The Low-Down on Every Summer Movie!

What blog would be complete without a review of summer blockbuster hits? Without further ado, I give you the low-down on a few of the latest “must-sees” – to use the insider lingo!

Batman: On the Rise
This is probably everyone’s top pick when they see it in theatres. And why not? This movie has everything that many successful and famous “blockbusters” have: fighting, romance, and conflict. In the film, Batman battles an arch nemesis, which causes many problems for Batman. He uses a variety of bat-powers to bring down this nemesis and triumph over the evil in his life and also gets the girl. The many city shots are interesting, too. It looks like James Cameron has done it again!

Bat-Rating: 3.5/5 vampire teeth

The Amazing Spider-Man
One of my favorites! In this instant-classic rendition of the comic book series, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) learns to use his newly-acquired spidey powers for good instead of evil and also gains the confidence to be with MJ (Kristen Dunst). Willem Dafoe puts on a stellar performance as the conniving Green Goblin, while his son Harry (James Franco) faces difficulty in his loyalties.
Spidey-Rating: 4.3/5 webs

Hungry Games
In this “hungry” rendition of the eponymously-titled book, Kathleen fights a high number of other tributes to the death – not unlike the Olympics. This movie has everything the book has: a romantic subplot, an interesting plot, and some vivid descriptions of nature. I won’t write any more, lest I spoil this fascinating movie for readers!
Hunger-Rating: 4/5 pancakes

Breaking Bad
So, unlike these other summer hits, I haven’t seen much of Breaking Bad. But the one and a half episodes I saw were pretty damn good. In short, there is a lot of gang-busting and drug-cooking that is a little bit hard to watch, but also worth it. The series has everything: a pilot episode, complex characters I don’t understand, a decent meth recipe, and interesting desert landscapes. Yours truly certainly plans on watching more.
Drug-Rating: 4.3/5 kilos

Your Trip Abroad

Your Trip Abroad

You have a trip abroad coming up! Congratulations. Traveling or living abroad is an important opportunity for personal growth that I believe everyone should experience at least once. But beyond the challenges of culture shock and adjusting your habits, there are a few things you should count on if traveling abroad for longer than a month, particularly if you are in a group setting. Read: Your time abroad will be much more like the movie Eurotrip than you hoped it would be.

1. Abdominal Discomfort
You can prepare for this in a number of ways, but it will happen. Whether it is the water or the sushi kiosk you visited last night, you will probably feel enough abdominal discomfort to stay home from one of the daytrips your group is planning. This is not necessarily food poisoning, but it might be. Ask your host mom in broken Spanish, but don’t worry too much about the language barrier, because she can tell by the way you are hunched over and gripping your abdomen. Also, this will happen the second you let your guard down and forgot to take the bacterial pills that are supposed to prevent this very situation. Give it 24 hours and also find a bathroom with soap and running water.

2. CraAzaAAzY Travel Stories
There’s no denying that a few excursions while abroad are a good time. With the right group of people, you might enjoy anything from mountainous beaches to hiking the lower reaches of a volcanic national park. Getting there is half the journey, though – or much more than half, once you are forced to hitchhike the remainder of the drive and pay the driver in small change or food, or something. It doesn’t matter though, because this story will be repeated at least a dozen times with slightly more exaggeration each time. When you actually remember the story yourself though, it won’t be nearly as eventful or interesting.

3. Rampant Hook-Ups
Unlike the previous two events which might be prevented with a little extra planning or foresight, rampant hook-ups are a completely unpreventable part of going abroad. Such are the romantic connections formed during three weeks abroad and that one time on the dance floor that a long-distance relationship seems feasible after returning home. I don’t want to be too cynical about this one, but please.

Fan Mail!

Just received some awesome fan mail from AB himself!

Anthony Bourdain
Brasserie Les Halles
411 Park Ave. South
New York, NY 10016
USA

Dear Val,

It has come to my attention that you have made an unauthorized use of my copyrighted work entitled Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (the “Work”) in the preparation of a pretty cool blog derived therefrom. I have reserved all rights in the Work, which was first appeared on the Travel Network some years back.

Your work entitled “Valerie Bourdain: No Reservations” and which appears on your otherwise hilarious blog is essentially identical to my show in quality and tastefulness, and I unfortunately have to take legal action (you know…formalities!).

You neither asked for nor received permission to use the Work as the basis for “Valerie Bourdain: No Reservations” nor to make or distribute copies of it, even though the idea is pretty funny. Therefore, I believe you have willfully infringed my rights under 17 U.S.C. Section 101 et seq. and could be liable for statutory damages as high as your next paycheck – which, judging from previous references in your blog, is not very high! (Sorryz!)

Although I’ve enjoyed such classics as “Adventure in Online Dating,” “Three Favorite Bathrooms,” and your first edition of “Cooking Corner,” I demand that you immediately cease the use and distribution of all infringing works derived from the Work, and all copies, including electronic copies, of same, that you deliver to me, if applicable, all unused, undistributed copies of same, or destroy such copies immediately and that you desist from this or any other infringement of my rights in the future.

If I have not received an affirmative response from you, in addition to your autograph, by 07/31/2012 indicating that you have fully complied with these requirements, I shall consider taking any and all legal remedies available to rectify this situation, including curtailing my blog viewership to twice a day.

Sorry guys.

Tony

Valerie Bourdain: No Reservations

Three weeks ago, I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, for my first ever trip to Latin America. I’ve enjoyed my host family, the traveling I’ve been able to do, and the friends I’ve made during my time here so far. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for those looking to explore the land Down Under (North America):

1. Bring – and wear- the money belt you packed.
Sure, almost nothing will hide that bulk beneath your shirt unless you decide to tie a sweater around your waist. Hint: The money belt looks and feels stupid until you’re almost robbed in the park while searching through your purse!

2. Get used to different customs!
Rice and beans will be served at any and all times of the day. Also, one of the primary dishes – rice, beans, and meat mixed together – is called casado in Spanish, which means “married.” Hint: People are not asking if you would like to be married right before they serve you food. 

3. Play it by ear!
If you decide to undertake an exploration of your surroundings, congratulations! What will follow is a challenging journey, both mentally and physically, involving faltering taxis, shady directions, and otherwise unreliable means of travel. The result, albeit rewarding, will probably set you back at least $50 more than planned and frustrate you into silence with the friends you are traveling with. Hint: You will arrive at the national park at least 2 hours later than planned, so don’t worry about the morning rain forecast!

4. Did you say bus schedule?
Nope!

5. Immerse yourself…
In Spanish! Hint: You will be much more comfortable communicating in Spanish after three Imperials – the national beer of Costa Rica. 

6. Haggle!
This is an important part of travel many Americans neglect to take advantage of. By haggling, you cut down on all kinds of costs, including the peanut butter and tissues you are buying. Try out your local supermarket. Hint: They are a national chain and this will not work. They will also not understand your “haggling” gesture. Why didn’t you look it up in Spanish first?

A critical review of your new favorite television shows

Three nights ago, I set up my first official account on Netflix. My long-term relationship with Mike guaranteed some access to Netflix, but Mike eventually discontinued his subscription and I had to rely on nbc.com’s weekly uploads and also some probably illegal streaming. But the other night I caved and made an account!

Since the first month is free and it’s really not all that much money anyway, I have definitely been using the subscription to its fullest value. I’ve probably watched at least 12-15 hours of television since setting it up. Yup. But before you tell me I’m wasting my time, I should add that I’ve watched some truly good television I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to watch. Also, I’m not taking any summer classes so just relax. I’m blogging to tell you that you should take a look at these shows if you haven’t.

Parks & Recreation, better known as “Parks ‘n’ Rec”
I know, everyone’s either heard of or seen this show. And until recently, I had only seen a few episodes, only to concede that it was okay, but ultimately too much like NBC’s The Office with its mockumentary style and awkward humor. No! It’s still awkward, but way better. As I am wont to do in the summer months, I decided to start from the beginning – Episode 1, Season 1 – so I could give it a chance to impress me. Sure, the first few episodes weren’t much since the characters weren’t too developed (case in point: Tom, Leslie’s assistant, is waaaay apathetic toward his job and has a much more deadpan style. Also, nobody really hates Jerry yet.) – but it quickly gets better. Leslie becomes way more overzealous and Ron becomes way more libertarian/apathetic/hilarious.

My purpose isn’t to explain the full character arcs, but just to recommend starting from the beginning! I definitely have a better grasp on the character relationships and the backstories of everyone. So good – 4.4 stars, if I’m going to rate it.

Running Wilde
This is actually a Mike-recommendation based on a Netflix-recommendation (I think). Running borrows a little bit from Arrested Development, at least with its core characters, Will Arnett and, to a lesser extent, David Cross, but has a passably distinct premise and more interesting scenery. The show is about a clueless rich guy (Will Arnett) who constantly flaunts his wealth and fake generosity to win back his high school sweetheart, who spends her time trying to prevent the extinction of Amazonian tribes with her daughter, Puddle, and gross fiancé, David Cross, who sports a fittingly gross goatee braid. It’s gross.

But beyond that, Puddle is very cute and undertakes a vow of silence to convince her mother she needs to get out of the wilderness. Puddle colludes with Will Arnett (hereafter known as Will Arnett) to stay in his mansion and sparks fly between Will Arnett and the female lead. If you liked AR and want to see more Will Arnett/David Cross, this show is pretty good and has an interesting dynamic. It doesn’t totally compare to AR, but what does? I only watched the first two episodes, but it probably gets better after that. I give it a 3.5/5 stars.

Twin Peaks
Totally hooked! There is a great soundtrack that plays on a loop and a lot of grungy teenagers – a combination that sums up most great television. The storyline of Peaks revolves around the seemingly random murder of Laura Palmer, a stereotypical popular girl at her high school, and the impact of her death on the small town in which she lived. When the police dig a little deeper, though, they find that Laura was not just a prom queen with a football-playin’ boyfriend, but, like many of the show’s characters, maintains a darker life as a prostitute and cocaine addict.

I barely scratched the surface with that summary, but you get the point. The show has some awesome scenery of the Pacific Northwest (the show takes place in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Washington) and a haunting soundtrack. There is also a supernatural streak to it and it really works, even though it’s not always my thing. Also, if you get a kick out of the late 80s and early 90s, you’ll really enjoy this show. I give the show a 4.5/5, even though the pilot is super long (1 ½ hours).

So, readers, I hope you took something away from these reviews, like an idea of what to watch next (Peaks, hands down). Good luck!

Interviewing 101: Tips and Tricks to Land (any) Job!

If you are hoping to enter the workforce or internship-force, think twice about the amount of effort it will take to actually land the job/shitty unpaid internship. You will likely need to complete some kind of application and submit legitimate supporting materials, such as your resume, a professional cover letter, and maybe even a transcript. It is also likely that you will be interviewed by your potential employer/intern boss. It’s easy to flub curveball interview questions, but scan these tips minutes before your interview and you just might land the position!

Pre-Interview!

1. Dress the part.
Yikes! The interview is at 9 am? That’s earlier than you thought it would be, especially after those two beers last night… Whatever, no one said it would be a formal interview. Try to stow away some business professional pants in your backpack in case your black cargoes aren’t dressy enough.

2. Change into business attire.
Dressier than expected. Duck into a bathroom to do a quick change.

3. Don’t show up under any influences!
Including allergy medication! Even though you knew there was going to be a high pollen count today, skip the medication. The interview will be inside, so there is no chance that you will sneeze continuously throughout the interview, thereby prompting your interview to go see if the HR office has any tissues.

4. Practice some possible interview questions on the way over.
Shit. You probably should have done this a few days ago when you first got an interview offer. Practice makes perfect though. Here it goes. Where do you see yourself in 50 years? Any pets or grandkids? What are some of your weaknesses? Are you sure those are just allergies?

 

At the Interview

1. Show up early!
Way early. I cannot emphasize this enough. It makes a strong impression on your potential supervisor if you surprise them at 8:30 instead of 9 am, when they are actually finishing breakfast…but no, go ahead…take a seat.

Tip! If you decide to bring your huge backpack, place it in the chair your interviewer was hoping to take!

2. Shake some hands.
When did you last sneeze into your hand? Oh well. Your interviewer seems to have forgotten about it, so put your best (less wet) hand forward!

3. Be confident.
How many years was it that you worked on your high school newspaper? How would I know? He’s the one holding my resume.

4. Skip the second handshake.
Yeah, that last sneeze was all over the place.

 

After the Interview

1. Send a follow-up e-mail!
Thank your interviewer for his or her time. Make the e-mail more lighthearted by also expressing gratitude for using the remainder of HR’s tissue supply.

2. Send another follow-up e-mail.
They probably didn’t get your first e-mail.

3. Blame your allergies. 

Things I Do Shamelessly

Having had my fair share of roommates and siblings (one sister), I know everyone has their habits. I have mine, and if they’re annoying enough in the company of others, I’ll make a conscious effort to curtail these habits. Some things, though, I’ll keep on doing pretty shamelessly. For example:

Eating when invited to do so
You know the scenario: you’re at a friend’s house, and depending on how welcome you feel to your friend/passing acquaintance’s fridge, you’ll be offered some type of refreshment. Game changer: You expect me to politely decline, but I invariably say yes.  What, am I putting you out? Then don’t offer me any type of food that requires preparation, because I’m ready to accept anything from coffee to a full-blown meal.

Not always recycling
Well, this isn’t totally true, so don’t decide that I’m a bad person just yet. I recycle anywhere between 60 – 80% of the time, depending on just how vengeful I’m feeling toward the environment on a given day. There are times, though, when there isn’t a trash can and I’ll just toss the item in question.  I recycle more often than not, so I don’t feel too guilty about this.

Laughing at your artsy photos
You having a nice camera doesn’t make me appreciate your photo of a flower, which basically photographs itself. Unless you have a vested interest in photography, I’m probably not paying attention to the sepia tint you added on your mac.

Going through an entire box of granola bars in a day
Those things are damn tasty and sure as hell can replace any meal of the day. I’m all about these things. Nature Valley, I’m talking to you.

Asking for gift certificates
What? You asked what I wanted for my birthday and it’s probably a $25 gift certificate to Target.  The risk of not ending up with my choice of Target’s stretchy wool socks ($8 for a 3-pack) is too great for me to allow you to take a shot in the dark.

Complaining about your taste in music
As Mike will blog to anyone who listens, personal taste is subjective and is therefore exempt from value judgments. And I agree wholeheartedly — until you decide to seriously listen to a 7-minute remix of “Blinded by the Light” while I try to watch 30 Rock.  Go ahead and listen, but do it at a sub-audible volumes. I’m talking below-whisper levels.

Yeah.