Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Life Less Ordinary

Toward the end of last summer I began to walk for exercise with a neighbor ("K")whom, prior to our daily walks, was simply a nice woman that said hi to me from time to time. There's nothing like walking for an hour or two at a clip to accelerate a relationship. We know practically everything about each other now, and she's turned out to be a wonderful friend.

Still, as we walked yesterday she revealed something in passing that I couldn't believe we hadn't talked about previously: Her father was a mortician and she grew up living in the family's funeral home. Having been a huge fan of HBO's "Six Feet Under", I was fascinated and had a million questions to ask her.

What became quickly evident though, was that the show had barely touched upon the more horrific aspects of this life for a small child. K told me that because her father was a large man, his hands were too beefy to manage the bodies of tiny infants...some of whom had died at birth. Her job as a little girl was to dress them and place them into their caskets. In one case, a set of triplets didn't make it past their second day of life, and she had to wriggle their limp bodies into soft gowns and arrange all three in one box.

Many of her childhood days were spent sitting at the top of the stairs that led down to the chapels, listening to people arrive and to the anguished sounds as they were swallowed up by their grief. Her grandmother would scoop her up and take her to the kitchen to make cookies, never acknowledging or explaining the life events taking place on the first floor.

Although she has no memories of this particular event, the family talked for years about the day that they found little K sitting in a rocking chair, singing to a baby that she had removed from its casket. Without a word, her grandmother simply lifted the baby from her arms, placed it back into the box, and happily asked if they should make oatmeal or chocolate chip today.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

He's Kinda Pitchy, Dawg

My son loves his iPod Shuffle. I load it up periodically with new stuff so he doesn't have to listen to "Bad to the Bone" a million times. He loves him some Tom Waits, and is happiest listening to Tom's latest 3-CD extravaganza, "Orphans". His taste in music is really eclectic, from the aforemention Waits to the "Chicago" soundtrack to Yo-Yo Ma. He loves The Killers and The Cardigans and Tegan and Sara, but still adores the Sesame Street classic gems I've included such as Ernie's "Dance Myself to Sleep" and "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon" (I'll admit to being reduced to tears every time I hear that one). One of his favorite tunes is The JCB Song by Nizlopi...a little gem I discovered quite by accident. Doesn't hurt that it's about a boy named Luke and his dad.

So, what's the problem? Well...for all of his marvelous music-appreciation abilities, the kid can't carry a tune across the room. It is a trait he inherited from his father (one dear friend of mine gets an enormous kick out of the fact that I attribute all of my son's less-than-stellar qualities to his dad, while taking full credit for his brilliance. So sue me.) Anyway, we're not talking a little bit tone deaf. We are talking Eddie Murphy in "48 Hours" tone deaf. Make a dog scream for mercy tone deaf.

I don't have the heart to ask him not to sing along with the iPod. He's enjoying himself SO much. But this certainly explains why he had a soft spot for Sanjaya.

However, he started out with a decent voice, although the Beatles lyrics were a little confusing for a 2 year old.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Clifford the Big Fat Liar

Last Saturday night I saw The Hoax, the film about author Clifford Irving's attempt to resurrect his career by claiming to be the voice of Howard Hughes... the only journalist Hughes trusted enough to write his story. I remember the events as they occurred in the 70s, so I was particularly excited to see the film. Richard Gere and Alfred Molina are terrific.

Unfortunately, about 1/2 hour prior to the end of the film, my cell phone buzzed. My son had gotten sick and was yorking up his dinner, so we had to make a beeline home. Yes, I know how the story ends... but I am still anxious to watch the rest of it unfold on film, in this film, so I've already got it in my "Saved" queue on Netflix.

OH, and I'm totally prepared for the Big Fat Liars of America to come knocking at my door any minute now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Because We Can All Use A Laugh

Tuesday night on Idol, Jordin Sparks was on fire (groan...but she was incredible) and Melinda Doolittle was great as always. But I was so happy to hear Simon tell Melinda to drop the "surprised" routine that she does every week. It's getting old. A few weeks ago, my favorite send-up show "The Soup" on E! did an hilarious bit about Melinda. Check it out!

And now, thank DAWG, Sanjaya is history!! Oh sure, he'll have a "career". The same kind of career that William Hung had. In a culture where celebrity doesn't need to be connected to any particular ability (see "Anna Nicole Smith"), he'll get his extended 15 minutes. Then, hopefully, he'll go away.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yes, Virginia...Guns Kill Innocents

This post has been removed, because while it was not meant to be a springboard for debate it turned into that with one commenter.

I'd say more, but that would just fuel the fire. Instead, I'll just say that we've turned off the news at our house because I don't need that guy in my living room.

Monday, April 16, 2007

No Words

Now, something to say "enough" about. As a parent, I cannot begin to imagine what the parents of those kids are going through. Send your kid to school, never imagining that being gunned down is a potential scenario. Good lord.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Don Bleep Dies

Don Ho died yesterday. Unfortunately, his death cannot be reported by mainstream journaists or they might lose their jobs. In fact, I'm a little concerned that Blogger will toss me from the blogosphere for uttering his name. You must admit...the timing is a little humorous.

Friday, April 13, 2007

That Was The Week That Was

There were a lot of crazy things that happened this week in the news, but I would be remiss if I didn't weigh in on the Imus story. I think everyone agrees that racial humor is unacceptable, but why Imus and why this time? What about Howard Stern, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and countless other comedians who make their living offending people? How did Rush Limbaugh get away with calling women "FemiNazis" on his radio show for years? Oh right.... that pesky old First Amendment.

Clearly, this wasn't the first time that Imus said something offensive over the years, yet millions of people continued to listen to his show, advertisers continued to sponsor him, and politicians and and blue alike...continued to appear on his show. But when he offends sports figures that somehow crosses the line? Maybe this says more about America's obsession with sports than with our supposed "outrage" over public racism. Michael Richards made a vicious rant against black people that was not a part of his comedy act, yet Seinfeld videos continue to sell and advertisers continue to sponsor the syndicated reruns. Mel Gibson's career didn't go down in flames after his anti-Semitic diatribe.

Phil Mushnick of the The New York Post had a good take on the situation and the hypocrisy involved in his column here. I think it's sad that this will be Imus' legacy, when he's done so much good for so many. Sure, he brought it on himself. But let's be equal-opportunity enforcers and practice our newfound zero tolerance across the board.

For another EXCELLENT take on this topic, check out Upward Over the Mountain.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The US vs. John Lennon - A Must See Film

The best 100 minutes I've spent in awhile was spent watching this documentary. Not only did it take me back to my own anti-war roots in the late '60s and early '70s, but it made me realize how apathetic we've become as a nation. We speak in polite tones about how appaling the current debacle in Iraq is, but we don't express it with the passion and outrage that we did during Vietnam. And if you think the comparison is not valid, here's an excerpt from a Richard Nixon speech on Vietnam (some of which was capured in the film). If this doesn't sound familiar to you, listen a little closer when Bush speaks about Iraq:

"We have adopted a plan which we have worked out in cooperation with the South Vietnamese for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat ground forces, and their replacement by South Vietnamese forces on an orderly scheduled timetable. This withdrawal will be made from strength and not from weakness. As South Vietnamese forces become stronger, the rate of American withdrawal can become greater.

I have not and do not intend to announce the timetable for our program. And there are obvious reasons for this decision which I am sure you will understand. As I have indicated on several occasions, the rate of withdrawal will depend on developments on three fronts.

One of these is the progress which can be or might be made in the Paris talks. An announcement of a fixed timetable for our withdrawal would completely remove any incentive for the enemy to negotiate an agreement. They would simply wait until our forces had withdrawn and then move in.

The other two factors on which we will base our withdrawal decisions are the level of enemy activity and the progress of the training programs of the South Vietnamese forces. And I am glad to be able to report tonight progress on both of these fronts has been greater than we anticipated when we started the program in June for withdrawal. As a result, our timetable for withdrawal is more optimistic now than when we made our first estimates in June. Now, this clearly demonstrates why it is not wise to be frozen in on a fixed timetable.

We must retain the flexibility to base each withdrawal decision on the situation as it is at that time rather than on estimates that are no longer valid."

Of course, most of the film centers around the outrageous behavior of the FBI and their attempts to silence dissenters on behalf of Nixon's White House. Truly horrifying. There are no conspiracy theories posed about the death of Lennon. I applaud the filmmakers' restraint in that regard.

For me, there was a bit of comc relief as well: Seeing Bobby Seale as a guest on the Mike Douglas Show. Those were different times, my friends.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

"Happy Yeast"

My grandmother's accent was a constant source of amusement for me as a kid (and admittedly still is, years after her death). It was always affectionate amusement, though, as opposed to the "sauce of entertainment" that is my mother.

Easter is a holiday that I just don't "get". Since my recovery from Catholicism it holds no religious significance for me, and now that I have children older than 6 there's no secular significance either. No bunnies or coloring of eggs around here. If it's supposed to be a celebration of the beginning of Spring, tell that to the 36 degree winter-like conditions out my front door.

In the 60s, however, it was a wonderful opportunity for parents everywhere to humiliate their children by dressing them up in spongy "spring coats" and scratchy hats with annoying chin straps that were prime targets for snapping (until bra straps replaced them). Boys were not exempt. They wore suits with shorts, a look that has just never caught on. Understandably.

Here are some real life illustrations:

This is my mean sister, the one I don't talk to anymore. It tickles me to post this picture of her with the Jackie O hat, sexy netting and all.

I do love this sister, so I hope she doesn't kill me, but the hat is priceless. The ultimate Easter Bonnet. She actually looks younger NOW, at 61.

Two of my cousins who were just so damned cute as little kids. But note the suit. And shorts. And wallpaper.

Me in my "Total Dork" period, complete with missal and Edith Prickly eyeglasses. My mother's fashion sense (for us, not for her) could only be described as "Pastel Refugee".

OK, I'll admit that this was one cute dress. It must have been a gift!

So.... to all who celebrate, "Happy Yeast!". As for us pagans, we'll be spending the day watching The Masters and anticipating the start of the final season of The Sopranos.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"...and your little dog, too!"

margie_gulch, originally uploaded by panthergirl.

My mother always hated animals. In Brooklyn, we would say she "shkeeved" them. If we were visiting someone who had a dog, she'd cringe if the little thing so much as brushed up against her. Every once in awhile I'd drag a stray kitten home, but it would be banished outdoors and would eventually leave. Since my dad loved dogs (sort of, but that's another story), we got a German Shephard puppy when I was about five. She was not allowed in the house except to sleep in a small area of the basement. Eventually she got sick. My parents took her to the vet and came home without her, tossing some matter-of-fact explaination, leaving us shocked and heartbroken.

When I was in High School, a friend found a puppy in a dumpster and gave it to me. I did a big sell job, promising my parents that she was going to be a small dog, and somehow my they agreed to let me keep her. AND because she was so little she was even permitted indoors. I named her Stymie, after the character on the Little Rascals. (Clearly she was neither male nor black, but those details didn't dissuade me.)

Stymie was kind of a pain, as she never really got the hang of "housebreaking", but we all adored her. She was the strangest looking creature (although no match for Mr. Winkle). We guessed she was a cross between a Corgi and a Pekinese, without any of the cuteness. But one day, much to my amazement, I heard my mother coo, "We love you, Stymie..." Huh? "We love you"?? She never even told her KIDS that she loved them!

When I was 17 and graduated from high school, my parents moved to Florida and took Stymie with them. A few years later she died of leukemia and they were devestated. We couldn't even mention her name without both of them dissolving in tears.

The face that softened my mother's heart?


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Netflix Picks

Never having watched "Boston Legal" but knowing many people who love it, I've started renting Season One from Netflix and I'm hooked! I've loved James Spader since "Sex, Lies and Videotape" and he is just great in this show. What a psycho. And William Shatner as William Shatner (no matter how many times he says "Denny Crane", he's still Shatner to me) is just priceless. I loved "The Practice", but otherwise am not a huge David E. Kelley fan. This show, however, is smart and funny and very well crafted. Now...what time is the mail coming?

"Queens" is a terrific Spanish comedy that is less about several gay men planning a group wedding ceremony than it is about their mothers... very funny stuff. The kind of film you might only see thanks to the eclectic Netflix library.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sanjaya Quits Idol!!!

Quoted today as saying, "I am certain that I have a better chance at being a pop star if I quit Idol now. It's clear that I have a huge fan base who will buy millions and millions of my records as well as my "Hula For Dummies" DVD, and I want to be free to manage my own career now. I will only be held back by waiting to be crowned this year's American Idol, and besides...those songs they write for the finale show have WAY too many words."

April Fools!