Friday, May 29, 2009

Desert Island Discs

What albums would you take to a desert island? The logical answer would be the ones that would get me off the island, but that's really not the point of the question. The point of the question is to think about what albums could you not live without if you were to be stranded with no access to the rest of your stuff or new items. I've thought about this a lot, and sometimes I think I might not want to take my favorites since I know them backwards and forwards and can conjure them at any second. I also wouldn't want to have those albums associated with the memory of being marooned on a desert island.

But this question always makes me think of albums that I'm crazy about. There are some that I just love beginning to end, and they remind me of a certain period and when I hear them I'm right back there. I hope you're dying to hear what they are because I'm dying to talk about them! I'm sick in bed and typing is about all I can do right now, so here goes. These are 18 of them in no particular order, just in the order they came to me.

Tears For Fears, Songs From The Big Chair
This was the first compact disc I ever owned. It came out in 1985, but I didn't own it until 1991. It was my last day of school present from my parents. I'd known and loved the singles, but when I purchased it I fell in love with the whole thing. It's one of those that only sounds right if I listen to it all. I still love it and I just bought the deluxe reissue with extra tracks and it's just that much better.

The Stone Roses self titled album
If anything can be the soundtrack to my high school experience, this is it. I first heard this album during a Saturday stagecraft session. We would all bring out own music to listen to while we built and painted sets, and I cannot remember the name of the girl who brought this one, but I immediately loved it. I had a dub (remember that back in the day of cassettes?) from the library for about a year until I found it used at Used Kids, and I still have that copy. Chris had a copy of it too, and when we got married we had many duplicates in our collection when we consolidated them. We sold all of the duplicates besides this one, I just couldn't get rid of one. I thought we needed a backup copy.

Prince, Sign O' The Times
Too bad I can't make a peace symbol. That is what the "O" is on the album cover. This is my favorite Prince album to this day. Granted, Prince has made some amazing music since then, but this album means the most to me. I got this album sometime in the 6th grade. I can't remember if it was a birthday or Christmas, but I am pretty sure it was a gift because it was a double album and I can't imagine affording that myself. I was never good at savin' up. This album is amazing. From the adorably quirky "Starfish and Coffee" to the romantic "Adore", I love every song on here. Even "The Cross", which I like the least (it slows the album down big time) but I still love it because it's so different. I never skip a single song on this one, and I love to say "Shut up, already. Damn!" whenever I get the chance. One time I went up to my friend Georges because I needed to ask him something, and I said "Question-". Before I could respond he replied with "Does anybody know about the 'Quake?" This album brings out the awesome in everyone.

Beastie Boys, License To Ill
This was my first album with the "Parental Advisory" label. I got this one when I was in the 5th grade from the Buzzard's Nest in the Graceland Shopping Center on High Street. Buzzard's Nest was a great record shop, and I still miss it. I had friends who owned this record, and I loved the song "Paul Revere" so much that I had to own it myself. I had only the tape so I missed out on the awesome photo that was on the gatefold vinyl edition, but I was a big fan of the portability of cassettes. Again, the Beastie Boys have put out lots more fantastic music, but this one is a big deal to me. My first rap record and the first time Tipper Gore warned my parents about the evils of having more juice than Picasso has paint.

Billy Bragg, Worker's Playtime
One late night in 1991, David Letterman featured a musician named Billy Bragg. He came out in black jeans and a flannel shirt and sang a song called "Sexuality". The next day I was at the library finding whatever I could by this young man. Back then, dubbing from the library or friends was the most economical way to get new music for jobless high schoolers. I found an album called Talking to the Taxman About Poetry, and one day after school I made Juice drive me to Camelot Music so I could purchase the Don't Try This At Home album. When I started going down to Ohio State's campus area record stores, I found a used Billy Bragg album called Worker's Playtime and it soon became my favorite thing ever. This is another where every song is a song I love, and I once listened to only it on loop for a 4 hour road trip and never once got sick of it. This album is also very special to me and Chris, but that's a longer story.

Kate Bush, The Kick Inside
My old roommate Steve used to say that the jerks who robbed us got punishment enough if they watched the Kate Bush videos they stole from me, but don't listen to him. She's amazing. My first year of college I became completely Kate obsessed. This was also around the time the whole internet thing was becoming a very common thing, so I was constantly online on Kate message boards, back when I still did the message board thing. I purchased her best of, The Whole Story during one of my major used record buying binges, and I loved it so much I decided to start from the beginning and work my way up. I purchased The Kick Inside and as with the rest of these albums, practically wore a hole in it. And this is not possible with a CD. This is one of those albums where the songs all flow into each other so I really find it's best to listen to it from start to finish and not put it on random. There was something about this album that made me feel feminine to listen to it. Coincidentally, it was around this time that I began wearing skirts again on a regular basis. I still can't decide which is my favorite song on this album, but depending on the day you ask me I'll either say "Strange Phenomenon" or "Feel It".

Elvis Costello, Imperial Bedroom
Everyone knows I am a huge Elvis fan. When asked who is my favorite musician, I always say Elvis. And while I can't choose a favorite album of his since they are all fantastic in their own way, this one was one of those that was played non stop for a few months. This one also has a really cool cover that is good for staring while in your room listening to this album about 3 times before doing anything else. "Almost Blue" was perfect fodder for my teenage angst, so was "Town Cryer". When I got into Elvis, like REALLY got into him, I was a sophomore in high school. And when you don't have a job and you want nothing more to own every album by man who has released one every year since 1977 and by this time it was 1991, this was a daunting task. I got what I could when I could, checking out Half Price Books and Used Kids whenever possible. As such, I wasn't really paying attention to the order in which I bought them, but rather making sure that however I did it, I bought them all. I only knew like 3 other fans while I was in high school, so dubbing wasn't much of an option. So when I got around to Imperial Bedroom, I was so sucked into it that I really would just sit on my bed and listen while I read the included lyrics. I so wish I had that kind of time again when I buy records. Just to lie on my bed and listen to an album while reading the lyrics and liner notes.

Bryan Ferry, Taxi
Let's get this out of the way-I LOVE Bryan Ferry. I'm not sure there is a sexier male voice in the history of recorded music. And although Taxi quickly found it's place in the cutout bins and can almost always be found used in the cheap bins, I really really love this one. Sure it's overproduced in a way that makes it seem like it belongs under the label of "Adult Contemporary", but there are some gems on this one. His version of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" is this wonderful, ethereal song and the first time I heard it, I cried. Seriously. Not only do I love this song (it doesn't preach the prudishness, and it addresses the concern of "am I just a conquest to be tossed out after this" in a very poetic way. Carole King's words and Bryan Ferry's voice is a soul touching combo. I'm sounding cheesy I know, but my first listen to this album was a blissful experience.

The Clientele, Strange Geometry
I forget what led me to The Clientele. They were suggested for me by either or iTunes, I forget which. The first album of theirs I purchased was God Save The Clientele, and I loved it, so when at Christmas I got an iTunes gift card, I decided to check out more Clientele. I used my gift money to purchase Strange Geometry and I went crazy. I would pull up this album on my iPod and it would be all I would listen to for hours. The Clientele has this very mellow, almost ambient, 60s pop feel, and the music grew on my like kudzu. The second song on the album is the beautifully melancholy "I Can't Seem To Make You Mine", and the second to the last song is the captivating spoken piece, "Losing Haringey". Listening to the description of being transported back to 1982 after looking at a photo will sell anyone one The Clientele. I'm listening to this song as I type this, because just talking about it made me have to listen to it. My iPod Shuffle has nothing but The Clientele on it right now, and I call it the Clientelepod.

Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man
This album is so fantastic I don't think any explanation is needed to describe the awesomeness of it and why it grabbed me in such a way to make it one of my favorite albums of all time. I was first exposed this album when my friend Troy put "Ain't No Cure For Love" on a mix tape for me. This is the kind of love song I can get into. It has that classic pop song lyric theme of being in love and not being about to do anything about it, but with his low voice and that great sax and bass, it seems much deeper. And the album starts out with "First We Take Manhattan", and this is a great way to immediately grab the attention of the listener. There is no way you won't want to listen to this whole thing after that.

Edwyn Collins, Gorgeous George
Back in the 1990s there was a little movie called Empire Records. It was an indie flick that didn't have much steam at the box office, but the soundtrack was an alterna-rock best seller. This soundtrack was the mainstream introduction of Edwyn Collins to the American alterna-listener. Edwyn is a Scottish musician who in recent years has had some health issues keep him from recording very much, but whenever he does I pounce on it. Anyway, as well as being on the soundtrack, his song "Girl Like You" was on his Gorgeous George album. Not being all that into the other songs on the soundtrack, I bought his album and it was one of my better choices I've made in my life. The album starts out with "Campaign For Real Rock", which is basically Edwyn bitching about Lollapalooza. It's droning drums and opening minor chords let you know that this and all that comes after is going to be your new favorite thing. It sure was mine. I've still never seen the movie, but I think I got the best thing out of it.

U2, The Joshua Tree
Good gravy is this an amazing album. I wore the cassette that I got in the 6th grade out to the point where it did that thing where it would flip in the middle and start playing the other side. I listened to it so much that for a while I wasn't able to listen to it as it would remind me of doing last minute book reports. I seriously listened to this album every night during home work for about half of my 6th grade year. Not having done a book report in decades, that association is gone and I can listen to this one all day long on repeat.

Simple Minds, New Gold Dream
Jim Kerr is just about the only person who could get me to ignore my husband at a party. The crush I had on him beginning in 1985 is still going strong, as is my love for this album. This is 80s new romantic pop perfection. While Simple Minds are considered a one hit wonder in the US thanks to The Breakfast Club, they have a lot of good music that came before and after. They have a new record coming out soon actually. When I got this album which was handed down to me from a friend of the family, I had only been exposed to "Don't You (Forget About Me), but I loved it so much I was eager to try more from the band. My only copy of this for a long time was vinyl, and I do swear you can see through it since I played it so many times. To listen to it now reminds me of being young and figuring out who I was and what my tastes were.

Colin Hay, Topanga
In 1995, VH1 ran a special about 80s musical artists called "Where Are They Now?" Colin Hay was in the 80s band Men At Work who in my opinion put out 2 of the top 20 best albums of the 80s, Business As Usual and Cargo. That 20 best list is a list for another time. Anyway, since Men At Work won the Best New Artist Grammy in 1982, the next logical step was to fall completely off the map as most Best New Artists do. Such a weird category, either you win it when you are new and you break up 2 years later, or you're U2 and you win on your 5th album. Or is it 6th? I think it depends on if you count Under A Blood Red Sky or Wide Awake In America. Anyway, Colin Hay was on this show and I learned that he was working on a solo career. And since I love Men At Work and Colin Hay's voice, I picked up his solo album Topanga when I was in Tower Records in New York City on my 21st birthday. I think it stayed in the CD player until my 23rd birthday and returned to it's constant spot of play after my 24th birthday after Colin Hay sang to me. I went to see him with my friend Shelley and we were almost hugging him we were so close to the stage. I said something to him and somehow the conversation got around to the fact that it was my birthday the next day, so he not only sang "Happy Birthday" to me, but also played my request, "Waiting For My Real Life To Begin". This is my favorite song off this album, and I consider it my theme song. And of course, one of the best damn birthday presents ever.

World Party, Goodbye Jumbo
This album, along to a lesser extent the 10,000 Maniacs album Blind Man's Zoo, is the soundtrack to my freshman year of high school. If I had my Walkman with me, I had this tape in it. This is one of those special albums where every track is my favorite. When I purchased this one I was about a month into my high school experience. I went to alternative high school, so the music my classmates listened to was very different to that of what my junior high classmates insisted on at dances. This being so different made me feel like I was really growing up and learning who I was, not just who I tried to be at school. I to this day go through periods where this is all I listen to for about 2 weeks straight. "Sweet Soul Dream" is a love song that can sell anyone on the band.

Joe Jackson, Look Sharp
Joe Jackson was one of those names I'd heard, but never knew much about, and a customer at Media Play actually got me to check out his music. When I did, I realized that he was one of those musicians I knew lots of songs by, I'd just never given too much thought to the fact that they were all done by the same guy. I found a copy of the cassette of this album for $1 at Used Kids Records, and this seriously never left the car. I actually bought a vinyl copy of this so I could have a home copy and a car copy, I loved it so much. So even if there was a rare occasion that it left the cassette deck, I still had it in the car so it could go back in at any second. This was my first car, and I remember listening to this album while driving around looking for my first apartment. I got to see Joe Jackson on my 32nd birthday, and it was amazing beyond description.

Nick Lowe, The Convincer
Back when Columbus had a Virgin Megastore (we have a lame Crate and Barrel now), Chris and I used to go there and spend hours thumbing through the racks and listening to the new releases. I've always liked Nick Lowe, but had never owned much by him other than the "Cruel To Be Kind" 45". When I saw that he had a new album I decided to check it out and i put on the headphones. After about track 3 I had the album in my hand and was ready to buy. This album is amazing. The songs are so well written and well produced, and it is another that didn't leave the car for months after I bought it. The love songs are deep and sweet, and the songs that are bitter are only so underneath so the songs themselves are quite enjoyable. His cover of Johnny Rivers' "Poor Side Of Town" is worth the cost of the album alone.

Yaz, Upstairs at Eric's
My friend Nicole introduced me to Yaz in 1992, and I've been obsessed with them (and Alison Moyet) ever since. Yazoo is known to Americans as Yaz because of a name conflict with another band. This album is the soundtrack to my sophomore year of high school for sure. I think this is the only thing that got the World Party tape out of the Walkman. I listened to this constantly, and I love Alison's voice so much. When they reunited in 2008, they played New York and I was lucky enough to go see them with friends. My memory of their performance of "Only You" is a blurry one since I cried through the whole thing as I was so excited to be hearing it and seeing them live. I've become a teen in my 30s as I kinda dress like Alison now, and that's kinda on purpose.

An open letter to Wal-Mart customers

Dear Wal-Mart customers-

Seriously, you can't throw your drink away when you're finished with it? Do all of your cups have to go on the ground in the parking lot? Have ANY of you noticed the garbage cans placed at the entrances of businesses?

Just wondering,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Coronet films

One of my friends posted a link on their Facebook page to a YouTube video about Facebook etiquette that was in the style of one of those 1950s films about manners or hygiene. I've always thought those were hilarious, maybe because I grew up watching Pee Wee Herman specials (no Mr. Bungle in THIS lunchroom!) and MST3K. I did see some of these as a kid, and I also found them to be rather goofy since the ones I saw were mainly from the 1970s and very, very dated from the clothing. In the 80s there wasn't much funnier to us than bellbottoms.

After seeing this Facebook etiquette video, I checked around YouTube for actual films from the 1950s. I found quite a few, and some that I've seen as MST3K shorts. This one is my favorite so far.

This was produced by Coronet Films which if you ask me, is the gold standard for hilarious educational films. This one is called "What To Do On A Date", and there is something so charming about the squareness of these ideas. I'm all for creative ideas for first dates, something other than dinner and a movie. A movie is fine as a first date as long as you do something else too since you can't really talk during a movie. But a swim meet or a square dance? Adorable! I'd be totally cool with setting up the scavenger sale, but when I was a kid, it was considered uncool to do too many activities organized by the community center or school. It was considered more grown up to come up with your own ideas, and being at a chaperoned activity was a total buzz kill. But from this video, it looks like the adults of this town trust these clean cut kids to set up the scavenger sale and take a bike trip by themselves.

I also love Kay and Nick's playful banter. And when Nick says he always thought that girls only wanted guys to take them fancy places and spend lots of money, Kay answers with "Not THIS girl!" She's a good egg, that Kay.

All in all, this one has a good message, but doesn't give very good examples. Something creative and not too fancy is a good idea, but a weenie roast may just be a bit too Girl Scout camp for me when it comes to a date.

There is another Coronet film that I liked, but I don't like the message. This one is called "Shy Guy", and it's on YouTube in 2 parts. Part 1 can be found here.

While we were watching this one for the first time, once we saw the "star" Chris said, "Is that Darren?" And lo and behold, this one stars a young Dick York who is just adorable as usual. He's a shy kid who dresses in suits and likes to tinker with radios, and has just moved to a new city and school. He's finding it hard to make friends, and is too shy to put himself out there. His father tells him to watch what the outgoing, aka, popular kids do, and see how they differ. Fortunately, Dick York's new school is full of polite and kind popular kids, so he actually picks up good habits. These kids are helpful and polite. If my dad had given me this advice, I'd have learned how to act dumb to get the football players to like them, or chew gum too loud while making fun of people's clothes.

Anyway, this film is too one sided. All of the burden is on the shy guy to conform and be like everyone else. There is nothing about how everyone else should be tolerant of the shy person and not make up stories about why they are so quiet. Granted, about a decade later Coronet did a film about understanding other people and their personalities and feelings, but in this on it just sounds like "Snap out of it, Shy Guy! Wear the same kind of clothes and be more like the rest of the gang and they'll like you!" Nothing about being yourself and finding others like you. Oh well, I grew up in the middle of the Marlo Thomas "Free To Be You And Me" era which says you are who you are, and we need to tolerate everyone.

One sided as it is, I have a new favorite quote that I'm going to be saying all the time. When the Shy Guy is observing the outgoing people, he hears one boy tell another about a book that will help him prepare for the exam. Shy Guy is mad at himself for the missed opportunity, and says "I knew about that book! I coulda been the guy who helped a guy!" Next time I need help, I'll ask someone "Hey, can you be the guy who helps a guy and give me a hand with this?"

There is something so charming about what people in the 1950s wanted everyone to think was the way to be. I'm sure way fewer people were really like this than Coronet would have us believe. Bettie Page and John Willie prove that. But the squareness is so cute. Too bad the squareness hides the intense intolerance. These are the palest short films you'll ever see.

Monday, May 25, 2009

An open letter to eBay sellers of candy dispensers

Dear eBay sellers of candy dispensers-

Klix aren't Pez. No amount of keyword comparisons will suddenly make me want to sully my Pez collection and buy your Klix.

Nothing against Klix, they are a fine product. They just aren't Pez.

Thank you,


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Where does the past belong?

This weekend I've been drowning in nostalgia. And I think I'm ready for some air.

I went to an alternative high school that was part of the main Worthington school system. The Linworth Alternative Program, or AP as we call it, is a small school that students apply to for acceptance. It's a public school, but it's not like regular high school. My friends who didn't go there call it my "nerd school", since the teaching model is very much in the style of university with small discussion based classes with grades depending on papers and exams, rather than daily homework, small quizzes and other such busywork. Our classes were very small, as was the school. The school was for grades 9-12, and the total of students from all 4 grades rarely got above 150. I think one year the school had 175, and that was considered a huge number. As such, when we have reunions, they aren't class reunions, they are reunions for anyone who ever went to the school. After all, when your graduating class has like 50 people in it, considering the low turnouts anyway, this isn't much of a gathering.

I'm bringing this up because students who went to Linworth were assigned a "Home School", which was one of the 2 main high schools in the district. This was the school a student would have gone to had that student not applied to the AP, and it was based on their location in the city. There were 2 high schools, and even as AP students we still had classes at the main campuses, since not everything was offered at the AP, and we didn't have separate extra curricular programs. Anyway, the graduating class of my main campus had their 15 year high school reunion last night. I know that was a lot of backstory to say that I went to a high school reunion, but I felt the explanation was necessary.

Now since I went to the AP all 4 years of high school and only ventured to the main campus for French and Theatre and that one year for Chemistry, I didn't know anyone outside of those classes. I did take Music Theory, but that was a lot of Theatre crossover. I didn't do the football game Friday thing, nor did I go to dances and such. Nothing against them (granted, I hate football), I just didn't know the people there. And the ones I did I knew from middle school or even elementary school. So there were a lot of people I saw this weekend who I haven't seen since the 1990 trip to Washington, D.C., let alone high school graduation.

So long story short, last night was weird.

I went because there were some friends from theater I hadn't seen in a very long time, and people who I've been chatting with on Facebook, so I had a nice time. But there were a lot of guys who remember more about my dad from when he was a wrestling coach. And while there are sometimes I feel very nervous to go to AP reunions (I know those people better and I don't exactly have a squeaky clean past), I was not at all nervous to go to this one. I had no interest in impressing these people, and I was just there to say hey. It was nice, but weird. It felt again like I was out of place and somewhere with people I don't really know. But we share a part of our past, and so it was nice to see that everyone is doing well.

And as I said to my friend Amelia, adulthood is the great leveler. We're in our 30s now and living in a big world where the popular kids aren't popular anymore. Any drama we had in high school with anyone is gone. At least, it should be. There is no reason to hang onto crap for this long unless something really, really bad happened. I've become extremely forgiving in recent years.

Today, Chris went to Mansfield to a toy show with our nephew, and I stayed home as we had guests coming today. And this being the 8 days of the 80s on VH1 Classic, I watched 80s videos all day long. Like from letter L to letter R, flipping during sucky videos over to Die Hard on Cinemax. And I started thinking how this weekend was a really good example of how much I live in the past.

When I was a manager of a music store, I hired a lot of young people since someone needed to know what the kids were listening to these days. One day, one of my employees came in and asked me about a commercial he had seen with an 80s song in it, and he asked me who the band was. When I told him, he said "I KNEW you would know!" And this one statement made me feel very very old. I thought, I do really listen still to a lot of 80s music. I haven't gotten into many new bands lately, and I'm becoming one of those people who haven't added much to their record collection since college. And this scared me into spending hours on iTunes and Amazon clicking from suggestion to suggestion trying to find something new.

I do get a bit stuck on things which eventually become old things. Like I've always said that movies I've seen a million times are like good old friends. You know them really well and they can put you in whatever mood you need to be. But lately I've been finding that the same old movies don't have the same old effect on me anymore, and I think this means I'm ready to find a more current repertoire in all aspects of my life.

I need to find conversation topics that don't involve past shenanigans. I need to become obsessively passionate about a new band. I need at favorite movie released after 2005. And when I pick up again with the people I knew long ago, I need to interact with them as we are now, and not try to hold onto how we used to be. And I need to be okay that things are going to be different, even if I was not ready for the change to happen. I need to look ahead rather than cling to what is behind me, and not feel the need to revisit so much. The past isn't the best place to be, it's just what I'm used to. I need to remember that what is in front of me is what I make of it, and if I want to I can make it rule.

By the way, it was The Cars.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

An Open Letter to Dr. Denis Leary

Dear Dr. Leary-

May I begin with congratulating you on your recent honorary degree! I've always hoped I'd do something famous enough to have such an honor bestowed upon myself. Thing is, I don't think you get one of these unless you actually graduated from someplace. I wonder if I could get so famous that I could say to the Ohio State University "Well, I always intended to return to finish and get that Women's Studies degree once I got out of the debt that prevented me from continuing college, does that count? I could just save everyone a lot of time and go straight to the honorary doctorate. After all, isn't an honorary degree about as useful as a Women's Studies degree?"

Honestly, that wasn't a dig at you. It was a dig at myself and my complete and total inability to finish anything. If we want to discuss this, we can start with my unfinished degree and work our way down to the repair job I promised 4 years ago to a co-worker at a job I don't even work anymore. Her mother's pearls and the vermeil and the intentions are all still sitting getting dusty in my repair job bin on my beading table. Hell, I'll be lucky if I ever finish this letter.

I really was congratulating you. Honest. I think you deserve way more recognition that you get, and certainly more than Rescue Me provides you.

I'm writing because I am in the middle of reading your book. And before you say to yourself "Christ, here's another one!", just hear me out for a second. I'll just get it out of the way right now so you won't think you're reading another pissed off letter: I love your book. I think it needed to be written and it all needs to be said, and I'm glad you're doing it, since I don't really think anyone remembers your speech from Demolition Man even though that was the best thing about that movie.

I've seen Judgement Night too, and I quote Lock and Load all the time. See? I like you!

Anyway, back to your book. I think your book is going to piss off a lot of people that really need to be pissed off. Anyone who can't handle the truth and blames the person who brings it up is a pain in the ass. Sure, the truth hurts, but it's still the truth. I don't think there is any reason to bring things up only for the purpose of being hurtful. Statements like "Geez, why are you still wearing that shirt, you know that's why Julie left you!" or "I'll bet watching Vera Drake was hard for you, what with the 3 abortions you have under your belt." There's no reason to bring up hurtful stuff and hide behind the phrase "What, I'm just being honest!" But that's not what you're doing here. You're telling general truths and they are truths we need to face and deal with.

I should tell you a little bit about myself. I'm 33, married with no children or desire for children (I pause here to take my birth control pill while I'm thinking about it) and I'm fat. I do have more to my personality (I collect Pez and enjoy live music and independent film) but nothing that really gets talked about in your book other than my weight problem. And trust me, I know it's a problem. I'm not going to sit here and talk about the unrealistic standard of beauty portrayed in the media and how everyone of all sizes can be beautiful. Granted, there is a bizarre standard of beauty that basically says unless you are a dead ringer for a Rodin sculpture who is no older than 28, you're hideous. We all know this is bullshit (although it would be nice to be that in shape, I must admit), but that's not the point I'm trying to make.

The reason I mentioned that I am fat is because it's about the only thing I think you're book is going to target. And I just wanted to get it out of the way and admit it and let you know that I really don't mind you targeting fat people. While I don't think I should be made a pariah due to my size, I also don't think I have nothing wrong with me. I eat too much cheese and barely exercise, and I love ice cream. I know what those 3 things combined will create. Sure, when you talk about fat people in your book, I feel a little bad about myself, but I don't blame you. I don't think "Damn you Denis Leary! You have no right to talk about me like that! You don't know me!" What I am thinking is "Jesus, he's right. Do I even know where my gym membership card is? Do I even still belong to the gym? Dammit, that's one more thing I have to do tomorrow." And then I eat some chips and go on reading.

You mention in your book that stereotypes exist because they are true, and I agree with you. No one ever says "You mean to tell me you actually saw a white person in a pickup truck and a cowboy hat? In the CITY? Wait, you talked to him and he said he lives in an apartment and has never owned a cow? I don't believe it! Something new every day!" Or you don't ever hear "Damn, I was shocked to see the woman who bought all of those scrapbooking supplies get into a minivan of all things!" Stereotypes aren't there because only 2 people fall into them. One of my goals in life is to stay out of a stereotype as much as possible. Sadly, I'm a fat girl who loves science fiction and comic books, so I fall smack dab into the middle of a stereotype, and won't get out until I drop a few pounds. I do shower daily so this puts me in the upper echelon of this group.

What I'm not going to do is get angry at your book for pointing out that I fall into a stereotype. Granted, stereotypes are no reason to pay someone less or not hire them or not allow them to receive benefits or something. And sure, it's not nice of people to judge everything about a person based on where they fall into a stereotype, but hey, that one part of them still fits the stereotype. Okay, maybe you have a PhD in philosophy, but if you have those really long nails with the earrings in them, I'm going to have a pretty good idea about your sense of taste.

So I'm preaching to the choir here, I need to stop. You know what I'm saying, you've already said it all in your book! You know that the fair thing to do is to give someone a chance, but you also know, as I do, that you will likely not be surprised by someone. If you are, great, and count them as one of the good ones. But more often than not, what you think about a person is usually an accurate assessment. People as a whole are extremely facile, and nowhere near as interesting as they would like to consider themselves. In my experience, the ones who are loudest in their declarations of their own uniqueness are the plainest of the bunch. They'd rather talk about how unique they are rather than do something that makes them unique.

So long story short, I'm a fat leftist American female, and I love this book. Cross me off the list of possible people to be offended, because the truth isn't offensive. You're not one of those white guys making unfair assumptions based on the one person he's ever met, you know your shit. You may offend someone who says "Hey, I'm a (fill in type) and I don't do (whatever you said that type does)!", but you can always come back with "Sure, maybe not you, but you know that others in your similar ilk do exactly what I described, right?" and the answer will always be something like "Well.....yeah....I guess...."

Nice job. I think this book should be required reading for teenagers, to help them avoid becoming just another sucky American asshole. A great song by the way. "I like football and porno and books about war" is so descriptive, I know exactly who you mean.

Yours in Christ,
Xan Sprouse

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Joss Whedon is my new They Might Be Giants

I attended high school from the years 1990 to 1994, or in terms of epochs, this was the heyday something called college rock. I don't think any bands are classified as college rock anymore. Anyone who would have been in the early 90s now just falls under the blanket category of "indie rock", even if they are on a major label. Maybe the term "alternative rock" still gets used, but since I gave up the quest to be the ultimate music snob about a decade ago, I stopped paying attention to labels. If I like something, I kinda don't give a rats ass how it's labeled by the industry. Unless it is considered emo, in which case my old snobbish ways would most likely rear their ugly heads and make me think twice about wether or not I want to be the girl in her 30s buying emo records. So far, this hasn't been an issue.

With my formidable years being the early 90s, I was lucky in that college rock was readily available where I grew up. Columbus had (and still has) some pretty decent radio stations that play such music, so we don't have to get Sirius in order to have a choice other than country and top 40. I also went to a very small high school which meant I was around the upperclassmen more than had I gone to a bigger school. As such, I learned about new music from the seniors, wether it was because they told me about bands or I learned about a band by noticing their name on t-shirts. And since I went to an alternative high school with my only exposure to the "main campus" being theater, we're talking about kids who were into the college rock thing. My freshman year I learned about bands I'd never heard of before, but still love to this day like The Pixies and The House of Love. Sophomore year, I spent a lot of Saturdays doing stagecraft for theater which meant hours of mix tapes made by the other stagecrafters. Theater stagecraft was where I first heard the Stone Roses, and They Might Be Giants.

Well, that's not entirely true. I'd first heard They Might Be Giants when my friend Sara came to visit and brought her cassette of Lincoln, which to date is still my favorite of the TMBG albums. I loved this at first spin, or spool I suppose since this was a tape, and dubbed it from her. I'd heard of them, but never knew anything about them until Sara played me Lincoln. So I had no idea that this was not their most recent album. After Lincoln came an album called Flood which was released in 1990. This was the album that contained the alternative/college/whateverthehell rock stapes such as "Particle Man", the classic "Istanbul, Not Constantinople", and the odd but lovable "Minimum Wage". To this day I can't say the words "Minimum Wage" without singing it to myself and hearing "HYAH!" after it.

Anyway, in alt rock circles, Flood was huge and my high school was certainly in said circle. It was played during most stagecraft Saturdays, parties, and people sang songs like "Birdhouse In Your Soul" while on the bus to and from the campuses of our school. And truth be told, I got a little sick of it. Now I'm not reverting back to my music snob ways and saying the classic snob declaration of "I like their old stuff better", because that's not true. I like Flood, I just don't like to be drowned in it.

Sorry about that.

But I do like Flood. It has a lot of really good songs on it, and so do the albums that came after Flood. I think I have a soft spot for Lincoln since it was my first real exposure to the band, and Sara and I have been singing those songs together for 18 years now. But even with my nostalgic feelings for Lincoln, a little of TMBG goes a long way for me. I can maybe listen to about 5 songs in a row, but after that I start to get sick of it. This has never been a band where I can put all of the albums in a CD changer or on my iPod, hit shuffle and listen all day. I won't change the station if a TMBG song comes on the radio, but if it's a 5 song rock block I might start looking for another station around song 4.

Yet I've met several people who can listen to TMBG all day long. They love this band, almost disciple level devotion. They're not like Cure fans or anything, but still, devoted beyond what I can offer. Some of these people did stagecraft with me, so a lot of my Saturdays were inundated with TMBG. Sadly, I think listening to this extremely this peppy music a 9AM after a long walk in the cold to the shop was a big contributor to my inability to listen to this band for more than 30 minutes at a time.

I have seen this band live, and live is different. I had no trouble at the concert with the exception of being pickpocketed, but I didn't have the tapes playing in the car before or after the show. And while I own albums by them and genuinely do like this band, I just can't provide the level of devotion others can to them. Sure, I had a crush on John Linnell and sure I've purchased the Lincoln album at least twice now due to changing formats, but I never was as obsessed with this band as others I've known. My first inclination when I'm in the need for dairy that is out of my reach is to say "Please pass the milk, please", so it's not like I can't ever stand this music or like to sing it myself.

A few years ago there was a Hellboy miniseries called "Conquerer Worm", and every time I said that my brain wanted to sing it as "They call me Conquerer Worm/Good morning how are you, I'm Conquerer Worm/I'm interested in things"...... you get the idea. I could go on with examples of how other such TMBG references are locked in my brain, but I digress.

Something I did become obsessed with in high school however was a movie called Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This movie came out in 1992 and I was all over it because it was the first thing Paul Reubens had done since his unpleasantness. It also starred Rutger Hauer who I consider to be extremely fun to look at in spite of the fact that he often plays really really mean characters. And at the time, the casting of Luke Perry as a punk mechanic rather than the bad boy with a pompadour he was best known for from 90210 was relevantly ironic. Keep in mind this movie also featured future Academy Award winner Hilary Swank as well as the always fantastic Donald Sutherland. Of course, Kristy Swanson as Buffy was wonderful as well. "I am the chosen one, and I choose to go shoppping." I love this movie.

I was not however into the idea of this being a TV show when it was released in 1997. With the exception of M*A*S*H*, the idea of turning a movie into a TV show is rarely a good one. My initial feelings towards Buffy were no exception. I thought "Why ruin this good thing by making a TV show? This can't be good!" I had no desire to watch Sydney from Swans Crossing take over the role I thought had been expertly portrayed by the girl who tells Ben Stein that Ferris Bueller is sick. And, I would get excited when flipping through the on screen channel guide when I saw Buffy listed, only to be disappointed that it was just the show, not the movie.

I successfully avoided Buffy for a good 6 or 7 years. I had tons of friends who loved this show and tried and tried to get me to give it a chance, but to no avail. Not until my husband started buying the DVDs did I even consider it, and even then it took a year or two for me to want to see what this show was all about. So one night, we made some snicky snack food and settled in to school me on Buffy the TV show. Surprisingly, I found myself really enjoying it. I think we made it through 2 seasons in 3 days.

Everything everyone had told me about it was true. It's very different from the movie, so they can be separate entities and one won't taint the other. Sarah Michelle Gellar made a good Buffy, and her new Watcher Giles played by Anthony Steward Head is fantastic. The writing was clever, and I did love the friends Buffy had on TV much more than the friends she had in the movie. Hilary Swank's Oscar notwithstanding, those girls were bitches.

The clever writing I learned was thanks to the show's creator, Joss Whedon who had been a contributing screenwriter for Toy Story, which I loved. Around the time I finally began watching Buffy, the Angel spinoff had begun and so had the short lived but much loved Firefly series. And since I liked Toy Story and Buffy so much, I tried out Angel and Firefly, and really liked both of those as well. However, with the exception of Firefly (which was only barely half a season), I started to realize that I might be overdosing on Joss Whedon related programming.

I think it took about 2 weeks for Chris and I to watch up through half of season 5 of Buffy before I started to get sick of it. This was around that whole Glory storyline which I did not really get into, and it even started to feel like effort to watch episodes of Angel. I had to give it a rest, which I did for like 3 or 4 more years. If there was an episode on television when I couldn't sleep I'd watch it, but I wasn't making my way through the season sets of the DVDs anymore.

I'm going to segue here but I promise it leads somewhere.

In 2007 and 2008, I returned to my obsession with Doctor Who that I'd had in high school and college. Chris and I hadn't been keeping up with the new series, but what I'd seen I'd loved so we decided to get caught up before the 4th season started. I became so obsessed with this new show that it took me about 3 weeks to watch all 3 seasons of Doctor Who and both seasons of Torchwood. After I was done with these, I started getting the old episodes from the library and Netflix, trying to get mainly old Dalek episodes since those were my favorite. When the Daleks made their first appearance in the new series, I actually yelled "No way! That's what I'm talking about!" to the television. Alone in my house. Sad.

After I'd exhausted the Doctor Who that was readily available, I wanted something else to watch and remembered that I'd never finished all of the seasons of Buffy. I decided to just start season 5 over again since it had been so long, and so I grabbed the box set and threw the disc in, and lasted about 2 episodes.

I was still burned out on Buffy. I tried Angel as well, but still, I just couldn't get into it. To this day I've only seen about 5 episodes total from seasons 5-7 of Buffy. One of those was the last one, so I have my closure. And Angel, I've seen a bit past Doyle's death and the Muppet episode, but that's about it. I've also yet to sit down and watch Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, and I've not watched a single episode of Dollhouse even though my DVR faithfully records it every week. I also have a larger than I'm proud of stack of unread Buffy, Angel, and Spike comics. Worse yet, I've read only the first 2 issues of Joss Whedon's X-Men. And, I have pretty lukewarm feelings about that musical episode of Buffy.

Now to some, what I just admitted is completely and utterly unthinkable. The thought that there is Joss Whedon material out there that is unseen is cause for an epic quest not to be abandoned until all Whedon has been watched, read, or heard. And to them, I must seem like a heretic.

There are some Joss Whedon fans who have a devotion to his work that is admirable. It's fun to like something that much. Said fans will tell you their 5 favorite shows are Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and maybe Tru Calling and Bones because they star Buffy alumni. They own the issues and the trades of the Joss Whedon X-Men, and probably read their Buffy comics in the car after they pick them up. And while I enjoy the work of Whedon, and while I am friends with fans like this, I cannot share in this obsession. The same way I cannot share the obsession with my They Might Be Giants fan friends.

Again, don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy this stuff. Firefly and the movie Serenity that came after are both amazing and I love them. I still dust off my copy of Lincoln and rock out to "Cage And Aquarium" like it's 1991. But I'm not setting my schedule around the Dollhouse time slot, and if I have to hear "Santa's Beard" at Christmas again I think I may scream. And I know I'm not the norm here. I wouldn't be so dismissive as to call myself a casual fan, but I'm not a hardcore one either. Maybe like with my music, I don't like labeling my levels of fandom. I'm just simply a fan, even if you won't catch me at a midnight sale for a new TMBG release or in line weeks ahead of time to get the first ticket to the first showing of a new Firefly movie.

Although if we ever find out that Wash isn't really dead, I'll be the first to throw a party. Oh, and John? Wink.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Another on the side blog...

...or so it seems.

Well, it looks like I'm doing my own blog again. I didn't plan on this one. I started this blogger account a long time ago so I could comment on other blogs, and this account has just been sitting here since 2007. And as I realized tonight that there are times when I want to write but I feel too lazy to pick up a pen, a blog is perfect.

I have a lot of friends on LiveJournal, but for some reason, I like this Blogger program better. I used to keep a fairly regular blog on MySpace, but I'm almost never on MySpace anymore. I don't get what happened, I just think all of the grown-ups like Facebook better. I certainly do. I like just being on there. It feels like a virtual way to hang out in the Big Room. If someone shows up, cool, if not, you just do silly games.

Anyway, I know I have the blog I keep with Chris, but sometimes I just don't feel my brain droppings are appropriate for our blog. And I've yet to decide if I want to tell anyone about this blog or not. I suppose it depends on the content.

And I think what I am segueing to is a good reason to not tell anyone that I have a blog. I'm going to talk about my period and various body stuff.

And I'm not using the word blog after this sentence. It's one of those words that starts to sound incorrect after saying it too often. Kinda like the word "gummi".

Okay, back to the period. First off, I'm having this terrible sense of self-loathing because I hate reading other women's period stories. Having been a Women's Studies major, I've read more than I care to about what other women feel about their period or how the masturbate. So I'll being by apologizing for being a woman who wants to get back into writing and starts with a period story.

What prompted me to write this is that I was down in my kitchen and realized that I as I age, my periods become more and more stereotypical. When I was young, I had about 5 periods a year, maybe 6. I did not have a regular system at all. I had a regular one for about 3 months at the beginning of 1995, but it went right back to my usual patternless hell. I would be very crampy, but I wouldn't get bitchy, I'd get whiny. The whininess is all that has remained constant. But now, I have regular periods and while they are getting shorter and lighter, they are pretty much the same drill since I was in college. I describe it like a vacation. The first day is only really a half day, so you don't do much. Your second day you maybe sleep in a little and take it easy since hey, you're on vacation, why rush it? But then by the end of the day, you've begun to try to jam pack as much as you can do into your day. Day three is a whirlwind. You try to do as much stuff as possible, almost doing too much but you immerse yourself in your vacation. By the time you return to the hotel the night of day 3, you are exhausted and your feet hurt, so you decide to take a more vacation-like pace beginning day 4. Day 4 you get a lot done, but you breathe too, even giving yourself time to eat. And by the 6th or 7th day of vacation, you're ready to get back home and you're taking it easy.

But I was in the kitchen earlier to make a snack and I realized that I am craving salt like a crazy salt lick addict. I made myself tortilla pizzas, but that wasn't enough. I hate about 10 green olives, some stuffed with pimento, others anchovy, and tortilla chips. These were the saltiest things in the house short of grinding salt directly into my mouth. I've never been the salt craving kind. I get the iron cravings (spinach or burgers), but the salt thing is new to me.

I'm 33 now, which means my body is set to completely betray me any second now. I loosened the lid by allowing myself to be overweight. I've begun to notice things like this salt thing. Another example is my growing intolerance for spicy foods. I hate this because I love spicy foods. I can't eat half as much as I used to (yeah yeah, but still fat, I'm aware) and I can get knocked out.....

I just totally lost my train of thought. I think I need to put this one to bed, because I just read my last sentence and I have no idea where I was going with that. I'll start up my next bl..... um, one of these things soon as I talk about how Joss Whedon is my new They Might Be Giants.