Friday, January 30, 2009

Jheri Curls And Keyboards And Sunglasses! Oh, My!

When I entered high school in 1984, pep rallies were hours-long affairs that, depending on the game, might include a miniature talent show as part of the festivities. It's a subject for another blog, but I grew up in a "Friday Night Lights" kind of town that took high school football very seriously.

Anyway, I went to school with a guy who, typical of the time, took on a persona that was a confused hybrid of Michael Jackson, Prince and New Edition: Jheri curl, bow tie, sunglasses. We'll call him Dre. Dre fancied himself a performer in the tradition of, um, more famous Jheri-curled performers. At the homecoming talent show, Dre took the stage and treated rougly 1,500 students to what can only be described as the worst Prince tribute I have ever seen. To my knowledge, this feat has not been topped.

I hadn't thought of Dre for 20 years, but the above video took me right back to his musical debut. For the young folks, "Digital Display" was an R&B hit for the group Ready for the World, of "Oh, Sheila" fame. "Digital Display" is a laughable mishmash of synth keyboards and PG-13 come-ons, but it was pretty popular at the time. The duo in this performance clearly hired the same stylist that Dre and so many other young men did during that era, and the dance moves are eerily familiar: comical gyration and plenty of Michael Jackson-esque kick-spins. It must be watched from beginning to end to be properly appreciated.

Thanks to Crunk & Disorderly for sharing this with the world!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Buzz Word Bull$%&^

Lately, I've been working on a list of useless buzz words and non-words that should be banned. The list so far:

1. Signage (as opposed to just "sign")
2. Usage (See above.)
3. Bandwidth (when used to describe how busy you are, as in, "I don't have enough bandwidth to handle that request right now."
4. Synergy
5. Dialogue as a verb
6. Utilize (I prefer "use.")
7. Impactful (not a word)
8. Stakeholder
9. Tasked (as in, "I am tasked with folding the laundry tonight.")

I'm sure there are many others. When someone uses two or more of these words in a sentence, I immediately assume that s/he is bullshitting me, or that s/he has been immersed in bureaucratic culture so long that s/he has forgotten how humans talk — or "dialogue." I judge them harshly. Apparently, it is no longer acceptable to say "I don't know," or to refrain from offering opinions on issues you haven't studied.

I was ranting to my friend H. about this when she handed me Diane Law's "A Dictionary of Bullshit." I can't stop reading it. It's meant to be funny (and it is), but it speaks to how prevalent these stupid words (and non-words) have become, and how the people who abuse them think doing so makes them sound smart.

Hint: It doesn't.

Monday, January 26, 2009

If This Doesn't Make You Smile ...

I was in the grumpiest mood this morning, just not in the mood for 9-to-5 nonsense of any kind. Then I watched the video for "Life in Technicolor II," which is so clever and charming that it made me chuckle. Yeah, I know I'm practically on Coldplay's payroll, but even the haters have given this a thumbs-up. If a crowd-surfing puppet doesn't make you smile, well, I just don't know. Too bad the "Team America" puppets didn't make a cameo, though.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Random Inaugural Thoughts

1. I have talked to many people who were a little nervous every time President(!) Obama got out of the car. People of a certain age, like my mom, were both thrilled and deeply worried.

2. I totally got that the Rev. Joseph Lowery was being humorous with benediction poem, but I also predicted that the "when white will embrace what's right" portion would go over like a lead balloon with many observers. I've heard different versions of that color riff many times ("If you're black get back. If you're brown, stick around. If you're white, you're all right."), and Lowery is from an era when it applied. I think the "Obama's America off to racist start!" headlines are a bit over the top.

3. Can I just say that the president and first lady appear to have a totally hot marriage? Their body language during the first dance was tender, sweet and indicative of a healthy relationship, if you know what I mean.

4. Aretha Franklin never disappoints with her WTF? wardrobe, and that gigantic church lady hat was quite the spectacle. It probably cost more than my car, even if it was, in the words of my friend J., "bedazzled."

5. Sasha and Malia are the most adorable kids in the White House since John-John and Caroline. And how cute is it that the Jonas Brothers surprised them and their friends with a performance at the end of a scavenger hunt?

6. Speaking of performances, I heart Beyonce, but I wish Etta James had been tapped to sing "At Last." Granted, Sasha Fierce lobbied for the gig and did a fine job, but I can't help but think it would have meant more to Etta.

7. One of the most touching moments was when the camera panned to some Tuskegee Airmen in the crowd. Read more about them here.

8. Michelle always looks glamorous, but Jill Biden was no slouch when it was time to bring out the evening gowns. As Dlisted's Michael K put it, "She looked really hot. Got Dayum! She looked like she was ready for a catfight on a soap opera. I was waiting for Susan Lucci to come out and pull her hair. It could have used a few more sparkles, but besides that, it was perfect."

9. Every time the camera panned to W., I wondered what he was thinking.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Thoughts About Old Comics

My mom has been bugging me to get my childhood crap out of her house, so I've slowly (very slowly) been bringing pieces of my old "Archie" comics collection to Tallahassee. My collection used to be huge, but ... well, it's a long story for another day.

Anyway, my daughter really likes these books, and in re-reading them, I'm struck by a few things:

1) Despite the fact that it's an old-fashioned classic, most "Archie" plotlines are all about raging hormones. Some of the bathing suits and plunging necklines Betty and Veronica wore in the '70s were downright risque. While wearing said getups, they're usually being trailed by a pack of (literally) panting males. Yet, we're supposed to believe that this teenage crew's "dates" are as innocent as malts at the Chok'lit Shoppe. Clearly, a lot went over my head when I was 8. The next time you're in the supermarket, flip through "Archie" comic and tell me Reggie and Veronica haven't totally done it.

2) Archie and Co. always seem to be ambling past someone's house, which is plausible until they wind up in front of Veronica's mansion. Veronica is supposed to be the richest girl in Riverdale, maybe the entire region. So how is it that the Lodge estate is right up the street from Jughead's place? There are some fine houses within a mile or two of my subdivision, but none of them qualify as a millionaire's retreat. Another thing: Given how much Mr. Lodge loathes Archie, why is he sending his daughter to the same public high school he attends?

3) While the stories in the main "Archie" books are standard (prom, love triangle, pool party), my old "Little Archie" digests are full of life-or-death scenarios. The following took place in just one of my old comics — and I've made nothing up:

  • Little Betty is abducted, bound and gagged, and left in an attic by some bank robbers hiding out near her summer camp. Little Veronica leads a search and rescue party.

  • Little Archie is in a terrifying car accident with Betty's older brother, Chick, behind the wheel.

  • Little Archie helps foil two burglars who attempt to steal one Mr. Lodge's priceless artifacts. (Shouldn't this act alone have earned Archie years of goodwill?)

  • Little Archie saves the life of a bongo-playing Martian who must drink ammonia to survive.

Now that I'm a parent, these scenarios are out of my worst nightmares — but I totally get why a kid would be dig them. Good times.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Helen Mirren: 63 And Smoking

I'm prepared to accept that actress Dame Helen Mirren, at 63, has access to trainers, chefs and plastic surgeons that mere mortals can only dream of. And, OK, she has never had any children, which have a way of rearranging your body after you give birth to them. Only she knows for sure, but Mirren doesn't strike me as the kind of woman who is interested in pretending she's 40. She looks like a mature woman, and I mean that in the best possible way. Frankly, I think she's hot. Some time back, I put her on my list of Women I Might Switch Teams For Under Different Circumstances. But that is a topic for another day.

So I was not incredibly surprised to learn that she was the face behind the bikini-clad body on tabloid covers (screaming headline: "She's 63!") While Madonna's 50-plus body is the stuff of legend, it's a little too scary-intimidating for my taste. She could probably snap me like a twig, despite weighing only 15 pounds. Mirren's body is more striking in that it is trim yet womanly in all the right places. She looks like she works out but still drinks a glass of wine or has a cupcake every now and then.

Now to make this about me: Today, a very fit person stunned me by saying, "OK, you are looking trim. I can see your clavicle!" In rapid succession, her assistant said, "Your pants are too big!" Now, no one is going to bumrush me on the street and demand to know the name of my trainer anytime soon, but - can I say it? - my work seems to be paying off. A person just meeting me wouldn't be impressed, like, at all, but anyone who has known me for more than a year can see a different EDP emerging. I have a long, long way to go, but I am beginning to do certain things automatically - like saying, "I am going to work out today" and meaning it, whether I want to or not. I can make good decisions about food without being bitter ("But I want the fried ones!"). My daughter routinely asks, "Mommy, did you exercise today?"

Maybe if I keep it up, I will have a snowball's chance in hell of looking like the fabulous Dame Helen Mirren when I am not 63, but 43. I'd consider that a victory.

Obama's Geek Cred Confirmed!

Well, this is pretty doggone exciting. I'm gonna make sure this is reserved in my comics folder, because it is guaranteed to sell out. Read all about the Spidey/Barack team-up here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Being Part Of History Sounds Painful

My brother-in-law F. has tickets for Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony. Yay, F.! I hope he takes a lot of pictures and tells me all about it the next time I see him. While Rick Warren's role is decidedly un-awesome, this is such an exciting time in our nation's history. But it never occurred to me to ask F. to hook me up so that I could get a piece of the inauguration action. I lived in the D.C. area long enough to know that it is very, very cold in January, and traffic can be a gigantic pain in the ass on a normal day. Multiply that by 1,000, and that's what I imagine the scene will be like on Jan. 29.

I have run into so many people who say they're planning to go inauguration to be a part of history, and God bless 'em. I'll be streaming it from my desk. I can't think of anything I'd rather do less than parachute into such gridlock and mass frustration. Some of my otherwise sane relatives are talking about taking a road trip. Maybe if I were still in college and up for anything, I'd do it. It's not like I wouldn't have places to stay. But first, I'd have to get there. That is going to be harder - much harder - than people think. As my friend L. put it, "Folks are talking about 'stopping by' the inauguration like it's a house party." According to the New York Times, even people who have tickets are going to need Lance Armstrong levels of stamina.

Maybe it will all be worth it for the reported million people who are expected to show up. Certainly, it is heartwarming that Obama's victory means so much to so many people. In case I haven't made it very clear, I'm big fan. But somehow, I think he'll have a perfectly good time without me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Who's The Fairest Of Them All?

I don't intend to turn this into a photo blog, but I finally got a decent shot of Brando in all his blue-eyed glory. He pretty much rocks, except for his annoying habit of trying to poop on one corner of the living room carpet. I'm told this is a "texture" issue, so we've surrounded it with plastic and given him a second litterbox with a towel underneath to mimic the carpet feel. Apparently, some cats don't like to mix their liquids and solids, if you know what I mean. But he's great with the kids and doesn't keep us up at night, as some kittens do.

One of my friends has an ironic painting of his gorgeous Russian blue in his home, and I thought the whole "cat art" idea was a hoot. In my case, though, my friends might not get the joke and think I've gone completely around the bend.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Nice Photo I Took

For about an hour yesterday, I was so angry with my son, who was being as difficult and argumentative as he has ever been. It was one of those days when I wondered why someone like me, a control freak who who always wants to seem "appropriate," wound up with a kid who smells fear and kicks it around like a soccer ball. And then I took a look at this picture of him with a friend, which reminded me of how sweet and downright charming he can be. It's a package deal. I guess a picture really is worth ... don't make me say it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Baconnaise: For Real?

Does the world really need bacon-flavored mayonnaise?

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Few Thoughts On 2009

Off the top of my head, here are few things I want to do, or do better, in 2009.

1. Accept that fitness is a journey, not a destination: I went for a power walk yesterday, and it struck me that I am now the kind of person who goes for power walks on a holiday. I savored that for one minute, then thought about the fact that exercising vigorously and eating mindfully are two things I'm gonna have to do for the rest of my life. I am not at my goal weight yet, but I am roughly 20 pounds closer than I was a year ago.

2. Stop whining about work: I have a job, which is more than a lot of people can say right now. I get caught up in the Oprah ideal of finding my "soul's true purpose" or whatever, but sometimes it's good to be grateful for what you have.

3. Read better comics: I bought a lot of crap in 2008, mostly on autopilot. But the major comics publishers are going to have to work a little harder for my money this year, and I'm going to try not to be an "event" sheep.

4. Take better photos: I have a very good point-and-shoot, but there is an SLR with my name on it. However, I can't justify buying it until I've tapped my current camera's full potential. There is quite a bit to learn.

5. Relax a little about parenting, especially where my oldest child is concerned: This is probably about as likely as me taking up parasailing, but I can try, right? I am a worrier by nature, and a friend once told me that my iron-willed, high-decibel son was "possibly the worst kind of child for someone with a personality like yours." He didn't mean that my kid was a jerk, but that I was going to have to take the hand-wringing down a few notches.

6. Get out of town more: Traveling solo and with my family this fall/winter was excellent therapy for me. More, please.

7. Be kind when I don't feel like it: I think I'm pretty kind most of the time, but I have a tendency to frost over when people become passive aggressive or behave like 4-year-olds (especially if they are not 4). I'm going to work on taking the high road a little more often.

8. Enjoy the good relationships I've built over the years: I did some pruning in 2008, and I can truly say that the people who are in my life now are there because I want them to be. Friendship is a gift, and I'd like to give as much as I receive.

I'm sure I'll think of something else.