Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Life Line in Media

so far, that is. 

I was feeling nostalgic. These are TV shows, movies, musicals, songs, artists and books I've loved over the course of my life thus far. This is when I encountered them, not necessarily when they were released. And though this list is in no way exhaustive, these were the ones that came to mind when I took a mental stroll back over my life. These color my childhood, first heart break, part of my engagement when we were apart, the wedding, moving to Italy, then to Germany, and many, many moments in between. I understand if you must judge me for a couple of these, but there they are anyway.

The Smurfs
My Little Pony
The Care Bears
Pound Puppies
"The Greatest Love of All"
The Neverending Story
Stand By Me
Teen Witch
Teen Wolf
"Straight up" & "Opposites Attract"
"Could've Been"
"Hold On"
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Back to the Future
"The Sign"
"Ice Ice Baby"
"Buddy Holly"
"The Sweater Song"
"Tonight Tonight"
"When I Come Around"
"I Will Always Love You"
My Pal Trigger
The Lottery
The Toasters
"You Oughta Know"
A Tale of Two Cities
Empire Records
The Crotch Rockets
The House of Spirits
Blink 182
"Head Over Feet"
"Don't Speak"
"Truly, Madly, Deeply"
Can't Hardly Wait
Alien: The Resurrection
"Time of Your Life"
"Fortunate Fool"
The Bluest Eye
Ani DiFranco
Bastard Out of Carolina
Liz Phair
A Widow For One Year
American Idol
The World According to Garp
"Skater Boy"
Big Fish
"The Reason"
"Here Without You"
"I Will Love You"
"Left Outside Alone"
Laura Pausini
"Hey There, Delilah"
Corinne Bailey Rae
Avenue Q
"Sex on Fire"
Mando Diao
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
"Love Song"
Rise Against
Kate Nash
"Jar of Hearts"
Ingrid Michaelson
Amanda Palmer
Life of Pi

A thousand points to whomever can name the bands that go with all the songs. I'm certain I've forgotten some favorites, but I think most of them are here. And I know I sometimes listed a song and sometimes a band, but there are reasons for it all, mysterious reasons you'll never know, mwahahahahaha!!!

...mostly because they're boring details that only matter to the person they happened to. You know, me.

What are your favorites of all time?

*** UPDATE ***
I cannot believe I forgot Buffy, movie and series, and The New Kids on the Block, my first concert ever. And all 80s music all over the high school and college years. And The Beach Boys during childhood. I'll be back in five minutes to add more. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Your Memory is a Liar

I'm the youngest in a family of three kids with a significant age gap separating me from both my brother and sister. Back in the 80s, while my sister was watching MTV and refusing to clean her room to the point that our dad took her door off its hinges, I was watching the Smurfs. While my brother was crashing cars and setting fires in the mangroves down the street from our house, I was playing with My Little Pony and Barbie. (To be fair, he only set one fire and it was a total accident that got out of hand.) Being the baby, I got a lot of crap from my older siblings (still do) about being spoiled and doing things for attention, which I whole-heartedly deny. Not about being spoiled. We were all spoiled and they know it, but the thing about getting attention? No. Sure, I enjoyed being the center of attention from time to time within the confines of our house among family, but I would never make things up to achieve it. (Skunky doesn't count as a lie - imaginary friends are off the table.)

I've always had vivid dreams and the overwhelming desire to tell people about them (forgive me), so my family members have spent years hearing about them in all their nonsensical glory. To this day, if someone doesn't quite believe what I'm saying they'll say, "Maybe it was a dream," which has always had the power to irk me. It's true that my dreams have been known to trick me into thinking something that didn't actually happen did, and the men in my life have been subjected to the repercussions in real life of something they did in my dreams, but it's not (all) my fault. I can't help that what happens in my dream affects me so strongly, and usually whatever they did in my dream was something they really would do in real life, so maybe they should just be nicer.

My point? Sometimes we lie and we really don't mean to. It happens all the time.

In the middle of writing a different blog post, in fact, the one preceding this, I found myself reminiscing about singing in my childhood years, which led to memories of my mother singing when I was a kid, which then led all kinds of interesting tidbits I've kept safely tucked away in the recesses of my brain. When I ran into a snag, wherein my memory didn't exactly align with what Google said about a group of which my mom used to be a part, I called her to help straighten me and my memories out. We've just hung up and my stomach hurts a little from all the laughing - those phone calls are the best.

First, let me share my memories about my mom's singing career when I was a child:

My mom was a rock star. When I was young, let's say single digit years but over 4, my mom was a member of Sweet Adelines, an a cappella singing group who performed for real life audiences on the church circuit. They traveled around and put on shows, so sometimes she was out of town on tour (like the time I busted my head open on the door latch plate and was awarded one stitch at the emergency room for all the agony). They wore shiny blue costumes with sequins and there was a great, big, tall, muscular man with red hair and a mustache who traveled with them as part of the act, performing lifts in the dance numbers they did on stage to accompany the songs they sang. I pictured the women running across the stage into the red-headed man's great big arms and being lifted into the air, their poodle-like skirts flying.

When I asked my mom about this time in her life, laughter ensued. There were moments no one could actually speak real words because of it.

My mom's memories about the same time:

My mom has always loved to sing. When I was young, let's say between 5 and 7, my mom was a member of the local chapter of Sweet Adelines, an all women a cappella group who sang from time to time in the area, having no religious affiliation (thought they did practice at a local Methodist church). She doesn't remember any over night trips with the group, but they did compete and WIN at the regional competition one year. They wore shiny blue, satiny costumes with sequins and the group of women was so big (about 50) they filled a set of bleachers on the stage to sing. There was no man with red hair and a mustache, though now my dad is starting to wonder. There were also no poodle skirts. Or dancing. She said the closest they came to dancing was a little swaying, but that was it.

To my credit, my mom was also a part of a singing ensemble at our church that had both women and men around the same time in my life, so I'm thinking this is where the man with red hair and mustache came from, as well as the church connection. Either way, comparing memories can be kind of hilarious and I encourage you to try it.

And I really did split my head open on the door latch enough to warrant a single stitch, we all remember that, and my mom was out of town, though nobody can remember where she was.

One of these days I'm going to figure out who that man with the red hair and mustache is.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Save the Empire!

If you've never seen Empire Records (1995), most of this post may be lost on you. And I can't even apologize for this, as it's your fault you haven't seen this masterpiece of teenaged angst and rebellious love of music over capitalism. It may not be your fault - perhaps you didn't know - but now that you do there's no excuse and I expect you to get your hands on a copy immediately, but only if you were ever a teenager. The rest of you are off the hook.

Let's back up a little.

I have always loved to sing. I can remember my mother sitting at the piano smiling while I matched with my voice the notes she played. *She was even a member of Sweet Adelines, a traveling singing group that made the church circuit - I thought she was a rock star. I grew up listening to her sing her way through the house and I've always done the same. I was the little girl in children's choir who got the solo at the Christmas concert at church, and if chorus was an option at school, I was in.

Enter adolescence and the flush of hormones that turn every kid on their head and I quickly grew too self-conscious to let anyone hear me sing anymore. In church I'd grown up with these people and there was a sense of safety when I stood on the stage and sang my little heart out. In school, however, I never auditioned for the solo because I didn't want to stand out, preferring to hide in the small sea of elementary voices that surrounded me. When my elementary years ran out, middle school didn't offer any opportunities to sing, and when I entered high school I was too shy to seek them out. But isn't this one of the very reasons we love movies so much? To not only buy into the story, but imagine ourselves within the realm of another reality for a couple hours?

I was 14 years old when Empire Records came out. My best friend and I rented the tape and watched it at least four times over the course of one weekend. (Keep in mind that this was in the day of rewinding the movie when you were done, so clearly this movie spoke to us in special ways for us to rewind it several times just to watch it again. I can't even imagine rewinding anything these days, who has the time?) As with all Generation X teen flicks, we saw ourselves in the characters and felt their plight to the depths of our tortured, teenaged souls. Damn the man!

I saw myself in Debra, the angry and depressed girl with suicidal tendencies who shaves her head in a fit of frustration. I envied her courage to say what she thought and confront anyone who questioned her.


I wanted to be Corey, so oblivious to her pouty-lipped beauty but cool at the same time, while the sweet, slightly insecure, and properly grungy-hot A.J. fumbles after her in an attempt to reveal his love for her by 1:37pm. (You have to respect a boy with goals.)

But the one who really got me by the end was Gina. Gina is the record store slut, if you will, the sexy little wild thing who does what she wants and cares not what you think. (I didn't relate to this part, but secretly wished that I could.) But in the end, we find out that Gina does have insecurities like the rest of us (what!) and not only does she envy Corey's bright future in college, she's always wanted to sing in a band but is too afraid!

This was the moment I - and probably most other viewers - fell in love with Gina, not only because it's a relief to see the girl who seems to have it all under control really doesn't, but also because she overcomes her fears about singing in front of people and stands on that marquee and belts out lyrics to 'Sugar High' while the band plays around her at the finale scene where the people rise up to save the independent record store that is Empire Records! It's glorious and since 1995, any time I listen to the Empire Records Soundtrack and that song comes on, I sing Gina's parts loud and proud, pretending for a moment that I have the courage to sing from atop a lit marquee, too.

As long as no one else is home.

I still love to sing whenever I can, whether I'm in the car, in the shower, at my desk with iTunes blasting or making up silly songs to describe what I'm doing. Singing the words to a song that you connect with does something beautifully cathartic, and sometimes when I really need to tap into a certain emotion, whether to deal with something personal or get into the right headspace for writing a certain scene, all I need to do is play the right song and the room fills.

This train of thought was brought on by a recent post by a favorite blogger of mine, in which she discusses her fantasy job that she knows she'd suck at. The Cat Lady closes the post posing the question to her readers, What is your secret fantasy career that you know you’d be awful at? Well, Natalie, let me tell you...

Being aware that a career in singing would be a terrible move doesn't mean that I'm failing to believe in myself, I'm just realistic. I can carry a tune, and I admit that I have the ability to sing certain songs pretty well, but I lack the proper pipes and guts to pursue anything outside of my house. And it isn't that I'm not going after a dream, because I may fantasize about singing in a band like Gina, but my true dream is to be a successful writer. Singing is something I'll always do, but writing is something that defines me.


I think it's healthy to hold onto slightly unrealistic fantasies to keep our hearts hopeful and imaginations limber, just as long as we don't lose touch with reality and in turn, lose ourselves to the pursuit of a shattered dream waiting to happen. Some people find out what was once slightly unrealistic is really their true calling in life, but for the rest of us, it's fun to pretend between moments of stupid adult responsibility and what is sometimes a dull reality.  

Because wouldn't it be great if we could all end our days dancing in triumph on the rooftop of an independent record store behind the glorious neon glow of its sign? 

Yeah, I think so, too.

*See the next post, Your Memory is a Liar, for the correction to this slightly fudged memory.

Friday, January 11, 2013


In case you didn't know, I am the easiest person to shop for in the entire universe. I may require a lot emotionally, but Chris has it so easy - I've always been a cheap date and easy to please.

Why, you ask? Because I'm a nerd and I love books and anything related to writing and socks, lots and lots of wonderful socks. I reject plain socks and refuse to wear (or own) white socks (except the kind you wear to the gym because who wants to waste good socks there?). I like 'em striped, argyle, or my favorite kind, silly.

The most amazing pair of socks I've ever received lay here among ones from both Mom and Chris. You'll notice they're not just argyle, they're argyle with mustaches.

What? I know. Amazing.

After socks comes books, the kind you read for fun sent to you from your good friend at Random House who knows your taste, and the kind you write in,

the kind you read so you can make amazing gelato and ice cream in your new ice cream maker,

the kind you read to help get yourself published so you can tell people you're an actual author,

and the kind you hide things in.
After the nerdy stuff comes the wine-related stuff...which is always appreciated.

Need to chill your wine to the ideal temp?

Need a redneck wine glass in which to enjoy said perfectly chilled pinot grigio at the block party?

And because the interwebs are constantly overflowing with cat paraphernalia, it's my duty to add a little Murphy to that soup. It may have been a Green Christmas, but it was still a good one for the dog child.

It was funny, the second I brought home his stocking, he knew it was his and dragged it off a couple of times. And every spoiled puppy should have his own sheep skin, right? Its name is Shrek, Jr. but not after the ogre. Yeah I know...he's got it rough.

Is there a point to this brag-fest of a blog today? 

I suppose this is just another attempt to show you a little bit of who I am via the things that make me happy. I'm a fortunate person and I try to keep that in mind whenever I start to itch over things like not getting to drive a Porsche while living in its motherland, not having control over what happens next for us with regards to where we may go, and not being in the shape I'd like to be in. I think it's okay to celebrate those things which bring us joy, especially when some of that joy comes in the form of a jar glued to a candlestick a dear friend made just for me, because it's when we forget about the little things that we begin to slide toward not appreciating the bigger things we have. So in a way, appreciating new books and socks and wine vessels keeps me grateful that I've got a car at all (the Mazda 6 model of Porsche), that in an unstable economy Chris will still have a job regardless of where we go (while I pursue writing), and the blessing of having a fully functioning body with the ability to get to where I want to be if I can just stick to it.  

Oh, and the Murphdog, because look at this face.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Please stop using the word epic for everything

I'd like to think I haven't completely aged out of using much of the slang terminology today's youth employs. Words like cool and awesome are timeless, right? Or maybe my teenaged niece and nephew are just humoring me? Either way, I can embrace some newer terms because in my head I can make sense of them.

Take sick, for example: I, myself, have often exclaimed that something is so great, so adorable, or so fantastic that it's actually gross. It's true, I told a colleague last year that it's gross how great she always looks, and everybody got that that was a compliment, albeit perhaps kind of an angry sounding one, but that's my humor. When something is so great, it surpasses the whole goodness scale and swings around to the awful side, then you've really got something amazing on your hands. (Ah, flashbacks to the 80s when bad meant good dance in my head.) So it isn't much of a stretch to say that to be sick is a good thing.  That Aston Martin is sick. That fight scene was sick. I get it. I may not use it for fear of being called an old lady trying to act hip, but I get it.

Now let's look at the word I keep hearing every damn place lately, epic: To be epic means to be grander than the usual in size or scope, so I guess one's musical performance could be called epic because it was such a huge song...? But must everything good be labeled epic? Must it?! I get that we're a society of hyperboles, where anything stated as it actually is isn't exciting enough for us anymore, but come on. Everything can't be epic.

Did you see the game? It was epic.

Catch that new Pink video? It was totally epic.

My dog just took an enormous poo. It was absolutely epic.

No, no, none of this is epic. It's all normal stuff that happens all the time. If someone makes a run for a touchdown and crosses the entire field in 5 seconds, if Pink actually killed people with her singing, or if your dog's poo outweighed the dog, itself, that might be epic. Please stop using this word to describe every little thing in the entire universe. See? I love exaggerating, it's how I communicate, but I can't take it with this word for some reason. I just can't. Sorry.

So please, stop it.

I don't know when this happened...when I became this crotchety old lady, angry at the youth culture for their ridiculous choice of slang words. If I suddenly become afraid of technology, please send help.

That is all. Tune in next week for a strongly-worded letter to Showtime admonishing them for making the up-coming season of Dexter the final one. And one to HBO, too, for making me watch the entire first two seasons of Game of Thrones last weekend. Stupid fantastic show.

Happy New Year.