Saturday, December 27, 2008

do they know it's christmas?

Last night I watched a one hour version of Live Aid on VH1 Classics. Let me go ahead and say, VH1 curated quite a collection of bizarre moments. Let's begin with Mick Jagger and Tina Turner performing "State of Shock" into "It's Only Rock and Roll":

My Live 8 thoughts on the matter:

1. Hello, Daryl Hall on the keyboard!
2. Mick and Tina's choreographed "sexual chemistry"= State of Yuck. It just makes me want to watch "You're the One That I Want" with foxy biker Sandra Dee and Danny Zuko, instead.
3. Why is Mick Jagger mouthing all of Tina's lyrics?
4. Mick Jagger with his shirt off= not a turn on. Granted his ill-fitting pocket tee shirt is totally upstaged and outsexed by Tina's leather, fishnets, and pumps.
5. I DO like when Mick pulls up his giant belted chinos as if to say, "Grinding with dominatrix-dressed Tina Turner and taking my shirt off is where I draw the line. I'm a family man from the waist down."
6. At one point Tina inexplicably dances off stage. At first, it actually seems like Tina just bails on the whole performance. But WAIT. You can still hear her kind of singing. At last, it is clear they are BOTH back stage changing outfits.
7. I really like watching Mick struggling into his banana yellow blazer while also trying to sing "I like it."
8. Why do they change? They return for about 30 more seconds of performing, only to then vanish again completely, leaving the band to somehow resolve the insanity.

Let us now turn to David Bowie's performance of "Heroes." Specifically, Bowie's percussionist.

I don't have any commentary other than that was an interesting choice for everyone involved.

Pretty much every performance in the program is noteworthy. I won't link them all here, but will offer a brief guide to the greater moments. Elton John's eyes look completely terrifying in "Benny and the Jets"—pretty much all pupil. Bob Geldof wears a lot of different kinds of denim in "I Don't Like Mondays." Seeing The Who made me miss Keith Moon, but made me love Pete Townshend for tearing power chords like a pro all over "Won't Get Fooled Again." Freddie Mercury is just awesome and commanding in "Radio Ga Ga." Even his shoes are awesome. Eric Capton has two drummers on "Layla" including one Phil Collins. Why? The outro for Layla= guitar solo mania. Totally ridiculous. And only made me love Pete Townshend again.

But perhaps the pièce de résistance of this entire viewing experience was the commercial I saw for the computer software "Finally Fast." I had never seen this before. Last night I saw it three times between midnight and 1am. Lucky me. I definitely nominate Video Gamer Boy for the performance of that television hour. My WORD.

I definitely recommend you do NOT order this software.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

b.a. baroctopus vs. the think tank

Two days ago, my friend Drue drew this article to my attention:

It's well worth reading. If you are too lazy to click that link, it's about an octopus who is totally burning down the house at a German aquarium. He is one fussy camper and decidedly unpsyched about captivity. Who can blame the guy? The Telegraph explains:

Staff believe that the octopus called Otto had been annoyed by the bright light shining into his aquarium and had discovered he could extinguish it by climbing onto the rim of his tank and squirting a jet of water in its direction.

Well played, Otto. Not everyone wants to see the bright lights tonight. And every day. And every night. It's not like those guys hang out near light in the ocean as it is. Don't they live in coral reefs?

We knew that he was bored as the aquarium is closed for winter, and at two feet, seven inches Otto had discovered he was big enough to swing onto the edge of his tank and shoot out the 2000 Watt spot light above him with a carefully directed jet of water. Once we saw him juggling the hermit crabs in his tank, another time he threw stones against the glass damaging it. And from time to time he completely re-arranges his tank to make it suit his own taste better - much to the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants.

Man! It sounds like the OK Corral over there! Or like they should send Otto to military school. Or, say, maybe let him live under the sea again?

I just learned that Octopuses have three hearts. And they are really smart. And that they are good at throwing AND catching! Maybe the New England Patriots should consider Otto during next year's draft. According to Peggy Noonan in her article about Obama in today's Wall Street Journal, a football player like Otto would make a very good President:

America threw long, and America is praying for a dazzling reception. People want him to catch the ball....Actually, how it felt this week was that there is a sense of suspension (the ball is in the air, it's arcing over the field) accompanied by a sense of urgency (if he fumbles at this high-stakes time, more than a game is lost).

Judging from the 3 November date of the Telegraph article, maybe Otto was just plain on edge about the US election.

Whatever the case, I hope the Coburg Aquarium designs a tank more hospitable to the Octopus condition. Or that Otto comes up with more funny tricks, and enjoys the good fight. Perhaps Peggy Noonan's consolation to Young Republicans will also offer comfort to our decidedly Yes-I-Can Octopus:

There is joy to be had in being out of power. You don't have to defend stupid decisions anymore. You get to criticize with complete abandon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

tricks of the tale

Tonight I was thinking about my average weekend night as a single digit gal growing up. Most often it meant my mom and dad went out to dinner and either my brother or sister home babysitting. If Erik was in charge, Stouffer's French Bread Pizzas, ice cream sandwiches and, say, an Ohio State Buckeye's football game were the order of the evening. If my sister Kristin was at the helm? Chef Boy-R-Dee Beef-a-roni, Push-up pops, and Remington Steele.

I got to thinking about home alone hi-jinx and how, actually, we were pretty well behaved all things considered. I know certain households where all Cain broke loose once parents were off the premises. Generally, when we were home without a parent, drama stayed at a bare minimum. We had unmonitored television to watch. Get while the getting was good. This was also a time way before cellphones, when parents would leave the number "where we'll be." That degree of separation alone imposed an implicit "this had better be an emergency" proviso to any placed call. Thus, the question "Do we want to have to call mom and dad's restaurant/dinner party/movie theater/event space and explain?" kept us in fairly consistent check.

I once made the mistake of secretly calling a Chicago restaurant to ask my mom through tears if I really had to finish my dinner. My mom was *not amused*.

Most of our sibling mischief making was behind the scenes and very under the radar. As the youngest of three, it was also generally at my expense. And more often than not, that fact was under MY radar—days/weeks/months later. My brother and sister are seven and nine years older than I am, respectively. Smarter, bigger, more worldly, and my idols— I would fairly consistently do absolutely anything they told me to do. I was just happy to be included.

A log of some quotidian monkey business:

(Kristin: 16; Me: 7)

[Kristin walks into our room holding mom's well worn, cloth bound, dictionary]

Kristin: Jules, do me a favor, can you tell me how to pronounce this word?
[points to "marijuana"]

Me: [sounding out the word just like I was taught to do]: Mary....jew....ahna. Mary-jew-ahna.

Kristin: [choking on laughter] Thank you. Thank you very much.

[Kristin takes the dictionary and walks out of the room]

(Kristin: Age 15; Me: Age 6)

Kristin: Julia, I really like your new unicorn. [looking at the stuffed unicorn I received from my godmother for Christmas]

Me: Thank you!

Kristin: Have you thought of a name for it, yet?

Me: Mmm. No.

Kristin: Well, I think I picked out the perfect name. You should name him Charlie Tiverton. [ed. note: charlie tiverton= a random guy from our school I didn't know.]

Me: Do you think so?

Kristin: Yes. Definitely.

[cut to: a week later. Kristin's friend Tammy is over hanging out]

Kristin: Julia, you should introduce Tammy to your new unicorn.

Julia: [eager to please] Ok! Tammy, meet Charlie Tiverton.

[Tammy and Kristin burst out laughing]

(Erik: age 13; Me: 6)

[in the middle of a pillow fight]

Erik: Hey wait, Julia, I have an idea for a game BETTER than Pillow Fight. It's called Mr. Smiley.

Julia: Ok. [listening intently]

Erik: You stand against the wall, and I'm going to hit you in the face with a pillow. Now in order to win you have to KEEP SMILING no matter what.

During a three week summer trip, Erik and Kristin collaborated on a rainy day initiative called "Make Julia Look Like Kristy McNichol." This involved wetting a comb, styling my hair, and trying to blow dry it so it "feathered more." I was four.

They were really un-ironically serious about this project. I don't think I have ever seen them put forth such a team effort in all our years following.

(Erik: 18; me: 11)

Our favorite drive-each-other-crazy trick of that time was called "Keyboard Player." This game was actually my own invention and surprisingly effective: the hunter had become the hunted.
One day we were watching tv, I got up to get a snack, walked in front of the tv, stopped, and suddenly and very seriously, started pantomiming rhythmic keyboard playing in the style of Paul Schaffer. This frustrated Erik to NO end.

I thought every aspect of the situation was hilarious.

Then he did it back to me while watching a show I chose. Foiled again.

There are certainly many more examples of sibling gags and roguery, well deserving of air time.

For now, it's Friday night and I have a French Bread Pizza to eat, fine programming to watch, and this Friday night song to play air keyboards to during a commercial break:

[ed. note: The only way I could manage to embed an audio file was to make it into a movie. Maybe there's another way but I am technologically inept. I attached an image in the file to make it a "movie"—an image of a British Shorthair cat that was on my desk top from an email sent earlier today. I just threw it in the file as the footage thinking only audio would appear if I followed the instructions I googled. Not so. Now I can't stop laughing.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

retton: A

I went to dinner with my friend KK the other night and by chance we ended up sitting next to her friend who is currently enrolled in tumbling classes a stone's throw from my house. She completely loves it. She had no prior experience. It's a sign.

This brings us to part two of Gymnastics Tales.

1984. George Orwell's Julia was carrying on an illicit affair with Winston Smith under the totalitarian regime of Big Brother. This Julia was carrying on an illicit affair with gymnastics under the watchful eye of My Mother.

That year Mary Lou Retton struck gold in the Olympic All Around event and pretty much sealed the deal in my mind that gymnastics was the most awesome sport ever. I asked my mom about taking classes. A lot. No go. So instead I cobbled together my own at-home DIY gymnastics clinic. I subscribed to USA Gymnastics Magazine, cut out every photo of Mary Lou Retton and the 1984 women's and men's Olympic gymnastics teams from Newsweek, Time, People, Sports Illustrated etc. and tacked them to my wall and door. I practiced headstands daily. I stood with my back to my parents bed, jumped backward, bounced from a sitting position back into the air, onto the floor, and tried to stick the landing.

My friend Justine (see: "the tell tale twin") was similarly smitten. She even had the Mary Lou Retton Wheaties Box with Wheaties sealed, uneaten inside. I'm pretty sure she had that box, intact until Senior Year of high school

Justine was responsible for actually getting us as close to Mt. Olympus as I could possibly imagine: Her family purchased tickets for the Post Olympics Gymnastics Tour Chicago show at Rosemont Horizon.... And. Invited. Me. (Insert one thousand exclamation points.) There were no words.

No Mary Lou on the tour, but no matter, Julianne McNamara would be there. Julianne McNamara was basically the silver medal of Gymnastic celebrities. She won the first gold EVER in an individual women's event (uneven bars). And Justine and I agreed she was really pretty.

We went to the show, on a school night no less, and were appropriately star struck. We clutched our special edition programs (which I still have!) and stared at the team leaping and flipping around in a non-competitive environment. Just basically hanging out, doing flip-flops. No big deal. JUST MY DREAM.

All I wanted to do was hang out at school recess, hear the words, "Julia, do a flip flop!", smile, very shyly explain, "It's actually called a back handspring," waver, sigh, seem demure, and then bust out a back flip to the delight of my ten-year-old colleagues.

Instead, I jumped off swings in motion and practiced sticking my landings.

To tell you the truth, my memory of the actual individual performances at Rosemont Horizon is hazy at best. I was awestruck and overwhelmed. Humbled, even. The portion of the program I recall in completely lucid detail, however? Interludes with Paul Hunt: Gymnastics Comedian.

Paul Hunt was a competitive college gymnast in the 70s and to this day works as a gymnastics coach. In the 80s he also dressed up in tutus, bows, and barrettes, called himself "Paulette Huntsinova," and performed fake gymnastics routines with heavy-handed servings of horrible falls and twisted limbs. Most often he performed complicated tumbling sequences and landed directly on his face. All to the uproarious laughter of stadium crowds nationwide:

The crowd at Rosemont Horizon ate it up. Everytime he walked out for another solo segment, Justine and I were completely annoyed. We took gymnastics seriously. We soberly stared straight ahead at his wacky in-drag accidents muttering, "This sucks." We wanted all serious, medal winning, professional gymnastics, all night.

Watching the Paul Hunt footage many years later, I am totally guilty of laughing. 1984 Julia would have zero tolerance for this behavior.

I think 2009 is the year I'm gonna make my dream come true and take a tumbling course. At this point, if I can learn how to do a handstand for more than two seconds and not unintentionally fall directly on my face I will feel like a star.

For now, I just enjoy watching the perfect 10 floor routine I yearned to perform as a ten-year-old gal on the playground:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Last night after the acceptance speech heard round the world, Brooklyn erupted with shouting and cheering from open windows, drivers cruising and honking, and people literally jumping for joy and dancing in the streets. I am so glad I am not exaggerating.

The song "Donna" from the musical Hair has been in my head since the big moment—but with the lyrics "Oh bama, oh-oh bama, oh-oh-oh Pre-si-dent O-ba-ma." The scene from the movie pretty looks like what I saw on the streets of the Slope at 1am. The dance moves look like my own, at any rate. Watch for yourself:

[Please note: The "psychedelic urchin" and "sixteen-year-old virgin" lyrics are NOT part of my adapted celebration song.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

decision 2008

Bull the Costner. Hands down.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

the tell-tale twin

Riding my bike to work up 6th Ave. the other day, I noticed the local gymnastics studio was feeling the Halloween spirit. Each of the space's four windows featured a smiling, tumbling skeleton.

Creeeee-peeeee. And so loaded where do I even start?

To me, this spooky festooning bellows, in the rigid, outlandish directives of the infamous olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi,"Happy Halloween! NEVER EAT CANDY OR YOU'LL BE FAT AND BAD AT GYMNASTICS!"

On decidedly less eerie occasions, I pass by that studio thinking to myself, "One of these days I'm gonna sign up for a beginning tumbling class."

From the moment I watched Mary Lou Retton nail two perfect 10 vaults and clinch the gold in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, all I wanted was to enroll in a gymnastics program. I, too, wanted to be really strong, adorable, and airborne.

"So I can learn how to do a flip flop," was the solid reasoning I offered my skeptical mom.

She didn't bite. Ever. To my chagrin, my mom quickly and summarily relegated gymnastics to the Fat Chance Pile, stacked on top of playing ice hockey, taking drum lessons, and getting a dog. "You play soccer and violin and we have four gerbils. That's enough as far as I'm concerned."

This edict ensured an always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride relationship with a few of my favorite things. It also ensured that I would continue to be vaguely haunted by my memory of the one gymnastics class I attended two years earlier with my friend Justine, when I barely cared a whit about the sport.

The Memory. Justine was actually enrolled in the class. I was just along for the ride, because we just got out of school and had a play date immediately following. Justine's mom dropped us off saying, "I'll be outside in an hour." I walked in and roosted in the bleachers with a couple of moms, watching and waiting while Justine stretched and did handstands.

At the age of eight, I was a tried and true tomboy, acting and pretty much looking like a little dude with longer hair. At that moment in time, gymnastics fell under the same "Kind of Girly" genome alongside ballet and Brownies. It didn't repulse me, per se. Just didn't interest me at all. In my spare time I enjoyed riding dirt bikes, all things Star Wars, and, notably, episodically experimenting with telling gigantic lies.

So while Justine balance beamed and cartwheeled, I found an opportunity to strengthen one of my skill sets with a mother in the stands.

"So what brings you here today?" inquired a woman patiently watching, waiting for her daughter. I vividly remember thinking, "This lady is a hippie." This according to my very, very narrow understanding of the word "Hippie." She had long, straight brown hair, round wire rimmed spectacles, no make up, and invariably wore some version of a turtleneck, quilted vest, pants and sandals.

I looked straight at her and replied, "My twin sister Justine is in this class. I'm just waiting for her."

Right out of the gates.

Justine, my dear friend to this day, is *actually* a twin. She has a fraternal twin brother named Derek. As a second grader I found this riveting. My siblings were considerably older and having another someone closer to my age felt "lucky" to me. I thought I'd be king for a day.

"That's her over there [pointing to Justine]. We're fraternal twins, that's why we don't look alike."

She smiled and nodded, "Oh, well that must be fun to have a twin! What is your name?"

"David," I rejoined without skipping a beat and with a good measure of "yeah, i guess it's fun, but I'm so used to it I don't even think about it" nonchalance.

No biggie. It's just who I am.

She nodded, unfazed. "David, David, David.... That's a very important name. Do you happen to know the tale of David and Goliath?"

I stared at her blankly, wondering where on earth was this going. I had no fear of being found out. I felt positively fearless, in fact. She seemed to be sitting well with my stats. Mostly I worried she was gonna tell me a boring story. After all, I had a lot more fabulous tall tales to tell her before the hour was up.

"Well, David, it's a tale from the Bible of a fearless young man who fought a Giant and won."

I nodded my head hoping we could leave it at that and get on with the show.

"There's a song about this brave battle... and it goes like this, [pause, pause, pause] 'David and Goliath, David and Goliath...'"

And off she went, quietly, endlessly singing a Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention-style song, epic both in proportion and dirge-like melody. Just for Fake Me. I immediately felt bored and antsy. Didn't she want to hear more about *my* David life? Like the fact that I didn't do gymnastics because I played ice hockey instead? And that I was a really good drummer? And what about all of our adorable dogs?

Though distracted, I felt satisfied she had bought my story hook, line, and sinker. My remaining goal was to get out of there without her actually meeting Justine or Justine's mom.

I sat there for what felt like an eternity. Listening to the singing story, then the spoken story. Class ended. My exit was seamless. We got in Justine's parents' passenger van and headed off for our play date. To Hippie Mom I remained David, fraternal twin sister of Justine. All was well in the world....

Until the next week when, during the frantic, grab-and-go routine of lower school dismissal I spotted Hippie Mom picking up her daughter from the fourth grade class room. SHE WAS A MOM AT OUR TEENY TINY SCHOOL. How could this be?! I was supposed to never see her again!

From that day forward, I saw her absolutely all the time. For years. Literally, years.

Hippie Mom never ever said a word to me. Never called me David. Just very occasionally gave me a polite nod or a middle distance smile that left me sort of relieved and sort of tortured with the wonder, "Did she fact check? Is my secret safe? Or am I still David? Does she actually even remember me or is she just acknowledging me because I am often frozen in my tracks staring at her?"

Until August, 1984 that episode categorically defined my opinion of gymnastics as: A Topic to be Summarily Avoided. "I shall take this to the grave" was my mantra.

Spotting the Skeleton-dancing-in-a-graveyard decorations in the 6th Ave. gymastics studio windows gives me appropriate pause.

The second installment of Gymnastics Memory Lane to follow....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

pig iron

Two weeks ago I went to see Pig Iron Theatre Company's production Chekov Lizardbrain. It was terrific. There are a couple of shows left. Here is a link to a rave review in the Old Gray Lady.

Here is the latest information from Pig Iron Theatre:

Pig Iron Theatre and Soho Think Tank have added an additional show at 3 PM on Saturday, October 18 - tickets are on sale and going fast already, so please book your seats for this performance. Advance tickets are also still available for the performance on Friday, October 17 at 10 PM.

If advance tickets are sold out, there are often a small number of tickets are available at the door. (There have been empty seats due to no-shows the past two nights! So come and take a chance!)

We must close on October 19.
All shows are at the Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street, NY, NY.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

dennis the premise

I knew this would happen. On Saturday I drafted a post about Dennis the manatee, a wayward sea cow who wandered from warm southern waters way too far north to a chilly New England cove. Last Saturday he was rescued in Sesuit Harbor, East Dennis, MA, and rushed via van to Florida's SeaWorld.

As it turns out: He didn't make it. Now I feel so sad AND like a big jerk.

Instead of totally scrapping that post, let us turn-turn-turn it into a celebration of Dennis! Arguably, the more jocular moments feel like they may land me in hell. Particularly the gags. I'm sorry. Just bear in mind, this post stands as tribute to the gigantic trooper and his lovable kind!

My post:

Last week one particularly adventuresome, and arguably totally lost manatee wound up roaming his way into the headlines. "Dennis," as named by the press, appears to have wandered North from warmer southern coastal waters—mostly likely somewhere close to South Florida— all the way up to to East Dennis, MA where he dropped proverbial anchor in Sesuit Bay.

Say WHAT? Cape Cod?!! To my mind that seems impossible. When not hovering in the shallow warm waters of Southern Florida, the Caribbean, or the Gulf of Mexico, snacking like crazy on seaweed and algae, these guys move around at an average speed of 3–5 miles an hour. Aka: They mosey. So though it seems Dennis got himself into quite a pickle last week, he's probably been going up the country for many, many months. I like that kind of moxie. That said, the poor guy must be so tired now and too cold for comfort.

Another fact: Dennis weighs 1,000 pounds. One. Thousand. Pounds. That is completely enormous. How on earth do manatees maintain that kind of voluptuous physique on a steady diet of plants?! Answer: Dedication.

The Cape Cod Times describes the scene at the Harbor where Dennis was found and subsequently rescued:

Hundreds of people watched the drama unfold yesterday. "I was crying when I first saw the fish," said Kara Burke, referring to the manatee. "It's just an amazing feeling to be here in Dennis with Dennis."

Kara's sentiments are touching, yet also confusing, not to mention inadvertently obscene.

The description of the rest of the operation sounds straight from an eight year old's imagination:

And so set in motion the plan to drive Dennis back in an 18-foot moving van. A four-person team from SeaWorld will make the trip with Dennis, using large squirt bottles to keep him wet.

This conjures images of cartoonishly large squirt bottles from the store . Maybe they can also get an enormous name tag for Dennis. And hit the courts once they are back in Florida.

SeaWorld is also the star of one of my recent favorite Onion articles.

This is another Onion grand slam recommended to me by Kyle.

Obviously, I'm completely rooting for Dennis to pull through.

And in the meantime, my friends Drue and Mark M. would most certainly offer this clip from Dr. Katz as required viewing while cheering from the sidelines:

Friday, October 10, 2008

upstairs at erik's

Three weeks ago, the song "Only You" by British band Yazoo ended up on my ipod shuffle. Suddenly, "Only You" was the only song I wanted to hear for the first time in a long-long time. I'm in a teenager-in-love-style play and repeat phase. The last time I got stuck on this song was in tenth grade. I had a lot of pining to do for my big time high school crush. A lot of slow dances to imagine. A lot of interactions to over-analyze and ponder. And a lot of hoping to do. This song was made for those moments. "[Sigh.] No one understands how I feel. Except for Yazoo." Only Yazoo.

"Only You" and the album "Upstairs At Eric's" are to my mind, in and of themselves, infatuation-worthy. Especially to young, coming-of-age ears. It certainly stands as a soundtrack of my formative years. It is the sound of sharing a room with my very patient older sister Kristin when I was seven and she was sixteen. At that time "Bad Connection" was my jam. It replaced The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" as my peppy, feel good anthem to demand. I had no idea it was actually a song about Alison Moyet feeling frustrated she can't get through to her Baby on the phone. I also had no idea a woman sang the song. I thought someone named "Yaz" (as we know them here in the US) sang the song. And in my mind, Yaz was a genderless, numinous being. I mean, look at the album cover. It's confusing who's behind the music. To me it looked like *no one* was upstairs at Eric's. Just some scary mannequins in a post-apocalyptic apartment.

All I knew was I just wanted to hear "Bad Connection" so many times—which was potentially annoying to my teenage sister who was mostly interested in solitary activities. I'm pretty sure she just wanted to draw or scrapbook and listen to "Only You" seventeen hundred times. But she is a terrific sport, and a doting sister, and so she patiently honored all my requests.

It was also the soundtrack of impatiently loitering outside my fourteen-year-old brother Erik's room, hoping he'd unhitch the velvet rope and "please lemme in.....I mean, can I?"

These are the things I understood about Upstairs at Eric's in 1982: "Only You" was pretty but boring. "I Before E Except After C" was terrifying and the sound of insanity. "Bad Connection" was the greatest song of all time.

"In My Room" was a league of its own. "In My Room" was the song Erik used to terrorize me on our walks to school. Our ten minute walk would proceed as follows:

[Half a block walked in silence]

And then:

Erik: [In a deliberately affected, forced singing voice] "The WALLS are WHITE and IN the NIGHT the room is lit by ELECTRIC LIGHT"
Me: What is that? Stop.
Erik: "The WALLS are WHITE and IN the NIGHT the room is lit by ELECTRIC LIGHT"
Me: [already losing it] Erik stop. I mean it.
Erik: I'll think about it. "The WALLS are WHITE and IN the NIGHT the room is lit by ELECTRIC LIGHT"
Me: [Desperate] Shut UP! Why aren't you listening to me?!
Erik: Shut up? That's a badwordthe..WALLS are WHITE and IN....
Julia: SHUT UP.
Erik: [Stops and turns to look at me] Maybe if you asked me to stop NICELY, I would consider stopping.

[we keep walking]

Erik: [humming quietly] "do DO do DO..."
Me: [muttering politely] Please don't sing.
Erik: la-LA la-LA...
Me: Please don't sing
Erik: la la la la-la la la LA!

It was a particularly effective torture tactic because the lyrics made no sense to me. They were confusing and unsettling. And he was persistent. And so good at mind games.

[Note: A few weeks later the chorus to "Loverboy" by Billy Ocean replaced "the walls are white..." as the Verse to Curse:

Erik: "Wannabeyo LU-vah, LUvah, LUvahbooyyy..."
Me: ERIK.]

I finally got my revenge the summer before going to college. Erik was well out of college and I had all-access access to his room. While freely trolling around for new music for a new mix, and a tape I could tape over I found an unlabeled BASF cassette. I put it in my boom box for review. Initially there was nothing but the sound of muffled shuffling around. Maybe one of his fake radio programs recorded with best friend Chris? Suddenly I hear Erik clearing his throat. And then: A miracle. Fourteen-year-old Erik Rydholm begins to sing, very, very earnestly, very, very, very, awkwardly, a capella, and pretty loudly:

Lookin' from a window above
it's like a story of love

can you he-ear me?
Came back only yesterday but moving farther away

wantcha nee-her me

[starting over, many, many many octaves higher, and REALLY loudly]


It really was a Christmas miracle. It was glorious. I stared at the middle distance, glowing, drunk with power, just imagining the possibilities and, suddenly, knew what I had to do. I had to put it on a "Flashback!" mix for my friend Fatima. As the opening to Side B. Followed by "Automatic" by the Pointer Sisters.

And it was done. A masterpiece.

Fatima and I listened to it in her Renault jalopy all summer long and *wept* with laughter. She made copies for her sister Bibi and our friend Nicole. I made one for my friend Leigh. We always played it in the car. And each time it came on: Laughter. Eventually we just started singing along, perfecting each perfect part.

Today Erik recalled the moment the turntables finally turned and I played the recording back to him. It sounds not unlike the horrible realization that "the call is coming from inside the house." But more like the horrible realization that the song is coming from your private teenage home studio:

"It wasn't just that you found it. It's how you decided to reveal that you found it: on a mix tape being played inside the car during a family visit to Bowdoin [College]. As I remember, I was in the backseat. I don't think we were a second into the song when I realized what was going on. Something lurched in my stomach and I lunged over the front seat for the eject button. While you cackled."

He explained he was probably singing out his feelings for his teenage crush Marcy.

If I were a real wise guy I would make an mp3 out of the recording. I'm not that mean. Unless Erik says I have permission to be that mean.

In college, "Bad Connection" was nearly summarily ruined for me by seeing a college women's a capella group doing a completely overblown rendition of the song. 8000 harmonies. Pantomimed hanging-on-the-telephone choreography. Huge, crazy smiles. You get the idea.

For years I couldn't listen to "Only You" because I only heard it in Erik's voice. It was confusing. And made me feel a little guilty. Recovering from that, I shelved the song as "cheesy." Several years ago, however, the BBC program "The Office" made brilliant use of it in their Christmas special during a seminal slow dance between star-crossed lovers. I wept. A song was reborn.

And reborn again three weeks ago when it sneaked into rotation on my ipod shuffle and I couldn't stop listening to it. It's pretty heartbreaking, and yes, pretty cheesy. At the beginning of this week I decided to fill my ipod with my Yaz favorites and listen to them ad nauseam. My interests this week? Goats and Yaz.

The playlist:

Too Pieces
Mr. Blue (from the album "You and Me Both")
Only You
Bad Connection

The selection does not disappoint.

While riding my bike home over the Brooklyn Bridge Wednesday night at midnight, the song "Midnight" came on just as it started to drizzle.

And now it’s midnight it’s raining outside
And I’m soaking wet,
still looking for that man of mine

And I ain’t found him yet
Well all of this rain can wash away my tears
But nothing can replace all of those wasted years

In all of this I tell you I have learnt

Playing with fire gets you burnt
And I’m still burning

You and me both, Yaz! It *was* midnight! And I was *also* starting to get drenched! Alison Moyet no longer sounds paranormal to me, she sounds like a woman experiencing some serious feelings. I can relate to that, too. Just like Erik, upstairs at my parents' house singing for Marcy and meaning it.

I'm sorry I made fun of your serious feelings, Erik.
But I'm glad Yazoo understood you. Only Yazoo.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

goddess dressing / legal not eagle

I actually have no intention of holding forth about politics on this site. I am deeply unqualified. Maybe some day soon I'll ask my friend Alexa to guest blog and then you will really learn a thing or two. For now I will mention the one thing I took away from last night's debate: "That one." I thought about that phrase most of the day. The first half of the day I pondered it in an analytical, critical, worldly way; the second half of the day I considered it in a decidedly otherworldly way—specifically, I literally only heard it said by Luke Skywalker in this scene from Star Wars. Over and over again.

In other news, I picked up a copy of the NY Metro today to occupy myself on a short subway ride. Two highlights:

Headline: New Living Goddess Chosen. The AP explains:

Hindu and Buddhist priests chanted sacred hymns and cascaded flowers and grains of rice over a 3-year-old girl who was appointed a living goddess in Nepal yesterday....Wrapped in red silk and adorned with red flowers in her hair, Matani Shakya received approval from the priests and President Ram Baran Yadav...

This blows my mind. Mostly because all I can think about is myself as a three year old (see photo above). I dressed like a crazy person (yes, that is a fraction of a great white shark face on that t-shirt) and was nowhere near equipped to commune with high priests and politicians.
I probably could have told you a lot about animal crackers, though. I still can.

The other notable moment in today's paper was a letter to the editor from perturbed reader Sasha Clements. (The letter appears to be unavailable on their website so I will really have to take this blog seriously and SCAN it.) The title of Ms. Clements' platform:

WTF is wrong with Obama-thusiasm?

WTF, is right. Dear, dear Editor of "the world's largest global newspaper." My rejoinder to the Editor and Ms. Clements is as follows:

WTF? Is "WTF" fit to print?

Or rather:


Just as I finished the Metro, three well-heeled, thirty-something professionals walked onto the train gabbing away. There were two business casual men, and one woman who sort of looked like a tall Cheri Oteri dressed head-to-toe in beige—beige high heels to boot. As they boarded one of the men said, "Oh he's a real legal eagle." Cheri paused, then countered, "More like a legal NOT eagle!!" And at that, the three of them burst into raucous, uncontrollable, hee-haw laughter. One of the men was literally slapping his knee. I am pretty sure they had been drinking. Especially because next thing I knew, Cheri plopped down onto the seat next to me, stretched her leg out and put her foot up on the subway car pole. Ah yes, all in a day's work.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

lil goat view

This guy is one of the gems I found during my goat research day. Such a happy goat.

Also so happy? Lil Wayne. In his newish, completely amazing ESPN forum, Lil Wayne pretty much describes EXACTLY how I feel about blogging:

First of all, wow. I am overwhelmed by the response to my first blog entry. I think I read the first 402 comments. A lot of them were crazy. A thousand comments in the first day? That makes me happy. I've been telling people, "Man I got a blog on ESPN," and they go, "Yeah, boy, but you're latest song is crazy!" and I'm like, "I know, but did you see my blog?" I am so excited to have this opportunity. You don't understand.

I know how he feels. I felt that good on my first day back-in-blog, when I got one comment. And it was from Gary! To repeat, just like Lil Wayne: I am so excited to have this opportunity, you don't understand.

In other news, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Google Street View is the best thing to ever happen to world news. Since 2007, the gift that keeps on giving. Australia, especially, does not disappoint. Seriously, what's going on over there?

There are a lot of sites tracking this phenomenon. This one is equal parts points-of-interest/tabloid Hollywood tour/bloopers reel.

My overall impression of this initiative? Basically, I imagine the Google Street View van slowly rolling down every street followed by a wake of women in hair rollers, face masks, and robes shrieking and throwing the curtains closed, cats covering their faces with their paws, robbers mid-robbery dropping their satchels marked "$", men dropping the afternoon beer they are sneaking in the garage, teenagers freaking out trying to extinguish and jettison forbidden cigarettes...etc.

Meanwhile, the goats keep grazing atop Al Johnsons Restaurant.

And at that, I actually just tried to Google Street View Al Johnsons Restaurant. The van has not made it that far North. If that grassy roof top and grazing friends showed up on Street View it would have been all over for me.

Monday, October 6, 2008

this is our youtube

My brother Erik and I live to make each other laugh. He has the gift of finding that special something that will send me careening around the corner to full on laugh-crying. Growing up, Erik's favorite venue for that move was church (where else?). To this day, my mom sits between us at any deadpan family event because she knows, even as adults, we cannot be trusted. All he needs to do in a serious setting is move his hand or clear his throat or breathe and I am in my own private emergency: head down, shaking, tearing up inconsolable laughter/desperately chewing on my cheeks or pinching my leg in order to slam on the behavior brakes—never to any avail.

The past couple of days, Erik and I have been sending each other youtube links at work with the implicit hope of driving the other person to leave their desk and call from some remote hallway, laughing. The odds are against me. I work for an office that is often as quiet as a morgue and distraction is never a course of action. I try to behave. Erik is a Mucky-muck at a television production company where he and his staff send absurd links to each other and consider that a job well done.

Last Friday, a complicated backstory led me to research video footage of highschool productions of Guys and Dolls. My brother was actually in Guys and Dolls during highschool so I passed a few of the doozies along. He was mildly amused and responded with links of his own. Not to be outdone, I quickly spiraled into searching terms like "awful Guys and Dolls" and "Guys and Dolls accident" in hopes of finding a complete catastrophe. No such luck. In the meantime, Erik sent the following email:

"Sky Masterson as played by 1963 Ralph Rydholm?"

I got through a total of five seconds before throwing my headphones down and running away from my desk choking. The resemblance is truly uncanny. I attached the only vintage Ralph photo I have scanned at the moment (as seen with my mom c.1976), but trust us on this one. Erik called because he made himself laugh so hard.

Today I struggled to unearth the most random, possibly youtube-able, shared childhood memory I could muster and the restaurant Al Johnsons came to mind. Growing up, our family occasionally drove up to Door County, Wisconsin during summer vacation. As a special treat we would have pancakes at Al Johnsons Swedish Restaurant. For a kid, this place is a veritable shangri-la both because nearly every dish is festooned with a Christmas tree of canned whipped cream AND because the restaurant boasts a grass roof with live GOATS grazing around on it like it's an actual, normal pasture.

And thus, this morning, completely without preamble, I sent Erik the following footage:

I'm not sure he even laughed. He wrote back an unadorned one-liner to the tune of: "Your memory is frightening."

I, however, ended up getting caught up in all kinds of random goat video and photography for the duration of the day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Weekend Roundup

No dice for Ralph Rydholm's Chicago Cubs. We talked today and he was down, but not out...because the Bears were lookin' good! Also looking good, according to my dad AND mom? The Killers on last night's Saturday Night Live. Both of them in their individual phone times mentioned how much they enjoyed The Killer's performance, and proceeded to discuss their "stage energy" and "fun lyrics."

I am nervous to see what the lyrics actually say.

Particularly as: Years ago my mom called me to tell me how much she enjoyed Shaggy's performance of "It Wasn't Me" on Saturday Night Live. Slightly panicked and more than amused, I said, "Mom, do you know what that song is about?!" And proceeded to recite the verse about the bathroom floor. She replied, "Oh, well, I didn't know about that, but I really liked his energy. And the beats."

My mom finished her review of The Killers saying she was confused about the lead singer's feathers. I have no idea what that means. But apparently, "He didn't really need them."

Today my friend Justine told me the following At the Movies vignette: On Friday, she and my friend Karen went to see an early show at the Union Square Theater. Upon arrival, she headed off to find the bathroom. Across from the concessions stand she spotted an LED display reading "WOMEN". She aimed straight for the door and nearly blasted through like the Kool Aid Man...until she realized it was actually the theater showing THE WOMEN starring Meg Ryan, Bette Midler, and Annette Benning.

Later, she and Karen watched several other people make the self-same mistake.

On the topic of gaffes: This evening I went to buy a slice of pizza on the way home from the park. Counter Man wrapped up the slice, looked directly at me and said,"$14, please." At first I thought he was trying to be funny, but suddenly it was clear he was actually just very distracted. I looked at him. He looked back, not flinching. Then quickly came-to, shook his head and said, "Oh man. Ha. Phew. What am I saying? $2.50, please." The entire staff was literally doubled over in hysterics.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

bad news cubs

So usually I just pester a friend with my quotidian "know what just happened?" moments, but tonight I decided to spare my undoubtedly weary audience and put my blog to better use. (Er, any use. I think I've signed in to this thing three times. And in order to actually log in I had to find an email Gary sent me a year and a half ago detailing my user id and password information.)

At any rate...

This evening, while I was glasses-on-sitting-up-straight glued to the VP debate, my dad sent me a text message. You must understand, my dad only ever texts me when we are on tour overseas with the primary purpose of confirming our arrival at every scheduled destination. And, let's face it, most likely at my mother's urging.

In person and with an audience, however, my dad is rarely at a loss for words. He was a creative director in advertising for 30 + years. He's whip smart, has nearly total recall, quick with a pun and long with lore about most any given subject. I'm convinced he secretly wanted to be in pictures. When he is quiet, his brow furrows, his eyes search the middle distance. He walks around like a detective struggling to put the pieces together.

To the average bystander, the contrast can be mysterious. During one such moment recently Kyle asked, "What do you think your dad thinks about all day?"

To the family, it is no riddle. "The Cubs, the Bears, Must See TV, reading the paper, Gino's Pizza, Pixar films. I bet if you ask him right now, he'll say he is wondering where Wall-E is playing."

"Huh. Really?"

To this point, tonight, as I stared intently at Must See VP, brow furrowed, eyes fixed on the middle distance, trying to put the pieces together, out of nowhere, my phone chimed, announcing the following missive:

DAD: "I don't know if you're watching but I've been at Wrigley [Field] for two nights now and it's like watching reruns...for over 60 years."

I can't stop laughing. It sort of felt like someone suddenly talking out loud and loudly in the middle of a movie. Like maybe in the middle of the first 40 wordless minutes of Wall-E.