Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Witches and devils (oh my!)

We saw a private screening of The Devil Wears Prada last night and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. I'd never read the novel--am not a really big fan of chick lit--the only novel I've read within the last two years that falls into that genre is The Nanny Diaries and, once again, a pleasant surprise there. But Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci did an awesome job in Prada and I think every single soul that saw the movie last night could recall at least one time in their lives where they worked so hard and had such a royal pain-in-the-ass boss they forgot the meaning of life.

My "devil" came extraordinarily early in my career, thank goodness, because it allowed me to make some adjustments in my work ethics and ask myself some exceedingly tough questions along the way.

I was working for Capitol Records in Hollywood--in the Media and Artist Relations Department back when the now CEO of Warner Bros. was on the rise, promoting fledgling groups like Crowded House. She--the Wicked Witch of the East--hailed from NYC and brought with her all the brash hot-headedness one might expect from a record exec from Manhattan. I suppose living in LA for the five years before this monster came into my life softened my own temperament, which is hard to believe when I have a half dozen aunts who are from Queens and Long Island and spent my formative years in Bergen County, New Jersey, where people like Anthony Soprano really do exist.

But yes, this woman, who replaced another woman who was wooed over at Geffen and was ten times more capable and gentle than Ms. Witch, made my life a living hell and left me to decide that being an A&R rep in the music business really wasn't worth the hassle.

Ms. Witch would get herself into a lather if the Mango Koala Water (think Talking Rain) wasn't cold enough for the staff meeting and you could hear her incessant screaming orbit the round tower from the 8th floor in which we stood, practically down to the lobby thereby shaking some gold records loose from the walls. She'd scream at anybody and everybody--flinging spit through her bucked teeth--and she let everyone have a dose of her napoleonic complex--anyone who wronged her and that basically meant anyone who didn't wipe her ass correctly.

My tenure, during Ms. Witch's reign, was relatively short--in part because there was no way I could put up with her bullshit and because I, along with many others in her path, failed to live up to her expectations. I wasn't fired (never been), but darn near close. I moved on to Corporate PR where I still encountered many other wicked witches, but how I learned to deal with them I owe eternal thanks to Ms. Witch.

I have reason to believe (with facts to prove it) that there are a lot of women in the media industry who feel they must steamroll over anybody who's in the way. And there are those whose own lives are so completely miserable, that their one mission is to bring everybody else down. It's a lesson I learned from Hollywood--but having lived there--not by watching a movie.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

You GO Girl!

Ugh, if I hear that catch-phrase again it'll be too soon I tell ya. I positively loathe "girl power" and last week at the Danskin clinic at REI it was just this one, big giant estrogen fest that left me feeling nauseated.

In some small way, I can understand why the Danskin Tri is so girl-centric, though. It happens to be the largest Sprint Triathlon event in the world and the Seattle race boasts about 5,000 participants; but what is truly extraordinary is that it attracts women of all ages, shapes and sizes. There must have been about 500 women in attendance last week, and a good 2/3 of them were overweight by about 50-150 pounds. Likewise, the median age there had to be about 40. There was a woman sitting next to me who registered for her first Tri and she was 62! In fact, the Danskin Tri athlete extraordinare: Sally Edwards is 58 and had just completed her 104th Tri last weekend.

But that isn't what turned me off about this event. I say all the more power to anyone who attempts to do a Tri in their lifetime. It's definitely a huge accomplishment. What bothered me was the rallying around being a woman, emphasizing that we just do things differently from those "other" people. What sort of message is that?

Perhaps there's a small amount of bitterness behind my rant in that Mary and I attempted to register for the Danskin two weeks after enrollment opened in March and we were turned away because it was sold out. Instead, we chose SEAFAIR which, in and of itself is a good race, it's just not as nationally-known and might not be as well-run as the Danskin, which has been going on over the last 17 years. Yet last week, the spokespeople opened registration to all of the attendees, pissing off a large portion of those of us who either already signed up for another race or had friends who wanted to do the race but were denied entry. I thought that was really schmarmy.

I left REI frustrated--not only because there was another opportunity to register for the Danskin, yet no one from corporate said anything about this when I called and emailed them last March; but also because the spokespeople said NOTHING about the actual race itself. Instead, it focused on the importance of training and provided women with some essential tools to begin a training program. Important to some, but not to me since I've been training for the swim over the past year and began the Tri training immediately after my marathon in April! I hoped for information about what to bring, what to eat, what to do during transitions, blah, blah, blah. Instead, I just got a Bic Soliel disposable razor and a Cubic Zirconia from Helzburg Diamonds. Wah, wah, wahhhhh.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Can't I just dog paddle?

Last night I went to a tri clinic at Greggs in Green Lake. It focused mainly, of course, on bicycles since that’s their business. I got a lot out of it even though I’ve been biking most of my life (and half of that with the same road bike!) and it put me at ease about the race. The worst thing that could happen, in my opinion, is that I get a flat. But even then, there are three Greggs employees on the route, just in case something does happen to someone. Besides, the course is only 12 miles long and it’s on the Express Lanes of I-90, so it’s not as though this is a particularly challenging part of the Tri.

What scared me was after the bike discussion when I heard a few people talk about the swim portion. Sure, I’d read that swimming in a group as large as a Tri competition means basically swimming in such a huge cluster you’re likely to get jostled and bumped the whole way; but what really made me feel nervous was the experienced folks in the room talking about getting hit in the head or elbowed in the ribs or having ones goggles ripped right off their face. The bike guy at Greggs advised those of us who hadn’t raced a Tri before to get in the open water with a group prior to the race to see what it felt like to have people swim directly over you. He also suggested ripping our own goggles off and swallowing a mouthful of water just to get “acclimated” to a competitive swim setting. My nerves spiked then since I’ve been swimming in the safety and comfort of my gyms 80 degree Olympic-sized pool, which is usually pretty empty when I go to swim in the mornings.

So the guy next to me mentioned that Green Lake is hosting an open swim competition on Sunday, June 25 at 9 a.m. Participants can choose to swim either a mile or a half-mile and wetsuits are permitted. When I got home last night, I looked it up online and realized if I wanted to participate, I’d have to register by TOMORROW—which didn’t give me a lot of time to hem and haw over it. So, I mailed it in this morning. I look at it this way—despite the fact that it’s a “competition” I certainly wont swim it that way. Instead, I’ll just do it for the experience of swimming with a large group of people so I’ll have that feeling prior to the Tri. I’m a bit nervous about it, but I’m always that way before a big “something” I’ve never done before. As I put the envelope in the mailbox last night, Pa asked, “Are you really going to swim in Green Lake?” “Yeah, why?” I asked. “Aren’t there things like Pike in Green Lake?” “Dunno,” I replied. “Don’t Pike Fish look scary? Like CrocoStimpys or something?” At that point, I just wanted to smack him.

Of course, he’s referring to one of these:

But in reality, they really look like this:

I’d prefer swimming into the cartoon character, myself, but I guess I don’t have that choice. My friend, who’s doing the Mercer Island Tri in September, will be out of town on the 25th, otherwise, she said, she’d do the swim with me in Green Lake. So I’m basically on my own. We’ll see how it goes!

Tonight is a huge Danskin Tri clinic at REI downtown. Sally Edwards will be there to give people tips on everything about racing a Tri. I’m looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

You Shall Know Us By The Color of our Face Paint

Pa’s making pancakes right now and the intoxicating smell has somehow wound its way up to my office, so my tummy’s rumbling and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to hold out! The house is abuzz with excitement as Pa and Na load their plates and move into the den to watch the TiVo’d World Cup match between Ukraine and Spain.

We’re not big sports fans around here, though Pa and I have fierce college football rivals (my USC to his Michigan) but when it comes to soccer—specifically Ukraine soccer—you’d think we were die-hards. It’s our way of bringing home a little piece of nationalism to Mr. Na who, at four, is becoming quite the little kicker himself.

In Donetsk, where Mr. Na was born, soccer is a huge deal. As piss poor as that city is, their soccer stadium is a massive temple to their gods—the Schactor team—and Pa and I repeatedly kick ourselves for never having gone to their team shop while we were there to get Mr. Na a hometown jersey. It’s one of those things you just can’t buy online and until we actually make it back to Ukraine, he’ll be without.

My cousin in Frankfurt sends me daily commentary and photos of World Cup as he’s dead-center in the thick of all the festivities. I’m amazed by all the fanfare as, like the Olympics, people from all nations have flocked to Germany to cheer their favorite team. It reminds me of the World Cup festivities in 1994 when I was living in D.C. Yet somehow Americans never quite grasped the whole soccer fever, though we’ve tried. It’s just not as exciting and glamorous for us folk as, say, American football or auto racing—which, to this day, leaves me scratching my head. Please, anybody, clue me in as to why this is so? I’d take David Beckham over Matt Hasselbeck or Matt Kenseth ANY DAY and not only for the hottie factor, either—but for Beckham’s grace.

Well, I’ve lost all self-control and now I’m headed down to gorge on pancakes and watch the game! Meantime, please enjoy some photos from Frankfurt!

Monday, June 12, 2006

You know you're out of control when...

You stay up all night trying to perfect a Herbie the Love Bug cake for your kid.

The weather could not have been more beautiful for Mr. Na's birthday party. We decorated the house in red, white and blue (and are seriously considering leaving all this shit up through 'til the Fourth of July!) and the kids loved beating the crap of of the Herbie pinata in the driveway!

Mr. Na made out like a bandit, getting some super-duper-kick-ass presents (including a toy leopard-spotted VW Bug!) All in all, it was a fine time!

Friday, June 09, 2006

SIFF'in It, Part Deux

Actually, I wrote this earlier in the week and just never posted it here. Aw well. It's still pretty timely!

Last night was another SIFF double-header, and the two films we screened couldn't have been any more different from one another; but they were equally entertaining.

Factotum (based on Charles Bukowski's novel) was excellent I love Matt Dillon -- I really do. I think he's a highly-accomplished actor and this role was a tough one. He plays a drunk who goes through a series of jobs, usually getting canned on the first day for wandering off to the bar; and though he's pretty wasted most of the time, his wit is dry and sardonic. Living in cheap rooms, with or without his drunken love interest (played by Lili Taylor) he writes short stories and submits them to Black Sparrow, who actually accepts one of his pieces, titled similarly to Bukowski's works like "Poems Written Before Jumping out of an 8 Story Window" or "All the Assholes in the World and Mine". I was bummed that Dillon did a no-show last night at the screening, but I guess he had more important things to do last night like tape an awards show. Woo-hoo.

So we walked down to Pacific Place from the Egyptian and shopped at Nordy's as a palette cleanser for the next film. Thank God, too, because I don't think I could've sat through both in one theatre, back-to-back. We went from gritty and raw to pouf pop.

The documentary on George Michael was enlightening in that it took his "Behind the Music" one step further with Michael explaining the whole Sony Music lawsuit and why he seemingly disappeared off the charts here in the States while continuing to sell millions of records in the rest of the world. I don't "love" George Michael--I grew up with Wham U.K., so to me he's like this cousin I have whom I enjoy talking to during the holidays but don't keep up with much any other time during the year. But I think he's very talented and had a lot of bad shit happen to him that pretty much took the wind out of his sails.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Happy Birthday Mr. Na!

Hard to believe our little guy is four today. Where the hell has the time gone? I looked at pictures of him when he first came home and nearly broke down sobbing because he was so little, and now? now the kid's ready for a Herbie!

The cupcakes are frosted and ready for his preschool party this morning and I've made a solemn vow not to do anything today other than play with Mr. Na after school. We'll see how that goes!

Monday, June 05, 2006

For the Love of Herbie

As soon as Pa gets home, I'll be working on my Herbie the Love Bug practice cake number two. Number one was totaled earlier today in a rollover accident, creating a cakey, gooey, burnt mess on the bottom of my oven.

How was I supposed to know that the cake pan would become too top heavy and tip over? It's torture I tell ya and I'm really getting tempted, at this point, to fly out my friend, the best damn cake sculptress of the world; but she's got twins who are turning four in a few weeks too, and she's probably swamped with wedding season. The next best thing, she's offered, is technical support via phone.

Good thing I have enough foresight, at least, to do a practice run (or two) because I'd be in a far worse state if it was Saturday night and I had to turn around and go back to QFC for two more boxes of Duncan Hines and a box of unsalted butter. Besides, I'm working with Fondant for the first time in my life and while Krissy says it's about as fun as playing with Play-Doh, I'm a little skeptical of my skills--or lack thereof--in the cake decorating department.

You know, if I step back far enough and say, "Wait a sec, this is just for a 4 year-old," I'd probably curl into a fetal position and demand to be left alone; but I can't help but WANT to make this stupid cake (actually I'm making three--no, four, now with the one totaled, not including the cupcakes for Preschool). Perhaps it's just me being eager to please, doing everything in my power to create memorable experiences for Mr. Na. Or I'm as manic as I sound.

Either way, God willing, I will post the finished product when all is done.