Musical Mad Libs: On My Own

It’s no secret that I love Les Miserables. The show has so many vivid, incredible characters that you can find one to fit any mood. Having an identity crisis? Listen to Jean Valjean’s songs! Have a bad cough? Go with Fantine. Maybe you are having some dating problems. In that case, Eponine is your girl.

Eponine’s big song, “On My Own,” is about painfully unrequited love, and even though it’s deeply personal, I wanted to share my own experience with a one-sided relationship. It seemed fitting.

THANK YOU to everyone who sent me Mad Lib suggestions last week. Hearing from you made me crazy happy, and all the hilarious suggestions were SO INSPIRING. I was worried I would post a video and immediately lose steam, but I could not WAIT to write this song and film this video. So, thank you, thank you — thrice! — thank you.

In case you were wondering, I did all my own stunts in this video. Mister was such a trooper during filming, but he was not pleased that I neglected to call his agent beforehand. FYI, we don’t always abuse each other that much. In fact, he is currently asleep (being a complete adorable dead weight) on my arm as I type this. I am losing feeling in all my fingers, but he is just so darn cute and soft — he can stay there as long as he wants.

P.S. If there are songs you’d like to hear in the future, please let me know!

Quitting the Gym

Around this time last year, I went to the gym two or three times a week. I had a routine: bop around on the elliptical for about 40 minutes, lift a five-pound weight for about 10 minutes, and then do a bunch of crunches in front of the mirror until I got bored.

My gym offered classes, but I’d arrive late and spend the whole time comparing my body to everyone else’s. It’s really hard to maintain proper downward dog form when you’re eyeballing your neighbor’s waistline.

Even though exercise has always been important to me, I wasn’t really doing anything at the gym. I wasn’t getting fit, I wasn’t kicking butt, and I definitely wasn’t feeling good. In fact, I was barely breaking a sweat. However, I was spending $39 a month on a membership. For a place where I wasn’t really doing anything, the gym was really expensive.

So I quit. And turned to YouTube.



Musical Mad Libs: Defying Gravity

Confession: Sometimes perfectionism holds me back — big time. I want to sing, but I only want to sing like I’m Barbra Streisand playing Grizabella in Cats. I want to write musical parodies, but I only want to write musical parodies that make Russell Crowe poop his pants. I want to make YouTube videos, but I only want to make YouTube videos that have a chance of winning an Oscar.

Well, that’s no way to live.

In an honest effort to get the eff over my own over-blown expectations and to have some FUN, I’ve decided to publish a weekly YouTube video, whether it’s Oscar-worthy or not. Hence, my new YouTube project, Musical Mad Lib Mondays! You fill out a musical mad lib and I will use what you filled in the blank to write a quick parody. And then I will sing it to you. Right in your face.

This week, I am singing “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. This song always gets me blubbering, but I managed to hold it together for the video — barely. The mad lib I used for inspiration was, “I think I’ll trying defying ________!”

My favorite suggestion was TRAFFIC LAWS. Thinking about how many parking tickets I get on a weekly basis made me so emotional that these lyrics came pretty easily. They don’t rhyme, and some of them don’t fit syllabically, but that’s the beauty of Musical Mad Libs. Or so I have decided.

Check out the video, and help me create next week’s musical mad lib by filling in this blank:
“On my own, pretending he’s _______.”

What’s something that brings out your inner demon perfectionist? Sandwich-making? Jazzersizing? Cat-shaving? Let me know in a comment and we can commiserate.

‘Serial’ Fan Fiction: 50 Shades of Hae

Excerpts from an e-book in progress:

Sarah was waiting by the phone again. Outside her window on the ninth floor of NPR’s office, clouds rolled over the tall Chicago buildings, ominous and grey – multiple shades of grey. At the very least, ten to fifteen shades of grey. Sarah sighed and wondered what color the clouds were in Maryland.

She felt eyes on the back of her head, and turned to find Ira in her doorway. Funny how during the past eight seasons of This American Life, Ira never stopped by her office, but would send his assistant to fetch her, like a corgi fetching a slobbery tennis ball. Sarah didn’t know if it was the unexpected success of Serial or that strange prolonged moment they had shared the in the break room last week that now led to Ira stopping by two to three times a day. He had a sad look to him, much like the clouds outside.

“Sarah, I need to tell you something,” he said, leaning on the doorframe. “I can’t sleep until I tell you …”

The phone on Sarah’s desk beeped shrilly. Finally.

“Hello?” she tried not to sound overeager, though her inner goddess screamed louder than a Woodlawn High School cheerleader. She shooed Ira away and he stared at her a second too long before leaving.

A robotic voice replied, “This is a Global-Tel link prepaid call from –“

Sarah braced herself, gripping the foam armrests of her swivel chair in anticipation of his voice.

“– Adnan Syed.” Her heart pounded in her button-up plaid blouse. Yes, she and Adnan had already clocked up to thirty hours on the phone together—Sarah spoke to him more than she spoke to most of her immediate family, including her two children—but hearing him say his own name with such confidence, such masculinity, such potentially dangerous strength never ceased to excite her.

The robot lady was back. “An inmate at a Maryland Correctional facility,” she said. But this time was different. This time, Sarah swore she could hear the robot lady swoon.

During the twenty-three hours a day that Adnan wasn’t talking to Sarah, he was thinking about Sarah. Usually, he sat at one of the eight payphone banks in the prison’s rec room, replaying their conversation, imagining his big hands running through her dark curly hair as she squinted at his cell phone records with that sweet furrow in her brow.

Adnan’s life had changed so much since 1999. Now, his days were filled with Sarah or visions of Sarah or letters to Sarah or also cooking classes so that someday, he could make fancy omelets for Sarah. But there was a time—he couldn’t help remembering—when his life revolved around an older woman, a woman who opened his eyes to the beautiful pain of love. No, not love. More like, love-making.

He watched the scene in his head, like it was happening right in front of him: Cristina paced around the visitor’s room, tall in stilettos, a cigarette hanging out the corner of her mouth. The hairs on the back of Adnan’s neck stood erect, even after all these years, at the sound of her voice.

“I don’t see why you’re making such a big deal out of this, Adnan.” His ears burned, like she was beating his eardrum harder than the drum line of Woodlawn High School’s marching band.

He was seventeen and inexperienced, especially with lawyers. “Cristina, I mean, Ms. Gutierrez,” she stopped her pacing and their eyes met. “I’m no expert, but Asia’s testimony could provide an alibi for me.”

Cristina’s slowly walked to the table where Adnan sat with his files spread out before him. He felt a twinge of panic. Maybe he should just let her do her job.

Without warning, Cristina shoved all of the papers off the table and climbed on top of it. “Maybe you’re right,” she said in considerably lower tone, about the volume of a high-powered vacuum cleaner—practically whispering for her. “Sounds like you have a lot to teach me.”

Adnan could recall exactly what he said. “I have a great deal of affection for you, Cristina. Combine a doctor, a nurse, a school teacher, and my parents—That’s how much I trust you.” Cristina toyed with the snap-buttons on his orange jumpsuit.

And that’s when he let his defense fall.

Sarah met with Mr. S. at a pants-optional Red Lobster on the outskirts of Baltimore. He promised he had information that would be of interest to her.

Once they were seated at a booth sharing a basket of cheesy biscuits, Sarah realized there was something familiar about Mr. S. He had the big, brown eyes of a dairy cow, innocent and strangely erotic. They reminded her of someone, maybe someone she saw in one of her recurring sex dreams about the Woodlawn wrestling team, but she couldn’t place it.

“Ms. Koenig,” Mr. S said through a mouthful of sensuously soft, salty, cheddary biscuit, “I’m related to this case more than you know.”

He raised his eyebrows. Why did she recognize those eyebrows?

“Literally, related,” he continued. “I’m Adnan Syed’s father.”

Sarah smacked her palm to her forehead. Duh! Syed, Mr. S. That’s why she was experiencing such a deep, throbbing lady boner: Mr. S had the same animalistic chokehold on her sexuality that Adnan had. Like father, like son! She’d have to call her producer, Dana, but leave out the part about where they were eating. Dana would be upset that they weren’t taking advantage of the shrimp sale at Crab Crib, but Sarah didn’t consider herself a Crab Crib kind of gal.

She thought that place was kind of fishy.

Jay opened the door, holding a beer and looking worn out. Sarah swallowed back her nerves—maybe she should have called before just showing up to his house like this.

“Sarah, what are you doing here?” His lip ring glinted in the Maryland sun. It reminded Sarah of last night, how cold it felt against her cheek. Keep it together, Koenig, she thought. You have to put Jay in maximum-security friend zone and make sure he stays there.

Jay held the door open for her, but Sarah held her ground. “Last night was a mistake,” she whispered.

“You keep changing your story, Sarah,” Jay said, crushing his beer can and throwing it into the bushes. “One minute you believe me, and the next, you’re here, trying to tell me what we have isn’t real.” Sarah remembered how his bleached hair had shone in the dark, like a halo. But what happened in that dark was anything but angelic.

“Well,” Sarah tried to rationalize, “I’m with someone. You’re with someone! Think about how this would make Stephanie feel! You and I cannot continue to hang out like this—driving around, smoking weed at Patapsco Valley State Park, and doing the dirty in the parking lot of Best Buy—until you admit it makes you feel a little bit guilty.”

Jay continued, “The only thing I’m guilty of,” he pulled Sarah closer, “is trying to steal your heart.”

Detective Mcgillivray had no idea that an anonymous call would bring him out of retirement. (He also had no idea how an anonymous caller got his personal cell phone number. That damn Reddit.)

“I know who killed Hae Min Lee,” said a gravely voice. “It was Ira Glass. Check out Ira Glass.”

It had been five years since Adnan was let out of prison. He and Sarah lived together in the suburbs of Chicago, and he worked coaching a high school football team. This past year, they won they state championships. It was a dream come true.

Every Monday, Sarah met him at their favorite Chinese restaurant at 2:36—their private joke. Today, he was late.

“Where have you been?” Sarah asked, not angry, but impatient.  She threw her arms around barrel-chested Adnan, always surprised that he was so much taller than the senior portraits she studied for all those hours. “I tried calling you, like, ten times!”

“Sorry, baby,” he whispered in her ear, planting a big bearded kiss on her neck. “I lent my cell phone to a buddy. Don’t worry, though, he’ll bring it back with my car.”

Sarah searched his face. Still, even after all they’d been through, Adnan was mysterious to her. It was so hot.

“You let someone borrow your cell phone?” she asked.

Adnan could tell what she was thinking. “Don’t worry,” he cooed. “I’m here with you.”

They held each other. In the distance, snow clouds gathered, threatening to storm.

He held her face in his big hand. “You’re my perfect alibi.”

London Lessons: Mind the Gab

London Lessons 1

I love talking to people. I love when a conversation goes from “I like your boots” to “where are you from” to “have a great day.” Conversations like these, by British standards, are very rude when attempted on public transportation. Everyone (I mean everyone) rides the Tube, and it seems that they have all secretly agreed to treat their commute as meditation time. People might chat with a friend, but I often see couples and groups of friends sitting together not talking at all! Once, a man passed out on the train late at night and, aside from a drunk nineteen-year-old who claimed to have medical training (and let’s hope she did, because she administered CPR) and a security guard reporting into his walkie-talkie, the entire car stayed silent. I thought sipping pinky-up was polite, but these are manners like I’ve never seen. After one too many eye-rolls and curt responses, I now make sure I always bring a book on the train. Otherwise, it gets too tempting to bug people.

Above ground, London is an incredibly welcoming city. Baristas will tell you about their favorite museum and the best time to visit, police officers gladly offer directions, and chatting at a bar is practically expected. But as for the Tube, Queen Mum’s the word.

Cartoon Plague Hits Family Guy. Who’s Next?



Normally witnessing a character on Family Guy suffer a mortal wound/illness/fight with a giant chicken is no big deal, but this week’s episode, “Life of Brian,” shocked fans when Brian Griffin was hit by a car and didn’t survive. The show’s producers had been promising that a member of the Griffin family would kick the bucket, but obviously we all thought it would be Meg. Brian was immediately replaced by a new dog, Vinny, voiced by The Sopranos’ Tony Sirico.

Brian’s death has many other cartoon characters nervous, especially with The Simpsons making a similar vow to do away with one of their Emmy-winners. “I don’t let Bart skateboard without a helmet these days,” said Marge Simpson, “just in case the producers are going for a public safety angle.” Last week, Lisa Simpson was spotted on the Springfield Elementary School playground wearing a bulletproof vest, and Grampa Simpson was seen getting the flu shot three days in a row.

Meanwhile, citizens of Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon are also taking precautions. Security has been heightened tenfold in Adventure Time’s Land of Ooo and Bikini Bottom was evacuated after the news of Brian Griffin’s death surfaced, or rather, submerged. When asked to comment on the fear surging through his city, Spongebob Squarepants responded bravely, “I love bubbles.”

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Ask Me How I’m Feeling: Van Damme’s Volvo Commercial


Volvo has invented the most high tech roller skates known to mankind.

In a YouTube video released earlier this week, martial artist and roller skate enthusiast Jean Claude Van Damme demonstrated the new Roller Volvos. Complete with D13-LNG engines, each skate has a whopping eighteen wheels –over four times what the “classic models” sport — lending quadruple the support to the lower back and gluteus maximus. Van Damme clearly approves because he looks nothing short of delighted in the video. One could compare him to a little girl on Christmas; he seems that close to squealing.

And who wouldn’t with their legs that far apart? Van Damme wears his Roller Volvos proudly while doing his world famous Sk8 Split, which is exactly what it sounds like. Just like in his eight-month Off-Broadway run of Xanadu, Van Damme does not wear a helmet. He does, however, say something badass about the X Games… or something. We couldn’t quite catch it through that accent, which he picked up, by the way, studying the art of yoga-skating in Belgium as a young boy. Again, that is exactly what it sounds like.

The video, which already has over 33 million views, also features the roller skating anthem “Only Time,” by Enya. In multiple interviews, the singer has divulged that the song was inspired by her brief stint on the U.S. Olympic roller derby team. She recently confirmed that she already pre-ordered a pair of pink Roller Volvos in a size six.

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Lady Driver Detour: A Word On Luxury

dirty car

After my conversation with JMPR President Joe Molina two weeks ago, I have been contemplating the idea of luxury, especially when it comes to the cars we drive. When I do the math in terms of hours, it’s obvious that my car is a huge part of my life: I spend more time with my Ford Fiesta than I do with my boyfriend. That’s love, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s luxury.

My car bears the brunt of my anger more often than my boyfriend does, due mostly to traffic on the 10. I’ll park it under a tree at night only to find it covered in bird droppings the following morning. I consume coffee, juice, and, sometimes, entire personal pizzas in my car and leave all the trash in the passenger’s seat. I drive until the low fuel light beeps…twice.

And that doesn’t feel too luxurious.

“This would never happen if I had a Porsche,” I often mutter to myself, opting to blame my poor Fiesta for L.A. traffic, my general messiness, and the uncontrollable bowels of birds. It’s an abusive relationship to be sure, but when I stop to think about it, I know none of it is my car’s fault. It’s mine …

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