Monday, April 28, 2008

Madonna - Hard Candy...

Do ya’ll know what tomorrow is?

It’s the release of Madonna’s 11th (count ‘em… ELEVENTH) studio album, Hard Candy. In my world, any new Madonna album is cause for a National Celebration… and trust me, I’m really needing a celebration right now. It’s like she’s my frikkin’ patron saint. Saint Madge… it has a nice ring. She’s always there when I need her.

All that said, the weeks leading up to tomorrow have been torture. Madonna’s promotional team is like a machine. The reviews have been pouring out for many, many days (it seems like months), and I have literally been counting down the days. Surprisingly, the reviews, in large part, have been glowing, and for once I find myself smiling instead of fuming after reading them. Honestly, the mean-spirited, hateful, uninformed reviews that came out before and during the heyday of Confessions on a Dancefloor really pissed me off. So much so, in fact, that I had many dear friends worried that I was taking all of it waaaay too seriously. So it was good news for my general mood and temper, not to mention my heart condition, when I read that not only was Hard Candy well received, but even recommended by the most jaded and bitter reviewers in the music industry.

I don’t want to get too deep with all of this, but there was a time when people, including myself, expressed doubt concerning Madonna’s new musical direction. When I heard she was collaborating with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake (that’s a lot of Timber, right there), I wasn’t so much worried… I was TERRIFIED! Compromise is not in Madonna’s gestalt, dammit, and I was chewing my nails off their nailbeds thinking she might be teetering on the edge of selling out.

A few days ago, Madonna released the entire album on her Myspace page… a risky thing to do as far as record sales are concerned, but I enjoy seeing her so confident in her work. I listened. I listened again.

Let me tell you something. I worried for nothing. This album is utterly amazing, and I feel like I should probably do some sort of self-mortification for doubting her. Has anyone seen my bull-whip? The one with the spikes on it?

If you’re interested, here are some major reviews for the album. Of course, the ratings/grades/scores aren’t indicative of the prose, but these reviewers really don’t enjoy giving Madonna any kind of credit. 4 stars from the Rolling Stone is like… earth shattering, apparently.

The Rolling Stone (4/5 stars)
Entertainment Weekly (B+)
The New York Times (+)
The Times (3/5)

And a track by track analysis from Matthew at Boy Culture
And no, I don't actually have a heart condition.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Meme Time:

courtesy Erin

Four Jobs I’ve had:
Heavy lifter of crafty things @ Michael’s Crafts
Food Slinger and Beverage Refiller @ various Restaurant type places
Music Office Minion (with Erin)
Accompanist for various singers, instrumentalists, and bad blind dates

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:
Every single animated Disney movie
Bring It On – yes, 4,000 times sounds accurate
Pretty Woman (it’s totally memorized)
The Wizard of Oz

Four places I’ve lived:
Spartanburg, SC
Greenville, SC
Cincinnati, OH

Four TV shows I watch:
American Idol

Four places I’ve been:
New York, NY
Orlando, FL
All over NC
Chicago, IL

Four places I would like to visit:
London, England (this fall!!)
San Francisco, CA

Four people who email me regularly:
Roommate (that’s you, George)
Li’l Sis
Myself (ok, honestly, I don’t get a whole lot of emails)

Four of my favorite foods:
Mac and Cheese
Cake (except carrot cake, ewww)
Cookout Food

Four things I’m looking forward to this year:
Finally getting my job situation figured out
Going to London to visit Li’l Sis
Roommate’s birthday bash in Beaufort (always an annual highlight)
The arrival of my niece/nephew in August/September
And one more: maybe possibly getting a puppy

Four people I am tagging to make their own lists:

If they don’t have their own blog, they can complete the meme in the comments.

Friday, April 25, 2008

An Open Letter to the Maintenance Staff of my Apartment Complex…

CC: Apartment Complex Management

To whom it may concern (That’s you… Yeah, you, the one with the plumber butt:

Remember when I came into the office to report that the ceiling in my bathroom was leaking, like Wednesday of last week? Don’t look around like you don’t know what I’m talking about. It was only a week and a half ago. Actually, it was exactly a week and a half ago. An entire week and A HALF.

Remember when you said you would check it out immediately? Well, I’m pretty sure you didn’t get around to it until Monday of this week, because that’s when I noticed someone had been in my apartment and totally used my toilet. So you were late AND gross. And seriously, the least you could do is not leave the evidence. Also left behind was a note, the gist of which reads: “Yes, there is a leak. I see it. It is definitely leaking. Please let me know when it leaks again.”

Now, I don’t have a PhD of Advanced Fixing Stuff like you do, so God knows how it happened, but somehow we both came to the same conclusion. Indeed, the ceiling is leaking. This might come as a shock, but I didn’t report the problem just so someone could come over and agree with me. That’s what my friends are for. No, I was really hoping someone would come and FIX IT.

So when I got home from work on Tuesday and found fresh leakage all over my new bathroom rug, because you so generously removed the little container I had placed underneath the leak, I was understandably put out. Thank God I put the container back, because it leaked again later that night, and this time, not only did it leak about 1.5 cups, but also the water was brackish and dirty looking. I almost vomited.

So when I called yesterday and told someone at some desk somewhere that it had leaked again and I wasn’t playing around anymore and I wanted it fixed, I kind of hoped that would light a fire under your ass, but clearly, your ass is made of asbestos. Well, I don’t know what my ass is made of, but I’m sure you’ll be able to tell me because I’m about to show it to you!

With love,

Reeva Dubois

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mama's Famous Banana Cake

Ya’ll, I’m serious about this domestic stuff.

For the first time ever on this blog… a recipe…

And it’s Rachel Ray approved.

Actually, I don’t know if Rachel would approve, but I’ve had that picture forever, and I’ve been DYING to use it. She’s so crazy. I love her.

Mama’s Famous Banana Cake

First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease up your favorite large cake pan – we used a 12x8.

Grab a bowl… any old bowl will do. Combine:
2 cups of flour
1 tsp (pronounced ‘tisp’) baking powder
1 tisp baking soda
¼ tisp of salt, which is the same thing as saying a dash of salt, but seeing words like dash and pinch in a recipe INFURIATES me so I won’t do that to you…
1 and ½ cups of sugar
½ cup of veggie shortening

Grab a measuring cup… any old measuring cup will do. Combine:
½ cup of milk and 1 tisp of white vinegar. We’re making sour milk, which is kind of gross, but it makes it taste nice, so just go with it. You’re going to let that concoction sit for about 2 minutes so it can ferment and curdle and what not… and then add 1 tisp of vanilla extract. Pour it on top of all that other junk in the bowl.

Now the fun part. Take 3 over ripe bananas. Overripe means black… like seriously almost rotten. My mom swears it doesn’t work if the bananas are the least bit fresh. She likes to use bananas that are about one day shy of going in the trash. Anyway, peel the bananas, mash them up in your fingers and add it to the junk in the bowl.

Finish it up with 2 eggs

Mix well with a mixer until it’s a nice, smooth, creamy batter. It’s OK if there are some bits of banana, but nothing too big. Pour the banana-ey goodness into the cake pan and bake for 25 minutes. At the 20 minute mark, depending on your oven, you may need to do the old broom/toothpick test. It should rise in the middle and pull away from the sides.

Let it cool, ya’ll.

YAY FROSTING! Grab a bowl, and throw in about a tbsp (pronounced ‘tablespoon’) of softened butter. Then add a nice handful of powdered sugar. Pour in a little bit of milk and start stirring. The gist here, and I have to explain it because it isn’t an exact science, apparently, is you want to slowly add milk to the powdered sugar until the frosting is the consistency you want. I like it pretty thick and gooey, but you could also go with something closer to a glaze… it’s kind of your business. Once you get the consistency you want, add a drop (I know… let’s say ¼ of a tisp again) of vanilla extract, and you’re done. After all that, if you need more frosting, just add more powdered sugar and more milk and more vanilla until you have enough.

Glop it onto your cake and ENJOY!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

MVD 4-23-08

First of all: SPIRIT FINGERS!!!

I can’t stop watching this frikkin’ video. I especially like the break-it-down section in the middle.

A part of the enjoyment for me is the music. I would totally buy that CD.

I think Laddy Bunny (Link NSFW) sums it up perfectly, though. She called it Japanese Formation Vogueing, which is really funny, but I wish I knew more about it. Most of the text on the YouTube page is in Japanese, so I can’t get any background. Anyone got some knowledge to share?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MVD 4-22-08 "No Ayuh"

I really am a pushover.

I told myself I wouldn’t buy Jordin Sparks’s new album. I’m not sure why I felt so strongly about it – maybe because I felt screwed over by the last few American Idol Alum albums I’d purchased (ahem… Katherine McPhee…) (oh, and Blake Lewis). I haven’t been completely satisfied with an American Idol since Kelly Clarkson, and I’m thinking it’s going to stay that way. (And for the record, Carrie Underwood is great, but her music isn’t really my thing. I appreciate her, but I don’t love her. Does that make sense?)

The first single off Jordin’s album, Tattoo, is not at all bad, really. It wasn’t my favorite, but it grew on me. And then, I heard No Air, which, against all of my better judgment, became an obsession. Finally, I found out Li’l Sis also loved it, which was all the enabling I needed to head to the nearest record store and purchazzie. Crazily enough, the whole album is actually very good… I was pleasantly surprised. Snaps to Jordan for not making a crappy debut album like so many Idols before her.

And now: a lesson is phonics:

I particularly love how the word air has become: ayuh. So, for future reference, this song will be called No Ayuh.

And the word supposed, which is sort of complicated to say if you think about it, what with all the hard consonants – it’s one of those words that is technically two syllables, but sounds like more – has been changed to spost for the purposes of this song. As in, “Tell me how’m I spost to breathe with no Ayuh.”

And finally, the word me, a simple, humble pronoun, will be pronounced meh… or, if the note must be sustained for a long period of time, meyuh. As in, “How you gonna breathe without meyuh.”

And now: news:

Jordin Sparks has pulled out of several upcoming gigs, citing an ‘acute vocal hemorrhage.’ According to the websites I’ve read, that is a tearing in the lining of the vocal cords, which just sounds painful. Yesterday, some of the news outlets were calling her vocal injury a potentially career-ending problem, but today, things have calmed down, and it looks like she’ll just miss a few performances and be on vocal rest for a week or so. I’ve spent my fair share of time around singers, and let me tell you… Vocal Rest is serious business. Jordin will be communicating with awkward hand gestures and legal tablets for the next few days, and I feel for her. Get well soon, girl.

Best. Article. Ever

Do you have a minute? Good…

I meant to post this article a while ago. In fact, the article in question is from last year. It has recently made it back into circulation because it won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Chances are, you’ve seen it, but I just wanted to capture it here on the blog for my own sake… I want to have the link on hand whenever I want it.

It’s called Pearls for Breakfast, by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post. Don’t click the link unless you’ve got some time, though. It’s the kind of thing you will want to read slowly. And relish.

The Article is Here

I’ve put together some commentary after the jump.

Wasn’t that fabulous?

I am the proud owner of the soundtrack to the Red Violin, and indeed, Joshua Bell’s playing is sublime. He’s a household name among classical music enthusiasts, and he’s really good looking, which raises his stock significantly in my shallow opinion.

Even though it seems atrocious of me to add to a Pulitzer Prize winning article, I do have a comment.

When I worked in the Box Office at the Brevard Music Center one long, horrible summer a few years back, I learned more than I cared to about the state of the classical music industry today. First of all, the only people consistently patronizing music nowadays, at least in Brevard, are senior citizens. We called them the White Haired Malice. Here’s a bunch of old people who can barely hear shilling out a fairly exorbitant wad of cash to sit through a concert. It always amused me to hear them discussing the concert afterwards – to no one in particular usually – when it was clear that they hadn’t heard a single note. I suppose part of the fun for them is watching.

Anyway, occasionally, some people who still had their hair and their hearing would show up to take in a concert, and most of the time they were only there because they were attracted by one of the big names that the Festival brought in every year. Brevard could count on having at least three very big names in Classical Music performing during any given summer, and that’s when we would see the most diverse crowds. One concert in particular, featuring an extremely famous concert pianist (and I won’t name names because this isn’t that type of blog), sticks in my memory.

The concert sold out as expected, and for once, young people seemed to outnumber the old. Since I and all my colleagues in the Box Office were all piano performance majors, we were given special permission to close the Box Office early so we could sit in on the concert. I was especially excited because the special guest was to perform the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in B-flat minor, which I was seriously considering picking up myself. Halfway through the concert, it was time for the Concerto, and I could barely contain myself, because hearing a world-famous, award-winning virtuoso perform one of your favorite pieces LIVE is a big deal, especially when you live down here in the South. So he played. And it was awful.

I mean… Awful.

I knew it. My piano playing peers knew it. Anyone with any classical training knew it. Granted, he didn’t suck, really, but for him it wasn’t very good at all. We didn’t talk about it, because who are we to criticize a virtuoso who is allowed to have a bad day just like everyone else, but none of us could hide our disappointment.

Well, we were the only ones who didn’t like it, apparently. The applause was thunderous when the piece ended, the adoration flowed like champagne. People in the audience, young and old alike, were swooning with ecstasy, like they’d just seen God. Of course, I didn’t expect anyone to BOO or anything, that would be rude, but I was surprised that the reception was as raucous as it turned out to be. When the concert ended, the people could barely shut up about the amazing playing of So-and-so, and we were forced to smile and nod through countless exclamations and exaltations. After an hour or so of this, we started to wonder if we’d just imagined the heinous performance, and the crowds of admirers were the ones who really got it.

Later on, we felt kind of bad. After all, it was obvious that many people left that concert inspired and moved… and even enthusiastic about classical music. And that’s never a bad thing. But the question still lingered… did So-and-So world famous award winning virtuoso deserve all the praise?

The only conclusion we could come up with is that classical music, just like everything else today, is governed by cults of personality. Since So-and-so was famous, and his name was widely known, the people in the audience were willing to assume that everything he did was genius. Basically, if one has been around long enough and been given more positive reviews than negative, one can show up to a sold out concert, figuratively vomit all over the keyboard, collect your money and go. No muss no fuss. It’s kind of a scam, if you think about it.

Who’s to blame? The musicians? The audiences? Does anyone even care?

Basically, the classical music world, at least the one outside of New York, is a black hole. The typical audience is non-discriminating, completely satisfied to take what they get. In my experience, the vast majority of ticket buyers are wealthy, white folks who attend concerts because that’s what they’re supposed to do as wealthy, white folks, when they’d probably rather be golfing or playing canasta. But at least they ARE coming to concerts. The general public has been lost for quite some time.

I wonder if that explains what happened to Joshua Bell on the subway. Was it really that people were just in too much of a hurry? Was it really that they couldn’t be bothered with an annoying street musician making a racket? No, I think we’re dealing with ignorance. The writer seems to conclude that the real issue is apathy… we live in a world in which everyone is too busy and self-involved to stop and listen to fine music. But could the reality be that few people even know what fine music is?

It’s well and good to get all sad about how our culture doesn’t stop and smell the roses. But what if our culture has forgotten what a rose is?

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Latin Week that Wasn't...

Last week’s Dancing with the Stars had to be the dullest Latin Episode in recent memory. Once again, I’m going to have to chalk the boredom up to a certain lack of Maxsim’s sexy. This show just isn’t the same.

So, rather than recap, I’ll just share a few pointless observations.

First, I think someone has spiked the punch over in the costume department. I mean, I know the aesthetic for ballroom dancing costumes lies somewhere between the Icecapades and your neighborhood Circus Sideshow, but this is getting ridiculous. One can only conclude that after six seasons of inhaling toxic sequins and wallowing in cheap faux fur, this team of supposedly talented and inspired costume designers has resorted to playing riotous games of sartorial Mad-Libs, resulting in strange, mutant costumes from the Planet Fug.

Karina’s look here is obviously Princess Leia goes to Sesame Street. She looks like she just had a vicious throw-down with Big Bird and lived to tell the tale, so at least the force is with her.

Shannon Elizabeth’s look is Malibu Barbie meets Minute Maid Orange Juice… or Cheetos… or anything else orange and unappetizing.

Priscilla got stuck with an oversized mesh shirt. It’s very Flashdance meets Medieval Times. Apparently, she’s a maniac… maniac on the jousting pitch.

Not even Team Yamaguchi was spared from the costume department’s mischief.

Kristy looks fine, if not a little sherberty… but Mark Ballas. Poor guy. I imagine life is tough for the likes of him, and all the other male figure skaters, male cheerleaders, male synchronized swimmers, male ballet dancers, and male flag twirlers of the world. I mean, I know, and you know, that just because a guy is a ballroom dancer doesn’t mean he is a big Mo, but still… I imagine red-blooded heterosexual ball room dancers like Mark Ballas get a lot of crap from narrow-minded people. Do you remember last season, when Mark and Sabrina were partners, and they basically did everything but have intercourse on live T.V., and everyone was so shocked when she got eliminated, but I wasn’t surprised at all, because I understand that there’s nothing the straight-female-of-a-certain-age voting base dislikes more than a fresh, young upstart like Sabrina totally landing one of the hottest guys in the competition and then making out with him in front of everyone, and it probably didn’t help that Mark Ballas lost whatever gay voters he had when he continuously groped and fondled his partner, not only during sexy Latin dances, but all the other times in between (and I’m not saying he was wrong for acting gross with Sabrina, I’m just saying that heterosexual PDA really doesn’t do anything for me)… so what I’m saying is… I know Mark Ballas isn’t gay, and he doesn’t need to do anything to prove it to me, which is what I thought he was doing all last season, namely PROVING it and trying to PROVE it all the damn time. It’s called overcompensation.

So Mark Ballas is straight, and he probably doesn’t appreciate it when people call him gay just because he’s a ballroom dancer, and I am totally sympathetic about stuff like that because, well… it IS unfair just to assume that just because he likes to twirl and flounce and wear sparkly clothes that he’s gay. So, Mark Ballas is decidedly not gay, and he will continue to make sure everyone knows it. This outfit, however… isn’t helping at all.

Is there anything gayer than a lavender leisure suit? I didn’t think so. And in a most unfortunate flashing of the camera… this…

He’s SQUEEEEING. Now I am personally acquainted with many a gay man who SQUEEEES. Hell, I’ve been known to SQUEEEE myself if the situation calls for it. But I don’t know any straight men who SQUEEES. That is, unless they’re making fun of me, in which case… they just SQUEEE’D their last SQUEEEE… And the fact that he got caught SQUEEEEING in lavender, the gayest of hues, is just… well, it’s funny, isn’t it?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I need to get something off my chest...

I still don’t like David Cook. There… I feel better.

The American Idol fandom is all a-buzz about last night’s Mariah Carey episode. Granted, the American Idol fandom is always a-buzz about something, but this time, they might be justified. Last night was pretty intense.

The two female vocal powerhouses (if one can really call them that), Carly and Syesha, both fell kind of flat on a night that should have been in their comfort zone, mostly because neither of them are Mariah Carey; Brooke White had a rough time of trying to sing a very difficult song and play the piano at the same time (sidebar: I always found it hard enough just to play the piano, much less sing at the same time, which is why I have so much respect for Tori Amos, Elton John, and Billy Joel… and not so much for Brooke White… yet); David Archuleta was sincere, and cute, and inspirational, and also boring (although the leather pants were a step in the right direction); Jason Castro was very endearing with Mariah but not all that memorable on stage; Kristy Lee Cook bought herself another week with passable vocals and a beautiful outfit; and David Cook brought the house down with a menacing, creepy, altogether unexpected twist on one of Mariah’s biggest pop hits.

Clearly, the only Idol worth talking about this week is David Cook.

I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t super-impressed by his interpretation of Always Be My Baby. To me, it’s one of those pop songs that is perfectly constructed… like it came out of a factory, boxed up, sealed in plastic, and ready for consumption. Every element of that song has been worked out to every possible end, and I don’t see any reason to fiddle with it. I don’t blame or accuse David Cook of any shenanigans, necessarily - after all, the light-hearted, flirty, bounciness of the original arrangement would not suit him, but I can’t immediately say I’m comfortable with the final product, either. I mean, anyone, and I’m being serious here… anyone can transform a happy song into a sad song. Often, the lyrics take care of themselves… the happy lyrics take on a sense of irony and despair when combined with minor keys and darker orchestrations.

You know how a bratty kid whose way too smart for his/her own good will dismantle a toaster just for the sake of putting it back together again? That’s what this felt like to me. It was David Cook tearing apart a perfectly good song just for the sake of rearranging it into something different. Sometimes, but only sometimes, a truly magical thing can happen when you rearrange a song or piece of music – sometimes you can expose a facet of meaning and shed light on it until it gleams just as strongly as the first impression – but other times, you’ve just rearranged a song and that’s it. There has to be a purpose… a motivation… there has to be an obvious search for new meaning. To me, David Cook’s take on Always Be My Baby wasn’t about finding new meaning in an otherwise simple, sunny pop song, but about putting the song in a box that he felt comfortable in… a spiky-haired, raspy-voiced, alterna-emo box just like the one he lives in everyday. It was all about the song doing favors for him instead of the other way around, which was the way it should have been. What it said to me was, “Hello, my name is David Cook, and I’m too dark and edgy for these silly pop songs, which is the same thing as saying that I think I’m better than these silly pop songs, which means I think I’m better than Mariah Carey.” It’s smug, self-indulgent, and not a little arrogant, if you ask me. I would have been much more impressed if David had found a song that he could actually perform without changing the entire mood and tone of it, and still be David. Does such a song exist in the Mariah Carey oeuvre? Hmmmm….

All that said, credit where credit is due, yes? David Cook deserves the paper-plate award for best performance of the night, if only because he was the one contestant out of the whole bunch who took a risk. Just because I don’t think it was particularly successful doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. And I can’t argue with his mastery of Advanced American Idol Strategy and Voter Manipulation. I am, however, reluctant to jump on the crazy train with the words DAVID COOK IS SOME SORT OF GENIUS painted on the side in blood, because it just isn’t that deep and he isn’t all that good, and we must all, as a people, learn to show restraint when it comes to falling over ourselves praising reality T.V. contestants.

And honestly, I still don’t think he’s even all that great a singer. True, this competition has become less about vocals and more about song choice and personality (and that’s fine because that’s the world of music right now), but I can’t even listen to him sing for long periods of times because his voice has weird affectations, like he thinks he’s the guy from Nickelback or Creed or whatever, or he’s literally impersonating the singer from Our Lady Peace, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that kind of singing, other than that I HATE it, but that’s just me.

I think I’m just bitter because I’m not feeling either of the front-runners this season, which is making the show a lot less fun to watch, thus hurting my feelings.


The asterix party above is supposed to indicate a significant passage of time since I wrote the first part.

I’ve listened to Always Be My Baby as interpreted by David Cook a few more times today, and I suppose I don’t hate it anymore. Actually, I never hated it, I just didn’t like it as much as everyone else. I still think David is over-rated… to the point of Shame-On-You-Simon-Cowell… but at least I’m over my initial anger. I’m now in a place where I can admit, albeit reluctantly, that the new arrangement is more than just a self-congratulatory hug from David Cook to himself. It’s actually pretty clever. I still say all the credit goes to the song-writer, but you know… whatever.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Movin' on up...

This is my new doormat. You like? I'm kidding, that's not my new doormat.

It’s my first weekend in the new apartment – I’ve been here a week and I’m doing just fine. I’ll admit that the first few nights were a little weird. It’s amazing how quiet things are when you live alone. It isn’t like my parent’s house was noisy, but when other people are in the same space, there’s a certain white noise. It might even just be the sense of other people around that makes it seem noisier. Anyway, on the first night, it took what felt like an interminable time to fall asleep. Every little noise made my eyes snap open, and I was thinking I would NEVER fall asleep. But I did. Finally.

You see, I was a little punchy that first night, which might explain my unease. I decided to take a shower before heading to bed, because I was all stank from moving furniture and things, so I did and let me say… the water pressure here is fabulous. I was very pleased. Anyway, I got out of the shower and went into the bedroom to put on my pajamas, and then the freakin’ smoke alarm went off – except I didn’t know it was the smoke alarm at first. I might have had a small coronary episode. My first thought was, OMG I’m naked! So I tore on some clothes and then ran around like a cartoon character trying to figure out what to do. I ran outside because that’s what you’re supposed to do (at least, that’s what they taught me in kindergarten), but no one was around. When the door shut behind me, I quickly realized that the noise was coming from my apartment only, so I ran back inside. I don’t know how loud your smoke detectors are, but mine is two decibels down from an air-raid siren and I wish I was kidding about that. I got a chair from my dining room and stood on it to try and turn the smoke alarm off, because I thought I remembered that you could do that. I tore it from the ceiling, literally, but couldn’t find any batteries or any switches, and the alarm was still screaming at me! And then I thought OMG what if the fire department shows up? I’m going to look so stupid. What if this stupid alarm just keeps going? My neighbors are going to hate me and it’s just the first night! Just as I was getting ready to call the emergency number for the complex, it turned off. The silence was glorious and I finally started to breathe again. The shaking continued for awhile, though.

Of course, the alarm went off because of the steam from the shower. Whose brilliant idea was it to put the smoke alarm right outside the bathroom door? And why doesn’t this smoke alarm know the difference between smoke and steam? Clearly, I’m not dealing with geniuses here.

But… lesson learned. The bathroom door must be closed at all times. Got it. The only thing is, when I keep the door closed, the steam doesn’t have anywhere to go and the fan can only do so much. So, when I get home in the evenings and go into the bathroom, which has been in lockdown all day, I find a nice pool of water on the floor where all the steam has condensed. This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I mean, do I really have to buy a dehumidifier for my bathroom? I mean, Geez…

Other than that – I’m loving my new digs. I’m still lacking in the furniture department, and I have cable cords running every which way because I haven’t had the time or money to get a wireless router, and I can’t figure out how to hook my DVD player into my TV, and I still don’t have any pots and pans to cook with, and my couch is still the ugliest couch ever made… but I’m starting to like this whole apartment idea, and thank God for that… I was getting tired of being grumpy.

Oh, update on the car accident. The insurance companies saw reason and totaled the car, so my parents will get a brand new one, probably as soon as next week, so everything worked out. I don’t know if it’s a symptom of getting older and more experienced or what, but it’s like this wreck never happened. My first accident (senior year of high school) haunted me for weeks. I had nightmares and suffered small anxiety attacks behind the wheel, all of which eventually passed, but I remember feeling quite unhinged. This time, I walked away and barely thought of it at all. Is that weird? Somehow, I don’t think it’s a good thing when a car wreck is no big deal.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

MVD 4-9-08

Word has it Kylie Minogue's new album, X, isn't selling so well here in the States. WHAT IS WITH THIS COUNTRY!?!

So, with today's Music Video of the Day, I thought I would do my part to convince my readers (all three of you ;-) ) to listen and LOVE one of the singles off the album. I'm sorry Americans are slow to come around, Kylie. I'm doing my best!

The song is called "WOW" and I love it!

Earth Shattering News!

Uh-oh. This worries Tim Gunn.

Project Runway has been bought or sold or traded or… something… the point is: Project Runway is moving to Lifetime. Ok, maybe it isn’t so Earth-shattering. But it’s a dark day for Bravo, that’s for sure. In the last few years, Bravo has turned itself into one of the best cable networks, in my opinion, thanks to a great bunch of well-produced, well-crafted, and well-received Reality Competitions like Project Runway. While some of them have been more misses than hits (Top Design, anyone? Or how about Shear Genius? To be fair, I watched those shows and liked them just fine, but even I know they weren’t going to win any Emmys), Bravo’s line-up of shows is very impressive. I love Top Chef (who doesn’t), and Make Me a Supermodel was actually pretty awesome at the beginning, until that mob of male models took over everything and made the show reek of male insecurity, shame, and I can only assume Axe Body Spray (and by the way, Go HOLLY!), and Step It Up and Dance is promising to be a campier, gayer, sluttier version of So You Think You Can Dance, and… I just can’t think of anything wrong with that. It is fair to say that the success of the network for the past few years is thanks in large part to Project Runway, and I can’t even imagine what will happen to the network without their masthead. My guess, though, is it won’t be pretty.

Here’s the thing, if you really want to get to the nitty-gritty: Lifetime is Television For Women. No seriously, that’s their slogan. Bravo is Television For Gays (And Some Women), and seriously, that might as well be their slogan. If the powers that be feel the need to alter the format or tone of Project Runway in order to fit it into the Lifetime sensibility, it will FAIL! If they leave everything as it is, everything will be fine and Lifetime will get a huge ratings boost and we’ll all live happily ever after. There’s probably a lot of people out there who think Project Runway is ready for a makeover of sorts anyway (last season was rather stale, at least in the beginning), so maybe this will work out for the best. Personally, I don’t care. I just need my weekly dose of Tim Gunn. So Lifetime, if I may directly address you and channel The Gunn at the same time… “Make It Work!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

2008 Summer Olympic Games...

This is the time of year when I start to get really excited about the Olympics. If you’ve followed this blog through the years, you know how obsessed I get during the Games. It’s the only time I am EVER interested in sports, and the Summer Games bring out an extraordinary butchness in me. I watch soccer and tennis and basketball and marathons and totally love it, too. I also watch diving and swimming and gymnastics and wrestling, but for the obvious reasons (like this one, or this one). For about a month, I turn into the typical sweat-stained, wife-beater wearing, beer swilling, bad facial hair growing, straight male couch potato. I’ll sit in front of the T.V. and yell and scream and curse at bad refs and judges, and I’ll jump up and down until the plaster drops from the ceiling when I get excited. The Olympics actually make me emotional… I mean, I feel things. So I’m glad it only happens every two years.

But the fates have conspired to make the 2008 Summer Games less than magical…

This whole Tibet crisis is making me nervous. The recent protesting in Paris, in which the runners carrying the torch were mobbed during their relay, is just another link in a chain of events that foreshadows all sorts of trouble for the impending Games, and it breaks my heart. Some of that is guilt, though. I think the situation in Tibet is terrible, and I’m all for calling China out for her human rights violations, but I really hope the conflict doesn’t screw with the Games. Does that make me a bad person? Oh well, if the Games face a massive boycott or worse, it would totally serve China right, in my opinion, even if my Olympic experience is blown.

I’m not up to speed on the history of the Tibet/China conflict, but I do know the conflict is very old and very deep. So it’s completely understandable to me why the Tibetans would be eager to take advantage of the international attention that comes with the Olympics to increase awareness of their situation. But that’s my American sensibilities talking… you know, freedom of speech and assembly and all that jazz. It isn’t really like that in China. China is such a fascinating place. While it DOES have an abysmal record when it comes to human rights and basic freedoms, it’s still a powerful nation, capable of influencing the world in direct ways. The news today was from San Francisco, where both parties in the argument faced off – Tibetan sympathizers vs. Chinese Americans. It’s a shame that the moving tradition of the torch relay had to be reorganized and redirected on the fly because of relatively peaceful yet undeniably intense protests – many people who came out to witness the once in a lifetime moment left disappointed – but this is par for the course for Olympic host cities, I think. The double-edged sword of hosting a major international festival like the Olympics has cut many cities before. While China hoped that hosting the Olympics would highlight their progress and power, the media spotlight has also exposed their faults… their proverbial skeletons in the closet. Of course, they saw this coming, which is why they’ve spent the years leading up to the event meticulously and systemically rounding up and silencing their critics. In a way, they’ve created the monster themselves.

I very selfishly hope everything works out in a peaceful way so the Games can go on without too much drama, but I very much doubt such a thing is possible. I’m sure the Games will happen, but marred by protests, confrontations, scandals, and boycotts, all of which is in direct opposition to the spirit of the Games. I very unselfishly hope that the Games can be an impetus for change in China, because that would be good news.

Eye Candy: Anderson Cooper

I just adore Anderson Cooper. Yeah, me and almost everyone else, right? I mean, how could anyone NOT be completely enamored with him? The shocking white hair, the sharp, blue eyes… the MUSCLES… MARRY ME, ANDERSON!!! Ahem… sorry about that. It’s hard to stay in control. Anyway, lately, I’ve been catching more and more of Anderson outside of his news studio. Don’t get me wrong… he’s perfectly sexy reading from teleprompters, but he’s even hotter when he’s bantering with a co-host like Kathy Griffin or Kelly Ripa. It shows that he’s witty and charming and self-deprecating, as well as foxy. Basically, if he gets any sexier, he’ll have to be studied. And I’ll have to be medicated. I’m willing to concede that part of his charm (for me, anyway) might be the mystery surrounding his sexuality. We gays love to speculate, and many a male celebrity has ridden the waves of gossip and intrigue to a profitable career. I worry that if Anderson did, like, come out or something, that mystery would disappear and I wouldn’t find him so unbelievably attractive. I guess what I’m saying is I hope he just keeps doing what he’s doing, which is simply being funny and cute and informative on my T.V.

This video of Anderson and Kelly Ripa has been circulating throughout the week and I think it encapsulates everything I’m talking about.

You know he secretly wants to do the lasso. He’s just barely containing himself. And you know if he did, he’d be really good at it. Because he just did the exact same move last night at the club. But he’s a news anchor and has to watch out for his cred. By the way, I think I love Kelly Ripa. She’s borderline annoying, true, but so am I, so we’re kindred spirits.

More Anderson after the jump...

News: Recently, he confirmed he has skin cancer. He had a mole from his face removed a few weeks ago.

Also, did you hear about the stalker?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A few quick notes on last night’s Dancing with the Stars:

I’m on the fence when it comes to matador costumes. The authentic trappings of a real matador are gorgeously made and decorated, not to mention very tight and flattering on the right kind of man. So, I have no complaints about the actual matador look. I get nervous, however, when a costume designer attempts to reinvent the matador for reasons other than bullfighting. I think these matador costumes can turn out really cheesy and corny if the designer isn’t careful. But other times… FRIKKIN’ YUM! Take Senor Mark Ballas – que sexy… que quapo. I wish I knew how to type upside down exclamation points because I would totally overuse them right now.

Meanwhile, The Yamaguchi’s leg is moving so fast in this picture that it has completely disappeared. Ok, maybe it’s tucked into the dress somewhere, but still… girlfriend can move. Team Yamaguchi performed a terrific Paso Doble last night, which scored an impressive 29/30. If I remember correctly, which I probably don’t, Len was the one who couldn’t be moved to give out a 10, but the judges were all a little off last night across the board. Anyway, the Paso is probably my favorite dance – there is something soooo sexy about bullfighting… except for that whole bull murdering thing – that’s just sad… but the pageantry and the masculinity and the colors and the life-and-death of it all; a good Paso really does capture all of that. I can’t say Team Yamaguchi’s Paso was as good as those performed previously by El Rey Del Paso Doble, Maxsim Chmerokovsky (did I spell that right?), but it came close.

More reactions after the jump.

Also performing well last night, at least when it comes to scores, Jason and Edyta. Their Viennese Waltz was nice, and I must give Jason credit for his excellent lines and extension (especially for a guy so big); but mostly, I was bored. And they tripped and stumbled a few times. The question of the day has to be: how did they manage to tie Team Yamaguchi? The answer is: None of the judges can keep it in their pants long enough to give any of the hot guys an accurate score. They’ve done this since the beginning, ya’ll. Remember Emmett? Or what about Helio? Those guys weren’t nearly as good as they thought they were – they were just on the receiving end of some major league pimping from Len, Carrie Ann, and Bruno. I’m not saying they didn’t deserve to win in the end, but the judges were more than complimentary throughout the season. Basically, what we can look forward to is about 8 more weeks of Jason getting really high scores whether he performs fantastically or just O.K. Wait! I really like Jason. Don’t listen to me when I go off on judge corruption. Did he deserve the same score as Team Yamaguchi? No. But he’s still way better than everyone else.

Marlee made Carrie Ann cry last night. Len and Bruno praised her for her musicality and showmanship. Len made a few soft criticisms about her posture and carriage. And then they all gave 8’s. Huh? I really thought she would do better than that.

Mario underwhelmed me again. I was really excited about him when the show started, but he has yet to truly impress me. Maybe his intense promotional schedule is taking a toll. The judges didn’t stone him or anything, but he didn’t score very well, either.

Christian was really freaking me out with the vocalizations! I had to mute it. Seriously. I know Cheryl is all about the intensity, but the pleather and the screaming and the crazy eyes… it was all too much. No me gusta. Since I had to leave the room during the performance I have no idea how he did.

I might completely surprise myself and start pulling for Shannon Elizabeth. I’ve been really impressed with her lately, and I’ve even caught myself feeling excited when she’s about to perform. All of her dances have been really fun, and I suppose she has Derek to thank for that, at least in part. I’ve always said he’s one of the better choreographers on the show. I was also intrigued to see Len give her a 10. Len rarely awards higher points than Carrie Ann or Bruno. If I recall, Jennie Garth received some inflated scores from him last season. It bodes well for Shannon.

Adam Corolla brought out the unicycle, which was cute… but also desperate. He was also dressed as Zorro, complete with mustache. My eyes are dizzy from all the rolling. I imagine that little display will save him for this week, at least, but I really wish he hadn’t taken it there, mostly because I don’t think he needs it. Truth be told, he’s been dancing quite well (his scores are low, yes, but on par with the group) and he has a fan base, AND his partner has a following that borders on cult-like. Sooo, why the schtick?

Priscilla took a dive this week, a victim of Carrie Ann’s inconsistent and entirely pointless fixation with illegal lifts. I know I’ve seen Edyta do a few already this season, so stuff it Carrie Ann. Anyway, the dance wasn’t anything to write home about, and there was the alleged lift, so the scores were low compared to what she’s been used to. She’s still ahead of Corolla, though.

Marissa and Tony did a sort of Paso Doble on the Rhine and again… I got uncomfortable. I had to leave the room. Ya’ll have to tell me how they did. Meanwhile, I shall continue to look disparagingly upon their bull-fighting lederhosen. I mean, do they even fight bulls in Germany? And since when do matadors hang out with milkmaids? The milkmaids are chilling with the cows… not the bulls. Ok, I’m done.

Monday, April 07, 2008

More news...

There’s an old saying that goes, “When it rains… it pours.” While I agree with that little ditty, my version goes something like this, “When it rains… it slams into you at 60 miles per hour.” That’s right, folks. This past Friday, I was driving to Greenville with a friend on I-85 and got rear-ended but good.

After a brutally stressful week at work, and the continuing frustrations with my apartment, this was ALL I needed.

There is a bright side, I suppose. I wasn’t in my car… rather, I was borrowing my parents’, which is an SUV. I know in my gut that my little Ford Focus wouldn’t have taken the impact as graciously. And since my parents’ car was basically brand new – I think they’ve had it for two weeks – there’s a very good chance the insurance companies will call it totaled and move on. Also, no one was seriously hurt, as far as I know. Oh, trust me, my neck is VERY sore and I have some beautiful, juicy bruises along my front thanks to the seatbelts, but all in all, it was fairly tame for a high-speed collision.

The real silver lining in all of this, though, is I just don’t care anymore. If I can survive the emotional trauma of being screwed around with at work, AND the financial stress of trying to move into a new place with no money, AND the physical trauma of a car wreck… I figure I can pretty much handle anything. I guess what I’m saying is: bring it on. Yes, Fate… or Destiny, or Luck, or Fortune, or whateverthehell you’re calling yourself these days… I’m talking to you. BRING. IT. ON.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Update of Life...

I try pretty hard to keep this blog light and frivolous, but every now and then, I suppose some angst is in order. And by “angst” I mean completely irrational overreactions to routine life occurrences that will more than likely turn out for the best.

Part the first: The new apartment

While I haven’t completely given up hope that my bachelor pad will be fabulous and worthy of publication in Martha Stewart Living eventually, I must confess that the first few weeks of my habitation there have been… well, they haven’t been. The timing of everything worked out in such a way that by the time I’d paid the deposit and the first month’s rent, turned on the power, and paid my student loan bills, I had just enough money left over to buy… absolutely nothing. Basically, I’ve been renting for more than two weeks and I have yet to actually “live” there. Yes, I feel guilty about that. And yes, I feel incredibly weak and pathetic. But I really couldn’t stomach the idea of sitting alone in an apartment with no cable, no internet, and no food – just so I could say I live on my own… not when my parents’ house, along with the aforementioned cable, internet, and food, is right across the street. So I’ve been moving very slowly and gradually – a few boxes here, a quick run to Target for the basics there, and the apartment is just now beginning to be habitable. This weekend, the cable will be connected (they got the very last few crumbs in my bank account), my bed will be moved over, and the misery that will be the first few months will commence. I guess I’m just really disappointed… in myself, in life in general, in the rising cost of EVERYTHING… because I was truly excited about this move. Actually, I’ve been excited for over two years. It was anti-climactic, rough, and very little fun. And I’ll cry if I want to.

I had a little meltdown in Target earlier in the week. I was there with my mom and Li’l Sis, trying to pick up the things I would need to survive, and I was overcome with failure and disappointment. Here I am, almost 27 years old, and Mom has to help out with basic living items like toilet paper and trash bags. So much for self-sufficiency. I dealt with these feelings the only way I could… by sulking and whining like a five-year-old, losing all enthusiasm, and basically being an ass. That’s just how I roll. If it wasn’t for my sister’s death-stares and admonishments, there’s a good chance I would have stormed out in a huff with nothing, rendering the apartment vacant for another two weeks. Thanks for the tough love, girl.

Meanwhile, my couch is really ugly and I hate it, and don’t give me any crap about how I should just be grateful that I even have a couch, because you would be right, of course, but that’s not the point – the point is it isn’t the couch I wanted and it’s really UGLY and I hate it, but I took it and it’s sitting in my living room making me sad and miserable, emotions which are compounded exponentially by the fact that I can’t even afford a slipcover to hide the UGLY, so in a way that damn ugly couch is sitting in my living room laughing at me. I’m allowed to hate it and I’m tired of people telling me to stop complaining about it. The good news: I’ve come around to sort of liking the dining room furniture and the coffee table. And the bathroom is going to be really cute when I’m done with it. See? I can be positive when I want to.

Part the second: Occupational shenanigans

The new big boss is finally starting to move on his big restructuring plans for the department. Last Thursday, our team had a meeting, and it was announced that I would be leaving my current position and relocating. Beforehand, in a little one-on-one, the new boss assured me that I would like the new position he had in mind for me. He used phrases like, “great opportunity,” and, “more effective use of your skill-set.” Notice he didn’t use the word “promotion.” It’s all very confusing, but the gist of it seemed to be that I would no longer be the administrative assistant to my supervisor, but I would probably be doing the same sorts of things, just in a new office with a new supervisor. Meanwhile, everyone else in the department was either promoted or left the way they were. I have to be honest… it kind of felt like I’d been voted off the island. Everyone was very happy for the people who got promoted (congratulations were thrown around liberally), but I got a lot of concerned looks and the other assistant even gave me a pouty-face, which was unnerving. After the meeting, I couldn’t stand it, so I asked my supervisor if she thought I had received good news or bad news. And she said she thought it was good, but not very convincingly. Yesterday, I had a meeting with the big boss and the lady who will be my new supervisor, and I left it even more confused about what I’d be doing and for whom I’d be working. My emotions are wavering in an alarming way, too. One minute I’m excited, because some of what I’m hearing sounds perfect for me, and even fun. The next minute I’m angry, because there has been no mention of what will happen to my salary, and I feel weird asking about it. The next minute I’m just plain scared, because the transition will probably be very chaotic, and I could totally see myself doing two jobs for the price of one for a few months, which puts me in a really bad mood. But most of the time, I’m just grumpy. I hate not knowing what’s going on, and I’ve been left in the dark. I can tell my big boss thinks he’s doing me all sorts of favors, but I really resent it when authority figures think they know all about you and what you’re good at and what you’ll be happy doing - but don’t take the time to talk to you about things before they pull the rug out from beneath you and set your world spinning out of control.

The big boss says that this new position is being created FOR ME to take advantage of my skills and abilities, so I guess that’s a good thing, but he hasn’t said a word about perhaps giving me a title, or boosting my salary, or anything of that nature, which makes me think I shouldn’t get my hopes up. But let me tell you, if I don’t get some sort of salary inflation after all of this drama, I will be VERY CRANKY, and I might not be able to hide it. I might be cranky enough to start looking elsewhere, which I really don’t want to do, but crankiness is a huge motivation.

So CLEARLY, I haven’t been in the mood to blog about the latest music videos or the latest reality T.V. scandal or whatever because I’m actually sort of preoccupied with life – and all of it just reminds me why I like music videos and reality T.V. in the first place.