Friday, May 29, 2009

The past catches up with you

My father sent me this picture this morning. That little tyke is yours truly.

The funny part of this is I have never once seen this picture in my entire life. It makes me wonder where in the world he found it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mumbo jumbo jive

On my walk to work this morning, I rather unexpectedly put on the soundtrack from the 1992 Dolly Parton comedy Straight Talk. It is, as romantic comedies go, not the greatest. As Dolly Parton movies go, it is probably at about a 6, with 9 to 5 naturally representing the high end of the scale, and Rhinestone serving as the bottom - seriously, who thought Sly Stallone as a country singer was a good idea?

Although the critics pretty much universally hated it, I am actually very fond of Straight Talk, both the movie and the soundtrack. The basic premise is that Dolly is Shirlee Kenyon, a country girl from Flat River, Arkansas with a loser of a boyfriend (played by Michael Madsen) who has just lost her job as a dance instructor. So she packs her bags and heads to Chicago where, through a series of completely improbable events, she is mistaken for the new radio psychologist at radio station WNDY. Put on the air with no prep, the audience, of course, loves her because she is so down to earth and well, it's DOLLY PARTON giving out advice. The radio station gives her a contract, as long as she agrees to call herself "Dr. Shirlee." Enter James Woods as an investigative reporter who thinks the whole thing smells fishy. In trying to uncover the scam, he falls in love with her.

The movie is nothing if not completely predictable, and Dolly is pretty much playing herself. There are a bunch of good one liners courtesy of Patricia Resnick (who also had a hand in 9 to 5), my favorite being Dolly's declaration that she went to Screw U when asked where she received her medical training. (Check it out in the video below - it's at about the 8 minute mark.)

Some of the one liners in the movie remind me quite a bit of Dolly's stage show, where she at times cracks herself up more than she does the audience, but she's Dolly so we forgive her. Also of note in the movie is Griffin Dunne, playing another neurotically nerdy character, although to me he will always be David Naughton's decaying best friend Jack in An American Werewolf in London.

I remember buying this soundtrack before I ever saw the movie. Comprised entirely of Dolly Parton originals, it was also the first Dolly Parton CD I bought completely on faith. During my first couple years of college I played the Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits cassette tape on my Walkman until it was practically shredded, and had checked out Eagle When She Flies from the library quite frequently. But up till then, I had not really purchased a whole lot of Dolly, especially if it was music I had not heard. I took the leap with the Straight Talk soundtrack; it was VERY much an impulse purchase.

And as impulse purchases go, it has served me quite well. Yes, the songs are, as my friend Caryle might say, pure processed pastuerized cheese product. But, as my sister Wendy would say (and I would heartily agree), cheese is ALWAYS better than crap. You can tell that Dolly set out to write songs that were relevant to the movie, although she did recycle "Light Of A Clear Blue Morning" from one of her 70s albums. The production is very 90s country-pop, but I just can't help but like it. The title song is classic Dolly cornpone, with references to Oprah and Donahue. Frustratingly for me, the video is not embeddable. Watch it here. Another highlight is "Livin' A Lie" which has the most cliched lyrics ever, but once again, it's Dolly so we forgive her.

What I can't get over is how much more natural Dolly looks in this movie. It has to be at least 3 facelifts ago. Of course, the movie is getting close to 20 years old, which just makes me feel as old as Methuselah.

The movie is on DVD, full screen format only sadly, but it is certainly worth a watch. The CD is out of print, but used copies abound on Amazon. Both play like early 90s nostalgia, and sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

5 oldies

I was making a new playlist for my iPod the other day and deliberately did not put some of the more frequently played songs on there. With the help of Genius playlist, I managed to get some oldies in there and consequently, I have been listening to some songs that have not gotten play in a damn long time. Since I'm all about embarrassing myself from the standpoint of what trash I'm listening to at the moment, here is a sampling.

1) The Way I Am / Eminem
Not at all into the new Eminem stuff, but I do have a soft spot for just about everything else. A little Eminem goes such a long way for me, but as I have said before, it is probably as melodic as rap is going to get. I find myself extremely conflicted listening to Eminem as the subject matter of pretty much everything he does seems to be contrary to core values I have, but there it is.

2) Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave) / Roxette
I couldn't believe that this was not in my iTunes. I really disliked the song "Joyride", but I really liked this when it came out. When I first met Heidi, Roxette was pretty much the only pop music she listened to (favoring new-age and instrumental music for lack of a better description.) Upon discovering Sunday that this song was not on my computer, you better believe I remedied that in a big hurry!

3) Total Eclipse of the Heart / Nikki French
I remember when this remake came out roughly 1994ish. I was in college and completely opposed to it just on principle. How dare they take a classic 80s song and bastardize it with a techno beat and some no-name singer singing a monotone through the whole song? I resisted it for a terribly long time, but eventually was won over. What was I thinking? This song rules!

4) Spice Up Your Life / Spice Girls
Honestly, there really are better Spice Girls songs out there. "Stop" being one of them (which was played ad nauseum at a pharmacy where I worked in the late 90s). But this one is really hitting the spot. One of two Spice Girls songs on the playlist ("Say You'll Be There") being the other, it has made me think that it was a good thing that they milked the Spice Girls for all they were worth back in the late 90s/early 00s because looking at them now, it's clear their shelf life was limited.

5) Family Man / Fleetwood Mac
My favorite track off of Tango In The Night - this should make Matt happy because of his love of Lindsey Buckingham. But what I really love about this song is the breakdown right around 2:24 with Stevie warbling "am what I am what I am what I am what I am." Why is it not surprising that my favorite part of a Lindsey song would be Stevie's appearance? Anyway, cool guitar playing and an underrated song.

Honorable Mention: Celine Dion / When The Wrong One Loves You Right
An album track from A New Day Has Come, Heidi summed it up best: "Ah Celine, making adultery cool." As Paul said a while back, there are a handful of really good Celine Dion songs and I would submit that this is one of them. Here she is singing it with Destiny's Child.

I may do five more - we'll see.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sticky & sweet, now with real sugar!

I have managed, for the most part, to eliminate regular pop (that's what we call it here, as opposed to soda or Coke) from my diet over the last several years. It really is nothing more than liquid candy. This switch has been made all the easier thanks to Diet Mountain Dew, which really is nectar from the gods. The Diet Dew dispenser at work is out of order at least 40% of the time. I think it's because we're all addicts.

Anyway, someone at work mentioned Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback to me the other night, singing their praises and how "they taste like Pepsi and Mountain Dew used to taste when they were in glass bottles." Now this I had to try. The idea behind both Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback is that they are sweetened with REAL SUGAR vs. the high-fructose corn syrup that has sweetened soft drinks since the mid 80s and has been implicated in obesity and the health problems that come as a result.

You wouldn't think that it would make a difference, but it does. I had a Pepsi Throwback today and it tastes like Pepsi should and also does not result in the "oh my God, I have to brush my teeth NOW" feeling after drinking it. It is no less caloric than the HFCS sweetend variety, but hey, if I'm going to have the calories, it might as well taste better.

I don't envision myself going back to regular pop because of this, but I do believe I'll buy a case of this. It's only going to be on the market till mid June (at least according to Wikipedia) so it might vanish just as quickly as it appeared.

(image via - which has a good FAQ as well)

Friday, May 15, 2009

He who frets loses the night

I got that line stuck in my head at work tonight. I haven't heard that Diana Krall song ("Devil May Care") in an age and thankfully it was on my iPod so that I could listen to it on the way home. That line is also apropos these days as my sleep has been fraught with difficulties of that sort.

The other line I love in that song is "he who is wise never tries to revise what's past and gone."

It's too bad that Diana Krall has such a cold demeanor. I have no idea if she is nice person or not, but she does not seem like it in most interviews. However, she can sure play a mean jazz piano! But, as predicted, her new album is not good at all (apart from the cover of Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By").

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For sale

Next weekend, we are having a garage sale - the one at which the MAD magazines are 99.99999% certain to be for sale. I honestly didn't think we would be having it in May, at least not May of 2009. Just a few weeks ago, the stuff was scattered about the basement in nearly complete disarray, some of it still bearing the tags from the last garage sale. When Heidi announced a month or so ago that she wanted to have the garage sale before we left on on our Phoenix/L.A. trip in June, I thought that I would be amazed if it actually happened.

Well, believe it. Because it's going to happen. I have to give it up to Heidi because a lot of it has been her doing. She tagged almost all the clothes and toys and various sundry items. I did a lot of the heavy lifting and cleaning up of yard toys and electronic equipment. I hauled more books than you care to think about. But it really is going to happen next weekend, rain or shine.

There are two types of garage sales. There are the ones at which you set out to make money. These are almost always folly because you just can't make tons when most things are priced below a dollar (although we did make about $500 on our last one.) Then there are the ones designed to move the crap. We are aiming for the last one, but will settle for some crossover.

In the meantime, here's a shot of Bette and Joan getting ready for their garage sale. They are cussing out the early birds who arrived prior to the sale start time. (it always happens!!)

Cool mom

I'm here to tell you that Mother's Day lacks the really REALLY good line that I use year after year for Father's Day. After all, Nathan Grantham doesn't say "It's Mother's Day, Bedelia!!" Mother's Day does, however, have its requisite horror movie, which I have never seen but from the looks of it, appears to be a semi-retread of Texas Chainsaw Massacre in that it has a redneck family and unsuspecting teenagers stumbling onto their property. And how can one forget what is perhaps the most dysfunctional mother-son relationship of all in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho?

But this is post is not about all that. Yes, it is Mother's Day. But I don't want to talk about blood and guts and gore and crossdressing. I'm here to pay tribute to my own mom. A lot of my friends accuse me of having the coolest parents ever. And, well, it's all true. Look, she was even cool back in 1972 when posing for one of our first pictures together! (and looking at that picture, I am reminded that it is the Cullinan side to blame for the curly hair!)

No one ever thinks that their parents are cool when they're growing up. I think that if you don't go through a certain amount of rebellion against those who raised you, you've missed some essential part of development. Mine was certainly more subdued than others, but it still happened. I look back on my teenage years and sometimes I just shudder! But Mom was always there. Even at those times that I was pretty sure I didn't want her there, she was patient and helpful without being overly involved. That's one of the things I realize now, with the benefit of 20 years of hindsight. My mom and dad were always there for us, but they also had a healthy respect for boundaries.

One of my most vivid memories from those days was in 1988 and I had been invited to the prom by not one but two girls. I was a sophomore and both of the girls were juniors. While flattering, the bottom line was that, even at age 15, I really hadn't dated properly and, thanks to a self-esteem that was in the gutter and most likely undiagnosed depression (it was not the buzzword then that it is now), I didn't want to go with either or them. I was going to just ignore both and hope the problem went away, a pattern I still lapse into on my worst days. I was up in my room and my mom came up and gently but firmly that the situation was not going to go away and that other people and their feelings were involved. She gave me the courage that I needed to pull myself up out of my own mire and (yes) self-pity. My brain comes back to that conversation more than you might imagine. I wonder if Mom even remembers it.

Those kinds of life lessons carry forward, even now, at nearly 37 years of age. And my mom continues to be supportive in ways both big and small. They help us so much. They provide free child care frequently. They are going to babysit bad boy Blair while we are on vacation. But perhaps the best recent example was when things got really bad earlier this year and I needed to make a request of them, I knew that even though I was embarrassed to do so, that they would be there for us. And they were.

So here's to you Mom. I love you very much and, well, I guess I'll see you in a few hours!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Icicles in hell, Kylie in the U.S.

I am going to join just about every blogger I know in celebrating the announcement of Kylie Minogue's North American tour! (best headline ever in that link.) Well, if you can call a 6-date run a "tour." Anyway, we can hardly bitch because Kylie has never once during her entire 21 year career seen fit to tour in the U.S. And really, I can't blame her all that much. The U.S. has been very lukewarm to Kylie, "The Locomotion" and "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" notwithstanding.

Thankfully, one of the cities on the tour is Chicago. While not next door, it is still a relatively uncomplicated trip (see the Sticky & Sweet Tour.) I e-mailed Heidi with the news and she was instantly on board, also trying to talk our friends Jeff and Caryle into going as well. The show is October 7th, and tickets are "only" $75, which is still fully half of what I spent on my Sticky & Sweet ticket and about what I spent for Dolly Parton. If Heidi, Anna, and I all go, it will be a pricey night, but one that we will not soon forget.

But here's the thing...the venue, the Congress Theater, seats a mere 4000 people. Now, I know that Kylie does not have the draw of say Madonna or U2 or Coldplay, but 4000 seats? One show? I think they are SERIOUSLY underestimating Kylie's ability to sell tickets. There are probably 4000 people within the Chicago city limits that would be interested in those seats, leaving everyone else out of luck. Kylie's appeal within the gay community is tremendous and just because she has not had album sales in the U.S. to match her contemporaries, don't think for a minute that those seats will not sell out instantly. I would like to think they will add more dates, but there really isn't any time built into the tour schedule for that. My worry is that the seats will sell out during the weeklong presale for fan club members and American Express cardholders. Anyone out there have AmEx and willing to give me their number? I promise to pay you back!

I am going to try to go - who knows, it might be another 21 years before she heads back to the States. I want to at least give it a good, honest effort to make it to see her live for she is another of those artists on my short list of people to see live. I just never thought it would happen in the U.S.

Kylie puts on a hell of a show. Yes, she is kind of Madonna-lite, much to the dismay of some bloggers, but I daresay her KylieX2008 tour was at least as entertaining as Sticky & Sweet, and maybe just a little bit more because of Kylie's stubborn refusal to disavow her old songs, unlike Madonna who can't run away from some of her most crowd pleasing hits fast enough.

And as proof of this point, here's the closing number of KylieX2008 - her very first hit "I Should Be So Lucky."

I am always amazed at how little she is.

We should be so lucky. Wish us luck. We will need it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mad magazines coming out my ears

For the last 25 years, I have been lugging around boxes full of old MAD magazines that I collected as a kid. They run roughly from 1981-1986, but that is a damn lot of MAD magazines. MAD was such an essential part of my formative years that I have never been able to part with them. Consequently, they have stayed in the basement in boxes, barely ever looked at, but still there just in case.

About ten years ago, a CD-ROM set containing every issue of MAD was released. I bought it, but it is very cumbersome to use because you are constantly switching discs. Recently, that has been updated to every issue of MAD on one DVD, which I wouldn't mind buying but it seems like I am buying something twice, which Suze Orman will tell you is wasting money.

So I've put up a poll for those interested in helping me figure out what to do with thes albatrosses. It's at the top of the page and I would appreciate any input from the peanut gallery. There are three options, but anything else, you can put in the comments or e-mail me privately. I am having a hard time getting rid of them, but a part of me thinks that if I put them on the garage sale we're having in a few weeks, they might sell like hotcakes. Then I could put the money toward purchasing the DVD.

(that Yoda one is NOT - despite what I thought earlier - one of the many that I'm pondering junking, I started collecting with MAD #223 with J.R. Ewing on the cover.)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Edited summer

As a result of the residual effects of the daddy-daughter dance, I bought Donna Summer's "Last Dance" on iTunes last night. Now don't misunderstand me, it's not as if I didn't already have that song in my iTunes. But the version I had was the one from Endless Summer, the umpteenth collection of Donna Summer's work from the 70s through the early 90s. It contains a horrendously edited version of "Last Dance", whittling it down to a meager 3:22. When I was listening to it after thinking about it the other night, it just seemed so, well...short.

So the version I bought was the 12" version, which clocks in at a 8:11. I lingered over the 4:58 edit from On The Radio, but I thought that since they were both 99 cents, I was getting nearly twice as much "Last Dance" for the same amount of money going for the 12" version.

I have not been disappointed. Upon listening to it, I realized that the edit completely excised what is basically the bridge. It was as if it were lying dormant in my brain, because the instant I heard it, I realized just how crucial it is.

I can't be sure that you're the one for me
But all that I ask

Is that you dance with me, dance with me, dance with me.

The 12" version also works in 3 different key changes and at about the midpoint goes back to the slow opening. Now THAT is how the song is supposed to sound.

Really, if you get right down to it, the edits that go on most best-of collections are pretty bad. I realize that best-ofs are catering to a completely different type of music fan than studio albums are, but they just always sound so bad to me. GHV2 remains the only Madonna album I have not purchased, mostly because it is the single laziest Madonna release ever (no new songs) but the edits on there are particularly heinous. I can make my own version of GHV2 very well, thankyouverymuch. And it will be better than the one officially released by the label.

Those big mammoth disco epics of the 70s were meant to be experienced in their original form, not in a bite sized piece. And you just won't find those on the best-of sets.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Just dance

I just got back from what is probably the second best time I have ever had dancing - the best time being a tie between my wedding (which involved me drinking an entire bottle of wine and famously DJing my own wedding dance) and our trip to the Garden for Heidi's birthday (one of my most favorite posts on this blog if I may be so bold and conceited).

Tonight was the Daddy-Daughter dance at Anna's school. Attending it required some creative scheduling at work, but it was totally worth it. I knew that it would be, but I had no idea that I would have as much fun as we did. Put on by the Meeker PTO which is trying to raise money for new playground equipment, it was well organized, well attended and a total blast, even if it did take its name from that gag-o-rific "Butterfly Kisses" song. Held in the gym at Anna's elementary school, it brought back memories of school dances I attended 20 years ago. The girls were dressed to the nines and most of the dads were all dressed pretty spiffily too. I wore a tie for the first time in forever as well as my cool New York suit coat.

We got there just after it started, and already the gym was full of dads and their daughters. At first, I was a little self conscious, as I normally am when we go anywhere to dance. I'm one of those guys that secretly (or not so secretly) just loves to dance, but has a hard time breaking through my initial layer of inhibitions. Usually, there's a little bit of alcohol involved in getting past them, but that was obviously not an option tonight. Ultimately, I decided it was just like the beach or the pool. I always think I am going to be the worst looking, most out-of-shape person there. I am always wrong, and really, no one is looking so you might as well just have fun.

And have fun we did. We danced to all sorts of stuff. They mixed it up quite nicely so that there was something for the kids ("High School Musical" was pretty prominent) as well as the oldsters like me, with some Cyndi Lauper and other 80s night staples thrown in for good measure. They played some surprises - Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and even a bit of Lady Gaga which has never sounded as good as it did tonight. It sounded so good, I actually downloaded "Just Dance" tonight after months and months of resisting it. Perhaps the oddest song played all night was "Rock and Roll All Night" by Kiss, which Anna knows from Guitar Hero. When I hear it, all I can think of is Role Models - rock and roll all night and part of every day.

Anna was hilarious tonight. She declared to me as we walked in the door "I put on extra deodorant, just in case." It was a good thing because the gym was kind of stinky by the end of the night. She was never quite able to decide if she wanted to be with me or with her friends. When we were dancing, it was hard to convince her that every song was not a chance for her to do a solo interpretive dance. But who am I to discourage? I just enjoyed being with her.

One of the most interesting aspects of the night was the wide array of fathers at the dance. We were all along the spectrum when it came to comfort level with being dancing fools. While I was probably somewhere in the high 70s/low 80s on the dancing fool scale (100 being the highest), there were some guys that cut the rug even more than me. Many were very stoic and did not really dance, which kind of begged the question why they were there at all. In the end, it was all about Anna, who just had a fantastic time, even though her shoes hurt her feet and her necklace, bracelet and scarf were in my pocket within the first hour.

When "Butterfly Kisses" was inevitably played at about the half way point, we had been having such a good time that I barely noticed. We danced around the floor a little bit, but what struck me is how little of a "Butterfly Kisses" relationship Anna and I have. Oh, sure we do in some respects - much of that is just what being the father to a daughter is. But our relationship is so much more than just the sappy stuff. It's about listening to the Guitar Hero playlist on my iPod (even though I was caught off guard for the "Dad, what does 'talk dirty to me' mean?" question). It is about watching Meerkat Manor on the Netflix box and playing the Titanic song as a piano duet. In fact, during the song, while most of the dads were doing the slow dance with their daughters, mine was off being the free spirit that she is, occasionally bouncing back to me to do a spin or a twirl. Hopefully, the way that I am parenting her is fostering that free spirit rather than squashing it.

For all the greatness that was the dance, I will say they totally blew the last song. It was Etta James' "At Last." If it had been me in charge of the music, it totally would have been Donna Summer's "Last Dance." Not to mention there would have been at least one Madonna song. There are some that are appropriate for kids! It is not a dance without either "Vogue" or "Into The Groove."

What a great night. On the way home, we couldn't stop talking about how much fun we had. It makes the coming weekend of work just that much more palatable. Because no matter what tomorrow deals me, tonight I am happy.

Here's some pictures of us before we left for the dance.