A Virgin among Spicy Peppers

I’ll admit it. I’ve never done it before until this just past Monday.  

I like hot peppers, but not this kind. No way. Especially not if it’s used on me, but if I had to use it, that would be fine with me.  

What do you think I’m talking about?  

No, I’m actually talking about pepper spray. I’ve lived 32 years on this planet without this everyday life item, but now with the fear of a serial rapist on the loose in Reno, I was recommended by my parents to get one.  

So I finally gave in and got one.  

Days later I still can’t believe how clunky this thing is on my keychain. The case though matches my eye color and driving gloves – blue. So at least it’s fashionable!  

Knock on wood; I’ve never had any personal safety problems yet. I’ve dealt with creepy guys before, but that’s just a given being a girl. But nothing on the level of Brianna Denison – the 19-year-old college student who was kidnapped and killed within the last month in Reno.  

I actually had no idea about this case until mom and I walked by McDonald’s in Park City, Utah and saw it on FOX News.  

Since then every girl and their grandmother have been taking self-defense classes. I actually took one ten years ago at the university. At the time it was an experimental class they offered to see what kind of response they would get.  

There were about 20 of us in there. We learned basically what girls are learning now ten years later: don’t go to a second location, trust your gut, and carry a cell phone.  

I can’t imagine what this poor girl’s last moments were like. I hope I do not experience them myself.  

Ironically I think her untimely death has spotlighted the need for others to be cautious. So if something good has to come out of this I think it is that.  

I don’t know if I feel extra protected carrying this thing. I do know it shoots red spray; I tested it in my parent’s backyard one night. So at least I know it works.  

My mother also bought one at the same time. She’s 66. And she’s never had one before either. I also pray she never has to use it.

Like Steve McQueen….

From the LA Times:

Bullitt: Chasing the detective’s mystique

hy-neil27

Michael Robinson Chavez/ Los Angeles Times
For 2008, Ford has decided to reanimate the cinematic Mustang. Behold the Mustang Bullitt, a slightly tweaked, de-badged Mustang GT, painted Dark Highland Green and dipped with shameless McQueen nostalgia. — Dan Neil
In looks, ride, even in sound, a Ford Mustang edition pays proper homage to a legend.
By Dan Neil, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 27, 2008
Not to go all Pauline Kael on you, but “Bullitt” — the 1968 crime drama starring a Ford Mustang GT390 and some guy named Steve McQueen — is a fairly tedious bit of Aquarian cinema: the chicka-chicka-waah soundtrack, the inscrutable plot, the anaerobic dullness of every second that McQueen is off-camera.”Bullitt” scrabbles to its minor footnote status in film history on two counts. The first: It marks the only time any man ever looked cool in a cardigan — McQueen should have gotten the academy’s knitwear award. The second is the movie’s remarkable seven-minute chase scene, with real cars (the Mustang and a black Dodge Charger), real drivers and real stunts, no special effects. The only blue screen in this movie is the perpetual scrim of cigarette smoke.

McQueen — who would have turned 78 this March — made some fine movies, and some of his movies have great car action in them, but rarely, if ever, do the two qualities overlap. McQueen’s magnum opus, “Le Mans,” is about as strange a movie as can be found. The dialogue, such as it is, could be transcribed onto an index card. The plot is somewhere between furtive and nonexistent. It’s like Samuel Beckett at 200 mph. And yet, it’s a completely captivating document about endurance racing at its most glamorous. If you know what a Porsche 917 or a Ferrari 512M is, then odds are “Le Mans” is one of your all-time favorite films. Only please, don’t sit next to me on a plane.

Personally and professionally, I try very hard to separate Steve McQueen the actor — who was never better than in “Papillon” — and McQueen the motorsports idol, the patron saint of petrol, the king of cool, the hero to millions of gray-heads lost in an automotive time warp. Give me a break. I have no doubt that McQueen was a very hip cat. He smoked weed. He drove a Jaguar SS. He absolutely rocked a black turtleneck in a way Tom Cruise could never hope to.

But honestly, people, let’s grab a shovel and bury Steve McQueen. The poor man is working harder now than he ever did when he was alive. He is among the highest-earning dead celebrities — endorsing Tag Heuer watches, for instance — and the mawkish, ghoulish obsession with McQueen has gone so far that a pair of his Persol sunglasses — glasses he might, might have worn in “The Thomas Crown Affair” — sold at auction for more than $60,000. McQueen-omania has officially jumped the shark.

McQueen’s brown Ferrari Lusso sold at Pebble Beach last year for $2.3 million, which is easily twice what it would be worth without the McQueen provenance. The person who bought this car, whoever he or she is, is speculating on the rising value of all things McQueen, and I find that kind of distasteful. This is not dancing on McQueen’s grave; it’s doing the Lindy Hop.

Perhaps the biggest deal the dead McQueen struck recently was his arrangement with the Ford Motor Co. You may remember the 2004 commercials where a digitally reanimated McQueen steps out of a cornfield and jumps into a Mustang and roars off. For 2008, Ford has decided to reanimate the cinematic Mustang. Behold the Mustang Bullitt, a slightly tweaked, de-badged Mustang GT, painted Dark Highland Green and dipped with shameless McQueen nostalgia.

To say I wanted to despise this car is putting it mildly. For starters, it’s just another, not very imaginative riff on the Ford Mustang GT, aimed at goobers who’ve got it so bad for Steve they can’t help themselves. It seems exploitative, in other words. Also, Ford has a bad habit of promising that a Mustang special edition — GT500, Cobra, Shelby, whatever — will be a limited run and then making more if the orders come in. Ford actually already made a Bullitt Mustang in 2001. The press release for the 2008 Bullitt has weaselly language in it: “A limited production run of 7,700 units is planned.” Uh-oh.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I drove the car and found that I really, really liked it. Stunned, actually. This Bullitt — with a 4.6-liter, 315-hp V8 and a five-speed shifter between the seats — is way better than the axle-winding lunatic I drove a few months ago, the 500-hp Shelby GT500. You know, sometimes more horsepower is not the answer, particularly when the question is an obsolete chassis with a live rear axle.

What’s in a Bullitt? First, there’s the dark green paint, which looks terrific, no question (buyers can also get the car in black but that seems like getting a Rolls-Royce without the flying lady). The car is de-badged: no chrome pony, no Ford ovals. The only identifying marking is the word Bullitt in the cross-hair design on the faux filler cap in back. The car is gorgeous, with no scoops, spoilers or ventilating air dams.

The bit of genius in the car, though, is the wheel-and-tire package: five-spoke cast-aluminum “Euroflange” wheels — whatever that means — in a gray satin finish, with machined rims of bright alloy. These wheels are a convincing imitation of period-correct Cragar mag wheels. Wrapped around these rims are relatively tall 50-series performance tires. The designers needed tires with taller sidewalls to resemble the bias-ply tires of the ’60s Bullitt; the additional benefit is a smoother, more compliant ride. Also, with a little extra give in the tires, the suspension could be firmed up. The Bullitt has a tighter spring-and-shock package, an upgrade Mustangs generally need and enthusiast owners usually order out of the Ford Racing catalog.

Under the hood, a cold-air intake and slightly raised redline (to 6,500 rpm) add up to an extra 15 horsepower over the stock GT (and 325 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm). Making the Bullitt a little quicker off the line, engineers subbed out the stock 3.31:1 rear axle with a 3.73:1 ratio.

And it’s quick, all right, not overpoweringly so, but certainly enough to get your attention. But more important, it’s all so well matched and balanced. The clutch and shift work flawlessly together, the engine is smooth and tractable. And it’s got an amazing sound. Ford’s powertrain boffins got a digitally remastered version of the film to re-create the bleak, resonant cackle of the original Bullitt. Dare I say awesome?

Throw in a strut tower brace here, some machine-turned alloy appliqués in the interior over there, and quicker than you can don a cardigan, you’ve got a Bullitt, which actually does look like the car from the movie. I don’t know if McQueen would be proud, exactly, but I know he’d be happy to cash the check.

2008 Mustang Bullitt

Base price: $31,075

Price, as tested: $33,500 (est)

Powertrain: 4.6-liter, three-valve, OHV V8; five-speed manual transmission; rear-wheel drive

Horsepower: 315 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 325 pound-feet at 4,250 rpm

Curb weight: 3,500 pounds (est.)

0-60 mph: 5 seconds

Wheelbase: 107.1 inches

Overall length: 187.6 inches

EPA fuel economy: 15 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway

Final thoughts: Ballistic Steve

Everything I Wanted to Say….

From the LA Times:

And the award didn’t go to Hollywood

Europeans, and two iconoclasts from Minnesota, stand out. Even the best song beat a blockbuster.
By John Horn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 25, 2008
Hollywood took on a new role in Sunday’s 80th annual Academy Awards: bit player.In a series of startling upsets and a few expected triumphs, almost all of the top Oscars were handed to foreigners and iconoclastic show business outsiders. Every one of the evening’s winning actors came from beyond American borders, and the ceremony’s dominant film — best picture winner “No Country for Old Men” — was created by a pair of filmmaking brothers from Minnesota who have never made a mainstream movie in their three-decade career.

In an era when overseas revenue accounts for more than half of a movie’s income, the percentages were tilted far more heavily toward foreigners throughout the awards show, with an especially strong showing from Europe.

Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis of “There Will Be Blood” lives in Ireland, while “La Vie en Rose” surprise best actress winner Marion Cotillard makes her home in Paris. Spain’s Javier Bardem was named best supporting actor for “No Country for Old Men,” and Scotland’s Tilda Swinton won best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton.” Many of the evening’s lower-profile awards — for art direction, makeup, costume design and animated short among them — went to non-American filmmakers and designers.

“Hollywood is built on Europeans! Go back and look,” Swinton said backstage after her triumph. “I’m really sad I couldn’t give a speech in Gaelic.”

After he won his supporting actor Oscar, Canary Islands-born Bardem gave a shout-out to his actress mother — in Spanish, adding, also in Spanish, “This is for Spain, this is for all of you.”

It wasn’t just foreign accents, and foreign-language acceptance speeches, that set many of the evening’s winners apart: The big winners all have distinctive creative voices too. Though quite a few of the victors were hardly household names, almost all of the Oscar recipients are known by film lovers for their fierce determination to invent singular work not typically embraced by the studios. Day-Lewis, who won a best actor Oscar for “My Left Foot” in 1989, is very selective about his acting jobs, having appeared in only three movies over the last 10 years. In fact, he once took a hiatus from acting to study shoemaking.

Joel and Ethan Coen won not only the best picture honor for co-producing “No Country for Old Men” with Scott Rudin, but also took home Oscars for directing the film and adapting Cormac McCarthy’s gothic crime novel. In accepting their shared directing prize, Joel Coen said he and his brother were not making movies all that differently from when they were kids in the 1960s shooting with a Super 8 camera. “We’re very thankful to all of you out there for letting us continue to play in our corner of the sandbox,” Joel Coen said.

In what perhaps captured the tenor of the night most fittingly, “Falling Slowly” was honored as best original song. The tiny love ballad comes from the equally small Irish film “Once,” and defeated three flashy songs from Disney musical blockbuster “Enchanted.”

“This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling,” said the song’s co-writer and the film’s co-star, the Czech Republic’s Marketa Irglova, after returning to the stage of the Kodak Theatre because she was inadvertently played off by the orchestra before she had a chance to speak. “This song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are.”

Given that Hollywood was recently torn — and the Oscar broadcast nearly eviscerated — by a nasty labor strike, it was appropriate that acclamation would be showered on so many people working beyond the town’s customary orbits. The best original screenplay statue was presented to “Juno’s” Diablo Cody, a former stripper and peep-show worker who made her fiction writing debut on the movie about a precocious pregnant teen.

“It’s a great year for extraordinary films,” the film’s director, Jason Reitman, said after the show. “It’s a great year for unique films. Nothing felt popular or included because it was popular.”

The Paris-born Cotillard, who played singer Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose,” won the best actress honor against the favorite, swinging London survivor Julie Christie. “It is true, there is some angels in this city,” Cotillard said in fractured English in collecting her award.

The show began with an Anglo-French rout: Costume design went to the British team behind “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.” Makeup went French as well, to the couple responsible for aging Cotillard from youth to her middle-age death in “La Vie En Rose.” Visual effects was the mostly British team behind “The Golden Compass.”

Art direction was a double whammy, going to two Italians who’d worked on “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” with a mostly British cast and crew.

Philippe Pollet-Villard, director of “Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets),” which won for live action short, kicked off his acceptance speech with “I don’t really speak English.”

The best animated short, “Peter & the Wolf,” was British and Polish. As the night wore on, the awards became slightly more American — culminating in the documentary awards presentation by the all-American Tom Hanks with U.S. service personnel abroad.

Even though it was produced by the very American Disney and Pixar, the animated feature trophy went to “Ratatouille” — you know, the movie about the French rat.

Oscar Gold Exportation Up; Pool Choices Down

So now comes the time to review my choices for this year’s Oscars.

I got ten categories right last night – not bad, but not as much as I would have liked. Little less than 50% correct. To make it worse, I knew I would get original screenplay wrong – I need to go with my gut and what I think will win, not what I want to win. Ugh.

I’m not the only who did bad though – Time magazine has a list of possible winners from George Clooney. In the article he says he never loses an Oscar pool – but he too chose Amy Adams and Julie Christie so I don’t feel as bad.

I’m happy to see Diablo Cody win – gives me hope I can too write a great story.

I was also happy to see Daniel Day-Lewis repeat. I remember thinking how handsome he was nearly 20 years ago when he won his first Oscar for ’89’s My Left Foot.

I read earlier today that last night’s telecast was the lowest rated show in history. Maybe it’s due to the writer’s strike, or the gloominess of this year’s topics, or really no American standouts to talk about.

Nonetheless Hollywood’s biggest night is now over. The parties are done and life will go as normal again for another 12 months.

Next up for pool possibilities though – March Madness! And I’m all over that one too!

Happy Birthday Brad! (Oh and my Dad Too)

He turns 12 years old today. And I still cherish the day I got him.  

And who is he? My truck!

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He’s got nearly 68,000 miles on him which just breaks my heart. I know that is low for his age, but it means he’ll start to break down more and more.  

In fact, just this week I took him in to get my ‘check engine light’ turned off. It decided to go on for no apparent reason and annoy the crap out of me for weeks.  

After a two hour diagnosis, a Mazda representative told me why. You ready for this? “You don’t drive it enough.”  

Huh? 

“Since we don’t know what you have done, and you’ve never had a tune-up, and we don’t know what your father did to it, that’s why it went back on.” 

Uh-huh.

And I paid $97 for that brilliant explanation? Sweet. 

So in turn for those who actually take care of their cars, it still bites us in the ass.  

I was instructed to take Brad on a few driving cycles (consisting of ten miles each) before I take him in for a smog check. Just to see if it would come back on.

Well, I’m proud to tell you — it did three days later while I was backing into a space. Ugh.   

I originally acquired Brad on my father’s birthday in 1996. At the time I was driving my father’s full-size white and blue Bronco (which I still sorely miss to this day) for my daily commutes to the University of Nevada. I actually started driving it though in high school a few months before OJ’s infamous car ride. (Oh the weird stares I would get!) 

About a year later it broke down in the middle of a Reno intersection. I remember that day very clearly. I called my parents and while waiting for my father to come get me, a man and his wife graciously stopped to help me. This huge black man said he would push it through the intersection where I would then start downhill and it was up to me to stop it.  

Now I know nothing about nothing but you don’t f**k with a man who can push a full size Bronco from a dead stop. I’m just sayin’. I remember seeing him in my rear-view mirror and thinking it was someone else and then realized I was on my own and heading downhill at a rapid rate! 

The empty field where I ended up now sits a gas station and mini-storage. But at the time, there was nothing except lots of dirt piles and small hills I kept bounding into.  

I finally had no choice but to pull my emergency brake while I was still speeding. It was dead silent when I stopped except for the blink-blink-blink of my turn signal still left on.  

He and his wife caught up to me and asked me if they could drive me to my class. I said ok. (I didn’t get any weird vibes with them, so I thought it was really ok.)  

While inside their car, they told me, and this is no joke, “This is my wife…. and I’m…. We’re priests from Los Angeles.” Oh my God. 

Anyway…..after that episode my parents wanted me to have a reliable vehicle so we started looking around for a new car.  With a budget in mind, I carefully searched out my options. We went to Chevrolet, Isuzu, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota and Mitsubishi.  

And then my final choice – Mazda. I’ve always wanted a truck since I was like five years old. Growing up, my uncle had a blue Toyota long bed that I just adored. To this day I still want a red Toyota truck (I’d kill for the one below.)

toyota-truck-red-81.jpg

Anyway, two identical red B2300 trucks were in the backlot the day we went. One had a stick shift, the other automatic. I drove the auto one around the block with my mother and decided right there I wanted it.  He had nine miles on him at the time.  

He’s since been to Las Vegas, the Bay Area and Sacramento. Not far away exotic places, but I take good care of him. Hence why my ‘check engine light’ is apparently on.  

So why Brad? I wanted to name him after someone I didn’t know. What happens if I fell in love with a Michael and named my truck after him and then we break up? Then my truck would be a visual reminder of my failed relationship. No thanks.

I especially love driving him in the summer when I can open the windows behind me and let Metallica or Rob Zombie flow out from my cab. I think it’s the boy in me. Or seeing snow fill up my bed in the winter. I  love it!  And you know what? Wouldn’t trade him for the world. Well, except for a new engine light!

mustang.jpg

It’s the Little Things…..

Driving back to work Friday night from dinner I listened to Soundgarden’s Spoonman and I got to thinking that it’s the little things that make everyone’s day a little bit better.  

While that’s not a newsflash to anyone, I thought I’d explore that idea more in-depth:  It makes my day when:

·        hear not just one, but several of my favorite songs on the radio in one day

·        hit all green lights on the way to work (especially when I’m late)

·        the store I go into has a sale on 12 packs of Coke

·        my cats don’t scratch me

·        I find extra coins leftover in the vending machine from the previous person

·        a hard to find movie is in the bargain bin for like 99 cents

·        someone treats me to dinner or a coffee

·        my friends send me a quick note to say hi and update me on all their gossip

·        I can eat chocolate and I don’t get a migraine

·        the food I cooked turned out better than I thought it would

·        my ‘favorite movie’ is shown on cable

·        it’s a nice day and I can take my convertible top down

·        I can relax at home with a good fruity cocktail

·        my parents tell me they love me —- awwwww I know

·        several co-workers say hi and want to know how I’m doing

·        my favorite NFL team wins or when an Indy car race is on TV

·        I get a great idea for a screenplay or book or play

·        I learn something new that actually interests me and expands my brain  

Don’t you agree they make life a little better?

How to Throw an Oscar Winning Party Everyone Will Love

With the writer’s strike over, many people are now looking forward to enjoying the Oscars this Sunday without any major interruptions.  

For some the Super Bowl is the biggest party day of the year, but for others it’s in just a few hours.  

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So let’s say you want to throw fabulous party, what should you do?  Thank God I’m here to help!  

First, don’t make a huge deal about it. It’s about coming together with friends/family and enjoying the moment. I don’t think someone will say afterwards how bad it was. Everyone will be more focused on the award show itself or red carpet fashion.  

Ask friends to bring over martini glasses if they have some and bring one food item and/or drink. So what if you end up drinking Coke from a martini glass! Did you have fun doing it?  

Search the internet for drinks that contain actor names.  

Make sure to put out finger-like foods. Go to Costco/Sam’s Club and buy a party tray. But remember everyone has different tastes – sweet to low-fat to veggies so everyone is happy. I don’t like cheese very much, but that doesn’t mean ??? doesn’t like it you know?  

Put out a few disposable cameras for everyone to use. Make sure they have flashes on them. And make the flash works. You can pretend the paparazzi are capturing your every move. Cheesy, but fun.  

Print out Oscar ballots to keep track. There are many sites that offer them in PDF forms. You can also go to oscar.com.  

And if you really want to go all out ask guests to dress up as their favorite character from a film. Or ask them to dress in ball gowns and tuxedos. 

Those are just some of my ideas. I hope they help you.