Monday, December 27, 2010

snow day! snow day! snow day!

Can't figure out what to do first:  jewelry, movie, book?  I did start making some new jewelry this weekend.  One of the women at work asked for some earrings in purple, so I made some wild-ass amethyst earrings.  I put an amethyst chip on a headpin, made two more, and wired them to the end loop of some chain, then did that twice more -- so I had three clusters of three chips each on one loop.  Then I continued attaching clusters and different sizes of amethyst up the chain, and then decided to work on some 4mm Swarovskis in smoked topaz AB2x, which somehow had a slightly purple flash and really worked with the amethyst.  It's for a woman in QC who came up to me and said she'd heard I made jewelry, could I make something purple for her?  Only a handful of people there know that I make jewelry.  Most of the people who work there are not jewelry fiends.  A few of them are, and a few appreciate nice stones and beads.  But most of the women there wear plain old hoop earrings and what I like to call "mall jewelry," meaning those little gold hearts half studded with tiny diamonds, and similar things that look like the mass-produced pieces you find at Zales or Kay.  Honestly, I hate that stuff even more than I hate cheap plastic or other cheap non-precious flashy earrings.

I'm also working on another of my "fringe" necklaces.  This is larger stones wire-wrapped together, with smaller stones dangled from the wire-wrap looks.  It's one of my signature styles, sometimes in a Y-necklace and sometimes in a plain round one.  I wore one to my interview at Dweck, one with a lot of brownish jaspers.  I wore it about a week ago and Stephen complimented me on it.  It was the first time he did so, and even though I didn't really say anything to anyone else, I was kind of over the moon.  I had kind of been waiting for him to say something about something I wore.

The new fringe necklace is in wintery blues, kind of new for me. I usually use a lot of autumn oranges and yellows in the cold weather.  But this one has some blueish jasper and agate and frosted rock crystal and demin lapis, and I think the fringe will be mostly amazonite rondels and maybe some smaller rock crystal with a few accents of peach aventurine.  We're going to Jannah's on Friday and I'm hoping to finish this and make another one in yellows and golds (I have some nice gold rutilated quartz), and let her choose the one she likes.  (She already has a lot of my orange and yellow pieces, since she loves those colors.)

Let the lazy day begin.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

some women's health stuff (men, you so do not want to read this)

I was recently diagnosed with something called lichen sclerosis.  Never heard of it before, but I can tell you, it sucks.  It sucks on toast.  It's a skin condition, primarily affecting post-menopausal women and primarily occurring in the vaginal area.  The skin gets a white bloom and then becomes very thin and sensitive, and itches like you could die from.  If you rub or scratch in any way, it gets more inflamed and can bleed.  Sometimes you get scare tissue, which can even narrow the vagina, making intercourse painful if not impossible.  And there's no cure, gang.

I've now seen three different gynecologists about this.  It ended up being three mostly because of scheduling -- the first was my regular GYN (though I hadn't seen her for some time).  When I needed to go back I was working and couldn't work with her hours, so I saw a second doctor in the practice.  Same thing again, and I saw a third.

The first doctor didn't even tell me what it was.  I had initially thought it was simply irritation from wearing pads for stress incontinence.  (Any men who have gotten this far -- I told you so!)  So the first doctor gave me some cream -- actually two.  One was for inside my vagina (I still don't know what was wrong there), and one for the sore outer area.  I should have asked more questions but I actually spent more time talking to her about the stress incontinence.  (I never did do the test for that, where they fill your bladder with water, but I've actually diminished the problem a great deal by doing kegel exercises.)

When I went back some months later, the second doctor told me the name of what I had (whatever the internal problem was must have been cured), and prescribed two creams.  One was the same cream the first doctor had prescribed, and the second was a cortisone cream.  She gave me directions very quickly and in a heavy accent, and when I got the creams, those directions were not there.  So I called to ask about it, left a message that I was calling with a question about my medications, and she never called back.  Each one just said to use twice a day, so I just kind of switched back and forth.  I since learned, on my own, that you're supposed to use the first one twice a day for a couple of weeks, to clear up the symptoms, and then the cortisone one twice a day to prevent them from coming back.

Third doctor, the one I saw this past Thursday, explained things to me a little better.  Hormones are involved.  The hormones that dropping off after menopause contribute to this condition.  That's a big factor.  So she said to use the cortisone cream twice a day, and in-between, use OTC Vagisil for itching.  And she's prescribed hormones.

I had never thought about hormone replacement therapy, or rather, I only thought about it in terms of something was was used for menopause symptoms, like hot flashes.  I didn't even think about it recently, when I realized that my hair is getting thinner and my skin is getting a lot drier.  But now I'm getting to understand this whole post-menopause thing, feminine itching and all, and if estrogen and progestin are the magic bullet, bring it on.  I'm going to check in with my GP about drug interactions and such, since I have high blood pressure and Type II diabetes and am on anti-depressants to boot.

This is the age where you start to see the results of how well you did or didn't take care of yourself.  I haven't been good about my weight, went through a period where I did exercise, and periods where I walked a good deal, but I haven't been consistent about exercise.  I did stop drinking (24 years ago) and smoking cigarettes (about 6 or 7 years ago), and I feel really good about both of those.  My liver pulled through without a scar, and my upper respiratory system is great.

I'm actually kind of excited about taking the hormones.  I've been very bummed out about some of these age-related changes...I've always had great skin and thick hair.  I'd love to see that stuff improve if not reverse, or even just stop progressing.  Because I never had children, I didn't react much to the end of my childbearing ability, because when the time came to decide about children, I chose not to.  So I didn't feel too bad about no longer being fertile-- I was already used to the idea of not being a mother.  And I had sexual activity in my life for a few years after, so I wasn't feeling any lack of female-ness.

It's hard to explain this...I think I don't mind being older, but I do mind not being younger.  Does that make any sense?

One more very interesting thing, which does not involve sore genitals.  I have tried on and off to learn meditation techniques, and never even got close.  For a while, when I was with Penguin, I worked with people who were involved in the TM organization, and I was very impressed with them as people.  One fairly high-up member promised me free training and then reneged.  (I made this mistake a couple of times when I was in book publicity, of thinking that a few authors actually liked me as a friend, beyond what I could do for them and their books.)  TM was very attractive but the $3,500 price tag was a problem.

I did, however, get to meet Donovan, who was my huge favorite musician/crush when I was around 11 and 12.

So last night, I was trying to go to sleep, it actually happened, just for a moment.  As is often the case, a lot of shit was rushing around in my head, very distracting.  All of a sudden, it became silent -- and the floor fell out from under me.  That's exactly what it felt like.  My author had described it like being in an elevator and having the cable cut.  I had just that short, lovely moment -- and have absolutely no clue how I got there.  I suppose I've got to get some for-real instruction, because I definitely want that again.

Friday, December 24, 2010

must be Mitch Miller

"Must be Santa," the song Dylan sang, was written by William Fredericks and Hal Moore and originally recorded by Mitch Miller.  Mitch Miller was a music producer, I do believe (let's check Wikipedia), who was most famous for a TV show in the 60s called "Sing Along With Mitch." 

I just went to YouTube to try to find a clip of the show, which I remember vaguely as a young'un (it ran from 1961 to 1966), and was shocked to see how awful it was, though I also remembered correctly is it was a fantastic depiction of what young people called "square" in the 60s (it means "old school," but not in a good way).

Perhaps this will shed some light , for those of you under forty-five, to see where hippies came from, even beatniks.  It was in reaction to "Sing Along with Mitch."  Think Eisenhower era, conformist and conservative and bland.  Sure there was some cool stuff that came down the pipe culturally, but the majority of Americans were in the Mitch-Miller camp.  (Poll:  who thinks minstrel shows minus blackface are racist anyway?  I do.)

I had actually forgotten that Mitch's singers were all men.  Creep-a-licious!

more funny ESL

Right before I started working at Tarcher Penguin, they published a book called "Engrish," which was basically a photo book of signs, ads or labels or streetsigns, written in extremely poor English by someone who is not a native speaker of English.  The ideas are there, and then a whole bunch of worms swim around that connect to the concept but not each other. When I saw the book, it was kind of a relief to know that other people found this really funny, since I always had but wondered if it wasn't somehow racist to feel that way?  Well, I do think it's funny, and others think it's funny, and until I hear an Asian saying that it hurts their feelings, I will continue to enjoy it.  The following was copied (probably illegally) from the A.V.Club, the entertainment arm of The Onion.  I've been subscribed to the AV blog for a week or so now, and I like their coverage and, so far, their point of view.

Music Phone
Music Phone
As always, it wouldn’t be a Cheap Toy Roundup without at least one awkward import with packing that makes random-at-best stabs at the English language, then kicks it while it lies bleeding in the gutter. Music Phone is particularly enthusiastic about the butchery: The box is positively covered with approximations of familiar English toy-packaging phrases. “The cartoon shape, interesting function,” proclaims one pink bubble of text. The green bubble next to it answers “The kid studies musical teacher To the kid’s vivid education start from here!” Random asterisks suggest that phrases like “Correctly choose standard pronunciation, graceful tweedle” are footnotes, but to what? The fun continues on the side of the box: “There is the keep company with of phone of the cartoon music phone, I can study to more music every day, more fun.” Now that’s enthusiasm! And on the back, there are even helpful instructions for phone use: “Press The Animal Head Key, Will Send Out Each Wow.” Okay, clear enough… especially by comparison with further instruction: “While converting to look for function, the telephone will send out the interjection of animal or (the numeral read a sound, color name) When you press opposite in response to of key, the telephone will deliver OK voice. When you press wrong……” But be careful! The toy you’re actually looking at in the open-fronted box may not be the real color it appears to be! “Color and packaging of the product real object have a dissimilarity to please take Music Phonereal object color as quasi.” And as a further warning, this toy has apparently killed before: “Contain the small parts has already suffocate dangerous, not for children under 3 years.” No problem; those children under 3 years whom this phone has not already suffocate dangerous wouldn’t enjoy it as much as adults will, even if it does start vivid education in malapropisms.

I have my own shorthand for this,which is simply "ESL"  English as a Second Language.  As in:  that e-mail was totally ESL. 

I realize that if this is offensive, it's not just about Asians.  I recently went poking around (did I mention this?) about the song "Little Green Bag" by the George Baker Selection.  I loved the song but found it very weird.  First of all the verse and the chorus seemed to come from two different songs.  Also, the lyrics were very strange.  The lyrics might have come from a psychedelic song, but the music, although weird, was a pretty straightforward composition, without "trippy" effects.  My researched divulged that George Baker was Dutch!  ESL!  Well, it doesn't explain the oddness of the music, but it sure says something about the lyrics.

I just check out a video on YouTube of Baker singing the song live in 2008 (oldies time: Baker was 63 at the time and the song was a hit in 1970).  You can't really hear it on the studio recording, but in the 2008 video, you can REALLY hear his accent.

Here's another one:  The Red Elvises.  Gotta love the Red Elvises.  They're a rock and surf band who I think are Russian folks who now live here.  Or something.  My friend John Andrews raved to me about them, and they're very wonderful.

I don't know why my Amazon Associates gizmo stopped working.  I want everyone to know when I kvell about my Kindle.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas songs: exceptions

I joined into a little anti-Christmas-song bitchfest on FB today with a few friends.  But I remembered a few good ones:  "Father Christmas" by the Kinks;  "Feliz Navidad" by Freddy Fender; and "Run Run Rudolph" by Chuck Berry.

Then one of the guys directed me to three YouTube videos I'd never known about.  I posted that they were going on my blog immediately.

I like the point-of-view of the Jill Sobule song, and the overall great songwriting and singing of Robert Earl Keen (though Sobule is no slouch as a singer, either).

This next one is just plain weird.  I'm guessing the song must be traditional, although I've never heard it before.  I do know that Brave Combo also recorded it, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or more of the guys in this video were from that band.

I think Dylan is supposed to look like Scrooge, but he kind of looks like Tom Petty.

I hope no one thinks ill of me for this (I don't usually admit to this very often), but I don't really like Bob Dylan.  I never got him.  And I've loved and still love some singers with very unbeautiful voices.  But he just never grabbed me the way he grabbed other people, and the way the Beatles and Stones grabbed me.  I don't think I listened to singer-songwriters at all in the 60s, but I started to like quite a few in the 70s, even (and especially) some who were unique and sometimes cock-eyed.  But Dylan was not one of them.  Of course, there are a handful of his well-known songs that I like.  I keep trying and trying...every so often, I listen to an album someone has suggested, but I still don't love him.  I just don't get him, or like him.

Do you still like me?

Monday, December 20, 2010

properly groomed and admired

I've been growing my hair out from a bad-idea short cut during the summer, and went through a period where it stuck out in all directions and I had to wear a headband to keep it out of my eyes and looking somewhere in the neighborhood of neat.  Several days ago, I bought myself a styling brush.  Never had one before.  And blam!  all of a sudden I had nice smooth hair, no headband required.  Better late than never.

Stephen finally noticed and complimented me on one of my necklaces today.  Only took two months.  It was the same dress-to-impress necklace I'd worn to my interview, so I guess it is impressive.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

advertising design, 1900-1950

Maybe more like packaging than advertising, these things that have caught my eye.  Pre-1972 bottlecaps (the ones with the cork on the back).  Matchbook covers from the 50s and 60s.  Space-age dinnerware design and atomic-age glassware.  Soda clocks.  Soda labels.  Roller rink stickers. 

I love vintage stuff in general, but I am fascinated by the look of these things, the excitement and the ornament and the style.  The art.  Art that didn't think it was art.  Commercial items that didn't know they were beautiful.

Some of them I collect or intend to collect.  Others, I just save images (although I am bummed out at not being able to save images from eBay any more). 

First off, something I intend to collect, though I've started in a small way.  This is going to be my dinnerware set.  It was made by a firm called Iroquois, a line called Informal.  The designer was Ben Seibel, who was less well-known than another Iroquois Informal designer, Russel Wright.  His patterns, and the shape of his dishes, remind me of the kind of styles I saw as a small child.  I actually discovered Informal by accident, when I was looking at restaurant china on eBay.  I liked the idea of buying mismatched vintage restaurant china (which is also very cool. design-wise).  And I chose my pattern, which is called Garland.  It's not horribly expensive, but at a certain point, buying collectibles (even ones I would use) proved to be too much of a luxury.  So far, I have four Garland bread plates and the sugar and creamer.  Here's the pattern:
Here's a big pitcher from the set, which is the same shape as the creamer:

As with the MST3K stuff, stop here if you don't like it.

The thing I collected madly for a time was the vintage bottlecaps.  I had a friend who collected them, and one day I actually looked at some of his caps, and I was a goner.  My core collection is pre-1972 American soda caps, but I've also picked up some foreign caps, beer caps, plastic-back caps, and so on.  But the US cork sodas are to me the real beauties, and I have about 2,000 of them.  Again, I haven't been able to buy them in years, but I have a beautiful collection.  I am too lazy to scan them in right now, but I'll post some saved images, and I do own all of these caps:

One of the truly amazing things about bottlecaps, as opposed to many other kinds of collectibles, is that no one knows how many there are.  There were so many little local bottlers that occasionally one or a whole cache will turn up in an old barn or attic.  There does not exist any kind of guide or checklist.  Bottlecaps are infinite.

To be continued...

Friday, December 17, 2010

how I got this way -- post-childhood influences: MST3K

I wrote a very detailed version of this post last night, with much windy text and many clips.  It took me about two hours, and then Blogger ate it when I was trying to post.  This one will be less ambitious -- probably less text and more clips.

I've been running an occasional feature called "how I got this way," featuring the cartoons that I watched endlessly as a very young child.  But I've had plenty of TV obsessions as an adult...I believe I once went on at great length in this blog about Friday Night Lights.  But I've also gone crazy for Ren & Stimpy (the first John K ones), and never stopped watching SNL.

I was an insane fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, often known as MTS3K.  I taped episodes and watched them over and over and over.

The premise of the show, like the show itself, is pretty silly.  Two mad scientists shoot their janitor into space, placing him on a ship called the Satellite of Love.  To ease his boredom and loneliness, he builds himself a few robots (actually puppets).  Unfortunately, without the parts he used to make the robots, he can't fly the ship to return to earth.  To make things worse, the mad scientists force him to watch awful old movies. These are referred to as "experiments," though what the scientists, known as "the mads," are attempting to discover is pretty fuzzy.  (The theme song deals with the overall fuzziness this way:  just repeat to yourself, it's only a show, I should really just relax.)

Joel and "the 'bots" respond to the bad movies like many people do:  they talk back to the screen and make fun of the movie.  So most of the show is a terrible old movie, usually sci-fi, with the silhouettes of Joel and two robots in the lower left-hand corner, riffing on the movie.  There are also "host segments" which sometimes relate to the movie and sometimes not.  Early on, there was an "invention exchange" with the mads on every show, taking advantage of the real Joel's early career as a prop comic.  (The character is named Joel Robinson and the creator/actor is Joel Hodgson, and both are usually referred to as Joel.)

Even when it went from being a local show on KTMA in Minneapolis-St. Paul to a well-liked show on Comedy Central (and later on the Sci-Fi channel), it still had a kind of DIY look and feel to it, and it continued to be produced in the Twin Cities.

First, a very young Joel doing his stand-up/magic/prop comic act.  (I hesitate to even use the term "prop comic," since it conjures images of the awful and terrifying Carrot Top.  But hang in there -- Joel is terrific.)

Here's a little clip reel from three of the earlier "experiments."

I am particularly fond of the host segments where a particularly stupid scene from a movie is parodied by Joel and the 'bots -- especially if it involves a song.  This is from Pod People, not my top favorite episode, but one of them.  But I think it's my favorite host segment.  This clip shows the original song and then the host parody, complete with reaction from the mads.

Pod People actually had *two* really great host segment parodies.  Here's the movie clip, and the parody, of Trumpy, the pod person in Pod People:

Favorite episode, hands-down?  Manos, the Hands of Fate.  Here's a chunk that includes the bizarre Torgo with his creepy theme music.  Unfortunately, the final host segment, involving a faux-Torgo delivering pizza to the mads, has been sliced neatly in half between segment 9 and segment 10.  I'll post 10, the end of the Torgo/pizza bit, which also includes the closing credits.  You can see that pretty much everyone on the show did two or three different things, including occasionally appearing in a skit.

For instance, the guy who plays one of the mads also plays one of the robots and something else, maybe some design thing?  Joel did half of the jobs on the show. The whole cast is on the writing staff.   And Mike Nelson, the head writer who played Torgo in the last skit, took over as host after Joel left the show.  Mike's married to one of the other writers who occasionally does a skit.  And one of the other writers played a new mad scientist after one of the others left.  There's more cool stuff, but I'm sure I want you all to know what an incredible MST3K dork I am.  (The correct word for me and my ilk is "MSTies," pronounced misties."


Strangely enough, I couldn't find a clip of just the opening theme. This is the beginning of Pod People, which for some reason is not embeddable.  The theme is chock-full of exposition and low-rent props.

If you love this, it's available through Netflix, and apparently also in ten-minute segments on YouTube.  YouTube sure does rock, as I'm sure I said before.    (There are also MST3K shorts on YouTube, which are also pretty great.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

how I got this way, pt. 3

Old cartoons are a big topic on Facebook of late.  Someone started a "thing" -- maybe it was to raise awareness of something, I'm not even sure -- where people were changing their profile pictures to their favorite cartoon characters.  The first one I posted was Tobor the Eighth Man, which got a good reaction from my eccentric peers (I include myself in that "eccentric").  Then I changed it to Col. Bleep.

Until the advent of the internet, I only knew two other people who had ever seen Col. Bleep, and one was my brother, who watched it with me.  The other was my dear friend John Jorge, who actually got me a VHS tape (back in those days) with a few episodes on it.  Now I know people who have watched it *and* there are a few episodes on YouTube.

Col. Bleep was the first cartoon made for television, in 1957.  It has that mid-century atomic age design that I love.  When I think about it, it seems to me that it was all orange, blue and black -- which isn't exactly true, though it does have an awful lot of orange, blue and black.  Especially orange.

It's just so bizarre: this atomic, outer-space good guy, Col. Bleep, who travels around with a puppet and a caveman, and fights several villains -- a "space pirate," "Doctor Destructo," an evil robot, et al..(Quite a few of them have "black" as part of their moniker, just in case you somehow couldn't tell they were bad guys.)

Also bizarre was the fact that Col. Bleep was not a very appealing character.  He didn't speak (we'll get to the lack-of-dialogue part in a second), he had this kind of triangle head, his legs terminated in a single wheel instead of feet, and he certainly never smiled.  He just didn't look like a nice or a fun dude.

Hand in hand with the awful limited animation is the fact that the cartoons were pretty much narrated and there wasn't any dialogue to speak of.  There were occasional lines which were very obviously the narrator using a slightly different voice, but mostly, there was some guy saying, "Col. Bleep was patrolling the galaxy with his trusty friends, Squeak the puppet and Scratch the caveman.  What's that?  It looks like that rocket ship is in trouble!  Little did the colonel know that it was a trap set by Black Patch the Pirate! Col. Bleep will think this is a rocketship in distress and when he comes here, I'll spring my trap!    Oh, no!  Col. Bleep doesn't know it's a trap!  Get back, colonel, get back!"  and so on.

The one thing I have not been able to find is an episode  with "Squeak and Scratch blink in wonder!"  They did this bit on a bunch of episodes.  When the narrator says, "Squeak and Scratch blink in wonder," Squeak kind of gets on top of Scratch so they look kind of like a totem pole, and they blink their eyes while opening and closing their hands.  It's synchronized so that the hand is closed when the eyes are closed, and the hands open when the eyes open -- and since it's limited animation, those two pictures just go back and forth in a nice little rhythm.  It would be so much better if you could see it, but I haven't seen it myself in a good 45 years.

First up, there is a compilation of two episodes.  In "Arrival On Earth," which looks to be the first cartoon of the series, we learn that cavemen went extinct!  (Well, with the exception of Scratch, who seems to have slept through extinction.)  "War in Robotland" features Dr. Destructo and a passel of black robots.

Then we come to "Knight of Death," which features several of the bad guys.  Is it me, or does Dr. Destructo look really different?  Also, given all of his Futomic Energy, power to fly through space, and so on, why can't Col. Bleep tell the difference between a real dragon and a fake one?  (Sidebar:  how weird is it to even talk about "the difference between a real dragon and a fake one"?)

Next up is "Lunar Luger."  See Col. Bleep blow a bugle *through* his space helmet!  This episode makes good use of the cool "space noise" that accompanies the colonel.  Also, toward the end, Squeak and Scratch assume the blink-in-wonder totem pole position, but without blinking in wonder.

Now, although they don't say so specifically, I'd have to guess that this cartoon is set in The Future, what with all the space stuff (remember that this was made in 1957, before actual manned spaceflight).  So, I suppose these things will still be au courant in the future:  pirates, knights, dragons, lugers, and (my personal favorite) Morse code.  That just about killed me.  Morse code.

I hope you all still want to be my friends, in spite of this orange weirdness.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas music, Christmas spirit, Christmas burnout

Good Lord, I am sick of Christmas music already!

Now, I don't really mind the peace-on-earth-goodwill-to-all aspect of Christmas and the Christmas season.  It's actually kind of nice.  But the commercialism is hideous, of course, and has somehow managed to start around Halloween instead of right after Thanksgiving.

And the trappings of the commercialism have also become unpleasant.  All of the traditional bits and folk-customs have been co-opted by the commercialism, and so even trees, holly, wreathes, mistletoe, and the myth of Santa have become kind of repulsive to me. 

And yes, I understand that I may feel this way partly because it isn't "my" holiday.  On the other hand, Jews could not possibly make Chanukah, or any other Jewish holidays, as obnoxious to non-believers as Christmas.  Would I find Christmas less disturbing if my co-workers were talking about how much they looked forward to being with their families, or felt moved to commit to charitable causes, or let problems roll of their backs owing to the feelings of peacefulness that come with the season?  Sure.  How do I feel when they talk about how much they're annoyed by family gatherings or dislike this or that family member, or when the lunchtime conversation is largely about shopping?  Guess.

And without even going into detail about the knee-jerk over-decorating so dear to this borough...let's talk about Christmas music.  One of the women in my office plays internet radio all day, generally a station with a decent mix of 70s-00s.  Around the beginning of the month, she asked if Christmas music was OK, and trying to be agreeable, I said of course not -- not quite realizing that this was going to be pretty much an entire month of Christmas music.  She found an all-Christmas-music, all-day station.

Most Christmas songs are more of the heavy mantle of commercialism that has muffled any genuine "Christmas spirit."  Plus there are only so many Christmas songs.  And of course, no one is playing anything like The Messiah or other "serious" religious/classical/spiritual music.  About the closest thing to that kind of class is Pachelbel's (sp?) Canon, which has become as nauseatingly omnipresent as" Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."  And a re-recording of, say, "I'll Be Home for Christmas", is not much of an improvement on the original.  A few really excellent songs, like Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," have simply been overplayed to the 90th degree.

There are a couple of Christmas songs I actually like hearing, maybe because they're newer (relatively speaking), and have only recently made it into the canon of mainstream Christmas music.  One, of course, is Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," which I think was recorded in the 80s.  That one plays on the Christmas-music station (which I think is Lite-FM, re-purposed for the season).  Another is "Last Christmas," which I think is a Wham song -- never heard it before they sang it on Glee last week, but it's a decent song (although I may be sick of it by the time New Year's rolls around).  The third OK one is "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney, which is a mite corny but at least it's a Beatle.

I'm not a humbugger, really, but the closest I've felt to having any kind of "holiday spirit" were the couple of times I spent Christmas day serving meals to needy people in a church basement.  I'd love to see the shoppers and decorators do something like that.  Or instead of buying gifts, making charitable donations.  That's a Christmas spirit I could get behind.

Monday, December 6, 2010

tuna without teasing

My husband makes fun of me when I make tuna salad.  This is because I like to take the time to really make something nice.  He's out at the Big Ed jam tonight (a blues jam session in Greenwich Village every Monday night), so I was able to make tuna minus the humorous commentary.

This is how he makes tuna salad:  can of tuna on a plate.  Blob of mayo next to it.  Some form of bread. 

This is what I put in my tuna salad tonight:  chopped apple, broken walnuts, hard-boiled egg, raisins, fresh dill, olive oil, black pepper, cumin, garlic powder.  And some mayo (we use light mayo around here).

My mother made tuna salad with chopped green pepper rather than celery.  She really didn't use celery much at all.  It was some years before I learned that celery was the default.  There was also a period when she put oregano in everything (except maybe Cream of Wheat), so for a while there was also oregano in her tuna.  (I have to admit that I put cumin in almost everything I can, and thyme comes second.)

The first unusual (non-celery/green pepper & mayo) tuna salad I ever had was in Mohegan Woodlands one summer, made by the wonderful Lila Hammer.  It had tuna, mayo, canned mandarin orange segments, and pecans.  Not only was it an excellent combination, but it taught me to think outside the box regarding tuna salad.

In the early 80s, I worked on the upper west side, and there was a sandwich joint that made tuna salad with a ton of egg in it.  It was actually a mite gloppy, but it tasted wonderful.  Years later, I would get lunch from one of those salad bars, and would take tuna salad and egg salad and mix them.

The cats, of course, don't care how the hell you make your tuna salad, as long as you put down the mostly empty can for them to lick.

Confession:  I love that old-school tuna and mushroom soup casserole.  My mother used to make it, just tuna, cream of mushroom (Campbells, not diluted), and cooked broad noodles, into a dish and into the oven.  It's super-comfort food to me.  I very rarely make it, but when I do, I eat it with a lot of black pepper.  (I eat a lot of things with a lot of black pepper.)

Mac n' cheese (many opinions on this one).  My mother made it with Velveeta.  Sometimes she put in little chunks of kosher salami (we almost always had those little Hebrew Nationals around), which is amazingly good.  Elbow macaroni.  I like to use a pasta that holds melted cheese a little better, usually rotini.  I have used many, many different kinds of cheese, alone and in combination.  My favorite is probably cheddar and jack, with a little grated parm/romano on top.  Eaten with a great deal of black pepper.

I am also making some soup for tomorrow night, since Barry is having tooth and jaw problems and favors soft foods of late.  I'm cooking butternut squash and some carrots in chicken broth, and will then puree the whole thing and add some tofu.  (Have I mentioned, or mentioned lately, how much I love my immersion blender?)  There's cumin in it, just a little.  And I'll probably add my black pepper at the table.  Next project will be a pureed bean soup.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How I Got This Way - pt. 2

When I was quite young, they showed silent cartoons early in the morning.  That was maybe a 6 AM cartoon.  I remembered them all these years, cartoons with music but no speaking, but never really knew what they were.  I'd read something about the silent Farmer Al Falfa/Farmer Grey cartoons, so I checked one out on YouTube, and -- bingo!  This one has whiplash-inducing changes of plot, from the cat employing an unusual mode of fishing with his mouse pal, to playing golf with mouse acting as both caddie and tee...and then the mouse disappears, the cat grabs something that looks a little like a lute or mandolin, and starts playing.  Cupid shows up and shoots him in the ass, and the cat starts serenading a cute girl cat.  I'm still trying to figure out why that ended badly.  The cat suddenly sees a group of mice in aerobics class, and all of a sudden he's a mouse-chasing cat, not a cat with a mouse pal.  Then there is a fairly typical cat-and-mouse chase (although it gives one pause that this 1920s specimen was probably an extremely early cat-and-mouse cartoon, and that the genre is still going strong 90 years later).  At the end, there's an I-thought-Warner-Brothers-invented-that busted cliff-edge bit.  The only thing that sucks is that when the cat sails down on the broken piece of cliff, he and the cliff naturally drill through the earth and end up in China -- and are greeted by a Chinese band, racist depiction.  This sort of thing has markedly improved over the past 90 years.

Paul Terry and Terrytoons are just not a such a big name in cartoon history, not Warner Brothers or Disney or MGM or Max Fleischer, but they did some interesting stuff from time to time.  I guess they didn't quite have the consistent look of some of the other studios.

Speaking of Max Fleischer (and really, who can get enough silent black-and-silent cartoons), we come to Koko the Clown.  Many silent cartoons are a little slow-paced -- like early silent films, they're not sure how quickly the audience will catch on, so they will repeat an idea or move through it very slowly.  But Koko goes pretty fast -- no filler.  The interaction between animation and live-action is stunning -- not to mention the whole idea of the cartoon character knowing that he was drawn and interacting with the guy who drew him (who of course is played by the guy who drew him).  Plus there are just a lot of funny gags.  Much like the cat in the first cartoon, Koko looks better at a distance.  The close-ups of both are kind of ugly.  I just rewatched this and did not catch any racist content.

That one was from 1924.

Now, if you thought the "laughing gas" portions of the last cartoon were trippy, you gotta watch this next one from 1927.  I think this may be the best known of the Koko the Clown cartoons:  a tiny clown and a spiteful puppy cause the apocalypse.  Oopsie.  (I believe this was the puppy who went on to have his own Fleischer cartoon, under the name Bimbo.  Bimbo had a little puppy girlfriend who kind of morphed into a human and became Betty Boop.  You go, Max Fleischer!)

I promise to try to dig up one of the old Max Fleischer Popeyes. 

How I Got This Way - pt. 1

Welcome to the first installment of How I Got This Way, a selection of cartoons I used to watch as a small child.  Geez, I watched a lot of cartoons!  But I watched a lot of TV, period.  Looking around YouTube tonight, I saw things I'd forgotten about, and things I hadn't seen since I was 7. So I'll let you in on some of my formative influences.  Note:  I still love cartoons, I know a little something about them, and I have very particular tastes and standards in animation (as in boo, Hanna-Barbara).  The cartoons I will be posting are not all "good" cartoons, but they're the ones I watched when I was little and not so discriminating.

I wasn't watching more than one of a particular cartoon series at YouTube, so I could cover more ground, but when I randomly selected this Little Lulu to watch, I hit the jackpot.  Because this was *the* Little Lulu episode.  This was a cartoon that was made to be shown in the theater.

Attention all you younger-uns:  back in the day, though really in my parents' time, going to the movies would be a long-term commitment.  There would be the main ("A") picture and the cheapie B-movie and a newsreel and a serial and a short and a cartoon.  Things like the newsreel and the serial were really biggest pre-TV.  The old Three Stooges episodes you see on TV were originally shorts made to show in the theater.  And the cartoons were generally pretty good, and were later recycled for kids' TV.

OK, this Little Lulu cartoon was most definitely the first time I ever heard the song "Swing on a Star."  It is the most magnificent of songs.  This is a pretty excellent cartoon all-round.

However, as a young kid (maybe as young as 6), I misunderstood part of the lyrics.  "Carry moonbeams home in a jar" never quite registered.  I somehow knew the name "Cary Grant," and I thought that Cary Moonbeam was a person, and he was home in a jar -- which I suppose meant that it was OK to swing on a star. I still loved the song, and still do.  Dave van Ronk recorded it, and on the album notes, he wrote a little note about each song.  His note on this one was something along the lines of "I have nothing to say about this song.  This song is perfect."

Remind me to tell you my Dave van Ronk story sometime.

Since I plan to post more cartoons here over time, I should mention that some of the ones I watched tonight did have minor racist content.  I'm not sure I can remember what was where, but I'll try to re-view before I post, so I can warn about that.  Unfortunately, there are some really great cartoons that reflected their time and were racist, a lot or a little (though it's stupid to make that distinction -- racist is racist).  My feeling is that they belong to their time, as I said, and I don't have a problem watching and enjoying them in the context of period pieces.  I don't really believe in any kind of censorship anyway, and don't believe in pretending certain things didn't happen.  If this stupid Amazon app was working, I'd recommend Black Like You by John Strausbaugh.

Anyway, I hope you liked Little Lulu.  And perhaps what I watched 45+ years ago will tell you (or me) something about how I got this way,

I don't mean to dis Amazon, even though the Amazon Associates thingie here hasn't worked in a month.  I am insanely in love with my Kindle.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I subscribe to a music blog (actually, quite a few).  One of them describes the genre of each new release, and here's one I haven't heard before:  "shoegaze."  This makes me feel quite the old fart.  I do a reasonably good job of skimming current music and even finding some artists I like a lot.  I pretty much don't do dance, house, trance or any sort of metal, and light on the hip-hop.  But I do know what those types of music are.  "Shoegaze" is not familiar to me, and I am tempted to say something very old-fart like "lotsa that music makes me gaze at my shoes!"  Like, "I guess they call it Trance because it puts ya in one!"  (I picture myself as something like an old crusty farmer when say shit like that.)

Of course, I'll Google it and read about it on Wikipedia or whatever.  But it's somehow disturbing to hear a music term that rings nary a bell.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

my Chicago friend Matt (aka Vernon)

So after I found out that my Chicago friend Vern had split up with his wife, I wrote him a long letter, which was returned today.I knew he had lived there for a very long time, so I called out the troops: messaged a mutual friend on Facebook, then just posted on Facebook, then did a web search.  Landed on a little documentary about Vern moving out of the apartment he'd had for, now I don't remember, 25 or 28 years.  I still want his address -- looks like he's still in Chicago.  But I'll share the video.  I can't say it's a thorough look at him, although one of the things that's most breathtaking is the way he writes, which has absolutely nothing to do with the way he speaks.  I put my couple of boxes of letters into storage, where they were lost, but kept Vern's letters here, in a big boot box.  He's maybe a hundred times more brilliant than he comes across.  But perhaps this is a nice introduction to someone who is both odd and wonderful:

Watch Vern Moves in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Thursday, November 18, 2010

i haz a Kindle/more beads

Too bad my Amazon Associates app has crapped out just when I'm singing the praises not only of a book or album they sell, but of a product you can only get from them.  The Kindle might be my favorite high-tech gizmo ever.  Honestly, it was easier to start using it than it was with my mp3 player.  And it's insanely cute.  Beats out my beloved mp3 player as far as what it does compared to its size.  Best.  Present.  Ever.  Best. Husband. Ever.

So I have a really interesting task for Monday.  There is a sample necklace with ten different beads, and they need to be sourced locally, to facilitate quick reordering.  The thing is, they're pretty unusual beads, ten different ones, and I only know what three of them are.  I think most of them are weird jaspers and agates.  It seems like the sellers of beads and stones are always finding some variant of jasper and making up a name for it.  When I started beading, there weren't quite so many jaspers running around.  There was picture/landscape jasper (tan with dark brown stripes), poppy jasper (brown with some reddish and whitish markings), red jasper, dalmatian jasper (white with black spots, natch), ocean jasper (mostly green with distinctive markings), fancy jasper (I now see this labeled "Indian agate"), and not too many more I can think of.  Leopardskin jasper.  But now there are more and more; I see some of them at work.  And I'll be seeing a lot more on Monday, when I have to go to vendors in the city and see if they can match my samples.  Kind of a bead treasure hunt.  I get to bead-hunt a lot, with our vendors and sometimes online, and it would be a little more fun if I didn't dread not being able to find a particular bead.  But it's sorta fun anyway.

So it's my birthday, and there was a cake at work, and a Kindle and some very fine cheesecake at home.  Lots of nice wishes on Face-itty Book-itty.  Not a bad day at all.

rocks and cell phones

I was given some, well, clerical work yesterday afternoon that also consumed a lot of today and will probably take a chunk of tomorrow.  (I don't in any way resent it -- most of us have to do some form of paperwork and/or record-keeping.  This job involved a huge stack of papers concerning OAKs (one of a kind pieces), and the job was basically to unstaple it, write the OAK number from the work order on the photo, and restaple it with the photo on top.  (Then I get to put them in numerical order, punch them and file them in looseleafs.)

Of course, the OAKs are made with unbelievably beautiful stones, and looking at them all day was mesmerizing.  More stones than beads, but I love stones, even if I don't use them.  I don't think I mentioned that I stopped into Bergdorf Goodman on Saturday (I had been in Manhattan to see Herb), to see Stephen's jewelry there.  It's actually the first place I ever saw his work.  His space has moved since I was last there, maybe 1996 or 97.  But his new space is beautiful, the OAKs were jaw-dropping, and everything was well-lit and beautifully displayed.

Barry and I are real knuckleheads when it comes to cell phones.  We've always kind of dragged our feet on them.  We've had them a few times, for very short times, but truthfully, neither of us found the need to use them very much.  I can be in a store and call Barry to see if he needs anything.  I can call him from the city -- or vice-versa -- to tell him when I expect to be home.  He can call a car service and go downstairs, and call if the car is late.  But that's about it.  We recently got a pay-as-you-go phone which we share.  It can do all kinds of fancy shit, but I haven't taken the time to read the teeny little booklet, and can't even program in phone numbers.

So Barry e-mailed me at work today, and that said I'd gotten two texts, one that said "Hi" and one that said "Hi Jennifer."  They were not signed.  Not many people have our cell number.  So I took a look at the originating phone number, and sure enough, it was Herb.  So I kinda figured out how to reply, and texted "Hi harold, i'm not very good at texting but it was nice to hear from you jen."  People, this is the very first text message I ever sent in my life.  That phone is a little more intuitive than I'd realized, and I'm fairly good with computers...but that thing is so tiny.  And the instructions are tiny.  It's not that I can't read the small instructions and keypad, it's just that I'm somewhat intimidated or put off.  I'm not yet ready for this:

It took me a couple of viewings to realized that this isn't really a phone for cell phone dummies -- it's a phone for older folk.  Maybe older and cellphone dummies.  But hey, young folk are not going to get excited about the "jitterbug" music, even though jitterbugging was hip for about twenty-five minutes in, I think it was the late 90s.  Anyway, I'll probably need one in about 30 eyars.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

earworm and Books Lite and blogs (not just mine)

This was the weekend earworm.  I'm not familiar with a lot of Beck's music, but I had a copy of Midnite Vultures and enjoyed it a lot.  I wasn't too sure I got what he was doing early on, but I always thought he was a cool guy.  I never saw this video before.

I cannot quite figure out why I can embed videos in this blog, but not music.  I'm really not a video person, never really watched many on TV.  I don't need pictures with my music.  I wish I could just post songs, but I guess I should be grateful that at least I can post videos with songs in them.  Is this maybe a rights thing?  Maybe whoever owns Blogger would rather leave the rights issues to YouTube.  (Who does own Blogger?  I've been under the impression somehow that it's a Google thing, maybe because I can sign in with my Google sign-in.  Then again, I can sign in a trillion places with my Facebook info, and they're not all owned by Facebook. Tho I don't really need to know any of this.

I have this Amazon thing where I can list a link to some book or album I've been talking about, and if someone actually clicks and buys the thing, I think I get .00008% of a cent or something.  I've had this for a long time on this blog and the one before it, and I don't think I've ever steered anyone to look at or buy something I've written about and linked to.  (And that's the way it works -- if I happen to be talking about a particularly album or book, I'll link to it on Amazon.  I would never link to something on Amazon and then carry on about it so I could get that sweet Amazon loot.

But this is a justified shout-out to Amazon, because Barry's getting me a Kindle for my birthday, and I'm totally psyched.  I asked for it, because I knew the price had become fairly gentle.  For me, it's something like an MP3 player:  I can totally customize it and have what I really want to have in a very convenient size.  And you can get 3500 books on it.  As someone who's been drowned in books most of my life, the idea of having 3500 books in that little doo-hickey is pretty attractive.  I mean, yes, I love physical books, and there are some I will surely keep.  But I don't like cartons of books, dusty shelves of books, piles of books...I think I'm going to be happy to move over to this technology.  I particularly like the fact that there are a bazillion free public domain books, 'cause I like a good oldie.  Interestingly enough, Robin's husband got her a Kindle too (not a request but a surprise).  The Times ran a story yesterday about how they're predicting huge eBook reader sales for this holiday season, and then a huge wave of eBook buying.  Book publishing is undergoing a sea change now, which started for newspapers and magazines quite some time ago.

Now, when I saw "the Times," I am talking about the New York Times, often called "the paper of record."  It's still a great paper and my hometown paper to boot.  However, despite my repetition of the word "paper," I've been reading it electronically for maybe 5 or 6 years.  No paper.  I do subscribe to a few magazines on paper, mostly because I was offered obscenely low rates:  The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Real Simple and Vanity Fair.  I also get this horrible gossip magazine called OK for free.  They just started sending it to me.  It's way worse than something like People, which is still kind of lame.  At least People has some content that isn't about celebrities.  OK is like Perez Hilton's stupid older brother.

But mostly what I read are blogs.  I've been using a blog compiler for about four years (it was about the only thing I learned in a little class at Penguin called "Web 2.0").  I used Bloglines until a few months ago, when it was announced they were closing down, and moved to Google Reader.  Now Bloglines is not closing down, but I'm already pretty used to Google Reader. 

I subscribe to about 90-odd blogs.  Most of them are not news and political, because I read the Times and, plus what other views slip in here and there.  I read maybe half a dozen food blogs (the ones from the Village Voice and from New York Magazine and Serious Eats and (Mark) Bittman, variously restaurant reviews, recipe and cooking, and pretty much everything else about food.

I subscribe to maybe ten music blogs, from which one can unlawfully download music albums -- I mean, which provide links to out-of-print vinyl and live concert recordings that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

I subscribe to a few New York City history blogs and a Coney Island blog called "Amusing the Zillion."  I subscribe to Perez Hilton and a couple others of his ilk, plus Michael Musto.

I subscribe to more cute animal and kitten foster blogs than I'd care to admit to.  I actually adore the blogs from the people who foster kittens; hands-down favorite is The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee.  Not only does the blogmaster take really great photos, I'm convinced she fosters the most adorable kittens on the planet.

I subscribe to Dooce; I discovered the blog after her initial postings on post-partum depression that I think got her fired from her job.  Mostly these days it's about her kids and her husband and her's very ordinary content, even though she has a nice sense of humor, but the whole thing is somehow spellbinding.  Maybe it's baby Marlo's huge blue eyes.

I subscribe to Cake Wrecks (ugly cakes, misspellings, etc) and People of Walmart (really funny photos of actual customers, very bizarre).  And of course I subscribe to Regretsy, the blog that skewers really ugly and dreadful things posted on Etsy (the arts/crafts sale site).  She just posts some actual item from Etsy and then comments.  One of her favorites lately is when an Etsy poster refers to something as "steampunk" when it absolutely isn't.  There are more people doing it than you'd think.  She also features things like horrible paintings of celebrities, and of course most things involving unicorns.  Sometimes you find a painting of a celebrity with a unicorn.

And I subscribe to two comic blogs; I am particularly fond of Natalie Dee.  I have a tee shirt of one of her comics.

This is my own little media patch, a customized magazine rack in small installments. 

And Facebook is excellent for reconnecting with old friends.  Don't care for much else about it, but that much is cool.

Friday, November 12, 2010

a mite less postal

I was in quite a lousy mood today.  Rather, I was spoiling for a fight.  I called VitalChek, which is the rip-off service that processes document requests for many states.  I couldn't find my birth certificate and wanted another copy.  This used to be a matter of sending four bucks to the state of Pennsylvania (I was born in Philadelphia, don't hate me for it).  But now, you have to go through these idiots at VitalChek, which costs something like $30.  I requested my birth certificate from them online, and somehow, they couldn't seem to connect me to my maiden/birth name, and asked for more documentation -- one option was a scan or photocopy of a driver's license or state-issued non-driver's ID.  It said they would let you know if your documentation was insufficient.  So I scanned and e-mailed my non-driver's ID.  This was about two months ago.  (In the interim, I Googled VitalChek, and saw a raft of complaints against them, mostly that it was impossible to get in touch with them and that people waited eons to get documents that were promised within a couple of weeks.)

I had a computer crash since I made my request a couple of months ago, and it recently dawned on me that I hadn't heard from them or received my birth certificate.  So I went to their website a few days ago, and put in a customer service request, saying that I didn't have my order number but giving sufficient info for them to identify me.  I got an e-mail yesterday saying that my order was "on hold pending verification," and giving a customer service number.

I was pretty hot under the collar when I called the 800 number today, especially when a series of recordings tried desperately to get me off the phone.  First it was something like, "You can check this online -- please press one if you want to wait for a customer service representative," and then several variations of this, culminating with "due to a high call volume, your wait may be as long as thirty minutes -- please press one if you want to continue to hold."  I held, and got a rep within three minutes.

I gave that poor woman holy hell.  She couldn't seem to grasp the concept of a birth certificate under my maiden name and my current married name -- I actually said, "Surely you've dealt with married people before?"  I said if I did not get my documents or a refund in two weeks, I would call the Better Business Bureau, my congressman, my senator -- you get the picture.  She finally got it all straightened out -- my documentation was all in order -- and said that processing would take 4-5 business days, and then they would overnight it.

It took and manicure and pedicure to calm me down, although I was a little annoyed that the manicurist said that my toes were dry enough to put my shoes and socks back on, and my big toes were fucked up by the time I got home.  But it's not sandal season -- I mostly just wanted my toenails properly trimmed.  The manicure is outstanding.  I have three nail parlors near me, within two blocks of each other, and I still haven't settled on a favorite.  The woman who did my nails today is the one I've gone to most regularly, and she's very nice and gives a good manicure, but her hand and foot massages are not too terrific. (Another plus is that the nail parlor where she works has a big HDTV and always seems to be showing Anthony Bourdain, which is fine with me.)  One of the other parlors offers an extended foot massage with a pedicure for an additional fee.  I'm definitely going to try that one for my next pedicure.  The third has the advantage of being open on Sundays, but they have only one pedicure chair, and the pedicure area looks a mite funky.  The manicure prices are all six or seven bucks, not much difference.  I paid $13 plus tip for a mani-pedi today, which is a good cheap price.  I usually end up paying, with tip, around 10 bucks for hands only or 20 for both.  (I tip well.  Makes me feel better about women washing my feet and such.)

I'm having dinner with Robin tonight for our birthdays, which ought to be fun.  I don't get out enough.

I've been forgetting to say hi to my readers in far-off places.  I was convinced that only one or two people (two subscribers) were reading this blog, because I only ever got comments from one of them.  But I finally clicked on the "stats" tab, and found that quite a few people are showing up here.  But what really blew me away is that quite a few are from places like China and Slovania and Poland and Bolivia.  Slovania!  Hi there, readers from all over the world!  I think I know who at least one of the Danish readers is -- I do know one person who lives in Denmark -- but the other folks, pretty much everyone except the two subscribers, are a mystery to me.  I kind of like it that way.  And I truly, truly appreciate you all.

Back in the day, before the days of blogs, I used to keep a real-live written-on-paper journal.  I started at age eight and did it for well over thirty years.  I guess I sort of imagined it would somehow be read after I was gone, that Anais Nin kind of thing.  (How it would be discovered and published, and why anyone would be interested, was something I never quite figured out, but I was very sure it would happen.)  Of course, a blog lets that happen in real time, way before death, and is much easier to discover.

Of course, there are two ways to do a blog:  either you spill your guts and remain entirely anonymous, or you stay identifiable and censor yourself like crazy.  My first blog was the former, crammed with sex (a preoccupation at the time), and I had a ton of readers, mostly from the site that hosted me.  Somehow I grew out of a lot of that, all of the sex content and the anonymous reader-friends.  I decided to try the more-traveled path.  Sometimes I have to be cleaner and more guarded than I like, especially with things like work, and people I'd just love to bad-mouth.  It's kind of like Face-itty Book-itty:  you have to assume that everyone reads what you're writing.  It's a rotten compromise in some ways, because I can't be my whole self, but I guess I can be enough of myself to enjoy the process.  At least I can be read and identified within my lifetime, though sometimes I wish I could be as candid as...well, as Anais Nin.

Lily sent me a link to this video, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  It's certainly one of Elvis' prettiest compositions, and I wish he did at least some singing on it.  I like Fiona Apple's passion, but not her gargle-y vibrato.  But the performance certainly benefits by the presence of Elvis' partner in crime, the mad scientist of the keyboard: Steve Nieve.  I can never say enough about Steve Nieve.  Elvis did a bunch of duo shows, just Elvis and Steve, back in 1996, and I saw both New York shows.  Wow.  As I recall, Steve also played in Elvis' collaboration with Burt Bachrach (saw that one at Radio City, one of the best shows I've ever seen, period).  I think he's been with Elvis since This Year's Model, and he never fails to amaze me.

Another thing about this video, which is from 2007:  it certainly explains why Elvis always wears a hat these days.  Hair today, gone tomorrow. 

butt out

It takes an anal personality type to write a song called "Stick Your Ass in the Air."  Just sayin'.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

earworms and other things that come to mind

The worst earworms are of course, songs one doesn't like.  There is music in my office; one woman plays an internet station that mixes late 70s to current, with a decidedly whitish cast (read: no hip-hop or R&B), and I pretty much like it.  But she's been out for a couple of days, and the other woman has been playing Z-100, which is mostly pretty awful.  It's all pretty current stuff, and they play the same stuff over and over.  Which is not bad if it's Grenade by Bruno Mars or Teenage Dream by Katy Perry.  But that friggin' Neon Trees song (Animal) is making me insane.  I actually had to look up the band & name from the lyrics, which refuse to go out of my head.

I'm not sure what to say about work, after a month on the job.  Some days are very stressful and overwhelming, and some are more pleasant.  I have a couple of no-brainer tasks that tend to be a soothing break, sort of what labeling and stuffing mailers was in publishing.  Some people find that kind of thing dull, but sometimes I just need a break from talking and thinking tasks.  I'm getting to know my vendors, who are mostly very nice (except when they're looking for overdue payments), and the women who work in the factory.  The women in the factory and the design and OAK (one of a kind) design room are almost entirely Hispanic, and mostly Mexican, I think.  It helps to speak Spanish, which I don't, but I understand it a lot and they tend to understand more English than they speak, so we manage and we get along.  My officemates and staff co-workers are nice enough.  Management is fairly hands-off and not really warm & fuzzy.  It's a workplace for me, not a passion, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I had a bad experience some years back working in manufacturing, partially because the boss (whose assistant I was) was flat-out crazy and nasty.  But it wasn't my favorite atmosphere.  Maybe it's just a little too stratified for my both jobs, there was a distance between the administration and the factory workers that I haven't seen at other types of workplaces.  The workers have to punch in and out, and they actually have bells (like in school) for start and stop times, breaks, lunch time, etc. 

Then again, I have a three-day weekend to frolic and be myself, even if I don't have much frolicking money.

I found a woman on Facebook who is the younger sister of my best friend from around age eight to twelve, and I got an e-mail address for her.  I listened to the Monkees with Carla, tried on her mother's makeup, drew "dirty pictures" (mostly just naked men and women, though we only had a very vague idea of what males looked like unclothed), and shared a crush on a boy at school.  She transferred to a different school, and we lost touch.  But she was a great, great friend.  Her sister turned out to be neat, too -- she sets up big equipment towers at stadium rock shows.

It's birthday season, Barry's today, Robin's on Saturday, mine on the 18th.  (I just found out that I share my birthday with James Wormworth, a drummer from the New York blues scene who is now the regular drummer on Conan -- he used to fill in for Max Weinberg, but now the gig is all James'!)  I got Barry a new wallet, which he needed, and a Swiss Army Knife, which I knew he'd love.  We were at Jannah's this summer, and he showed his knife, which John pronounced an imitation.  Barry knew that it wasn't a real one, but I think he may have felt bad, since John is such a mister fix-it and master of all tools.  So I decided right then that I'd get Barry a really nice and genuine Swiss Army Knife.  This one has 17 gizmos!

Robin (don't read this!) is getting a cashmere scarf, since she's perpetually chilly. 

I did get myself an early gift yesterday.  This horrible, tacky Russian-owned gift shop opened on Avenue U a couple of years ago:  ugly vases and ugly decorative items and ugly jewelry.  Except that there was one, exactly one, really nice pair of earrings in the window, silver and marcasite with three long drops.  I didn't want to spend the $85, of course.  Then there was a For Rent sign in the window, indicated some price drops, and I thought I might go in and make a cash offer.  But after a couple of months For Rent, just a few days ago, they posted a Going Out of Business -- 50 to 70% Off sign.  I went in yesterday and the earrings were $40 and I bought them, since I had been hoping to get them at some point for $40-50.  Happy birthday to me.

I generally don't judge people by race or ethnic group, but I make an exception for Russians.  We lived in Brighton Beach for about seven months, maybe five years ago.  The Russians there were very insular, not at all interested in assimilating or even learning English, and were extremely rude to us.  No exceptions.  We would go into a store, and have to wait until every Russian-speaking person was served, even those who came in after us.  And the stores, decor and dress were uniformly ugly, tacky and over the top.  Very nouveau riche, fur coats in 60-degree weather and the like.  That awful, rude, mean woman who cut my hair this summer was Russian.  This doesn't mean that I dislike every Russian person right away -- in fact, the GYN I just saw (she's in the same practice as my regular GYN, who doesn't have Friday hours) is Russian, and I liked her very much.  I guess I do judge people as individuals, except I tend to have an expectation that Russian people will be unpleasant. which I guess is why I mentioned that the ugly gift shop was was a very particular kind of Russian ugly/tacky.

In icky news, I went to the GYN the other day for an uncomfortable external problem.  (Squeamish folk can stop reading now.)  I found out that I have something called Lichen Sclerosis, which is a condition where your skin (often in the genital area) gets whitish and thin and itchy and sore.  She prescribed two creams, leaned on me to get some overdue tests (mammogram, bone density, etc.), and recommended a procedure (they don't even call these things "outpatient surgery" any more -- it's an "ambulatory procedure") for my slight stress incontinence (which used to be a lot worse before I started doing kegels, but hasn't vanished).  And a colonoscopy.  So I'll be having a bunch of fun in my spare time.  In fact, I'm having three tests done on Sunday (the mammogram, bone density, and I've forgotten the third, maybe a breast sonogram).  (The doctor did a vaginal sonogram at my appointment.)  My regular doctor is trying to arrange to do the colonoscopy on a Friday -- like many of my doctors, he's religious, and doesn't usually work on Fridays at all.  And Barry's trying to schedule the other thing for me.  Barry's been a huge help in scheduling all this stuff, since I can't make the calls at work.

Robin and I are having our annual birthday dinner tomorrow; Leslie (also a November birthday) was part of it when she lived in NYC.  We're going for Indian food in the East Village, also a longstanding tradition.  We haven't done it much since she got all South Beach on me, but before that we ate cheap Indian food there for years and years.  We used to eat Indian food and browse in a few favorite shops, including the late lamented vintage-goods store Love Saves the Day, and the late lamented craftsy Back From Guatemala.  Fun fact:  BFG was the first store to ever carry and sell any of my jewelry.  They bought an ocean jasper Y-necklace for $20 as a try-out, sold it, and went out of business soon after.

Speaking of which, I'm in the middle of a fairly ambitious jewelry project.  I rarely make anything that I can't finish in one sitting, maybe two.  (Same way I used to write short poems rather than short stories or a novel.)  But I decided to make a six-strand necklace for myself, mostly focused on green: ruby zoisite, fancy jasper, green kyanite (!!), some bits and pieces of moss agate and malachite, and some small green-gold pearls.  Some of the strands will be knotted, but not all.  I was actually somewhat inspired by a Chan Luu necklace that I won in a drawing at Fragments, and which I've never worn because it's too short for me (16 inches).  I don't do chokers -- they're not comfortable or flattering on me.  But the necklace is lovely, five strands of coral in different shapes, some knotted and some not, with a big carnelian pendant.  I'm still not sure what to do with that necklace -- I don't want to give it away, don't want to take it apart, and it seems a little sacrilegious to make an extender.  The thing sold for $395 at the time I won it, and I do love it.  But I'm going to make the green necklace just for me, and at a length I like.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ann Miller

Word is that she was dumber than a sack of hammers.  But she sure could dance:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

never thought I'd see the day

Sometimes when I watch TV, especially commercials, I'm amazed at what they show, things I never thought I'd see as a kid.

There is, of course, the music on commercials. I never thought I'd see companies using the Beatles, the Stones, the Who to sell products, and Donovan is all over the place. One night, late at night, I saw a commercial for a vibrator followed by one for a penis pump.  Oh, and those Exzyte commercials, for penis enlargement.  At that stuff to enhance "female pleasure."  Tampon and condom commercials.  Commercials that say "diarrhea" and "hemorrhoids" a lot. 

But the ones that always get me, for some reason, are the Mucinex commercials with the little mucus family that moves into someone's sinuses.  People, that is talking snot right there on your TV set.  Walking and talking snot.  And this isn't South Park, which after all, featured a talking piece of shit.  This is a TV commercial you can see on primetime.  It's like something I would have giggled about as a kid:  "What if there was a commercial for cold pills and there was talking snot, like little people made of snot, and the cold pills would kill them?  HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!"  This is the kind of stuff that one of my old friends (no names, please) and I would laugh hysterically over when we were bad teenagers and indulging in herbal remedies.  Talking snot.

I wouldn't have remembered -- shouldn't have, really -- that yesterday was V's birthday, except that we share some Facebook friends and everyone was wishing him a happy birthday.  Barf.  I can't tell you how much trouble I used to go through for his birthday every year:  a selection of carefully selected gifts, cards, a couple of pints of my homemade sorbet and once I even cooked him dinner when Mrs. V was on a business trip on his birthday.  When I turned fifty, he blew off my party at the last minute, and then sent a gift, which was an unwrapped, damaged book with no card. Actually, the only time I ever got a birthday gift from him was one year that I helped him out with the internet -- he really didn't know how to use eBay, and I spotted a collectible there that he really wanted.  I told him about it, and he told me how much he wanted to bid, and I took care of it for him.  It was actually a lot of two identical items (I had a collection of the same item he did), and I announced that the second one would be his birthday present to me.  He was a really bad friend in many ways, but he had me so snowed with his wit, intelligence, and goofy charm that he got away with it for years.  He still gets away with it with a lot of people.  None of those people wishing him happy birthday have any idea that if you're not useful to him, he's not interested.  His fans, of course, are useful, to a point.  I'm not even a fan any more.  After 36 years, I gave it up.  I'm still not happy at being thrown away the way I was, of that passive-aggressive thing of pretty much ignoring me until I got upset enough to be the one to break it off.  I think I still feel hurt, and it did leave a certain empty space in my life.  But I'd rather have it empty than have him in it again.  Barry always thinks V. and I would, maybe should, reconcile; V. &  I knew each other for something like 32 of the 36 years I was a fan.  But it would never be fun again.  It would just be me, waiting for the next time my feelings would be hurt.  No more, no more.

I have a friend in Chicago I rarely see.  We actually met when he was in a band that did some gigs with V. in New York.  (I did meet a lot of worthwhile people through V, I must say.)  I'll call him Matt.  Matt and I met around 92 or 93, and had a huge and constant correspondence, all on paper, maybe four or five letters every week.  We fancied ourselves in love for a bit, but that didn't come to anything.  He was brilliant, an amazing writer, and amazing songwriter and singer.  He was also painfully shy and not very socially adept.  In other words, he was one of those brilliant and peculiar guys I tend to adore.  Anyway, about a year after I got married, he met someone and they got married.  We couldn't make it to the wedding, but i was very moved by how he wrote about her and by his obvious love and admiration for her.  Our correspondence dwindled, of course.  The last I heard from him was maybe a few years ago, and he included, rather proudly, a program from one of her roller derby games (which she did even though she was rather old and heavy for the gig).  He was really enthralled. 

He's not really an internet dude, but I had the idea the other day to look for his wife on Facebook.  We hadn't met but knew of each other, and I really thought she was cool.  I found her Facebook page and saw that she lived in Kentucky, which struck me as odd, but maybe they had moved there.  I decided to look at her blog before sending a friend request, and I found they were divorced, maybe a couple of years, and it seemed to have been her idea (a feeling-trapped, different-goals thing).  I felt very sad for him, did not friend her, and wrote him a long letter.  Some things end, I guess:  marriages, friendships.  And some of them change.  But I do hope to reconnect with Matt, who is a truly sweet and wonderful person.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


So one of the women I share a room with a work plays this radio station all day, not loud but audible.  I asked her if it was an oldies station, but she said it's a mix.  Mostly, though, I hear 80s and 90s music but nothing too contemporary or even hip-hop -- the most up-to-date artist I've heard is Katy Perry (who I guess is considered fairly mainstream, but I like her).  There's stuff like The Ramones and Bruce Springsteen and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I enjoy it and actually know who most of the artists are, and sometimes I even comment on it (maybe I'm a bit of a know-it-all).  So thing song comes on yesterday (I don't know if it's called "Zombie" but that word's in it a lot), and I say, "I think that's The Cranberries."  The woman who plays the station said, "I thought it was Bjork."  I said, "I don't think so, I think it's The Cranberries, and I think this was a hit around fifteen years ago.  Maybe their only one."  A few minutes later, she said to me, "You were right, it was The Cranberries."  I was trying to figured out how she found that out, and thought that maybe the station had a website where you could read a list of what was being played. 

Then I realized that it wasn't an online playlist  -- the radio station was online! It's the internet, dummy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

best pizza ever

This in and of itself is a reason to live in Brooklyn.  Barry turned me on to this place soon after we met, which would be about 13 years ago.  It got to be very well known about five years ago; before that, you never saw people lined up around the corner.  We were in there sometimes when you could pretty much get a couple of slices within five or ten minutes.  I don't know if he makes Sicilian any more, but that was also wonderful.

The Best Thing I Ever Done HQ from MargaretEmily MacKenzie on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

the problem with watching Friday Night Lights too much

I catch myself saying "Thank yew" just like all of those real and ersatz Texans on the show.

WTF, Blogger?

It just ate a long post.  I'm not rewriting it.  Let me try a synopsis.  Current earworm:  The Overdraft by Warren Zevon.  Nyah, nyah, I saw Bob Marley live and also Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, James Brown, and Frank Sinatra.  Two I regret never seeing:  Warren Zevon and Elvis Presley.  Two singers I used to think were cheesy but now I respect:  Neil Diamond and Tom Jones.  I had a lot of crushes when I was a kid and a teenager, some I still won't confess to.

But here's something else I was thinking about today:  manicures and pedicures.  I have now had a manicure on the weekend three weeks in a row, and had a pedicure a few weeks before that.  This is not always a regular thing for me, but I am really enjoying it.

I had pedicures before I ever had manicures because I am a lifelong nail picker.  It is truly gross and unattractive and I am embarrassed by it.  So it was pedicures first, because I love wearing sandals, and I was terrible at painting my own toenails.  At first, I was somewhat uncomfortable at having my feet washed by an Asian or Mexican woman.  It made me feel like some kind of colonial/bigot/ugly American.  But truly, those women work hard, they're skillful, and I tip well. 

Now, I have had periods of stopping the nail-picking and growing a reasonable set of nails.  Nail grooming is key -- if I've managed to leave them alone for a couple of weeks, I put on clear polish, and graduate to colored polish as they grow in.  Usually I polish them myself.  They never do get too long, partly because they are prone to break or split, and partly because I'm simply not used to having long nails.  And I always felt silly going for a manicure with such relatively short nails.

When I went for my most recent pedicure, the woman asked if I wanted a manicure too.  I had started trying to grow my nails, and while they weren't raggedy, they were not very long.  I told her no, my nails were too short, and showed her.  She said, no, she could do them.  I didn't have them done that day, but I went back two or three weeks later, with longer nails, and she did my nails.  It was really a nice spot of pampering, plus my nails looked nice.  So I've done it now for a few weeks. 

I think the nail-picking may be over, since I'm way too old to still be doing it, and I simply refuse to have a jewelry job with ugly hands.  I need to wear rings and bracelets, and I need nice hands to do that.

I love rocks.  I've been loving Swarovski a lot for a couple of years, but now I'm back to loving rocks.  Crystal was just a fling, but I do use it with rocks now and then for a little accent.  My job is hard and very detailed, and I don't have a lot of time to commune with the beads, but I do get to spend a lot of time with beads and with jewelry, and I get paid for it.  ("Rocks," of course, is what I called beads and stones of any and all natural materials, so rocks do not include crystal or glass or metal, but do pair with pearls).  "Communing with beads" is simply looking at beads and getting jewelry ideas; it's mostly with my own beads, but I used to do it a lot in bead stores.  I used to work near 37th Street and Sixth Avenue, where there are a whole bunch of bead stores, and I went into at least one or two every lunch hour, occasionally buying but mostly just looking at the beads.  So I don't get to commune with beads at work that much, I mean really staring at them and studying them, but I do get to be around them a lot.  And let's face it -- it's just cool to work for someone who's crazy about tourmaline.