Monday, February 28, 2011

More than you know

I figure that today's a day that a large percentage of the blogosphere will be blogging about Lady Gaga's new video, which I find to be a classic spectacle video in the grand Madonna tradition. But I decided that rather than blog about Gaga, I'd blog about Martika instead.

I don't know what reminded me of Martika today. Actually, scratch that - yes I do. Last night at the Oscars fete we hosted, we were listening to my Genius playlist based on Regina's "Baby Love" and Martika's "More Than You Know" was on that playlist. Martika's one of those late 80s artists that many mistake for a one-hit wonder. Her song "Toy Soldiers" was inescapable in the summer of 1989. In all honesty, I was never terribly fond of that song and it's "step by step, heart to heart" refrain.

I actually owned Martika's debut album for a while before it was sold off in one of many many attempts to streamline my CD collection. True to form, a few months after I sold it, I found myself wishing I hadn't because when it comes to late 80s pop songs, you don't get much better than "More Than You Know." It was the first of Martika's songs that I ever heard even though it took until the third single release (a cover of Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move") to convince me to buy the album, one listen to it and you'll recognize exactly why it connected to me. It practically screams Dan.

I remember searching like CRAZY for "More Than You Know" back in the Napster days, but it proved so elusive that I almost gave up. I eventually did find it as well as "Toy Soldiers" and "I Feel The Earth Move." I even came across a "remix" (more like an extended version) of "More Than You Know." Really, it was all the Martika I figured I needed.

So why have I spent tonight blowing the last of my eMusic credit finishing out the album? Well, it is pretty solid late 80s pop. Only a couple songs are cringe-worthy - I'm still holding out on "It's Not What Your Doing" and "See If I Care" but yeah, the rest of the album is in my iTunes now. The production, while dated, still somehow manages to sound good and even though Martika's voice is wafer-thin, it's certainly better than Paula Abdul who was churning out #1 hit after #1 hit at that time.

Martika has kind of fallen off the face of the Earth - as a lot of those artists did - but she did make a follow up album that contains the Prince-penned song "Love...Thy Will Be Done" which I know almost completely due to Casey Stratton's cover of it. This video is only a partial, but he nails it.

Saying so makes me sound old, but sometimes I really miss music like this. It was music that made you feel good. When it comes to music, I'm kind of of the opinion if it doesn't feel good, don't do it. Now how many things in life do we really get to say that about?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Portrait of the blogger as a young boy

I've been going through all these old photo albums that my mom has, slowly but surely scanning the pictures in so that they have a little more permanence. One of the albums that she has was from my grandmother's house and has a lot of pictures that I had not seen before. Anyway, this was one of them.

When I think of myself as a young boy, this is how I remember myself. I had a school desk that I would sit at and do math workbooks, if you can believe it! Funny thing is I see a lot of Anna in that photo. I can't imagine getting my child to do something like that, although she does manage to spend a lot of time at her computer (although she's spent more time with the Wii since she got Zelda for Christmas.)

That's the part of ourselves we have to take care of because those of you that know me well probably recognize him in the adult me. I know I sure do.

Decade old Oscar mix

Oscar weekend is nearly upon us. As I mentioned in a previous post, we have seen 60% of the Best Picture nominees which is a sight better than last year when the only Best Picture nominee we had seen was Up. The Oscars are kind of a Big Thing around here. It's probably less about the awards and more about the company and camaraderie that have come to characterize every year's Oscars. I enjoy the core group of people that we always get together with - they truly are family. We are always open to more people coming in (if they dare) because honestly, the more the merrier. I work this weekend but it's day shifts so it should be okay, plus I have Monday off so I won't have to worry about having to get to bed at a decent hour.

All the talk of Oscars got me to thinking about the year that we made an Oscar mix CD for everyone. I don't think we've done that in years, and let me tell you how it's NOT happening this year as I haven't the time to put something together like that. Anyway, I dug through my big old CD wallet that houses all my burned CDs from the early 2000s. I kind of quit burning CDs en masse when I got an iPod, and it's kind of fun sometimes to look through them as they all have cover art thanks to Microsoft Publisher. It didn't take me long to find the Oscar mix CD which was creatively titled "Oscar Mix 2001."

If that is not a motley mix, I don't know what is. A few points:

  • The video mix of "What It Feels Like For A Girl" was undoubtedly a Napster of Audiogalaxy acquisition. A full mix of it was released on the CD maxi-single, but the edit is still unreleased on CD.
  • The themes from Mommie Dearest and Supergirl are nods to movies that had been viewed at previous Oscar parties as it was our tradition to watch a movie that had been "snubbed" by Oscar.
  • Two mash-ups in a row and four Madonna songs? My mixing skills have improved in ten years - that would never happen now.
  • Any CD with "Pump Up The Jam" and "The Bad Touch" (do it like they do on the Discovery Channel) can't be all bad, right?
  • I still kinda love that Samantha Mumba song.
  • It kind of blows my mind that Heidi was probably very very early in her pregnancy with Anna when we made this CD.
I think I might have to make this into a playlist for my iPod. But first, I have to get my tax shit together. I'm not remotely ready for our tax appointment tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In the Heart of the Sea

Wow, what a difference a month makes. While I read seven books in January, I'll be lucky if I make even half that this month. So far, I've actually finished ONE book, but I am reading four right now, so there might be hope. I'm giving myself the excuse that February is the shortest month of the year, so in addition to screwing up my budgeting by being only 28 days, bringing next month's bills into this paycheck, it also makes it impossible to live up to January's impressive book consumption.

The book that I managed to finish this month is Nathaniel Philbrick's In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. My biggest challenge I had with this book was not referring to it by the name of the blue diamond from Titanic and calling it In the Heart of the Ocean because, as everyone knows, it all goes back to Titanic. As is mentioned in many reviews, the story of how the Nantucket whaleship Essex runs afoul of a angry sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is like an 19th century Titanic story, only without the Celine Dion bombast and nifty CG.

I wasn't sure I would like this book because I was afraid I would drown in a litany of unfamiliar sea-faring terms, indistinguishable characters and dry prose. I should have known better - it did win the National Book Award after all. Any book that can inspire a story like Moby Dick (no matter how impossible Moby Dick is to actually read) can't be all bad. What I got was a story that grabbed you instantly and really didn't let go of you at all. You learn a lot about whaling in the 1800s, the social system that existed on whaleships, as well as life back on Nantucket - which apparently consisted of plaster dildos since the men were gone to sea for sometimes as long as two years. (If you don't believe me about the plaster dildo, believe me, it's in there. Found hidden in a chimney of a 200 year old house on Nantucket. Truth is truly stranger than fiction, folks.)

The thing I really took away from this book is that no matter how bad you think your job is, being on a whaleship in the 1800s was worse. As if keeping a wooden sailing ship seaworthy wasn't hard enough, the killing of the whales really took the cake. I always thought that the harpoon killed the whale. Heck NO. Once harpooned, the whale had to be stabbed repeatedly, close to a cluster of arteries near the lung. Once these blood vessels were pierced, the blood would start blowing out the spout (referred to by whalers as "the chimney's on fire"), covering the crews in the small whaling boats that pursued the aquatic mammals. Harvesting the blubber and oil from the whale was enough to make your stomach turn.

But what really is at the heart of this book (pardon the pun) is the story of survival - or lack thereof - after the Essex is sunk by the whale. With the crew divided into two small whaling boats, they sailed some 3,000 miles around the south Pacific, with precious little food or water. I will always remember The Perfect Storm's gut-wrenching description of death by drowning, and in many ways, the descriptions of starvation and dehydration matched that in terms of detail. Throw in descriptions of the inevitable cannibalism on top of it and, really, how can you go wrong?

This was one of those books that I picked up on a whim and I sure am glad I did. If you're trying to decide between this and Moby Dick, trust me, Philbrick's book may not be as famous, but it's infinitely better. The only thing it was missing was Celine.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Orbits, suns and planets

Winter's Bone was on last night's agenda. It was the last of the Oscar movies we had a prayer of seeing, which would have left us with only Black Swan, The Fighter and 127 Hours unseen (as far as Best Picture nominees go) as we head into next weekend's Oscar show. We bailed and watched last Monday's House instead. Honestly, I think it was a better choice because I'm just not in the mood for depressing movies. Real life, it seems, is depressing enough as it is without actively seeking it out.

The other reason it was a good choice was because it fit into what seems to be an overriding theme of the week. As House gets a bit long in the tooth, the medical mystery of the week is less and less intriguing and I'm more frequently drawn in by the secondary storylines of the episodes. As Heidi pointed out, putting House and Cuddy together really should have ruined the show, but for some reason, it works better than ever. This week's episode was really all about loneliness. The patient, who could inexplicably remember every single memory since puberty had isolated herself due to her inability to forgive anyone for indiscretions. Wilson, still burning from his breakup with Sam, gets a cat rather than jump out into the dating fray again. Taub has failed a pathology certification exam and is sentenced to having Foreman as a tutor, only to realize that, when Foreman extends the offer for him to stay at his place, living by himself in a fleabag motel in the wake of his separation was not the most ideal thing in the world.

A song played at the end of the episode that I had to go and search for the minute the credits rolled. It took a little bit of Googling, but eventually I figured out it was Wilco's "How To Fight Loneliness." I liked it because it was of the indie ilk that seems to always make the unofficial House soundtracks but don't frequently make my own personal soundtracks. I also liked how it could be interpreted in more than one way - the most obvious being that fighting loneliness is all about faking it, putting on a veneer for the world to see while inside you feel exactly the opposite. However, I think the more accurate interpretation (at least for me) is that if you smile all the time, laugh at every joke and fill your heart with smoke, you may actually end up attracting the very things that counter it, bringing more people into your orbit and taking the edge off the lonely feelings that seem to affect many of us, whether we admit to them or not. I think things like Facebook and Twitter, while helping us to connect with each other have, oddly enough, left us feeling more lonely and more out of touch. I can say for myself that there are many times I've thought about taking a week off of both FB and Twitter, just to see how I felt. Maybe I'd focus more on other things? Or would I be pushing away the things that "How to Fight Loneliness" urges you to attract?

Whatever the answer, I'm not convinced that's entirely right either. Really, the best commentary on this sort of thing comes from Stevie that should surprise anyone. It's another song that has been in heavy rotation recently - "Planets of the Universe." It's one of my favorite Stevie Nicks songs, one that has been around forever but finally found a home on Trouble in Shangri-La. It is angry and biting and, naturally, mostly about Lindsey Buckingham. Not having been in a relationship with LB, it has broader meaning for me. When I am at my loneliest, when it feels like the world has shut off just when I'm wanting interaction and there's just no having it, I take an incredible amount of solace in this song. Because here's what Stevie says:

And the planets of the universe
Go their way
Not astounded by the sun or the moon
Or by the day
You and I will simply disappear
Out of sight
But I'm afraid soon there'll be
No light

What it says to me is that we are all just like those planets. Sometimes our orbits cross or approach each other, but in the end, we are all on our own path. The best that we can hope for is to share a sun and that we stay in each other's sight, because ultimately, we have to do it on our own. I think it's really easy to fall into the trap of believing that others will fill that gap that almost everyone feels. Maybe for some, it does. But I think for the vast majority of us, the other people are really like the other planets - in their own orbits. I think the best marriages are made of two people whose orbits intersect but remain their own, bouncing off an energy that encourages them to live their lives while still keeping the other in sight.

In last week's episode of House, House says to the patient who is looking at certain death without a kidney transplant, "it's ok, everyone dies alone anyway." Of course, he stole this from Cher who famously sang "sooner or later, we all sleep alone." I'm not sure if he's right or not, but I don't know if that's the point. I think the best we can do is make peace with it and welcome those that enter our orbits, no matter for how little time it might actually be. I don't think I'm there yet, but maybe someday I will be.

(I double dare anyone to find a blog post that mentions Wilco, Stevie Nicks AND Cher.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Today was one of those days where I needed to have a label on me that said "Caution: Not for human consumption." It really has been one of those days. Efforts to shake the funk off were mostly in vain, although I will say that the Pat Benatar book Between a Heart and a Rock Place has been pretty good tonic. Not being a huge Pat Benatar fan, it's filled with little tidbits that I didn't know and the writing, while not great, is highly readable. Not surprisingly, it's also made me want to listen to her music.

Heidi made beef stew for supper tonight and it was especially good. After supper, I still had serious munchies so I went looking for something else. I settled on one of my favorite after school snacks - chocolate milk and graham crackers. Boring? Yes, but beyond good. What you do is fill the glass up about 3/4ths full of chocolate milk and dunk the graham crackers. It's always a bit of a gamble because your timing has to be just right. You don't want to the dunk to be too long lest the cracker break off and fall into the milk, necessitating rescue with a spoon.

When I was in junior high, I would come home from school and sit at the kitchen table in front of the black & white TV set with chocolate milk and graham crackers. I would watch half-hour after half-hour of game shows. I kind of miss the 80s game shows but everything changes. The one I most associate with this time of my life was on the USA Network - Channel 7 back in the day. The show was "Jackpot" and it featured 16 contestants, 15 of which were seated and had envelopes containing riddles that were worth varying amounts of money. One of the contestants stood at a podium and selected numbers 1-15 and tried to answer the riddles. One of the envelopes contained the "jackpot riddle" and if answered correctly, the jackpot was split evenly between the two contestants. Much like contestant's row on "The Price Is Right," everyone had a chance to get up to the podium, but many didn't.

As I ate the graham crackers and milk tonight, I got to wondering if "Jackpot" was on YouTube. I shouldn't have even had to ask because of course it is.

As it turns out, the one I watched was a syndicated (and Canadian) version of the game show, the original being from the mid 70s. My father always hated game shows - they were in his list of shows he wouldn't watch ("I don't watch game shows, doctor shows, lawyer shows, police shows, soap operas or situation comedies!"), leaving pretty much "Nova" and "Market to Market" for him to watch. I remember old game shows fondly and the new crop from today just don't have the same feel.

Now, back to Benatar.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mad about Troi

In the last two days, I've had two completely unrelated events cause me to reference Counselor Deanna Troi of the Starship Enterprise. Honestly, I had kind of forgotten about good old Counselor Troi, but each time I invoked her name it was kind of to make fun of her seemingly relative uselessness aboard the Enterprise. Troi was a half-Betazoid (a telepathic race of humanoids from the planet Betazed), half-human empath and her lineage seemed to make her perfectly suited to be a ship's counselor. But, as Marie Sexton pointed out to me on Twitter last night, her most common line was "Captain, I'm sensing that something is amiss." My response to that was take off the "is amiss" and you'd be more accurate. For some reason, I always liked her, even though her nickname could have been "Captain Obvious." I'm sure that the fact that she was blazingly hot had absolutely nothing to do with the fact.

I always liked the Troi episodes, and there were never ever enough of them for my liking. In many ways, she had a lot in common with my other most-favored-female-sci-fi-TV-character Dana Scully. It never failed, whenever it was a Troi episode, she was always going to be in mortal peril, or at least in serious jeopardy. And since, like Scully, she was a main character and not just a random ensign, you could always rest assured in the fact that she was going to make it out alive, free to be aggravatingly vague (and massively attractive) another day.

My favorite Deanna Troi episode is probably "A Fistful of Datas" in which she, Lt. Worf and Worf's son, Alexander, are taking part in a holodeck simulation of what Troi calls "the Ancient West." And by the Ancient West, she means "the Old West." An experiment that Data was doing causes a malfunction in the Holodeck and suddenly, all the bad guys have Data's face. Not only that, all the safety features of the Holodeck have been overridden and now the holographic bullets are deadly. Surprisingly, this is not a Troi-in-jeopardy episode - she's actually quite crucial to the outcome. In spite of all that, it was the outfit and Western drawl that Deanna put on for most of the episode that sealed it for me. I really need to get that disc of ST: TNG from Netflix and watch it again.

I also always loved the episodes that Deanna's mother, Lwaxana Troi showed up in. Lwaxana was played by Gene Roddenberry's widow Majel Barret and was the closest any character came to being a drag queen on that show. She was outgoing, overbearing and had a not-so-thinly-veiled thing for Picard. My father always hated the Lwaxana Troi episodes, but I'm thinking that it would behoove the makers of ST:TNG to bundle up all the Lwaxana episodes and sell them as a piece, kind of like they did the Borg episodes. But I imagine that before long, all the episodes from TNG will be available for individual purchase through something like Amazon Video on Demand. In essence, that would be the same thing.

Deanna was never very respected on the show, at least not until the final season when she took her bridge officer's training test and they covered up her cleavage. You would think that someone as shallow as I seem to be when it comes to Troi would have found great issue with this, but in fact, I don't. I love the evolution of Troi's look through the seasons, especially when it comes to her hair. What started as the tragic-phallus look in season one transformed into the tumbling curly locks of the majority of the series. Then for the final season and all the TNG movies, she looked positively beautiful, sporting a newly straightened do. An empath never looked better.

Heidi and I tried to watch the first season of ST: TNG a couple years back and we were shocked at how bad it was. Wooden acting, plodding stories, it's kind of amazing it made it through one season, let alone seven. But it did get better and is the Star Trek that I grew up initially hating and then loving. We watched it every night at 10:30PM in my dorm room at Iowa State until we'd seen every episode so many times we wanted to barf.

I have no idea what Marina Sirtis (who played Counselor Troi) is up to now, but I'm grateful that she gave the world the character she did, even if we mostly think of her as sexy but mostly ineffectual. What I wouldn't have given to have seen her traditional Betazoid wedding.

EDIT: You can follow Deanna Troi on Twitter. You know I did it. The internet is truly a wonderful place.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tall people

Apparently, Friday was Hug a Tall Person Day. Normally, I don't get into these fake, made up holidays but as someone who is fairly tall, I must say that I didn't get nearly the hugs I was hoping for. But hey, win some and lose some. It did, however, get me to thinking about my favorite tall people. Naturally, my 6-foot-tall wife and my tall-for-her-age daughter are far and away my two favorite tall people. But of course, there are some others. Who knows, maybe I would have hugged them today. No particular order, as usual.

1) Robert Wadlow
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, he was the tallest person that ever lived, measuring 8'11" (or something like that.) I can't even imagine being that tall. Anyway, Wadlow grew so tall thanks to an overfunctioning pituitary gland that secreted wild amounts of growth hormone. He only lived 22 years, dying from a cellulitis caused by a leg brace, but even then, he showed no signs that his growing had stopped. I remember Wadlow being one of the subjects of the HBO special Some Call Them Freaks which was on when I was a kid. It kind of freaked me out, as did Wadlow.

2) The Tall Man (from Phantasm)
Jesus Christ, is Phantasm one fucked up movie or what. I've seen it several times and I still don't think I could give a synopsis of the plot. That said, the Tall Man is one scary m.f. He runs Morningside Mortuary and, as near as I can tell, is using human bodies as slaves on his planet (dimension?) He has super human strength and yellow blood and well, what can you say. I hope that Angus Scrimm has squeezed every last ounce of coolness out of playing such a titular character. I think it's probably high time for a rewatch of that entire series.

3) Treebeard

While technically not a person, you can't deny that Treebeard is most certainly tall.

4) Jack Skellington
I never saw The Nightmare Before Christmas until just last year, and I have to admit that it was better than I expected. It scared Anna (of course) but the influence it had on Corpse Bride, which I think is the better of the two pictures, is palpable. I have no idea how tall he is in his world, but man, he seems like he'd be the tallest thing around with legs that just go on and on. I totally should go as Jack Skellington for Halloween some year, it would be a piece of cake.

5) Wonder Woman
Again, don't know how tall she actually is, but she's an Amazon so she must be tall, right? She will forever be Woman, Wonder to Jeff and me (that's pronounced Woman Comma Wonder), and the ultimate potrayal of her will always be Lynda Carter's in the TV show from the 70s. She'll make the Axis fold, stop a war with love, make a hawk a dove and make a liar tell the truth. You're a wonder, Wonder Woman!

So if there are any tall people in your life that you didn't hug, get to it! Even though Hug A Tall Person Day is history, as a wise person once said (Kylie, I think), it's never too late!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Training day

I will be embarking into the great unknown tomorrow morning at 9AM.

On December 20th, Jill Daiker gave me my last haircut. After about 5 years of haircuts, she has left Ames. In January, she got married and moved to Ireland with her husband where the pastures literally ARE greener. I knew that it was coming for quite a while, but the reality of it really didn't sink in until tonight. Tomorrow when I go to get my hair cut, I won't just be able to sit there, confident in the fact that it's Jill and she knows what she's doing. No, instead I'll be in unknown hands, the result of which could exceed my wildest expectations. Or not. Because tomorrow is training day. To be totally honest, I'd rather be in the market for a new doctor because finding someone I trust to cut my hair correctly is not something I take lightly.

Now, before you all jump to the conclusion that I'm kind of dramatic about my hair, let me assure you that, yes, I kind of am. When I was a kid, my hair was stick straight. Then I hit puberty and the curl turned on. It was at that point that I began my lifelong battle with my hair, trying to force it to do things it didn't want to do and be things it wasn't meant to be. My defense for the longest time was keeping it extremely short. I got my hair cut every 3-4 weeks like clockwork. When I first moved to Ames, I went to someone that almost did it right. I put up with it because I really didn't know where else to go. When she moved away, I ended up with Jill. It was a match made in heaven. She knew just how to cut my hard-to-cut curly hair and recently, I've been going as long as 8 weeks between haircuts. Not only that, she was down-to-earth and easy to talk to. The icing on the cake was that we were from the same hometown, so whenever we would meet for my appointment, we would always swap stories of what was going on and who was dating who, etc. etc. Perfect.

Well now she's gone. I e-mailed Jill a couple weeks back asking her to tell me exactly what I need to tell the new person. I'm going there on Jill's recommendation, but I have been spoiled by years of her just knowing what to do. She sent me a description filled with technical terms, which included the highly questionable term "recession line" (she apologized for using it.) Hopefully, Wendy (the new person) will be able to figure it out. I'm a bit nervous because I'm going in at 9AM and I work at noon, so it doesn't give me much time to figure out what to do with it if it comes out terrible. Which it won't. I hope.

I know, I know. It's just hair. That's what I keep telling myself, even though it IS kind of a big deal to me. But more than that, I'm kind of dreading the 30+ minutes of idle chit chat. Finding a new person to cut your hair is a little like dating - if the chemistry is bad, nothing else matters. I'm not interested in all the questions about where I work and what my wife does and how old my child is. It won't be her fault, that's for sure. She'll just be doing her best, which I'm sure will be fine. Jill wouldn't have recommended her if she didn't have full faith in her. She reiterated that confidence in her e-mail.

But mostly, I miss Jill. However, I will try to pick up the pieces because boy do I need a haircut like no one's business.

Thirteen Reasons Why

I read like crazy in January. At the end of the month, I found that I had read seven books. For comparison, when I was doing the Year of 25 Books last year, it took me until April to get the the seventh book. Admittedly, one of seven in January was kind of a cheat because it was so easy to read, but it still counts! So stepping away from the computer and actively trying to read more actually DOES work.

The last book I read in January was Jay Asher's young adult novel, Thirteen Reasons Why. This book had been recommended to me by my friend Bess last year. (EDIT: As it turns out, it wasn't Bess, and I'll be goddamned if I can remember who it was!) All during 2010, I kept meaning to read it but it is constantly checked out of the library and my to-be-read pile was always threatening to fall over anyway. I finally decided to put it on hold at the library and naturally, it arrived while I was reading something else. I swear, that's how it always works out for me. But I did manage to finish it on the last day of January.

High school student Hannah Baker has committed suicide. A week or so later, a box of tapes ends up on the front step of her classmate Clay Jensen's house. On these tapes are Hannah Baker's last "fuck you" to the world. She says that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to kill herself. All of them are people and all of them must listen to these tapes to find out why. They must then pass them on to the next person on the list like a demented chain letter. If the chain is broken, a duplicate set of tapes will be released to the public and well, nobody wants that to happen.

Let me be honest, Thirteen Reasons Why has teenage angst leaking out of the page and all over the floor. And it made me absolutely crazy. I'm fond of saying that teenage angst should be measured in angstroms because that's how big it really is vs. how big it seems. Trust me, I've been there and I know. I have a sneaking suspicion that Asher wanted us to feel bad for Hannah but honestly, I really didn't. I found her to be self-centered and annoying and not as smart as she thought she was. She was not a sympathetic character at all. The things that happened to her were bad, yes, especially what happened with the thirteenth person, but when it was all taken into account and looked at as a whole, was it really worth ending her life over it? I suppose that's the point. It's never as bad as it seems and suicide is never the answer. Hannah's victim mentality just never really jibed with her story and made her seem like a big drama queen. If anything, she was more a victim of her own inner thoughts, ascribing a bigger meaning to events than they really had.

I'm sure this makes me sound like an insensitive boor that hasn't a single iota of compassion for the problems teenagers face these days. Actually, it's the opposite, especially as my own daughter approaches her teenage years. We're still a ways off from it, but it'll be here before I know it and already, I have to bite my tongue a little bit when she comes home from school with something that is the end of the world as we know it because I know full well it's not. I remember feeling the same way as a teenager, except most of my visions of the apocalypse were internal and, like Hannah, I tended to see one psychological drama after another in everything - something followed me well into my 30s.

As I read the book, I wondered if I would have felt any differently about it had I been 17 when I read it. This is, without a doubt, a book I would have lapped up at that age and probably even into my first few years of college. Maybe it's similar to how you perceive Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. If you meet him in high school, he's an anti-establishment hero. A whole lot later than that and he comes off as a big fat whiner. Maybe that's why I didn't connect to this story. If anything, I felt bad for Clay who was incredulous as to his involvement in Hannah's suicide for her really actually liked Hannah quite a bit.

So I guess I'll chalk this up to not being the target audience of a book. For me it's like Carly Simon says, "melodrama never makes me weep anymore."

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Roundabout fandom

I've been delinquent in blogging, and I had such a good January! Oh well, I guess it's back to reality as they would say after the opposite sketches on You Can't Do That on Television. I worked this weekend but have tomorrow off so I am really hoping to sleep in. Getting out of bed has been a real feat these days.

One thing I must say though, I have been in a HUGE Kylie mode these days. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the reality of actually going to see her live is just starting to sink in. And in such a small venue! And with such close seats! Yeah, it's a 13 hour drive, but who cares? WE'RE GOING TO KYLIE! Whenever the day starts to go south, I just think WE'RE GOING TO KYLIE and almost immediately, things look better. Much like St. Patrick's Day, it's a ready-made excuse to be happy.

I was getting ready to take off for work yesterday and realized that, to my great dismay, I didn't have the entirety of Kylie's first CD on my iPod. Kylie was among the first 10 CDs I purchased back in late 1988/early 1989 and I purchased it on the strength of two songs, her ubiquitous cover of "The Loco-Motion" (which, oddly enough, was the last vinyl 45 I purchased) and "I Should Be So Lucky" which was a much smaller hit in the U.S. but was one of my favorite songs of the summer of 1988. I was actually quite surprised to see that it was a U.S. Top 40 hit for Kylie which is something that has pretty much eluded her for the vast majority of her career.

I'm pretty sure that the first time I heard "I Should Be So Lucky" was when I saw the video for it on Night Tracks. It was cheesy female pop so how could I resist it? But who was this woman singing this song? And how the hell did you say her name? Well, with an earworm of a chorus such as the one found in "I Should Be So Lucky," it really didn't matter. I remember calling up the local radio station and asking them to play it (I had heard them play it once before.) They did and I still recall the DJ butchering her name, calling her something like Kee-lay Minogue. Once "The Loco-Motion" became a hit, DJs were forced to pronounce her name right.

Kylie is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's got some great singles. But man, the filler is FILLER. It's a Stock-Aitken-Waterman production so consequently, a lot of it kind of blends together. Many of the songs have aged very badly, partially due to the production and partially because they are some of the cheesiest songs you'll ever hear. "It's No Secret" is one song that I feel has especially not stood the test of time although I remember liking it a lot at the time. Most of the songs I enjoy kind of in spite of myself. For example, the song "Love At First Sight" is cute in a late 80s way, but let me count the ways in which the 2001 version from Fever is superior. Mostly though, it's throwaway pop.

It was the last Kylie album I would buy for 12 years. She completely and utterly fell off my radar after that song and then her albums weren't even given US releases. At the dawn of the mp3 revolution, I remember downloading a couple tracks from Light Years off the internet, but it wasn't until "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" took the planet by storm that I picked up Fever and I've purchased pretty much everything since as well as going back and acquainting myself with the stuff I missed, assimilating it into my life's soundtrack. In many ways, it's been kind of fun to have a roundabout fandom, one that started out on the ground floor but then disappeared, only to come roaring back over a decade later.

But as songs from the debut album goes, not much touches the glorious cheese of "Got To Be Certain." I really REALLY hope she sings this live on the tour. And with Kylie, you never know. Unlike Madonna, there seem to be no "off limits" songs and I adore how she embraces her back catalog with such enthusiasm, as if she really does realize that people come to shows to hear songs they know. Not that being Aphrodite heavy will be a bad thing, but I can pretty much guarantee we'll hear a crapload of Kylie classics.

I love this video so much. It's so cheesy but Kylie looks good in the black dress. There are apparently four different edits of this video and the one I always remembered was the one with Kylie on the merry-go-round at the beginning of the bridge. It took me a while, but I finally found it on YouTube. It starts at about 1:56.

Don't mock me because even if you do, I won't give a shit.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The right thing to do

The last 24 hours has been a jumbled up mixed bag of emotions. We headed down to Des Moines last night in less than ideal weather to attend the Public Hearing on House Joint Resolution 6 at the State Capitol. The house was packed as we expected and many, many people were signed up to speak both for and against a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would strip not only marriage rights away from LGBT Iowans, but also make any union that they could possibly aspire for unrecognized in the eyes of the state. Some of the testimony was so uplifting and some of it was downright disgusting. Iowa at its best and worst was on display last night. That said, everyone in the gallery was civil to each other for the most part, despite the fact that we vehemently disagreed on the subject matter. That, folks, is what Iowa is all about.

Both sides got equal time and although she had signed up to speak, Heidi did not get a chance to. She did publish her prepared remarks on her blog which I encourage everyone to read. I was even interviewed very briefly by the Des Moines Register and made the article in this morning's paper. I expressed my doubts that any minds were changed by the testimonies given that night, all the while hoping beyond hope that perhaps some of those that had declared support for the amendment would have a change of heart.

I knew that this wouldn't happen. With 56 Republican co-sponsors, the bill was a shoo-in to pass. What I didn't expect were 3 Democratic representatives to join in with the GOP and vote for the resolution, passing 62-37 with one Republican representative absent. These three representatives are, in my eyes, more worried about saving their own political skins than they are about doing the right thing. When it comes to this issue, those that won't stand up and do what's right are no different from the Republicans.

Conversely, we have our own Beth Wessel-Kroeschell who has fearlessly and consistently led the charge against the amendment. She has a solidly Democratic district so I'm not sure that politically such a stand is much of a risk to her, but my appreciation of her continued support cannot be understated.

Still, despite the fact that the outcome was expected and I knew Beth would be a loud and vocal advocate, I reacted poorly to the outcome. I was sad and depressed after work. I wondered if it was even worth it to go down last night. Clearly, if these legislators could not be moved by these stories, is there anything that will work? Was there anybody that could voice support of the amendment without quoting from the Bible or referencing the Judeo-Christian God? There were times last night that I felt like I was in Sunday School, being forced to listen to Bible verses. It made me want to say a la Eddie Izzard "Corinthians letter to St. Paul, Chapter one, verses one to a million. FUCK OFF!" Tonight, I wanted to throw in the towel because it seemed like it just wasn't worth it anymore. We can't change their minds and they can't change ours. And now that they're in control, what can we possibly do?

But no, that's not what we do. The other side will work tirelessly and now they have momentum so they have no reason to let up. That means we have to keep working and educating and speaking our minds. I've been thinking a lot this week about the phrase "having the courage of your convictions." And that's what it boils down to for me. Talking the talk at this point is not enough, at least not for me. I have to be willing to give up a weeknight to drive down to Des Moines in a snowstorm to be one more body in support of all my LGBT friends. I have to be willing to be interviewed for the paper and not care who might see it. I will likely annoy a lot of people and sound like a broken record but damn it, this is too important.

As Heidi said, my marriage will never be voted on - who are you to say that some people's should be?

Two steps forward, one step back. That's how this kind of stuff goes. I know that ultimately it's going to take an US Supreme Court decision to settle this once and for all. Until then, I will continue to work tirelessly in the ways that I am able. What I will not do any longer is listen to any argument in this debate that invokes religious fundamentalism or the Christian God. At this point, it should be like using Nazis in an argument. You do it, you automatically lose.

This is my last word on this particular chapter but you can bet your last dollar I'll still be fighting for it. The problem with being passionate is you open yourself up to being hurt, but it's better than not feeling at all. And as Carly Simon says, it's the right thing to do.