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! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/nyregion/12funerals.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

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In one of my previous jobs, the information technology infrastructure was shall we say outdated at best.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 - http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/library/news-2011-04-01.html

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...