of 8 people think this post adds to the discussion, how 'bout you?" If a post gets too many "nos," it doesn't automatically show up, but you can still see it if you click a special link. It's just like the thumbs-up/thumbs-down thing on YouTube.

Anyway, some of the folks over there have been taking this SO SERIOUSLY. They take it as a personal insult if someone gives them a "no." Not only that, but they've started making these wild theories about who could possibly be giving them the "nos." Could it be lurkers? Pathetic low-lifes? Could it be a conspiracy? (Yes, that theory has been floating around.) Hmmm, maybe that one girl who's opinion we didn't like, maybe she gathered all her Amazon friends to come to the message boards and click "no" on every post! YES, I'M SURE IT WAS HER! THAT... THAT EVIL WENCH!

All this drama makes me think of the kids at the elementary school where I work. They get so upset if someone cuts in front of them in line. And it's rarely a line for anything. It's not like Black Friday, where the first 10 people in line get the privilege of buying an X-Box or a Furby. It's just a line for, say, walking back to the classroom and sitting at their desks. But cutting, the worst of all crimes, is taken very seriously. I hear "TEACHER, HE CUTTED!" at least 8,000 times a week. The only one that I hate worse than that is "TEACHER, THOSE GIRLS AT THE OTHER END OF THE CAFETERIA TABLE ARE LOOKING AT ME!"

Oh no. Anything but that!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Twilight: The Motion Picture Experience

When I found out they were filming the movie Twilight here in the Northwest, I wanted to be a part of it, despite not knowing much of anything about the books. I'd been an extra in one movie previously, and I was aching to be in another. Being an extra, for me, is like going to Disneyland. At first it's fun, then after a while you get tired and want to go home. Almost as soon as you get home, you want to go back. I had been wanting to "go back" for over a year and a half, and now I had the chance.

It seemed like half of Portland wanted to be in this movie, too, including lots of fans of the book. I was already a member of the extras company that was in charge of casting (I joined back in 2000) so maybe that helped get me a job, but I doubt it. Honestly, they had their freaking pick. But it seemed they did need a lot of people, so I did manage to get in on the background action anyway. They had done an "availability check" nearly a month ago, and I'd said yes, but I didn't get confirmed until the night before filming. Naturally I said yes, yes, yes!

My call time was set for 5pm. Then they changed it to 6:18pm. Finally they settled on 9:30pm. I made the drive to the set. A production guy told me where to park. All of us extras with cars were escorted to the food tent. We filled out our paperwork. I was sitting next to a woman named T*. Since one of the initial "getting to know you" questions among extras always seems to be "is this your first extra job?" we quickly discovered we'd both worked on Feast of Love at Reed College and the North Park Blocks (in August/September 2006). But we didn't meet those days... not surprising, since there were hundreds of people at those shoots. After a short while, we were told to go back to our cars and wait.

Waiting in a cold car is kind of not fun. I read People magazine by a scant sliver of light (I didn't want to kill my car's battery). I tried listening to my iPod, but I quickly realized I needed to be on the alert for announcements, so I put it away. I played games on my cell phone. After roughly an hour, we were asked to leave our cars and do a rehearsal for a scene. This involved walking along a sidewalk. After a few brief rehearsals, we went back to our cars. Not long afterward, they announced we could go to the food tent and have lunch. (It was 1 am. "Lunch"? Hello.) The meal was fantastic. I wish I felt hungrier, but I'm not used to eating at 1 am! While we were eating, T* told me one of the "vampires" was at the other end of the table, so I looked, and indeed, there was Robert Pattinson. I think Kristen Stewart may have been sitting across from him, but I didn't see her face. After T* and I ate, we were supposed to go back to our cars. T* wanted coffee first. The coffee station was set up outside the tent, so we were out there by that when Robert (British accent and all) & 2 female castmembers walked by us. Yay!

We went back to our cars and waited some more. I could hear trucks driving and stuff going on, but I couldn't see much of anything. Then another rehearsal. The first scene we did involved us walking up a sidewalk. A car with Bella and Edward (the main characters in the film, for those of you dwelling under various rocks) came down the street... I think they were having a conversation inside. The car they were in was on a truck thing. So while they're talking in the car, you can probably vaguely see some extras out the car window. After about 1 take, one of the PA's snagged about 8 of us and took us out of the scene. We sat around a corner while they filmed the scene. Apparently that side of the street was just looking too crowded. Later, we would populate the opposite sidewalk.

In the meantime, they had to film a stunt car peeling out down the street or something. All of us extras were told to stay on the sidewalk for safety... we couldn't see a darn thing. We were huddled in a group on the corner. Across the street, there was a commotion. We were all just standing there when someone yelled "incoming" and something came hurtling across the street. I thought it was a prop guy throwing foam pieces of something, but no. A young man (probably 19-24) on his newspaper route was unpleased to discover he was not allowed on the street to deliver his newspapers. There were local cops guarding that very street, and signs posted that the street was officially closed until 6am (this was about 4:45am.) So, ignoring the cops, he flung a newspaper. It hit one of the extras in the head. No injury really, but the guy that got hit really milked it. Anyway, the cops immediately pounced on the paperboy, ordering him to put his hands behind his back. The kid acted like he was on drugs or something, he was screaming and cursing and they were telling him to relax and he was like "IF YOU LET ME GET MY CELL PHONE OUT OF MY BACK POCKET TO CALL MY MOM I WILL RELAX." Baaad idea asking a cop to let you reach into your pocket, hello. So they kept ordering him to relax, telling him they'd use a taser if he didn't. Well, they used the taser. It was horrible. Let's just say, on a dark night, those things glow like neon. We were all just standing there watching because we couldn't go anywhere and it was like a scene right out of a movie, ironically. A very very bad scene. In the end, the paperboy was subdued, and for the next half hour, that's all anybody talked about.

Finally we got back to work. I got to walk on the other side of the street this time. They did a few takes. Something tells me I'm not going to be visible in the movie, not with the amount of shots I actually got to be in. But that's okay. I made new friends.:)

We wrapped just before 6 am, and had to wait to get checked out for longer than was probably necessary. Checkout always seems to take ages, unless you sort of push your way up front, which I just don't ever feel right about doing.

Just after 6 I headed for home. I was freezing cold. And tired. Made it home and got some much-needed sleep. I'm glad I got to work on this movie, even if it was just for one day.

(ETA) From the buzz I'm hearing, Twilight is going to be big. Not Dark Knight big, but still. A far cry from Feast Of Love, which didn't even crack 2 million on its first weekend, and made about 3.5 million overall. Not that a film's gross is of utmost importance to me (some of my favorite movies were flops), but let's face it, it seemed like very few people even knew about FoL. Twilight is already gracing magazine covers, and it doesn't come out for 5 months!

* * *

(Updated 9/1/2020)
Just a few clarifying notes about the post above...

*The location of this shoot was Main Street in St. Helens, Oregon.

*The scene being filmed was that of Edward and Bella driving down the street after Edward has saved Bella from the frat boys.

*I believe the frat boys scene was also shot that night, but it was down the street from us, and there were no extras involved.

*Several of the "Twilight" tie-in books about the filming include a picture that was snapped on this night. If you see a picture of Bella and Edward in a car (or stunt car) with a theater marquee behind them, that's it. In the pictures, they've edited the names of the movie currently showing, but I can attest to the fact that Alvin & The Chipmunks was, indeed, on that marquee.

*During the wide shot in which you see Edward's car racing through traffic, you can see my car parked on the left.

*Very few extras can be seen at all in these scenes. There are a few blurs. One of the blurs out the driver's-side window might have been me, but we will never know for sure.

*I'm pretty sure, in retrospect, that the "two female castmembers" mentioned above were Kristen Stewart and... someone else...? (I don't think it was her stand-in, because she was sitting down at our end of the table.)

*I neglected to mention it, but the portapotties they rented for the shoot were DELUXE. Lights and everything!