Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Resolutions 2013

Writing your resolutions on a drink coaster? Well, if it's in writing, you have a commitment, no matter how drunk you were.

While gathering unwanted items in the house for a garage sale last year, I stumbled upon the super-secret Chemistry textbook that contains notes written fast and furious by Cindy and I when we should have been paying attention to Fr. McLearnen's lectures. Among the lovelorn notes, teenage conspiracies, overly-dramatized replays of running into a crush in the hall was my new year's resolution list for the year 1986. In a facebook conversation with my BFF, I described the list as such:

"In 1985, I made 17 new years resolutions. The first 4 are about homework; number 5 is about the Detroit Tigers; 6 and 7 are about boys; 8 is about being more adult; 9 & 10 back to homework; 11 is about the Tigers; 12 - 16 personal goals; 17 back to boys. It's pretty funny."

If homework now equals housework, I've got some work to do there. I think my issues with with boys is properly resolved. The Tigers? They have their own resolutions to make. So that leaves me with personal goals.

Here we go 'thirteen!

Pass Gold Moves. I regret to say this resolution was not achieved in '12, unless there's a last-minute new year's eve miracle. The good news is I have not been slacking, and according to my coach, all the moves are at or above passing with the exception of the brackets. I hate the brackets. BUT here we are a year later, and I have all 8 brackets turns down, it's a matter of riding the edge back to the line to complete the lobe. Huh? Skaters understand.

Train like a 10K. I find it hilarious that I hemmed and hawed about the RBR last year. No only did I compete in that race, I competed in SIX races this year! So much for me not being a runner. So now what? I still view running as a means to an end for skating and weight loss, but I'm wondering if it isn't possible this spring to push the endurance a little further. I have until the end of April to decide to do the 5 or 10K for the RBR.

Move yer ass. I have found that while I'm not especially fond of running, I'm addicted to achieving the goal, the satisfaction of completion. It wasn't too much to do 6 events this year, but to balance it with skating, I've resolved to do at least 4 runs this next year. Two are already on the calendar, the RBR in May and the Run for the Lights in Grand Haven in February. I'm pretty sure I'll do the Turkey Trot again, but now I'm thinking Warrior Dash on September 21.

Get back to competing. I can't say I've missed competing this year, I think preparing yourself to perform better is equally important. But at some point, you have to put it out there and say "lookit that!" Mids and ANs is off the table with family commitments coinciding with the timing of the events. But that still leaves a season that is wide open. I could do GRO, Michigan Showcase, Buckeye, Peach, even find a club competition to test the waters.

AXEL! The holy grail of adult skating. I can do them two-footed from a standstill. Time for momma to step up her game.

Incredible Shrinking Woman, part 2. I am proud to say I have thus far lost 31 pounds since the end of January, when the perfect storm of March Madness, Biggest Loser and my diabetes diagnosis gave me the necessary push to make changes in my life. I am more than halfway towards my goal, but there's more to lose. I'm aiming for 150, so I need to lose 18 more - for those keeping track at home, you do the math. 

Home. Yeah, clean the house more.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Typing Out Loud: My Consessions to Girly-Girlness

You know you want a pair.

There is a dichotomy in the perception of me at times. Growing up, I felt that I couldn't tolerate being a girly-girl: the lace and ruffles, the dolls, the caked-on makeup, pretending to be scared of spiders, and standing in circles talking about boys when I could be over at the fence talking TO boys.

But rest assured, I am pure girl. When I got in a fight with Tommy the next street over, I remember the swirl of my skirt as I wound up to smack him upside the head with my Love Pup (not a doll but a red stuffed dog), while screeching menacingly "leave my sister alone!"

On with the list.

NOT: Lace and ruffles. Ugh, so prissy and far too fussy. In more practical terms, lace as outerwear or as trim, scratchy. Ruffles, on a girl that was a D cup by 11 years old? Makes a girl appear even bigger. Total pass.

GIRLY! Embroidery. I fell in love with Mexican peasant blouses when my grandmother brought me one from her trip to Mexico back when I was in single digits. I am immediately drawn to tops, skirts and dresses with intricately stitched designs.

NOT: dolls. I played with them, but it was more about setting them up as action figures dive bombing bubble baths. No packed wardrobes of tiny plastic shoes, no aching for the Barbie Dream house.

GIRLY! Little House books. It all started with On the Banks of Plum Creek and the summer of my eighth year was devoted to walks to the Orange Street library to check the books out, one by one, until I received the set for my 9th birthday from grandma and grandpa. A set I still have 32 years later.

NOT: makeup. I am really not a fan. I of course wore the hell out of it in grade school when the nuns would scrutinize our face for detectable levels of the devil paint. I became quite skilled at blending and shading so when our school principal Sister Gloria would tell makeup offenders to go scrub their faces, I was left looking fresh and dewy while the rest of the girls wiped away their telltale orange lines of foundation.

GIRLY! lipstick/gloss. From the dollar store to the department store, I am drawn like a magnet to any version of lip care. I love 'em all, be it a pot, a wand, a stick, a tube or a roller ball. All time favorites are Victoria's Secret Beauty Rush in Pinked Lemonade, Clinique's Raspberry Glace, mint Chapstick, and Avon's Dew Kiss.

NOT: baseball. This one is iffy because I know a lot of girls who love baseball. But there are factions out there that are at the game to flirt, drink beer and stare a men in tight white pants. The line "chicks dig the long ball"? I always answer by saying "this chick also digs the squeeze play, the outfield assist, and when the pitcher strikes out the side." One of the pictures burnished on my memory is walking up the tunnel at Tiger Stadium for a night game, all that green and blue and white on the perfect summer night, one of the most beautiful sights one could see.

GIRLY! figure skating. I have loved skating since the '76 Olympics and the iconic Dorothy Hamill. What do I love about it? depends on the discipline. For the ladies, I love the costumes, music, artistry, and everything pretty. For men, the power, skill, and interpretation. For pairs, the power, relationship and storytelling. Ice dance, it's all about the costumes and story.

NOT: baking. I don't bake. Period.

GIRLY! shopping. I can make a dent in a budget when it comes to clothes shopping. As has been covered before, to counteract my tendency towards being a clotheshorse, I am quite the thrift and resale shopper. Some may think it's gross, but when you can get a pair of designer jeans that fit like a glove for 69 cents, you sew the button then do a load of wash.

NOT: Led Zeppelin. One of the most startling comments ever made to me in my courtship days was by an ex, who scornfully commented "Girls don't listen to Led Zeppelin. It's a little unladylike, don't you think?" I shoulda broke up with him then, but continued to date him through series of eye rolling commentary and observations best suited for the 1950s. Ramble on, Matt.

GIRLY! Spice Girls. There are some acts that fly in the face of the whole "Imma rocker!" ideal. Truth is, I grew up with a taste for light as air top 40. I don't think I miss a weekly countdown from the age of 7 through the age of 15. Even today, reclaiming my access to the VH1 video countdown, I feel all is right again with the world. As heavy and bluesy as Zep were, sometimes you need joyful jangles and catchy hooks coupled with a little girl power.  

And the spiders? Ugh, hate them, they are downright squeal-worthy, but you'd never find me dancing on top of a table demanding a man finish the job. That is when all that shoe shopping comes in handy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why Art Matters: Betty Rizzo

"Sounds like a drag."

I've never wanted to be an actress. The exception is the role of Betty Rizzo in the musical Grease.

The most iconic Riz was played with lustful zeal by Stockard Channing in the classic '78 movie adaptation. Although 33 at the time, Channing played Rizzo as a teenager on the verge of adulthood, a tough yet vulnerable mix of girl/woman who thinks she's more mature than she really is.

Channing shines in her two musical numbers, "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee," and "There Are Worse Things I Could Do." The first is played with juvenile absurdity and that come-hither sexiness. The other is gentle in its treatment of her vulnerability and private wounds.

Even though Olivia Newton-John was the star, Channing got the best wardrobe. Note the chic all-black number above - for school! The body-hugging red prom dress with the sequinned polka dots. Skinny jeans and her boyfriend's leather jacket. The man's shirt sleepwear. The button-downs with the tight skirts. Then for fun at the carnival, her fire engine and cotton candy palette. And a big shout-out from curly-girls everywhere, Stockard rocks the close-cropped 'do, I love it! (Thanks to the blog "Clothes on Film" for their in-depth analysis.)

Channing also delivers all Rizzo's lines with more meaning than intended, from sensual flirtation to acidic sarcasm and double entendres, all are delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. And I quote:

She looks to pure to be pink!

What's up, Kenick?

When told to bite the weenie: With relish.

I feel like a defective typewriter.

I've got so many hickies people will think I'm a leper.

Peachy keen, jellybean.

Eat your heart out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December Playlist: 2012

Bruno Mars at '12 Grammys - channeling Elvis, again!

Let's flash forward 25 years to what's NEW in music. I mean, there's only so much 80s nostalgia you can stomach in one year, and I did a little too much of that with this year's playlists.

So what can I tell you about me and new music? I'm over Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, not that I was under them or even into them. My tastes are somewhere in between VH1, adult top 40, and indie WYCE. And when I'm listening to YCE, I don't know anymore if a song is brand-new or 15 years old. No, I'm not cool; not even sure if I was ever cool. Who gives a crap, my kid requested I put the Monkees on the other day when I was listening to some podcasts. At least it wasn't Disney.

Gimme All Your Love, Madonna - debuted at Superbowl with LMAFO, Nicki Minaj and some Brit chick who flashed her boob.

That's What Makes You Beautiful, One Direction - sunshine pop from a Brit boy band. Perfect summer song. Don't judge.

Settle Down, No Doubt - I feel a kinship with Gwen Stefani, as well as Nancy Kerrigan and J.Lo since we are all the same age. So it stands to reason that I would love a new effort from the resurrected band that made Just a Girl famous. Get-get-get!

Fifty Ways to Say Goodbye, Train - mariachi pop. Hilarious lyrics. Even more amusing video.

Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen - more sunshine, with lyrics as innocent as innocent gets. Nothing more than hey, you're cute, and if you think I'm cute, give me a call.

Runaway Baby, Bruno Mars - Oh sweet little Bruno. I like thinking I saw him in Vegas years ago performing as Little Elvis. While he's never been a favorite, there isn't a song of his that has been released that I haven't liked. This one, however, I loved.

Somebody I Used to Know, Goyte - Earworm as high art, the video is just cool, as Goyte and Kimbra, singing in response, turn into an abstract painting. Both the video and the song turned into prime parody material, including the above. I think the song is STILL on the charts.

Rumor Has It, Adele - Driving and hypnotic bass, aggressive lyrics and sung by this year's pop queen.

Pound the Alarm, Nicki Minaj - and now the year's batshit crazy rap queen. Infectious anime Barbie pop by a rap artist. It's like an African American Hello Kitty doll at a Japanese-industrial rave. I'm too old to figure this crap out, I just enjoy dancing to it during WERQ class. Her exorcism at the Grammys was a serious WTF? moment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's Right in the World: be true to yourself

Billy Shakes makes for a popular tat.

I worked myself up into a panic this week. Why? My 25-year class reunion is this weekend, and in typical girl fashion, I stood in the middle of my closet with the age-old lament that I have nothing to wear.

This of course is not true, as I am properly attired on a routine basis. Even at this writing, I am wearing clothes. Nice clothes even.

Ah, but a class reunion, merely being clothed is not the point. You want to be noticed. You want that boy that broke your heart in 1986 to think "damn!" You want girls jealous. Did I have anything like that? I don't know! Off to the store I went.
It was on this trip that the clothes made the man, or rather the shopping experience made the woman.

In one shop, I made an anxious grab for miniskirts and dresses. While they fit, it was, to be honest, embarrassing. I saw a glimpse of someone in the mirror attempting to be something she wasn't. Who was that in the bronze leather mini that I couldn't sit down in? Was she trying for sexy? Trying for flirty? Or just trying too hard? Definitely not me. Definitely not the message I want to send my old classmates.

Onto the next store.

I had a little more fun with clothes at Kohl's. A little J.Lo, a little Lauren Conrad, a little Vera Wang, a whole lot of sequins. J.Lo's my age... So I tried on a nude mini dress covered with sequins. I looked -- awesome! Buuuuuuuuuut...? A nude sequined mini dress? In November? At 43? Isn't that a *bit much* for Jackson? I tried moving around in the dress and the sequins scratched and the sleeves were tight enough that I couldn't move my arms above my shoulders, just in case of dancing. I didn't feel myself, I felt like I was trying to be J.Lo. And not just J.Lo, but J.Lo on a riser with a wind machine lip syncing her latest hit with T.Bull rapping behind her, at the Grammys.

 I was momentarily dazzled, but again, the sequins itched.

So I was back to shopping my closet and thinking about how I wanted to feel as well as how I wanted to look. I wanted to look nice. Happy. Comfortable in my own skin, which is important for someone who didn't really come into her own until late junior year, and even then...

I have a lovely little navy blue silk dress, a-line, that I bought a million years ago at Old Navy on a whim. It didn't fit, so it was a "motivation dress" this past year for when I lost my weight. Back in January, I was hoping to wear it to my reunion. I was in it by May. It is *almost* too big for me now, but it caresses the skin, the neckline is very flattering, the skirt flutters, and it looks great with either my gold shoes or my silver bling shoes.

So my journey today started to be about the fashion, but it came around to me coming to terms with being true to myself and of course, "to thy own self be true."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Typing Out Loud: Invisible?

This makes me think of The Zombies' "She's Not There"

I was at the Y for the Diabetes Screening Day yesterday. Now when I'm at the Y, I do my thing, chat up the staff I'm in direct contact with, grab my stuff and go. During the process of getting screened, the activities director (someone I don't recall seeing but a few times) addressed me by name and said I was a regular, welcomed member whose numbers ought be amazing given how much weight I have lost in the last year.

I was struck by the fact I have not been operating invisibly this year. People saw me, took note of what I have been up to. I was recognized! I hadn't been working out incognito. Going upstairs to do a little elliptical to warm up for the .1K race (really), I felt the weight of eyes on me at first, then I settled down.

I went through the same phenomena with adult skating when I first started competing nationally. As a last-placer, I thought invisibilty screens were up and operational. I timidly introduced myself to a few of the high-level male competitors at the after party, because, well, who was I to them? To my astonishment, they told me without a doubt, they knew who I was and invited me to dance. As a matter of fact, Brooks is the one who stun-gunned me with the comment, "it may surprise you, but you are not invisible." Added Jason, "You definitely stand out." They have since become dear friends.

So after the Y, Will and I headed downtown to "compete" in the .1K race, a charity "run" for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. For those who don't know, that is oh, 528 feet or so, about a block and a half. That is when I turned invisible. At the hydration tent, where energy drink girls were giving away free samples to cute guys and college-aged girls, I was completely ignored. I've encountered this phenomena before with free sample girls: rebuffed by the Budweiser bikini girls giving away free t-shirts; encountered the I-see-thru-you gaze of the Gatorade girls; cold shoulders from the blinking button Zima girls back in the day, who were looking to pin my boyfriend instead.

Pissed me right off.

Not willing to put up with it, I demanded their attention in the loudest, yet sweetest voice I could muster. Still nothing, I simply shrugged, grabbed a sample and went on my merry way.

Once we were packed behind the starting line, I was content to blend in, be one of the 2200 racers having fun. But I still wanted to be noticable enough that people recognized I had a 3 foot tall racer with me.

Oh, my beautiful Will. For him, I am content to blend into woodwork and go from being "Melissa!" to Will's mom. I was very proud of him for running in his first race, and his joyful fist pump when realized he did it. He won the trophy (a gold spray painted addidas sneaker) for being the Clean Up Kid. What does that mean? I don't know, but I'm so glad the lesson he learned from my 5K race last month came to fruition this month.

Redemption came later at the drink tent post-race, where Will was awarded a flashlight keychain by the guy who took over for the girls. He was given the choice of green or blue. Will looked up at the drink guy, and for a moment was indecisive. He then brightened, and took both, telling him "green for Will and blue for mommy!"

I guess he's not content with either of us being invisible.

The visual symbolism of Wonder Woman's invisible jet is so obvious!

And in researching photos to illustrate this little story, I am aware my little insecurity issue is what the kids call "First World problems." In other parts of the world, women are completely invisible in terms of politics, education, socio-economic status, etc. Sadly, they are not even considered their own person, but the property of their father, then their husband. While I respect other people's cultures and traditions, not all cultures or traditions should continue. It's a matter of human rights.

And that's more important than scoring a free energy drink.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why Art Matters: O Henry

Tell me a tale with a twist  Mr. Porter.

One of the most casual gifts I ever received is one I've cherished ever since. I was writing and designing brochures for Catholic Charities' nursing homes. Noticing the impressive collection of books in one of the manager's offices, I casually  noted I was a fan of O. Henry's work. He swiftly plucked a thick collection off his shelf and presented it to me with the promise that I enjoy. That I have.

O. Henry was born William Sydney Porter in 1862. He dabbled in numerous professions, becoming a pharmacist, a draftsman, bank teller, journalist, surveyor, bookkeeper, and a politician. He kinda failed at most of his professions, and some discrepancies at his bank led to his imprisonment on embezzlement charges.

All the while he dabbled in writing short stories as a hobby for cash on the side. Well, a man in prison has time on his hands, so he wrote more. Since he was incarcerated, he hid his identity behind the pseudonym O. Henry. During his brief career, he wrote 400 short stories for the New York World  magazine.

Why do I love his work? There is a distinct art to writing a short story. You have limited time and space to create fully fleshed characters, defined by their action and reaction to the plot of the story. The story has to be engaging and he was the master.

He was also the master of the classic twist ending. If you expect him to zig, he zags; even better, sometimes he even zips. Or zings. He captures quite comically how fate can throw life for a loop and change the course of your path. A hilarious example is the Curse of the Red Chief, when two thieves kidnaps a rich man's son in hopes of securing a ransom but the kid is such a brat, they pay the father to take the kid off their hands.

His views of New York City is fun and breathless. I have compared it in the past to Candace Bushnell's 1990s take on Manhattan in the Sex in the City. Both are boozy, filled with a colorful cast of characters, set sometimes in glamorous locations with plenty of shopping and an obvious love of Gotham. But where Bushnell's characters are brittle and cynical, there is a warmth to even the most crotchety of O Henry's characters.

Oh, his characters! Jim and Della sacrificing their watch and hair for the other. Soapy the homeless man looking for a few months out of the cold. The glove salesgirl who turns down the most eligible bachelor in town, mistaking his claims of riches for descriptions of rides at Coney Island and thus, turning down his proposal cold. The "socialite" in her regal beaded gown, vacationing at the most glamorous hotel in town, only to reveal to her suitor on the last day she really works at the department store and is down to her last dollar; the suitor acknowledges the fact, and takes the dollar as a final payment on her dress, asking her out for coffee and pie at the local diner. The girl who sets out to impress her boss at a Christmas party with the perfect dress only to have her roommate undermine her efforts... but she get the guy anyway.

Most of his work is in the public domain, and available for all to enjoy. For myself, I need to take a trip away from 1900s Manhattan or introduce myself to his Texas cowboys.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Playlist: 1987

May 87, me and my prom date. Scarlett O'Hara hoops and tons of lace were so in.

My 25 year class reunion is this month. Hope all this looking back is coming to its eventual conclusion, teen aged angst has its place, and 1987 is where I'd like to leave it.

Still, I had a great senior year: pretty good grades, lots of great friends, romantic drama, spring break in Daytona Beach with my girls, prom, the rush of grad parties, summer being lazy at the beach, and trying to figure out what to major in when I went to college (secondary education, one of 6 different majors). The following songs (and a couple albums) provided a soundtrack that runs through my heart 25 years later. I expect to hear more than a few of these on November 23.

Pump it up homeboy, just don't stop.

Lean on Me, Club Noveau -  in spring '87, nominations were out, and this song was a popular choice for class song. Alas, one of the nuns deemed it too pop-py a choice and we were stuck with the dull This is the Time by Billy Joel. I think of this as our class song by default. I still own the 12" dance remix to this day, with its art-deco tagger artwork.

Don't Dream It's Over, Crowded House - one high school drama after another had adopted this song as their prom-to-graduation soundtrack, the first of which being 90210. I think One Tree Hill and maybe even Dawson's Creek. Well, it was ours first! There is a wistful melancholy to the song that lends itself well to that time of your life when you are looking forward yet looking back. I was a sucker for the Beatlesque sounds of Split Enz, and the band headed by Neil Finn had me in the first opening bars.

Walk Like an Egyptian, The Bangles - you couldn't go anywhere without this infectious song invading your radio or dance floor. It was truly an "everyone dance!" type of tune. I have senior grad party pics of my friend Todd dancing with a couple of teachers who volunteered to chaperone.

I loved the Bangles, their careers were just a tad too short, and I wish they had stuck around a little longer to solidify their place in the history of rock. Were they too poppy for rock? Too cerebral for pop? Too angsty within their own band to last? The band consisted of two sisters (probably a powder keg right there), a broody bassist, and Susanna Hoffs, who everyone loved and tried to make into a model/actress/solo artist. For a Bangles primer, I recommend Going Down to Liverpool, Following and Hazy Shade of Winter. In the annuals of my own art, I recreated the album cover Everything for painting class at LCC.

Livin' on a Prayer, Bon Jovi - oh, I hate this song to this day but it has to be included. I think it may have even been the #1 hit of the year. The hair metal blue collar anthem was Jon Bon Jovi's attempt at Bruce Springsteen. It has endured as a classic rock staple. The chorus is an easy one to belt out at the top of your lungs with your girlfriends while cruising the Ave., a distinct teen aged pleasure for generations of Jacksonians that seems to have disappeared. A pity, but it probably makes more sense for the kids to take the party to the backyard or some one's basement.

La Bamba, Los Lobos - a summer hit from the movie of the same name, and like cruising the Ave mentioned above, a cross-generation hit. La Bamba the movie was the story of Richie Valens, the Hispanic-American pop star of the 50s who died in the infamous plane crash with the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly. Los Lobos took Richie's song, updated it, and it became their biggest hit. My friend Lisa loves Los Lobos and knows a few of the guys in the band. I've recently become of fan of mariachi in pop songs, and this band may be worth a second listen.

Mony Mony, Billy Idol - this is a song with a life of its own. It was recorded for a studio album by Idol in 1981, was a constant at dances throughout my high school years, and a live version of the song was released as a single in 1987, when it finally hit #1. We all thought we were badasses singing the refrain "hey! hey you, get laid get fucked!" It was a Catholic school, I'm surprised they let us get away with it, although I swear I heard Sister Joanne singing along to her own version "hey, hey you, get praised, love Jesus!" I loved it when the teachers got into it ths spirit.

At This Moment, Billy Vera and the Beaters - two of my former boyfriends were also my classmates, the before mentioned E (Feb angst) and Gregg, who was my freshman boyfriend, with whom I believed we shared less than 5 kisses total. Still, he counts among the notches in my belt (snicker) since I can recall at least three mall-plus-movie dates and I scored a valentine + heart-shaped box of candy (VD '84) presented to me by Alison W., by proxy, since she rode my bus and Gregg didn't. Oh, the romantic limitations of 14 year olds. So what does that have to do with this old fashioned crooner that became an improbable hit based on its association with the sitcom Family Ties? Absolutely nothing, except it would have been nice to dance with one of them to this song instead of staring wistfully, yet jealously, at the girls who were asked to sway in a circle for 3 minutes.

Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung - bwahahahaha! This song is delightfully stupid, an amazing ear worm that infects those who hear it 25 years later. Any song that encourages joviality, with a video that triggers epileptic seizures and is banned in certain countries for inciting riotous behavior is ok in my book. On the show Cheers - an 80s classic! - Frasier Crane descends the stairs and in his Shakespearean baritone, commands everyone to Wang Chung... tonight! Jen, Denise and I, in a fit of giddiness on the highway through Chicago while road tripping to Minnesota, contribute the song to the lexicon of adult skating by declaring Wang Chung! every time the spirit struck us. And it struck us, numerous times.


Taking juvenile antics to a higher art form.

Licensed to Ill, Beastie Boys - "Weeeellll, here's a little story I've got to tell about three bad brothers you know so well..." This album was everywhere, and played in its entirety, all the time. It was the soundtrack on the bus ride to Daytona, and by Florida me, Carla, Rachel and Maria knew the words to Posse in Effect by heart. To this day, all it takes is one quote from the album and Rachel and I will start to rap "ONE lone Beastie I be, ALL by myself without NOBODY..." as only two white middle aged women can.

The Joshua Tree, U2 and Document, R.E.M. - Rolling Stone had itself an internal battle raging in the 80s: which band did they love more, U2 or R.E.M.? In the early years, both were considered indie darlings, beloved by rock critics and college radio. At one point, both were declared THE band of the 80s and/or the only band that mattered.

With The Joshua Tree, U2 struck first, hitting number 1 everywhere both with the album and singles. Then there was the monster stadium tours.

R.E.M. built momentum towards their eventual global domination with the release of Document, a broody, dark album surprisingly easy on the ears and my early intro to the joys of college rock radio, a position I would embrace while a DJ at WLCC and WRKX.

True Blue, Madonna - How much did I love Madonna in those early years? I knew all the lyrics, I knew all the dance movies, I stood in line early with my friend Maria to get tickets to the Who's That Girl tour, relishing my nosebleed seats as I sang along to Open your Heart. I may have been on board the Madonna wannabe bus as early as Burnin' Up from her debut album, but I embraced the maturity of this work as her new artistic direction. Of the tracks, La Isla Bonita is by far my favorite to this day, and of all her albums, this is my second favorite after 1989's Like a Prayer. Art alert! I did a charcoal sketch of the album cover for art class in 1989.

Control, Janet Jackson - it's a 1986 release but it's awesomeness resonated through the next year. As with True Blue, we all knew the lyrics, and all did the dance moves. Oh, E and I perfected that little pull the rope knee slide from The Pleasure Principle! The aggressive snarl of demanding someone "gimme a beat!" before launching into Nasty. The lip curling sass of "I know he USED to do nice stuff for you, but what has he done for you LATE - LY?"

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More Running: Annual Story Submission for 5/3 RBR

Demented leprechaun, posting her best time, wearing memorial ribbon for dad.

It's my annual essay to the organizers of the Fifth Third River Bank Run in hopes of scoring a free entry to the race. Whereas this one is less amusing than previous years, it is probably more heartfelt:

The past couple years, I’ve submitted some witty stories for the River Bank Run in hopes to make you laugh.

This isn’t one of those years.

I was diagnosed with diabetes in January, 2012. My dad had been diagnosed with the condition at 30; I managed to put it off until 42. A man with an appetite for fruit pie and treats, he never managed to control his sugar, and his health problems continued to accumulate: diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain.

And then, cancer.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2009, and then leukemia a few months later. He fought bravely through his treatments, holding onto hope that with every meeting with his oncologist, he would be told he was cancer-free.

Meanwhile, his threshold for what was considered healthy kept getting lower, and lower, and lower.

A worrywart, from the moment of my diagnosis, he harped on me to take care of my health and do it right. His theory was all his health problems started with the diabetes and his neglect in managing it. He too was an athlete, matching my running, swimming and skating with golf, softball and bowling. The athletics weren’t enough; I had to change my diet. And I have.

Since my diagnosis, to date, I have lost 26 pounds and 4 dress sizes. I’ve competed in two races, two YMCA endurance challenges and the US Figure Skating Adult Championships.

But my dad never got to see this; we lost him to cancer on April. I did run the River Bank Run in his honor.

I’m taking care of me for you dad.

Jerry Planeta, 8/18/42 – 4/16/12

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Typing Out Loud: Rollercoaster!

Off road rage: completed my first cross country type course and it wasn't easy.

I completed the Fuel Your Fire 5k yesterday. It sucked. I ran in a steady downpour in the high 30s/low 40s on a cross country track that was muddy, slippery, a steady uphill climb meandering through woods with rocks, tree roots and uneven terrain. My ankles are protesting today. And once I made it out of the woods, an arctic blast of wind greeted me to make my way around the soccer fields miserable. And I finished with a worse time than my first River Bank Run. Once inside, I shed my long sleeved shirt, which felt like it had soaked up at least 5 pounds of moisture.

Was I discouraged? Surprisingly, no. I got a great night's sleep, and almost had a Seinfeld moment where I overslept. Even though I wasn't prepared for running in the woods, I was prepared for the endurance of doing so. The event organizers' were excited, and said "we have a beautiful course for you so enjoy" and they were correct, with the leaves changing and the path twisting through the fields, it was a very pretty. I had a new playlist to listen to so I wasn't bored, I had on gloves and a headband so I wasn't too cold. Kidszone was open, and Will was eager to play, so I didn't have to worry about him. I brought my bathing suit with me, so once I was done I sat in the hot tub to warm up. Everyone was very nice, and the guys who won were the first to offer congratulations to those of us bringing up the rear. And even though I was in the final pack to cross the line, I made an effort not to come in last.

Bonus: the race shirt is very cool, I have another bib to add to the collection, and I was surprised to get a medal for finishing, complete with engraving. All nice surprises.

I'm kind of all over the place about this race. Glad I participated, but hated making the effort in the cold. Not "up" for the race, but glad I didn't deal with butterflies all week. Tired, but smiled realizing that neither my boobs nor my knees hurt from the impact. Was it the weight loss or the spring from a natural track? Discouraged by dragging in with the last group, but secretly glad to take advantage of the other's hesitation to sprint ahead of them and not finish last.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl - new 5K alter ego? What shall I name her?
Crazy shit getting unserious...
What would I do different? I was using an elliptical to train, will adjust so more conditioning hits my calves instead of butt and thighs. More outdoor training?

I know I'm very serious when I run, so maybe I need to lighten up and runs will become easier. I was running through the field in a downpour, surely my fanciful brain could have come up with some temporary pixie alter ego, a saucy little creature frolicking in the moor. Dumb? During more than half the race, my brain groused that I was a skater not a runner, maybe flights of fantasy will work. I know when I skate I put on a character, so why not running? I think that's the whole point of the mud runs and color runs, to focus on the fun and not the actual race. I think there's a candy cane 5k coming up to test the theory.

Will I do it again? I probably have to: Will fought to play with my medal and I explained to him the hard work that went into earning it. I asked him if he wanted one of his own, and he said yes! So by doing the race, I'm encouraging my son to participate in sports. Not bad for this 43 year old mom...

Tigers are playing the Yankees for the AL pennant. Oh, Valverde... The road to the pennant is long and fraught with stomach gripping moments. I'm physically exhausted from the playoffs and there's the World Series yet to go. Makes me miss the dependable but exciting Todd "Rollercoaster" Jones.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why Art Matters: Bill Cosby

Bill and Little Bill - another generation to love

Will has started watching a cartoon on Nick Jr. called Little Bill, written and produced by Bill Cosby. He loves "widdle Bill!" I was struck by the rush of warmth I experienced knowing that the Cos was going to influence yet another generation.

Bill Cosby is a well known comedian, actor, author, producer, educator and musician. His contributions to popular culture are lengthy.

For my parents, he was the star of I Spy and The Bill Cosby Show. He was the star of comedy albums they had in their collection, such as I Started Out As a Child and For Adults Only.

For me, it started with the Fat Albert Show, then the stand-up movie Bill Cosby: Himself and then The Cosby Show.

I loved Fat Albert as a kid, it taught without being preachy, and was funny besides. The only criticism I would have was there weren't any girls on the show. The movie of his stand-up was mandatory viewing not only in my parents' house, but at school when Mr. Woolsey didn't have anything in the lesson plan. To this day, I can quote some of his sketches, most recently recalling "Little Jeffery" when Will was a particular terror at the grocery store.

The Cosby Show was a cultural phenomena in and of itself. According to critics, family sitcoms were on their way out until Bill brought them back in. Loosely based on Bill's home life and using some of the sketches from the Himself movie, the show was a huge hit. It influenced other shows, from family sitcoms to other comedians getting their own shows. It influenced fashion, from cool Lisa Bonet's style to the Cosby sweater.

Cosby used the influence of his show to give other artists the benefit of a wider audience. The crew doing lip synchs to songs by Koko Taylor and Ray Charles were brilliant. Jazz artists, R&B singers, painters all benefitted from having Cosby as a fan.

There is another story that speaks eloquently of the generosity of this man. He did a stand-up show at Ferris when I was a student. The planning of the event was done by a campus student organization and unfortunately, botched. I can tell you that tickets to the show were extraordinarily cheap, even for a student. To cancel or to host the event would have bankrupt the organization. Saving the day, Bill waived his $10,000 appearance fee, and then DONATED an additional $10 grand to ensure the organization would be in the black once the concert was over. Drop in the bucket to a millionaire? Perhaps, but who was Ferris State to him but a layover between Detroit and Chicago?

Good bless you Cos.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Playlist: Girls

Ah Stevie, all the girls wanted to be you.

There is a sweet but sad story of Stevie Nicks and Joe Walsh, who collaborated on a special project for a four year old who was dying of cancer. She had wistfully asked, "do you think anyone will write a song about me?"

Of course angel baby.

A P.S. to this story is the little girl was bothered that the public drinking fountain was too tall for her to drink from comfortably, and after she passed, Joe had tiny drinking fountains installed in parks throughout her hometown in her honor.

As a music lover, there is something so deeply moving (or confusing, see Feb angst!) about someone writing a song for you. As ordinary citizens of the world, it's also cool when one already exists, like the Allman Brothers Band's "Melissa." This seems like a phenomena strictly for girls, because outside of Toni Basil's "Mickey," I can't come up with a single song dedicated to a boy. That may be a research challenge for another time...

So for all those sparkly-eyed gals in the back row that captured the imagination of the heavy-lidded bass players converting shyness to badassery, this one's for you.

Girl, The Beatles: Another month, another list, another Beatles tune. Whatever, it's my blog. A complex marriage of Lennon/McCartney building a complex mystery girl. What is so effective is what is NOT sung - the sighs, the gasps, sucking in air. Those exclamations tell things that words can't. Bonus: the backing track where George sings "tit-tit-tit-tit" - naughty!

Valleri, The Monkees: I was trying to hold out against listing another Monkees song, but whatever, it's my blog. Besides, I have tickets to see the Monkees in Chicago this November - with Michael Nesmith. The lyrics are simple, and sung by my least favorite Monkee Davy. But the real highlight of the song is the guitar work, the Spanish guitar bridge and the electrc guitar riff. I love Peter Tork in his checkered shirt singing the wrong notes at the top of his lungs in the romp from the show.

My Sharona, The Knack: Back in '79, I like to think I was a precocious kid with a taste in music that defied my age. What nine year old grooves to Steely Dan? I also think I had an ear for what was going to be a big hit, and went nuts the first time I heard My Sharona, begging for then getting the vinyl for my 10th birthday - and I still have it. The song ended up the #1 song of the year. Unfortunately, that was the single high note for the band, now widely considered a one-hit wonder. To that I say, give "Good Girls Don't" a listen. I've downloaded it, and the harmonica is filthier than the lyrics. If I were in a punk band, I'd fight to sing this.

Jessica, Allman Brothers Band: I've mentioned Melissa so often, we have to give it up for the brothers other great girl song. Named for Dicky Betts daughter, the Wall Street Journal declared the song "a true national heirloom." That's quite an endorsement. A friend of mine skated to it when he won the adult men's silver freeskate title and of course he's a southern boy.

Layla, Derek and the Dominoes: Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone magazine says this: "there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder or a suicide... to me 'Layla' is the greatest of them."  I concur.

She's Crafty, Beastie Boys: the B boys in the early years were known for chauvantistic, juvenile teenaged rap lyrics, and well, we loved it. Especially when the tables were turned, as in this song. "She's crafty, she knows all the moves, I started playing records, she knows all the grooves. She robbed us blind, she took all we owned, and the boys blamed me for bringing her home."

Ah Leah!, Donnie Iris: I don't know a thing about Donnie outside of this song and "Love is Like a Rock," is a so-ridiculous-it's-cool classic rock staple. Research has revealed a pretty cool life. Iris has been involved in music since he was a child, and was in his first rock band as a teen. He became a solo artist in his late 30s, and obtained the nickname "King Cool" in his 40s. He had a deal with Atari in one of the early examples of rock cross-promotion with video games for the song "Do You Compute?" He's now a grandfather, has the greatest hits album, a Christmas album, has a local beer named after him, key to the city, and does stuff just for fun. That sounds like a charmed rock life to me.

Beth, KISS: hard rock glam metal goes soft. The purist fans I know balk at this and "I Was Made for Loving You" (disco trash!), but let me tell you, without these two songs, KISS would mean nothing to me. The song was written by drummer Peter Criss, and the real Beths are Criss' wife Lydia and a former bandmate's wife Becky. So how do you get to Beth? Creative license.

Sweet Child 'O Mine, Guns n' Roses: the infamous story of Axl and Erin Everly. You can rock hard and love even harder. Perfect moment in time for them, forever a disaster after.

Paulina, No Doubt: From their rare first disc that is more ska than anything they did after. Also one of the rare moments when someone other than Gwen Stefani sings lead. A song about the intense infatuation one had with supermodel Paulina Ocasek.

Annie's Song, John Denver: a classic soft rock standard that has become a wedding song standard. Easy to understand, Denver wrote the song for his wife as a gift, they divorced, then got back together, I believe, on the strength of this song. No matter how soft you rock, you can still get the girl if you are a master troubador.

Cecilia, Simon & Garfunkel: the song has been mentioned before, a staple singalong song for sorority girls at Ripples.

Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond: ditto.

Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!), Garbage: okaaaaay, not a song about a girl but a song about a boy cross dressing as a girl. Count me in as one of the people who just love the camp value of a cross dressing male, who gets the beauty and absurdity of the state of glamour today. And the names! I have laughed for days at some of the names drag queens give themselves. Example: a plus sized queen named All Beef Patty. You go, um, girl.

Gloria, various: first sung by Them, but my favorite current rendition is by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom breaks it down into a 20+ minute groove, straying from the lyrics to tell of talking a gal into going out with him because, see, "I'm in a little rock and roll band, we just did 20 shows at the Fillmore..."

Hey There Delilah, Plain White T's: a nod to my teenaged heart, even in my 40s.

Lay Lady Lay, Bob Dylan: a God to the critics, I've never been a huge Dylan fan, but man, this song is lush and he creates a world where you can feel the heat from the candlelight, smell the smoke from the fireplace, and even see the swirls in the whiskey made by the ice slowly melting in your drink.

My Maria, BW Stevenson: it seems like every classic rock station has its staples. WLAV here in town always seems to play Hocus Pocus by Focus or Edgar Winter's Frankenstein around 1:10 in the afternoon. KSHE in St. Louis loved this jangly little hit for some reason and I don't really even know why, but I grew to love it too.

September Gurls, Big Star: I was interested in Big Star after reading Rob Sheffield's book about his wife Renee, Big Star being her favorite band. They didn't disappoint, and the indie darlings scored a slot in Rolling Stone's list of the top 500 greatest pop songs.

Sour Girl, Stone Temple Pilots: Scott Wieland shirtless singing a love song. Sold.

Woman, John Lennon: start with the Beatles' Girl and end with Lennon's Woman - perfect. Huge hit from his solo release, sadly marked by his passing, which adds to the melancholy. Count me as one of the few fans that don't dislike Yoko, her noteriety overshadows her brilliance as an artist, which is what John saw in the first place. It takes a strong woman to pair up with one of the most brilliant musical artists of the 20th century and hold her own.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Typing Out Loud: ArtPrize Awesomeness

Another self-portrait. I a-muse myself!

I'm really trying to muster the energy and enthusiasm for ArtPrize this year. I think it's more of a case of fighting a cold/strep/whatever the hell this is than anything else. You'd think I was burned out from creating 1,000 pieces of art, but in a fit of "oh my God those are field trip school buses, we are gonna run out!" Cara and I created an additional 250 pieces, so that is not the case.

There are a lot less pieces this year, but I have found in visiting some of the more popular hot spots such as UICA, the BOB and Women's City Center, less is more. You don't feel like there's a million things going on at once, and have a little more time to linger instead of "ohthat'scool,next!"

Overall, lots of politically-charged entries. Lots of large-scale pieces. A handful of fountains.

That said, there are a few things that have stood out for me, other than what me and Cara put out there, of course.

Corporal Hoffman Series
Pair 5 wounded U.S. military veterans & active servicemen/women with an established artist/designer. Together the two parties collaborate to share that hero's story through the medium of art & graphic design. Moving, thoughtful and creative without heavy-handed, Hallmarky patriotism. Honest.   

Egg Prize 
Sounds familiar... two friends with a passion for art collaborate on a fun project to inspire creativity and joy. But instead of 2,000 2,250 pieces of art, they filled 40,000 red Easter eggs with toy prizes. There's no great political statement, no scathing commentary on American consumerism, just plop a quarter in the machine (which will be donated to the GR Children's Museum) and have fun with what you get. I stood in line three times and got: a sticker; a dinosaur; and a tiny snake, bow and arrow and parrot.  

Imagine an episode of Hoarders as an exhibit. I experienced a wide range of emotions while exploring the exhibit, which was the content of a 900 sq. ft. house abandoned in Detroit. Fascination at the antiques. There was the voyeuristic thrill of snooping in some one's crap. Quaint nostalgia at the kitchen ware. Curiosity at the show ribbons from the State Fair, dating back to the 40s, 50s. Shock at the stacks of Styrofoam coffee cups. Horror at the thousands of accumulated plastic forks. Disgust at the mounds of trash. Confusion and embarrassment at the personal items (bills, letters) exposing the privacy of the hoarders.

Then sadness when witnessing, displayed slightly apart from the bills and letters, the cardboard embossed envelope for the death certificate and funeral arrangements.

That in and of itself changed the way I saw everything after. This wasn't just the trash of someone suffering from OCD, but some lonely person's desperate grasping at a life that was, an open scrapbook for someone that LIVED and wasn't ready to throw it away, no matter who tattered, dirty or insignificant.

Newwoman Mosaic
I love the artist statement: "As women, we are all compelled to spend copious amounts of time and money decorating ourselves, relentlessly seeking approval in mirrors. NewWoman stands boldly decorated in the very medium we use to validate our carefully constructed physical images. The precise geometry of the tiles is a testament to our meticulous efforts at achieving stylistic perfection. Perfectly postured, she is unapologetic for her provocative designs." This is one gorgeous piece, and I appreciate the above boldface. Enough of our self-inflicted self-esteem issues, rock on sisters.

Microdoodle Moon
We met the artist at the BOB, a curious man who was rapidiographing with all his heart while handing spectators magnifying glasses to appreciate his tiny strokes. And tiny it is. Meticulous, well-crafted and fascinating, it was a magnificent juxtaposition to everything at the BOB which is about being big, bigger and biggest. And he loved what he was doing.

He was interested in our work as well, and he was also planning on giving away art throughout GR this week just for fun. Not an ArtPrize vote grab, art for art's sake. His theme? Finders keepers. I hope I find something.

Imagine the 10 commandments in modern day language, dealing with modern day moral dilemmas such as divorce, abortion, same-sex marriage and global war. Then see the challenge put up by the artist: how would Jesus address the issues? Viewers are asked to answer that challenge by putting their answers on cross-shaped notecards and nailing their answers to a foam board. What is compelling was reading the non-answers to the challenge. In the few minutes I had to view the art and ponder the question, I could not come up with a quick, thoughtful response. Even now, I'm pondering how Jesus would take in our modern world.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's Right With the World: Candy Ladies

Gimme somma' dat!

I grew up in a blue-collar, ethnic neighborhood. We had the railroad to the south, the Catholic Church and grade school to the west, and tree-lined neighborhoods full of a colorful cast of characters to the north and east. How so? Oh, we had the young marrieds, the married forever, the widowers, WWII vets, a pimp and his girls, Polish immigrants, the guys bunking at the fire house that used to play dodge ball with us, and... the candy ladies.

As I was putting my birthday treat together for work, I remember fondly the candy ladies of the neighborhood. There was Mrs. O., our next-door neighbor who was good for those thick, chalky pink or white peppermints. Up the street in the white house with the black shutters was June, who kept her treats in a big glass dish on her enclosed porch. And over on Pringle, on the corner of Tomlinson, was the unnamed lady who sat on her porch and beamed when all we little kindergartners would troop by, say hello, and she would dole out the safety suckers to our tiny, outstretched hands.

What I love about this was the sheer generosity of these ladies. At first glance, there was absolutely nothing to gain for these ladies handing out sweets randomly to neighborhood kids, and everything to gain for us. But I think this simple gesture did so much more.

Mrs. O was a widow, and our next door neighbor. We loved her, and she shared a birthday with our dad. There was more than just candy between us, we helped her pick pears from her huge tree in the back and she always sent us home with a basket of fruit for ourselves, plus a tomato or two for dad, a rose for mom. But we also helped her rake leaves and play with her two little dogs. In turn, as latchkey kids, I also believe Mrs. O, sitting on her front or back porch, kept an eye on us for our parents when we were home alone.

June too was a widower, and an avid gardener. Her nieces were our classmates, and she would watch them on occasion after school. We rarely went to her door with our hands outstretched, she would instead call us over after shopping to announce she got a new kind of candy, and did we want to share in her new stash? June had a gate in the back of her lawn that allowed us to cut the corner to get to school a few minute earlier. I think being a widower without children of her own left June a bit lonely, and with kids in her front yard willing to pull weeds or play in the street in front, left her with fine company. I remember thinking of her as being much older than my parents, but she is still alive and wow, I'm over 40, so that makes her... really old?

And the unnamed lady on the corner over my the Tomlinson school? It kills me not to know her name, I just remember a flowered apron, a sweet smile and thinking maybe she was a million years old. Remember, blue-collar in the 70s, so not a whole lot of extra money going around. We kids always managed to scrounge a few pennies somewhere for candy (sorry mom, think we hit the tootsie roll bank a few too many times), but not all kids in the neighborhood could manage even that. I'd like to think maybe she was a girl during the Depression that as an adult, provided a little lift to the kids around her whose parents were struggling during the recession.

When I think of them visually, in abstract, I see a fabric basket weave, in butterscotch, pinks and greens. I think of peppermint and chocolate. There's the lingering scent of mothballs, clean dirt, and roses. When I think of them as a being, I see them larger than life, protective watchdogs that could tell a worried mom, a cop, or a babysitter who, what, where, and when. As for the why, they would just shake their heads, and offer a peppermint.

We moved into our first house in Wyoming in 1997. First thing I did was buy a large jar of sour kids gum to keep in the house just in case the neighbor kids came by. Sure enough, Lindsay, Guy, Zach and the little blond kid from across the street would wander by, wondering if I had any treats for them. Then they stayed to tell me all about it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why Art Matters: Being a Cusack Girl

The iconic Llyod Dobler. I'd totally fall for this romantic gesture.

Anyone reading my blog for the last year knows I'm an 80s girl through and through. While I loved all the Brat Packer/John Hughes movies, my favorite actor of the era/genre was on the fringe of this definition.

To hell with Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, and Charlie Sheen, I was a Cusack girl.

To celebrate the art of the man who created some of the most romantic and funny figures of the 80s, I give you his best.

Sixteen Candles - Cusack played Bryce, comic sidekick to Anthony Michael Hall's Farmer Ted, the geek. His freshman awkwardness and wish to see a female extra-terrestrial's assets was a little bit of hilarious.

Allison getting her college education in how-to shotgun a beer.

The Sure Thing - Walter "Gib" Gibson walks the thin line between being a guy and being a man. Does he choose love or does he choose an easy lay? It was a smart teenaged rom-com, and I'm sure I was one of many bookish gals that cheered when he took a chance on love over the sure thing. Extremely quotable.

Better Off Dead - blackest of humor with Lane Myer getting dumped by his superficial blonde girlfriend. His half-hearted suicide attempts are not taken serious by anyone, but does attract the interest of curly-haired brunette Monique. Lots of funny catch-phrases and a spectacular claymation sequence to Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some!!!"

Man in uniform.

Eight Men Out - not a teenaged comedy, but a historical drama surrounding the scandal of the 1919 White Sox. He played third baseman Buck Weaver with earnestness as well as a quiet rage in an effort to play the game with integrity while maintaining his innocence. One of my favorite baseball movies. As a Tigers fan, leave it to Cusack to make me sympathetic to the plight of an effing Sox player.

Say Anything... - He's simply beautiful as Lloyd Dobler. The ladies in the movie, from his sister to his best friends to Diane Court, adore him. So do his guy friends. He's sincere, romantic, and while still a teenager, he prefers to be honest with his love instead of "hanging out at the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night, no women in sight anywhere." Him shivering in the backseat while holding Diane in his arms warms my heart. Then there is the iconic boombox grand gesture of love. *sigh*

A mixtape... I'll make her a mixtape.

High Fidelity - All grown up, this is my bonus pick. He plays crabby Rob Gordon, an anti-hero music geek who is a complete opposite of his funny, romantic teenaged characters, a major screw-up that still manages to turn it around. I love his music geekdom, making top 5 lists for any situation and of course, creating the ultimate mix tape. His contemplative review of affairs from the heart are funny, dark, tragic and self-revealing. Funny bit: best death song, "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Monday, September 3, 2012

If I Were a Celebrity!

Funky self-portrait, soon to be iconic celebutante!

A recent read of fluff on Yahoo! revealed the latest not-so-secret dieting tips from a Sports Illustrated cover model who is also starring in a movie for the first time. Another article dissected the celebrity fragrance market. Finally, I heard from Dave that the aunt of an Olympic gymnast he knows will be walking the red carpet at the MTV Music Awards.

The lesson I guess is that fame is fleeting and in today's world, the PR machine for those in the spotlight is set towards making the famous a threat in as many avenues as possible. Why - maybe it's a money grab, maybe it's trying as much as they can to see what sticks, maybe it's a way to prolong the celebrity's popularity as long as possible.

Successful example of how that works: Beyonce with Destiny's Child begat Beyonce the actress, begat Beyonce the solo artist, begat Beyonce the clothing designer, begat Beyonce the perfume mogul.

Fail example: Snooki the reality star begat Snooki the author begat Snooki the perfume mogul.

So in honor of Labor Day, cue the dream sequencer's foggy fade out and Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver", because if I were a celebrity...

Famous because: confessional blog turns into funny memoir which become "it" chick lit, which becomes summer must-see chick flick. I cameo in movie as wise-cracking pop art street painter.

Noted for: crazy hair, thrift store shopping becomes a craze, adult skating becomes the new "in" exercise.
Woo hoo!: cover of Rolling Stone ("Mom-olution" looking adorably harried with Will at Chuck E. Cheese wearing a Heart concert t-shirt while Dave plays a claw machine in a Rush tee) and Glamour (laughing in couture cobalt blue gown while eating chocolate) the same month.

Celebrity hanger-ons: Madonna, for a while, citing the Michigan connection. Andrew Zimmern, Bizzare Foods host, over love of peppers. Nicki Minaj, on a dare. Rush, for Dave of course but an opportunity to tell Alex Lifeson I've had a lifelong crush on him. The Detroit Tigers. Various figure skaters. Rock stars. You know.

Adding time to my 15 minutes: media discovers my forays into pop art. I get a guest column in Rolling Stone and SPIN on how to be a rocking cool mom, of course getting a few things deliberately wrong. Celebrity hot sauce, featuring tomato, jalapeno and smoke. Celebrity fragrance, a musky jasmine with a hint of green apple. Couple other books on the 80s, rock concerts and sports from the female POV. Will gets a guest spot on Yo Gabba Gabba and the cover of Nick magazine.

Backlash: Widely criticized by frat boy magazines like MAXIM for making the female mid-life crisis funny and popular "want to be the girl with the most cake? Here's your mom jeans, now shut up!" Vogue snarks on flea-market fashion, I make worst-dressed list. Ex-boyfriends hit the tabolids with "that's not how it happened" stories. PR disaster proudly declaring love for the Tigers during a Yankees broadcast on ESPN.

Last gasp: Skating with Celebrities. My celebrity partner is Ryan Bradley, and our broadcast eyeroll and me telling a Real Housewife to get real dooms us to third.

To obscurity! A failed potato chip endorsement contract, I cite fatigue and the wish to spend more time at home with Will and Dave. I'm doomed to guest appearances on WOOD-TV news spots and local celebrity fundraisers.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September Playlist: She's a Rainbow

Let me temporarily put aside my love of The Fabs, and throw some devil horns in the air for the dirtier, gritter Brits, The Rolling Stones.

While Mick is the frontman, I prefer Keith and his crazy swagger. I discovered a newfound appreciation for him a few years back as he wrote and presented the greatest musicians that ever lived in a issue of Q magazine, a bi-monthly Brit rag that is a perfect blend of the US magazines Rolling Stone and SPIN.  He wrote with passion, knowledge and keen insight about these musicians - essentially he did his homework with intelligence and I totally respect that.

I find it appropriate to honor Keith and the boys during my birth month since one of my favorite songs was the #1 hit the week I was born.

Honky Tonk Woman: #1 song the week I was born, which is why September playlist. Little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.

Ruby Tuesday: lush orchestration over classic rock. Was that a pan flute?

She's a Rainbow: sometimes you have to back into a favorite. I am guilty of falling in love with this song based on its use in an Apple computer ad, promoting their collection of colorful cabinet desktops. And Mick sang this to Kristen Wiig as a farewell on Saturday Night Live. Aw!

Sympathy for the Devil: I was always fascinated by the lyrics, an awesome bit of storytelling throughout the ages. The devil's music? I think this sophisticated piece demonstrates how easy it is to fall prey to his influence and the unfortunate consequences. Actors and authors have attempted to give him a voice, Mick did just that. Cautionary tale? Brilliant.

Gimmie Shelter: I love that scrit-scrit-a-scrit and the wailing-in-the-Baptist-choir backup singer. My first exposure? American Red Cross disaster relief PSA ads inbetween Beatles cartoons and Monkees reruns. What an exposure I had to great music at a young age.

You Can't Always Get What You Want: more Baptist choir, more heavy, bluesy lyrics. "My favorite flavor, cherry red." What does that mean?!

Miss You: Dave and I solidified out Trivial Pursuit dominence when someone asked me to name this song by reading a few lyrics. I will forgive Mick for welcoming Justin Timberlake onstage to sing this as a duet at SARStock.

Tumbling Dice: R&R HOF really needs to recognize the Stones backup singers, this song is MADE by the backdrop they create. There's so much to love about this song, I'm really at a loss what to say 'cept effing brilliant.

Paint It, Black: the dark urgency made this song the ultimate creepy cool. Have you seen the video? Crazy fat guy in overalls climbing the roller coaster? What does that mean? There's quite a few skaters who have tapped that brooding energy, the best of my recollection being Matt Savoie, the most underrated skater of the last decade.

Faraway Eyes: more honky-tonk than Honky Tonk Woman, the lyrics both mock and embrace the storytelling typical of country and western. I could see slow-dancing to this half in the bag at a backyard bbq at midnight.

Start Me Up: Hit big in 1981 when I was in the 6th grade. I remember dancing to it while raking leaves, a loathsome chore made easier imagining making grown men cry. We danced to it at my cousin Michelle's slumber party. We danced to it pretty much whenever the opportunity arose.

Harlem Shuffle: The Rolling Stones and the MTV generation. Paula Abdul wasn't the first to dance with a cartoon cat.

Undercover of the Night: Mick as a Nicuragan drug dealer, and Keith with some fierce wah wah, and Charlie with strong thump. I loved this song.

Parting shot of Keith, because I can.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Style that Inspires Stink-Eye!

What, this old thing? I guess haters gonna hate...

This past weekend, I wasn't feeling the greatest about my style or my hair. The roots are growing out and exposing the grays while the ends are bleached blonde from a combination of the sun and the chlorine from the pool at the Y. I was so frustrated I was ready to call up my friend Liz to buzz it all off for charity.

Style-wise, being in-process of changing shape and not having excess money for brand-new clothes, I've been in my usual hunt for affordable fashion by thrifting.

So I was feeling kind of ugly and low rent. Until...

I encountered the ladies.

We were up in Gaylord for a skating comp I was judging. Going down for breakfast, I fluffed the hair and threw on a Liz Claiborne maxi dress I picked up at the Salvation Army for 49 cents. It was cute, in diagonal stripes of green, yellow and cream. I wasn't feeling like I was rockin' it, just wanting some coffee and maybe a bagel.

The first of "the ladies" I encountered was at the coffee station. Prim hair in a bun and wearing a long, pastel skirt and sweater on a day promising to be in the 90s, she took in my wild hair and body skimming dress... and gave me the up-and-down once-over, the sneer on her face making it clear she was not impressed with my lustful appearance.


I joined my husband and son back at the table, and then went to toast a bagel. I was polite, pleasant, and made small talk with a few people waiting their turn at the toaster. Evil appraisal number 2 came from a steel-haired bunhead wearing an ankle to neck denim jumper. She too thought me a harlot with bare leg peeking out of the slit and curls flying free.

I was starting to feel better about myself.

I whispered the incidents to my husband and he laid in wait for the next mean girl to pass judgement. It came from what appeared to be the preacher's wife, earnestly clutching a missile to her woolen breast, sensible shoes flaring out from legs knifing through the folds of her long, heavy gray skirt.

I felt like a whore in church. A HOT whore in church. Instead of shame, which is what I was sure they wished for me, I suddenly felt like I was workin' it.

I've never felt the positive power that kind of negativity can give you, and it felt kinda awesome.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What's Right in the World: Kid Rock has a Foundation

Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy
said the boogy said up jump the boogy!

Flipping through the GR Press, inconspicuously on page A17 was the headline "Kid Rock Foundation gives $250K to Music Gallery."

Kid. Rock. Has. A. Foundation.

The story goes on to say Romeo's Bob Ritchie is donating the cash to the Detroit Historical Museum for a Music Lab, an interactive display covering the history of music in Detroit from jazz to blues, Motown to techno and hip-hop.

Curious, I went to his website, and found the mission statement to his Foundation:

"I can't stop the war, shelter homeless, feed the poor. I can't walk on water. Can't save your sons and daughters. I can't change the world to make things fair. This is the least that I can do. The Kid Rock Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit raising funds for and awareness of local and regional charities helping disadvantaged children, victims of war and natural disasters, and those suffering from illness."

There's something so genuine, so refreshing, so MICHIGAN about this gesture. I've known plenty of badasses in my time that extol the virtue of swigging beers, chasing wimmen and staying out all night who will flag down the ice cream truck and treat all the kids in the neighborhood.

Look no further than Kid's Detroit compatriots Insane Clown Posse. ICP was contacted by MAXIM magazine to do a feature on a night on the town in Detroit, and gave them around $800. Strippers? Casino? Debauchery? Body shots? No. ICP did a benefit concert for a local homeless shelter where the fans brought food and blankets as their "ticket" to the show, dropped a majority of the MAXIM cash in the donation box, took the fans out for a round of drinks to give back, then took whoever wanted to go along over to Green's Hamburgers (LOVE Green's!) for burgers and fries.

I also cite Ted Nugent as an example when I was a teen. Bowhunting with cancer patients. Deer hunting with underprivledged children. Walking through the Westwood Mall buying stuff for people for the heck of it. Generous tipper too.

But back to Kid Rock. He's done rap. He's done rock. He's done country. He brews his own beer. He supports local Detroit business. Even with the Foundation as the face of his charity, I'm sure he does a lot more for the community than he lets on.

He's more than just a cowboy, baby.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Typing Out Loud: Using Bags of Talent

Stills from Metallica's "Unforgiven" video. Heavy, and not just because it's metal.

Olympic hangover: watching television last night was so dull compared to the last two weeks. The United States racked up the most medals, but it was amazing to see perseverance from all corners of the globe. Go World indeed. Closing ceremonies rocked, but NBC did a little too much commercial break editing and screwed the audience out of some iconic performances.

Fitness goals continue, I was informed by Mike, the personal trainer at the Y that has been watching my progress, that I am currently sitting in 6th place in the Y's Summer Sweat Challenge. I have been diligent but not competitive about participating... until now. I'm not going to go crazy, but I might step it up a little to score a few more points and see if 5th place is in reach.

That said, the last of my size 16 pants (I guess it's OK to reveal the size I was now) have retired to the Goodwill pile. Out went the khaki, gray and black dress pants. I am now down to only two pairs of dress pants, both size 12 - giddy! - that will have to do until I can go shopping again.

Dad's birthday is looming this Saturday, and my mom is being so optimistic and insisting we celebrate his life instead of mourning his passing. Lesson learned, how nice.

I had leadership training here at work last week, and although it was a little hippy-touchy-feely, I learned quite a bit about myself. *blows out breath* Where to begin?

Day 1 we were asked to punch circles out to give our assessment of how well we take care of our mind, body and spirit. I punched out two medium circles for mind and body, then punched out a smaller but still medium sized circle for spirit. Then we took a quiz that stunned me, all my parts were more or less perfectly equal and in sync. When asked, as the youngest member of the "balance" group how this could be, I explained that significant life changes forced the issue. Overwhelmed, I cried, thinking "I'm going to be OK..."

For years, I have been wondering about my life path, most significantly, what the hell I'm doing here. Working in hospital admissions is not my career path, and was certainly not part of my life goal. When asked to reflect on why we were attending the conference, I prayed for an answer that would satisfy my ego, which had been battered by my layoff several years ago.

After three days of lectures, dialogue, skits, "sharing circles" and such, I began thinking about my favorite parable, that of the man who gave three servants bags of gold that they were to use to amass a fortune. The one he gave 5 bags of gold to returned with 15; the one with 3 returned with 9; but the man who was given only one bag returned the bag unused and untouched. When asked why, the servant responded that he was scared to lose it and didn't use it. The man explained that it was like having a talent and not using it, was worse than robbery.

For a clearer explanation, I refer to Metallica's "Unforgiven."

Anyway, I have bemoaned the last few years the loss of opportunity to use my talents as a copywriter, event planner and designer. Well, I've used this blog to keep up my writing, don't really care about the event planning, and I have overachieved in the designer thing with all the art shows this year. But I hate the feeling my career is over.

Ah, but I have one little bag of talent that while I have used it, has gone unnoticed and under appreciated by me.

Back when we were living in St. Louis, I was hired by a top accounting firm to be a graphic designer. Sure, they liked my work, but when I agreed to work for them, I was pulled aside by the hiring manager and told exactly why I was hired: I was the kind of person that would unite instead of divide and at present, the current staff hated each other. Wha...? I ended up staying in the job for 6 months, the only reason I didn't stay longer was because we moved back to Michigan. And because of that, I was offered a position in the Detroit office, the hiring manager a little off on her geography.

Working in admissions is not easy, you see lots of anger, lots of tears, lots of confusion. I don't get to use all of my talents, but I do use one, that being a welcoming, pleasing person that can smooth over a crisis as a minor bump in the road. It's a talent I didn't see as a talent,  yet I am using it willingly in service at my job.

Was this God's answer to me? Are we sometimes allowed to exercise freewill, but in other cases, he rearranges the chess board, so to speak, as a request that we serve Him in a capacity for which He needs us?

Pretty heady thoughts for someone answering phones.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Why Art Matters: This is Sportscenter

Little early for an Art Matters post, but I'll be at training all week. Plus, with the Olympics, it's time to talk sports!

Few commercials sell their show, and sports culture in general, better than This is SportsCenter for ESPN.

The ads began running in 1994. Depicting office culture in and around the ESPN studios, the ads feature the anchors interacting with each other, athletes, celebrities and mascots. In any given spot you may see NASCAR drivers fixing potholes in the parking lot, Sparty in the break room with Floyd Mayweather, the Manning brothers acting like boys and getting in trouble while touring the facilities.

Why I love them: they're clever, laugh-out-loud funny, and perfectly blend sports culture with the very day life experiences of the viewer. Michael Phelps in a cube stealing back a medal his office mate was using for a coaster, even if "it's only the bronze." Michelle Kwan setting up a kiss 'n' cry for anchors waiting for their marks after a broadcast.

Ever the geek, I have envisioned my own SportsCenter spot. Two anchors and a mascot (gotta have a mascot) standing around a cube telling light bulb jokes because the one above them is burnt out, and one of them asks, "how many ice skaters does it take to change a light bulb?" A pairs team approaches, decked out in competition attire. The man sets the girl up in a lift and rotates, allowing her to change the light bulb, they exit the lift with flair, and they walk away setting up yet another lift. One anchor deadpans, "two apparently" as the mascot mimics the lift.

End scene!

McLaughlin and Brubaker in their prime:
she could totally change a light bulb in a cathedral ceiling doing this lift.