Monday, May 29, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: The (Over and Over) List

This one goes out to Crazy MomCat who has no doubt long since forgotten that in my first Media Monday post when I said I wouldn't listen to John Corbett's album over and over, she asked me what albums I do listen to over and over because she hasn't bought new music in ages...

Here, finally, is my over and over list, but I must warn you, MomCat (and anyone else who's interested), not only do I have weird tastes (as mentioned in a previous warning and as is evident from my previous Media Monday reviews), but some of this stuff is not as "new" as others.

P!nk: Especially M!sundaztood and I'm Not Dead. I've never heard her first album (Can't Take Me Home)--it's one of those things I always meant to get around to and the third album, Try This didn't seem to "click" with me the way the other two albums did (though I did like "Trouble" and "God Is A DJ"). I love the girl-power lyrics and her vocal range and I figure anyone who can hold her own with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler ("Misery" from M!s-undaztood) has got something your ordinary "pop princess" lacks.

Train: I got hooked on them with "Drops of Jupiter" from the album of the same name--coming a little late to the party, which sometimes seems to be the story of my life, I didn't hear "Drops of Jupiter" until well after the release of the follow-up album My Private Nation. My Private Nation is my over and over album of theirs. I love every song on it. I like Drops of Jupiter (the album) almost as much, but it's just not the one I reach for time and time again. (I also like "Meet Virginia" which is the only song I've heard from their debut album Train.)

Matchbox 20: Everything of theirs is amazing to me. I know, I know, I'm a geek. And I've read a lot of the mediocre and downright crappy reviews and I understand all about how "watered down" it all is, blah, blah, blah. I don't care. What I know is that when I'm listening to any of their albums--I love each song so much that I'm sad to see it end and I actually think about hitting repeat so I can hear the same song twice in a row but then the next song starts and it's so good and I love it so much that I don't want it to ever end. I love Rob Thomas's voice and I love the lyrics and I love the music. Special favorites: "Damn" from Yourself or Someone Like You (especially the second time he says "damn" in the third verse--turn it up and sit real close...damn.); "Rest Stop," "Black and White People," "If You're Gone," and "Last Beautiful Girl" from Mad Season; "Could I Be You," "All I Need," "Hand Me Down" and "You're So Real" from More Than You Think You Are.

Rob Thomas: It probably comes as no surprise that I pre-ordered Rob's solo album and that the day (April 19, 2005) it came out was an event in my sad little life. Again, I love every track and I think that's just rare and amazing and Rob Thomas is just so...amazing. And isn't it amazing how many times I can squeeze amazing into one post? It's been over a year since this album came out and I still listen to it at least two or three times a week--and perhaps more telling, I listen to it several times in a row each time I listen to it.

Billy Joel: So he isn't aging well and some of the stuff in the news about him in the past few years has been downright distressing and I haven't been able to listen to most of the stuff he's put out since 1986, but...Glass Houses, The Stranger, and Songs in the Attic are still in my over and over pile. (Favorites: "Vienna" from The Stranger, "You're My Home" from Songs in the Attic, and "Sleeping With the Television On" from Glass Houses.)

iTunes: I'd like to say right up front that I don't have an iPod. Can't afford one and even if I could, I'm not sure I'd get one since it's probably way too technologically advanced for me and I find something comforting about CDs you can actually hold in your hands. But the excellent thing about iTunes (and something I'm not sure everyone knows) is that you don't need an iPod to use it and the software is FREE! You can import your CDs you already own, download (for 99 cents!) practically any dang song you can think of, and you can burn your own CDs that are combinations of EXACTLY the songs you want to listen to at that moment. The software is amazing--we haven't had a single problem with it in the three years we've been running it--it's fast and accurate and just cooler than crap.

Anyway--a lot of the "albums" I listen to over and over are self-created. Here's a small sampling of stuff I've purchased from iTunes in the past few months:
Natasha Bedingfield ("Unwritten"), Kelly Clarkson ("Walk Away"), KT Tunstall ("Black Horse & Cherry Tree"), Little Big Town ("Bring It On Home"), Billy Currington ("Must Be Doing Something Right" and "Why, Why, Why"), Sugarland (the whole album Twice The Speed of Life), and on and on and on.

iTunes is the secret--you can see lists of new music, you can preview a song before you buy it, you don't have to buy the whole album (which might suck except for the one song the artist released as a single), you don't have to leave your house, hell, you don't even have to get dressed (but I don't recommend sitting bare-assed on a leather chair--don't ask me how I know). iTunes is why my brother remarked in my dining room on a recent Saturday night, "This is the only place I've ever been where I can hear Tanya Tucker and Eminem* on the same CD."

*Hey, I know Eminmen doesn't have the best reputation among white women in their thirties. He's gotten a real bad rap (rap, ha ha, get it?), some of which he deserves but some of the stuff he's put out in recent years is actually kind of genius in its lyrics and the beat is, well, catchy, as long as you've had a precautionary dose of migraine medication first.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

All Hail...

...the Queen of Crap!!!!

A while* ago, Cranky Boss Lady was cleaning out a closet at the back of the shop and found a bunch of truly hideous dried and artificial, um, stuff--you couldn't call it flowers exactly, they were more like twigs and most of them were spray-painted white or black or hot pink or some other shockingly hideous color. They were jagged, pointed, angular in all sorts of threatening-looking configurations.

I joked that it was the stuff of nightmares--you could easily imagine any of it coming to get you! For my efforts and imagination, Cranky Boss Lady said, "You're full of crap! You've never even seen this stuff before [duh! that's the imagination part!!!!]! You're the Queen of Crap!"

So I did what any superheroine would do in a moment like that--I ran with it. We have rhinestone tiaras tucked away in corners around the shop--for prom or weddings or, say, when CBL calls me the Queen of Crap or the Queen of anything else for that matter. I wore that damned tiara every day for two weeks. I made myself a scepter by attaching a plaid bow to a long grabber thingy we use to get things off high shelves. I eventually hung a Squidward figurine from the tiara's rhinestone-studded curlicues like a talisman--something to ward off Everyone Else's Crap ('cuz we know I've got more than enough of my own).

After a while, the tiara had to be put aside for reasons of practicality--the danger of forgetting to take it off when a customer comes in, for example, especially if said customer is coming in to order funeral flowers--but I will occasionally bring it out on days when the Crap (my own and everyone else's) seems deeper than usual.

Prom Week is just such a time. Mix hormonal adolescents with dresses in every shade of the rainbow--and some shades that aren't in the rainbow: magenta, fuschia, puce--listen, if it's not in the Crayola 8-box, I have no idea what color it is--and high school intrigue ("they broke up three days before the prom and now he's taking her best friend and she's goin' with his cousin!") and you've got the recipe for the Perfect Storm of Crap.

Some--like Cranky Boss Lady--see my tiara as useless affectation, just a pointless addition to my wardrobe with no magical powers at all. But I'm here to say it works, it really, really works--because as crappy as Prom Week was, I'm pretty sure if I hadn't been wearing my tiara, it would've been worse.

Someone would've actually rented this tux:

A PS to Youngest Sister and Great White Hunting Brother-in-Law: when it's time to renew your vows, you know where to find me! Maybe we should reserve one now!!

*When my boys were little, they thought of "a while" as a set amount of time--like a minute or an hour. So if you said, "It's time to clean your room." They might say, "I will in a few whiles."**

**Alternate answers would include, "No!" and, "Why?" and, "Awww, Mom!" but none of those seem quite as cute.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Squidward Tentacles

For the longest time after SpongeBob SquarePants premiered on Nickelodeon, I couldn't stay in the room past the theme song. I did, however, stay in the room long enough to change the words of the theme song--for example, "absorbent and yellow and porous is he" became "especially annoying to people like me," etc.

I'm not sure exactly when my feelings about the show changed--probably around the time Doc upped my meds or switched me over to that new neon, no, it was actually the episode where SpongeBob is trying to rally everyone in Bikini Bottom around Squidward, who's locked in some battle of one-upmanship with, I think, his long-lost and very successful brother, or maybe an old friend or doesn't really matter. SpongeBob was giving that speech, you know the one you've seen in a hundred corny old movies. Going around to each person in the crowd saying things like, "When you were stuck on your roof, who helped you?" and so on. Of course, in the corny old movie, the answer would've been Squidward. Squidward would've been quietly heroic and richly deserving of SpongeBob's loyalty and the help of everyone else in town. But, thankfully, Squidward is NOT that kind of squid.

No, Squidward is grouchy, cantankerous and antisocial. And I love him. I love him so much I have a Squidward collection--molded plastic figurines from gumball machines; a stamper that came in an Easter egg; a TY Beanie Baby that keeps me company at my computer, when I can find him amid the clutter left behind by three teen boys and a tween girl.

Daughter-Only says, "Why do you like Squidward? He's mean!" There is some evidence for this argument: in his character description on the Nickelodeon site, "mean" is the first word they use. But I would say that "mean" is not exactly accurate. Squidward never goes looking for trouble. He doesn't seek out any of the nitwits in Bikini Bottom, they all find him. His description on the Nickelodeon site makes much of how "annoyed" he is by everyone and everything--I submit that everyone in Bikini Bottom is so annoying that being annoyed isn't a character defect, it's a perfectly logical response. So even though Squidward is a cartoon character and one who would no doubt find me as annoying as he finds everyone else in his life, I love him.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Genius.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'm Pretty Sure This Isn't What The Folks At Hasbro Had In Mind...

Have you seen the Hasbro "Family Game Night" ad campaign? The commercials and print ads in which a cartoon family (which looks drawn by an eight-year-old but I'm sure there are child-labor laws and union rules against that) expound the virtues of setting a date and getting together once a week (or more!) to play (Hasbro) board games as a family.

My family--both the one I was born into and the one I've built--has always been big in the board game department so this campaign was mostly preaching to the choir where we're concerned. We're not excessively competitive--okay, I used to be, but I outgrew it and I hardly ever cheat at Monopoly anymore--we all just like to play.

Saturday night we were playing a new game with the kids called Balderdash. The game, alas, isn't made by Hasbro, but hopefully I still get cool mom points for Family Game Night--you know for following the spirit of the law if not the letter.

In Balderdash, for those non-geeks among us, you are given a word, phrase, etc for which you're supposed to make up a definition in hopes that someone else at the table will fall for your version, thus earning you points. In this particular round, we were supposed to be coming up with definitions for the acronym "D.E.B.E." The actual definition was "Does Everything But Eat," but I'm pretty sure everyone playing will only remember Son-Two's version: "Da Emergency Butthole Enlarger."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Ghost Hunters

As mentioned in my frighteningly late Halloween post last November, I am a big fan of "Ghost Hunters" on Sci-Fi. I want to admit that up front so we can get rid of even the illusion of impartiality or an unbiased review right from the beginning. I love, love, love, love, love this show.

It's not just because of the possibility in every episode of freaky things caught on tape--though the freaky things they do periodically catch on tape are certainly a draw. It's more about the dynamics between the crew members. Both Jason and Grant, the co-founders of the group TAPS, whose investigations are chronicled on "Ghost Hunters," are very no-nonsense, matter-of-fact sorts and they employ a group of mostly similarly minded people. (The one exception is Brian who's so annoying and just--oh--annoying like you can't even imagine how annoying. And I always find myself wishing they'd get rid of him--which they actually have at least once before--but then I realize they're probably keeping him around for the tension he adds to each episode. Everyone else looks even better and more credible in comparison to Brian's whiny and annoying personality.)

The thing I like most about "Ghost Hunters" is that everyone on the show seems to be a rather reluctant "celebrity." It's likely that Jason and Grant approached the network with the idea or in any case, they were approached by producers to whom they said "yes." But a lot of the time, they seem rather sheepish and uncomfortable with the cameras--even now, well into the second year of filming. It's this every guy vibe that makes anything freaky they do catch on film even more credible.

As far as the freaky stuff--both Jason and Grant are enthusiastic debunkers. If they can find a remotely plausible, non-paranormal explanation for a "haunting" they are thrilled. (In one episode, the thumping a homeowner had attributed to ghostly spirits was discovered to be a drainpipe banging against a beam in the basment every time the sump pump came on--Jason and Grant, Roto-Rooter plumbers by day, were uniquely qualified to debunk that particular "haunting.") Jason, especially, will go to great lengths to avoid using the word "haunted." He even referred to it as the "h- word" in one episode. No matter how compelling the evidence seems to be, he will say all sorts of things like, "Is something going on? Definitely. Can I say that it's 'haunted'? I don't know." And don't even try to get him--or Grant, for that matter--to use the word "ghost." Which brings me to the only bone I can really pick with the show: Why do they call the show "Ghost Hunters" when the two "leading men" so rarely even use the word "ghost?" But I guess "Sump Pump Hunters" wouldn't draw quite the same audience, huh?

As I've told Cranky Boss Lady, and anyone else I can hold hostage long enough to listen, I'm well aware that everything on the show may someday be exposed as having been staged or doctored or whatever, but in the meantime, these seem like normal guys having a little fun chasing (and debunking) paranormal phenomena. And for as long as I'm invited along for the ride, I'm so going to be there.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Addictive

New episodes are currently playing on Sci-Fi Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (Eastern). They are running old episodes at 7 & 8 p.m. on Wednesdays as well.

A Mother of A Week

Mother's Day, like Valentine's Day, is a holiday I never really realized the scope of until I started working at the flower shop. At the shop, it's the mother of all holidays--our biggest week of sales all year long. It means 10 or 14 hour days for at least half the week and every one of those hours is go-go-go: arranging flowers, answering the phone, waiting on customers, organizing delivery runs. And this year, as an added bonus we had a wedding* and one of the local high schools had its prom Saturday, too. There's nothing like doing corsage work at 9 p.m. when you've been at work since 8 a.m. Which is why I haven't had time to really catch my breath this week, let alone visit anyone's blog, but it's over now and I spent Sunday resting up. (More than one customer inquired sweetly, "What are you doing for Mother's Day?" and it was all I could do not to say out loud, "Resting up from taking care of all your mothers.")

I literally slept until noon which is the greatest gift ever as far as I'm concerned. Hope all you moms out there had just as great a day as I did.

*Note to anyone out there planning a wedding or anyone who might be in a position to advise anyone planning a wedding--it's a good idea to avoid major floral holidays--especially Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. Despite our good intentions, it's likely you won't be getting our best work.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Trent Willmon In Concert

A disclaimer: I don't get out much. The last performer I saw in concert was Paul "Everytime You Go Away" Young in 1987 in Providence, Rhode Island. (On the way home from that concert, I got stopped by a New Hampshire State Police cruiser ten feet over the NH state line for "harassing" a limo that we had been following all the way across the state of Massachusetts in hopes it might be Paul Young. It was not. It was Michael Dukakis--governor of Massachusetts & future presidential candidate on his way to Manchester, NH to announce his (doomed) candidacy. The state policeman said to me, "Have you been following that limo?" And I said, "Not on purpose, sir." He didn't give me a ticket, just held us up long enough for the limo to lose us--a car load of teenage girls hyped up on that most dangerous of drugs: adolescent hormones.)

The disclaimer about my inexperience in the world of live performances is necessary because I'm about to gush about seeing Trent Willmon Friday night. Trent is a country singer and not all that well known--but if there's any justice in the world, he will soon be better known. His self-titled debut came out in October 2004 and included the singles "Beer Man" and "Dixie Rose Deluxe's Honky-Tonk, Feed Store, Gun Shop, Used Car, Beer, Bait, Barbecue, Barber Shop, Laundromat." Those songs were cute, bouncy, yee-haw, twangy country songs. I liked them well enough to download them from iTunes, but not enough to seek out the album.

What an idiot I was--or, as I prefer to think, there must've been an idiot in charge of deciding what songs were released as singles from that album. My first clue that Trent Willmon had more range than the first two singles showed was his newest single "On Again Tonight," which is from his forthcoming album (6-13-06). This song was released sometime in March (or at least I downloaded it from iTunes March 22) and I love it, love it, love it. Musically, it's the perfect showcase for Willmon's voice, which is much richer and much less twangy than his first two singles would've had you believe. And lyrically--it's about that kind of relationship that we've probably all had at least once in our lives: the person we just can't leave alone even though we know it's going absolutely nowhere.

Based on this song, when I heard Trent Willmon was coming to town (to our rinky-dink, teeny-tiny, little town), I was definitely interested and when I heard the tickets were only ten dollars and that the proceeds benefited the elementary school playground fund, I plunked down my twenty bucks so Daughter-Only and I could go.

When we got to the high school parking lot, Willmon's bus was parked unassumingly in the corner of the lot. We parked ten or fifteen spaces up from it and sat watching a small group of men practicing roping skills in the corner of the lot. I would've never been able to pick Willmon out from the group if Daughter-Only hadn't pointed him out. (He'd been at the elementary school earlier in the day and performed an impromptu concert of three or four songs for the students.)

He definitely didn't radiate that aloof I'm-a-star (or even a wannabe star) attitude. Which is weird, because onstage? He was definitely star material. Even in our itty-bitty town in front of maybe 200 people in our scaled-down high school auditorium, Willmon and his band really gave it their all. I've always had a theory that the best performers--singers, actors, writers, artists of every stripe--are those who really enjoy what they're doing, who feel compelled to perform whatever the rewards. I would definitely put Willmon in that category--both live and on the album (which Cranky Boss Lady bought and I have repeatedly appropriated and listened to over and over again), Willmon sings every song like he really means it. He's either a really good fake or a sincere man with an amazing voice. (And we all know how I feel about great voices!)

So, the new album's out next month--June 13. I'm marking my calendar.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: A keeper.*

*So, technically, that's two words, but I'm pretty sure Willmon is worth it.

PS--To MommaCW a.k.a. Blonde Best Friend From High School: remember that game we played on the beach in Maine? R-A-B? Willmon? Was definitely at least a 9. C'mon, isn't it a relief to know that some people (me) never grow all the way up? You're only young once, but you can be immature forever.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What's That Smell?

I've come here today to talk about air pollution. I'm not talking about the certifiably toxic air-polluting chemicals that would have been covered by the Clean Air Act and the Kyoto Accords if our government and the World Trade Organization hadn't worked so hard to reverse important parts of it because, after all, how crucial is breathable air when compared with net profits? I mean if the net profits are high enough, the wealthy will no doubt be able to buy clean air for themselves and their families--the rest of us be damned, but I digress. Worse, I digress in a way that might result in an FBI agent showing up at my door, which reminds me--sometime I'll have to blog about the time an FBI agent actually did show up at our door.

But for now let's talk about smells.

I live in an itty-bitty town tucked into the hills in south western New York State. We don't have smog to contend with or chemical factories belching noxious fumes or anything as drastic as that, so I suppose I should be grateful, but...

There's a restaurant in town whose hot dogs and special sauce are regionally famous. And I would never say a bad word about those hot dogs--especially not the kind of word that might constitute libel. But when they make up a batch of sauce, which I can only assume they make in 50-gallon drums, the smell hangs over town. Despite the deliciousness of the finished product, the pungent smell is not at all pleasant. I've heard it compared to sweaty gym socks, but to me it smells like school lunch leftovers. Every time they whip up a batch of sauce, I'm transported to the days of Mystery Meat with gray gravy served over a glob of instant mashed potatoes the color and consistency of half-hardened flour paste.

Back in the days when ketchup was not yet a vegetable, chicken nuggets hadn't yet been invented, and pizza was a once-a-month treat rather than a menu constant, everything the cafeteria served had that smell. And the smell lingered in the halls nearest the cafeteria in almost visible clouds and was embedded in the laminate table tops, which were almost like those scratch-n-sniff stickers except you didn't have to scratch, the smell just emanated from them in waves. (And, this is totally off subject--if there is, in fact, a discernible subject today, but those table tops were always, always, always sticky--no matter how frequently they were wiped. And they were never sticky in that, oh someone just spilled something on them way--they were sticky in that two decades of built up school lunch fumes way.)

So that smell hangs over that end of town on the days--a few times a week--when they make the sauce. I work right around the corner from the restaurant and on sauce days we shut all the windows and when we have to venture outside, we duck quickly into our vehicles to avoid inhaling any more than absolutely necessary.

At the other end of town, there is a smell from the other end of the scent spectrum--there's a candle factory which makes lovely candles in a variety of scents that individually I'm sure are heavenly. But when you combine random scents willy-nilly and vent those smells to the outside world, aromatherapy becomes aromatorture. I live downwind of the candle factory and on windy days or on humid days when the air doesn't seem to be circulating much at all, the scent reminds me almost but not quite of Avon's Skin-So-Soft original scent by the tanker truckful. Again, a cloying scent that hangs so heavy you can almost see it.

What's great is the days when the candle factory is really pumping it out and the restaurant is making their sauce and somewhere between home and work those two scents merge with the added fried doughy smell from Dunkin' Donuts and a wave of nausea hits that reminds you of the morning-sickness-all-day-long days of pregnancy and then you finally stumble in to work and there are two customers standing in the front room--one is a guy with his cow-doo covered barn boots on and the other is a woman who has apparently been bathing in cologne from the dollar store.

Who says small town life isn't entertaining?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Mini Review

In spite of my penchant for pointless patter, I'm keeping it short today since the Perfect Post awards sorta kinda count as a review--in my humble (and, since it's my blog, all important) opinion.

I just wanted to say I'm halfway through Son of a Witch and I utterly, truly, truly, utterly heart Gregory Maguire. And I don't usually heart anything even things I really, really, really love. But Gregory Maguire and Wicked and Son of a Witch--I heart you all.

PP for April (And Don't Even Get Me Started on the Where The Hell Did April Go? Thing!)

It's that time of the month again. No, not that time of the month that makes everyone in my family hide in their closets quivering in fear just waiting for Mom's PMS to pass--no, luckily for them, it's just Perfect Post time.

This month, my Perfect Post award goes to Little Miss for her post Humpty Dumpty. Not only did she combine two topics near and dear to any mom's heart--nursery rhymes and migraines--she topped it off with the most wonderful drugged-up picture of herself and made all of us almost jealous about whatever magical drugs she was on when the picture was taken. Too bad we can't get the drugs and the rest in a quiet room without the migraines, huh?

So here's my button--

A Perfect Post

And, Little Miss, it's all yours!