Wednesday, September 30, 2009

They Banned what?

It's Banned Book Week here in the U.S., which means that it's time once again to look at the list of books that have been banned, or objected to and roll our eyes. (Thanks to Samurai Knitter for reminding me.) Seriously, Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut? To Kill a Mockingbird? Gone With the Wind (because of the historically accurate use of the n-word)?

[digression]In grad school, a lot of my lit classes were filled with people who only wanted to discuss how racist the characters of each book was. My friends and I would walk into class wondering how they'd ruin this week's book for us. The whole Huck Finn n-word thing was put to bed by a student from Africa who pointed out that Jim, the escaped slave, was the smartest character in the book.[end digression]

I've read 22 of the books on that list. I didn't enjoy them all, but I read them. (I didn't love Naked Lunch and one of my college profs ruined DH Lawrence for me.) I'm not sure I can even name my favorite on the list. How about you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Open Letter to People who Need to Shush and/or Sit The Hell Down

Last week, HA scored us free tickets to a taping of SPECTACLE: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH... at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem. I gather that usually, they have only one guest. Elvis interviews them and then they play. But this was a Very Special Episode with four guests. He said many times that they were building a band right before our eyes. (Interview guest #1, play a song, bring out guest #2, play a song with guests 1 and 2, rinse and repeat.)

It was an amazing show and they brought the house down with a rendition of Take a Load Off by The Band, so when this thing airs later this fall, you should totally watch it. I'll be watching it if for no other reason so that I can enjoy the show without the distraction of all the people who scored seats up front, but then didn't feel the need to remain in them, even though we were filming a TV show and they were told that they had to stay put so that there weren't gaps in the audience.

Truly, this is a situation for going to the bathroom beforehand and not for bringing in 2 beers per person from the bar. The majority of the audience was on board with this, but far too many were not.

We were in the back on the aisle, where we had a great view of the stage. Right next to us were 2 energetic young people in headsets who leapt into action every time someone got up. They'd tell the person that they'd be seated somewhere else when they came back and then they'd move people from the back into their spot. I was very tense for these people, but also for myself since there was a chance that they'd ask us to move up. One guy who we'd spoken to on the line outside helped them out by moving several times and was even thrown out of his new seat by the guy who had just abandoned it. And, oh the headset people were pissed when that happened. Sadly, they were filming, so their wrath couldn't be mighty. Instead, it was quiet and expressed amongst themselves.

So those are the people who need to sit the hell down. The people who need to shush, zip it and then zip it some more were the many music geeks in the audience.

And there was a greater than average amount of music geeks because the first guest was Richard Thompson. What's that? You've never heard of Richard Thompson. That would be because NO ONE has ever heard of Richard Thompson. Except for detail obsessed music geeks.

(Disclaimer: although HA is a music geek and is a Richard Thompson fan, he's not one of THOSE music geeks and wants those other guys to shut up too so he can hear the people on stage. he's not interested in hearing how smart you think you are, either.)

Yeah, so Richard Thompson is a singer/songwriter who's actually quite good, though he seems to have a habit of playing 3 encores whenever we don't have seats. If it's a standing only venue, he's there to play all night. If there are actual chairs, he plays one set and a modest encore. I solved that problem by refusing to see him unless there were seats involved.

But despite his considerable talent, Richard Thompson has remained mostly unknown. If you want to impress/scare away a music know-it-all, then mention him. If that doesn't do the trick, mention Fairport Convention, the band he was in in the 60s. Your knowledge of these things will prove that you have the bigger dick. And believe me, these guys are all about showing off how big their dicks of musical knowledge are. If you really want to hurt their feelings, tell them that you think Richard Thompson is overrated. It'll break their brains. And they will deserve it.

Throughout the entire concert, these guys will subject their friends and anyone who can hear them to a running commentary about who designed that drum or who played the triangle on the original recording of that song or something else that no one but them cares about. They will also shout out to the people on stage while they're talking, as if they're going to become part of the conversation. And they request songs even when it's clear that the impromptu band only rehearsed a few songs.

Even Richard Thompson knows what blowhards some of his fans are. When asked who his musical influences are, he named more and more obscure guitarists. Some people cheered in recognition of each name. He said that he named the last one, "to see how pretentious you all are."

One other time, HA took me to see the dB's reunion concert. Yeah, I never heard of them until HA came along, either. This concert was a big deal and they decided to reunite their high school and college bands as opening acts. The high school band was called The Sneakers. One guy we were standing near told his friends that he'd never seen The Sneakers before, as if they weren't a high school band from the 70s who had most likely performed for a few hundred people in their entire career.

Pretentious twat.

The other guests were Alan Toussaint, who is from the early days of rock n roll and is awesome, Nick Lowe, who is a bass player and songwriter and Levon Helm, the drummer from The Band, who really is amazing. Alan had produced an album of The Band's and said that Levon plays the drums sideways.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thank God I Didn't Hallucinate the Whole Thing

You know what it's like when there's a TV show or movie from your childhood that you vaguely remember, but no one else does, so you're not sure if it was real?

Well, peeps, I give you Outerscope. (The video quality improves vastly after the first 5 seconds.)


Dig that spaceship made out of junk. I barely remember the creepy puppets, but that spaceship stayed with me. I suppose watching that junk spaceship led to the whole re-using stuff, making photo albums out of birth control pill containers thing I've got going. Somewhere in my brain, is the conviction that you can make a spaceworthy craft from some wood and an old bicycle wheel, so obviously, you can make other stuff out of whatever crap you find in a vacant lot.

Apparently, other people found this show to be completely traumatic. Maybe I didn't worry about the little children wandering the galaxy, trying against hope to get home because they were just puppets. Or maybe I didn't start watching until the second season where they had gotten back to Earth and had terrestrial adventures.

Other shows that hardly anyone but me remembers include Nestor, the Long Eared Christmas Donkey and Halloween is Grinch Night.

What obscure shows do you remember?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Product Placement

As penance for my sin of fast forwarding through commercials*, I've been subjected to some fairly blatant product placement on my shows.

Somebody has to pay for these shows, so I don't have any objections in principle. 30 Rock and The Colbert Report make jokes about their product placement, which really works. I've seen commercials during Eureka that are done by an actor from the show in character. That does trick me into stopping and having a look, but I don't really care about what Fargo has to say about deodorant. Other people's reactions may vary.

TLC seemed to find a good balance for a while there. A few weeks ago, the Duggar women on 18 Kids and Counting cleaned the floors with Swiffer mops. It was blatant product placement, but didn't last long and Mamma Duggar just said a few words about how they have to mop after every meal because there's so many people in the house and Swiffer makes it easier. (Really, the whole show is about living with 20 people in the house, so it fit in nicely.)

[begin digression] And then they threw out 4 of the disposable mop pads because although the Duggars and their ilk are having lots of babies to outnumber the unbelievers in the coming culture war, they don't care much about protecting the environment for their hundreds of great-grandchildren. Yes, 4 Swiffers, 3 times a day isn't much, but they also use paper plates for seemingly all of their meals. People, you know you're feeding 20 people! Just get some real plates at the thrift store, some washable plastic dishes for the little kids and stick them in one of your restaurant sized dishwashers. Yes, paper plates are biodegradable, but they don't even compost or garden!

Yes, I watch that show just to hate them. Other people get fired up by political news networks, I mock the Duggars for not growing some lettuce out back behind the house. It works for me. [end digression]

And this week on Jon & Kate Plus 8, which I did watch before the train wreck**, the two older girls helped Mommy load the dishwasher. The box of Cascade tablets was on the counter and we saw one of the girls actually put the tablet in place, which doesn't exactly make for riveting TV. But Kate talked about how the girls have been helping so much, especially with the dishes since the divorce because they see that there's too much work for just one parent to do on their own. So it was well incorporated.

But on last night's 18 Kids and Counting, they spent 1/3 to 1/2 of the show at Weight Watchers. Now, it was funny to see Jim Bob eating a candy bar behind the group leader's back as she was interviewed about his chances of weight loss success. (That Jim Bob sure is a card, I'll tell you what.) But they showed Jim Bob at the sign in table, being told about the different payment options. And then Mamma Dugger re-explained to him the payments and how if you maintain your goal weight for 6 weeks, you become a Lifetime Member.***

This was most of the show. It would've been better to have an old fashioned Jack Benny taking a moment to extoll the praises of Alpo situation than this extended torture. Plus, the meeting leader actually said, "I guarantee" to Jim Bob when he asked if following the program will make him lose weight. Officially, WW makes no guarantees of any results, so even as a product placement/commercial, it failed. Unless it was deliberate because although a company can be sued over claims made in commercials, the laws are probably much fuzzier when it comes to product placement/segments in which the Duggars just spontaneously discuss a product, in which case it's corporate evil.

I really hope they get enough negative feedback that they don't pull a stunt like that again. specially since they kept breaking away from footage of one of the littlest Duggars running around the house being adorable.

How do you feel about product placement? Any favorite instances of the art form that I've missed?

*I don't zoom through them so quickly that I don't know what the commercials are for and if I see something eye catching, I'll watch it. But I don't have a car and am not looking to buy one. I have no interest in diet products and will never be convinced that I need to clean my kitchen with bleach wipes, or whatever toxic nonsense that'll just take up more space in the landfill that they're pushing these days. And don't even get me started on the antibacterial brainwashing that could kill people by creating superbugs. (OK, I've started--even if you don't care about the superbugs, rubbing antibacterial goo on your hands kills only 99% of the bacteria. The biggest, baddest 1% is still alive and it's STILL ON YOU. Booga, booga.) So commercials are wasted on me and I hope they're wasted on you too.

**And don't bother taking Jon's side around here. I'm a shrew like Kate and if I had 8 kids, I'd be an even bigger shrew than she is. My husband tells me when I'm being a jerk instead of stewing and turning into a big, hypocritical douchebag. I actually think this is an important issue, because women, especially mothers, are expected to be self-sacrificing angels, no matter how much stress and work is on their plate. And this, I believe, is sexist bullshit and needs to stop.

***Seriously, WW? You declare lifelong success after just 6 weeks of maintenance. I call bullshit. (For more on this subject, go check out Shapely Prose.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Spooky Real Estate

So the NY Times had an article about a couple who are living in what used to be a funeral parlor. And what do they use the former embalming room as? Their bedroom.

Let me know when you're done shuddering.

Now, it stopped being a funeral home 20 years before they moved in, and they did have the good sense to cleanse the place by burning sage, but o dear god in heaven.

It's in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where I used to live and I walked past the building several times, but I thought it was a church. (Watch the audio slide show and you'll see the front and think it's a church too.)

Now, New York real estate being what it is, I can understand that people would live there. And the rooms are huge and gorgeous. But, ew.

Do you know of any creepy domiciles that top that?

Friday, September 18, 2009

When Bad Crochet Happens to Good People

Go look at this dress and then come back. I'd post a picture here, but it hurts my eyes.

That dress makes baby acrylics cry. If only it had been done in different shades of one color, it would've been a triumph for the fiber world. It could've shown that crochet has a place in couture. Granny squares have come so far since the 70s. Hey you non-knitters over there, stop snickering. You don't want to piss off someone who owns as many pointy sticks as I do.

The rest of that designer's collection appears to be less upsetting than that, but I can't be sure since their web design makes it damn near impossible to see the outfits. Bad web design makes me sad.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wood Chippers

OK, so my husband does this online radio show, The Wonder Show. It's a continuation of an actual radio show they did in their post-college days in St. Louis.

It's wacky. Feel free to have a listen or not. That's not the point.

The point is that about a month ago, they did a show where all 3 of them were stuffed into a wood chipper by William H. Macy. You've all seen Fargo. You get the joke.

And so do I. Except that I also saw a snippet of a movie on Lifetime. I can't track down the name of this thing. But there was a big wind storm. And this couple was in the yard. And the wind blew the edge of the guy's jacket into the wood chipper. Which was on.

Why they had a wood chipper running during a wind storm and why they were standing near it is a mystery for the ages. Or perfectly explained in the first hour and 45 minutes of the movie.

OK, so the guy's jacket gets caught in the wood chipper and it starts pulling him into certain horrible death by woodchipper.

Why there is no emergency stop button, or why the wife didn't run and unplug the damn thing? Another mystery, probably required by the plot.

So what does the guy do as he's being pulled into the wood chipper? He probably made some attempt to get out of his jacket. But he quickly realizes that he won't be able to escape a chippery death. So what does he say to his wife as he is pulled offscreen?

I love yoooooouuuuuuuuu.

It was both the most disturbing and the funniest thing I've seen ever.

After that episode of The Wonder Show, I made my husband promise:
  1. that we will never own a wood chipper
  2. that he will never stand anywhere near any wood chippers at locations that we may be visiting
  3. that if, despite following promises 1 and 2, he gets his clothes caught in a wood chipper, he endeavors to turn the fucking thing off
  4. The Wonder Show DJs will avoid fictional wood chippers
So, what ridiculous stuff has made you forever scared of something?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rooms

After 22 months of marriage, I have started the wedding scrapbook. Please keep an eye out for other signs that hell is freezing over.

Yesterday we went to a family party at my cousin P's house in New Jersey. I will never cease to be impressed with this house. This place has bathrooms that are larger than my home office and has something like 8 bedrooms.

Now, they're not palatially rich robber barons, and they didn't set out to live in a small hotel. They decided to move to that school district for their 3 daughters and nothing less ginormous was available.

And lucky for us because it's the first house we've been able to fit large chunks of our extended family into while still being able to move around. My Mom's the oldest of 6 kids and I'm the 5th oldest of 17 first cousins. So far, those cousins have spawned approximately 14 kids of their own. (I'm not going to swear to that number because I got all deer in headlights once I counted to 10, so I may have missed someone.)

So yeah, we can fill a room. This is the first house where we can all get up and mingle instead of staying seated because getting up would require asking 3 people to move.

OK, that all wasn't even the point and I'm especially prone to digressions before I've finished my morning caffeine, but hopefully it was entertaining, so rather than deleting, let's just bring this around to where I was going in the first place.

So all those bedrooms? Are mostly bedrooms. There are playrooms and a workout room and so on, but some of the rooms are guest rooms, which makes sense.

But when they bought the house, I started imagining all sorts of crazy uses for the extra bedrooms. Such as a room full of plastic balls.

So HA & I started discussing what rooms we'll have in our dream house. Sewing/craft room, of course. And we'll each still have our home offices. Plus a library. Yoga room. Music room for a grand piano and HA's accordion. The Mod room where we'll have a bar and swanky furniture (think the Mad Men aesthetic).

What rooms will be in your dream house?