Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Whoa!Totally #11: Bad Poetry Night

This year was the 5th Annual Buckalew Family Bad Poetry Night, the best Christmas night tradition ever! Unfortunately, I only have a small clip here because the flip camera was on the fritz at that point in the evening. But, trust me, nothing brings family & friends together like Knob Creek, Christmas berets, and reeeeallly bad poetry.

That's why Bad Poetry Night is today's Whoa!Totally.

Here's how it works: during the preceding year, participants collect the very worst poems they can find. Obviously, these are usually culled from the magnificent bad-poetry-sharing machine that is the internet. You can't write your own bad poems, but it doesn't really matter whether the poem you find was intended to be bad or not. We're all New Critics; authorial intention goes right out the window. That said, finding a poem that's prime material for Bad Poetry Night is trickier than it sounds. There are innumerable bad poems in the world, but most of them won't fly at BPN. They have to be more than bad; they have to be bad in an entertaining way. Of course, you're free to submit anything you want to bad poetry night, but if it's not funny enough, it'll get cut! By which I mean, it won't be kept in the rotation to be read again next year.

Every year, all our old and new favorites get trotted out again, and some of them have come to be associated with particular participants. For example, only Beau is allowed to read "Ode to Kai" (excepted in video above) and only my cousin Kristen gets to read "MacPh'rs'n's W'mb't !" But, normally, the stack of poems (a mix of old & new with the year and finder written in the top right hand corner) are passed around, and you have to read whatever the next poem in the stack is, which is hilarious, because you get people like my 8 year-old sister reading "God! Oh God! Why have you forsaken my cheeseburger, God?! The unbearble agony!" and then later, when the "blue" hour begins after the children go to bed, you get 80 year-old men reading things like "get out the hoover and suck dat shit up!"

A recipe for hil-ar-i-ty, I assure you.

Imagine your mother reading the following favorite entitled "Nazi's" (five years running and hasn't been cut!) by one of BPN's heroes, "Fritters":

The Nazi's

-by Fritters

I can feel the Nazi's
Here come the Nazi's
Oh God
The Nazi's
Hear there Feet pounding
Oh God
The Pounding
Here they Come
The Nazi's
Here they come
Oh God
Can you feel them
Can you hear them
Can you Taste them
Can you see them
Can you smell Them
Oh God
The Nazi's
Here They Come

I share this (the post, that is...not the Nazi's) in the hopes that other families will pick up and continue this awesome holiday tradition. Also, if you're reading this and you think you've got some really good candidates for next year's Bad Poetry Night, shoot 'em my way. I'll attribute them to you (as the finder, not the poet) and let you know whether they make the cut in 2009!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Whoa!Totally #10: Machiavelli's Ascent

I'm not the world's biggest gamer girl. I think I can count on both hands the video games that have held me in thrall during my lifetime: Tetris, Dig Dug, Super Mario Bros., Zuma, every version of Katamari ever, Viva Pinata, Q-Bert, Frogger, Bioshock, and... ? Nope. That's it. Until now. The latest addition to that list, Machiavelli's Ascent, rounds out an even ten. It's a simple, charming, melodious, and horrifically addictive addition to the Xbox live marketplace.

That's why Machiavelli's Ascent is today's Whoa!Totally.

Adam's much more of a gamer than I am, and he goes through phases where he downloads a lot of free trial games and previews. Occasionally I look up from my computer and watch for a bit, just to see what all the fuss is about. Usually though, it's full of "Yes, my lord!" and "Kaito, you need this amulet to stay alive in the 24th ward!" and "Stay out of Leone turf, asshole!" In other words, not very interesting to me. I don't really like RPGs or FPSs too much; I'm more into arcade and strategy games with great aethetics & immediate competitive goals. Adam describes my video-game preferences as Othello-like: a minute to learn...a lifetime to master.

Anyway, when he loaded up Machiavelli's Ascent? Within 45 secoonds I was telling him to move over on the couch & give me the controller. 45 minutes later I was whoopping & hollering in encouragement and comiseration as we tried to best one another's scores.

It's so ridiculously simple, it's hard to believe how fun and addictive it is. The premise is this: you're a jellyfish on the ocean floor who wants to get to the surface. You press A to initiate your ascent, and use your right and left triggers to swim in either direction, but you can only keep moving upwards as long as you keep running into nutrient bubbles and starfish and stuff. When you're in the flow of things, there's nothing more satisfying: "chaining collisions to build up aurally stimulating combos." But if your jellyfish falls to the bottom of the screen without finding a bubble to propel him up again? Down, down, down he goes...back to the ocean floor to try again. Poor jellyfish! The saddest part is that no matter how hard he swims he will never ever reach the ocean's surface. :(

If you have a 360, check out the free trial of the game then buy it: it's only $5...and your girlfriend will like it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Whoa!Totally #9: Chopped Steak

I rediscovered the wonders of the disappearing phenomenon that is chopped steak (or, "chop't" steak) this afternoon when Adam & I decided to go to Threadgill's for New Year's day lunch. Despite my initial qualms when ordering, the chop't steak turned out to be a panacea for all my hangover-related ills. Hallelujah! ...or maybe that was the Tito's bloody mary working its magic...

In any case, the steak (which I paired with fried okra and black-eyed peas for luck) was wickedly delicious! That's why chopped steak is my New Year's Day whoa!totally.

The chopped steak is one of those weird 50s foods (like Van Camp's Beanee Weenees, or carrot slaw with raisins) that time unfortunately forgot. I don't think the chopped steak is purely regional, but it does seem to hold more sway in Texas because of its connection with the famous Nighthawk Diners. If you were a kid or a bachelor living in Texas in the mid-60s through the mid-80s, the "steak n' taters" t.v. dinner pictured above (sans cooking tray) is probably intimately familiar to you. And don't you miss it? It doesn't look very appetizing, but boy did it hit the spot! Nothing else tastes quite like it.

On Threadgill's menu the desciption of the steak isn't much more than a tribute to the Night Hawk/Frisco Shop's Top Chop't Steak. Which is weird considering the Frisco Shop is right down the street. Shouldn't it be considered competition? Wouldn't Threadgill's attempt to stake a claim (heh heh) in the chopped steak territory instead of advertising for their nearest competitor? Perhaps they were losing business from people who just really wanted Night Hawk chopped steak, but I'm guessing that both restaurants feel pretty solid in their historic-Austin-institution status (Threadgill's opened in 1933, Nighthawk in 1932) that they're not overly worried about being generous with one another.

Once I was reacquainted with the steak, I remembered that it used to be everywhere. It was a diner staple: chopped steak, a scoop of cottage cheese in a lettuce leaf with a maraschino cherry on top, and a peach half. Um, yum much? What do you say, people: holla if you wanna bring back the chop't steak!

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.