Wednesday, July 22, 2009

UNDERRATED

A couple of months ago I made my OVERRATED list (Click Here to see it.) It wouldn’t be fair unless I did the opposite and made an UNDERRATED list as well. The following items, foods, sayings, people, TV shows, and things have all made my list. They may get acknowledged, but I feel they are underappreciated or taken for granted, and therefore UNDERRATED.

The Bikini

This may be a surprising item on my list since the bikini is celebrated all summer, and is most noticeably recognized in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. But the bikini has lost its popularity in recent years. Since it’s so easy to access naked pictures of women on the internet, men have lost their fascination with the two piece bathing suit. Men have become so spoiled that they’re no longer satisfied with ANY clothes on a woman. They want to see everything, and with one click of a button or an entry fee to a strip club, they can.

So I wanted to write this to remind men of the beauty and elegance of the bikini. There’s nothing sexier then when a woman first arrives to the pool/beach (for NYC: the park,) and slowly peels off her clothes. First, the tank top vanishes; then the skirt slides off. And just like that, she’s in her bra and panties aka her bathing suit. She doesn’t show off everything which makes it sexy and classy at the same time. And it’s exciting because she leaves you wanting more.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon because if a girl walked around in just her bra and underwear, she would be shunned. But the bikini implies fun and sun, and is accepted even though it’s the same thing. This is a major feat considering our society is so conservative when it comes to sex and nudity.

So the next time you’re at the beach, put on your sunglasses, and take a look around. Soak in the array of women in their bikinis, and celebrate them in all of their glory.

The Office Massage Guy

No matter where you work, there always seems to be a co-worker who takes on the role as the massage guy. He surprises you from behind, starts squeezing your shoulders, and usually gives you a little pep talk.

You cringe when you talk about him to your friends and co-workers. You don’t want some dude rubbing you. But for some reason, when you’re feeling stressed at work, you sort of hope that the massage guy stops by. Each time he kneads your shoulders, your tension oozes away. You pretend to hate it; like nothing could be more awkward. But secretly you love it, and are always disappointed when he finishes only after a few moments.

It’s time we give massage guy his full credit. He should be honored not mocked.

Getting Your Hair Washed

Men may not admit this, but getting your hair washed is an incredible experience. When I roll into the salon, my first thoughts aren’t about hairstyle or hair gel; it’s all about the hair wash.

This is dedicated to Olga, my 50 year-old hair washing lady:

Her fingers are strong and firm, and her shampoos are rich and silky. She carefully showers my head in warm water, and then runs her delicate fingers through my hair. She caresses my strands with shampoo while massaging my scalp at the same time. The suds build up and quickly roll into the sink. She then coats my hair in conditioner and her magical hands roam to my neck for a short, soothing massage. For the finale, she lightly presses her thumbs to my temples, scratches my head at the same time, and makes all of my worries go away.

She gently lifts up my head, and I open my eyes. Where am I? I wonder if the last few minutes were a dream.

Nope, it was just me getting my hair washed.

Cookies from Pre-Made Cookie Dough

I am no chef. I can barely cook. But one of the few things that I can make is cookies from pre-made cookie dough. Most will say that doesn’t count. Well, why not? Once you try these cookies, maybe you’ll change your mind.

The key to baking pre-made cookie dough is by undercooking the cookies by at least two minutes. I don’t care what the packaging says. I don’t care if they look too squishy out of the oven. Take them out; let them cool; and then peel them off the baking sheet. You will have the squishiest, gooiest, tastiest cookies you’ve ever tried.

Pre-made cookies don’t get their props because they’re pre-made instead of homemade. Well, I’d put up these cookies against any cookie out there. I baked these cookies for my girlfriend on our second date, and despite my chronic nagging and odd habits, she’s still with me. The cookies had to have helped.

Cracking

My name is Paul and I’m addicted to cracking my knuckles, toes, neck, back, ankles, knees, shoulders, etc. I first started in middle school when a “cool” friend told me to do it. After that, I couldn’t stop.

People (mostly my Mom) have deterred me from cracking my body parts. They say it sounds awful, and it gives you arthritis. But I actually like the sound, and according to Dr. Nick Riviera from The Simpsons, it can actually be good for you. What people fail to realize is how damn good it feels, and that’s why it’s underrated.

Imagine taking all of your tension, and fitting it into a pocket of air; like a balloon. It expands and expands until it suddenly POPS! When the balloon bursts, all of your tension vanishes for a brief moment. That’s what cracking is like. It’s a constant relief from stress and anxiety.

Cracking has always been frowned upon, but I think it’s time for it to be accepted.

The Ice Cream Truck

The Ice Cream Truck is a staple of everyone’s childhood. Even today when that ice cream truck chimes, you know exactly what it is, and there is definitely some excitement in the air. Thoughts of fudgsicles, chocolate ├ęclairs, and push-ups enter your mind, and you might just chase down that truck for some sweets and fond memories. (I was always fond of the Chipwich—delicious!)

When you think about it, the ice cream truck is the only one of its kind. There is no pizza truck or cookie truck that drives around (It would be awesome if there was, but I’ve never seen them.) The ice cream truck stands alone. And it’s been around forever.

The ice cream truck can be a little sketchy, and the jingles are clearly annoying and stick in your head. Despite this, we all love it, and need to pay it more respect.

Alone Time

We live in a fast paced society so sometimes we forget about alone time. It’s a period where there are no distractions; no phone calls, no work, no interruptions. It’s peaceful. Alone time is a great time to read a book, watch a movie, and look up tons of porn.

You don’t realize how great it is until your alone time is interrupted.

I still remember watching Shawshank Redemption for the 14th time back in my living room circa 2001. I had the place to myself and was really enjoying the peace and quiet. It was at the climax when Red and Andy were being reunited on the beach. It’s a magical moment. I forgot about all my problems and became a part of the film. My eyes teared up; I was about to cry...

...then my roommates stormed in; loud and obnoxious, they blocked the TV, and started asking me questions. They weren’t overly rude, but they had surely ruined everything. I’d seen the movie 14 times, but it didn’t matter. They had disrupted my alone time. It was then I realized how important that time was, and that I should probably get a TV for my room.

Lemons

When people discuss favorite fruits, the lemon is rarely brought up. And that’s because lemons are not very powerful on their own. Nobody is gonna eat a lemon like an apple, orange, plum or peach. It’s not that kind of fruit. It doesn’t stand on its own. But when it’s paired up with almost anything, it makes it better. The lemon is the wingman of fruits; it doesn’t care about itself, it just wants to improve everything else. For years the lemon has contributed to water, ade, tea, Hefeweizens, meringue pie, squares, cookies, seafood, chicken, and many other goods. It’s time for the lemon to be recognized for its philanthropy and generosity.

Some may knock the lemon because it’s associated with a dud. For example, the new car you just bought doesn’t work; therefore, it’s a lemon. I don’t know who started this, but curse that man. Lemons are great. If anything, let’s change this expression to a “pear.” Pears are odd looking and definitely taste a little funny. Next time, I buy a dud, I’m declaring it a “pear.” Let’s leave the lemon out of it.

Cliffhangers

We like closure. We like conclusions. We like happy endings. But sometimes, we like to be teased as well. There’s a mix of feelings when a TV show or movie ends on a cliffhanger. We are frustrated. We leave wanting more. But we also have something exciting to look forward to. We are giddy in anticipation, and can’t wait to find out what happens next.

This is how I feel at the end of Lost each season. I’m angry that it’s over, but I can’t wait for it to start again; it gives me the chills just thinking about it. And I still salivate at the end of Back to the Future when the “To Be Continued” sign shoots onto the screen.

So sometimes it’s not so bad when you’re left wanting more.

And on that note, my list is not yet finished.

Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of my UNDERRATED list. For Part II, click here: http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2009/08/underrated-part-ii.html

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Socks, Underwear, and Other Vital Fashion Tips

The Great Sock Debate of 2009

It all started last week. My girlfriend and I were relaxing in Central Park and discussing pet peeves. To my surprise, she brought up the issue of my socks.

I like long socks. I pull them up toward my knee to start, and then push them down snuggly toward my ankles. I’ve been wearing my socks like this for decades. I’m a lot like Mr. Pitt from Seinfeld. I take time and effort in choosing the right sock for me. And the right sock for me is the long sock. It’s comfortable and reliable. Secure and protective. Sleek and smooth.

My girlfriend declared the long sock as DORKY. She prefers the ankle socks on men; the ones where you can’t tell if the guy is even wearing them. She feels one of the reason it looks better (besides not being dorky) is because it shows the contour of the entire leg.

We posed the question: do more men wear long socks or short socks?

So for the rest of the day, we did a little study. We observed New Yorkers and their socks. (You may be thinking that we have a lot of time on our hands. Well, we did, but it was fun anyways.)

The rules for the study were as follows. We only watched males. They had to be wearing shorts and sneakers (no shoes, sandals, etc.) And we both had to witness the sock in order for it to count.

Here were our results:

Of the 55 males observed, 33 (60%) men wore the short socks. 22 men (40%) wore the long socks. Those wearing the long socks included old men, little kids, men carrying tennis rackets, possibly undocumented citizens, and tourists (especially those from Denmark.) Short socks accounted for everyone else.

(The next day I was in the suburbs; the amount of long socks increased invariably because of the 50+ men. I felt right at home.)


Although most of my peers have agreed with my girlfriend’s assessment, I still like my long socks. NBA players wear them long sometimes (see Jason Terry), Mr. Pitt from Seinfeld wears them long (see “The Chaperone”), and the cool hot dog vendor near me wears them long as well.

Future studies are needed for the great sock debate. The data is inconclusive and the sampling pool needs to be larger. But two things can be concluded from the study:
I like wearing long socks.
And I am probably a dork.

Here are a few other clothing issues worth discussing:

Tighty Whities vs Boxers

Growing up, I was all about the Tighty Whities. They provided comfort. They provided stability. Sometimes, they had cool cartoons on them. And although I received countless wedgies from my big brothers and bullies, I stayed true to the Tighty Whities. In high school, I learned about boxers. I enjoyed them as well. They gave my boys more freedom, but they tended to ride up, and I was not convinced for a full change.

It was in college that I made a complete transition to boxers. I was at a fraternity pledging event, and somehow ended up pants-less. (As I look back, this was strangely common at our events.) Fifteen of us stood awkwardly in a room in just our undergarments. I looked around and almost everyone wore boxers. The only ones in Tighty Whities were me and two others. While the boxer guys looked comfortable, I felt naked and embarrassed. Like a little boy amongst men. I’ll never forget that traumatic night. Afterwards, I vowed never to be seen in Tighty Whities again, and have worn boxers ever since.

The Beret

If you’re a bid dude named Murphy/O’Brien/Sully, a French painter, a Scottish golfer, or a certain military rank, the beret is acceptable. Otherwise, I just don’t get them.

A few years back, a girl that I was dating bought me a beret as a gift. The guys above can pull it off, but definitely not me. I tried it on, and she marveled how nice it looked. I pretended to smile. I looked at myself in the mirror painfully; I looked terrible. The gift, as it turned out, was a symbol of our relationship. She barely knew me. What’s next…a tweed jacket? Actually, she told me that gift was soon to come. The relationship ended not long after the beret incident.

The Vest

Unless it’s bulletproof or comes with your tuxedo, remove it immediately. To quote Michael Cera from Superbad: “Take that vest off, you look like Aladdin.”

The Sport Coat

Maybe I’ll get overruled here, but I can’t stand the guys that wear sport coats over their T-Shirts. There’s something pretentious and stupid about the whole thing. Sure, I’ve flirted with the idea of it. Maybe it’s comfortable. Maybe it’s stylish. Maybe I’d look like a douchebag. I just can’t do it.

Skinny Jeans

Does anyone understand the concept of skinny, tight jeans? They look extremely uncomfortable, and leave nothing to the imagination. This has become cool with the hippie, alternative crowd. I would love to hear an explanation because I have no idea what they’re thinking.

Baggie Jeans

This is another confusing phenomenon. Baggy jeans hang at least six inches below the waist; just enough so you can see the person’s entire butt and underwear. I understand the idea of it; baggie usually coincides with comfortable. But how do people keep their pants up throughout the day? It seems exhausting.

Expensive Sneakers

I work with teenagers and often see them sporting the latest Air Jordans. Some pay up to two hundred dollars for special, limited edition shoes. And although they are basketball sneakers, the kids can’t play basketball in them because they might get dirty. Many adults pour their money into these shoes as well. When wearing them, their energy is either spent cleaning their footwear or carefully avoiding dirt, grime, and dust. Sounds like a lot of work and money just for a pair of sneakers.

My Fashion Sense

I have all these opinions about fashion, but do I have any credibility? Here’s my expertise in the clothing world:

I know next to nothing. My favorite store is The Gap because it’s simple, basic, and conservative. My goal is to look OK and not wear anything that stands out too much. I feel like Homer Simpson when he has to wear a pink shirt to work: “I’m not popular enough to be different.” I just want to blend in with everyone else.

To my defense, I do look presentable, but I just don’t care about clothes very much. I once offended a girl when I asked her if Armani was a reputable clothing line.

As far as shopping goes, I absolutely dread it. I don’t know what I want. I don’t want to get ripped off. I don’t want to be cheap. I don’t want to buy the wrong thing. Meanwhile, the salesman is asking me all these questions, and I don’t have any answers. I hate making decisions about clothes. My brain overloads, and I just wish I was back home.

When I do buy something, there is a moment of pride. The salesman smiles; I smile. I actually made a decision, and this new shirt/hat/sneakers/pants is going to improve my life.

When I return home, I usually evaluate my purchase and get nervous. I start regretting my decision. Sometimes, I make the right one. But, lots of times, when I get home, one of two things usually happen.

#1 I try on the piece of clothing again, and it’s incredibly uncomfortable. It’s as if every clothing item (shirt, pants, sneakers) deceptively feels better in the store. I try to convince myself that it’s fine, but it never is. It’s either too short, too long, too tight, or too loose. It’s just not right. If I feel motivated, I return it. But I’m usually too exhausted to go back to the store and fear the idea of more shopping. The clothing item then sits in my closet until it is donated to charity or thrown away.

#2 I try on the clothing, and it feels fine. I wear my new shirt out with my friends. They tease me just enough where I’m self-conscious about it. Every time I think about wearing it again, I get nervous that there’s something wrong with it, and people will make fun of me. My insecurities take over, and the shirt is thrown into the black hole of my closet and never heard from again.

Thanks for the Clothes

I’ve been able to avoid shopping for most of my life. My Mother still buys me things, and so do girlfriends, female friends, in-laws, brothers, and anyone else who is determined to help me with fashion. Birthday gifts, Chanukah gifts, and pity gifts have helped fill my closet over the years.

Maybe one day, I will become a confident, well educated, hip clothing shopper. Until then, keep the gifts coming. And remember, I prefer long socks.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

BRUNO

Defending My Review of The Hangover

Before I discuss Bruno, I need to defend my review of The Hangover as well as my masculinity. My guy friends knocked me for not LOVING The Hangover. It was like I had just ordered MILD wings, asked for directions, or downed a pink drink.

I actually felt like Billy Madison defending his choice for favorite video game.

Kid: Mortal Kombat, on Sega Genesis, is the best game ever.
Billy Madison: I disagree. It is a very good game, but I think Donkey Kong is the greatest game ever.
Kid: Donkey Kong sucks!
Billy Madison: You know what? You suck!

Now replace Mortal Kombat with The Hangover. The Hangover was a very good movie, but it’s not the greatest ever. Since there are so few well made guys’ movies, men seem to overreact when a good one actually comes out.

So I stand by my review (Click here for my review): The Hangover makes for a really fun escape, and it is very funny. But it wasn’t “fall-out-of-my-seat, my-stomach-hurts-so-much-from-laughing-hilarious”—except for the last two minutes. Take those two minutes and multiply it by 45 and then you get…

BRUNO

Bruno was crude, raunchy, outrageous, graphic, over the top, wrong, and absolutely HILARIOUS! And that wasn’t the last two minutes; that was for the entire movie.

The biggest difference between Bruno and The Hangover is that it’s not going to appeal to as many people. Some will say it’s already been done by Borat (Bruno pushes the limit even more.) Some will say Sacha Baron Cohen is wearing out his welcome. Others will be turned off by the shock value laughs, and the infinite number of gay scenes.

My parents will be intrigued by the reviews. They will get excited to learn more about the newest pop culture icon. And even though I loved this movie, I pray that they don’t see it. This movie is not for them.

For those that follow Ali G and Borat, you will love this movie! The only knock is that Bruno is a shade under 90 minutes.

For those that don’t know a lot about Bruno, here are some things you might want to know: Bruno is an aspiring model from Austria. His main goal in life is to be uber-famous. And he is incredibly gay.

It was refreshing to see a character that is so up front and honest. The gay scenes in Bruno are not offensive, mocking, or mean. But instead, they are outrageous, shocking and hilarious. Sacha Baron Cohen crosses the line without hesitation. In one scene, he mimes a blow job for 3 minutes. Who does that? But he’s so committed to the absurdity, that not only does it work, but it’s also uproariously funny. His timing and improvisational skills are exceptional. And he is very clever; I can’t see anyone else pulling this off.

But Bruno does. He pulls off everything including lots of clothes. There is so much nudity that I’m shocked how this was only an R rated movie. And most of it is man on man love. For those that enjoy a talking penis, you’re in for a treat.

The story line is very basic and not all that important. Bruno is blackballed from Austria so he moves to LA so he can be famous. He tries several methods to reach success—starts his own TV show, tries to make a celebrity sex video, adopts a baby giving him the "traditional" African name OJ, (babies are huge in comedies this summer!) and attempts to make peace in the Middle East (yes, he goes there!)

Then he realizes that the most successful Hollywood icons, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kevin Spacey, are all straight. So the final act is Bruno attempting to be heterosexual. He joins the Army, attends a Swingers party, goes hunting, and learns to defend himself against a man carrying dildos.

The scenes are equally shocking. The audience gasped at the start of each scene, thinking: “Is he really doing this? He’s going to die!” In the middle of each scene, we laughed out loud uncontrollably, thinking: “How is he doing this?” And finally, at the end of the scene, we were relieved: “Thank God, he didn’t die. What could he possibly do to top that?” And then the next scene would come and top the previous one.

Sacha Baron Cohen uses Bruno (just like Borat) to expose some of the most ignorant people in our country. And most of these people deserve it. He interviews stage Moms who will do ANYTHING for their babies to be in a commercial. He meets with “gay converters” who change men from gay to straight. During one session, Bruno asks one of the male converters: “Are you hitting on me?”

And of course Bruno makes fun of countless celebrities (Harrison Ford has a great one-liner) and models. A beautiful woman explains that modeling is extremely difficult because there’s so much walking. Bruno deadpans that it’s hard because you have to put one foot in front of the other. The model wholeheartedly agrees, and they continue the interview.

There is a scene with LaToya Jackson, and I’m wondering if it remains in the movie. I’ll leave out the details because I don’t want to spoil it, but there are several references to Michael Jackson. This was all made before his death so I’m curious to see if it makes the final cut. (SPOILER: As it turns out, the scene has been cut. For you gossip fans, the scene entailed the same gimmicks he used with Paula Abdul. The big difference is that LaToya happily sat on a Mexican man like a piece of furniture. She then casually ate sushi off of a naked man while engaging in a conversation with Bruno. Bruno made several references to MJ hoping to get him on his “show.” At one point, Bruno borrows LaToya’s phone, and tries to find MJ’s phone number. As Bruno becomes more insistent, she and her agent decide that it’s time to go. As she veers off, Bruno shouts to the car asking for at least Jermaine’s number. The scene was hilarious, but it was probably a smart idea to remove it. Hopefully, it will be on the DVD. )

The final scene does not disappoint. It is a culmination of hilarity, shock, and amazement. As I exited the theater, I caught eyes with several other people. Our faces were sore from smiling, our stomaches ached from laughing, and our jaws hurt from shock. We were speechless. We all looked at each other, shook our heads, and just laughed one more time.

It’s been a week and I’m still cracking up. I can’t wait until Friday, July 10th so I can see Bruno again.

How to Go to a Movie Screening

Sometimes, in front of big movie theaters (especially in NYC and LA), there will be sketchy guys trying to give you something. Your first reaction will be to ignore them because they are sketchy and weird. But these strange men are offering you something special: free tickets to a movie screening. The odd men will summarize the movie quickly and boast about the actors even if they suck. If you’re still interested, you must answer one more question correctly to receive your free pass for two.

“Do you work in the entertainment industry?”

Just say NO and you shall receive your golden ticket.

When you get home, register for the screening online. Arrive to the movie super early because it’s first come, first serve. The place will be a mad house, and you’ll get a taste of Hollywood and its motto: “Hurry up and wait!”

But once you get in, you’ll get to see a movie that might not come out for months. You may also get picked for a focus group and actually voice your opinion on the movie. You may even run into celebs who are involved with the film. That’s how I met Larry David (click here for the Larry David story.)

Some of the screenings that I’ve attended include Anchor Man, Envy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and now Bruno.

And all it cost me was an awkward 2 minute conversation with a strange man in front of a movie theater.