To half quote iconic film character Tracey Turnblad from one of my favorite movies of all time, “I’m a modern kind of girl.” As a youngish someone who self-identifies as a liberal, feminist, bisexual vegetarian (okay, recently reborn vegetarian), that is both an artist (sort of) and a stand-up comedian, I’d like to think I have a general grasp on what is happening and hip. I enjoy cool kid things like independent film (mostly documentaries about food or whales), listening to vinyl (mostly Linda Ronstadt) and reading zines (people still make zines), but to be honest, most of my hobbies tend to fall into the mainstream. Obviously there is nothing inherently shameful about enjoying a good super hero movie, watching cooking competitions or karaoking Beyoncé songs, because, duh, those things are awesome, but these generic enjoyments really pale in comparison to some of my real loves which are, to say the least, much less contemporary. Hey, we can’t ALL be cool ALL the time, okay? So, in the spirit of the holiday season (which I think is about giving and sharing mildly drunk confessions) I give you the Top Ten Things I Genuinely and Unironically Love with Little to Zero Shame!
10. Eating Out at Red Robin
I don’t remember if it began with the pseudo avant-garde burger art, the peanut butter and jelly milkshakes, the bottomless steak fries or the constant musical loop of soft rock superstars like Eric Carmen and Kenny Loggins playing on the sound system, but Red Robin has always been one of my first true loves. They make burgers that come with deep fried jalapeno slices, the bartenders call themselves ‘mixologists’ and the cocktail glasses are like the a throw away piece of blown glass art you fucked up in blown glass art school that no one went to because it’s probably not a thing. Also, who doesn’t want to stand on a stool and have a bunch of bored servers sing their own clappy version of ‘Happy Birthday’ while the rest of the restaurant rolls their eyes at you? You know what you’re going to think as you blow out that sparkler on your piled high brownie á la mode before you wash it down with a freckled lemonade and burger smothered in guacamole? That’s right. BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER.
9. The Movie Van HelsingIf you haven’t seen it, the plot of this horror/action film involves a long-haired Hugh Jackman in a weird hat, fighting and killing classic-film-era movie monsters. Sounds straight forward enough, except this Van Helsing is like a cop that doesn’t play by the rules who is funded by a secret order of Catholic monks that have bad Romanian accents and make him crazy advanced religious themed weapons like he’s some kind of James Bond Jesus. He flies around the rooftops of Paris with grappling hooks fighting a Shrek-voiced CGI Mr. Hyde, eventually befriends a Shakespearean, steam punk Frankenstein and fights a Dracula who wears a banana clip. A gorgeous Kate Beckinsale joins his fight against Dracula in order to help save her brother (a ballet dancer from Step Up 2: The Streets) who has been turned into a poorly executed CGI werewolf. Later, Hugh Jackman becomes a werewolf himself, but retains his mullet for what I can only assume are vain reasons. Hot people aside, my absolute favorite part of this movie is, hands down, the horrible dialogue. Every time the Frankenstein’s Monster belts out, “I…am not…an animal!” or “I want to liiiiivvvve!” like he’s auditioning for his last crack at Shakespeare in the Park, it makes my heart shriek with the pure child-like joy that only terrible cinema can provide. Also, Kate Beckinsale, along with various other actor’s fake Transylvanian accents, will make your face physically hurt.
8.Creepy Forensic Crime ShowsI like murder mysteries. A lot. It started with Agatha Christie books when I was a kid, continued with shows like Matlock and Murder She Wrote and is carried on today with reality shows like Forensic Files, Deadly Women and Snapped. Yes, it’s creepy to be constantly filling my brain with images of murder and details of gruesome crimes and yes it’s even creepier to play these shows from YouTube or Hulu at my desk at work so that my supervisor in the adjoining office can hear details of a stabbing death with little to zero context. I’m not sure how else to defend this one, other than to say some people like Dexter. I don’t, but some people do.
7. White Wine SpritzersSomewhere between Mai Tais and hot toddies lies this cocktail’s spot in the trifecta of drinks bartenders will roll their eyes at when you order them. Basically just white wine mixed with club soda, most people only order Spritzers during the summer or spring seasons while attending a beach barbecue or a garden party. The rest of us just pick up soda water and pinot from our local corner store and mix up a few while watching the Golden Girls on DVD any time of year. I like to call it Puttin’ on the Spritz and I do so without shame.
6. Brendan Fraser
Known lovingly as “B Frashe” in my brain, Brendan Fraser is an actor whose career has been defined by yelling, falling down and bad hair pieces. From Encino Man to George in the Jungle to Monkey Bone to Airheads, he’s like the human embodiment of being forced to watch your dad dance.One of the most delightful dorks to ever grace the silver screen whose body of work will forever make my sick days at home happier, B Frashe is and always will be my secret imaginary BBFFF (Best Brendan Fraser Friend Forever). P.S. I know he’s made some legitimate films that involve great moments in acting (i.e. School Ties, Gods and Monsters), but neither of those films involve the word “Gazungas” or anyone running from live dinosaurs so they are both dead to me.
5. The Theme Song from Mortal KombatSeveral historic events occurred in 1995: O.J. Simpson was acquitted, Jerry Garcia passed away and the live-action adaptation of the Mortal Kombat video game opened in theaters nationwide giving birth to one of the GREATEST FILM SCORES TO EVER EXIST IN THE HUMAN HISTORY OF EXISTENCE. The movie itself had its pros and cons, but no one can deny the intense ’90s danceability of the Mortal Kombat theme. I even poorly choreographed a half-time dance routine for the cheerleading squad I was briefly a part of before being unceremoniously removed after punching a fellow cheerleader. Speaking of punching, doesn’t this song pump you up?! I sometimes listen to it at work when my boss is out to lunch. Nothing gets me more revved up to respond to e-mails and file paperwork than lyrics like “test your might!” Air punching along with the beat helps though. MORTAL KOMBAT!!!
4. Judge JudyAs daytime court TV shows go, most are too chaotic or boring to care about. Most, except the truth-talking-takes-no-bullshit Judge Judy who has not only entertained me with her logical reasoning and well-meaning lectures, but in many ways sort of served as my moral compass since middle school. Her no-nonsense views on parenting, work ethics, personal responsibility and poor lying skills really rubbed off on me growing up, like some kind of free scared straight program. She’s the only person in television you can truly trust. The world is her play pen and if we think we can talk over her, whose microphone do you think they’re going to cut? That’s right; our mikes, you guys. OUR MIKES.
3. Jell-O ShotsHistorically, the Jell-O shot has been considered a trashy novelty. A time-honored tradition of collegiate Greek system passage or spring break sadness. For those that associate the Jell-O shot with only these forms of celebration, you’re not thinking of the big picture here. We’re talking a cup of delicious sugary gelatin, spiked with a shot of delicious alcoholic liquor. Like the many great pairs before it, i.e. peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and milk, Hall and Oates, etc., Jell-O and vodka (or rum) may be great on their own, but when their powers combine, the result is perfection. So I say scoff at the naysayers, stroll up to the counter at your local college bar and order yourself a cheap cup (or plastic syringe) of a job well done. Welcome to REAL adulthood, my friend. It’s pretty tasty here.
2. Jean-Claude Van DammeThe “Muscles from Brussels” split his way into my heart in a vulnerable time in my childhood when French accents, high kicks and movies where one actor plays twins was all it took to make me happy. A simpler time, when ball punching and witty dialogue where a penis is referred to as “big surprise, HUGE surprise” could keep me laughing for weeks. Thanks to the movie Cyborg, I spent many an evening at 8 years old outside in the cornfield by my house with a steak knife duct taped to my shoe kicking at corn stalks. The JCVD I idolized as a kid is older now, having suffered some bumps along the road from the ’80s to the present in the form of a cocaine addiction, money troubles and failed marriages, but he’s managed to remain in amazing shape and age fairly gracefully as far as action heroes go. A dorky, endearing and emotional dude, just try to watch his monologue or clips from his reality show where he fawns over his small dogs and cries about his want to “save the world,” and not want to hug him… well, at least more than you want to hug Steven Seagal or Sylvester Stallone, anyway.
1. Adult Contemporary MusicI was mostly raised in a small farming town in Washington State where every house was separated by miles of pea or corn fields and the only businesses in the city limits were a church, one gas station and a town hall where we held all you can eat clam and spaghetti dinner fund-raisers. Trips to the “big city,” (which for us was Olympia) were a big deal and involved a thirty-minute drive. On the way there, we often listened to my mom’s favorite radio stations that couldn’t come in down at our house in the sticks. These were usually easy listening and soft rock stations with the likes of Eric Carmen, Michael Bolton, Kenny G, Chicago, Celine Dion, etc. Over time, I came to associate the happiness of these trips with this genre of music. If I hear Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking” or Steve Winwood’s “Valerie,” I’m transported to that feeling of excitement as we escaped our shithole little cow town full of schoolyard bullies and backwards hillbillies on our way to a classier civilization. When I hear Eric Carmen’s “Make Me Lose Control,” or Michael Bolton’s “How Can We Be Lovers,” I remember that feeling of total relaxation as my mom drove us back home to our beds with our heads full of shopping mall memories and bellies full of steak from Sizzler. These synthesizer riffs and alto sax solos were the sounds of my childhood. I can’t hear Celine Dion’s “Power of Love” without being transported to the magical imaginary land I created in that car ride, where Kenny Loggins, Amy Grant and I drink Orange Juliuses together at the food court in the mall until Wilson Phillips pulls up in their Ferrari and offers to take me on a shopping spree at Jay Jacobs. Cooler people have cooler soundtracks to their lives, but mine is basically the soundtrack to Pretty Woman and I have little to zero shame about that. Pair any of the aforementioned Adult Contemporary hits with a White Wine Spritzer and you’ve got a great adult Sunday on your hands.
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