Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Hello, I'm the Doctor, how are you?

And this is my companion, Sarah. She's from the north.

Defense of Marriage Act

If you read only one thing today, I beg of you to make it this.

Heidi forwarded this to me this morning and wow, it is a great piece. The author of the piece basically defends marriage from those that would pick it pieces and then weaves it into a impassioned plea to support marriages of ALL kinds. He lists all the reasons why being married rocks, and none got my cheering support more than this one:

The Ball and Chain is for Losers. I can't emphasize this enough. Adult men I knew growing up, or stereotypical sitcom dads on TV, were always talking about how "the old lady won't let me" just go and do whatever fun thing they wanted to do. News flash: If that's your life, it's both of your faults for being lame, uncommunicative, lazy bastards. Don't settle for misery. If my wife or I want to go do something, we just let the other know, and if the other person's not up for it, no problem. If they wanna tag along, even better.

Let me tell you, if there is any one thing that makes me insane, it is those men who use their wives as an excuse for everything that they supposedly "can't do." There is a fine dividing line between being courteous to the needs of your partner and being a doormat. A close cousin to this are those men that have been married so long that they are now completely incapable of matching their socks without help from their wives. I do think that this is a bit of a generational thing but I still see men of our generation acting this way! Stop the insanity!

Being married, as is mentioned in the article, is not always easy. You do have to make sacrifices and you don't always get along and sometimes the other person just makes you want to run screaming from the room. But overall it is a huge net positive - at least it has been for me.

And this is the part where I beg any of my California readers to vote No on Prop 8. While I don't think that marriage equality is dead in this country if Prop 8 passes (the tide is bigger than one state), it will send the wrong message and set the wrong type of precedent. And with Iowa waiting in the wings, lets hope that those non-discriminatory voices prevail in this fight.

Oh, and it's Halloween today! It's only the best holiday ever!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nothing gold can stay

I woke up this morning to find a comment from Paul on my Madonna concert post. The part of the comment that caught my eye the most was the non-Madonna related part of the comment.

David Tennant is leaving Dr Who!!!!!

I didn't believe it at first. This rumor has been floating around for over a year now, but alas, it is true.

Say it ain't so!

Tennant as the Tenth Doctor will always be "my Doctor." While Heidi's will probably always be Christopher Eccleston (#9), it was Tennant's mad energy that made the show for me. Yes, his Doctor was quirky and not for everyone, but he always seemed to be right in line with the show for me. I cannot blame Tennant for wanting to do other things either. He's an actor and not around just for the sole purpose of playing the Doctor. Still, it does make me feel a bit sad.

Our friends across the pond are used to the constant changing of the Doctor and his companion. I was sad (but not distraught) when the popular Rose left and was replaced by Martha as the Doctor's companion. However, I think the loss of Tennant as the Doctor is tremendous. There is little doubt that I will still continue to watch the show, but I don't think it will ever be the same.

At least we get 4 or 5 more episodes this year before Tennant is gone for good and he's regenerated into someone else entirely. And those will be some very large tennis shoes to fill.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


(In the interest of full disclosure, this is likely to be long. Just so you know.)

OK, it's time for me to get my butt in gear and blog the concert. The Sticky & Sweet Tour was the fourth Madonna tour that my good friend and Madonna partner-in-crime Jeff and I have been to and our first Madonna concert in Chicago since our first one, The Drowned World Tour. I'd like to say that it was something cosmic that led us to come full circle on Madonna concert locations this time around, but mostly, it was just the date that fit in best with Jeff's school calendar. We were also kind of looking to avoid having to fly, and Chicago was by far the closest that she was coming to Iowa.

We arrived in Chicago around 6pm on Saturday. Jeff and I were staying in the western burb of Naperville, mostly because hotels are MUCH cheaper in the burbs than in the city and also because the further west you stay in Chicago, the shorter the drive home on the day you leave. Anyway, we got there that night and checked into the hotel. Afterwards we went out and scouted around downtown Naperville looking for food and other diversions. We eventually found both and then headed back to the hotel where I watched my first full episode of SNL in over a decade.

The next day we headed into the city and spent most of our time in Boystown/Lakeview which is one of my favorite parts of the city. Our main destination was Borderline Music, which is a small record store that is a must-stop for me every time I go to Chicago. Named after the early Madonna hit song, it is a virtual treasure chest of Madonna CDs, vinyl and other memorabilia. But it is not limited to Madonna. If it is dance-pop or a gay icon, you can almost certainly find it in this store. It is great fun to shop in, although I'll admit the last time or two that I have gone I have not been as tempted as I was the first few times. Jeff picked up a couple of CDs (Hard Candy Extended Mixes and the Sticky & Sweet Tour Demos) but I left empty-handed. We ate at a little greasy spoon where I got my required Chicago hot dog and then it was time to go pick up my Blogger buddy Yuri, who was staying in a vacation apartment with his wife down by the Sears Tower.

This is where the trip got a bit tricky. On Halstead Street, while headed out to Lakeshore Drive, I managed to somehow mistake a right turn only lane for a parking lane and ended up turning out in front of a very large U-Haul truck. I heard and felt the thump and presumed the worst. Dear God, I have wrecked the car in Chicago. I stopped the car and looked at the damage and, while not bad and certainly not of "wrecking the car" caliber, it was still something I wish had not happened. There was no damage to the guy's U-Haul (he was probably going all of 10 miles an hour when he hit me) and it was clearly my fault so we went on our merry (well, maybe not so merry) way.

We got down to Yuri's place and picked him up and went back to Borderline. I was still rather unmoved and almost left empty-handed AGAIN, but ultimately, I picked up Guy Oseary's book of photos from the Confessions Tour for 40 bucks. First edition hardcover, and really, I just loved the Confessions Tour so much I thought, why the hell not? And as a bonus, I was given the album flat of Hard Candy, even though I had gotten into a disagreement with the owner of the store as to whether or not the Hard Candy album cover is worth a shit.

We grabbed some pizza and then headed for the show. There were some tense moments where I deviated from my map and didn't know exactly if the road I was on would connect to 90/94 or if it would simply go over it or under it, but I trusted my instincts and we made it intact (with only one brief trip through the ghetto that surrounds the United Center thanks to me not being in the right turn lane after exiting the 290 West to Damen Street.)

So, after all this, we finally made it to the concert. Once we got the car parked and got inside, we got in line to get buy the tour merchandise. It cost pennies to make and they sell it at 10,000% markup. However, like lemmings, we buy it anyway. I bought the tour book and the coffee mug (natch) and a little magnet. Total of 55 dollars. Jeez. All to feed the Madonna machine (and her divorce lawyers.)

We took our seats but I had another engagement. I knew that my one of my favorite Madonna bloggers (and fellow Debbie Harry fan) Matthew Rettenmund was going to be at the show as well. I took a chance and e-mailed him prior to leaving and asked him if he'd like to meet up and he was more than willing. He gave me his cell phone number and around 8, we were texting back and forth trying to find each other. Eventually, we met up. He's a wonderfully gracious fellow and it was great to meet him. So not only did I get to meet Yuri (who has been a long time pal via blogging), I got to meet yet another blogger! (XO, we wish you had been there as well!) That does not happen every day.

Madonna was, of course, fashionably late. She started around 9PM which was just about what Yuri predicted (I was predicting 9:20.) But when the lights went down and the music for the intro started, the crowd went wild. The opening animated sequence that led into "Candy Shop" was great. It was a bit like the opening credits to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and set the tone for the opening segment quite well. Before we knew it, the revolving platform came all the way around and revealed Madonna sitting on her throne. It was not quite the disco ball - nothing ever will top that - but it was a good entrance and kicked the show off well. I still am a bit embarrassed by how much I like "Candy Shop" but it is kind of one of those songs that is so bad it is good.

Far and away, my favorite segment of the tour was the "Old School" segment which featured Madonna doing the long rumored double-dutch jump roping in high heels. Starting with "Into The Groove" and winding through new and old stuff with remarkable finesse, it rivaled the opening segment of the Confessions Tour in quality. Included in this set was the rocked-up "Borderline" with Madonna doing her guitar playing. I did not miss out on my chance to sing along with 30,000 other fans to a 25 year old song that has not been performed live in just about that long. It was a great moment, right up there with the similar singing of "get up on the dance floor!" from "Vogue" at Re-Invention. And "She's Not Me," a new song from Hard Candy that I had been warming to was FANTASTIC, with Madonna beating up look alikes from various stages of her career while classic images played on the screens behind her.

My first moment of stunned awe came during the beautiful performance of "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You." Sitting on top of a grand piano, surrounded by transluscent screens upon which images of rain were being projected, Madonna was dressed like the grim reaper and performed what is perhaps my favorite song off of Hard Candy. This "gypsy" section also featured "La Isla Bonita" but really, for it being the 58,000th live performance of this song, it was pretty good. It was also pretty much the same performance that she did at Live Earth, so it's a bit lazy recycling that, but who can blame her? One big surprise of the evening was a very heartfelt performance of "You Must Love Me" from Evita. We expected it to be terrible, but it was actually VERY good.

The last segment of the show started off with Madonna in football gear (ill advised, IMHO) singing "4 Minutes" along with holographic images of Justin and Timbaland. I have been famously NOT a fan of "4 Minutes" but this performance was pretty good. The highlight of the last act, and arguably the whole show was "Like A Prayer." As Yuri would say, it was off the chain. Between the performance of this classic song and the words and images being projected up on the screen which included quotes from religious texts that highlighted just how similar all world religions really are, well, I'm not ashamed to say that I was profoundly moved. It was the point in the concert that many of her detractors would accuse her of being pretentious but the fans lap up.

Ultimately, the last act of the show was also its weakest, mostly because we had to suffer through yet another version of "Ray Of Light" which was not all that different from its Confessions Tour incarnation and a completely bastardized "Hung Up." Removing the synths and the ABBA sample and replacing them with crushing electric guitars was not a stroke of genius. And "Give It 2 Me," while a rousing closer, seemed a little too much like "Hung Up" from the Confessions Tour.

Still, I thought the concert was amazing and SO much better than I was expecting, especially since I am so lukewarm to Hard Candy. However, the tour has made me rethink a lot of the harsh words I had for Hard Candy. I still think it is mediocre and no Confessions on a Dance Floor and that Madonna is capable of MUCH better, but it is not terrible. I still cannot fucking stand "Incredible" and "Spanish Lesson" is still ridiculous, but I came to appreciate the album a lot more thanks to the live versions presented in the tour. And sometimes, it takes a live performance to get the song to the right spot in your head.

Leaving the United Center proved to be tricky as we waited for 45 minutes in the parking lot before hitting the expressway to take Yuri back to his apartment. It was far too short of time to spend together. I would have liked to have hung out with him more! I am happy to say that he is a great guy and damn lot of fun to hang out with. And we both share the same aversion to parallel parking. Brothers from another mother indeed.

And with that, Jeff and I were off to Naperville.

It's funny...every time Madonna tours, I say to myself "Oh, I went the last time, I don't need to go this time." Yes, it is expensive but the woman earns the price of those concert seats. And especially Sunday night, she was in such good spirits, smiled more than I have ever seen her smile during a show and engaged the audience in a very un-Madonna way. While I still think I liked the Confessions Tour better, this one probably took the place of Re-Invention in the number two spot. She never fails to amaze me in concert. There is something so surreal about being in the same room with Madonna, even if it is an arena the size of the United Center.

Next time, though, I'm joining the fan club so I can get those primo floor seats.

(all photos of the tour courtesy of madonnalicious)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From your head down to your toes

While we got a few flubbed lines of "Beautiful Stranger" during the requested song section of the show, the Monday night crowd got practically the entire version of "Dress You Up."

Somewhere, Matthew Rettenmund is really wishing he had had Monday night tickets (unless he did.)

MTV for us oldsters

It is practically a cliche to say "Remember when MTV used to play videos?" Well, as I am fond of saying, just because something is a cliche does not mean that it isn't true. As a child of the MTV generation, I cannot count the hours logged as a teenager watching music videos. The story I love telling is how on one Friday night in 1986, I was flipping between MTV, Friday Night Videos and Night Tracks and all three were playing the same video (for the record, it was Cinderella's "Nobody's Fool")

As I've gotten older, MTV and I kind of parted ways. But now, MTV has launched it's MTV Music site. And let me tell you, it is a sight for sore eyes. Not only does it have a bevy of classic videos, they are also done in what I would consider high quality full screen format (something that is sadly lacking on YouTube for the most part.)

It does not collect every video made during the hey day of MTV (no Bangles, for instance), but there are a lot on there (1,131 pages of them to flip through if you're bored.)

And as a treat, here's one of the first music videos I ever remember seeing.

(hat tip to Boy Culture -- and yes, the Madonna tour review is coming! These things take time!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Holding pattern

I had full intentions to blog the whole Madonna concert experience tonight, but when it came right down to it, my brain was not functional enough for the kind of post that is likely to be. Anyway, for the time being, here's video from the tour. Most of you die-hard Madge fans will have already seen these, so these are primarily for those readers who are dying to get a glimpse of what I saw.

Candy Shop:

Beat Goes On:

Bear in mind, this woman is FIFTY and doing more than I could do without crushing chest pain.

Post-Madonna update

A quick update tonight. We are back at the hotel room after Sticky and Sweet. For me, it vastly exceeded my expectations. Madonna was in a great mood and was CLEARLY having a good time. I will be blogging it in more detail in the days to come, but just wanted to say that we are alive and even though we've had some interesting things happen (a fender bender, for one!), it has been a great trip.

I got my camera into the show tonight. Most of the photos I tried to take turned out like utter shit, and after a while, I quit taking pictures that I knew wouldn't turn out and just enjoyed the show. But I did get this one. It's the best one I got, and that is not saying a whole hell of a lot.

More to come. First I want to get back to Iowa, and then I swear I'm not driving a car for at least a week.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dan's Essential Madge

I love this picture. Granted it was taken before the divorce was announced, but she seems so happy!

Tomorrow we leave for Chicago for our date with her Madgesty (and we know she will be late for the date.) And in honor of the trip, I wanted to do a small list of essential Madonna songs for me. This is by no means a list of my favorite Madonna songs. Heidi challenged me to do that earlier this summer and, while I'll admit that I tried to do it, I just couldn't whittle it down. It's far easier to pick out the ones I really don't like. But I picked six songs that I seem to always come back to, that no matter how many times I have heard them, never seem to grow old. (links to videos)

1) "Borderline" (from Madonna)
If I had to pick a "favorite Madonna song" I think it would probably be this one. It was the one that brought me into the fold (albeit a couple years after its release.) It is hard for me to nail down exactly what it is about this song that I love so much, but I truly love it. And the video? It was one of Madonna's first capital-B brilliant videos. I am so incredibly pleased that she is performing it on this tour, even though the reviews of the performance of the song have been decidedly mixed. Still, I'm sure it will be a high point of the tour.

2) "Secret" (from Bedtime Stories)
I kind of look at this song as Madonna's mea culpa for the excesses of Erotica and Sex (or perhaps that was "I'll Remember.") While the album Bedtime Stories does not really do much for me, "Secret" has always been a personal favorite of mine. Part of it is the time of my life that it is associated with (late undergrad college years as well as being the first year that I found other Madonna fans on the internet) but the other part of it is the humming. There is something about Madonna humming that is just completely attractive to me. But what really makes it for me in this song is Jeff changing the lyrics to it so that it became "Someone's coming over/I'm making Pop Secret."

3) "Don't Tell Me" (from Music)
"Don't Tell Me" is a rare example of latter-day Madonna getting two chart hits off a single album. What I love about "Don't Tell Me" is how much of a radical departure it was from everything that came before it. Madonna had never done the cowgirl thing and believe it or not it actually worked. A bit of Lynyrd Skynrd and staccato beats (courtesy of Mirwais) thrown into the mix made it just that much better - although it made many wonder if their CD was skipping. It's a pity that it was performed nearly identically on two separate tours. It certainly deserved better. I wouldn't be surprised to see this resurrected on the next tour.

4) "Oh Father" (from Like A Prayer)
I think this is the best of all of Madonna's ballads, bar none. It is also famously, the song that broke her streak of top 10s that started with "Holiday." "Lucky Star." But what does that matter? The song is fucking amazing. I know that many interpret this to be about (duh) her father, but I can see a different interpretation as well. For me, I can see this being about religion and escaping the Catholic god of her upbringing. "Oh Father/If you never wanted to live that way/If you never wanted to hurt me/Why am I running away?" could be about an abusive father or an angry God. Pick your poison, I guess. And this song is a prime example of Madonna's shocking brilliance with music video, and why she practically owned the genre through the early 90s.

5) "Jump" (from Confessions of a Dance Floor)
It is hokey to say so, but I draw a lot of personal strength from this silly dance song. It certainly doesn't hurt that it is such a damn good song that even if you weren't paying attention to the lyrics, you would be hard pressed to get it out of your head. The refrains of "I can make it alone...I can make it alone..." and "there's only so much you can learn in one place/the more that I wait/the more time that I waste" were just spot on for me around the time Confessions was released. And then she went and did it one better by releasing an old-fashioned extended mix that added the Confessions Tour outro. Fantastic. Video? Not so much.

6) "Into The Groove" (from Desperately Seeking Susan)
If you can believe it, this wasn't even a single, even though it was played to death by radio. Madonna vowed in the mid-90s that she would never sing this on tour again. Well, it's on Sticky & Sweet AND the Re-Invention tour set lists, so I guess she's eating those words. Only when I'm dancing can I feel this free/At night, I lock the doors where no one else can see. Who cannot relate to this? If you can't, you probably have no soul. It could be argued that this IS the quintessential Madonna song, eclipsing even "Vogue" and "Like A Virgin" but such a designation is nearly impossible. No remix of this song has ever improved upon the perfection of the original version although I have not heard her take on it for this tour so perhaps I will change my mind.

That's it. Six out of a hundred or two songs. But these are the ones that are at the core of my Madonna fandom. Sure, some move in and move out, but these really remain rather fixed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Autumn non sequitir

It is a cool, dreary, rainy autumn day in Iowa. I have to work in an hour but have had a full day already. Part of the morning I helped out at Anna's school where the 4 kids in Anna's reading group got to go to the library to start a research project on an animal they don't know a lot about. Anna is researching wolves. Their job was to write 4 questions that they'd like answered about their animals, and then the teacher is going to write 4 more. I had to discourage one of the kids from asking the question "How do lions kiss?" by gently telling him that the questions had to be something that they'd be able to answer. He swore that he saw a picture of lions kissing in the book he was using, but we couldn't find it so he changed it to something else. Then I was off to an appointment and then back to the house where there was no shortage of things to do - laundry to be folded, dishes to be washed, a mattress to be flipped, etc.

I'm a mere three days from Sticky & Sweet and I'm excited to be going. It should be fun even though it is going to be expensive. There's no way around it and mostly, the money has already been spent so I am not going to allow myself to sit and worry about it and wreck what promises to be a hell of a lot of fun. It is odd to be going to a Madonna show so late in the year. All of the other tours have ended long before October, so this is a new experience for us. I may actually have to wear a coat! And there's a 20% chance of flurries on Sunday! Strangeness. Added to the fun this time around is Yuri who is flying to Chicago tomorrow to join us on Sunday. He has not seen a Madonna concert since Blond Ambition, and (as Jeff and I have said) we'll try not to hate him for having been at Blond Ambition. I'm sure there will be no commentary on the blog about this weekend at all.

It will be fun, there's no doubt. But what I really need is a week off to do nothing. However, I fear even that might not be enough.

I have been watching this documentary on Joni Mitchell on Netflix watch-it-now. I've been watching it kind of in segments as it's been hard to find time to sit down and watch it, plus the whole watching it at the computer is kind of a pain. Anyway, 2008 will probably be the year I truly discovered Joni Mitchell and I have been meaning to blog about her for months. It just hasn't happened for a thousand different reasons. What I will say is that "Stay In Touch", a latter-day Joni Mitchell song from the Taming the Tiger album, fell into my life at just the right time and it keeps on being relevant. I keep on coming back to it. It fits my life right now in more ways than I can count.

Also, apropos of nothing, I'm growing my beard a bit longer as my Halloween costume requires sideburns and I refuse to buy the ones that stick on. It is itchy. And I feel very Grizzly Adams, even though it is a few millimeters long.

And with that, I am off to work. Sticky & Sweet or bust.

(autumn leaves via)

Oooh, my bella donna

The other day, an odd looking package arrived in the mail addressed to Heidi. I couldn't figure out what it was and, to my knowledge, we were not expecting anything. It was from Grand Rapids and I only know a couple people that live there, but thought that certainly they would not be sending us anything in the mail! Amazingly, I did not make my standard joke that any unexpected package likely contains anthrax. What can I say? I was off my game that day.

Anyway, we opened it up and it contained a treasure.

It is my very own vinyl copy of Bella Donna! As it turns out, my friend Mario had read my post on The Wild Heart where I was lamenting the fact that the only one of Stevie's first three albums that I did not have on vinyl was Bella Donna. He had a few in his store and sent me one. The note inside (addressed to Heidi) was to save the album for a special occasion, but unfortunately, it did not work out that way!

However, I love it and it is in great condition. It is probably my favorite of all of Stevie's album covers, if for no other reason than those impossibly high-heeled boots she is wearing. The album is a classic. I have written about it before, but am probably due to revisit it sometime soon. Which means I'll write about it in 3 years.

Also in that package was another surprise, no doubt inspired by my music meme post I did a while back where I revealed my fondness for the music of Helen Reddy.

So, thanks to Mario, I am now in the indefensible position of owning three of Helen Reddy's studio albums! ;)

Thank you Mario! You made my day utterly and completely!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Netflix delivered the first disc of Friday the 13th: The Series today. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I read about a month ago that the first season of this late 80s syndicated show was going to be released on DVD. I literally have not seen this show since it was on TV and I figured it would never see the light of day, despite the crap that does get put on DVD. It was one of those shows that I didn't start watching immediately upon its debut (although that did happen with Freddy's Nightmares) but once I started watching I was hooked. Not quite an anthology show but rather more of a supernatural drama in the vein of The X-Files, it has no connection with teenager killing machine Jason Voorhees (and that series of 58,000 movies) beyond the title.

Before I start watching the first episode, I am already steeling myself for my expectations to be shattered. It will almost certainly not be as good as I remember it being. It will, however, probably be better than any show titled Friday the 13th: The Series has any business being.

Watch this space. There is a high likelihood that I will be back to report on my reactions.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nothing but corn

We went to Center Grove Orchard yesterday after I got off work. This is the bread and butter season for places like that, and honestly, it's one of the better ones I have been to. We went there two years ago when Anna was in preschool, but they have significantly expanded since then, adding on a whole bunch of kid friendly attractions.

One of these attractions was what they called the "corn pool" - an area surrounded by haystacks filled with dried corn kernels. I guess it is the agricultural equivalent of the ball pool that you see at Chuck E. Cheese or whatever. Heidi tells a story about how she was not allowed into one of those ball pools on account of being tall-for-her-age. Serious trauma that is not likely to be repeated in our tall-for-her-age daughter. In any event, Anna thought it was awesome. She loved trying to bury herself in corn. Naturally, this led to her wanting to bury me in the corn - something that I was not all that keen on. But then I thought "What the hell? How much longer is she going to want to do that?" so I did it.

Heidi called me a "good sport." I was AT LEAST that. For what it's worth, I now have a taste of what it must be like to die in a corn crib, only minus all the corn falling on top of you and suffocation and other such stuff.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On and on and on and on and on

So yesterday I was at work and we were listening to Lite 104 point something or another (the "feel good at work station!" Whatever.) We have this incredibly cheap Targhetto CD player/radio at work and we can only periodically pick up stations, so we usually just take what we can get. Anyway, we were kind of mocking the songs that were being played (even though it seemed like I had an anecdote for just about every single song.) Suddenly, one of my co-workers exclaimed.

"Oh no! It's the Titanic!"

Yep, it was Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." I can't say that I have heard this song (in it's original incarnation) more than a handful of times since 1998 when you literally could not escape the song. I remember Titanic fever so well. I remember my sister working at the Carroll theater during Titanic's release and it stayed there for some ungodly long time and some lady asked my sister when they were going to stop showing Titanic. Her response? When it stops selling out every night.

A friend of mine once shared with me that he feels that Titanic is unfairly maligned these days, suffering from the inevitable backlash that accompanies uber successful films. I do agree with this statement. I think some of that is people wishing that they hadn't gotten so caught up in it, almost as if they are now embarrassed by what they felt. But there is no denying it is a powerful film. I remember when Heidi and I saw it for the first time, on a cold winter's night in Cedar Rapids. We were very affected by it. The scene that always gets me is when the Titanic has sunk and the camera pans back, revealing all the people just flailing around in the ocean. And then, several scenes later, nearly all of them are dead.

Yes, it is a bit overacted and the dialogue is very corny at times (although I don't think it even approaches the awfulness of the Star Wars prequels as far as dialogue goes.) But I think it was really the last movie that got EVERYONE into the movie theater. And it was certainly the last movie that I can think of that had legs, that had a slow(ish) build rather than completely blowing its wad on the opening weekend and then sinking like a stone after that.

But back to Celine. I am not ashamed to say that I kind of like the song. It's not my favorite song in the world or anything, but I can appreciate it because it is dramatic and bombastic and very diva-ish and yes, it reminds me of that time. However, I can see why people would hate it. Where the original version of the song really lost me was when they started playing a version of the song on the radio with snippets of dialogue from the movie dubbed into it.

The song, however, is completely redeemed by its dance remix. I am always bit dubious of dance remixes of ballads. Too often, a generic drum beat is thrown behind the original mix and nothing memorable happens. Not so with "My Heart Will Go On." I REALLY like this version of the song, and truly, it's about the only one that gets any play with me these days. But don't take my word for it - try for yourself (and enjoy the movie in 4:35 as well.)

OK, not the brilliance that was the Miami Mix of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" (for which Madonna resang the vocals) but still, not bad.

So yeah, I kind of enjoyed hearing "My Heart Will Go On" again yesterday. But oddly enough, I saved these stories for the blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Just in time for Halloween

I grabbed this from Boy Culture - it's too good not to share.

Another blog I read had this to say about McCain's photo above - "Did anyone else see John McCain turn into a zombie last night?" Classic. (Sorry! I can't remember where I read it!)

And let's hope the media does its job and investigates these Joe the Plumber reports bubbling to the surface. (yes, it's a Kos link. I know.) It might go the way of the whole "did Palin give birth to her youngest child?" thing, but this (unlike the other) is worth investigating.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

6000 miles apart

It has been rumored almost since the day they tied the knot, but apparently, it is splitsville for Madonna and Guy Ritchie. I didn't quite believe it when the news broke late last night (the news was being reported by The Sun, after all.) But this morning, The Validator confirmed the demise of their marriage, with a finalized divorce desired by Christmas of this year.

I'm sure no one really gives a shit what I think about it, and my voice will be one more drop in the bucket of a million bloggers talking about Madonna's personal life. But for me, I have always had a hard time with the scrutiny that celebrity marriages are under. When I think about the end of Madonna and Guy Ritchie's marriage, I can't help think about how traumatic the end of a marriage must be. There's the family members and friends that need to be told, the legal machinations that have to happen, not to mention your own emotional upheaval that the dissolution of any intimate relationship, no matter how expected or needed it is, is bound to cause.

Now imagine this intensely personal drama unfolding for everyone to see. Everyone in the world. I can't get my head around that. And add to that those gossip columnists that can't shut up about the impending divorce 5 minutes after the vows are said. It's no wonder successful celebrity marriages are so few and far between. Marriage is difficult enough some days without the scrutiny of everyone with a blog or a camera. Yes, I know that public scrutiny and comment are part of what she signed up for when she decided "to rule the world" but she is also a human being. The fans should know that better than anyone.

I won't pretend to know the intimate details of this marriage dissolution (Madge has not called yet - she'll probably call during the debate. Her timing sucks.) but I can only wish them the best and hope that there is as little trauma to their family as possible. Because even though she's a superstar, this is still a family that is ultimately not all that different from yours or mine. (except for the millions.)

Random music meme

As Heidi said in her version of this meme, she, Jeff and I all came up with these questions a couple weeks ago and we made a solemn pact to answer them on our respective blogs. You can see how that turned out. I have had good intentions, but... (that is going on my goddamn grave stone, I swear to God.) So because I have been sufficiently guilted into it and besides, it's damn fun, here are my answers.

1. What was your first CD? And do you still own it?

That would be Fleetwood Mac: Greatest Hits. This is the green 1988 one that compiled the best of the Stevie Nicks/Lindsey Buckingham period. I had been scrimping and saving money that year to put toward a CD player. Exactly where the money was coming from, I'm not sure. I had no job. I must have been selling my body. But anyway, my mom and dad ended up buying the CD player for the family for Christmas that year and this CD was one of my presents. It was wrapped in underwear so that I wouldn't be able to tell what it was. And I do still own it, although there are better Fleetwood Mac compilations out there now.

2. What was the last physical CD you bought?

At first, I thought it was probably Hard Candy, but then I realized that it was Eric Hutchinson: Sounds Like This. Heidi went to a Missy Higgins concert this summer with our friend Jess and Eric Hutchinson was the opening act. Although they went for Missy, they almost liked Eric better! He's coming back to Des Moines mid-November and I have half a mind to go, but it's the same week as my return trip to Dolly Parton who is playing the Civic Center. My folks are both going to Dolly and they offered to buy me a ticket. Hey, I wasn't born yesterday.

3. Most memorable make-out to music moment?

This one is easy. It was early in our relationship and without putting too fine a point on it (I mean, seriously, I'm not much for airing THAT intimate of details) but I remember "Justify My Love" being on the CD player. And I remember thinking to myself..."Heh, it's "Justify My Love." That's one of those stories that you would swear I'm making up to get out of a potentially embarrassing question, but I swear on a stack of Bibles that it is the truth!

4. Memorable vinyl? (singles or albums)

I have purchased shitloads of vinyl in my day. I was still buying vinyl back when it was no longer cool to buy vinyl. I also purchased a zillion 45s growing up. Shopping for singles was such great fun! But if I had to choose my most memorable vinyl, I would have to say it's the 45 of Olivia Newton-John's "Make A Move On Me." I remember seeing it at Sernett department store (the site of many a musical purchase) and then rushing home and BEGGING my parents to loan me the buck and half to buy the single. I think I had to babysit my brother and sister for a month to pay them back. I don't care, it was worth it. I still kind of like that song. Totally cheesy, but hey. And Olivia? What's with the mullet?

5. Biggest regret of a musical purchase?

This is the hardest question of all of these for me to answer because I have certainly bought my share of shit albums. And I've sold off most of them and purged them from my memory. However, as Heidi alluded to, the purchase of music from iTunes has had a twofold effect on that. One - buying from iTunes is so. damn. easy. that it provides a fertile ground for impulse purchases and two - once you buy it, it's not like you can sell it back. The album that I purchased a bit impulsively on iTunes (based on a good review in either EW or The Advocate or something) was Natasha Bedingfield's Unwritten. I like a couple songs on it, but as an album, I don't know that I've listened to it all the way through. And then the song "Unwritten" became ubiquitous and I really had to wash my hands of her. I know plenty of people who really like her, but she's just not for me.

6. Most embarrassing musical purchase?

I'll have to say that it's my Helen Reddy. I remember Heidi giving me grief once about Helen Reddy on my iPod, saying that that was the pentultimate embarrassment on there. And yes, I admit, it's embarrassing. It would be different if I just had her greatest hits album on my iPod, but no. I have to go one (or two) worse and say that I actually have two of her studio albums that I purchased from iTunes. One of them (Reddy) is her disco album and the other (Imagination) is actually a little bit new wave. So why the Helen Reddy? I listened to the 8-track tape endlessly as a kid. So sue me. I loved it.

7. Biggest musical purchase aberration?

I own every single one of Eminem's albums, save the best-of album that he put out. This is odd because I really cannot abide by rap in any form. And plus, I'm not at all keen with Eminem's general homophobia and misogyny that shows up more often than not in his music. However, it's one of those things that I just can't explain. For rap, it is actually a little bit melodic and I find it at least a little bit lyrically clever. And sometimes, it is just what I need. I can't explain it, so don't judge me! A little bit of Eminem goes a loooooong way with me, but I am quite fond of "The Way I Am", "Kill You", "Drug Ballad" and "The Real Slim Shady." Yes, he has a potty mouth. Yes, he is not someone to look up to, I'm sure. But in many ways, the same things that make Madonna appealing make Eminem appealing. Just don't expect to see me at any of his concerts!

I would encourage anyone who wants to try this to please do so! Music bloggers included if they are so inclined.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stars upon thars

For me, one of the best things about being a parent is the time that Anna and I spend reading. It's kind of something that we've done since before she could even sit up. Back when all she could do was eat, poop, cry and sleep (occasionally), I still read to her. We've gone through a lot of books in our day, some of which she deems too "babyish" for her now. We've graduated to chapter books, blew through the entire Ramona series (Heidi was along for that ride) and now, nearly every night, she has a book about something that she brings home that she has to read to me (last night it was Mercury and The Moon.) Sometimes she doesn't want to read them, and sometimes she's hard to keep on task, but she does a good job. Really, she's a great reader and seems to enjoy the fact that she can read.

Reading her a book before bed is kind of my territory, and one of MY favorites is Dr. Seuss' "The Sneetches." We have this story in a book that has "The Zax", "Too Many Daves" and "What Was I Scared Of?" (home of the infamous pale green pants with no one inside them.) But of all the stories, "The Sneetches" is my favorite, mostly because it is so damn much fun to read aloud. Say what you will about Dr. Seuss (yes, he is probably a bit overrated) but those books are written to be read aloud. And the story of the star bellies vs. the plain bellies and their subsequent battle to be the best "sneetches on beaches" thanks to con man extraordinaire Sylvester McMonkey McBean is pretty much irresistible. The thing I love about it is how it is repetitive (but not too much so) and teaches a lesson (although it shies away from being terribly heavy handed.) And the lesson it teaches is that of non-discrimination. a lesson that in 1961 (when it was published) was very much relevant.

The best books to read to kids aren't the cutest ones or the shortest ones (although short books are frequently attractive options!) but rather the timeless ones. There's a lot we can learn from a story like "The Sneetches" today. We claim to be a more tolerant society, but we have a long way to go, I'm afraid. The last lines of the story sum it up best which takes place after McBean drives off with all the Sneetches' money and declares "You can't teach a Sneetch!"

But McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say.
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day.
The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches.
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether
They had one, or not, upon thars.

I'm not sure she entirely gets the lesson, but those are the best kind.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Babs, Gregg and Cher style

My friend Matt sends out a pop culture trivia question from his desktop calendar to a whole slew of us pretty much every day. I am kind of hit and miss with it, averaging probably 8-10 correct responses each month, but last Thursday's question was right up my alley.

What duo failed to strike gold in 1977, with the album Allman and Woman: Two the Hard Way?

For me, this was completely easy. It was Gregg Allman and Cher - who were married for about 2 minutes in the 70's. That is one of those random bits of odd pop culture that I have ramming around in my head, waiting for its moment in the sun. So when I responded correctly, Matt e-mailed me back saying that he had a sneaking suspicion that I would get that one right.

Funny thing though is that I had never actually heard Allman and Woman. I did know that it was pretty much panned by every single critic around so that probably meant it would make my ears bleed. But, true to form, I didn't let something like that stop me and after all it WAS Cher. It is not available on CD, but it is quite readily available around the internet. So it didn't take me long to actually get a copy for my iPod. (An aside: This is the reason that it is completely beyond my comprehension that music goes out of print in this day and age. How hard would it be to slap this up on iTunes? Then they would have had my money.)

How is it? As you might expect, it's not very memorable, but Cher sounds good. Her voice has the timbre of most of her 70s recordings which is kind of a love-it-or-hate-it type quality. He attempts at southern rock are always a bit laughable, but hey, what can you say? Cher has this ability to transcend being bad, because even when she's bad, she's at least campy so you have that as the consolation.

My favorite moment (besides its vaguely Buckingham Nicks-ish album cover) is, hands down, the song "I Found You Love." This is not because it is a standout track musically, lyrically or otherwise. The reason it is so fantastic is because Barbra Streisand also did a version of this song on her Streisand Superman album from 1977 (the Ogilvie home perm gone bad, short white shorts, long tube socks album.)

Listening to Gregg and Cher do their version has (predictably) caused me to pull out Streisand Superman which I have not listened to in I-can't-even-tell-you-how-long. I had forgotten how truly bad that album was! Talk about an album that lives up to its bad album cover. Still, I have just finished listening to the whole thing. *sigh* A study in contradictions. Such is my life.

My final thought on Allman and Woman is on its title. Could you even begin to imagine the furor that would result from someone putting out an album titled *So and so* and Woman today? Would that even make it out of committee? For the love of all things holy, I would certainly hope not.

Who knew something as innocuous as a trivia question from a calendar could unleash something like this?

(Heidi and I should totally go as Allman and Woman for our Halloween party. Too bad we have even better costumes already.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Film at 11

I'm a bit late in getting this posted, but October 11th marked our 11th anniversary. Yes, it was 11 years ago yesterday that we said the I dos and in sickness and in health and till death do us part. *cue the crashing glass* (all you Madge freaks better get that reference or else!)

Last year at this time, we were in sunny Phoenix visiting my brother and Heidi was getting an implant and Anna had pneumonia and we didn't even know it. This year, we went north (Miss Tessmacher) to Minneapolis to see The Magnetic Fields in concert who, despite me knowing only a couple of their songs, managed to keep me fully engaged for the entire evening. The concert was very different from the one I will be seeing in a mere two weeks' time. It felt very much like we had been invited into their living room to listen to them play a few songs. And not a single member of the band emerged on stage from a gigantic disco ball.

We always tell the story that when were deciding on a wedding date, we picked October because we wanted a nice cool fall day for our wedding. That is what we wanted, but it was decidedly NOT what we got. October 11, 1997 was very VERY warm for October, with mid-80s for highs. Despite that, we made it through.

We have a lot of good memories from that day even though we did not get the cool crisp weather we were hoping for. The one thing we would do differently if we had it all to do over again is we would spend a lot less on the wedding and a hell of a lot more on the party because frankly, that was the fun part. This makes it sound like I have big regrets about our wedding reception, but believe me, nothing could be further from the truth.

We had our wedding reception of the Swisher American Legion in Swisher, IA which is a small town north of Iowa City. Why the Legion? The honest answer is that the price was right. After looking at hotels and other places for the reception, we decided that we simply could not afford the cost of renting out one of those places. And in the end, it was the Swisher American Legion that served our purposes best.

And so it came to pass that it was the site of the wedding party. I famously DJ'd my own wedding dance (and I did a fabulous job too, as you might expect even though I was severely handicapped by the fact that this was before burned CDs even, let alone MP3s), consumed an entire bottle of wine on my own and we all vogued with the best of them. Ultimately, it was very us. So no, no regrets.

In the Swisher American Legion hall, there was a gigantic flag hanging on the wall. We never covered it or moved it or anything like that, but our photographer did snap one picture of us in front of it, since it seemed to be the chaperone of the dance, so to speak. When it came time to make the parent wedding albums, everybody we showed this picture to wanted a copy of it for theirs.

Happy 11th Anniversary, sweetheart!

PS Yesterday was also National Coming Out Day, which always coincides with our anniversary. To those choosing to take those steps out of the closet on that day, we salute you. Your bravery to be honestly who you are is an inspiration to us all to live more in line with who we really are, rather than what we think we should be (or worse, what others expect us to be.) My hat is off to you.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sticky and sweet, indeed

A mere 19 days separates me from the Madonna show in Chicago. She has finally hit the States and kicked off the US leg of the tour in New Jersey. Matthew Rettenmund (who is perhaps my favorite of all Madonna bloggers) saw it there, and again in NYC at Madison Square Garden. His verdict? A mixed bag. (link contains a huge number of spoilers for the innocent, but no video) I was expecting as much. Although the set list is fantastic and I think the show is solid, it does seem a titch less extravagant than other tours. Final judgment will, naturally, be reserved until I actually see the show. In my mind, she will have a tough time topping the fantastically awesome Confessions Tour which featured Madonna so joyous to be performing live that you almost forgave her for Drowned World and her insane audience detachment.

My favorite part of his review, however, was in the final paragraph.

Take nothing I’ve said as disenchantment with Madonna—who sang and danced her heart out on this show. But take everything I’ve said as disenchantment with this particular show, which lacks the imagination, the daring, the spectacle, the fashion and the brains of all her best concerts. Look, no one—no one—is doing anything at any concert worth seeing except for Madonna. Sure, there are live acts whose voices must be heard to be believed, and there are flavors of the month singing songs you love so much right now you need to see and hear them live right now, but nobody is attempting mammoth productions like Madonna has been doing for over 20 years. Not every show is going to be my favorite. While many aspects of Sticky & Sweet made my teeth hurt, I am happy to go back and see it again. Seeing Madonna live is a unique experience. Like sex, it’s not always good. But like any sex that leads to an orgasm, it’s still right on the money.

I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, as usual with the stuff he writes about Madonna, I wish I had said it first. So usually, I'm just left to link and/or copy and paste.

I'm sure I will have absolutely nothing to say about the show after I see it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Blame it on my wild heart

One of the fringe benefits of Pride yesterday was that I got to stop at ZZZ Records in downtown Des Moines. It's not really the kind of record store I would normally stop in (Borderline Music in Chicago is much more in line with my musical tastes), but they have an enormous selection of used vinyl. I'm not sure that I've ever actually purchased any vinyl there, but usually when we are down in the East Village, I feel the need to stop there. This time, I found a treasure.

It is Stevie Nicks' second solo album The Wild Heart. When I was a fledgling Stevie fan, this was my favorite of her solo albums. I probably can't say that now, although it will always have a special place in my heart as a member of the "first 3 solo Stevie Nicks albums." I love the cover art on this one, and even though this one is probably only in fair to good condition (as evidenced by the fact that you can practically see the record through the album cover!), it was still better than the other copy of The Wild Heart that they had. It had a "FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY" sticker across it. Needless to say, that POS stayed right where it was. Also, they had a copy of Bella Donna, but someone had written their initials right across Stevie's shoulder! Yeah, didn't pick that one up either, although it is the only one of Stevie's first three albums that I need to find on vinyl.

So because of this find, I have been listening to The Wild Heart a damn lot. I actually fell asleep on the bed listening to it this afternoon - although it is a bit of a backhanded compliment to say that something was so good you fell asleep listening to it. But it reminded me of many days after school in my room listening to Stevie on cassette tape, when all that there was for her solo stuff was Bella Donna, The Wild Heart, and Rock A Little. Those were simpler times, my friends!

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

This last weekend was Capital City Pride - delayed by the deluge from this June. I was not sure how Pride would play in autumn, but surprisingly, it was great fun, probably even more so than in the summer. A lot of that had to do with the fact that it was not 95 degrees and more humid than Dagobah, although it was still quite warm for October! Pride is always such a fun event, Anna really gets into it and the atmosphere is just so...well, it's hard to describe because while it's inclusive and celebratory, it is also very Midwestern.

Anna and Heidi rode on the One Iowa float. One Iowa, for those that don't know, is the group that is working their tails off for marriage equality here in Iowa. It still strikes me as odd that Iowa would be on the front lines of gay marriage, but then again, Iowans are pretty practical people so it really shouldn't come as a surprise. This was Anna's first time on a float and she hurled candy with the best of them. She even made sure that she threw a box of Dots my way (one of the small ones, not the big ones you get at movie theaters!)

One of the big highlights of Pride this year was Michelle Knight who is one of Iowa's premiere Cher impersonators. I have to wonder how much competition she has, but still, that is one dead ringer for Cher. Here she is riding in the parade, with "Believe" pumping out of the car. Even though the style (faux metal 80s leather Cher) and the song (late 90s dance diva Cher) were at odds, it still worked.

Of course, Anna HAD to meet Cher. We even got a picture!

Cher's comment to me right before the photo was being taken: "Oh, wait, let me hide the beer!" Anna's comment to me after the photo was taken "Dad, did you know that's a boy dressed up as Cher?"

The thing I love about Pride year after year (this is my third, Heidi and Anna's fourth) is that even though it is primarily the same thing each year, it is something that is so incredibly important to me. Supporting the gay community is something that I cannot feel more strongly about. I have long since forgotten why I got involved in LGBT rights issues, but there is no better way to get me riled up than to be idiotically homophobic. Part of it is that I have found a kinship among the gay community that has eluded me most of my life, but mostly, it is because I cannot stand to see basic rights that I take for granted being denied to people that I count as family.

Some would argue that I am using my daughter as a political pawn, not all that dissimilar to that moment in the Dixie Chicks movie where the little girl says "The Dixie Chicks suck!" But I can't imagine raising her any other way. Ultimately, if I'm wrong, I'll have to answer for it, but for now, I make the best decisions I can. And besides, she just likes to dress up like this.

I have no idea how much longer she'll want to do that, so I savor every year that she does it.

As my parting shot, here's Michelle Knight as Cher doing "If I Could Turn Back Time." I felt bad for her because she hardly got to do her routine, so many people were giving money! I doubt she had a problem with that though!

(full photo show on Facebook. I'll upload all of them to .mac eventually.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Election metaphors

My friend Matt is doing a lot of political commentary these days on his blog. While I have a lot of thoughts on the upcoming election and the state of U.S. politics, writing at length about them is really not my style, so I'm going to let this graphic that I found on DailyKos (via Huffington Post) speak for itself.

Although comparing Biden to Amtrak may not be a compliment considering the experiences I (and others) have had.

Today is the long-delayed Pride parade in Des Moines today. Pictures later today, I'm sure.


Friday, October 03, 2008

1001 uses for glitter

Jeff was here the other night and somehow or another, we ended up laughing uproariously at this YouTube video. It is (according to the description) the last catfight between Krystle and Alexis on Dynasty.

(a little bit long, but totally worth it!)

I loved me some Dynasty back in the day, but unfortunately it doesn't hold up very well. It has, frankly, aged horribly and it is so melodramatic that it is almost Mommie Dearest level of bathos. That certainly does not stop Jeff and me from making jokes about burning down La Mirage and the Carringtons' paneled workout room, but I can see why they didn't release more than two seasons of it on DVD (although it looks like Season 3 might be on the way.)

I think, however, my favorite moment in the above video comes at about 2:50. During the heat of the battle, they start throwing glitter at each other. Seriously. And nothing screams 80s like those shoulder pads, even though it was 1991 when they filmed this.

They don't make 'em like they used to. And thank goodness for that.

EDIT: Paul thinks I might have been a little hard on the Dynasty last night. Perhaps I was. There were several brilliantly soapy and melodramatic seasons until they totally jumped the shark with the Moldavian wedding massacre. I just couldn't get over how no one died in that except for Steven's boyfriend and Ali MacGraw! But to balance that out is its iconic opening credits. How can one forget it?