Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why Taking Down the Tree Sucks

It's always a bummer of a day when you take down the Christmas tree. I never get sick of looking at my tree (Oooooh, sparkly. Ooohhh, pretty lights.), and I hate when that inevitable time comes when I have to put it back in its box and carry it back into the garage until next year. So very un-festive.

Generally, I wait until after Epiphany to take it down, but this year, my parents and brother Troy are coming for New Year's weekend, and I'm having the carpets shampooed in their honor. So, as I'd rather have the spot where the tree was standing cleaned and free of milk splatters and ground-in cheese than leave my tree up for a few more days, down it came.

Taking down the tree is more of a bummer for me than for most people. Yes, it sounds like an exaggeration, but there it is. Here's why:

Ten years ago, Jose and I bought a very nice fake Christmas tree for two reasons: 1) we misguidedly thought fake trees were better for the environment; and 2) we have allergies and thought a metal tree might go easier on our sinuses. I have since discovered that real trees are better for the environment, because Christmas trees tend to grow on rough terrain on which other crops can't/won't. So instead of having just a stretch of rock-strewn sand or mushy swamp, you actually have a bunch of carbon-eating trees that are continuously replenished. The jury's still out on the whole sinus thing.

So anyway, we have this fake tree. When we first bought it, Simba our Skulking Cat LOVED to climb into the uppermost branches and shake all the ornaments off. So Jose bought an all-natural animal repellent spray called "Get Off!" that was supposed to deter kitty from shredding the tree, breaking all the ornaments, and ruining Christmas.

Unfortunately, Get Off! did not deter our persistent cat, so Jose went out and bought an even stronger all-natural herbal pet deterrent. It turned out to be the most noxious substance I've encountered this side of the smelly cheese factory in Random Lake (whose cheese is most excellent, though the process required to make it is often most odiferous). We don't remember what it's called, as we immediately started not-so-affectionately referring to it as "Get the Hell Off!"

It made our eyes water, caused sneezing fits, and often had me reaching for my asthma inhaler whenever I came within a few feet of the tree. We surrendered immediately and informed Simba that if he could stand the smell, the tree was his, as we figured spraying more Get the Hell Off! inside the house might cause one of us to grow an extra hand out of our forehead. (Needless to say, after one treatment, we weren't buying the whole all-natural thing anymore.)

Simba tried a couple more times to lurk in the tree, but eventually, the persistent nature of Get the Hell Off! wore him down, and he found other, less-oxygen-sucking things to climb and shred.

To our shock, the following year when we pulled the tree out, it STILL smelled like Get the Hell Off! And the year after it did. And the year after that. And the year after that.

Apparently, Get the Hell Off! has the half-life of DDT, because ten years later, I can STILL smell and taste that stuff in a big, bad way whenever I put up or take down the tree. And since I just took it down mere moments ago, I feel like I've spent the whole day licking George Costanza's postage stamps and bathing in the eau de skunk. Plus, the tree itself likes to attack me while I'm trying to shove it back in its box ("Nooo! I want to stay out here with yoooouuuu!"), so I also have itchy little scratches up and down my arms.

And this, dear readers, is why taking down our tree really sucks. The end.

Interestingly enough, not knowing what I was writing about, Jose just walked in and said, "My throat is killing me, and I keep sneezing. It's that Get the Hell Off!, isn't it? I think my head's going to explode."

"All-natural" my big boo-tay....

Monday, December 25, 2006


Merry Christmas! We had a relaxing holiday, thanks to the Navy putting Jose on duty this week--which means we had to stay within 30 minutes of the base and couldn't visit anyone. But of course, it was still nice.

Jose couldn't contain himself and wanted Santa to bring the girls their presents on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. He grew quite persistent about it, so to calm him down, I spent much of the afternoon yesterday figuring out the logistics of giving Maggie and Marin their presents without exposing the whole Santa ruse before Maggie even turns three and therefore depriving her of a key childhood experience. (Marin, at one, is happily oblivious--all she knew was that some new toys and a lot of shiny, edible paper suddenly showed up under the tree.)

As luck would have it, Maggie decided to take a rare nap, during which we sneaked all the presents under the tree. When she woke up, we told her Santa had come, to which she replied, "I missed the reindeer?"

She's not quite three, so I'm still amazed at all the stuff she "gets," including this whole Santa deal. (The true meaning of Christmas is still a bit beyond her, though she did wave hello and/or yell "happy birthday" to the baby Jesus every time we passed a Nativity scene in the car.)

Fortunately, she was still young enough not to make the connection between the wrapping paper that had sat on the dining room table for the last week and the presents under the tree, wrapped in the same type of paper.

Anyway, the tragedy of missing the reindeer's visit was swiftly forgotten when she saw all the presents waiting for her, and she opened her own and Marin's, too. They got a bunch of books, including That's Not My Monster and Your Personal Penguin, a Cariboo game, a baby Ariel/Little Mermaid doll, a Disney princess tea set, some wooden vegetables with a chef hat, a mini dragon kite, some frilly princess nightgowns, and a Fisher-Price indestructible MP3 player from Santa. The grandparents and uncles got them, among other things, a TMX Elmo, a matching game, some American Girl ornaments, a Harajuku Lovers shirt and Gwen Stefani CD (because despite her mother holding the opposite view, Maggie is a HUGE Gwen fan), and some snowmen nesting dolls. Oh, and this penguin-snowman-tree montage that sings "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" when you press a button.

Jose got me a really soft bathrobe--or, rather, a picture of said robe, as it didn't arrive in time for Christmas. He also got me some perfectly hideous Hello Kitty pajamas, because a) I love pajamas, and b) he thought Maggie would get a kick out of them. I adore them and am currently sitting here happily wallowing in their hideousness. And he rounded that out with some workout gear and a protective cover for the iPod video he got me for my birthday (because, I suspect, he wanted my old iPod for his very own--it keeps suspiciously disappearing, along with the iRide thing that allows me to play it through the car radio).

He is notoriously hard to buy for, and if he can't eat it or wear it, he's always compelled to return it, because he can't stand the thought of someone actually spending money on him. But I did all right--I got him some clothes, an electronic photo frame that will store and display 10,000 photos, the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 video, and a few other small things that I think he'll keep this year.

I made a terrible turkey dinner, and since it was raining out, we watched Miracle on 34th St. and, after playing some games, Spiderman 2 today in between eating. Oh, my brother also got me some Serendipity frozen hot chocolate mix, which I've always wanted to try, so we made frozen hot chocolate. I highly recommend it--it's so choice.

We were going to go out and either look at Christmas lights or hit the drive-in, but we all have a cold, so we decided to be lazy. And with all these toys, who needs to go anywhere?

Anyway, it appears I've been invited to tea, so off I go. Ta-ta.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Stuff I've Done" Meme

I found this somewhere on the web. I can't remember where, so my apologies to whomever I stole it from!

Stuff I've done is in bold.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins -- Come on! How about sea turtles? Sharks? Baby octopi? Barracuda? Sea cucumbers? I've swam with lots of marine life, but no dolphins yet. Lots and lots of parrot fish, though.
03. Climbed a mountain -- Does a stumpy little mountain in the Cascades that you don't need equipment to climb count?
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid --No, but I SO want to do this!
06. Held a tarantula -- Honestly, I would rather chew on an electrical cord.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone -- GAH! Too personal! Leaving that one alone!
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
-- In Minnesota, and they were So! Cool!
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables

18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity

25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight

28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb

33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run -- Right. A room of monkeys have a better chance of typing out "Macbeth" than I do of hitting a home run. I think I got one in kickball once in elementary school, though.
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
--And I just want to take this moment to apologize to anyone I annoyed.
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer

40. Visited all 50 states -- I'm missing Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Utah, Wyoming, and Alaska.

41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales

45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love --And I just want to go back in time and smack some sense into myself for that one.
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero

58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud

64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater

66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class

71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight up to 12
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice

80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage

85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date

89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror --Sort of. I got pulled out of the audience to be the Rocky Horror virgin. It was very weird.
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication -- That would be the day job.
106. Lost over 100 pounds -- I've probably lost the same ten pounds over and over again. Does that count?
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild

118. Ridden a horse and fell off once
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours I was sick
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents -- Still have Antarctica and Africa left.
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach -- I didn't just touch it, I smashed it with an ottoman. Nasty things.
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating -- A fish! It was just a fish!
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream -- In that lovely time between book contract and actually working on the book.
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life -- Sort of. I did a rescue in a pool when I was a lifeguard in college.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I am terrified of this doll.

My mother hates, and I mean HATES the Bratz dolls. Pretty much nothing in this world can inspire a bilingual harangue from Mom like the sight of one of those pillow-lipped, wall-eyed, overly mascara-ed answers to the Barbie doll, i.e. ":::Spanish muttering::: I HATE Bratz dolls! Those dolls look like HOOKERS! How could any parent BUY their child those trashy things? :::more Spanish muttering:::"

Apparently, hooker dolls sell well, though. Not to be outdone, Mattel has modified Barbie into a truly horrific Bratz-like incarnation called My Scene Barbie. And new for the holiday season, they've now come out with the Fab Faces My Scene Barbie, featuring: "innovative, one-of-a-kind movable face feature that allows girls to create five different expressions on the dolls' faces!" As well as "a super glam, ultra stylish lace and glitter dress!" And "accessories no diva can live without--a furry boa, a sparkling tiara, and glittering jewelry!"

FYI, the exclamation point overload is courtesy of Mattel. For real.

Anyway, I saw one of the Fab Face My Scene Horror Shows on a store shelf the other day, and so I did the only thing a God-fearing mom could do. I shrieked and then started muttering under my breath about how the doll looked like a hooker and how could anyone buy their daughter such a thing. It would have been bilingual had my Spanish been better.

Basically, the thing is a poseable ad for body dysmorphic disorder.

The My Scene Fab Face Barbie is quite possibly the most horrifying piece of plastic I've ever seen in my life, other than the purple, orange, and yellow glasses I sported in the third grade. Because while the original Barbie was hardly realistically proportioned (legend has it that if you gave a human Barbie's relative measurements, her waist would be too thin to support her torso, and she'd be forced to crawl on all fours), at least her face was somewhere in the realm of normal. Is it possible for a doll to have Botox AND lip collagen? Because this face isn't possible without either. Along with a nice cat-eyed, Jocelyn Wildenstein-esque face lift.

According to the marketing materials, Fab Face My Scene Barbie makes five different expressions. I have taken the liberty of naming them:

1) Ow, I think I burst my stitches.
2) Help. Too. Much. Botox.
3) I am SO 29!
4) But I am smiling!
5) Puh-leeeeeeease will you make me look like Angelina Jolie?

I think I'm going to email the people at and tell them to put this damn doll on their site. Because every website needs a mascot.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Brother, the Direction Savant

When my brother Tom was ranting about bad Christmas carols the other day, you may have noticed in his Shakespearean apologia to readers that he mentioned having a "savant-like sense of direction." Now that he's outed himself in a public venue, I figure I can exploit that topic for today's blog.

To put it simply, Tommy is like Rain Man when it comes to directions. As long as he's been to a place once in his life past the age of, perhaps, six (We haven't tested earlier), he never, and I mean NEVER, forgets how to get around. And it's way freaky.

Case in point: Before Troy was born, our parents took Tommy and I on a road trip to Washington, DC, when I was 14 and he was 10. We saw all the usual stuff--the monuments, the Smithsonian museums, the White House exterior, making our base camp at a small hotel near Arlington Cemetery. Flash forward 15 years later, when Jose and I had recently moved to a DC suburb and Tommy had to fly into National Airport for a business trip. I picked him up in the evening, and as he looked around, he said something about how it would be nice to see the monuments at night.

Now I have a fairly decent sense of direction, though I'm never sure of myself. I just get vague hunches and pretty much use The Force until I find my way. I hadn't been in DC for that long, and like Tommy, I hadn't seen the monuments at night yet. So I said sure, let's go see them, but don't hate me if I get lost.

Tommy's response? "Take the next exit."

I must've looked at him oddly, because then he said, "Seriously, take the next exit. I remember this."

To which I shrieked, "YOU WERE TEN!"

But, since I hadn't a clue where we were going, I took the next exit. He then proceeded to lead me around a rotary, through the snarl of criss-crossing streets and highways that stand between National Airport and the center of the city, and down a few of the numbered and lettered streets until we hit Constitution, which, he proclaimed, would take us to the Mall. And so it did.

Just yesterday, I discovered that the large, gray building being constructed by developers across from my neighborhood grocery store is going to be a SuperTarget. Tommy happens to work for Target's corporate office, so I asked him when the Target on XXX Drive was slated to open. I forgot to mention that our community is so new, it's not even remotely on Mapquest. I also forgot to mention that said SuperTarget, though only a mile or so from my house, is across a county line, so while my house is in one city, it's in another. So, poor Tommy was pretty much doomed when he tried to find it using the street I gave him.

However, a few minutes later, he gave me the proper address, the SuperTarget's opening date, and a complaint over my neighborhood not being in Mapquest and my getting the city wrong. I asked him how he managed to find the address despite the obstacles I'd thrown at him. Keep in mind that's he's only been to visit us here once, about a year ago.

And he said: "I switched the map to satellite view, found the grocery store near your house, and figured it out from there."

I pointed out that the satellite map view has no street names.

"Don't hate me."

See! Weird, isn't it?

This uncanny ability doesn't seem to have bled into other areas of his psyche. We've tried spilling boxes of toothpicks in front of him, and not only does he fail to count them all in a micro-second, he usually starts making fun of us for being clumsy. We've taken him gambling, and he has not brought home the big bucks playing blackjack. And while his math skills are pretty good, he claims that if we try sending him to NASA anytime soon to calculate Shuttle trajectories without the proper schooling, he would probably crash it. And I'm sure my sister-in-law wouldn't appreciate his joining the CIA to disappear for days on end when they call him to read intelligence maps, so that's out, too.

If one is going to have a savant-like ability, it would be nice if said ability brought one either fame or fortune. Sadly, Tommy's may not bring him either--unless we can talk him into going on the Amazing Race--but it is rather fascinating. I think he should have his own Discovery Channel special.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Egypt-Egypt Mystery Solved! YES!

No one probably remembers this, but back in April, I wrote a post about our trip to Ft. Lauderdale to see the King Tut exhibit, entitled "Pyramids Are Oh, So Fine. Egypt. Egypt."

That title came from the line to a song that Jose sang over and over and OVER again all the way down to the southern tip of Florida. All. Six. Hours. Occasionally, he'd spice things up by adding a random, "Break it up, break it up. Get down, get down. Burn it up, burn it up." And then he'd go back to the original line.

We had surmised that it was a shred of Steve Martin's "King Tut" that had been embedded in his brain, but The Queen-a Athena blasted that theory by reproducing the lyrics to "King Tut" in their entirety in that post's comment section.

A Google search proved fruitless, so we figured the song fragment would remain one of life's great mysteries, along with who made the Easter Island statues and what happened to Atlantis.

But on this auspicious day, Jose returned from work once again singing, "Pyramids are Oh, So Fine. Egypt. Egypt." I promptly sent him to the computer and told him to find it once and for all. He started blasting awful 1980s dance music (i.e. NOT New Wave) from the loft computer, and then, wanting to put an end to that insanity right away, I launched my own search.

And then, a Festivus miracle happened. Google turned up the MySpace page of one circa 1983 musician by the name of Egyptian Lover who had a song called "Egypt, Egypt." I clicked on it, and it turned out to be the source of that interminable lyric. And, it's actually quite the fun song. Maggie and I threw our hands in the air and started doing the Cameron Diaz Butt Dance, until Jose spoiled our fun because Dr. Who was on.

If you, too, want to enjoy this butt-danceable masterpiece, click here for the MySpace link. If I can find it for download, it's so going on the gym playlist on my iPod.

Pyramids are Oh, So Fine. Egypt. Egypt.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Worst. Christmas. Songs. Ever.

So I was driving Maggie around our fair city last night, as driving calms her down and she was exposed to cool air that soothed her throat--both great things for a croupy child who is coughing so hard, she's making herself throw up. The drive did the trick, and while Maggie and I were zipping around the neighborhood checking out Christmas light displays, my brother Tom called. Turns out he was driving as well, and I happened to mention something I was listening to on the holiday channel on Sirius ... which set him off in a way I haven't witnessed since he walked out of Star Wars, Episode 1 and someone said the name "Jar-Jar."

It was ugly. F-bombs flying everywhere.

Apparently, it took a few really horrible holiday songs to turn my brother into an activist. Last night, I learned that every year, Tom writes the good people at Sirius a letter, decryng their poor taste in holiday music and lamenting that several of his favorites have been sadly underplayed on Channel 2's December rotation. I'm guessing that it's something the Sirius people look forward to every year.

So, to give Tom another outlet to express his rage, today's blog is dedicated to both reproducing this year's letter and listing the Worst Christmas Songs Ever in the History of Ever. Take it away, Tom! (I'll interject here and there, because while they don't inspire the forehead-bulging rage that the Vince Vance group does for you, I do have my own list.)

To the Good People of Sirius:

I have been a Sirius subscriber for 2+ years and want to thank you for providing me an outlet away from terrestrial radio. I appreciate the lack of commercials on the music channels as well as the lack of idiot DJs, so thank you. However, I have 1 issue. Every year I look forward to the holiday season and the carols of Christmas that accompany it. I am happy that you have dedicated a couple of channels to playing only holiday music. What I am not happy with is the lack of creativity and selection of the songs played.


1.) "The Christmas Song" should never be played by anyone EXCEPT the late, great Nat "King" Cole.
2.) "White Christmas" should never be played by anyone EXCEPT the late, great Bing Crosby.
3.) Other standards are a necessity, but should not be played more than 5 times an hour!
4.) The variety of artists is good, BUT I am sure that each of them recorded more than 1 Christmas song! I can only take so much of Dean Martin singing "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." How about "Baby It's Cold Outside?" Or when he does a classic like "Joy to the World," but puts that great Dean-o half drunk, leering attitude behind it?
5.) What the f@ck do you play Vince Vance and the Valiants' "All I want for Christmas is You?" Who the f@ck are they?! The song sounds like karaoke that I can go to my local bar and hear.
6.) Why must you insist on playing only the new version of "Do They Know Its Christmas?" The classic Band-Aid should have never suffered the indignity of being remade. Especially with that stupid rap in the middle of the new one.

If you could please just add more variety, it would be very much appreciated. I remain yours, a loyal subscriber,

Tom R.

I first want to apologize to Tracy's readers - she and Troy got the writing skills, I just got the math skills and a savant like sense of direction. Here is my list of songs that need to go!:

All I want for Christmas is You - Vince Vance and the Valiants - What a train wreck. This one gets me worked up the minute I see the name flash on my Sirius screen. First of all, who are these idiots? I actually looked them up on Wikipedia and found out that they are a "party band." If you ask me, they are a bunch of "no talent ass-clowns." (thanks Office Space!) Plus, that name is so lame. And, their 2 other "hits" according to Wikipedia were "Bomb Iran" and "Bomb Iraq." To me this is THE number one most annoying song played at Christmas.

Christmas Shoes - New Song - What a piece of crap this song is. It is one of those songs where the person writing it is just trying to gain attention as the "Aw, isn't that sweet" song. Well, it isn't. It is a manufactured, try-too-hard holiday song. Big ups to the Lean Left blog, which said:

"If you haven’t heard it, it’s a song about a boy who’s scraping together money to buy a pretty pair of shoes for his mom, who’s dying. He wants to buy them because 'I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.' Oy. The only way to make the song even remotely tolerable is to do something Kevin found Googling up the song: Imagine the kid is a grifter, his mom is waiting in the car, and they’ve been pulling this scam at every store in town, with plans to return the shoes for cash two days after Christmas."

Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney -
Anything from the Wings-era Sir Paul should be forgotten. He should have written this for Boxing Day instead. This is the Jar Jar Binks of Sir Paul's music career.

Anything by the Trans-Siberia Orchestra - Sorry fellas, but you could not carry the Manheim Steamrollers jock. Who came up with this? "Yeah, let's do some music like Manheim Steamroller, but then get really loud and annoying!" Well, you succeeded!

Any holiday song by the Eurythmics - I like their pop stuff, but the holiday stuff has to go.

Tracy jumps in to add:

Jingle Bells, by the Jingle Dogs

What kind of tin-eared freak thought it would be a good idea to have DOGS barking once-beloved Christmas carols in their entirety? I want to tie him up and make him listen to dogs barking every Clay Aiken song in existence. Accompanied by Kenny G.

Santa Baby, any version, but especially Madonna's
This song creeps me the hell out. I don't care if it's a song about a woman in love with her significant other, who happens to be dressed in a Santa suit at the moment. You simply Do. Not. Sexualize. Santa. It's wrong. So very, very wrong.

Any KidzBop carol
Note to the creator--just because you spell "kids" with a Z does not make you cool. Kidzbop--a Disney franchise where they take perfectly good songs and have a "choir" (and I use that term loosely) of loud, shrieking children (aka "kidz") belt them out at full voice while trying some ridiculously age-inappropriate runs and swoops and other vocal atrocities--is simply an abomination. To turn said children on holiday carols crosses a line that never, never should have been crossed.

I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas, by anyone
The word is nothing. NOTHING! NOTHING, damn you!

TOM SAYS: I know that a lot of you are thinking, "Hey! Lighten up! Its Christmas!" Well, I will by giving you some of my favorite songs.

Christmastime is Here and Hark the Herald Angels Sing - A Charlie Brown Christmas - Classic. I love the Peanuts gang and these songs are sincere. Plus, almost everyone will feel nostalgic hearing these 2. (Tracy says: What's up with replacing words with numbers? R U2 cool 4 this blog? I bet K-Fed does that.)

Anything on the Barenaked Ladies Holiday Album - If you want fun, good Christmas (and Hanukkah!) songs, pick up this album. BNL put a fun spin on Holiday songs. Plus, they have great Guests like Sarah Mclachlan and Michael Buble. I recommend "Elf's Lament," "Green Christmas," and "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah."

This Christmas - Jeffrey Osborne - I love the funk in this song. As a lifelong LA Lakers fan, I am partial to the man who sung many national Anthems before the start of their games. Plus, the man sang on "We Are the World" AND dueted with Alfonso Ribeiro on Celebrity Duets! (Tracy says: And he also sang something called "The Woo Woo Song." Which just has to be cool.)

Anything with Bing Crosby and the Andrews sisters. Just great harmonies and again, that nostalgic feeling. "Mele Kalikimaka" is one of my favorites!

Oi to the World - No Doubt - I am a big No Doubt fan and they did Christmas right with this one. It is true to their sound and background and has a Christmas theme - punk style. (Tracy says: I just hope it's better than what Gwen did to "It's the End of the World as We Know It" on New Year's. :::shudder:::)

Let Me Sleep - Pearl Jam - The greatest band to have ever lived. Another song true to the band. Eddie simply asks, "Please let me sleep, its Christmastime." (Tracy says: Eddie must have two croupy kids with eye goo. Rock on, Eddie! I feel your pain!)

My Favorite Things - Tony Bennett - I know, this was in Sound of Music, but this has become a holiday staple. TB's version is the best out there.

Tracy says: Thanks, Tom! No one does a cranky old man at 30 better than you, especially at Christmas!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The First Annual Academy Awards That Need to Be Revoked List

A plague has visited the house of Fernandez (real name alert!) this week, and it's so not pretty. I hauled Maggie to the ER last night at 2 am-ish due to severe coughing/vomiting, and the poor thing was diagnosed with croup and pink eye in both eyes. Marin, the original pink-eyed lady, has been sick since the Monday before Thanksgiving, and two nights ago woke up with her entire face crusted over like something from the X-Files. We're off to our third visit to the doctor this morning.

Of course, I'm glad things aren't worse, but it's still heartbreaking to see them both feeling so awful. Curse you, cold and flu and crusty face season!

Anyway, in a random and completely unrelated subject change, my youngest brother Troy and I had a hilarious discussion a few weeks ago about people whose Academy Awards should be revoked. We have tried to recapture the hilarity of the original below. Enjoy!

TRACY: It's Oscar season, and the craptacular end-of-summer film blahs give way to more cerebral and effects-laden fare, as movie producers start courting the Hollywood Academy for award nominations.

However, it is the opinion of myself and my brother and pop culture freak Troy that certain individuals have been smiled upon by the Academy when they ought to have been spit upon, chewed up into little pieces, and drop-kicked right over to the Razzies. So, in an effort to right past wrongs, we hereby publish our esteemed list of Academy Awards that Need to be Revoked.

The Best Actor field isn't filled with easy targets like, say, Best Supporting Actress (see below), but the Academy's streak of excellent judgment (Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, anyone?) ended in 1978, when Richard Dreyfus won for The Goodbye Girl.

No, I've never seen the film (though I've seen too many others, including that sugar-shock fest, Mr. Holland's Opus), and no, I don't care if anyone thinks he is a good actor. It is my expert opinion that he is annoying and has a cheesy mustache.

After '78, Oscar gets back on track with a list of considerable talent earning the Best Actor nod, from Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino to Dustin Hoffman and Ben Kingsley. And then it all just goes to hell when Nicholas Cage, that nasal, overacting hack, snagged the award for Leaving Las Vegas. If I see that man clench his fist and inhale through his teeth one more time in a movie, I think my head will explode. Ugh.

TROY: I agree with pretty much everything here. I think Nicholas Cage's award has to be taken away from him twice and then used to bash him over the head for the monstrousity known as Ghost Rider that is being released in 2007.

TRACY: I would have noted that it's a little premature to be hating on Ghost Rider, but seeing as Nicholas Cage hasn't surprised anyone with a performance in years :::clench fist, inhale through teeth, bug out eyes::::, I'd have to agree.

TROY: I HATE that Jamie Foxx was so good in Ray. His ego (and Kanye West's for that matter) needs to be deflated faster than you can say "Booty Call."

TRACY: I loved him in Ray. You're right about the ego, though. HUGE!

TROY: Additionally, I AM swiping away Roberto Benigni's Oscar for being a one hit wonder and super creepy.

TRACY: Boo! He made me laugh with all of his chair jumping and wanting to make love to the entire Oscar audience. Sure, I wouldn't want to sit next to him on an airplane, but from a couple thousand miles away through my TV screen, he's entertaining!

IMHO, everyone else in this category pretty much deserved their award, though it's a shame we had to wait until 2001 for Denzel to join Sidney Poitier as an African-American winner. And where are the Latinos? Surely someone, somewhere, gave a moving performance as a janitor, gangbanger, or pool boy? Edward James Olmos, you've been robbed!

Here, again, the Academy did pretty well, until the streak comes to a grinding halt with Helen Hunt in As Good as It Gets.

TROY: SWIPE to Helen Hunt because she looks so much like Leelee Sobieski. Giving her an award is like giving it to geek girl (most annoying actress EVAH!) And does Helen Hunt have lips?

TRACY: Agreed. Leelee Sobieski is the human equivalent of tinnitus, so we'd have to swipe it just on those grounds. But Helen Hunt's overacting whenever she has some sort of romantic soliloquy (i.e. end of Castaway and What Women Want) makes me want to swipe her Oscar AND give it collectively to the actors in a purposely over-the-top Mexican soap opera, like La Madrastra.

The Helen Hunt debacle was followed the next year by Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. Now, she may have been misquoted in saying that the UK is more civilized than the US, but all signs point to Ms. Fish Stick as being someone who sucks the fun out of, oh, everything. Funsucker!

TROY: SWIPE to Julia Roberts for never being able to close her mouth.

TRACY: I'd revoke Julia Roberts' Oscar, too, just because she stole that poor woman's husband and then started calling herself Mrs. Danny Moder. What's that? Do I hear 1957 calling to get it's method of address back?

And then there's the sensitive question of what to do about Halle Berry? I loved her performance in Monster's Ball, and I was a big sobbing mess during her Oscar speech, (shameful that it took that many years for THAT door to be opened, to paraphrase). But she must never, ever, EVER star in another superhero movie again. The Incredible Disappearing Accent in the X-Men films made my head hurt.

TROY: Halle Berry blows. She made Catwoman and stunk up the X-Men franchise, annihilating two beloved comic book characters. Plus, to coin from you, Lamest. Bond. Girl. EVAH! And she has a Razzie. Kiss Oscar goodbye!

TRACY: Whoa. Troy's getting nasty, y'all. OK, let's swipe her Oscar and give it to Angela Bassett, who both rocks (AMAZING in everything she's in, esp. What's Love Got to Do With It) and has not butchered a comic book character. That way, the door can stay open, and I can pretend that Angela gave the moving Oscar speech.

TROY: I also was thinking about giving props to Angela Bassett, so you read my mind!

I revoke Joe Pesci's Oscar on the basis that anyone who talks through his nose should not be recognized for speaking/acting ability. Ever.

TROY: I also swipe Martin Landau's for being a crabby old man.

TRACY: Hey, I like his crabby old man schtick! But OK.

Here's a painful one: As much as I ADORED his performance as Rod Tidwell in Jerry Macguire, I think we have to revoke Cuba Gooding Jr's Oscar due to the gross amount of sheer crap he's inflicted on us since. Cuba, all it takes is one more excellent performance in a decent, well-written film, and you can have your little gold statue back!

TROY: Cuba sealed his fate when he made Boat Trip. It was a great moment when he accepted his Oscar, but he couldn't back up the promise of his talent. Now he's the king of Direct-to-DVD films. Call up Quentin Tarantino and make a comeback!

TRACY: Totally. We're pulling for you, Cuba!


TRACY: I just have to say that I always find it a little disturbing whenever you decide to channel Tyra Banks, but that was wholly appropriate.

Also, I'd give George Clooney another Oscar for being hot AND having a conscience without having to be brainwashed by Angelina Jolie.

TROY: Double awards to Michael Caine for being so awesome.

TRACY: Word.

Here's where the Oscars are ripe for the taking.

First order of business, I'll give Helen Hunt's Oscar to Rita Moreno for being one of the lone Latinos on the Oscar acting list and NOT playing a gangbanger, maid, pool girl, or ho. Stupid Academy. Stupid casting directors.

TROY: Until, J.LO wins an Oscar one of these days !

TRACY: It could happen! J.Lo, despite rumors of diva behavior and morphing based on whichever dude she's married to at the moment, is a good actress.

Oh, I just realized. My girl Rita Moreno was a gangbanger's girlfriend in West Side Story. Whatever, it was a cool part, and she was badass. "A boy like thaaaaaaat, who killed your brother!"

TROY: Moving on....

TRACY: "Forget that boy, and FIND ANOTHER!"

TROY: Still moving on....

TRACY: Funsucker.

We need to also take away Mary Steenburgen's 1980 Oscar for Melvin and Howard (what?) away based on the Pesci-Cage talking-through-your-nose rule. ("A boy who killlllllllsssss, cannot LOVE!")

TROY: (Stop it.) In addition to her vacant stare, she's super boring! Talking about her, puts me t...ZZZzzzZZZzZZZZZZzzzZZZ...I mean, SWIPE!

TRACY: And then there's Geena Davis, who needs her Accidental Tourist award swiped both for the film being bad, for talking like a space cadet, and for being the same googly-eyed weirdo in every film she's in. You can't get an award for being the same person in every film you're in! That's not right!

TROY: SWIPE! You can't forget that monotonous man voice, slouchy posture, and bad choices in film (Cutthroat Island?) AND television (I really do NOT want to see her as the president, thank you). Someone needs to be banished from Hollywood!

TRACY: I swipe Anna Paquin's award for The Piano because she was annoying in the film and continues to annoy as an adult.

TROY: And she ruined Rogue. And she has a stupid mousey voice. And bad teeth. Bleh. SWIPE!

TRACY: Totally giving that one to Dakota Fanning, who is not annoying and knows how to dress like the precocious and delightful little girl she is. (However, if you ho it up when you hit Lindsay Lohan-age, Dakota, I'm coming for you!)

I also swipe Dianne Wiest's award for Bullets Over Broadway, again invoking the Pesci-Cade nose-talking rule.

TROY: Awww, I don't mind Dianne Wiest. She seems like a nice lady. I'm indifferent.

TRACY: OK, she's my Martin Landau. SWIPE!

And I swipe Mira Sorvino's award, invoking the Cuba Gooding Jr. everything-you've-made-since-is-dreck rule.

TROY: But, she was in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion! Eh...I guess that's it though.

TRACY: I fail to see how that exempts her from the rule stated above.

TROY: Poor Mira Sorvino. Swipe!

You can't forget Dame Judi Dench's award, because EIGHT MINUTES? That's a slap in the face to the other nominees!

TRACY: Yes, but she's divine. Oh, OK. Let's give that one to Helen Mirren, another actress from across the water who is fabulous.

And now, I swipe Kim Basinger's for being a ho in most films she's in.

TROY: What about that empowering role in 8 Mile? SWIPE!

TRACY: I swipe Angelina Jolie's because she has to get naked in every film she's in, regardless of whether it's relevant to the plot or not. No one needs to see all that all the time, Jolie, no matter how perfect it is.

TROY: I'll let you swipe Sexy Jolie's, only because I hope that one day her and Jennifer Aniston are both nominated at the same time, ending with Jolie winning her second Oscar. It would be glorious!

TRACY: So mean!

TROY: I would also like to swipe Rachel Weisz's award, not because she was bad or anything, but because Michelle Williams and Amy Adams were amazing.

TRACY: Poor Rachel. I swipe Marcia Gay Harden's because she's obnoxious and has a prissy little smile. You can explain why--take it away, Troy!

TROY: Give Marcia Gay Harden's award back to Kate Hudson, who everyone expected to win that year for Almost Famous. Hudson probably had her acceptance speech all set, only to be usurped by Marcia Prissy Pants who, with her smug face, proclaimed, "Despite what everyone said, I KNEW I would win!" Ick. I think that losing an almost guaranteed award drove Kate Hudson to insanity, resulting in her horrible choice in movies as of late.

TRACY: And finally, I swipe Renee Zellweger's because she's bat-crap crazy.

TROY: But a good actress! And if she keeps getting praise, she'll stick around in Hollywood and we can laugh at her!

TRACY: Batcrapcrazy.

TROY: Any of these actresses need to give their award to Julianne Moore. Four nominations and no award? Snap!

TRACY: Agreed! Love her!

TROY: And I just have to end with a link to this video, which is all kinds of awesome.

TRACY: (That would be "George Lucas Does Singing in the Rain.") I see the family penchant for non-sequiturs is still intact. EGG-cellent.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmastime is Here Again!

I'm back from a ridiculously long hiatus. Sorry about that--lots of stuff going on. Anyway, it's the holiday season again, and I've been wrapped up in my annual Great Christmas Music Buying Binge, iTunes doing a wonderful job enabling me by recommending new holiday albums every day. (Curse you, iTunes!)

I'm happy to report, however, that I've easily resisted the temptation to purchase Twisted Sister's "Twisted Christmas" album, despite iTunes' hawking it in front of me at every turn, mainly because I love holiday classics and don't think they need to be augmented by a screaming guitar riff and barnstorming metalhead vocals. But any Twisted fans out there ... knock yourselves out.

Last year, I posted a list of my favorite holiday tunes, augmented by a selection from my brother Tom, the family Christmas music connoisseur. This year, I thought I'd share some of my newest Christmas discoveries:

"The Little Drummer Boy," Mercy Me. I confess, I'm a Christmas sap, and "The Little Drummer Boy" always, and I mean always reduces me to a sodden, tissue-clutching mess. Every year, I avoid this song like nobody's business, not wanting to get caught doing the Ugly Cry in front of the makeup counter lady at Saks or at fellow passengers inside random elevators. ("He SMILED at him! *sniff* After he played his little drum! How great is THAT?" *SOB!*) But the song always manages to sneak up on me.

This year, my husband discovered this slightly rock-tinged "Little Drummer Boy" by Christian band Mercy Me, who managed to inject even MORE cheese into the familiar tune by belting out that bit about "shall I play for you?" at full voice, bringing it down for a soft, "Then he smiled at me." at the end. I'm tearing up even as I type this--which means you can point and laugh now. I'm used to it.

Gabriel's Message, Sting. Longtime readers know about my obsession with Sting. I am not so much over the moon about the man because of his looks--it's just the voice. Oh, that voice. How many times did I rewind Tivo when Sting was on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" playing "Fields of Gold" on the lute? Too many times, that's how many.

Anyway, "Gabriel's Message." Sting takes this not-too-familiar carol and puts it into four-part madrigal style, somehow managing to flavor it with a hint of old-school Police edginess that often goes missing from his later work. My new Favorite! Carol! EVAH!

Carol of the Bells, Moya Brennan. Clannad singer Moya used to be known as Maire Brennan until she apparently tired of slack-jawed yokels with no knowledge of gaelic spelling/pronunciation (like, oh, ME), screwing up her name. She just came out with a brand-new Christmas album this year, and it's so gorgeous, I can hardly stand myself. Her Clannad-styled Carol of the Bells is my favorite, but I adore the whole album with the white-hot fiery passion of a thousand Christmas lights.

Sou Gan, the Night Heron Consort. I discovered the Night Heron Consort while on a visit to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, VA, a few years ago. It was the Christmas season, and the Monticello gift shop suckered me in by playing a NHC CD as I ducked through. NHC is a little-known, pared-down Celtic group, and their Celtic Celebration 1 CD remains my all-time favorite Christmas CD of all time. So this year, I bought Celtic Celebration 2, which features more simple, elegant celtic arrangements of familiar carols and Celtic classics. "Sou Gan," from number 2, is an old Welsh lullaby. But the CD features plenty of well-known fare, including a lovely version of "The First Noel."

The Coventry Carol, Mediaeval Baebes. Generally, the Mediaeval Baebes annoy me, not in small part because of their insistence hawking their baebe-ishness to sell albums instead of their musical talent. But this haunting a capella version of one of my favorite carols redeemed them for me. The only thing that keeps this one from being perfect are the random trilled Rs, i.e
"Herod the king, in his rrrrrrrraging...."

Song for a Winter's Night, by Sarah McLachlan. If you're prone to the holiday blues, you might want to stay away from McLachlan's new "Wintersong" album, which is infused with so much of her trademark melancholy, you may just want to throw yourself under a Toys for Tots van after listening to the whole thing. Her cover of Joni Mitchell's "River," while lovely, is pretty much the musical equivalent of having an icy wet blanket dropped on your holiday-spirit-filled head. But I'll always have a soft spot for "Song for a Winter's Night," which does a fab job of conjuring up the feeling of being cozy in a warm house by a fire while it's snowing like mad outside.

"Do They Know It's Christmas?" Band-Aid. Another year has gone by, and time has not diminished my mortifying love for this craptacular song. Just as a reminder, here's what I said about it last year, which, sadly, still applies:

It's pedestrian, politically incorrect, and factually incorrect as well (seeing as the freaking NILE flows through Ethiopia, thereby making the lyric "no rain nor river flows" wrong). Also, seeing as Christianity is one of the two main religions of the country, of course they knew it was Christmas. A more appropriate title might have been "Do They Give a Rat's Ass That It's Christmas, Because There's a FAMINE Going On?" And the whole manner of referring to the people of Ethiopia as "them" and "the other one" always felt weirdly condescending to me.

But somehow, some way, I manage to ignore all of this whenever that blasted song comes on the radio, and I start belting out "FEEEEEEEED THE WOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRLD!!" along with Duran Duran, Boy George, George Michael, Phil Collins, et al. There it is--I love this song. I. Love. This. Horrible. Song. It puts me in a Christmas-y mood every year.

I'm so ashamed.

Any good holiday music recommendations? (Not like I need any more holiday music, but I thought I'd ask....)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Life's Movie Soundtrack

When my friend Rich decides to do a meme, it's usually a good one. He didn't disappoint this time--enjoy...

My life's movie soundtrack!

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

Opening Credits:
"Same," Snow Patrol.
This is appropriate since I was born in a nastyass blizzard in northern Wisconsin. I'm not sure if this is the one that buried my mom and dad's house (poor Mom--this is what she moved to from Honduras), but allegedly it was a bad one. (Oh, and yes, there is a northern Wisconsin, and it is even more prone to nastyass blizzards than southern Wisconsin.) Anyway, the opening lyrics are, "Maybe somewhere else/ Will not be half as cold as me...."

And here's the second verse: "Hold me in your freezing arms before we have to go/ Bent a little but it's not because I know the truth/ The windsheild of your little car is frosted through the glass/ The clear heart of air appears as we shiver on the seats"

Poor baby Tracy....

Waking Up:
"Taking Over Me," Evanescence.
I'm not sure what a song about obsessive love has to do with being a baby, but perhaps I was a clingy child....

First Day At School:
”Wellington's Victory, Op. 91, "Victory Finale," Beethoven (Baby Einstein version).
I wonder whether Maggie's music on my iPod should count for this exercise. Oh, well, it says not to cheat, and Baby Einstein music is appropriate for childhood. Now if it turns up later, say when I get married....

Falling In Love:
"Voodoo Games," Daughter Darling.
As long as this is not supposed to be with Jose, this is probably fine, because a) it's a dark, depressing, melodramatic song (Your voodoo games/ I cannot take/ Insanity, control and hate/ I want you to/ Just let me be), and b) I was a bit of a drama queen when I was young.

Fight Song:
"Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" The Lion King Musical Soundtrack.
Why such a weenie fight song? Because I am a pacifist and don't like violence, that's why.

Breaking Up:
"Even Flow," Pearl Jam.
What breaking up has to do with a homeless, illiterate, and slightly crazy man, I have no idea. Unless my iPod is trying to describe one of my exes in an attempt to tell me I am better off without him. (Not that this is an issue, iPod. But thanks for the reinforcement.)

"Vittoria!" Verdi (triumphal march from "Aida") OperaBabes.
Of COURSE the most embarrassing elements from my collection would come flying out. Anyway, why was prom triumphant? Because my nerdy band-and-drama-geek self actually had a date? Maybe that's it....

Life Is Good:
"Killer (Orbit Remix)," Seal.
Despite the misleading title, "Killer" is actually quite the happy song, and the bouncy Orbit Remix makes it even happier. It's all about overcoming negative events and living our lives "they way we want to be." This is because Seal is an even bigger pacifist hippie than I am.

Mental Breakdown:
"Represent, Cuba," Orishas feat. Heather Headley.
OK, this is all wrong. This one is just about dancing to Cuban music. Maybe my mental breakdowns are all centered around Jose (the world's only Cuban boy with zero rhythm).

”Wow," Snow Patrol.
Umpteen bajillion songs on my iPod, and it keeps coming back to Snow Patrol. It is about hitting the road ("Don't be scared of anything at all/ Everything we have is all we need"), so it works, sort of.

"Love's Divine (Deepsky Remix)," Seal.
What? I broke up with a homeless, illiterate, slightly crazy man, and now you're telling me that in a flashback, Love's Divine?! Now you're just messing with me, iPod, and I don't like it. Not one bit. I'm half-tempted to trade you in for a flashy new 80 GB model with a video screen, that's how much I am NOT enjoying your sense of humor....

Getting Back Together:
"You Live On in My Heart," Ennio Morricone (from the soundtrack to Cinema Paradiso), OperaBabes.
OK, so my life so far is in a Snow Patrol, Seal, and OperaBabes rut. Since Jose and I never broke up and got back together, I can only assume it's the homeless, illiterate, and slightly crazy man I dated who lives on in my heart.

"Benediction and Dream," Lila Downs (opening song from the soundtrack to Frida).
This totally works! There, honey, even iPod says we're meant to be, despite the homeless man in my heart. I'm so glad we didn't get Nirvana's "Dumb" or something like that.

Paying The Dues:
"Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)," Sting.
Well, I've never stolen a car, and I've never had an affair with a married man, but perhaps my iPod is being metaphorical. Although given Jose's tragic lack of rhythm, perhaps these lyrics are appropriate: "Please take me dancing tonight/ I've been all on my own/ You promised one day we could/ S'what you said on the phone." Because never going dancing is the price you pay for marrying the world's only Cuban boy without rhythm.

The Night Before The War:
"Tourniquet," by Evanescence.
Seems appropriate, considering there's a war.

Final Battle:
"Mahna Mahna," Cake.
Yes, it's THAT Mahna Mahna, the one you saw on the Muppet Show in days of yore. I'm not sure what this means, unless I'm destined to get into a scat war with a muppet, but it's pretty darn funny.

Moment of Triumph:
"Love's Divine"
(again, but the real version, not the remix), Seal. Looks like I get the best of the muppet.

Death Scene:
"Weep No More, Sad Fountains," Sting with Edin Karamazov on the lute.
You know, this is horribly appropriate for a death scene. Well played, iPod.

Funeral Song:
"Cry Me a River," Justin Timberlake.
BWAH-HAHAHAHAHAHA! This is so TOTALLY going to be my funeral song! And I want the pallbearers to stop and vogue every time JT goes, "HIM!" in that awesome falsetto. I am so loving this! iPod, you are a genius. "OH! The damage is done, so I guess I be leaving...."

End Credits:
"The Taming of Smeagol," London Philharmonic.
Despite the slightly offensive title (not sure what I have to do with a bug-eyed hairless man who eats raw fish, iPod), the song does have a nice elegiac quality to it. I left shuffle on, and iPod ended with the acoustic version of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," by Tears for Fears and then inexplicably stopped shuffling. So I'm thinking my end credits are long enough for two songs, and this song is a good one for al fin.

OK, your turn. Have fun!

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Psychology of Car Color

So I found this interesting article on AOL--which was quoted from the “Fun at Work” blog by Robin Thompson who quoted from an article in the June 20th 2005 edition of the Register-Herald in Beckley, West Virginia ... Oh, wait. I'm looking at the article again, and it said it got it's information from PEOPLE! Stop it. Just stop.

Anyway, according to whomever, a UK study by an unidentified source (ARGH! ARGH!) noted that there are distinct characteristics common to people who choose certain colors for their cars. I'm always game for a cheap personality test, so I, of course, glommed right onto it.

I tend to stick to two colors when it comes to cars--red or, if red isn't available, black. I also love British racing green, but I've never been able to afford a car that looks awesome in that color. Or even comes in that color. My beloved Scion XB now comes in a shockingly acidic shade of lime, but no racing green.

So it was interesting to see that this study (which I could go dig up, but I'm feeling too lazy) showed that "the most dangerous drivers" tend to drive black cars. They allegedly have an aggressive personality or are someone who's a rebel.

I think I'm a pretty good driver. I can be a little aggressive, but only in that I shout at other drivers when I'm alone in the car, or when they nearly kill me and mine. Which, in my current home city, is more often than any place I've ever been. But when it comes to my driving, I like to keep things nice and safe. Rebel? Maybe a bit.... OK, maybe more than a bit, in some ways, but it's not like I've pierced my entire face and am running around with magenta hair or anything. But, according to this study, black car=aggressive, rebellious crazy person.

The second most dangerous drivers tend to drive silver cars. (My grandparents have always, and I mean, ALWAYS driven silver cars, generally with maroon interiors.) Silver car drivers are "calm, cool, and aloof. (Except in the case of my grandparents who are indeed calm, but not cool (in an icy way), and DEFINITELY not aloof.) So basically, silver car=serial killer.

Green cars represent eco-friendliness and life, though these drivers may choose their green car to manifest severe jealousy, inexperience, and hysterical tendencies. Green=needy whack job who recycles.

Yellow "is sunshine and denotes a happy person," but also is the color of cowardice and deceit. However, yellow cars can be idealistic and novelty loving. So, yellow=pathological liar disguised as happy idealist.

Apparently, the only good people in the world drive blue cars. Blue represents strength, steadfastness, and friendliness. People in blue cars are more introspective and cautious. Blue=friendly.

Oh, wait, good people drive gray cars as well. Gray car drivers are calm, sober, dedicated to their work, and seldom show strong emotion. Gray=boring.

My absolute favorite car color, red, "is Cupid and the devil." (I'm not kidding--that's what it says.) People in red cars are full of zest, energy, and drive. They think, move, and talk quickly. SO red car=fun, energetic person OR the devil. (Heh.)

Pink cars are driven by gentle, loving, and affectionate drives. Pink=sweet person or Mary Kay saleswoman.

White is my father's favorite car color. White represents cleanliness, purity, and innocence. (I can hear Dad snorting now.) White car drivers are the second safest on the road, and they are also status-seeking extroverts. (Dad's neither status-seeking nor the most extroverted person in the world. He and I are quite alike--we're introverts who can fake being extroverted until we're genuinely comfortable.) So white=extroverted snob.

The safest drivers allegedly choose cream-colored cars. These drivers are "contained and self-controlled." Cream=REALLY boring.

Basically, I think someone in the UK just drives a blue car and hates everyone else. But for your amusement, I thought I'd share....

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

And There Was Much Rejoicing...

My book's turned in,
My work is done,
It's been five months since I've had some fun.
My kids and I should hit the road,
If re-reading doesn't make my head explode.

And there you have solid evidence of two things:

1) I suck at poetry. Even purposefully bad poetry.

2) I should never blog when I've had six hours of sleep in three days. Punnnnnnchyyyyyyyyyyy.

In celebration of my turning in the biggest piece of dreck known to humankind (I'm told I always feel this way about my books when I first finish them. But this time, I'm not kidding. Seriously, Sharron.), here are five things I am going to with the rest of my week, in addition to wrapping up some stuff with my day job:

1) Call or email all friends I have alienated by ignoring due to nightmarish book deadline piled on top of nightmarish work deadlines piled on top of repeated attempts not to be the Worst. Mother. Evah;

2) Excavate my house from under giant pile of abandoned goldfish crackers, tacky catalogs, and plastic grocery store bags that have accumulated in the last two weeks;

3) Watch and return the NetFlix DVDs I've had since, oh, the beginning of time, I think;

4) Call all friends who are on deadline and cackle manically into the phone, then hang up;

5) Create health-food regimen to detox from week-long diet consisting solely of Diet Coke and Veggie Tales Fruit Gummies.

And now I'm off to bed. Blissful, deadline-free, lovely bed. Good night, Minneapolis! (Or wherever you are.)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Project Runway Snarkfest #3

So we just saw the "What the Elle?" episode, where the designers were competing for one of the three spots at Fashion Week and a spread in Elle. Please note that there are SPOILERS for this episode in here, as well as some spoilers at the end because we saw a mini-preview of the four Fashion Week collections in Entertainment Weekly. We did not see the collections in their entirety, nor do we know who wins or loses.

TRACY: What was UP with MICHAEL'S horrible, horrible dress? What happened to my boy? He's had this great combination of elegance and urban sensibility all along, and when asked to create something that speaks to who he is as a designer, he goes for a horrible, yawnfest of an evening gown I wouldn't have worn to my prom in the EIGHTIES? And that "keyhole" on the chest was for a mighty big key. The weaving at the waist was nice, but it didn't show half of what Michael can do. Find your bliss again, dude, and STAY there.

Here are my three words/phrases for Michael's dress: Hootchie, Fredericks of Hollywood, and wardrobe malfunction.

TROY: More like a brain malfunction...or taste malfunction. So if Michael is describing himself via this dress, he's boring, unimaginative, and kinda skanky? The judges knew how suckatastic this dress was and decided to honor his past work on this show by adding that little twist of "NO ONE'S GOING HOMEEEEE!" (This refers to an episode of TOP MODEL where crazy Tyra told two models that they really sucked and then surprised them by screaming "WE'RE ALL GOING TO LONDON!" with the girls starting to cry with a horrified look of confusion. Then Tyra informs them "NOBODY'S GOING HOME!" Anyway....).

His spirit may have been crushed after the DEVASTATING loss of Nasri (see: NICK from season 2), but STEP IT UP LOSER. You can make the most amazing dress out of GARBAGE, but you can't design something that defines you????

TRACY: Wow. Troy is very angry today. Anyway, I can't believe ULI won! I was so expecting her to get the auf. Her dress looked like a beach cover-up I once bought in Pensacola for $20. Oooh, she did a new neckline! What range!

TROY: Uli deserved the win! She still did her Crazy! Uli! Patterns!, but with a new shape and style. If she would have made that dress a solid color, it would have been a complete 180 and the judges would hate that (see: JEFFREY).

TRACY: And who else wanted to kick her in the head when she stole Michael's model, which is just nasty and mean this late in the game. There were plenty of other models in there that were good. Nasri deserves the spread in Elle, and she's not going to get it with Fraulein CrazyPatterns.

TROY: I applaud Uli for being cutthroat and "stealing" Nasri. It goes to show how protective people are of Michael (seeing as Uli was voted on the Bravo poll as the one people most wanted auf'd). If Uli would have stolen Jeffrey's model, no one would have cared. Nasri is obviously the best model and can sell wearing a garbage bag and Crocs. Uli will benefit having her as Nasri is the spice to make any collection better!

TRACY: Geez, who kicked your puppy today? All this hate for Michael. Although honestly, I think Nasri is such a standout, she's going to make it big anyway. That girl has a mean strut. I wonder if she can act? That hair is just too fabulous to be confined to the pages of a magazine....

But I'm totally going to take a picture of my beach cover-up and send it to you. It's Uli's dress all the way. Now, onto JEFFREY....

I must be high, but I sort of liked Jeffrey's dress. It's not something I'd wear, but I thought it was adorable for a 20-something--kind of had a slight Regency feel to it, but with the contemporary "bubble silhouette" that so excited the judges when Bradley did that terrible dowager-hump gold shirt and gray, up-to-the-armpits skirt. I think Jeffrey just confused them, because while he claims the dress is his style, it didn't match what he's done in the past. Not that I minded seeing Sparky McNeckTattoo get a dressing down.

TROY: I completely disagree about Jeffrey's dress. I thought it looked unfinished, unflattering, and WTF was going on with the "blue" top? He was thinking it was a dress about "romance." I was thinking it was a dress from Alice in LSD Wonderland.

Speaking of "romance," drink every time he mumbled that word. Everything was ROMANCE. He's a ROMANTIC. His picture embodied ROMANCE! Gag me. Couldn't he been given the AUF on principle alone?

TRACY: Yeah, that was gross, him trying to show his :::air quotes::: "softer side." I know that whole bit with him crying when he got a picture of his kid was supposed to make us like him more, but I just kept recoiling in horror at the thought of him reproducing. Arrogant wanker.

TROY: I also was terrified at the thought of Jeffrey procreating. HE DOESN'T SHOWER!

How about LAURA? Did Laura just use one of the dresses she's worn so many times on the show and parade it on her model? Although I applaud her for working so hard especially while being pregnant (and without maternity clothes), but she obviously will not win this competition. We probably will see a LAURA! store in our malls in few years. I hope we aren't subjected to her whole fashion show (unless it's past 1 AM and I desperately need something to knock me out). Thanks for the snark Laura, but not much else!

TRACY: Finally, we agree! The dress was pretty, but SO back to basics. I would have loved to have seen her tackle a different TYPE of garment, like a pants suit, instead of the same variation on a high-waisted dress she's done for so long. I'll be interested to see what her line at fashion week looks like, because I don't think she can send 12 empire-waist cocktail dresses down the runway.

How about that PREVIEW for the reunion show? Did you see Keith getting all uppity about his premature auf for cheating on the preview? What a freaking sociopath. I can't believe he doesn't understand why--I mean, it wasn't just one offense, it was THREE: having pattern books, leaving the premises, AND using the Internet. HELLO!

TROY: Shut up Keith! Cheaters never win, asshat! That is all. Oh! Michael's totally winning the fan favorite prize too. It's Janelle/Rupert award!

TRACY: Omigod, asshat is such an excellent word! HA! Oh, and for those of you out there who aren't glued to their TV at all hours while you're supposed to be doing homework like SOME PEOPLE, Janelle is from Big Brother, and Rupert was a fan favorite from Survivor.

You know, both made it onto the all-star versions of their show. I wonder if they'll ever do a Project Runway All-Stars? Malan Forevah!

BTW, those Fashion Week SPOILERS you mentioned last week. So, did you read them? I'm betting you did.

TROY: I've only looked at the pictures in last week's Entertainment Weekly.

TRACY: I saw those! (Note: the photo only showed about three looks from each designer's entire collection.) I think Michael caught the Last Train to Hootchieville, and I'm SO disappointed. "Street Safari," with an emphasis on the street.

TROY: It's obvious the theme of his fashion show is Austin Powers in Goldmember. Michael LO-UVES G-AWLLLLDDDDDD! And hooker wear! Uli and Jeffrey deserve to be the top 2 with the collections (Laura is NOT a contender with that snoozefest, from the three outfits in EW we saw.). I guess we'll see what else the designers have to show. God, I hope Michael's collection was a decoy and he has something else.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mystery Solved

Apparently, a volume of Where's Waldo made the ALA challenged book list because it contained a picture of a woman with her bikini top untied. Waldo, you scoundrel!

Actually, I have yet to find a specific reference for the correct volume, and the description of Waldo's transgression ranges from what I stated above, to "a woman in a bikini with an exposed breast," to "a topless mermaid." Wikipedia says the books included "a topless mermaid AND a topless sunbather."

Oh, the horror. Smut you need a magnifying glass to find.

:::banging head on monitor::::

Well, at least now we know (maybe). And now, back to my regularly scheduled deadline madness.

P.S. If you want to expand your Banned Books Week reading choices, check out Wikipedia's list, which includes links to the original sources.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Banned Books Week!

An interesting quote from the American Library Association web site:

In his book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, Nat Hentoff writes that “the lust to suppress can come from any direction.” He quotes Phil Kerby, a former editor of the Los Angeles Times, as saying, “Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.”

As a rule, I'm horrified by censorship, but I do understand where Kerby and Hentoff are coming from. There are at least a few people who would make me very happy by taking a flying leap off my universe and never bothering me with their insane natterings again (Ann Coulter, I'm staring at you.). While I don't think of that as censorship--more like a public service--I guess it is. Something to think about.

And if we're discussing censorship, either the flag-burning amendment is up again, or it's Banned Books Week. In this case (I'm sure the title of this post provided a big clue), it's the latter.

When I worked at Barnes & Noble, I always loved Banned Books Week. (I almost made that an acronym, but then I realized that big beautiful women everywhere owned that one.) Probably on orders from the New York office, one of the B&N managers would set up a table in the front of the store covered with books that had been banned in the past, along with a sign proclaiming what to us was a major holiday. We'd all talk with each other and with customers about what banned books we'd read, shaking our heads and lamenting the collective insanity that often accompanies library censorship.

I'm no longer a bookseller, but in honor of the start of Banned Books Week today, I went through the lists of banned and challenged (i.e. not yet banned) books on both the American Booksellers' Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the American Library Association (ALA). Here's what I found:

Most Surprising Choice:
Where's Waldo, by Martin Hanford
Yes, THAT Waldo. Unfortunately, Waldo was listed on the ALA site, which does not explain why the bans or challenges occurred, unlike the ABFFE. WHAT is so wrong with a picture book that has kids finding a little cartoon guy in a big cartoon crowd? What did Waldo ever do to you, people? Anyone who would try to ban Waldo would probably find something objectionable in his or her DVD player instruction manual and should just not read anything. Ever.

My Favorite Book on the List: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. (Challenged by an eighth grader in California and a high school principal in Alaska for racial slurs and the depiction of an attempted rape.)

In honor of Latin-American History Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), books on the list by Latinos: Paula, by Isabel Allende
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez
Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High, by Alex Sanchez

I can't reproduce every book on these lists without making this entry way too long, but just to give you an idea of what's on them, here are the
banned and challenged books from the ABFFE list that I've read:

Paula, by Isabel Allende
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez
The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Deenie, by Judy Blume (Man, I never did read Forever)
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy
Krik? Krak!, by Edwidge Danticat
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Hot Zone, by Richard Preston
Freaky Friday, by Mary Rodgers
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
The Entire Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling
The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
America! (The Book), by Jon Stewart
The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Black Boy, by Richard Wright

And the books I've read from the ALA's top 100 challenged books list (that weren't on the ABFFE list):
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
A Wrinkle in TIme, by Madeleine L'Engle
Blubber, by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin, by Lois Duncan
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The Outsiders, by SE Hinton
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Native Son, by Richard Wright
Carrie, by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree, by Willo Davis Roberts

Interesting how many of these books are for young adults, and how many of them that I've read count among the most vibrant, memorable, and edifying books I've read in my life. Do your part for free speech. Read a banned book this week!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Love Song for Walter

So I was in the car by myself the other day, and, as I am wont to do when I am in the car by myself, I started getting my diva on and belting out songs along with the radio. (Much to the amusement of everyone driving past me who happens to look my way, I'm sure.) All my life, I've been convinced that my singing voice should be better, as if by sheer force of will, I should be able to hit all of the notes right along with Mary J. Blige when she's on the radio.

I've never stopped being frustrated by the fact that sometimes, I open my mouth to sing and my voice hits a wall in the form of a high E. (Think the key change in Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On and On." No, wait. Don't think about that. Yuck. Just suffice to say that key changes and I don't get on well together, and it's not for lack of trying.)

Anyway, I was leaving the gas station last week when an old Concrete Blonde song from the early 90s, "Joey," came on. For those of you who don't know the song, the verses start out quite low--lower than is comfortable for most sopranos, though I rather like them. So I'm pulling away from the pump singing along in my best tenor, when the chorus hits. Now the chorus to this song suddenly jumps up over an octave, and needless to say, things generally get quite ugly about then if I'm somewhere alone with this tune.

But somehow, for the first time in my life, I hit the chorus. Easily. On a relative Tracy scale (i.e. not a Mary J. Blige scale), I knocked it out of the park, comfortably nailing "Jooooey, I'm not annngrryyyyy, anymooooorrrrrre" without sounding like my vocal cords were about to explode in agony.

For this small moment of happiness, I have one person to thank: Walter Ayotte.

Walter was my voice teacher my senior year of college. I'd dabbled in getting a music minor but pretty much decided against it when I realized how many math-like music theory classes were involved. (Yuck.) But just for fun,throughout my four years, I'd take a semester of piano here, a year of wind ensemble there, a couple of years of chorale. My senior year, I got brave and decided to take a semester of voice lessons, despite the fact that I was going to have to get up and perform classical music in front of all of the other people taking voice lessons. Regularly.

So on my first day, I met the man who insisted I call him Walter, a quiet, balding professor in his seventies, dressed in a sweater vest and a pair of neatly pressed pants. I explained to him that I had no soprano range to speak of, or even, really, an alto range, but I could do a mean tenor. He smiled a little and said, "Let's run through some scales."

First, he took me at my word and let me try to impress him with what I hoped was my smoky, Melissa-Etheridge-esque low range (SO not the case). Then, we went up. And up, into my head voice until I was squeaking like a mouse hopped up on helium. Then he took his hands off the piano keyboard, swung around on the seat to face me, and grandly proclaimed, "Tracy, you're a soprano."

"Oh, ha ha ha, Walter. Good one," I responded.

"No, really," he said. "You're a soprano."

"I so am not!"


"Tenor. Maybe an alto." I was seriously panicking now. If good old Walter was going to insist that I was a soprano, I was going to look like a shrieking idiot when it was my turn to perform for the students of the four, count them, four vocal profs on campus. "I could maybe do alto."


"Are you sure?"

"Trust me."

"This sucks, Walter."

"I know. But you'll see."

Somewhere in there, he let it slip that he'd been trained in voice at New York's prestigious Juilliard School. No ego involved--just a subtle message that he might know what he was talking about. I stopped arguing and painfully stumbled through a piece that had the misfortune of being both high and in French, and then we called it a day.

After a few sessions of Walter's rigorous vocal exercises, which were both intricate and so catchy, I hummed them in the shower, I got the notes in the much-hated French piece down enough that we started working on pronunciation. And then it was my turn to sing for the class.

I had a cold, so we backed out the first week I was scheduled to perform. The next week, I had another cold (I had REALLY bad allergies in college that I've since outgrown for the most part). And the week after that, my cold was gone, but my allergies were going nuts. Walter and the head of the voice department had had enough of my sickly ways and decided I was going up on stage, come hell or some really flat, strangled notes.

"Walter, this is going to be ugly," I said, clinging miserably to my Kleenex box.

"It's OK," he said. "You'll be fine."

Basically, I sucked. After I was finished, there was a smattering of polite applause, and then some gutsy little freshman lambasted me for singing from my throat instead of my chest. (I squashed one of his theories in a Shakespeare seminar we had together a few days later, out of sheer, embarrassed spite.) I slunk off the stage to where Walter was waiting. "I'm so sorry," he said, confirming that I had, indeed, blown huge, gelatinous chunks with that song. "I probably should have listened to you." I asked him if he minded if I hid behind him for the rest of the class. He didn't.

At our next meeting, he brought out a Lenten dirge called "For my Transgressions" that was blessedly in English, but about a hundred octaves higher than the French piece. I wondered if there was some hidden meaning in the title referring to my French Massacre in vocal lab the week before. "Walter," I said, "I can't sing this."

"Oh, just try," he responded genially, as unmovable as a very cheerful Rock of Gibraltar. I stumbled through the Lenten dirge, dreading giving the smug little freshman another chance to publicly humiliate me.

A couple of weeks later, I was not only singing the Lenten dirge--which had become decidedly un-dirgelike--I was belting it into the stratosphere. Sure, my soprano voice was never going to bring crowds to their feet, but it was full, clear as a bell, and, much as I hated to admit it, fun to sing in. Walter said something kind about looking forward to showing me off at lab. I asked St. Jude, the patron saint of miracles, to pray for my continued health until then.

A couple weeks later at vocal lab, I was allergy- and illness-free (Thank you, St. Jude.), so Walter and I headed onstage, and I sang all about my transgressions, hitting all my notes and having a great time listening to how my newly minted soprano voice floated and soared (soared!), aided in no small part by the recital hall's most excellent acoustics. "By God, Walter," I said after we'd finished. "I'm a soprano." He just smiled.

The class response? I can't remember what the freshman who'd snarked at my French said exactly, but it was somewhere along the lines of "Holy crap." Again, I'm not the most stunning soprano in the world, but it was a marked difference from the auditory dying swan I'd inflicted on everyone last time. One of the other profs, clearly jealous of the miracle Walter had wrought from my measly talent, grumbled, "I could have improved your voice more than Walter did." Whatever, dude.

On my last day of voice lessons, just before graduation, I told Walter I'd always regret having waited until the last semester of my senior year to work with him, and that the one semester with him was the single best musical experience I'd had in my life. I can't remember how we got onto the subject--I think I just started asking questions about Juilliard and his life before that. But he told me he had been the navigator on a B-17 (I think) bomber during World War II. Fascinated, I sat down next to him on the piano seat and insisted that we blow off class so he could tell me all about it. I wish I had a better memory of his incredible story, but I do remember that close to the end of the war, he was shot down and parachuted out of the plane, captured by Nazis, and rescued by none other than General MacArthur himself, who congratulated the men from his plane "on living like gentlemen" even under POW conditions. That was Walter to a T--always a gentleman, whether faced with Nazis or a silly student who misguidedly insisted she was a tenor.

Walter passed away a few years ago. I'm sure he now knows in depth about the impact he had on his students. But, just in case, I'll say it anyway: Thank you, Walter. You're the best. Every time I open my mouth to sing and pleasantly surprise myself, I think of you.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Success is 1 percent ambition and 99 percent not writing an awful book."

--David Roberts, The Daily Grist

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like a Pirate Day, Again

Check this out: It's Talk Like a Pirate Day today, which also means that it's just past the one-year anniversary of this blog! TLAP Day 2005 was the subject of my third post! (Arrrrr.)

And this blog entry, short and sucky though it is, is my 100th post! It's a field day for numerology today! (And the day I officially use up my exclamation point quota.)

I'm in deadline purgatory, so I just thought I'd impart that bit of information and run. Enjoy the rest of this auspicious holiday, mateys.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Project Runway Snarkfest #2

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS about Project Runway's Black and White episode.

TRACY: Omigod, they brought Angela and Vincent back! How annoying was that? Kayne said it best when he said they were like cockroaches. You keep squashing them into little gooey, crunchy piles of humiliated goo, and they keep. Coming. Back.

TROY: Did anyone really think one of these two would win the challenge? Vincent puts BUCKETS on his model's head! Angela thinks jetsetters look like hobos! Incorporating these two into the challenge added NO drama at all.

TRACY: Except to those who were dying to witness both of them explore the depths of self-humiliation AGAIN. Or to witness Vincent's megalomaniacal idiocy again.

But then again, it did add a little drama to LAURA's win.

TROY: Laura finally won a challenge, but AT WHAT COST (dun dun dunnnnnn)? The mid-show meltdown shocked me, since we've only seen Laura be strong and snarky.

TRACY: Spoken like a dude who has no chance of ever becoming pregnant. IT'S THE HORMONES, WATSON!

I felt really sorry for her. I mean, they've been giving them these horrendously exhausting challenges, she's pulling all nighters with little nutrition, they flew her to Europe and back so now she's jet-lagged, AND on top of this she's in her first trimester and none of the clothes she brought with her probably fit anymore. (Did you see that belly? It came out of NOWHERE!) She was totally due for a meltdown, and I give her major props for pulling it together and winning the challenge with a lovely dress.

TROY: Yeah, I'm happy her fire came back and she turned into drillmaster Laura again. I'm still undecided on the outfit. It's very pretty and well constructed, but the sleeves bothered me.

TRACY: Spoken like a dude who doesn't know the pain of being a woman with fat arms. My arms have always been fat, even when I was a size two. I look like a normal person with two big yellow sausages stuck onto my shoulders. I say YAY to the sleeves.

TROY: Making it strapless may have made the outfit younger and sexier (then again, I'm not a big fan of Laura's model, so it may look different on someone else). The outfit seemed fairly straight-laced and similar to something Britney Spears wore to the VMAs a few years back.

TRACY: I have to disagree, Roeper. I loved the outfit. I totally thought ti was Josephine Baker, and I can't see Ms. Cheetos and Beer Federline wearing anything that classy. It was charming and fun, and she did break out of her Ann Taylor-esque rut.

And speaking of Laura's model, what a whore! "Laura, how could this look ... you know. It's just ... you know. I mean, how could it look ... you know.... Young.... How could it ... you know?"

Nice. Just what she needs, after all the aforementioned stress and exhaustion, plus nearly getting the auf last week. And all her bored-and-pissed looking model can do is kick the pregnant woman when she's down. I think Laura should take Amanda (Kayne's model) now that Kayne is gone and kick her nasty model's bony ass to the curb. "Guess who's NOT getting a fashion spread in Elle magazine? That would be YOU, unbeliever!"

So, how about MICHAEL?

TROY: Flawless. I loved Michael's outfit. I was a little scared when we first got a peek at the outfit and the belt/garter thing, but it looked great on the runway. Very simple, classic, and he was smart about how to use the rest of the fabric, by lining the purse. He always has a great attitude and continues to push through, working hard until the last minute. This competition is his. Don't screw it up Michael!

TRACY: I agree. I can't even make a joke--Michael is fabulous. And how smart to go with white instead of black, which EVERYONE else chose.


TROY: I think Uli is a very sweet woman and a talented designer. However, I am starting to think she is showing signs of being a one-trick pony. Uli can make flowy dresses! With wacky patterns! And crazy colors (except in this challenge)! She was able to branch out with the couture challenge and the results were great. If Jeffrey is this season's Santino (but less talented IMHO), Uli better step it up or she'll be out next.

TRACY: I totally loved Uli's dress, though. I'd wear just about anything she made, as long as she sized it for a real person and not a twig masquerading as a woman. But yeah, she's definitely in a V-necked, hippie-inspired, crazy-patterned rut.

You know, for all the times they subtitle her when I've never had a problem understanding her, there was one point in the show where she OBVIOUSLY insulted Angela, and I have no idea what she said. Jeffrey made some comment about Angela coming back, and Uli said something in a very snarky way that made everyone laugh, but no matter how many times I rewind my Tivo, it still just sounds like, "Oh, Angela, carpe farfegnugen Volkswagen CHEESE!"

TROY: No idea. I don't have Tivo, so I'm just going to be bitter. Anyway, that gets us to JEFFREY.

TRACY: Ugh. (Can you even say that nasty man's name anymore without automatically uggghhing?) The Neck of Darkness, as Entertainment Weekly calls him, sure outdid himself with that awful Little Bo Peepshow outfit. Anyone who wore that mess to a cocktail party, rock and roll or not, is just asking to be a magnet for every sweaty, puffy, fat married man with no soul in the room. "Hey, honey, how much?"

TROY: The opposite of Justin Timberlake, Jeffrey was bringin' FUGLY back.

TRACY: All you have to do is look at his neck, nonexistent chin, and sunshiney attitude to realize that fugly never left.

TROY: He managed to make his model stumpy in that trashy Pretty Woman costume reject. I ALMOST wanted to see Angela win the challenge just to see his smug self get the auf. I did have to laugh when they said he was doing Gwen Stefani style, as Gwen wouldn't be caught dead in that mess (then again, the 36 year old woman DOES prance around in a high school cheerleading outfit). While he's not the most disgusting reality contestant right now (that honor goes to you Mike "Boogie" Malin!), he needs to "leave quickly now" (see BUFFY).

TRACY: I have no idea who that is. Anyway, how sorry did you feel for Kayne? Ay. At least I don't have to see that sad little pout anymore.

TROY: Poor Kanye. Poor tacky confused Kanye. I really did like the front of his outfit, but when his model turned around, the white shoestring tying his dress was horrifying. ALL he needed was a white belt (similar to the garter/belt thing that Michael made for his model) to stay in the game. Oh well. He can go make some pageant gowns and make Oklahoma couture.

TRACY: Yeah, that looked like something you'd pick up at 5-7-9. I think it would have been nice if he'd thought of something better to do with the white. Ah, well. Miss Tennessee still thinks he's fabulous. And someone had to go along with ANGELA and VINCENT.

TROY: Totally wasn't surprised to see Angela go, especially once we saw her trying to pass off AUDREY II as an outfit (the collar was eating the model, ya'll!).

TRACY: You can't say "ya'll." You've lived in the midwest all your life!

TROY: Whatever. Vincent's outfit wasn't fairing any better, resembling one of those bags that you put clothes in and then suck the air out of to save space. Seriously, I was surprised his model could walk at all in that outfit. Crazy, but harmless, these two should be thankful they got to stay in the game as long as they did.

TRACY: I thought bringing them back was just cruel. Although really, I expected Angela to fare a little better. After all, the woman is the Grand High Priestess of Extra Fabric. (Everyone say, "My signature rosettes!")

TROY AND TRACY: ("My signature rosettes!")

TRACY: She should have left on a better note, IMHO. Someone ought to tell her that anytime you're tempted to use a fabric that "looks just like vinyl!" you're going to a very, very unhappy place in the land of fashion.

I know Vincent's dress was inspired by a tuxedo cummerbund, but did it have to be the size of one? Poor Javi. She looked mighty annoyed that they called her back to wear that non-contender of an outfit. All she had left after getting kicked off the first time was her dignity, and that hemline just took it all away.

And besides, what did Vincent mean when he said Javi "overpumped" the dress. Did it have an inflatable bra inside? Homeboy's lucky Javi didn't walk down the runway carrying that damn thing between two fingers at arm's length and holding her nose.

TROY: So I guess the finalists had their fashion shows this week.

TRACY: Oooh, really? I'm so oblivious.

TROY: The pictures of the final outfits and the designers are posted all over various blogs. EVIL SPOILERY BLOGS! I scrolled past quickly and saw a few outfits, but tried to avoid the rest. Should be an interesting finale to the show.

TRACY: You will end up spoiling it for yourself. I know you--you always do. Just don't tell me, and you can still be my brother. Con queso.

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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