Archive for June, 2008

I’m Ranting Because I Care. Or Because I Totally Don’t.

Posted in Rants & Rages with tags , , on June 30, 2008 by tigereye

I’ve been hanging out on a few sites lately that, while fun, tend to lean a little more celebrity-heavy than I usually like. I’ll go there looking for a conversation on the election or a good book review and instead it’s where I can get all the latest up-to-date information on Amy Winehouse and whichever Olsen twin is around lately (like it matters).

I’m actually kind of fascinated by Amy Janis Winehouse, and occasionally someone I’m interested in will show up in a picture — George Clooney is always a nice surprise — but it’s irritating to see all these photos that belong in Us Weekly on a site that usually has a little more substance. Celebrities in general kind of bore me. Besides, you’ve got a guy as interesting as Barack Obama running for President and all these people can crab on about is some British modelly thing on her fourteenth minute? Nah, I could be doing my nails.

For example:

Who is Agyness Deyn and why on God’s earth would anyone find her interesting?

Who gives a rat’s ass what Miley Cyrus (or her sad-assed washed-up dad) is doing this week?

Does anyone even remember Hilary Duff? No, and we like it that way.

Who are Spencer somebody and Chuck Bass and why should I read about them instead of playing spider solitaire compulsively ’til I win?

Don’t get me wrong. I went to that site to escape a crappy-assed social network, and at least the new place actually enforces its Terms of Service, which few other places can claim. I’m just in a bad mood and don’t give a damn that Matt Damon has eaten all the Ben & Jerry’s on the West Coast, as long as he leaves some for me.

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Tagged Like a Snow Leopard (Why Am I Wearing a Radio Collar?)

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , on June 27, 2008 by tigereye

Nice Melons tagged me, and I was just thinking — I believe someone else tagged me for God knows what, back around the time John was in the hospital and I was going broke fast. But now that my life is in TOTAL working order, ha ha, here I am — and if you’re that other person who tagged me way back when, I will owe you one. Seriously. No fingers crossed or anything.

I’m’a do what Wanda did — or somebody — sorry, you guys caught me on Flaky Friday — and just cut out the old answers and put in my own…

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Working at a Barnes & Noble, trying to claw my way up into management. When I did, it absolutely sucked.  

What are 5 (non work) things on my to do list for today?

Watch as much Wimbledon on ESPN as possible, go run a couple errands, finish Forever Free  (the last book in Joy Adamson’s Born Free trilogy — hmm, note to self: buy Kleenex on that errand) , avoid a relapse of yesterday’s spectacular migraine, work a little on the novel, and listen to “This American Life” on NPR tonight.

What are my favorite snacks?

Bruster’s Cake Batter ice cream, peanut butter Girl Scout cookies, chili-lime tortilla chips with Paul Newman’s pineapple salsa, and cookie dough of just about any kind.

What five things would I do if I were a billionaire?

Pay off Visa, buy a row house in San Francisco and a beach house in Hilton Head, go to Ireland and look up relatives I’ve never met, and keep on buying books. Oh, and follow Jimmy Buffett on tour for a year. 

Where have I lived?

Two small towns and two large ones in SC. For reasons of privacy — you never know who’s lurking — I will only name Clemson as one of them. Sorry.

What jobs have I had?

Part-time bookseller, clothing retail, Clinique, bookstore manager, college bookstore flunkie, and transcriptionist.

Which bloggers/friends would I like to know more about?

To quote Wanda, everyone’s been tagged already! But all of you that visit here.

 

 

 

Not Very Funny

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , on June 25, 2008 by tigereye

I’m sick of losing the good ones. Bo Diddley, Jim McKay, Tim Russert — like those guys aren’t going to be missed enough, while Cheney and Rove and their like are still sliming around without their souls — but George Carlin? What is this? THIS ISN’T FUNNY.

I love comedians. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in front of the TV late at night with my parents, watching Johnny Carson, or (and sometimes even better) whoever his guest host might be, all of us laughing ourselves silly. We’d say, as the sky darkened or as one of us began yawning, “Don’t fall asleep — Bill Cosby’s hosting tonight.” That would perk me right up. I loved Bill as much as Johnny. See? I was on a first name basis with both of them!

I fell in love with Steve Martin, whether he was on Carson (as we referred to “The Tonight Show”) or on Saturday Night Live, from Yortuk Festrunk the Wild and Crazy Guy to Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber. I laughed helplessly every time I saw John Belushi appear onstage as the Samurai and whenever Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd went at each other during “Point/Counterpoint.” I thought Richard Pryor was funny until I saw Eddie Murphy for the first time — I had no idea who Gumby was but it didn’t matter, and the Assassination of Buckwheat made me snicker out loud just remembering it, this minute.

Joan Rivers was funny (really — yeah, honestly, but it was a long, long time ago) but Elayne Boosler was hilarious.

I would leave John for Harry Anderson, whether he was doing magic on SNL (remember when he ate the live guinea pig?) or starring in my favorite sitcom ever, “Night Court.” Sorry, John, but you can’t blame me.

I wanted to throw stuff off the roof with Letterman on a weeknight. I wanted to hang out after school with the Huxtables. I was proud whenever strangers mistook my dad for Steve Martin, which happened almost weekly in the ’80s.

I fell in love/lust with Denis Leary the first time I heard him sing the Asshole Song.

And now George Carlin is gone. He was the only comedian I’ve ever seen on tour outside a comedy club, and I remember his opening routine was on the Airport Security Questions: “Did I pack my bag myself? No, my friend Abdul offered to do that for me.” After 2001, I thought wistfully that he’d have to retire that routine. Not to worry. A friend who saw him a year later said he was now riffing on the humor of suicide. I had been a fool to think the likes of Carlin could ever lose his edge.

He’s also the first person I’ve ever seen in concert who has died, which is a hard slap of reality. I’m under no illusions that B.B. King and Eric Clapton and the Stones will live forever… OK, maybe the Stones will. I hope they do, actually. But Carlin was one of the most alive people I’ve ever seen. It was like the room hummed when he was in it, although he’d probably say that’s just because I’ve seen too many fucking concerts and my ears are wrecked.

Damn it, George, I hope you’re hanging out with that invisible man who lives in the sky right now. I miss you already. It’ll be a while before the seven words are fun any more.

OK, a short while.  But I still miss you, man.

Apologist or Bitch: You Be the Judge

Posted in Rants & Rages, Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by tigereye

When you lean as far left as I do, you encounter a lot of people who practice different religions or none at all. I like this, personally. I was raised in a little cracker town where the Most Different People around were the two Lutheran families, so when I was allowed into the larger world — I called this “graduating high school” — I was kind of relieved to actually meet some of the people whose beliefs I’d only read about until then. Any resulting cultural exchange was always fun. Seriously, I remember thinking — my Catholic friends had to share a veggie pizza once a week? My Hindu friends avoided McDonald’s fries? (I still think these guys were robbed. Those fries were a food group when I was growing up.) It was a cross between leaving Hooterville for the real world and stepping out of the black-and-white house into the color of Oz.

Since then, though, I’ve noticed one thing that bugs me more and more. I really get annoyed by the implication that all Christians are alike, stamped out of the same cookie cutter and following the same bizarre religious practices. I’ve met people who genuinely think we all handle snakes, speak in tongues, don’t drink, don’t swear (although I recognize the argument that I might really go to hell for this one), scream outside abortion clinics, and, last but most personally irritating, vote Republican.

Ahem. Please stand aside while I get this soapbox out.

I can’t say this directly to the folks on a couple of newly discovered and appreciated websites, or apparently 99% of all screenwriters anywhere on the planet, or even a few clueless dopes in my own political party who don’t realize we’re all under the same big blue tent, so I’m going to pass it along here and hope that someone who needs to hear this speech will follow one of my regular friends to this post.

All Christians are about as alike as all… well… all anything, and it’s like having a rock in my shoe to think that the guys who wrote, for example, my old favorite “The West Wing” would be astonished to learn about the vast difference in views, experience, and practice between, say, members of the Church of God and Episcopalians. (For anyone curious, I’m a Methodist. I was sort of raised Baptist but it quite obviously didn’t take.) By the time I was in high school and reading everything I could get hold of, I knew there were great disparities in other religions as well: the spectrum between Reform and Hasidic Jews, the disparity between all those religions — Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Shinto, and probably at least two or three more I’ll be embarrassed to have excluded –vaguely referred to in class as “Eastern,” or even the difference between two of my Catholic buddies, the one who attended Confession and Mass every week and the one who went to church maybe twice a year but still restricted herself to the veggie pizza on Friday nights. And then there were and are my atheist friends, including the one I’ve been with for nearly 11 years. He has slightly more conservative views on abortion than my Methodist self does, but also believes visitors to the Bob Jones University Art Museum should show the minor respect of dressing nicely when they’re there. I like this range, by the way. I’m not much into stereotypes.

I’m not asking for respect, because any Christian who doesn’t think we get it in spades is delusional. I’m just hoping maybe there’ll be one unsuspecting person who will slap his forehead and say (out loud, natch), “Golly gee willikers! What was I thinking? I’d better get hold of that screenplay I just sent Aaron Sorkin before he thinks I can’t tell a Presbyterian from a Primitive Baptist!” (Uh, dude, you’re probably in the clear.)

I watched “Fear Itself” last night on NBC and at one point the screenplay called for a family to be in church two weeks in a row and sing “Amazing Grace” both times. I didn’t think you had to be a foot-washer to know this is a big dumb error. Why do you think hymnals are so freakin’ big?, I asked the TV in frustration. If the only church songs you know are “Amazing Grace” and “Silent Night,” that’s fine, but before you sell this crap to someone don’t you think you should rustle up a friend and maybe ASK? It may have put me off the show.

What’s interesting to me is there are writers who make this mistake too, although considerably fewer of them and making even more considerably less money. Screenwriters as a rule strike me as egomaniacs, with the possible exceptions of Diablo Cody and Larry McMurtry, so maybe they don’t like to admit they aren’t in touch with everyone’s universal experience by asking somebody else for his or her recommendation. It’s also possible that they don’t know they don’t know, in which case they’re exactly like I would have been if I’d never left Hooterville, or read a book.

For the record, Imaginary Screenwriter who Stumbled Onto This Post, in my family alone there are Baptists, Methodists, and non-church-affiliates. Some of us drink and swear (some of us swear more than most people should), go to Jimmy Buffett and U2 and Tool concerts, watch extremely violent movies, vote Democratic (which is almost a secondary religion), have sex before we’re married, don’t like or want kids, hang out with gay friends, and don’t want the Ten Commandments propped up in every courtroom, classroom, and roadside rest stop like a Burma-Shave sign. Then there are others who equate drinking and smoking and premarital sex with crimes, went to private religious schools, don’t listen to any music racier than Josh Groban, place Bibles in every room of their home (including the bathroom, which is just freakin’ weird beyond words to me), are horrified by gay couples in California getting married, and think Bill Clinton is the Antichrist. (They might have moved on to thinking it’s Obama by now. I don’t know and hope I never find out.) So, Mr. Imaginary Curious Screenwriter, riddle me this: if one family, in one remote Hootervillian corner of one appallingly conservative southern state, can have a stretch like this between members of the same family, why can’t you figure out that maybe we all didn’t fit inside the same cookie cutter?

I hate the constant bitching of the right-wing whackjobs about the “Hollywood elite.” I think that’s a crock. You never hear them bemoaning the “sports elite,” do you? No, most of those guys vote the way the right wing wants them to, so they get a pass. And I’m not going to take a swing at Hollywood either. It’s lazy and misses the point.

The point is, I guess, to look around once in a while and see some new differences. It’s a big country, guys, and moreover, it’s oddly shaped. You’d better be prepared to bring a really big set of different cookie cutters to fit inside it. And that’s not even getting out to the rest of the world.

Horse Race

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2008 by tigereye

OK, bear with me. This isn’t exactly about what you think it’s going to be about.

I’ve watched the Triple Crown races as long as I can remember. For anyone who doesn’t know, a horse named Big Brown is poised to be the first horse in 30 years to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. It’s a big deal, although to be fair, he’s the 3rd horse in about 8 years to have won the first two; a lot of times, things go wrong for them in the Belmont.

But this is about something else.

Remember Secretariat?

He was possibly the greatest racehorse of all time. He won the Triple Crown in 1973 and set records in all three races, including one in the Belmont that will probably stand as long as any of us will live. But what most people don’t know is that among the field of horses he beat over and over was a racehorse named Sham.

Any other year, Sham probably would have won the Triple Crown himself. He had beaten Secretariat once before the Kentucky Derby (although Secretariat had an abscessed lip and was running a fever at the time). He was a great contender. He led the field briefly in the Derby before Secretariat, who had been dead last, came up and outran them all. After the race, it was discovered that Sham had knocked out two teeth coming out of the gate, so he wasn’t at his best when he lost, either.

In the Preakness, Sham was out in front again, and Secretariat came from last place like a rocket. He passed the entire field of seven horses in fourteen seconds. I’ve watched it on YouTube and it’s such an incredible performance it almost looks staged.

By the time they got to the Belmont, these two horses had fought it out for the lead twice already. Both had outstanding records; both had expert jockeys; both had that competitiveness that’s so humanizing in racehorses.

I can only imagine what they must have been thinking, going into the gate at the Belmont, seeing each other again, each knowing the other was the real competition.

Sham: I’m not going to lose to him again after coming so close.

Secretariat: How many times am I going to have to beat this guy?

They both went right for the lead in the last race, neck and neck for what seems a long time on a grainy video clip. Then Secretariat pulls away, slowly at first, then lengthening and lengthening his lead. It’s one of the most jaw-dropping athletic feats I’ve ever seen: he leaves Sham and the entire field behind by thirty-one lengths. It’s almost a sixteenth of a mile.

Sham, physically and probably psychically devastated, finished last.

Any other year, he almost surely would have won it all. But he just happened to be running at the same time as an incredible competitor. It was terrible luck for him: both horses were winners, had competitor’s hearts, had run with injuries, had fought it out for the lead almost all the way.

If it hadn’t been Secretariat’s year, it would have been Sham’s. He was good enough — he just met up with a champion.

I am a Barack Obama supporter (I was a John Edwards supporter, to be honest), but at times I have felt absolutely wretched for Hillary Clinton. I bet she feels like Sham. Any other year, any other (less badly run) campaign, and I would have been honored to vote for her. Hell, if she’d won the nomination, I would have.

She just happened to meet up with a champion.

When Secretariat died, and a veterinarian performed his necropsy, he was stunned to find that the horse literally had the biggest heart he’d ever seen. It wasn’t malformed or abnormally enlarged, it was just much bigger than the normal equine heart.

The same vet, it turns out, performed the necropsy when Sham died. And Sham had the second biggest heart he’d ever seen. Second only, of course, to Secretariat’s.

 

 

June 4, 1919

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , on June 4, 2008 by tigereye

I didn’t know what today was, either, until I read about it at www.jezebel.com, but it’s the anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s passage. If it wasn’t for this day in history, I wouldn’t be able to vote. (For anybody.)

Voting has always been a Big Deal in my family. I remember being 6 years old and asking both my parents if they’d hold me up so I could punch the card for Jimmy Carter. I did it again four years later, standing on my own two feet, although it didn’t work as well that time. In junior high, I was one of less than ten — no, I swear to God I’m not exaggerating — Democrats at an extremely affluent consolidated school (I was one of the broke-ass kids, which helps keep the chip firmly glued to my shoulder more than 20 years later), and one of three who volunteered to debate on Mondale’s behalf in Civics class. The Reagan kids yawned and adjusted their designer clothes while we gave our arguments. But I’ll try to be a little less partisan, although it goes against everything I am.

My point is, I’ve always voted. My parents have always voted. My grandparents, all three that I knew, always voted. My grandmother and I have both worked the polls on election day and during various primaries, and let me tell you, if you haven’t done it, that is some of the most exhausting work I’ve ever done — next time you vote, thank those senior citizen volunteers, because the first time I did that job I was 22 and it wrung me out like a cheap paper towel. And without the work of several admittedly flawed (the blatant racism of some of these women makes me cringe) but determined women, I’d not only never have voted myself, I probably wouldn’t have been able to beg my dad to pick me up so I could punch the ballot for Jimmy Carter.

I think we’ve still got a long, long, long, grueling way to go as women… but at least this was a start.

Postcards from Inside My Head

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2008 by tigereye

I’ve got a few things I want to write about, but frankly, the past two weeks have mainly consisted of two things: migraines and work. Work has been OK; in order to avoid whining I won’t go into the migraines, except to say I’m really, really tired of this.

So, without any theme for the day, here are a few things I’ve read and heard and watched and done recently, in the hopes that someone else will find them interesting and read/listen to/watch one of them, and maybe your life will be changed for the better. Or maybe you’ll just be entertained for a few hours. Better keep those expectations low.

 Danielia Cotton.  I discovered her thanks to NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, which has exposed me to so much terrible music over the past few weeks, I was going to sleep through it again, but then this amazing voice woke me up and made me write down the artist’s name. Danielia Cotton is a rock singer who reminds me of Tina Turner or Aretha Franklin singing over the Black Crowes’ music. The album NPR featured was Rare Child, which was phenomenal — not a bad track on it, which never happens anymore. Her first album, Small White Town, is almost as good. Not only does her voice knock me out and her music speaks to my raised-on-classic-rock soul, she’s a heartfelt lyricist too: I don’t think anyone’s talked to my heart like she does since I first discovered Gigi Dover or the Indigo Girls. I like her so much that when I Googled her and came across a snarky review, I wanted to crawl through my monitor to celebritycafe.com or wherever the hell it was posted and personally hit the “writer” in the mouth. Check her out. She rules. At this point, she’s far ahead of everybody else as being my Best Musical Find of the Year.

Duffy. OK, she’s no Danielia Cotton, but she’s pretty damn good. This is evidently going to be the Year of the Female Singer, which is fine by me. Duffy is a tiny little Brit chick with a voice the size of Aretha’s (hi again, Aretha — I promise this will be the last time I drag you into anything today) and a really cool Motown-ish sound to her music. Her album, Rockferry, isn’t as strong as either of Cotton’s, but then I doubt anything else is going to be, and anyway Rockferry isn’t at all bad, just a little first-album-ish in places.

Jill Tracy. She’s not new, even to me — I should explain. One of my major fixations is NPR’s Music from the Hearts of Space, which produces a one-hour show every week of ambient/post-new age music, and a few years back their Halloween show featured this haunting singer, accompanied mostly by solo piano. She had an otherworldly voice that sounded like she was channeling Marlene Dietrich’s cabaret act. Well, a couple of weeks ago, my friend Little Fluffy Cat sent me a YouTube video accompanied by… that same singer. I took it as a sign and hied myself right off to iTunes. Jill Tracy isn’t as accessible as the two women mentioned above, but she’s absolutely lovely to put on at night, when you’re reading a good book, the cat’s dozing in your lap, and maybe there’s a glass of good white wine beside you and a storm brewing outside… If any of this sounds appealing, give her a try. (For anyone who hasn’t seen me pimp Hearts of Space yet, by the way, its site is www.hos.com and I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who loves trance-y, floating ambient music.)

 Iron Man. I only went to this because I was bored and I’d done nothing but work for three days straight and needed a break, and I’ve always been a Robert Downey Jr. fan. This movie blew me away. In fact, it approached my personal Gold Standard of superhero flicks, the first two Superman movies, which nothing has equaled in almost 30 years. It was hilarious in places, it had an amazing supporting cast (Terrence Howard, I am so in love with you… and I didn’t even mutter “Oh for God’s sake” when annoying Gwyneth Paltrow showed up), it was action-packed and the special effects were appropriately awesome without being distracting. I should also point out, I always read DC comics instead of Marvel, so all I knew about Iron Man was, well, nothing. I’m probably going to see this again right after I find out what Indiana Jones has been up to lately. I should also add that I’d like Iron Man to show up and bitch-slap the entire cast of Sex and the City.

Born Free, by Joy Adamson. I’ve always loved the story of Elsa the lioness, raised by humans and returned to the wild, and recently I came across my copy of the book and realized I’d never read it. It’s terrific: most naturalists, especially before the ’90s or so, bogged down their interesting stories in dry prose, but Joy Adamson tells the story of raising the lioness with the same matter-of-factness that I’d use when explaining how my cat lost his leg, and it’s very friendly and accessible. There are two sequels that deal with Elsa after she went back to the wild; I just found both of them, used and beaten to hell, on Amazon, and if they’re as good as the first book I’ll let y’all know.

Indian Killer, by Sherman Alexie. I read this about eight years ago and can’t put it down now, even though I know how it ends. Like Hearts of Space, I really can’t possibly praise Alexie enough — he’s Spokane Indian and writes beautifully and movingly and furiously at times about Indians, although in interviews he’s one of the jolliest people I’ve ever heard. This is a novel about an Indian raised by a white couple, mentally ill and conflicted about his heritage; a white writer who desperately tries to convince himself he’s an Indian; and a serial killer, identity unknown, who begins stalking white people. The end of this book will give you the same delicious chill you get from the very best Stephen King. (I’d also recommend two story collections by Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Toughest Indian in the World.)

And finally, The Closer. It’s not back on TNT yet — it starts in July — but come on, network people, I’m ready for it NOW. Lost is over, Good Eats is in perpetual reruns, and there’s only so much Countdown with Keith Olbermann I can watch without having a stroke.

So that’s it — lots of good music, a fantastic movie, and two books. If any of you test-drive any of these recs, let me know how you liked ’em, and I’ll be back shortly with more to say, because as you know, I always have more to say.