Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Whoa!Totally #8: Chuck Bass

In order to bring you this W!T I took my maiden voyage into the world of iMovie. I simply wanted to showcase the awesomely outrageous fashion choices of Chuck Bass, the teenage Upper East Side version of Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont, in my guilty-pleasure show, Gossip Girl. And, oh yes, there were plenty of Chuck Bass tributes on YouTube already, but...I just couldn't bring myself to use any of them. They either had horrific soundtracks by Nickelback, or were a little too preoccupied with the relationship between two specific characters, or included lots of Tiger Beat-esque centerfolds of the actor, Ed Westwick, with his shirt half undone. None of them worked for my purposes: which was to show how a fictional character is single-handedly bringing back the bowtie (about time!)

That's why Chuck Bass is my New Year's Eve whoa!totally.

And that's why I had to make my own video. "Congratulations!" my boyfriend says, "You made a bad 15 year-old fangirl video." Yes I did! And it took me forever, and I'm ridiculously proud of it...especially the pretentiously arty end-credits and the stupid old-timey effects.

I swear I'm not in love with this dude (Adam's worried a bunch of ex-boyfriends are going to show up on the doorstep squinting and wearing madras tennis shorts!). The character of Chuck Bass is pretty awesome though. He's the richest boy in New York and seems to have nothing to do but loiter around in caricaturized preppy-wear: eavesdropping, drinking like a fish, womanizing and ruining people's social lives with his nefarious schemes. And underneath the bluefin tuna cardigan? A heart of gold, a tortured soul, and daddy-issues out the wazoo! How can you not like that?

I made Emily start watching Gossip Girl when she came down to Austin to visit and now we end all our IMs with GG sign-offs like "Better watch out, E. Somebody's about to get a wake-up call...and the invitation isn't for brunch. XOXO, Gossip Girl."

This, of course, lead to the creation of the Chuck Bass emote, which is used to indicate that you simultaneously see someone, want to sleep with them, and know something about them that they don't. It looks like this:

};-* 8

or this (depending on whether the emphasis is more sexual or monetary)

;:-$ 8

Better check your bags, girls. Looks like somebody's New Year just got a whole lot happier.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Whoa!Totally #7: Blow-Up Lawn Reindeer Rocking Out

This might be the type of thing you need to have experienced in person to appreciate, but I don't care. Adam, Beau & I saw this huge blow-up reindeer lawn ornament bucking in the wind as we were driving back from my parents' house on X-mas night. My parents live in suburbia, so their neighborhood is full of ridiculous Christmas displays, but for some reason we were all struck by the awesomeness of this particular display at the exact same moment. We came round a bend and there it was: rearing up on its back legs, surfing on its ice floe, and totally rocking out to the end of the Bowie song we were listening to.

That's why this blow-up reindeer is my first post Christmas whoa!totally.

Luckily, Adam had his little flip camera with him so he was able to capture part of the moment...before his batteries died. I particularly like Beau's commentary, which makes it seem like the "awesomeness" of this particular encounter had more to do with us pounding Red Bull & all night and watching extreme road trip movies (which I assure you we were not).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Whoa!Totally #6: This Kid's Hair!

This kid (and his hair) was at a Thanksmas party Adam & I went to the other night down the street from my parents' house. Now, I don't know who this kid is or whether his parents would mind him appearing on W!T, but I think it's safe to say that his identity is protected by that fanTAStic mop of hair!

That's why this kid's hair is today's Whoa!Totally.

What style! What an emo-folk frontman waiting to happen. But here's my question: is this kid rocking his own personal style, or are his parents rocking it for him? I wish it was the former but suspect it's the latter. My mom gave me this prince valiant bowl-cut when I was this age too & I hated it because I thought it made me look like a poor, dorky, toe-headed hick (though, obviously, I couldn't articulate that at the time), but on this kid? It's bangin'! I wish I had actually watched his game of air-hockey...if only to find out whether he could actually see the puck.

I think that was point I rushed off to the "yankee swap" portion of the party, during which Adam and I received a ceramic chip n' dip sombrero (yes!) and an *NSYNC gift box (double yes!). However, I did spend about a third of the party playing 4-7 year-olds at the miniature air-hockey table. I had no bones about beating them game after game, even when they begged me to go easy on them or grew teary-eyed. Does this make me a bad person? I'm mercilessly competitive when it comes to air-hockey, and I'm only good at it because the older boys at the skating rink in the 80s wouldn't "let me" win. Tough love.

I'll tell you one thing though: I never looked half as stylin' doing it as this kid and his awesome hair!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Whoa!Totally #5: Mulatu Astatke's Ethiopiques, Vol. 4

This is, hands-down, the best $9.99 I've ever spent on iTunes. Listening to this smokin' Ethiopian jazz (yes, I said Ethiopian jazz) album makes me feel like I'm in some sexy international spy caper from the 60s, or a blaxploitation film, or an opium den. Its smokin', hip-grinding, chilled-out grooves are reminiscent of Lester Young or John Coltrane, only more hypnotic, funky & downright rad.

That's why Mulatu Astatke's Ethiopiques, Vol. 4: Ethio Jazz and Musique Instrumentale (1969-1974) is today's Whoa!Totally.

Perhaps you remember this music from the 2005 Jim Jarmusch film, Broken Flowers, with Bill Murray. It would have been a stylish but fairly disappointing and unmemorable film (especially coming directly off of Bill Murray's resurrection in Lost in Translation & Wes Anderson's films), had it not been for that soundtrack! Remember how the main character's neighbor Winston makes him a mix CD as a soundtrack for his quest? Well, that soundtrack managed to linger in my head for three years (even though the movie left little impression on me) before I tracked its awesomeness back to the amazing Mulatu Astatke.

Even if you're not the biggest fan of "World" music, check this album out (and for god's sake retire Gotan Project already). It will instantaneously turn your crappy condo in Texas into a swingin' late 60s den of iniquity. Put on some dark sunglasses & break open the Campari; you're about to feel a whole lot groovier.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Whoa!Totally #4: Star Wars Yoga!

(Unfortunately, I can't link directly to the Star Wars video. Go here and scroll down to "Star Wars Yoga")

I can hear both scornful snorts and cries of delight already. Star Wars and....Yoga? If you are a fan of Star Wars and you're not a fan of yoga, this may seem like blasphemy of the worst sort. But you're wrong; it's awesome. In this popular episode from Yoga Today, Neesha uses the philosophical principles of Star Wars to create a yoga flow that is all about harmony, joy, the union of opposites, and THE FORCE. She starts out the class with breathing exercises that make you sound like Darth Vader!

That's why Star Wars Yoga is today's Whoa!Totally.

Honestly though, the Star Wars episode is just a lure. The real root of this awesomeness is Yoga Today, which posts FREE hour-long yoga practices online every day. There are three different teachers: Sarah, Neesha & Adi (my favorite!), all of whom teach multiple styles and levels. One of the best things about the series is that all episodes are filmed outdoors in breathtaking places like Jackson Hole, WY & Sedona, AZ. Sometimes deer wander up during filming, or fish leap in a stream behind the instructor. You can hear wind and birds as you do your practice!

Now, I know some people think that yoga is a little...well, 'woo-woo' ( and that people who preach about the life-altering power of yoga are even more irritating & 'woo-woo'), but yoga is totally rad. I got into yoga when I was in grad school (I was stressed out, eating poorly & not getting any exercise). I approached it suspiciously at first because I'd taken a few classes over the years that had left a bad taste in my mouth: irritating instructors, slow-moving classes & weird new age music.

I didn't have the time or the money to go to classes, but I thought 'surely somebody must offer free yoga online...' DING! Goldmine.

I will warn you, though, the first few classes can be excrutiatingly difficult (depending on which ones you take), and you will probably be deliciously sore for days. However, I've never done anything that gets you in shape so fast in my life. I've done ballet, aerobics, swing dancing, jogging, weight-lifting, gymnastics, etc. at various points in my life, but never have I seen and felt such a profound change so quickly. I could see the change in my body after only four days (!), and my headaches went away & my moods stabilized. Colors, smells and sensations were heightened. My appetite changed. My dreams became more vivd.

Can I say any of this without sounding like I'm drinking my own kool-aid? I'm not a lifestyle yogini (i.e. I don't buy special clothes, or go on yoga retreats, or subscribe to yoga blogs, or buy yoga straps & blocks) but yoga has changed my life and I can see why people get obssessive about it. If it hadn't been for Yoga Today, I probably never would have thought to do something like Whoa!Totally...

Now go do some Star Wars Yoga! See what all the fuss is about!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Whoa!Totally #3: Hacker-Pschorr Weisse!

It's a traditional German wheat beer that tastes like a light, buttery, lemony biscuit...only refreshing! With a light maltiness and hints of banana & clove. AND it's only 156 calories per 12 oz. serving. Not bad for a beer this tasty!

That's why Hacker-Pschorr Weisse is today's Whoa!Totally.

Now, don't get on your high-horse about how I'm being seasonally inappropriate. Some people enjoy ice cream in the winter; I enjoy wheat beers. In fact, if I were just coming in from skiing in the Swiss Alps, I can think of nothing tastier than curling up next to a fire in the ski lodge and drinking a tall, crisp, heady glass of Hacker-Pschorr Weisse.

Strange, considering my dubious introduction to the beer. I first tried it at a gentleman's insistence on a second date that didn't lead to a third. The first date had gone fairly well, actually. We'd met for pool & a couple of pints at a local pub. He was good-looking, smart, funny, charming, and drove a really sexy motorcycle (not usually my thing). The only drawback was that he quoted Napoleon Dynamite & the Simpsons constantly--like, often in lieu of conversation. But I chalked this up to nervousness and agreed to go out with him again.

His plans for the second date were more ambitious. I drove to meet him in a small town a few hours away where there was supposedly some sort of fair going on. He told me we'd have dinner and drinks and enjoy the festivities. When I arrived at the restaurant, he was in the middle of a conversation with somebody he knew but he didn't introduce me or acknowledge me (even though it was clear he'd seen me come in). I waited in a booth for 15 minutes before he came over. I was starving and had been staring at the menu. When I asked him what he recommended he said "oh, you're hungry?" in this really incredulous tone of voice. He told me he'd just eaten with friends and said "Let's go to the bar. We'll get you something to eat later." Perhaps this is a good point to mention that he was wearing a bluetooth headset the whole night?

Anyway, the "fair" turned out to be a really small motorcycle show (small show, not small motorcycles, which would have been waaay better), so I spent half the night passively listening to this guy banter with other motorcycle dudes in impenetrable motorcycle-speak. He accused half of them of trying to hit on me; the other half consisted of guys he already knew but didn't introduce me to.

When we finally went to dinner, I felt awkward because I was the only one eating and the guy (who was thinner than me) kept going on about how he was watching his weight. Not only did we have to wait 45 minutes to get a table, then 45 minutes for my food to arrive, but when the food did arrive it was cold, inedible and not anything resembling what I had ordered. I don't mean it didn't live up to my expectations; I mean they brought me somebody else's food. I've worked enough in food service at this point that I'm not much of a complainer, but this seemed like a totally appropriate occasion on which to send back the food or talk to the manager about getting the food comped. The guy wouldn't let me do it! I mean, he threatened to get up and walk out if I embarrassed him like that. Couldn't I see that the staff was already overworked and harassed? In retrospect I blame my hunger for the fact that I didn't just let him leave, but at the time I thought perhaps he was totally right and I was being irrational and rude. I paid for the food; he ate it. Oh, and did I mention? During the course of our "date" he took about 3 calls on his blue-tooth headset which all began with him telling the caller "Oh, nothing. You?"

So what does any of this have to do with Hacker-Pschorr Weisse? The fact that I'd been drinking it all night...ever since he'd taken me away from the food I'd wanted so desperately and dragged me to the bar where he stared at me in disbelief and said "You've never had Hacker-Pschorr? Are you shitting me?"

The entire date I kept thinking "wow, this date blows, but this beer is AWESOME!"

Hacker-Pschorr Wiesse: I'd have one now if it wasn't before noon and I wasn't proctoring a final exam.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whoa!Totally #2: Calvin Harris' "Acceptable in the 80's"

I dare you to listen to this song once and not immediately listen to it at least three more times. It's stoopid, it's infectious, and it's just so damn rad. You'll be going around for the rest of the day thinking "I've got luv for you, if you were born in the eight-tays, the eight-tays!" and it will be utterly impossible to feel sad on this grey December day.

That's why Calvin Harris' "Acceptable in the 80's" is today's Whoa!Totally.

Dare I admit that I was in Urban Outfitters when I first heard this song? I admit it: I like flat shoes, tight jeans, and skinny boys in fat ironic scarves who eat cupcakes then go throw them up. Anyway, there I was: loving the neon sunglasses, and loving the smell of the sample perfume in the plastic bottle that’s supposed to make me smell like a 12 year-old virgin who really, really likes Japanese food. It’s called “Miso Pretty” and I covet it, like I covet the music in Urban Outfitters, which I can only describe as ironic electroclash 80s throwback british invasion post-techno…techno songs? With lyrics like “I am in the in-dust-ry, you are in the in-dust-ry, we are in the in-dus-try, this is the in-dus-try!” and then the ultimate 80s throwback song begins. It’s Calvin Harris’ “Acceptable in the 80s” and if you haven’t heard it, you haven’t lived. The basic premise is this: Calvin Harris has LOVE for you IF you were born in the 80s, and he’ll do THINGS for you, but ONLY if you were born in the 80s.

Now maybe you don’t understand the cognitive dissonance I'm experiencing at this point: I’m standing in the 80s afterlife TRYING NOT TO DANCE, for there is no dancing allowed in Urban Outfitters. It may have been acceptable in the 80s, but it isn’t now, and I love Calvin Harris for writing this song but it's completely unrequited love because I was born in, well... the 70s.

And as I'm trying to navigate these feelings, 2 girls standing next to me (who were probably born in the 90s) pick up a Joy Division t-shirt that’s undergone Urban Outfitters’ “shirt-surgery”—it’s been cut, slashed, twisted and tied. It says “Transmission 1979” on it and one girl worries that if she buys it people will mistake her for someone old enough to have been at the concert, but the other girl assures her, "no, people’ll just take it ironically, or like your mother saw them or something." Girl 1 asks girl 2 if the band is called "Transmission" and the album is called Joy Division, or vice versa. Girl 2 says “who cares, it’s fucking cute.” And they buy it. They buy a $46 t-shirt advertising a band they don’t know and hope nobody thinks they actually saw live.

I can’t afford the shirt, or the exposure through its many slashes and gashes, or my sudden irrelevance as I realize what you’ve all figured out already: that the 80s renaissance isn’t actually for me. If you remember the 80s and enjoy its return with any sort of sincerity or sentiment, you can go throw yourself under a bus. It doesn't matter whether you were the school champion of tight-rolling your jeans, or hairspraying your bangs to look like the Sidney Opera house, or rocking the jelly-shoes. You can try to make yourself smell like a 12 year-old virgin who really, really loves Japanese food, but you still have the irrevocable stench of your 70s birth on you: it smells like John Denver & Melba toast... You’re just too old, and maybe Calvin Harris doesn’t love you. But he can't stop you from loving the hell out of his song and playing it repeatedly on the big pink jambox of your soul!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Whoa!Totally #1: Captain Benny's

Who wouldn't want to eat a whole fried catfish inside a boat parked on the I-35 access road?

The answer is nobody sane. That's why Captain Benny's (I just call it "Captain's" and you should too) is today's Whoa!Totally.

Captain's has been around Austin forever-and-a-half, yet nobody ever talks about it, recommends it, or even remembers it. This is unconscionable because Captain's is totally awesome! They have some of the best (and cheapest!) seafood & gumbo in the city. I particularly recommend the fried catfish and the calamari, which satisfy fried-food cravings without making you feel like a complete grease bomb afterward. Such delightfully delicate cornmeal dust! Service is super-quick and no frills and if you sit at the bar in the boat part of the restaurant (which is a must) you can watch the staff shuck oysters while you eat.

Also worth noting: if you swallow your first raw oyster at Captain's they ring a ship bell and everybody applauds. I assume this still happens because the bell's still there, but I haven't actually seen it used since I was kid in the 80s. My mom & aunt used to take my cousin & me to Captain's once a week for happy hour, and every week I swore to them that I was going to eat a raw oyster (I wanted them to ring that bell for me soooo bad!) but I could never work up the nerve to do it.

My weirdest childhood memory of Captain's is the time my cousin insulted me by calling me a "sperm mouth." I knew what that meant (sort of...) but I feigned ignorance and went to ask her mom what "sperm mouth" meant. I wanted to get my cousin in trouble but I didn't want to be accused of being a tattle-tale. My aunt, of course, asked me where I'd heard those words, and I told her... but I didn't expect or enjoy the result. She flew into a rage and made me watch while she washed my cousin's mouth out with Dial soap. I'd heard the phrase "I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap" before, but I thought it was just an expression, not an actual threat! I felt horrible. My cousin felt horrible. My aunt felt horrible. Everybody felt horrible about the whole incident. Then, out of nowhere, my mom suggested we all forget about it and go to Captain's! It was, weirdly, the perfect suggestion, and my cousin and I started laughing about what tasted worse: Dial soap or raw oysters.

Don't let my weird story put you off; Captain's rocks! If you can second this, or have other reasons or stories about why Captain's is awesome, speak up.