Sunday, March 23, 2014

Friends of Me Episode 1: Actor / Writer Miki Yamashita

What do you really know about the entertainment industry? My friend Miki Yamashita, an actor and writer living in Los Angeles, knows it from the ground up. While Miki may not have achieved the kind of showbiz status that would make her a TMZ target -- not yet, anyway --  her tireless efforts at building her career as an actor resulted in roles in  Law and Order, One Life to Live, As the World Turns, iCarly Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the road company of A Chorus Line, not to mention appearances in TV commercials and Funny or Die videos.

Miki shares her real-world and frequently hilarious insight into the entertainment industry through her blog, The Smacktress and in postings on Facebook and Twitter

In this video interview, the first in a four-part series, Miki talks about why she has never been to a Kardashian party and about the enormous effort that goes into getting just one line in a movie or TV program.

Connect with Miki Yamashita

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Boomer Barbie

The bit below is another from my archives. Originally published during the Christmas season sometime in the late 90s, I've hastily dusted it off and updated it to coincide with the 55th anniversary of Barbie's introduction.

For fifty-five years little girls (and little boys with open-minded parents) have elbowed their way to the foot of the family Christmas tree to frantically claw at gaily wrapped presents in anticipation of finding Barbie. Today many of Barbie's fans are adults who continue to collect Barbie stuff. But you have to wonder if some of these mature fans aren't thinking that it's about time for Barbie to act her age.

Fifty-five years after Barbie's introduction she doesn't look a day over eighteen. And if eternal youth isn't irritating enough, she's got truckloads of clothing, several homes, and a vast collection of sporty pink cars. A kid can look at all this and think that she (or he) has a chance of living a Barbie life. But if you're a middle-aged Barbie nut there must be times when you imagine that she's looking at you and saying, "I'm so glad I'm not you." Nobody likes having their nose rubbed in their own shortcomings and mortality, especially not by an eleven-inch tall polystyrene bimbo who falls over backward if she isn't wearing heels.

Let's face it, if she was a teenager when she began her career fifty-five years ago, she's over seventy now. Who is she to talk? Christmas would be a lot happier for adult Barbie fans if they could find a Barbie under their tree that more accurately reflected the lifestyles of people who have a problem identifying with a plastic figure that never has to worry about gray hair, wrinkles, or hot flashes.

The solution: Boomer Barbie, and a full line of Boomer Barbie accessories. Boomer Barbie resembles the original Barbie, but she has to really work at it with frequent visits to the Boomer Barbie Rodeo Drive Maison De Make-Over, where you can make the grey go away with her special One-Coat Miracle Rinse, and restore that youthful smoothness with All Natural Organic Face Spackle. After a tough day at Boomer Barbie's Rancho De Landfill Real Estate Office, our synthetic siren likes to return home to Boomer Barbie's Big Divorce Settlement Dream House, complete with Jacuzzi, redwood deck, and Jorge The Muscular Gardener, with patent-pending Magic Hands.

Boomer Barbie doesn't hit the gym quite as often these days, so her closet is full of all new stuff, too, featuring many flattering, loose-fitting dresses, and lots of elastic-waisted pants.

Of course, Barbie's friend Ken hasn't forgotten his adult fans either. Boomer Ken is available in your choice of models, including Comb-Over Ken, Bad Hairpiece Ken, and Never Takes Off His Baseball Cap Ken. Each model comes dressed in roomy pleated khakis, and is equipped with a life-like, battery-operated paunch. Touch the hidden button and watch it jiggle! You can help Ken keep those mid-life crisis blues at bay with Boomer Ken's Deluxe Virility Restoration Kit, which includes the Ridiculously Expensive Sports Car, and Boomer Ken's special new friend, Chippie The Twenty-Three Year Old Fitness Consultant.

The introduction of a line of Boomer Barbie products will prove to grown-up Barbie fans that their favorite fashion princess is finally admitting that she's at the age when a full day of inline skating, beach volleyball, mountain biking, and clubbing is likely to result in a ride in the Boomer Barbie Ambulance. Boomer Barbie would much rather stay home, pop a handful of antioxidants, and watch FoodTV.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Brief History of Husbands


By Bob Rhubart

IMG_0781The human race owes exactly half the credit for its continued existence to husbands. Without husbands the race would have long ago died out, or possibly just evolved, somehow, into a female-only civilization with one of the Gabor sisters as the queen.

The important point here is that the human race, along with all other living things, relies on the natural urge for members of one gender to seek out members of the other to form bonded pairs and to propagate, which is a word derived from a Latin expression that, roughly translated, means, "Put on that Barry White album, baby, its happy hour." Husbands have always been there to do their part.

Any examination of the history of husbands must go back to the very beginnings of life on the planet. According to many scientists, the first life on earth was in the form of tiny bacteria, swimming merrily around in the pools of warm muck that formed on the surface of the planet at that time. These tiny, brainless creatures didn't have a thought in their heads, because they didn't have heads. What they had was the instinct for survival, and that meant always making more germs. There was an actual process they used to achieve this. But the only people who know anything about it are scientists who have spent long hours staring into puddles of muck with powerful microscopes, and no one has any interest in engaging one of them in a conversation. Lets just say that the puddle of germs eventually became something that could take out the garbage.

These early, primitive husbands co-existed with the wild beasts, learning to hunt with the skill of the lion, and to run with the swiftness of the deer (though later they found that two-legged running was faster and a lot more comfortable). The primitive husband was physically very much like the modern husband, except his brain was much smaller and it was protected by a very thick skull. In fact, primitive husbands skulls were so thick that one of their favorite pastimes was an early form of bungie-jumping. Of course, as husbands evolved, their skulls became thinner, and it became necessary to invent the bungie cord. There was much to learn.

The primitive husband learned that even though his primitive wife had no problem with skinning, gutting and cooking whatever creature he had hunted down, she still would wake him from a perfectly good nap by saying, "Get up! I want you to kill this spider!" The primitive husband would then have to spend the next forty-five minutes wildly bludgeoning an angry, 100-pound arachnid.

In time spiders got smaller. This freed up the husbands to build new shelter, since the wives were getting fed up with living in caves and huts. And even when the new home was completed, it seemed that there was always something to fix around the house. Eventually, husbands learned to fashion special tools to make the jobs easier, including the lever, the fulcrum, and the cordless electric screwdriver.

Many husbands became quite adept at fixing all the various broken things around the house, and this led wives to expect increasingly more complex and technical repairs: "The faucet drips, the car doesn't run right, and the dog needs a new kidney." The husband was happy to oblige, because this increased the possibility of propagation.
As you can see, civilization would be a lot different without husbands. Probably much safer, cleaner, and better organized, but different. There sure as hell would be a lot more spiders.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Mass Transit Guide to Making New Friends

“According to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) April Transit Savings Report, individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving can save, on average, $844 this month, and $10,126 annually.”
- From a press release from the American Public Transportation Association.

With gas prices on the rise yet again, commuters  who in the past have avoided public transportation may now be having a change of heart. If you fall into this category, you are to be congratulated. Public transportation offers a convenient, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly alternative to driving, and the intimacy of public transportation provides an excellent opportunity to connect with your fellow commuters on a level that is impossible when you are behind the wheel of a car.

But connecting with other passengers on a bus or train car isn't always easy. Many are seasoned commuters, practiced in the art of ignoring each other. You must recognize the challenge presented by a large public conveyance full of surly, coffee-stoked wage slaves, each one desperately hoping that you won't sit by them, talk to them, or in any way intrude on their quietly desperate lives. But as a good citizen and new public transportation commuter, you should make it your mission to shatter the cocoon of everyday anxiety and paranoia that surrounds your fellow human beings by proving to each of them just how far you'll go to cultivate a close personal relationship.

The first thing you want to do is get their attention. One way to accomplish this is through music. And what musical instrument is more appropriate for morning than the bugle? There's nothing more exhilarating to a busload of bleary-eyed income-earners than a rousing reveille. A few might be so energized by your performance that they'll ask the driver to let them out early, just so they can walk the last sixty-five blocks to work! The next step is to entertain the remaining passengers with your acting abilities. Imagine how quickly the people around you will forget all about their troubles when you recreate a scene from the classic film, "Taxi Driver." When they hear the lines, "You talkin' to me? You must be talkin' to me," they'll be transfixed. You're winning them over! But there is still work to do.

Next, you'll want to impress them with your athletic prowess. Few things in life are more awe-inspiring than watching a master martial artist break a big block of ice with his face. I know, you're thinking that you're not a martial artist, and if you try to get a two-hundred pound block of ice on the bus, the driver will charge you an extra fare. Don't be silly! Just bring a tray of ice cubes. If you follow up your bugle playing and acting debut by making a big batch of crushed ice with your forehead, it won't be long before you're on the "A" list for all the right parties!

But maybe you're not flamboyant enough to pull off those kinds of pal-attracting stunts. No problem! Go for a more subtle approach. You may want to try just making eye contact with a particular passenger. Don't make a big deal out of it. Just pick somebody out and stare at them. Don't even blink. Let your eyes send the message that you are the kind of person who really wants to connect with people. It usually only takes about forty-five minutes before you find that you've made that person feel something really special.

The main thing in making friends on public transportation is to just have fun. Remember to laugh. Laugh quietly to yourself, or laugh right out loud, but laugh. All the time. No matter what anyone says to you, no matter if they ask for identification, or put handcuffs on you or try to inject you with some kind of tranquilizer. Just laugh. People will remember you. Isn't that what friendship is all about?



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tools of Guy Power

There are many ways for a guy to affirm his masculinity. Some  -- mixed martial arts cage fighting, for instance, or bungie jumping into a mountain chasm -- carry for the regular guy a significant risk of the humiliation that comes with whimpering and wetting your pants in public.  But for most guys, guys like me who aren’t ultra-violent ‘roid freaks or suicidal Jackass wannabees, power tools offer a safe, rational way to say to the world, “I have a penis.”

Of course anybody, even women, can buy power tools. And just owning a drill or a reciprocating saw will barely move the needle on the Guy-O-Meter. So if your goal is to wave Y chromosome around like the Jolly Roger, you need to actually do something with your power tools.
If you’re a carpenter or otherwise use power tools professionally, you’re already at the Jedi level in the guy hierarchy. Crack open a brewski, dude, scratch the body part of your choice, and baskl in your testosteronishness.
If, on the other hand, your power tools are just laying in their cases, their disuse taunting you with its unspoken suggestion that you’re better suited to ironing doilies, you can shut them up by following one of two paths to total male guyness.
The first path is to successfully complete a home project. If you can pull that off and whatever you build doesn’t fall over or explode within the first forty-eight hours, you’ve got it covered. Go back two paragraphs and see if the carpenter will give you a beer.
But successful home projects involving power tools require things like “measurement” and “precision” and “patience.” I don’t know about you, but those three words have never come into play any time I’ve ever described a really great weekend.
For instance, on a long-ago Saturday my wife asked me to use my power tools to remove a wall. The wall in question was in our own home, so right away the entertainment value of that project dropped to zero. The situation didn’t improve when, after I’d finished, my wife changed her mind and asked me to put the wall back -- which was a lot more difficult than taking it down, and required measurement, precision, and patience. Which is why, even years later, that wall may fall over or explode at any moment.
So if you rule out the use of power tools in a home project as proof that you would never admit to knowing the name “Carrie Bradshaw,” what’s left?
The answer is to use your power tools for purposes that a) will void the warranty,  and b) are likely to so offend power tool purists that they will send hit men, or lawyers, or lawyers on retainer with hit men to stop you.
For examples of such innovative and distinctly male uses of power tools, let’s turn to the vast cultural archive that is YouTube.
The first example is a video by a guy who identifies himself only as “The Gareth Peasant.” Mr. Peasant prepares an entire meal using drills, saws, beer, hammers, torches, beer, clothes irons, a hubcap, beer cans, a protective face guard, and beer. He does his “cooking” in workshop that would require serious disinfection in order to be considered merely unsanitary. I’d rather stab myself in the brain with a pencil than eat one of the Gareth Peasant’s meals. But by virtue of his use of power tools there’s no question that he’s a guy.

In our next video, Chef Francois, the Power Tool Chef, offers a more sanitary,  somewhat more appetizing, and certainly better produced demonstration of food preparation techniques using a variety of power tools. Plenty of guy cred here, but I’d have to go three or four days without food before I’d tuck into any of Chef Francois's concoctions.

If relaxed sanitary standards, a cavalier attitude toward the possibility of minor industrial injuries, and a belief that metal shavings are an acceptable garnish will sufficiently validate your guyness, then cooking with power tools may be the right strategy for you.
For pure, flat-out guyishness, Power Tool Drag Racing offers the kind of excitement, spirit of competition, mind-boggling pointlessness, and extensive use of extension cords that mark it as an activity practiced by people who have to be reminded to put the seat down. Behold:

But the ultimate award for guy cred in the power tool category has to go to the people behind the unique go-kart competition held as part of the annual KMS Tools Show and Shine car show held in Coquitlam, BC -- even if they aren’t all guys.  This competition centers on a specially modified go-kart that uses a cordless drill for a motor. Various power tool companies take turns powering the kart with their drills to see whose drill is the fastest and most powerful. Really, how else would you prove the effectiveness of a device designed to make holes in things?

And that’s exactly why that drill-powered go-kart is a shining beacon of guyness for those of us who may occasionally feel the need to re-affirm our guyish tendencies. If you want to try your luck in a cage with some tatted-up monster with no neck, or trust your fate to giant rubber bands as you plummet face-first into a rocky ravine, be my guest.  I’m going with power tools. 

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