Sunday, August 31, 2008

stormy weather

Since when is a hurricane a political opportunity? To show you care. To show your concern. Feh. We haven't even had the debates yet and I am so over these people.

It's hardly news that U.S. media is intellectually bankrupt or that the 24-hour information world we live in will spin anything into a story. My mom has lived in Florida for years, but for the past few years every hurricane (since Andrew), no matter the location or trajectory, has been spun into a potential imminent disaster, until the residents are truly in a frenzy. I'm glad she's got her hurricane shutters, but I'm tired of seeing her get so freaked out by the news reports.

Katrina was a true disaster and hopefully, New Orleans and its surroundings will not get pummeled again. Mother Nature can be a bitch. But instead of trotting out all these opportunistic photo-ops, couldn't we just actually help that city and its people, so it wouldn't be unprepared for a wicked storm?

Friday, August 29, 2008

eight is enough

I prefer to comment on pop culture rather than politics, but this takes the cake.

What a sexist choice. And disrespectful of women and those 18 mil votes. Whatever. As if Hillary/woman is equal to Palin/woman.

Clearly, as his opponent put it, he and his camp just don't get it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

todd rundgren is a punk

I mean that as a compliment.

I caught his Sgt. Pepper show the other night and was blown away. Not just by the music, although Rundgren's performances of Mr. Kite and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds were stellar. As were Denny Laine (once with the Moody Blues and Wings) on Within You Without You, Christopher Cross on When I'm 64 and Bo Bice's guitar work on While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Unfortunately, the other headliner, Foreigner's Lou Gramm, was not up to par, missing cues and seeming to be in a separate time zone from his fellow performers. They all played their own hits to open the show, with the second act featuring that most famous of Beatles albums, a record that most folks know by heart, and have had as a part of their lives.

But what really made the evening a treat, and kept it all together, was Rundgren, who owned the stage from the moment he stepped out to perform his hits Open My Eyes, I Saw the Light and Bang on the Drum, a personal anthem for me these days, as I struggle to get back to art-making while still having to put up with a frustrating, but necessary, job.

I remember liking Rundgren when I was a tween, still too young to go to concerts (Dad would have never allowed that!) By the time I was old enough to do such things (basically, getting out of the house and on my way), the Clash, Squeeze and the Police were my main focus. But reading (and sometimes writing) about music kept his name in the background, mostly hearing about his producing work, which was also impressive.

What really touched me the other night was that the spirit of punk, or rock, or whatever it is that floats your boat, was alive and well and flourishing. And we could all channel into it. You can still make your art, bang your drum, bleach your hair, do whatever it is that makes you who you are. We are all a product of our history, our tastes, our shared moments. Sgt. Pepper was the vehicle, the shared consciousness.

Rock on Todd, keep challenging that inner punk and I will, too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

jersey girl

Just back from a recent trip to "The Shore," where I grew up. Plenty of good seafood and the relaxed atmosphere of a beach community. But also something else.

I felt reconnected to something that has been missing. Can a person need to (re) connect to the land (or in this case, beach?) Maybe I'm just going through something, but driving around familiar haunts resonated louder than usual this trip. And pointed out that where I'm living now, as great as it is in many ways, has no real connection for me.

After all these years, can I still be "just visiting?" Not sure. I've always known that I need to be in a place that gives me the ability to make a living. It should also have art and culture and nearby friends and family are a bonus. But what about the actual land? I'm not talking trees and flowers, although they are also in the bonus category. But do I need to have some history with a place? I sure have that in NJ and NY, even Florida. Here, not so much. Except the "history" I am currently making, I suppose.

I'm not moving back to Jersey anytime soon. I was never a Springsteen fan. But there is something about the beach... A more relaxed lifestyle. There are lots of beaches out there...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

how to do it

This classic Python sketch is, unfortunately prescient. The network news and major newspaper "reporting" isn't too far away from these sound bytes. And nowhere near as funny.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

is cranky the new black?

Can it be? because I've got my crank on, and it sure doesn't feel like it's going anywhere...


/ˈkræŋki/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[krang-kee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

–adjective, crank·i·er, crank·i·est.

1. ill-tempered; grouchy; cross: I'm always cranky when I don't get enough sleep.

2. eccentric; queer.

3. shaky; unsteady; out of order.

4. full of bends or windings; crooked.

5. British Dialect. sickly; in unsound or feeble condition; infirm.

[Origin: 1780–90; crank1 + -y1]

—Related forms

crank·i·ly, adverb

crank·i·ness, noun

—Synonyms 1. crotchety, cantankerous, perverse. Unabridged (v 1.1) Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Some favorite curmudgeons:

Groucho Marx
Sherlock Holmes
Oscar the Grouch
Fran Liebowitz
The Grinch
W.C. Fields
Dorothy Parker
Oscar/Jack Klugman

Some curmudgeonly quotes, if your in the mood...

So go, and never darken my towels again! (Groucho Marx)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

a simple plea (rant) from the roadside

I'm not (too) aggressive a driver. Really. I don't want to mow anyone down. But a car is faster than a bike, and it usually gets me where I want to go. Where I live, there are many, many bike trails and cyclists are even allowed to ride on the sidewalk. Why is it, then, that the inevitable Lance Armstrong wannabe chooses instead to ride smack dab in the middle of the road, forcing a line of cars to crawl behind, when there is a perfectly good bike trail running alongside the road? And to add insult to injury, most times this sort of cyclist doesn't stop at red lights but plows right on through. It's just too damn dangerous, and the law-abiding driver who hits the reckless wannabe will be the one to go to jail, guaranteed. You can't have it both ways. If you want to "drive" like a car on the road, then you should obey the rules of the road and stop at stop signs, traffic lights, use signals, etc. I understand that not all bikers are like this. Many are following the rules and are choosing a healthier, greener commute. This rant is to the danger boys and girls. Don't be a bad biker. xoxoxo e

Monday, August 11, 2008

who CARES about these people?

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you have certainly seen the John McCain/Britney/Paris ad and all the ensuing criticism. Now don't think this is going to be a "political" post. I'm not really bothered by what this ad may or may not do to either McCain's or Obama's campaigns. What really gets me is that a presidential candidate (or more correctly, his flacks) have fallen into the celebrity hate/worship culture, which simply needs to stop. Now.

Why does anyone find these "celebrities" interesting? I understand the trainwreck principle. For some reason, humans get off on human suffering. This is nothing new. Public floggings, hangings, stocks, etc. But the endless paparazzi coverage of a lot of twenty-somethings whose only claim to fame is the result of Disney machine marketing or Daddie's bank account is puzzling. Why do we want to see Britney buy her 10th Starbucks coffee of the day? Why do we want to see Paris do anything? And when someone who has some actual talent self-destructs (Amy Winehouse) do we need to watch it moment-by-moment? This is a sad, but all-too-common tale.

I understand why we like to buy magazines and check out sites that show the rich and famous, Brad and Angelina's cavorting and adopting, etc. I wanted to hear what crazy name the babies were given, too, but I hardly cared when they were actually born or needed to keep vigil. Magazine culture has changed. The Internet is a huge factor. Supermarket tabloids can't keep up with the 'net's ability to post almost immediate updates on these folks traipsing through Hollywood. And it allows the rest of us to post at will our opinions of those coffee-buying excursions.

This is for me the most disturbing aspect of the hate/worship culture. Most gossip sites seem to be outlets for folks to vent and post, mostly in obscene terms, their opinions. Is everyone in the world really so angry or jealous of these twits? Sure, most celebs may very well be undeserving of their fame. But if you don't like it, don't watch. Paris Hilton understands that there is no bad publicity, just publicity. So if you are sick of her, then stop cruising sites to see her latest move. I love pop culture, but I am sick of the negativity, the vulture-like waiting for the next celebrity disaster, the posters who all claim to "know" someone that can prove that so-and so's preferences lean this way or that. The Internet can be a great connector, but it also allows everyone to sink to the lowest possible level. I don't care what Paris or Britney are up to. Join me and we can not care together.

Friday, August 08, 2008

dad knew a thing or two

My dearly departed Pop used to refer to rock and roll (the Beatles!) as "banshee music." But the same man, who ran his own local newspaper, also encouraged me to write a music column for the paper (I was a teen at the time) titled Turntable Talk. Yes, those were the olden days (the 80s) when folks still bought vinyl, although cassette tapes were rapidly on the rise and Cds had yet to make an impact.

Dad also suggested that I write to the major record companies, telling them that I was a columnist and willing to review their albums. How cool was it when the (free) records started pouring in, and my musical knowledge and tastes expanded to include the Clash, Police, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, and countless other artists and one-hit (or even no-hit) wonders. I think my cousin has most of those records (that I kept). He's the only one I know who still has a turntable.

Somehow I think the old man would be proud that I'm still writing, occasionally, about music, if just on this blog. I hardly consider myself up-to-the-minute or a music expert on any level, but it's still fun to write and share an opinion, which is what Turntable Talk was about, back in the day, and the Internet is all about, these days.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

get that song outta my head!

For the past few days, drifting in and out of my consciousness has been an extremely (to me) obnoxious tune. I'm sure it was Top 40 or better, but it's truly a mess of a song. All over the place, first a love song, then pseudo-spiritual, then female empowerment. But what's worse is once you've heard it, it's insidious. I can't get it out of my head.

How did this happen? I switched from the rock radio station to the pop/rock station during commercials. I hate radio advertising even more than television commercials. And the song started playing...

But we live in the era of iPods. You can control your music, your content. This sort of thing never needs to happen! I actually have an MP3 player, but won't wear it while driving. Plus, as much as I LOVE Apple, Inc., I suspect that the company-saving iPod and all its progeny will create a generation of folks with tinnitus, at best, deafness, at worst. I really hate earphones.

And there's something to say for the radio, and the idea that someone else's point of view might be interesting. I like hearing an old tune come up in the play list that I haven't heard in a while, or a new tune that I would never have checked out on my own, but end up loving. I can get this experience from my local radio on the morning commute. I can also sometimes get it at work from Pandora.

So I guess that if the occasional Fergie song embeds itself into my consciousness, it's a small price to pay for exposure to this or this or this. Because even serving as our own DJs is limited by what we can download or already possess. Sometimes the element of surprise (even an unpleasant one) is worth it.

Pleasant surprise below. Here's hoping it replaces the other ditty...

Monday, August 04, 2008

the apple needs to fall far from the tree

Helen: I can't believe you don't want to go to your own son's graduation.
Bob: It's not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
Helen: It's a ceremony!
Bob: It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional...

Overachiever parents. What's with that? I swear, if I hear one more mom or dad say "Good job!" because their little angel has taken a step, slid down a slide, managed to get most of it in the toilet, etc., etc., I'm going to scream. Being a kid is not a job, and being a parent shouldn't automatically embrace a sports mentality. But it seems to, these days. How far away is this sort of praise from Jeter slapping A-Rod on the butt or giving him a high-five after he drives in a homer? Not far. That is appropriate behavior at Yankee Stadium. At the public restroom in Target, not so much.

Why should everything a kid does be congratulated? Simple day-to-day tasks that we all have to master in our formative years are being rewarded, illustrated in the fantastic scene (dialogue above) from The Incredibles, where the "super" dad sums it up.

Of course all parents want to cheer their kids on. But the pushy stage-mother is just a prescription for heavy-duty psych bills in your child's future. Let's face it, they're going to have plenty to resent you for anyway, but did the fact that you were so busy ferrying them to soccer practice and ballet class and violin lessons and god-knows-what-else really benefit them in the long run? What about just letting them have a childhood, where they play and have fun?

How much of this over-booking is the desire to expose your kids to all the great stuff that's out there or simply mimicking our own crazy schedules? Or trying to live out your 'deprived" childhood through your kid?

It's a precarious balance. Hopefully the kids won't suffer for it. Because we don't really need any more Mileys/Britneys/Lindseys.

And if everything a kid does is so darn good, how do we gauge real excellence?

Dash: You always say 'Do your best', but you don't really mean it. Why can't I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.