Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Toddlers & Tiaras – Sparkle Baby Eyes

I think this one is the rerun from last week, I watched it tonight because I thought Project Runway was on and got all excited, only to remember that it’s on THURSDAY nights. Dammit.

Anyway, as long as we’re here, some highlights and observations from this fine episode, which captures the action of the Rock Star Divas and Dolls pageant in Darien, GA:

Pageant director Chasity (ummm) promises a “showboat of fun,” brought to you from … the local middle school cafetorium.

Featured contestants:

Payton, ginger, age two, has been performing her ‘Pebble’ routine (as in the Flintstones character) for “about two years,” per her mother. Quite a prodigy that one. Too bad she gets shown up by another child with an actual Flintstones car.

Mom applies to this two-year old: false eyelashes (aka “sparkle baby eyes”) and fake nails.

Olivia, 3, of Willacoochie, Georgia. Maybe someday they’ll write a biography about her: A Hoochie From Willacoochie. Perhaps to coincide with her presidential run.

Her mother is special, and together they dye their miniature pony purple and straighten his mane with a flat iron. I wish I could make this stuff up.

According to mom, they had to stop entering the local beauty pageants because the judges were always being swayed by some kid that had cancer or some illness. So their strategy is to enter the regional glitz pageants instead. I guess there’s no room for debilitating diseases in the world of glitz.

Mom also goes on to say, in a nutshell, that being better looking gives you a leg up in life. She makes the statement that “popular kids aren’t ugly.” And that it’s just the way of the world that looks matter. Sure, looks count, I’d be foolish to say they don’t. But Mom is kind of missing the other part of the lesson, which is that looks aren’t everything.

But in this pageant, the beauty category is the one in which a contestant can win the most points, so I guess looks do count. Duh, me.

Her child though is the one who shows true wisdom, shouting at the mother throughout the show to “Go away,” “I don’t like you,” and “Stop talking to me.” Well said, Olivia.

Can’t quite put my finger on it, but with the giant fall of hair they put on Olivia her proportions look more like a little person than a child, or maybe a Bratz doll. Clearly she’s a shoo-in for pageant greatness.

The pageant announcer says at one point, “everyone loves the exciting swimsuit competition.” Well, not everyone. I for one, find it creepy. But I’m sure the pedophiles in the crowd find it exciting. On a side note, someday we’ll discuss how the titles and crowning works, but it’s all terribly complicated and I don’t fully understand it yet. Maybe after I go to grad school I’ll be able to grasp it. Just know this about Rock Star Divas and Dolls: they do NOT double crown. And why are the crowns always too damn big?

Haley, in the 7 to 9 year old category, claims one of her hobbies is “traveling the world.” Really, Haley? And how many girls (or their moms, rather) answered the question of favorite color with: pink? Big shocker there. In a previous episode, one girl’s mother chided her for saying she liked all colors of the rainbow, claiming that was tacky. ?

Haley’s dad is an ‘involved’ pageant dad who has the mom on a walkie talkie so he can go spy on the competition and report back to her on which kids have new outfits.

Haley’s mom says, “Sometimes the pageant world can be a cruel world.” Yes, and sometimes the world can be cruel in the sense of the genetic lottery that decides who your parents are.

Drat, the new episode of Toddlers & Tiaras is on next, back at ya later.

Hailey’s dad, you need a new hobby.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Project Runway Season 9 – First Show

Herewith, my review/stream of consciousness initial impressions on the first show of season nine of the ever-lovin show we know as Project Runway that aired last Wednesday, July 27. Obsess with me …

Regarding the contestants – call me cynical (I’ve been called worse), but … OF COURSE you have to put the testicular cancer survivor on the show. OF COURSE you have to put the former Miss Universe contestant on (even though she can’t sew, more on that below). OF COURSE you have to put on the cute 57 year old man who recently lost his partner to AIDS and is beating an alcohol problem …

But the beauty of the first show is the inherent promise that all the candidates possess. They’re all brand-spanking shiny and new, freshly scrubbed and eyes twinkling. It’s anyone’s game at the beginning. Any one of them could be a star.

Regarding the true stars, Heidi Klum looks fan-freakin-tastic. But I have a complaint: they didn’t show her legs at all in this episode. There should be something in her contract about always showing leg, although I believe she’s an executive producer so that may be moot.

Michael Kors looks slightly less…orange?

Nina Garcia is consistently stylish – props to my Colombiana compatriot.

Guest judge Christina Ricci had some relevant comments but looked a bit too thin for my tastes, in that bobblehead kind of way.

Regarding the first challenge – the 16 contestants are ripped from sleep in their trendy communal lofts at 5 am and ordered to march as is (no showering, not even allowed to put on a bra) through the streets of Manhattan with only a bedsheet to cover themselves. HORROR. That is one of my nightmares that people will see what I look like when I first wake up. Aside from the horror of being awoken at 5 am, which is the middle of the night. After this experience, I would henceforth sleep fully dressed and in full make-up. I may just start doing that in my life anyway just in case.

One of my two favorite quotes from this episode:

“It didn’t really occur to me that I would be that far behind, until I was that far behind.” – uttered by the former Miss Universo contestant from Trinidad. She is lovely and stylish.

On the surface, she’s got that going for her. She’s gorgeous and she was a Miss Universe contestant. Hampering her, however, is her admission that she can’t sew – she only started learning sewing skills four months before the show. Haven’t the producers learned their lesson yet in putting people on the show who can’t sew? I reject that choice. Although lo and behold this contestant did surprisingly well in the first challenge – could it be that the judges know better than I do? Hmmm.

Prior to airing the first show of the new season, Bravo aired a special pre-show to chronicle the audition and casting process, which was interesting. I applaud this addition to the line-up. Of course I only caught the last 15 minutes or so of that show, but I’ll catch up on that when Bravo replays it about 57,000 times.

Other new thing this season, during the first show, they invited 20 contestants to NYC and had them all show their wares on racks like during the casting process, and eliminated 4 of them right off the bat. So 4 of them had to go home before the show even started. Kind of a bummer.

Early on, the runway shows seem so long since there are so many contestants. Then as the season progresses, and there are fewer contestants, you find yourself wishing for more outfits on the catwalk. Early on, I don’t learn names. Early on, I don’t get attached too soon. You never know who is going to be eliminated from the competition and break your heart.

Second favorite quote of the night, from Michael Kors commenting on one of the ensembles, that was, in his estimation, “… instead of being fashion forward, it’s fashion backward.”
Tune in this Wednesday for installment two of this season, and we'll discuss. No?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bravo, how I’ve missed you

Used to be, the Bravo channel would put something on the air, and I’d watch it. They could film someone in Manhattan (surely someone svelte and well-styled) rearranging his or her linen closet and I’d tune in religiously. Of course it wouldn’t hurt that the linen closet was probably stocked with Frette and Pratesi worth more than my car and that the person was fabulous.

Bravo has a rhythym and a style and it works. From the Fab Five to Top Design to Real Housewives of Atlanta – I was in.

But after Project Runway moved to Lifetime (a move I still don’t entirely approve of), the Bravo channel and I had a cooling off period. Plus, Top Chef has been hiatus seemingly forever and My Life on the D List was sadly cancelled.

But at least they are still showing Kathy Griffin’s stand-up specials, and last night I caught “50 and Not Pregnant,” She looks fabulous, especially for a 50-year old. I know cosmetic surgery is involved, I know, but still. She is owning it and she is rockin’ it.

After the Griffin special, I got sucked into chef Rocco DiSpirito’s latest endeavor, the reality show “Rocco’s Dinner Party.” In the show, Rocco invites a mélange of b-list actors, chefs, business people, food writers, etc. to an awkward dinner party catered by two competing chefs. For example, this week’s guests included Raven Symone and the guy that stands out in my mind for playing the jerk Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore.

Aside from the laziness factor of not changing the channel, there were two reasons I stayed tuned for part of the Rocco show:

1. I’m trying to figure out what the deal is with Rocco DiSpirito. He seems to have bounced around from reality show, to restaurant, to web series (is that the Siberia of Hollywood or totally legit nowadays?) and of course multiple cookbooks – but yet it feels like he has never quite broken through to the big time. Is he not living up to his potential or is he just overrated?

Did we all get together as a society and decide that we’re willing to keep giving Rocco vehicles because he’s tall and good-looking and has some cooking talent? I’m ok with that, I just want to know if that’s what was agreed to.

2. Second reason for watching, in the promo clips and the show bumps, it looked like one of Rocco’s guests was a Liza Minelli impersonator. 45 goram minutes into the episode, and no Liza. Disappointing.

I will say a highlight of the show was the décor and the design of the dining rooms. Is Rocco like a nice-looking piece of furniture? He’s handsome, but I don’t know if he’s got the personality to carry this. Maybe throw Padma in there to liven things up.

But Bravo, I’m glad we kissed and made up. Smooch smooch.

P.S. the new season of Project Runway debuted tonight on Lifetime. Since I think Bravo and Lifetime are owned by the same parent company, I don’t feel like it’s really cheating for me to watch. I wanted to let the new season wash over me and enjoy the experience, and in a few days I’ll be ready to talk about it – possibly in an obsessive manner.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Train Wreck That is Toddlers & Tiaras

This blog post is inspired by the fresh madness brought to me each week courtesy of the TLC program Toddlers & Tiaras.

According to a Wikipedia page devoted to the show, it’s described as:
“Toddlers & Tiaras is an American reality series that debuted on TLC in 2009. The show follows the controversial world of child beauty pageants, looking closely at the pageant contestants and their families as the children prepare for their pageant shows. The show airs without any narration to avoid passing judgment.”

Not so sure about the not “passing judgment” comment – it’s amazing how much judgment can be passed through strategic editing. Anyway, even if you haven’t watched the show, suffice it to say it provides a television platform for a unique genre of parent known as a “pageant mom,” and in some cases, pageant dads. Think ‘stage mother’ but far more twisted. It’s a train wreck that I can’t help but watch.

This week I caught the episode that chronicles the inaugural “Miss Georgia Spirit” pageant in North Georgia, and the story of a child inexplicably named, Story.

In addition to Story’s story, other highlights of this episode include:

• A mother who claims her 2-year old “loves her tanning sessions” (if you have to ask why a 2-year old needs a tan, tune in)

• This pageant has a swimsuit competition – why oh why do we need a swimsuit category for babies and toddlers?

• One of the judges was some poor man described as a “local businessman” who must have been duped into the experience of being a beauty pageant judge – the look on his face can only be described as “kill me now”

• One of the pageant director’s thoughts on diversity: “the kids all come from different homes, and different families (really??) and even – from different parts of the state of Georgia!” Ok …

• Now when I think formalwear, I think 0-24 month-olds.

I don’t like to think about it much, but there are people making a lot of money like the pageant directors, the stylists, the coaches, dressmakers. (One dress. For a child. Can cost upwards of $1000.) Seems like it could be a lucrative endeavour – have you ever seen the movie “Happy, Texas”?

Love me some Steve Zahn, a poor man’s Bill Macy.

Incidentally, if you are looking for unusual baby names, look no further than T&T, which is thick with kids with names like Story, Paisley, Paris, Sterling, Destiny, Essence (kind of literal, dontcha think?), Makynli, Sparkal, Yrvana, Daylee, Kianna, Dianely… c’mon, people!!

Recommended watching is Tom Hanks’s send-up of Toddlers & Tiaras on the Jimmy Kimmel show? A funny six and half minutes, even if you’re not a Hanks fan.

If you have the stomach for this, in this heart-warming clip my friend Will kindly posted on my wall, Paisley shows her skill at nose picking.

Toddlers & Tiaras: Booger Snack : Video : TLC

Oooh, the Universal Royal Grand Nationals episode is on right now – with the doting dad who intends to use the prize money to put a lift on a truck, and thinks of spending money on his daughters as being akin to performing maintenance on a car – and the mom who keeps her child’s energy up with the use of “dance candies,” also known as sugar cubes. Gotta go.

Bonus link, check out my previous post on the show for more info -

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Running zombies change everything. What’s your zombie apocalypse plan?

Let’s talk about Bruce Campbell, zombie attacks and distilled water.

The world rejoiced this week when Bruce Campbell confirmed there would be a fourth Evil Dead movie. Bring it! I hope this does come to fruition. Someday I hope that you too will have the chance to see Evil Dead: the Musical performed live on the stage. I saw this a few years ago in Toronto, and it was funny and entertaining – think of a campy musical with lots and lots of fake blood. The dance numbers and songs about the Necronomicon are worth the price of admission alone. If you sit too close to the stage, they give you rain ponchos to wear to protect you from the spewing blood. That wasn’t an issue in Toronto, where it was a good-sized, nice theater, the kind where you sit at a little table instead of a row of seats, and a nice waitress brings you booze during the show – my kind of theater.

The point was moot when I later saw the show performed at the aptly named Landless theater company in DC, where the performance area is actually smaller than my living room. Every seat placed you squarely in the splash zone for the fake blood (they kindly sold big hefty bags in the “lobby” to protect your clothes, but my white Chuck Taylors still have pink stains on them). Upon close examination, because there could be no other kind, the blood appeared to be primarily composed of red Kool-aid.

Anyway, here’s some info on Evil Dead: The Musical and the new flick.

But that’s not even what I wanted to talk about today. A friend of mine recently dated this guy who as it turned out has given a lot of thought toward his plan for what he would do if the zombie apocalypse came.

His plan includes steps such as:

• Purchase a Vespa or scooter, which will be easier to get around on and require less gasoline than a car

• Know the locations of all the nearest big box and/or sporting goods stores, where one can go and stock up on supplies and weapons in the event of an emergency. This is a key element of his plan, why bother stocking up on things when you can just go and help yourself, plus you could probably live comfortably inside an REI for quite a while.

• Have your girlfriend get lasix surgery so that she would not require eyeglasses or contacts, which could only slow you down. Supplies could be hard to come by, and what if you broke or lost your glasses?

I was impressed, if slightly worried, about how much thought he was putting into his planning. Naturally it got me thinking about what my own plan would be, because I am a gal that loves a plan. I forced my spouse (who does not share my love of planning) to sit down and think about this with me. He hates it when I make him do stuff like this, but he’ll thank me when the zombies are a-comin’.

So here are the basic components of our plan – so far -

Decide on a meeting place - In our case, Frederick, Maryland. [This is the part my husband gave the most thought.] We looked at the scenario of a disaster occurring while we were at work and studied a map – he works in Virginia, I work in Maryland. In looking at the atlas, he determined it would be wise to meet somewhere a little out of the way of large city centers and would not require too much time on the Beltway/major highways to get to. Where exactly in Frederick remains to be determined. But I hope the good people of Frederick will welcome us with open arms.

You never know when a nuclear apocalypse and a zombie attack might go hand in hand, so knowing the location of the nearest fallout shelter can’t hurt. I know our bank downtown has a fallout shelter sign on the side of the building – are those signs valid forever? If a building was designated a fallout shelter 50 or 60 years ago, is it always a viable fallout shelter? I have a feeling that whatever government bureaucrat was tasked with monitoring the status of the nation’s shelters probably died years ago …

Access to information – I’ll grab my car phone charger on the way out the door, but assuming that cell coverage will be affected by the marauding un-dead, we should have an alternate means of getting information. Now I know what those hand-crank radios are for – thanks, Sharper Image catalog. Too bad you went out of business, people will be sorry. Tho that is only a one-way information source, I’m hoping it doesn’t come to this but perhaps CB radio is the way to go. I’ll have to come up with a good name for the airwaves (a “handle” in CB-speak, or so I’m told).
Make sure you’ve got gasoline – We talked about the dangers of storing quantities of gas in our garage. Well, I talked about it. In a pinch, apparently I can steal some gas from the lawnmower, and I’m considering practicing siphoning techniques just in case.

Assess your H2O supplies – This admittedly is a weak part of the plan. Right now I guess we’re relying on the several gallons of distilled water that are somewhere in the basement and were purchased for a clothing steamer that has never been used. Snacks are also a weak part of the plan – frankly any stores I lay in will just get eaten the next time we’re bored or hungry, so we’ll probably have to rely on hitting a 7-11 on our way out of Dodge.

Gotta have an appropriate vehicle – I don’t think I’m comfortable with going the scooter route. Especially with the distilled water, clothes steamer, cat, etc. that we’ll have to tote with us. Recently we purchased an SUV and I’d be lying if I said there isn’t a certain relief in having a vehicle that might actually be able to mow down a zombie or two. There are probably some accessories I can buy like bull bars that would be useful for this.

Supplies – Clearly, a trip to a local military surplus store is in order, preferably one owned by an old eccentric guy who has basically been planning for a zombie attack his entire life without even knowing it.

Am also thinking about taking up krav maga or similar bad-ass self defense/martial arts training.

I love that the Centers for Disease Control has addressed this issue (zombie invasion) on their blog, cleverly disguising emergency preparedness tips with zombie talk. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed, it is well-written and useful information in the event of a zombie attack, or other type of emergency or natural disaster.

As always, it’s entertaining to read the comments, such as:

I might suggest adding a baseball bat, preferably aluminum, to your emergency kit as well. It doesn’t require ammunition and can be highly effective at clearing a path through hordes of zombies whilst trying to make good your escape.


It really depends on the zombies. If they’re Romero/Brooks, slow, lumbering zombies, a baseball bat will work just fine. Not so if they’re the Zack Snyder fast zombies. Running zombies change everything.

And this gem from a woman who calls herself “ReadyMom” – are these people fun at parties, or what?

Yes. We are a prepping household. We also send our college students to school prepared with a ‘Two-week Emergency Food Box’, A Flu Kit/Medical Kit and a 72 hour Kit is in each vehicle.

For High School graduation, we are now giving a Medical Kit and a Tool bag as gifts.

Helpful stuff, right? If I’ve learned anything from zombie movies, it’s that sure there are heroes, but in the end we can only survive when we band together. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have a good boom stick.

So share your wisdom with your fellow man and tell me what you would add to the zombie apocalypse survival plan. And remember, always double-tap.

A related PS – If you haven’t already seen it, rush to your local video store (which doesn’t exist anymore, but you know what I mean) and rent Shaun of the Dead. Do not wait.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Casey Anthony blah blah blah

My hubby had received a jury duty notice and when he checked in the other night found out he wasn’t called up. He was relieved, and rejoiced that he wouldn’t have to worry about it for another two years. I am one of those people who has never been called to serve, and it kinda bums me out. I think I would enjoy the experience and lord knows I have watched enough crime shows in preparation …. But I’m probably just feeling this way precisely because I haven’t been on a jury, and if I did have to sit around a smelly municipal building all day I might want to hurt somebody.

Speaking of which – has the world tired of the Casey Anthony trial yet? (which reminds me, what has Charlie Sheen been up to lately?) After the night the Anthony verdict was read and the following day, I’ll admit that even I had to turn off the coverage. There is only so much Nancy Grace a body can take, even with my high threshold for tv-overload.
Just a few follow-up notes tho that I wanted to share and get your thoughts on.
1. Since when do they put producers on the air? Many eons ago, I studied broadcasting. At the time, producers were strictly behind the scenes people. Now in watching this trial coverage I see many producers being put in front of a camera to report on the goings-on. Did they just run out of people to provide their ‘gavel to gavel’ coverage?
2. With my almost total ignorance of the legal system, and the Florida legal system, I have to ask – after opening statements had been read, and the defense stated the death was an accident and a cover-up ensued, at that time could the prosecution have added more charges – for example, abuse of a dead body – or had the ship already sailed by then?
3. You may have heard by now that a porn production company, Vivid Video, had made Casey A an offer to star in one or more adult films…within 24 hours they had rescinded their offer, saying they made a mistake in thinking anyone would want to see a porno with Anthony in it. No offense meant to the adult entertainment industry, but it’s telling when even they shun you.
4. Much speculation on how long it will take before a Lifetime movie-of-the-week gets made about this case. You may recall after the Amy Fisher debacle, the world ended up with no less than three versions of a made-for-tv movie – one from the ‘neutral’ point of view, one from Amy’s POV and one from the Buttafuoco family’s POV (my personal fave). I think one of them even starred Drew Barrymore. For me, the first person that jumps to mind to cast to play the lead role in this tawdry melodrama is Kat Von Deen. They’d spend a fortune on that make-up to cover tattoos tho. Who would you cast?
4.a. On a related note, my husband suggested a potential mate for Casey: Jon Gosselin.
5. Further speculation about an eventual book deal. People bought OJ’s book (I’m assuming) so we can only assume people will buy books about and presumably by Anthony. As much as Nancy Grace will decry an eventual book deal, how many copies do you think will be purchased by tv producers, reporters, etc? They are all going to have to buy the book to report on it and hold it up for the camera!
6. Saw something about Florida considering legislation to bar jurors from benefiting from having served on a trial. We'll see if that goes anywhere, along with "Caylee's Law," which would make it a felony for a parent to not report a child missing within 24 hours. Reportedly, George Anthony has signed on in favor of the bill.
In the last Nancy Grace broadcast I could bring myself to watch, the Devil, aka Lampshade Head, said, “…in our way, we seek justice for Caley.” You keep telling yourself that, Nance.

BTW how many hours before Grace’s book on the case hits the stand??

I’d advise that she should donate any proceeds from a book to a children’s charity but I’m sure that would fall on deaf ears – or at least ears that are blocked by a helmet of hair, a ginormous ego, and a seemingly bulletproof sense of self righteousness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony Verdict

So it took the stupid Casey Anthony trial to get me back on the blog, but I have to say I’m glad to be back. I will try to avoid the hyperbole that I’ve engaged in all afternoon on Facebook and Twitter regarding the Casey Anthony trial and today’s not-guilty verdicts that apparently stunned a lot of people …

Feel free to post your comments and thoughts.

The statement issued by Casey’s parents, George and Cindy, was probably the most reasonable thing I’ve heard during the entire trial.

And good for the jury for refusing to speak to the media. (at least for now)

What’s next for Casey?
Apply for job at Universal Studios … Move back in with parents…eHarmony?
Not trying to be flip about it but really where do you go from here. It does worry me to think she will profit from this situation – even if she is innocent, doesn’t seem right to gain celebrity status, fame and money as a result. But this is the society in which we live. (Did you watch any of the footage of the jailhouse visits between Casey and her parents in which she weaves the elaborate tapestry of lies about the fictitious nanny? CREEP-EEE. In my opinion the whole family is not right in the head.)
Jane Velez Mitchell, aka Lady Mullet, looks at the camera and laments the fact that Casey Anthony has become a celebrity figure, yet she sat outside that courthouse for six weeks focusing the media’s white-hot spotlight directly on Anthony and her family. I lament the situation and find myself glued to the tube.
But can we all agree that Nancy Grace, aka Lampshade Head, is the devil? I commented that her panel of ‘experts’ is starting to look like a grotesque Hollywood squares. Three choice quotes from today’s coverage:
“Just claim there’s a Zanny nanny and it will save your fanny.”
“Somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight.”
“The American flag is not flying today.”
Not sure which is worse, the people who call in to comment on the case, or the people they interviewed in front of the courthouse. Now I’m not saying I was explicitly taught this in journalism school, but it seems like when it comes time to interview the “man on the street,” the camera always seems to be trained on the most toothless, inbred looking mofo out there. [my apologies to those who work in the news media, or if you are indeed a toothless inbred mofo]
Nancy Grace interviewing Jane Velez Mitchell interviewing Dr. Drew – this may be the definition of a circle jerk.
Doesn’t seem fair to blame the jury – I’ve never sat on a jury but it can’t be easy. They had to know the pressure that was on them. Twelve people sat there for 6 weeks and weighed all the evidence and rendered a verdict – that’s how our system works, whether we like the verdict or not. Do we agree the judge handled himself well, too? Seemed pretty no nonsense.
Did the prosecution get too over-confident about their case? Maybe. Felt bad for them as they sat there as the verdicts were read, looking like they had just been spanked by the defense, which they had been.
I do think the defense acted in an unseemly manner by (literally) jumping up and down with joy outside the courtroom and going for champagne across the street from the courthouse (per Headline News). Granted they did their jobs and did them well in the sense they clearly created doubt in the minds of jurors. But keep the celebration on the DL, people, a child is still dead. This was all about Caylee Anthony, but yet it wasn’t. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, NANCY GRACE.
Lampshade Head needs to get over the “champagne party.” And retire the term “Tot Mom,” for the love of god.
RIP Caylee.
PS – one positive about this case, it prompted my husband to remember that he received a jury summons recently and that he better find it pronto.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Party like you're dead and from Ghana

As a follow up to my post on planning for my funeral, a friend sent me this link to an article about Ghanaian funerals in New York – they know how to throw a memorial party!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Confessions of a Digital Hoarder: I’m Ready for My Intervention

Earlier today, I had more than 7,000 emails in my inbox at work. I deleted 4,718 by attacking anything from 2009 that still lingered. It took me years to amass those messages, and only a minute or two to delete them permanently from my life.

That’s just the inbox. I can’t even bear to look at the sent folder … not ready for that and I may need actual therapy. Logically, I know that if I haven’t looked at or acted on a message in two-plus years, it likely has little value to me. Realistically, whatever info was contained in those little digital blips could be recreated or found elsewhere.

Yet, I hoard emails, fearing that as soon as I delete something, I’ll need it. Fearing I will never get organized if I can’t refer to some detail or process from the past decade. It’s the same for documents, digital photographs, you name it. But what actually happens is that I have so much stuff, that finding what I actually need becomes a monumental challenge. Or, I don’t even look at the docs, emails or pics ever again, and they waste away, taking up valuable server space, which then makes me feel (slightly) guilty in return.

In one of my previous jobs, the information technology infrastructure was shall we say outdated at best. Perhaps strung together with duct tape and string. At any rate, the email system would crash from time to time, and be down for hours at a time …

… the culprit was said to be a woman at the company who was rumored to have OVER TEN THOUSAND EMAILS. Let’s call her Madge. The reputed number of emails was always mentioned in hushed tones, as if talking about Chupacabra or a relative that no one was allowed to talk about.

Ten thousand … It was part of the organizational urban legend and we all assumed that it was her fault that email would go down for the rest of us on a regular basis because Madge refused to delete any of hers. She had been with the company for years and years and years and that was like her cache of institutional knowledge, her insurance policy if you will.

I don’t know enough about the technological vagaries of Outlook and servers to weigh in on whether Madge’s trove was actually causing our email problems, or if it was just system limitations, but we all accepted it as truth. And since that time, I find myself very easily nearing that mystical 10k mark.

What is an email anyway? A bunch of bits and bytes? It’s not a tangible object, it’s the idea of information … but when you have thousands and thousands of those intangibles, it starts to feel like they are real things, like actual physical objects, weighing down on you like some psychological burden.

It can be overwhelming. Or, maybe I just had a crappy Monday at work.

I guess the principles are the same for the hoarding of objects, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with that too. But watching shows like Hoarders and Buried Alive helps – watch one episode and even if you don’t have hoarding tendencies, you’ll be shucking stuff out to the trash in no time flat.

Who says TV isn’t educational?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Last Rights: My Funeral Demands

A friend was telling me about a memorial service she went to recently, for a man she had worked with who had been like a mentor to her. At the service, she ran into a mutual acquaintance, before then they had never realized they both knew the deceased. It brought home to her the beauty of all these people from disparate parts of the man’s life, coming together to honor him and pay tribute to a life well lived. And what could have been a sad and terrible situation took on a tone of affirmation and a celebration of his life.

At the risk of being morbid (and selfish), it made me think of what I would want my memorial service to be like. Here are my rules - if you don’t follow them, I promise not to haunt you but maybe a little.

Rules and requests for my funeral/memorial service:

Wear red. And big hats.

Tell outrageous stories about me, even if you have to make some parts up.


Play music. Wild Horses and You Can’t Always Get What You Want* by the Rolling Stones are nice, and as a special request on the part of the deceased, please play B. Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young.” I figure it works both ways.

Have fun.

Drink whiskey (the good stuff).

Remember me as the person I hoped I would be. (and your mental image of me should be on a good hair day)

Eat food that’s really bad for you. Maybe In n Out Burger could cater.

Write such a glowing eulogy/obituary about me that the Vatican will consider me for sainthood.

Bring your pets.

Do a reading of anything written by David Sedaris.

Run with scissors (optional).

And by god, there will be dancing. I may even insist on a drag show, and a DJ. The dress code would be high camp. Or, we could just make it a costume party .. .stay tuned.

Maybe funerals wouldn’t get such a bad rap if they had an event planner involved. I am taking suggestions for what to call this event, such as The Memorial Hoopla Extravaganza Celebration of Life-apalooza or something nice and simple like that. Feel free to post your suggestions.

* Some of you will recognize the Big Chill funeral scene reference. That scene featuring of course Kevin Costner’s wrists. I think his career is dead, despite supposedly being cast in the next Batman movie, but that’s a post for another day.

PS - if you'd like to read a statement about the man I referenced in the first paragraph, his name was Richard Pierre Claude and he worked for the organization Physicians for Human Rights, which does important work around the world. We should all have something this nice written about us when we pass, and have left as much of a mark on the world -

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What happened to the music video? Things you learn at the nail salon.

First disclaimer: I’m old. Young at heart and for the most part, immature, but chronologically old enough to remember when MTV launched and the iconic “I want my MTV!” ads. Old enough to remember those heady days of the first music videos, and back when ‘MTV actually played videos.’ Old enough to remember the Vee Jays, and how excited we were at school when rumors spread of a reported Adam Curry sighting at the Short Hills mall!

Fast forward to today, when it seems all MTV plays is sleazy but somehow compelling reality programming and – well, whatever else they show, because second disclaimer: I haven’t watched MTV in about a million years. Except for a few Jersey Shore episodes, does that count?

I know there are other channels like Fuse and MTV2 or what have you that presumably are for the purpose of broadcasting videos – oh, and that stalwart VH-1, which also airs original programming like the wonderful Behind the Music series. But here’s the rub – the music industry is still cranking videos out, and the money spent on them and the production values have obviously increased over the years, so they must be playing them for some purpose, somewhere …

Like at my nail salon. Last Saturday, I went to a new sail salon, on the recommendation of a friend, for a gel manicure (more on that later). They were busy, so I grabbed a chair and read Harper’s Bazaar in the vain hope that I could figure out what was going on with spring fashion trends. A nice flat-screen TV over the nail stations was playing music videos – I don’t know what channel or service it was, but there were absolutely no commercials whatsoever, hosanna. But I was at the salon long enough to realize there was a finite number of videos and after it had run through them, they just started playing the same ones again on a loop. (Note to self: next time make an appointment at this salon.)

Anyway, not having not watched videos in a mighty long time, I was sort of captivated. The production values have increased exponentially, if the concepts haven’t really gotten much better. I appreciated the art imitating life imitating art approach of the Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” which featured homages to past music videos and singers, like Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and TLC’s pajama days.

There is a certain commonality and slick look to videos with female performers in which they all have to appear like bad-asses. Me like.

But beyond my rudimentary observations, main-lining these videos in one sitting brought some questions starkly home:

• Since when are there so many product placements in music videos these days?? • Is blue hair ever a good idea on a guy? (No.) • Does Gaga have a good body or not really? • Why is it that no matter what J-Lo does, I just still don’t really like her?

Back to the product placement thing. I counted at least three placements without even looking for them, one for a website, one for Swarovski crystals and one for perfume. Back in my day, I don’t recall there being such placements, or at least not so obviously.

But really, what were music videos ever if not long commercials? Commercials for the song, the album, the artist. I’m surprised it took the industry as long as it did to capitalize on the product placement angle, inasmuch as it sort of leaves a bad tingle in my mouth.

Maybe those viewers not weaned on the infancy of the medium when videos were made with whimsy, preciously tiny budgets, no plot and without big blatant Swarovski crystal logos prominently displayed don’t even notice?

Let me know if you have a favorite music video, new or old, and why it’s a fave. Or your thoughts on selling space in videos for obvious product exposure.

On a closing note, the gel manicure is quite possibly the best thing to have come into our lives in a long time. At least if you like manicures. It lasts a lot longer than your standard manicure – granted, it costs about twice as much, but if you’re like me and can’t get a regular polish job to last longer than 12 hours, it’s a good thing. I highly recommend it, you can thank me later.

PS – Is it true that original VJ Martha Quinn is the daughter of Jane Bryant Quinn?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WWE 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

I have fond memories of watching professional wrestling with my Dad, and the obvious enjoyment that it gave him. Characters like the Iron Sheikh, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jesse The Body Ventura, Captain Lou Albano, and George the Animal Steele (fave move/prop – eating the stuffing out of a car seat) garishly graced the small screen at our house on Saturday mornings. Even GLOW, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, paraded their conflicts and costumes for our amusement.

Since those childhood days, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to professional wrestling in its various current incarnations. Some years back, I met a guy who actually knew the Iron Sheikh, who he reported had retired from wrestling and owned a couple of Persian carpet stores in New Jersey. This made me happy.

Other than that like I said it’s mostly off my radar, except to see ads on TV for upcoming bouts and exaggerated rivalries. Last night though I was compelled to watch part of the WWE 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which took place in Atlanta.

I’m sorry to say I wasn’t aware previously that there was a WWE Hall of Fame. I enjoyed the fact that the people in the front rows, the superstars if you will, dressed as if they were going to the Academy Awards, with the women in long gowns and everything … but aside from the first couple of rows, the dress code was “professional wrestling match.”

On this occasion they were inducting the following:

The Road Warriors, a trio composed of Hawk and Animal. And some guy named Paul. One of them, Hawk or Animal, had passed away, and could not be there for the ceremony. However, his brothers in arms brought a teeny action figure of the dearly departed, and placed him on the lectern. Everyone clapped and cheered for the action figure, and for a moment I thought he/it might get a standing ovation.

Drew Carey, who was billed as “legendary television personality” – legendary, really? We might be overselling it a little bit here. But then again, hyperbole is the bread and butter of professional wrestling, right? And who doesn’t like The Drew Carey Show, Whose Line is It Anyway and the Price is Right. Anyway, Drew apparently hosted and/or appeared on a previous WWE broadcast, in a natty tracksuit.

Third inductee – Let’s be honest, my attention span isn’t that long. I changed the channel. But as always, the genius of pro wrestling is its ability to promote itself, and the whole show was geared at selling the WWE video game, and promoting an upcoming fight. I mean not to mock pro wrestling, but the jury is still out on which is better, the WWE guys or the Luchadores...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Coming in from the cold - Lessons learned on moving back to a colder climate (hint: cold sports bras are bad news)

Because spring may almost possibly maybe sort of be upon us here in the Northeast (daylight savings time kicks in this weekend), I submit to you this post on lessons learned from moving to a cold(er) climate.

As he gets older, my father seems to be obsessed with watching The Weather Channel. He or my Mom will call, email and Skype me anxiously wanting to know if we ducked the latest tornado, hailstorm, thunder etc being hyped on cable TV. I appreciate their concern but usually I am blissfully ignorant of whatever weather pattern has been reported …

But at the risk of acting like a retiree, I have found myself thinking about and writing about the weather A LOT this winter. I am starting to understand why older folks move to places like Florida, Arizona, Costa Rica.

I spent my formative years in the mid-Atlantic region of the eastern United States. Since college, I’ve lived in Florida, California and Arizona. No coincidence that these are all warm places. A few years ago, work brought me back to the east coast, to the D.C. metro area.

I swear – and I keep telling my poor husband this – that when I lived in this region before, it wasn’t this cold. I don’t remember suffering through lows in the teens and this much ice and wind and hail and snow. I swear winter here has either gotten worse, or my blood really has thinned, as they say when you live in a warm climate for too long. Or, my memory is really that selective.

But by way of statistics, consider this. The average snowfall in the DC area is about 7 inches per year. Hardly anything. During the winter of 2009-2010, we got 70 INCHES. Quite a big difference. Will be interesting to see the final tally for this winter.

Anyway, there have been a lot of things I’ve had to learn and relearn about living in a colder climate. For those of you who live in the Arctic Circle (aka Michigan, Illinois, etc) these will be obvious but believe me, this wisdom has been painfully earned on my part.

Lessons for cold weather survival
Don’t leave your gym bag sitting in the car all day while you’re at work. Because then when you grab your gear to hit the gym after work, you’ll get a nice shock when you realize how COLD your clothes are when you go to put them on. Nothing quite like the shock of a cold sports bra.

Electronics (like portable GPS devices) also don’t seem to like being left out in the cold. Recently the Tom Tom got all confused and tried to take me to Hermosa Beach, or maybe it was just wishful thinking on both our parts.

Gloves do make a difference – who knew?

Clean the snow off your car sooner rather than later. If you decide to wait until later that day or the next day to clear your car off, you will often find that what started out as nice fluffy snow has turned into a giant block of impenetrable ice.

Give yourself enough time to clean off your car, I always underestimate how long it will take.

Don’t forget to clear the rear window and the rear-view mirrors.

Don’t be tempted to buy the inexpensive gas station ice scraper/brush, there is a reason why it’s $2.79 and that reason is that it is a cheap piece of crap that will break the first time you use it. Go to a nice Sears auto/tire center, they have a lovely selection of good snow removal accoutrements.

You must clean the roof of your car off too. Don’t be that a-hole on the roads with big chunks of snow and ice flying off your car and hitting the cars behind you. A broom comes in handy for this.

Don’t drive around with an empty tank. If roads are blocked you may not be able to get to a gas station. In the event of a power outage, which happens a lot around here because the snow and ice take power lines down, the gas pumps won’t work.

Don’t let your fridge and pantry stay empty for too long. Last winter, we were snowbound for a week. Even if you can get to the grocery store, everyone else in your county will have panicked and cleared the shelves of all the good stuff, like beer and whipped cream.

While you’re at the store, stock up on salt for the sidewalks and stairs. That always goes fast.

Make sure your laptop and phone are charged, in case of the aforementioned power outage, or if you get stuck in your car.

Know where the flashlights are, and batteries.

It’s always worth it to pay someone to clear your driveway if you don’t have a snowblower/plow. As much as I like being self sufficient and the workout that snow removal provides, the more snow is on the ground, the longer and longer my driveway seems to get.

My dad used to put a couple of 40 pound bags of dog food in the trunk of his car when road conditions were icy, something about traction. I can barely fit a 4 pound bag of anything in my trunk, so I take my chances with that.

During winter, it’s best not to dive onto the bed without first checking to make sure there isn’t a cat snoogled somewhere within the folds of the down comforter. Kitty’s had some close calls.

That’s the extent of my wisdom to date.

Feel free to mock my thin blood and contribute your own best practices and wisdom. And with this, may I not jinx spring from actually springing, and soon.

PS - in DC the other night I spied two cherry trees that looked to be sprouting little buds!! you don't know how exciting this is.

Peak cherry blossom season is forecast to begin on March 29 - stay tuned. (this is a big deal in the DC area, the cherry blooms bring in beau coup tourism dollars and it's just really, really pretty. there are people whose job it is to monitor the trees and predict when they will be in full bloom. Not sure if it's a full-time job, but sorta interesting nonetheless. )

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why I Love The Oatmeal

Please read this, The Oatmeal's take on the current state of the web-iverse. I luv the definitions of porn, depraved porn and really depraved porn. Lord Zuckerbeast - tee hee.

New Rule: No Cell Phones In the Bathroom – Ever

I believe in survey karma, so recently I found myself taking a survey online about the use of smartphones.

One of the questions was along the lines of -
Have you ever conducted a business meeting or call while:

Visiting someone in prison?

Wearing only your underpants?

While using a public restroom?

Having sex?

Getting a massage?


I am not making these fascinating questions up. I’d love to see the results of this survey, because you have to believe that if they are asking, it’s because people are actually doing these things. And remember, they were asking about business calls in particular.

That doesn’t even take into account how blasé people have become about personal phone calls. Now I’ll admit, I did once have a long conversation with someone while in the bathtub. It was unplanned – someone called while I happened to be taking a bath, I answered the phone. A long conversation ensued, and I quickly regretted it. Tub time should be sacrosanct. Plus, the water got cold while I was talking and the bubbles faded.

But I have never – never – used my cell phone while going to the bathroom. The advent of technology that allows us to be reachable anywhere, and worse, things like Bluetooth that let you talk hands-free, have created a terrible slippery slope in our civil contract with one another.

I can’t count the number of times I have been in a public restroom – at the office, at the airport, at a restaurant, etc. – and there has been a woman in another stall having a nice chat on her phone.
What makes people think it’s ok to be on the phone while urinating or worse? Let’s not even talk about the hygienic risks of this practice, but let’s talk about what this says about the person you’re conversing with.

If I were on the receiving end of a toilet call I would assume you didn’t have enough respect for me to wait 2 minutes to do your thing, wash your hands and then call me when you stepped out of the bathroom. Have some respect for yourself, too. Take a few moments for yourself. Trust me, you don’t need to be that connected, to anyone.

While we’re at it, why don’t you show some respect to your fellow bathroom users. I don’t want to be thinking that your great aunt Tilly is listening to me pee. It’s bad enough I have to be using a public washroom with you in the first place.

And god please tell me that no woman is chatting with her significant other while on the pot. Ewwww.

You might argue that a call by its very nature might be so urgent and important that you absolutely have to take that call or make that call while answering the call of nature. But in my experience, in 100% of the instances I have witnessed, the calls all seem to have been personal and trivial in nature.

The offending chitchatter will be happily conversing away about vacation plans, what little Johnny did at school that day, what she is wearing, how annoyed she is that her flight is delayed etc. etc. in other words, inane stuff that could have waited to be shared, if it needed to be shared at all.

Often, the offender will even say something like “where am I? Oh, I’m in the bathroom.” Even if you don’t admit that you’re in the loo, don’t tell me the person on the other end of the line doesn’t know – the echo, the sounds of flushing, running water. Puh-leeze.

What about dudes? So I checked with my resident authority, the husband. He said he has seen guys standing at the urinal, holding the phone between their head and their shoulder so hands could be free to do their business. At the office even. I guess they should invest in Bluetooth maybe.

Anyway, I’d like to know if you have ever had a phone conversation (business or otherwise) while visiting someone in prison (I’d like this story anyway).

If you see yourself in this post and I've offended you, that was not my intent. I just feel really strongly about this. And I’d really like to know if you have a reason why bathroom phone talking would be ok.

Just don’t even get me started on intra-stall communication …
Go soak your phone.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Space beer!

In honor of the recent successful Discovery launch, this weekend’s post is about space beer.

Apparently an enterprising brewery in Australia is developing a beer that can be enjoyed in space. (The Aussies love their beer, but I do wish American ingenuity had thought of this first.)

The idea is to be ready for the “space tourism industry.” So that future space tourists will have a nice brew to sip while they orbit the earth.

The considerations for a carbonated beverage to be sipped (or chugged) in a zero-gravity atmosphere are several:

• In space, your tongue will swell.

• Your ability to taste is severely minimized. According to the Beer Universe article referenced below, astronauts routinely douse food in hot sauce to get any flavor.

• Burping is a problem. Now this is really gross, but apparently where there is no gravity, gas is not separated from liquids, so you burp wet. Has to be a low-carbonation beer.

Richard “I’m Rich & I’m Crazy” Branson’s company Virgin Galactic claims that tens of thousands of people have already signed up for space tourism next year. Another company says it will open a space hotel within the next five years.

I won’t comment on the feasibility of these plans, or the costs, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I were offered a seat on a civilian space vessel. No, that’s not true, I’d say yes, assuming the fare was gratis … but I don’t think I’d want to be on the maiden voyage. Like how you don’t buy the first model year of a new car. Let them work the bugs out first.
But this makes me think of all the products that will have to be developed to support the space tourism industry. Surely there will be space weddings, therefore a need for space champagne. And strong-tasting cake … that won’t elicit wet cake burps.

What else would you pack in your overnight bag to the moon – toothbrush and toothpaste (will my electric toothbrush work differently in space), camera, jammies. I guess you wouldn’t be able to call anyone or send a postcard.

And what kind of outfit options will you have when preparing for a trip to space? I’m hoping it will be something along the lines of the rad spacesuits that James Bond and Dr Holly Goodhead wear in Moonraker, in which the evil villain plots to create a master race in an orbiting space station.

PS sweet Roger Moore action figure!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Toddlers, Tiaras and Terror

The emerging trademark of television channels like A&E and TLC is that peculiar brand of fascination and revulsion inherent in programs like Intervention, My Secret Addiction, Heavy.

What I like to call train wreck TV – you don’t want to be the kind of person who enjoys this sort of thing, but yet you JUST CAN’T LOOK AWAY. I’m the first to admit that I enjoy my share of this type of programming.

But let’s single out TLC. It wasn’t bad enough that they terrorized me with Hoarders (which just as it sounds features scary profiles of people whose homes have been scarily overrun with crap because of their psychological problems) and Outrageous Kids’ Parties (the MTV My Sweet Sixteen for the six-year old set) … you also had to go and deaden our souls and make me lose hope in humanity and the American Culture with the jaw-dropping “Toddler and Tiaras.”
This is a reality show that chronicles regional child beauty pageants and the stories of the families who enter their kids into them. The program will follow them as they prepare, practice and primp their way to the title of “Little Miss Perfect” or what have you.

I know many of you may have feelings about what impact this sort of thing would have on the self-esteem and development of a child – but rest assured that the children seem to terrorize the parents as much as it goes the other way.

Horrifying doesn’t begin to describe my reaction watching the little trolls –er, dolls - forced onto a stage for grotesque “dancing” and “modeling.” The children are inherently cute, but transformed into hideous creatures with fake eyelashes and enough blue eyeshadow to make Western Barbie feel right at home.

It’s hard at first to distinguish who is worse, the children or the parents, and each one seems worse than the last. The relationships between the mothers and the children seem mostly dysfunctional, bossing each other around and generally acting ugly.

In the pursuit of trophies and sashes, the mothers do things like get spray tans for five year olds, purchase false teeth, spend scads of cash on frilly sequined dresses (which run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars), pay for pageant coaches and force Coca-Cola down the throat of a two-year old so that she’ll remain awake and peppy for her competition.

In most cases, the mother is the driving force in the pageant habit (it does read like an addiction at times), but there are usually husbands involved, bland lumps of flesh, wan and henpecked who are there to help bankroll the efforts and tote around Rubbermaid bins full of pageant crap from hotel ballroom to hotel ballroom.

My observation is that the mothers are either fading beauties/frustrated pageant contestants themselves, or just flat out blorgs.

The other day I caught a rerun of a recent episode, that happened to take place in Arizona. Among the families this episode showcased were a hideous four-year old who threw a bitchin’ tantrum in order to get her pacifier, and a sort of fascinating woman from Lake Havasu, Arizona, who was pimping out her twin, ONE YEAR OLD girls to the pageant lifestyle.

This is a particularly intriguing subset of the child pageant circuit, the infants. How can you compete in a pageant if you can’t even walk? Someone has to carry the babies out onto the stage, where they loll around in overdone outfits with boys taped to their heads.

Anyway, I mentioned Lake Havasu for a reason. If you’ve never been, it’s a small city in Arizona best known for London Bridge and spring break. An enterprising entrepreneur decades ago purchased the actual, original London Bridge and had it shipped over, piece by piece, from England and reassembled in Lake Havasu as a tourist attraction. I suppose it worked because I’ve been there – and it’s a bridge. In its shadow there are little shops and you can watch candles being made. The other raison d’etre for Havasu is rampant spring breaking, fueled by the huge population of Arizona State University. If you’ve ever seen one of those reality shows that features out of control spring breakers getting alcohol poisoning, sharing venereal diseases, jumping off of really big rocks into the lake and needing to be rescued, operating watercraft while intoxicating and taking their clothes off – chances are they’ve filmed in Lake Havasu at one time or another.

So this Havasu woman clearly got the attention of the Toddlers & Tiaras producers not just because she has twins, but also because of her creepy plastic surgery, and the fact that she’s apparently loaded. Her husband is a doctor and I guess he has a hell of a practice because they live in a huge McMansion, are loaded to the gills with luxury cars, have their own private jet, etc. etc. etc. She (I forget her name) claims they have spent about $250,000 to date on the pageant stuff. Yes that’s a quarter of a million bucks. Did I mention the kids are one??

The irony is that so many of the mothers say they are in the game for the cash prizes, when there is no way that the money they win ever exceeds the money they spend on the pageants. The largest cash prize I’ve ever seen on these programs is $1,000. So even if you win, you’re still out about $249,000, give or take some change.

I know I’ve gone on and on about this, so I’ll just say this to the contestants’ mothers: your infant can’t get nervous about being on stage, she cannot. Because the 18-month old does not understand that she is on stage. Sure, she can be afraid, and rightly so, about being shoved into a scratchy tutu and paraded around in front of a roomful of strangers … but she can’t, in my opinion, get stage fright.
Here is a good description of this episode, which is a typical episode, that I found online – this was apparently written by a dude who was giving it a good go to try and watch the show… he ends up drinking heavily, which is understandable. He also refers to the Lake Havasu woman as resembling a “killer clown” which is eerily apt.

The show personifies so many things that are wrong with people in general, and the stereotype of pageant mothers in particular. Being a pageant mother is one thing, but somehow when you’re engaging in that behavior with a toddler, it just takes it to another level altogether.

Speaking of tiaras and terror, the whole John Galliano meltdown has been an ugly episode, hasn’t it? In France, anti-Semitic remarks are punishable by law, plus the PR fallout given what it is, the venerable house of Christian Dior had no choice but to fire him, and send him to rehab. And hire a new publicity firm. Here’s a short item from PR Daily on the story.

I love the veddy British mea culpa: “I unreservedly apologize for my behavior in causing any offense.”

Reminded me immediately of the scene in A Fish Called Wanda in which Kevin Kline dangles John Cleese out of a window and forces him to apologize.

Oh no, it’s K-k-k-Ken, c-c-c-coming to k-k-k-kill me! That’s a good flick.

Charlie “OMG” Sheen

Blogosphere, I’ve missed you! I’ve been offline lately because of travel and work and schedule things but I’m happy to be back.

Let’s get right to it: Charlie Sheen.

There has been so much in the media over the past few days, it feels like a crazy explosion. At first I have to confess I was fascinated by the unfolding events … then Sheen planted himself firmly in the land of Mel Gibson, Gary Busey, Randy Quaid – not exactly great company. Then I was morbidly fascinated by the train wreck that had fast become Sheen with his “tiger blood and Adonis DNA” and his goddesses.

Saying things like the bones of the producers of Two and a Half Men would melt like wax if they hung out with him. Quotes like: “I’m going to ride the winds of the universe.”

Highlights from his NBC Today show interview on Monday 2/28:

“I want a raise. Look at what they put me through. I’m underpaid.”

“I’m tired of pretending I’m not a bitchin’ total rock star from Mars. You can’t process me with a normal brain.”

Re curing his addictions: “I closed my eyes and made it so – with my mind. AA was created by a broken down fool and a plagiarist.”

"Thomas Jefferson was a p****."

“I am on a drug, a drug called Charlie Sheen.”

“They picked a fight with a warlock.”

He plans on winning “the war” against CBS with “violent hatred.”

They are going to rename Warner Brothers “Charlie Brothers.”

He said CBS owes him a public apology while licking his feet, and closed that portion of the interview with some paranoid questions for Chuck Lorre that he had written out on index cards. BTW, if you were Chuck Lorre what would you be doing? Besides dead-bolting your doors, I imagine.

So within a matter of days the whole Sheen thing has just gone from crazy/entertaining to sad. Sad, sad, sad. He very well may have bipolar disorder (sometimes it’s hard to tell what symptoms are mental illness and what symptoms are drug induced) and it just makes the whole situation that much sadder. He is going to crash and crash hard and who knows if he can ever come back from something like this, let alone the pain his family must be going through.

It’s also disheartening to see the media completely exploiting the fact that he has gone off the rails by touting their coverage of him and continuing to give him a forum and a platform to espouse his increasingly incoherent and violent thoughts. I just can’t help but think that there’s no way this isn’t going to end up in a courtroom, either civil or criminal and maybe both.

How would old Hollywood have handled this? I imagine he would have been spirited away somewhere and a publicist would release a statement saying he was ‘hospitalized for exhaustion.’ I don’t think they would have allowed him to self-destruct so publicly, not necessarily out of concern for him and his health but out of concern for the image of their studio.

At first I wondered if there was a different term for jumping the shark, to indicate that Charlie Sheen had officially gone too far – like ‘shooting up with the shark’ or ‘coking up with the shark” … but then I think we quickly moved into the Sheendenfreude phase. What comes next …

TV Palate Cleanser
After all the torrid Sheen-ness in the air, we all need a little palate cleansing.

The late great Bob Ross was on Arizona PBS the other morning when I was flipping channels in my hotel room. (yes I like a little TV to get me going in the morning. I’m also known for falling asleep with the TV on. White noise …. soothing.)

Highlights from Mr. Ross:

“Just a little yellow ochre – but not too much! “

He was painting a seascape and advised using a fan brush and to “…tap. Just tap. Tap tap. Make some rocks so the seagulls have a place to nest and the puffins too. Just caress it.”

“ I bet you knew I’d put a rock there!”

“Aren’t puffins just the cutest creatures God ever made? Like their noses are too big for their faces.”

Trippy and gentle at the same time. Good night all!
Ps why are they putting Busey on Celebrity Apprentice? Too sad.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Should I become a professional cat lady?

If you’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a cat lady (or man), one cat food company now invites you to make it official.

Cat Chow is looking for a spokesperson. It’s a one-year gig and it pays $50k. Not enough to necessarily make me want to quit my day job, but according to Cat Chow, you can keep your day job and still do this.

This month they announced their nationwide search for a “correspondent” who will travel the country reporting on cat-interest stories and making connections with other feline owners to explore the special relationships they have with their cats (presumably, these would be the human-interest stories).

What are your cat credentials?

Well it’s a given that you have to be a cat lover if you want to apply. You are required to submit a photo of you with your cat(s) with your application; a video is optional.

They also ask -
* How many friends do you have on Facebook?

* How many Twitter followers?

* Do you have a blog (check)

* How many cats do you have?
You can answer up to 9 – or more. That’s a lotta felines.

There is an essay requirement, and several questions such as ‘if your cat were a celebrity, who would she be’ and ‘if your cat could talk, what would be the first question you’d ask him?’ So you definitely have to be serious about this whole thing.

For more info, check out these links – the third one is the application.

I do love my cat, and the assignment sounds intriguing, but I haven’t talked this over yet with Marley. She is 15, mostly deaf but still pretty sprightly for a kitty her age.

If you’ll indulge me a cat story – Marley had a little kitty stroke a few years ago. For a couple of months her balance was all off and she lost the ability to swallow. Since she couldn’t eat on her own she got very thin and we weren’t sure she was going to make it. Then one day she snapped out of it, got her ability to eat back and regained her feline faculties.

And here’s the weird part – her personality changed.

She had always been pretty anti-social. When anyone came in the house, she’d hiss at them and then run and hide under the bed. Something like a trip to the vet would send her hiding and sulking for days. She really didn’t like my husband, and avoided the dogs at all costs.

Now it’s like she’s a totally different animal, no pun intended. She likes my husband. She’s cool with the dogs. She doesn’t mind visitors and strangers at all. Now after a visit to the vet, she’s fine. (And since she lost her hearing, it’s a lot easier to sneak up on her with the cat carrier.) Overall, she’s more relaxed and social.

I’ve heard of people experiencing strange changes after a stroke, like suddenly being able to speak another language or play an instrument. But I never heard of it happening to a cat. Maybe I should see if she can play the piano now … that might certainly give us an upper hand. Or paw.

Anyway, if you weren’t bored to tears with my tale of cat companionship, and any of you are inspired to apply for the Cat Chow job, let me know. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on my competition …

Can’t get enough cat time? A compilation of gratuitous kitty videos for your viewing pleasure.

PS the deadline to apply is March 28

Monday, February 21, 2011

From the Pink Floyd files, AKA How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

Without preamble: A teacher in England has been accused of spraying young children with air freshener when they ‘smelled of curry or onions’ and making them wash their hands in Pine-sol if they tooted.

We’re talking about nursery school/kindergarten aged kids, and apparently in an area with a large Bangladeshi population. The teacher also reportedly made kids stay in their pee-soaked clothes standing on newspaper if they had an accident, until their parents could come get them.

Aside from the obvious cultural implications, maybe she just never learned to accept the fact that little kids often smell bad and produce stinky things. She had also reportedly been dismissed from other teaching gigs for, um, I guess not playing well with others.

What is an appropriate punishment for this? Not knowing the applicable law and what is socially acceptable for teachers in another country, it’s hard for me to say, but in addition to the fact that it can’t be good for your health to get sprayed directly with Lysol or Glade type products, imagine how embarrassing it would have been for those kids, and the message it was sending them about their hygiene, standing in the world, etc. I would think she wouldn’t be allowed to continue teaching, but I think a decision is still pending on that.

BTW, is torture still popular/acceptable in British schools? Perhaps I shouldn’t base all my inferences on Dickens, Dahl and Floyd.

Read “Boy” by Roald Dahl if you want to do some research on beastly authoritarian figures and the caning of children in mid-century England. I’m amazed that this book is marketed toward children, I read it as an adult and was upset by it. Although the story of how he and his buddies get revenge on the mean candy store owner is a great tale of childhood revenge.

I look forward to hearing from teachers and those who have lived and/or gone to school in the U.K. on this subject. Or anyone who has been spritzed with Febreze for being too ripe.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pandora + Copacabana + Bob Marley = Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting

Do you Pandora? It’s a free website ( that lets you create online ‘radio stations’ based on music you choose – for example, you put in an artist’s name or a song name and then it picks other songs and bands that are similar, based on its “music genome project.” So you can type in “Loretta Lynn” for example and it will choose selections of her tunes and other songs that are deemed to be similar whether it’s in the use of harmonies, rhythym, arrangement, etc.

You register for a free account and off you go (if you want to skip the occasional ads, you can upgrade and pay for the premium service). But it will play all day long, or until you sign out.

Listeners can rate the songs it chooses for you, giving them a thumbs up or thumbs down, to help the program refine your likes and dislikes. You can also select genres like adult contemporary, classical, etc. The site has recently added ads, but they are not too obtrusive. I like listening to it at work when I need some extra pep. There are also Pandora apps for phones so you can listen to it on the road/on the go. Pandora makes me happy.

It’s always interesting to see what other songs the software deems compatible with your selected artist, genre or song. The other day I chose “punk/new wave” because I was in the mood for 80’s music. Most of the songs and bands were what you’d expect, but I was surprised to see Creedence Clearwater Revival mixed in there.

Not that I would ever question Pandora’s choices, but I don’t think I would classify Creedence as new wave or punk.

Yesterday something came up at work about the song “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow. I plugged it into Pandora to see what would come up – a lot of it was understandable: Earth, Wind and Fire, Bee Gees (same song twice, live version), Village People, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson …

But then it threw in Men at Work (Down Under), A-Ha (Take on me) and Blondie (Tide is High). And of course several versions of Copacabana – now I know there’s an acoustic version. With Pandora, you can also mix artists together, so if you’re curious to see what combining, say Shakira and Johnny Cash would produce musically, check it out.

The Copacabana experiment also generated the song “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas. You’ll recall this was a one-hit wonder, disco sensation. According to Pandora, Douglas was the first Jamaican-born artist to score a number one hit on the U.S. charts. Did I mention, Pandora also gives you bios on the artists/bands, information about all their albums, and you can buy/download the music too if you’re so inclined. Very handy.

But back to Carl Douglas – when I read that he was the first Jamaican musician to get to #1 on the American music charts, Bob Marley jumped to mind. I guess Marley never charted , or maybe not so high. No pun intended.

Speaking of which, Feb 6 was Bob Marley’s birthday, which for some reason I have written down in my birthday book along with the birth dates of my friends and relatives. I have also learned that Bob Marley shares a birthday with:

Ronald Reagan
Axl Rose
Zsa Zsa Gabor

Surely this must mean something but I haven’t figured it out yet.

There was a small exhibit on Rastafari culture and history at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History a couple of years back that I had the fortune to see, it was very interesting. I have to admit I didn’t know a lot about the origins of Rastafarianism so thank you, Smithsonian, for educating me. One of the things I love dearly about the DC area. And my that Haile Selassie was quite the captivating person, wasn't he?

His title of Ras, an Ethiopian nobility title, appears to have been the origin of the name Rastafari; he is believed to be a descendant of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, and seen by some as the second coming of Christ.

You can read more about the exhibit and Rastafaris –

Apparently, there is also some sort of sea worm named after Bob Marley. The ocean is a mysterious place.

"Until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes...the dream of lasting peace...will remain but a fleeting illusion." Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, speaking before the United Nations in 1963

Thursday, February 17, 2011

America, are we getting screwed out a day off?

There is a local car dealership running ads on heavy rotation to promote their Presidents’ Day auto sales. I always thought that Presidents’ Day was about George Washington and Abe Lincoln, but I swear they are showing an image of Thomas Jefferson in their ads.

So either they are mistaken or I am, which led me to a search of the Internet. Good ol’ sheds some interesting light on the whole thing, link to the info below.

I’ll summarize what I’ve learned – there used to be a day for Washington and a day for Lincoln. Then somewhere along the way someone had the bright idea to combine them into one day. And I guess it was originally all about George, and Abe got tacked on at some point. That’s ok, Abe was a good dude.

So my takeaway from all this is that now instead of having two days off, I get one day off. Honestly, I’ll take it, February is a short month anyway. But still.

The other thing that is clear from this story is that these presidential holidays have been tinkered with, a lot. The dates keep changing, they get combined, they get separated, they combined again … there are federal days of observance but then each state can also have its own special days.

Why do we keep messing with this? Congress is busy.

No clear ruling on whether it’s Presidents’ Day or President’s Day.

And, none of this has anything to do with Jefferson, thankyouverymuch.

Pee S - 2nd Update on Aberrant Canine Behavior

I have uncovered an important clue in the ongoing investigation against the Urinating Canine. When I got home today, my hubby informed me that the reason our newspaper has not been peed on the past few mornings, is because the a--hole dog is now peeing on our NEIGHBOR'S paper.

Maybe the dog is moving on to target others? I say good luck to you neighbor, and good riddance.

If he should come back, though, there will be a reckoning.

Update on Deviant Newspaper Behavior

I am happy to report that since my post about the mysterious urine deposited on my newspaper each morning, there haven't been any incidents. Is it possible the perpetrator reads this blog?

Skymall – Love It or Hate It, It Can’t be Denied

As a follow-up to my semi-rant against ‘as seen on TV products,’ I want to confess that I have a love-hate relationship with Skymall.

Every time I fly, I feel compelled to see what’s new in the Skymall catalog, and yet I also love to make fun of the often random, odd and seemingly useless products.

But when desperate for reading material, I will peruse the catalog from cover to cover, and it can keep me occupied as I provide running commentary on the products to my flying companion. Skymall has always come through for me as far as entertainment value goes.
What can you say about a catalog that showcases life-size sasquatch resin sculptures for your backyard, shoes that make you taller, gadgets to spy on your neighbors, virtual reality goggles, a box that winds your watches for you and more?

As a business model, it’s not a bad idea. You’ve got a captive audience on the plane, and they make it easy to order. Like a good infomercial, they present the products in a way that makes them more appealing than they probably really are.

Based on (unsourced) information I found online*, the Skymall company is based in Phoenix and was incorporated in 1989. With 200 employees, it reported sales of just over $100 million in annual sales in 2007 ($60m in 1997). It’s a public company – is there Skymall stock to be had? It is described as “the largest in-flight catalog company in the U.S.” – are there others? Clearly the market share leader in the in-flight catalog business. (The company has also said to have diversified into other things like developing shopping Web sites for other companies and managing reward programs for credit cards, according to CEO Christine Aguilera. {yes, named Christine Aguilera})

Found on 90 % of domestic flights and said to reach 620 million passengers a year. That’s a lot of Sasquatches.

The airlines get a cut of the action, but I wonder how much it costs to place a product in the catalog and how much of a sales bump the retailers can expect from that placement. If you can land a product on the Home Shopping Network or similar, it’s like a cash register ringing – they measure their sales in dollars per minute. I wonder if Skymall offers the same kind of sales nirvana for the makers of the power pooper scooper or the end table that looks like a shoe.

Skymall Mondays
I know today is Wednesday, but I love that has “Skymall Mondays,” in which a different Skymall product is reviewed in a tongue-in-cheek way each week, with reviews covering such coveted items as the hair restoration laser, temperature regulating sheets, a harness to drag luggage with, spy gear and lighted slippers. These reviews are as entertaining as the products themselves, which is to say I find them to be very funny.

Per Gadling, there are also apparently some products that get rejected from Skymall, though I’m not sure why. What criteria did these not meet?

Ok, the female urine funnel, I can see why that one might get rejected. But the gadget to turn a hot-dog into a little hot-dog person? (called the Frankformer, bien sur) Not sure how that’s any different from a lot of the other stuff in there.

Confession, I have purchased something from the catalog once, some recycling bins. Why I would choose to buy giant plastic bins through the mail, I don’t know. That is the power of Skymall. The bins are in the garage and at least they get used, tho for storage and not for recyclables.

Have you ever bought anything from Skymall? I’d love to hear your experience, if it met your expectations or not.

Until we meet again, Skymall.

"Using a fabric developed for NASA to help astronauts adapt to extreme temperature fluctuations, these sheets prevent overheating and eliminate chills to create an optimal sleeping climate. Imbedded in the sheets are millions of invisible microcapsules that absorb excess heat when you are hot and release the stored heat when you are cold, ensuring a comfortable bed temperature and humidity. Unlike an electric blanket, the microcapsules adjust independently to an individual's climate, allowing two sleepers with different temperature preferences to remain comfortable throughout the night."

* Sources: Clearly this article is old, and it talks about such technical innovations as WordPerfect and NeXT personal computers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Travel Round-Up – Transsexual stewardesses, obese bags and why flying coach still beats flying cargo

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that a brave airline in Thailand is hiring transsexual “third sex” stewardesses, aka Ladyboys. They predict other airlines will follow their lead. I applaud their gesture toward equal rights. And not to be mean, but these stewardesses are far better looking than the last flight crew I got on Continental.

Way to go, PC Air.

They are punishing our bags for being obese
Another reason to hate an airline: U.S. Air is upping its bag fee from $50 to $90 dollars when the bag is overweight. See earlier post on packing light.

What about the ripple effect this will have on the souvenir industry? We are all going to think twice about buying the funny looking monkey made out of coconuts with obscene sayings on it if we are a) packing smaller or less luggage and b) worried about exceeding a weight limit. This could be devastating to all the tourist shops that make their living plying you with irresistible souvenirs.

Anyone out there routinely ship stuff home rather than having to pack it? What are your tips for keeping bags light?

Stowing away inadvertently in the cargo hold
On a related note, there was a story in the news last week about how some poor baggage handler at National airport got stuck in a cargo hold when his coworker inadvertently closed the door on him while he was loading bags. Passengers heard screaming and thumping coming from somewhere in the plane and alerted the crew – how unnerving is that?

Apparently this is not the first time this has happened, on the same type of plane – and there was a reported incident in which a guy actually flew in the hold from DC to Boston …

First, I’m amazed that this could happen so easily. Second, if there are three incidents we’ve heard of, that means there must be more that happen that don’t make the news. And third, doesn’t this sound like a safety issue? If it’s that easy to lose a person on the tarmac or for someone to accidentally get locked in the cargo hold, then how easy would it be for someone to sneak in there on purpose?

I hope someone at the FAA is looking into this. And I hope someone at least sent that baggage handler a muffin basket.

“It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind. With Americans, it is a national trait, as native to us as the roller-coaster or the jukebox. It is no simple longing for the home town or country of our birth. The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” - Carson McCullers

Valentine’s Day Recap – Sliders and Denial of Blow-up Dolls

Ok, so I meant yesterday’s post to be the last on the topic of St Valentine’s Day, but I couldn’t resist a few more thoughts on this subject.

From the ‘champagne tastes and beer pockets’ file (or maybe beer tastes and scrounging for change in the sofa files), there is the story of the White Castle Valentine’s Day promotion - (participating) White Castles offer white-tablecloth and candlelit dining – if you make your reservations in time.

How many sliders would you scarf down in the name of romance?

I hope they offer this again in 2012, it’s never too early to start planning for next year’s eventual specious holiday let-downs. (apparently they've been offering this since the 90's, but either I haven't been living in White Castle country or I've blocked this out of my memory)

I noticed that Papa John’s also offers a heart-shaped pizza in case you decided to spend the night in and want a sodium blast (disclaimer – I love pizza, and I love Papa John’s. no hate mail please).

And from the romance files, try this headline on for size - “Trapped Chilean miners denied blow-up sex dolls for fear of jealousy.”

A must-read –

Did your romantic plans go over like a lead balloon or would you like to crow about your perfect date or gift? Post your comments please.

Don’t Stop Believin’ (or Believing)
Well, you streetlight people, whether your plans went boom or bust, I’ll leave you with some immortal words on love and the motor city from Journey and Steve Perry:

Just a small town girl
Livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin' anywhere

Just a city boy
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train goin' anywhere

A singer in a smoky room
A smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night
It goes on and on and on and on

Strangers waiting
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people
Living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night

Working hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin' anything to roll the dice just one more time

Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Strangers waiting
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people
Living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night

Don't stop believin'
Hold on to that feelin'
Streetlight people

Don't stop believin'
Hold on
Streetlight people

Don't stop believin'
Hold on to that feelin'
Streetlight people

So we officially close the books on Valentine’s Day 2011 and start planning for Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day, real holidays. And maybe even Presidents’ Day in between.

PS - is there such a thing as South Detroit? I have it on good authority that this doesn't exist.