Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Typing Out Loud: Thx!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so of course we have a turkey brining on the back deck and a jello pie in the fridge, a holiday favorite of mine since 1979.

So what am I thankful for this year? It feels a little early for a retrospective of the year, but since the awards shows are already starting, I guess no time like the present to look back on '11 thus far.

I'm thankful most of all for my dad's continued improved health. He's battled 3 cancers the past few years: skin, colon and leukemia. I can't even imagine the brave face he had to put on and the patience my mom has had to exhibit being strong alongside him.

I'm thankful for the little boy beside me that is hellbent on destroying our house via magic marker, hockey sticks and matchbox cars. I often think of when Will was in the hospital, a tiny, frail little thing that has turned into QUITE a robust little man. How'd we get so lucky with him?

Helps to have a good partner by your side, and Dave is a great dad and husband.

On a personal trajectory, I'm thankful for some amazing opportunities to develop as a person and athlete. I competed in my first-ever 5k; the YMCA summer olympics in swimming, biking and running; and passed my silver freeskate test.

I'm grateful for the chance to participate in a few artistic endeavors too. I was in a group show at Pine Rest's Leep Art Gallery and had a painting in ArtPrize. I'm already 472 pieces into next year's installation, a collaboration with my best friend Cara. I also had the unique opportunity to stand up for myself against a deadbeat client; I ended up suing and won.

I'm grateful for the people surrounding me in my life. Skating is that much better because of my adult skating friends, they make the effort worth it. I'm grateful for my co-workers who make an often thankless job tolerable, and sometimes, even enjoyable. I'm grateful for the team of babysitters I can entrust the care of my house and child to.

I'm very thankful for this blog. As an unemployed copywriter, I have the ache to put thoughts in print, creative or otherwise. Some of my prose here has been rather pedestrian, but sometimes I hope I have been witty, insightful and entertaining. I know I have enjoyed using this as an outlet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Art Matters - Documentary Maker Morgan Spurlock

Documentaries can feel a lot like going to a boring lecture with a droning professor who is the only one in the room that cares about the subject. That is not Morgan Spurlock's m.o.

He first became a name as the maker and test subject for his Academy Award nominated film "Super Size Me." In it, he examined the fast food culture in our society, while examining the effects such a diet had on an average Joe, namely, himself. The results were real, shocking, thought-provoking and ultimately, changed the way many restaurants do business.

Morgan knew his formula and turned it into a fascinating turn on the FX channel with the television documentary series titled "30 Days." Each episode focused on a different theme and the protaganist had to live in an opposing world for 30 days. The first episode was filmed immediately after the Academy Awards, entitled "Minimum Wage," and Morgan had to live on that wage, including obtaining an apartment and furnishings, for the allotted time. Other episodes were a redneck living with a muslim, a teetotaler living as a binge-drinking college student, a patroit living as an illegal immigrant, a homophobe living with two gay men and a law-abiding citizen trying to survive 30 days in jail.

Morgan tells these tales with humor, honesty, and backs his documentary style with supporting and even sometimes, opposing statistics. He allows his subjects to come to their own terms and conclusions and at times, the episodes did not end well.

Spurlock has gone on to create even more documentaries, and even directed an episode of The Simpsons. And while he is not as overtly left-wing as his contemporary Michael Moore, he has quietly created a revolution of his own.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November Playlist: Countdown 1979

Although I am one of the older team members at the hospital, my co-workers have taste in music similar to mine, and will name-drop songs that were popular when I was a kid and before they were born.

I'm still trying to get over Karissa, a skating friend, for calling Blondie's "Call Me," an oldie.

The year 1979 was kind of a big deal for me, since I turned 10 that September and was growing more independent. It's also the earliest I can remember listening to top 40 radio and having a favorite song.

My Sharona, The Knack - I got this album for my 10th birthday, and played it continuously.

I Want You to Want Me, Cheap Trick - there's lots of joy in this song, and lots of energy.

The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Charlie Daniels Band - "sonofabitch" v. "sonofagun" so scandalous!

Chuck E's in Love, Rickie Lee Jones - Two things I remember is Rickie being a cute tomboy playing her guitar on Solid Gold and my cousin Nancy playing this over and over because she was dating a Charlie.

Renegade, Styx - cool song the older kids listened to.

I Was Made for Lovin' You, KISS - kind of sexy and supercharged. Our neighbors were really into KISS, but I didn't see what the problem was with their foray into disco.

September and After the Love is Gone, Earth, Wind and Fire - to this day I still listen to and love these two songs.

Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, Michael Jackson - grooving in the Jodis' van after bowling with my classmates.

We've Got Tonight, Bob Seger - who needs tomorrow?

Dance the Night Away, Van Halen - this list is starting to look like a classic rock playlist.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My muse Will - Master of Disguise!

As a child, I usually had my Halloween costume figured out by August 15. Concept in place, I planned for scenarios such as weather, party v. trick or treating and style. While at the time we nagged our mother for the fancy pre-made costumes, by October 31, we were more or less garbed in the genuine articles: real referee uniforms from my dad; costume jewelry and scarves from my grandma; 70s fabulousness, including the coveted silver sandals, from my mom.

Style, however, bit me in the ass one year when my teen aged cousins Nancy and Gina took us girls on a 10-block-quadrant candy marathon. Instead of the traditional pillowcase, I took a stylish, though limiting, plastic pumpkin. While my sisters' cases bulged with chocolatey goodness, I struggled to stash candy in my overflowing Laura Ingalls skirt pockets as the pumpkin could hold no more.

Perhaps my first lesson in form following function.

I looked forward to planning for Will this year. Previous holidays, he was more or less oblivious to his charms and what he was wearing, so Will was at my will. First year he was a sweet little knitted tiger; the second year he was Godzilla, inspired by his "rawrrrr" and a 50% off costume at K Mart.

Because he is still so small, I thought I could get away with the Godzilla costume for one more year. That was plan A. Plan B was in case of warmer weather: Magnum PI in a Tigers hat, Hawaiian shirt, fake mustache with a Porsche matchbox car.

Godzilla... he loved the beanie and put the booties on straightaway. The crunchy body of the costume freaked him out and he turned to temper tantrums and me to pleading, compromising and screaming before we both gave up, exhausted, with a glint of hate in each other's eye.

So that was out.

Plan B, well, I wouldn't know a Porsche matchbox car from a Audi Roadster. Also, not-so-little Mr. Growth Spurt succeeded in growing out of both his Tigers hat and his Hawaiian shirt.

So that was out as well.

Mama had to dig into her bag of tricks (and closet) at the 11th hour to figure out how Will was going to have a legitimate Halloween experience without reducing him to the surly teen-equivalent who shows up with a garbage bag and t-shirt emblazoned with a snarky "this is my Halloween costume".

A batting helmet! Baseball jersey! Mitt! Bat! Ball! Alas, form following baseball player function failure: while wearing a too-big helmet and jersey is cute, it is completely impractical for the physical demands of ToTing.

Luckily, he had a fireman's hat and a onesie with a Dalmatian driving a truck. I found a pair of Monsters Inc. track pants with reflective bits for the bottoms. A puffy vest turned inside out revealed the perfect red. But he was lacking the finer details and accessories.

This called for a trip to the dollar store. I love that place, and to prove it, I walked in and the first thing I laid eyes on was a fireman set, with a fire chief whistle, badge, ax and crowbar. Best dollar I ever spent.

Dave and I took him to a few neighborhoods, including a lovely subdivision where our friends the Fishes live. We were greeted by dogs, a Captain America, a statue of David dressed as Harpo Marx, goofy graveyards, parents half in the bag from beer and pizza, and lots of candy.

We did enough houses, no more than a dozen, to legitimately say he went trick or treating. The weather was perfect, we had fun as a family, and well, I was so happy to see kids and families out having fun on this most glorious day of make-believe that I practically burst.

My little firefighting hero was most definitely form following function.