Monday, October 31, 2005

In Anticipation of a Parade and a Freaky Druid Couple

Halloween is officially upon us…no mischief last night other than the routine trashing of our family room by the two kids.

I have not only tonight's neighborhood rounds to look forward to, but also an afternoon elementary school parade. Because one bout of costuming your children isn't enough to break your basic frazzled mom...

Will the fragile tulle mermaid tail of our first grader's costume will remain intact after a brisk march around the school sidewalk? Or will our little Ariel will be trick-or-treating tonight missing a fin (shark encounter?) This is what passes for excitement in my suburban masquerade.

This year, we are blessed with sun and a high of 70 degrees, so watching the parade might actually be a pleasure. Well, make that a relative pleasure. Because I believe there is an official no-parental-relaxation zone surrounding any grade-school event.

But I'll have my lovely husband along to keep me company and, more importantly, to help carry the camera equipment.

Inevitably, there were be a last-minute jockeying for best position…someone will walk in front of us without regard just as one of our children comes into view…I will see a mom who I am supposed to know by name and I won’t even remember if her child is the classmate of my first or fourth grader…

Anyway, all the gory details will appear in this space soon. Or, if it's all really normal and boring, maybe not.

Blame any apprehension regarding this evening's neighborhood candy mission on Freaky Druid Couple.

We first encountered F.D.C. last Halloween. In the process of trick-or-treating, we came across an older man and woman wearing capes (Maybe they were supposed to be wizards? Or just wizened?) as they sat in their driveway on folding chairs.

As the children approached, F.D.C. told them that, in order to be given treats, they would need to perform -- tell a joke, sing a song...

After a few frozen seconds spent wondering if it would be considered rude to run in the other direction, I was able to suggest the chart-topping "Fly, fly witchy" and a rousing rendition earned our kids their candy (and then we ran in the other direction...okay, it was a brisk walk.)

In theory, I would wholeheartedly endorse F.D.C.'s out-of-routine request. There is nothing that annoys me more than having to dole out candy to kids who can't even manage to mutter a thank you.

But, in actuality, the command performance experience kinda creeped me out. The unexpectedness scared me. You depend on a certain Stepford sameness and then somebody goes and gets original on your ass.

So I’d probably opt to avoid this house tonight…if I could remember exactly which house it was…I mean, it was dark…I have a general idea...

Just in case, we'd better start working on our act.

Happy Hauntings!

Friday, October 28, 2005

It's An Honor Just to Have Been Nominated...

Yesterday, I found out that I have two nominations for an industry award.

Initial reactions:

1) Hey, that's cool...
2) I hope I don't win.

The first is pretty self-explanatory. The second -- well, winning would mean having to make a speech. In front of a whole banquet room full of various Philadelphia radio folk. On a stage.

Talk about taking the fun out of a free meal.

You'd think someone who has made a living (well, honestly, it's not much of a living, we're talking radio here...) speaking into a microphone wouldn't have that much of a problem with a brief acceptance speech. But usually I'm in my little womb-like studio, and (here is the operative word) ALONE. The way I like it.

Plus, there may be wine served. Guaranteed to bring out my inner idiot -- hmmm, come to think of it, that only takes a couple of diet cokes.

And then I'd have to resist the temptation to try and say something funny, which inevitably would end up being bizarre instead, like when Kirstie Alley thanked Parker Stevenson for giving her the "big one" (and they ended up getting divorced, or did she eat him? I can't remember...)

My only comfort is that I don't think I'll win. Pretty sure it's a long shot.

Taking that for a given, the pressing issue becomes "what to wear." And we know this issue is right up there with global warming...

I have this super-cool (to me anyway) velvet knee-length jacket that I will probably go with --

-- although I'm struggling with its costume-y feel, and whether it will invoke puzzlement (as in, "Why didn't she take off her coat?") or ridicule (Sgt. Pepper/Prince comparisons.)

(Did you know that if you search Google images for "Prince" the first photo that comes up is a pierced male member? Ouch!)

Well, my costume will be infinitely less colorful than the Beatles or Prince, but hell, I may still give the folks something to make fun of...and that gives me a purpose in life.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Isn't this one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse?

From :

It's All About Ashlee:
Simpson scores another #1 with I Am Me

Singer earns second Billboard chart topper with second album.

Ashlee Simpson Photo: Geffen Records

(If you've been particularly naughty and need to punish yourself with the full story, click here.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It's a Body World, After All

There is so much going on in this grand ole land of ours that I do not understand...

Just when you think there's an event that would bring out the religious right all dressed up and carrying signs, no one shows up for the party.

Because I guess you don't want to mess around with stem cells, but it's okay to play with dead bodies.

Forgive me for the over-simplification, but that's how the Body Worlds exhibit, currently on display at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute seems to me.

"The exhibition features more than 200 authentic human specimens, including entire bodies, individual organs and transparent body slices that have been preserved through the process of "Plastination," a technique that replaces bodily fluids and fat. BODY WORLDS offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see and understand our own physiology and health and to gain new appreciation and respect for what it means to be human."

This image disturbs me so much that I am still debating whether I should have included it here. But you do get to see a dead guy's unit, which I can only hope is a singular experience.

This is the third stop (after L.A. & Chicago) on the "tour" and as far as I know, there has been no controversy surrounding the U.S. presentations.

I remember first hearing about Dr. Gunther von Hagens when he did a public autopsy in London. It seemed like grandstanding to me -- under the auspices of education.

Meanwhile, the kind doctor was also taking dead bodies and plastinating them.

The first time I saw a photo of him, I thought, "YIKES! This man is an honest-to-goodness ghoul!"

It may have just been bad lighting.

But I still entirely question his true motivation. It appears to be an obsession that borders on necrophilia.

My objection has less to do with the display of dead bodies, and more to do with the supposed "artistic" nature of the display and the use of props (Jeez, I mean, one guy is riding a plastinated horse! Another is "playing" chess...) Meanwhile, the bodies are flayed, sliced, posed...sorry, in my book, dead folks are not an artistic medium.

It's not so much squeamishness as a feeling of total gratuitousness.

For there is supposedly a room that contains a woman and her near-term baby still in utero.

I do not buy into the education aspect, since you can see and learn about any part of the human body online...

And children are allowed with parental permission?! No thanks -- we have enough 3 AM awakenings from screaming nightmares as it is.

Me, I'm waiting for the King Tut exhibit to come to the Franklin Institute in 2007... those Egyptians, they knew what to do with a dead dude.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Tacky, Tasteless and Slightly Naughty (but not necessarily in that order)

Holy gaseousness Batman!

As seen in that bastion of good taste, The Lighter Side catalog:

Walter The Farting Dog Book Price: $15.95
Item is in stock
Our best-selling Walter The Farting
Dog Book is a whimsical tale about a lovable mutt with a gas problem. With
lively text and clever illustrations, this book is sure to delight children of
all ages! Item is hardcover, 32 pages.

Best-Selling??? Who'da thunk it? Well, I've never claimed to have my finger on the pulse of middle America...

And may I present to you the book's companion piece:

Walter The Farting Dog Plush
Price: $13.98
Item is in stock
Listen to Catalog Sound Clip
Our Walter The Farting Dog is based on the
best-selling whimsical tale about a lovable mutt with a gas problem. Sure to delight children of all ages, press the plush Walter's tummy and he noisily passes gas, just like his storybook inspiration! 7" long.

Golly, I wasn't aware there was a (niche?) market for flatulation humor/childhood education -- but I guess little Johnny would be all embarassed on the playground if he didn't know the basics about passing wind -- although I certainly don't see the need for any further enlightenment in my household.

However, I do not have the right to be all high and mighty, since I let my daughter have the toy "Gooey Louie" which involves pulling fake snot out of a plastic head.

But, to me:

Gas = Not Funny
Pulling Plastic Boogers until Brain Pops Out = Funny

It's all a matter of taste (or lack thereof.)

Speaking of taste, I also spotted this little item in the catalog:

Chocolate Thong
Price: $10.98
Item is temporarily out of stock
Add some tasteful fun to your relationship with this Chocolate Thong! Put on a Belgian milk chocolate thong, and the heat from your body begins to melt it away. Chocolate lovers will know what to do next! It makes the perfect gift for Valentines Day, bridal shower, anniversary, etc. Elasticized, one size fits most. State his or hers.

I don't want to be a party pooper, but, if you think it through, this product is ill-conceived...

I mean, just because you like two things individually doesn't mean they should be combined.

Case in point -- I like sushi and I like Ben & Jerry's, but I don't want B & J to come up with a flavor that involves chunks of raw fish.

It all seems like a waste of perfectly fine chocolate, and you know that in the end, someone's gonna get stuck stainsticking the sheets.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Ghost of Infatuations Past

(Even if you have no inclination to read the rest of this post, click on the link at can thank me later.)

I have no idea what the exact physiology is, but some frontal lobe or another usually decides to assault me with nonsensical thoughts as I drift off to sleep each night...and yesterday, for whatever reason, the late 60's show "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" invaded that twilight state.

What? A show that I probably hadn't seen or thought about in at least 30 years?

I remember that I loved the show -- but why? It dawns on me that I had a childish (somewhat appropriate since I actually was a child) crush on the captain.

I mean, isn't it every young girl's fantasy to have a cantankerous ghost living in your attic?

Then this morning -- holy crap -- I found the above photo online and realized that my husband looks an awful lot like Captain Gregg.

Well, at least my taste is consistent.

Captain Gregg was on a list of older (as in old enough to be my grandfather?) men that made me feel all warm inside in my single-digit days:

Andy Williams! (Dreamy blue eyes and that smooth croon...)

The blond guy on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. -- Illya Kuryakin! (From the good ole pre-V-chip days when a parent could allow a 5 year old to watch a show featuring gunfire and espionage...)

The dad from the Sound of Music (Well, I still can't explain that one...maybe because he solved a problem like Maria?)

What does this all mean? That sexual orientation is innate? That there's no explaining chemistry?

That I'm pretty darn old?

Yep, that would be it.

But it is impressive that every youthful memory I could conjure up has a website devoted to it; some more creative than others.

So, please enjoy this artistic interpretation of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I'll take "Things You Shouldn't Say to a Woman" for 200, Alex

Someone who knows me very well made the mistake of telling me that not only did they think the photos I posted of me with Mr. Michael Penn "didn't look like" me, but that in one picture my chin was reminiscent of John Lithgow, or perhaps the Crimson Chin of Fairly Oddparents fame.

A remark this person has regretted ever since.

Because I wouldn't mind being compared to any number of celebrities, but John Lithgow is not one of them.

Just to clear the record -- I do not look like John Lithgow in real life (although he's a fine actor and all) -- at least I don't think so. The Crimson Chin, well, maybe...
Anyway, I have provided a "looks like me" photo to avoid any further confusion.

It was taken a few months ago at Philadelphia's Mann Music Center... the Philadelphia Orchestra does a summer series there. Each year, my husband and I pick the night with the lineup that appeals to us most...and we have a whole picnicking routine that revolves around wine and general gluttony.

Because, personally, classical music never sounds better than when you're drunk and lying on your back looking at the stars.

My favorite moment this time was shortly before the concert's start (and after a good deal of wine had been consumed.) A family with two or three kids appeared and tried to set up camp at our feet, in the postage-stamp-sized swath of grass that separated us from the blanket in front.

Now, this would not do. There is blanket etiquette that must be followed! I could have tried glaring in their direction and hope they'd get the message. But instead I declared in a cheerful stage whisper something along the lines of "We're going to be making out soon!"

Honestly, I didn't really think/know they would hear me. But it worked. Evidently the prospect was so frightening that the parents quickly gathered up their brood and found a nearby, more appropriate, patch of lawn to settle into.

Whether the making out took place or not, well, I'll leave that to your imagination.

The Final Chapter in the "Michael Penn at World Cafe Live" Trilogy

(Caution: this blog contains a Pia Zadora reference!)

It's been two weeks since my husband and I were treated to a wonderful performance by the incomparable Michael Penn at Philadelphia's World Cafe Live. So, it's about time I wrapped up my little concert trilogy.

May I present to you, gentle reader, a few observational odds and ends -- divided by subject in the hope that it will make this lengthy entry more readable.


Although World Cafe Live has been open for about a year now, this was our first concert there.

And, at least from my limited perspective, it was an ideal experience.

The control freak in me was very happy to be able to select the exact seats I wanted before purchasing them online. You have the option of printing the tickets out yourself or claiming them at the door. Either way, you avoid the typically exorbitant shipping fee.

The floor was set up with a series of long tables lined up vertically across the relatively small room. There is also a bar area behind the main floor, and balcony seating.

I think we got the best seats in the house -- front of the house, right in the middle.

And fifteen dollars a ticket! That is less than the surcharges when we saw Elvis Costello at the Tower this summer.

The floor seating brought back memories of a Pia Zadora (!) show I attended years ago at an Atlantic City casino (comp-ed by Pia herself, otherwise I would not have been there -- a totally surreal experience I really should blog about sometime -- if anyone remembers her at all at this point.)

But I digress...

We arrived about an hour before the scheduled show time. The entrance is off a small street and there was a certain "Are we going the right way?" apprehension -- the entrance doors look like soundstage doors (I suppose that is the point) and at first we weren't sure if this was a backstage entrance, or the proper way to go in.

Luckily it was, because (being the ever-practical lass) I was wearing stiletto heels and I might not have made it around the block.

I did have one practical coup though -- I was wearing a jacket, which turned out to be sorely needed in the well air-conditioned interior. Mr. Penn himself remarked something during the show about the cold air knocking his guitar out of tune.


We took advantage of the pre-show dinner service -- my husband ordered nachos (humongous, but he complained about skimpy cheeseage) and I had the spinach artichoke dip (in order to ensure a future embarrassing food-stuck-between-teeth moment.) The dip came with both pita and tortilla chips -- yummy -- and could have easily served two.

Each appetizer was priced under $10, but my wonderful spouse also ordered an over-priced bottle of wine -- because it feels unnatural to go to a concert without getting ripped off one way or another.

The only downside to the food service is that we were so pre-occupied with trying to finish eating before anyone sat across the table from us that we didn't spend as much time people-watching as usual.

But a general glance around showed the crowd to be the general WXPN 30-40ish well-dressed crowd.


After I finished eating, it was obvious that I was in need of some serious dental spinach-extrication. I headed off to the Ladies' Room.

Inside, I was surprised to find a woman standing in front of the mirror, singing and playing the guitar. I felt like I an intruder, although it was awfully nice to have my own personal soundtrack to, um, void to.

I assume she was warming up for the open-mic night that was going on in the smaller venue upstairs. I wanted to tell her she sounded great (post-stall!) but didn't want to interrupt. So I washed up quietly and quickly -- and she didn't miss a beat.


For my riveting review of the show, more photos and other minutia, I refer you to the first two installments of this series...


Compared to reviews of other stops on Michael Penn's tour, it seems that the Philly crowd was much more reserved than those in other cities (at least as far as yelling out/heckling were concerned.) The applause was enthusiastic, but no one was being an asshole.

Imagine that.


I would be remiss if I didn't embrace the superficial and mention that Mr. Penn looked quite fine up there on stage.

His dark hair was cropped close and I think it was more flattering than his previous tours' tousled curls look. He was wearing a heather-blue short-sleeve crew-neck knit top (sweater?) which showed off well-defined biceps (the inner fangirl noticed this, not me...)

The requisite jeans, not black of course.

is shoes were a really cool vintage-y black ankle boot with a neat curlicue detail.

Yeah, a kinda weird thing to make note of, but they were in my direct line of vision, as my seat was at the foot of the stage.


(O.K., not really a debacle, but it could have been if Mr. Penn wasn't a truly gracious fellow.)

After the show ended, we approached Spencer, the King of the Pennlist, to see if Michael was coming out to do a meet and greet. Spencer went backstage and shortly thereafter I looked over to see MP standing a few feet away from me.

First of all, it's momentarily disconcerting to see someone eye level after you've spent an hour gazing up at them as if on a pedestal (well, actually it was a stool.)

There's a real dichotomy between the part of me that realizes that this is just a guy, a normal (albeit talented) guy --and the part of me that has just been totally blown away by said guy's performance and who has spent oh-so-many hours in the company of said guy's music and who knows that she will probably turn into a functional mute when she tries to express any of this to said guy.

Not to mention the part of me that feels like a total geek dofus for asking for an autograph in the first place.

Yours truly, playing the fangirl, behind all that hair...

Anyway, Michael politely signed a photo of his April '05 performance at the now-defunct The Point as well as our two copies of his wonderful new CD, Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947.

He said something about it being too bad The Point closed...I managed to mumble something about loving the new CD, but also loving all of them...that was pretty much the full extent of our conversation. Woo-hoo.

Then we asked if we could get a photo of us with him -- so that meant first MP & me and then MP & my husband. Profound thanking on our parts, humble "Your welcome"s on his part.

And we left. At least we went left the room and went into the hallway, where I grabbed the digital camera from my husband to check out the photos.

Well, my photo with MP was fairly horrifying. I had at least three chins. Certainly not a photo I would want to ever show to another human...

Would I be able to Photoshop a realistic-looking new head (Catherine Zeta-Jones?) onto my body? Not likely. So I did the only sane thing an insane fan would do -- I went back to get another photo.

We stood around waiting for other folks to finish, which provided not only time to take a much-needed deep breath, but also observe how respectfully MP was treating the other fans.

And he turned out to be very cool about the re-do...although it was a bit ironic when I said (after the second photo was taken) something about it being harder for me to get a decent picture as I get older and he said (in a commiserating tone) "Yeah, I hate having my picture taken." Oops.

Which set me off into a babble (sometimes I think my nervous silence is preferable to my comfortable babble, but oh well) "Really? The photos on the web are great..." and thus something resembling a conversation ensued as a small group of us hung around for a few minutes and were able to talk like semi-normal humans with the guy.

I actually had enough brain cells functioning to ask about the instrument on the back of the MHJ cover -- I had never seen a piano with more than 3 pedals, so I wasn't sure if it was real or a digital manipulation.

Anyway, it's real, it's his piano, -- an antique Wing & Son upright grand -- it was built somewhere around 1910. He said it came from Dollywood (or at least an antique piano company located there...not totally clear on that point.) (Hopefully there will be no quiz.)

Described how one of the pedals dropped little balls onto the strings, which he used in the song "Walter Reed." I believe he described it as "the dulcimer sound" in Walter Reed.

NOT MP's piano, but another 5-pedal Wing & Son...pretty cool anyway...

2009 update: the link to picture above is broken...but I found the 1911 Wing & Son "Book of Complete Information about Pianos" viewable at Antique Piano shop . Here's the page with the Style 29 Concert Grand, which is probably very similar to Michael Penn's. According to the catalog, the Style 29 sold for $500 -- not sure if that price was for the 3-pedal version or the 5-pedal "Instrumental Accompaniment." Today, a restored one could easily cost in the $10,000 - $15,000 range. (Now, let's return to the past...back to the 2005 portion of this blog.)


It may be hard to imagine that there are any details omitted at this point...but there are -- like word-for-word dialogue, a description of MP's watch, oh and I wish I had written more about Buddy Judge (who we also approached briefly after the show just to say how much we enjoyed seeing him and what a great surprise it was to have him perform my favorite Grays' song!)

But I also need to give credit to my husband for supporting me in my geeky fandom (he's a fan too, but not as geeky) and for being very discreet as he occasionally looked down my blouse. (My dear, I figure you are the only one still reading at this point!)

Discretion has its rewards, I hear.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Young Lady -- Please Keep Your Hands Off the 007!

Judging by her wide-eyed look, the woman on the right has just discovered that the Pierce Brosnan waxwork model is indeed anatomically correct...

Friday, October 14, 2005

I imagine Chris Columbus in a Nixon mask...

I'm always a little reluctant to rely on my 12 years of Catholic education since, at the time at least, it seemed to lag behind that of the local public schools. (Perhaps the diocese was so busy shuffling around pedophiles that no one was watching the curriculum?)

But I do have a vague memory of being taught that Columbus Day is supposed to commemorate Christopher Columbus in some way or another.

However, in this little slice of suburbia I currently call home, Columbus Day seems to be the day nearly everyone in our development (except us, of course) decorates the front of their houses for Halloween.

And I'm not talking a few cobwebs here and there. There are full-scale productions (with orange twinkle lights, for heaven's sake!) being staged on the overly manicured lawns.

So, I'm thinking, "Did I miss something in grade school that would explain this phenomenon? Did Columbus sail across the ocean blue in some sort of cheesy nylon costume?" (Chamber maid perhaps? Probably would have made the trip go by faster...)

Were the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria haunted by ghouls and/or goblins? Did the ships carry chests full of fun-size Snickers bars that Columbus liked to toss out to pirates encountered along the way?

Just looking for a connection here folks...

Don't get me wrong, I really do like Halloween. I just like it the last week of October. Putting a church cemetery's worth of pun-filled fake gravestones in your front yard on October 10th doesn't do it for me.

It's like some sort of grade school teacher mentality, where you feel compelled to decorate for each season.

But personally I do not need "theme" for my house, other than it's normal pseudo-Victorian-as-interpreted-in-1992 facade.

All this too-early decorating just dilutes the "magic" of the actual festivities. By the time Halloween actually arrives, the kids will have gotten so used to the decor that it will barely be noticed.

And Halloween becomes nothing more than conspicuous consumerism and candy lust.

(Umm, not that there’s anything particularly wrong with candy lust in and of itself, especially if the object of desire is a Reese’s cup or Snickers.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

And Now I am Really Pissed

Perhaps the near-constant rain of the past five days has made me overly cranky, but an ad in today's newspaper for a new Sony HDTV has really ticked me off.

"Introducing Bravia -- The World's First Television FOR MEN AND WOMEN."

"We had guys in mind when we gave it wider viewing angles and a picture that keeps up with the action. We had women in mind when we gave it a broader color spectrum and a slim, wall-mountable design."

Holy crap. What focus group from hell gave the ad agency the idea that women are only interested in the color and slimness of a TV? (Oooh, the pretty picture! It's so colorful!) Especially when said TV has an extremely hefty price tag.

Since the Bravia proclaims itself the FIRST television for men and women, evidently I have been going against some law of nature by sharing any number of televisions with my husband lo these many years (and one of them is a Sony.)

There we were, innocently in bed, happily watching the same TV -- perhaps I should consider myself lucky that the gender police didn't take us into custody for our transgression.

Or at least what we were staring at hypnotically looked like a television...golly, if I believe everything I read (like a good little woman) then it must have been something else.

O.K., I'm not trying to be stridently feminist or anything. I just hate seeing these gender-specific concepts thrown at us consumers so nonchalantly.

Granted, I also get pissed because Gillette feels it has to make pastel Sensor Excel razors for women (they are essentially the same product as the silver/gray men's.) So I use the "men's" version, not only because they are more streamlined but also on principle.

I just happened to be out with my parents last week as they were shopping for a wall-mountable HDTV. They are in their sixties, having come of age in the very gender-specific 1950s. Yet, they were both equally concerned with picture quality (the supposed "guy" factor) and the overall "look" (the supposed "women" factor) of the televisions they were deciding between.

Hmm, and they wanted my technical input and opinion -- imagine that -- me being a girl and all??

So, listen up, you stereotyping copywriting goofball -- men can care about picture color and women can care about viewing angles and both can care about whatever it is they happen to be looking for in a TV.

The other thing I really hate about this newspaper ad is that it carries the dual headlines "Makes HDTV History. Makes HDTV Herstory."

HERSTORY? HERSTORY?? Barf. Oh god, this is just too bad.

For whatever reason, it reminds me of Michael Jackson's "HIStory." And really do you want to mentally associate your product even remotely with anything Michael Jackson?

The only positive thing I can say is that I went to the Sony website, and there was nothing there that resembled this print campaign. That said, I don't really feel like providing a direct link to their site. Besides, if you've got enough money to afford the Bravia, you probably aren't spending your time reading this blog...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

O.K., Now They're Taunting Me

(Warning: This post contains images that may be disturbing for some young viewers.)

I just received an e-mail from PetSmart that contained these images and carried the subject line: "The look for Fall you pet can't do without."

Umm, yes they can. Really.

They can't do without food and they certainly can't do without the litter box (although sometimes my Zeke does do without it and that is why I also can't do without Nature's Miracle pet odor remover.) But my cats can quite easily do without any "look" whatsoever, no matter what the season.

It would also seem to me that dogs have done quite well throughout the ages with just their fur and really don't need a "look" either, and especially not THIS kind of look. Sure it's appropriate garb if you think of your dog as a surrogate child or something, but IMHO that's just gross or misguided, or both.

An even weirder concept than dogs wearing clothing is dogs wearing faux fur. I'm really having a hard time getting my head around that one.

So, be kind to your canine and resist the silly getups. Or you may find yourself reincarnated as a terrier forced to wear gingham.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Michael Penn at World Cafe Live, Part Two

I've been intending to review the October 3rd Michael Penn concert at World Cafe Live; but ultimately, being the practical and somewhat lazy person that I am, I decided that a review that my husband wrote said a lot of what I wanted to say better than I would have said it.

So, with gratitude to that guy I sleep with every night, I have incorporated his review (in italics) with mine.

The show opened with Seattle singer/songwriter Rosie Thomas.

She did a song or two alone with her keyboard and then went to guitar as she was joined by her brother Brian Thomas who took over keyboard duties and added harmonies.

Rosie has a beautiful singing voice that reminded me of Shawn Colvin's (I've also heard her voice compared to Sarah McLachlan's.) Rosie's speaking sounded as if she was taking hits from a tank of helium hidden behind the stage monitor. I hope she's taking advantage by doing some voiceover work anyway.

She was very funny in a dry way, and her songs were well-written and introspective. Unfortunately, they were all so similar in tempo and tone that by the end of her set I found my mind wandering. And I think she deserved better than that.

Okay, here's where my husband's review comes in:
Wow. Just freakin' wow...

... Michael was in PERFECT voice, his guitar work typically flawless and brilliant, and the wide range of material was fantastic. ...he just somehow gets better with every show I've witnessed. A perfect combination of new and "classic" material with representative selections from each album.

Michael opened with "Out of My Hands" from the 1997 album Resigned, launching into the tune with no introduction and not even a hello sent the audience's way. A somewhat low-key song, but beautifully rendered.

Backing him up was Peter Adams on keyboards and the incomparable Buddy Judge, who has got to be one of the best harmony vocalists around. He also sparked some banter with his good-natured teasing of Michael during MP's requisite between-song tuning.
...Buddy Judge took the lead for one song, resurrecting his 'The Grays' period with a cool version of his fine song "Nothing", from Ro Sham Bo.)

Speaking of Buddy, his presence really adds a lot -- not that there's anything wrong with MP by himself, or with his always-creative-and-competent cast of keyboard guys, but Buddy's harmonies, guitar work and pseudo-percussion just heaps perfection upon perfection! Buddy's banter also helped open up Michael's banter even further -- just agreat friendly relaxed mood and great presentation on stage throughout. Couldn't have asked for better.I don't mean to slight the keyboard guy (Peter Adams), who was also creative andfilled the songs perfectly.

Several songs were played from Michael's recently released CD, "Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947" -- "Bad Sign;" "Denton Road" -- basically a man's wistful reflections during his own funeral; "O.K." -- a soft song in which the narrator seems to offer comfort to someone facing frustration and disillusionment...

"...nothing else that you can do to make it come true, make it perfect, make it O.K."

"On Automatic," the single from the new CD, was described as depicting the split second when a cartoon character runs off the cliff and is frozen in the air before he plunges into the abyss. Previously, he has referred to this song as being about how optimism is "the pretty side of denial."

Also from MHJ 1947 -- the extremely catchy "Walter Reed" which on the surface tells of a shell-shocked veteran asking to be taken to the medical hospital, but the lyric just as easily applies to your run-of-the-mill relationship trauma ("...Baby, I've lost the will for fighting over everything...")

"Long Way Down" (from the album, "Free For All") is arguably one of his best songs -- IMHO probably the best song ever written about staying in a relationship in the face of doubts even though "I got a feeling she's been sleeping with the whole wide world."

But man, Michael himself could just not have been better...

This song has been a staple of Michael Penn's live show, and for good reason -- the emotion obvious in his voice underscores the lyric and his guitar work is beautiful.

Another highlight was "Don't Let Me Go" from the album "MP4 - Days Since a Lost Time Accident." This is a song that I didn't care much for until the first time I saw him do it live and then it suddenly made sense. It's all about sex (at least to my smutty little mind.) The verse starts at the bottom of his vocal range, giving it the air of talk-dirty-to-me utterances but things builds towards a chorus that repeats the plea "Don't let me go." It's a very powerful combination.

Three other songs from "Resigned" were performed -- "Try" which was a treat; "I Can Tell" a powerhouse of a song that is another concert staple; and "Figment" which I had never seen him do live before -- addressing whether love was a figment of one's imagination and has a favorite lyric, "...I loved you more than I can now recall at all..." Really, isn't that the universal truth that faces all of us at one time (one rejection) or another, as the object of our affection seems to have forgotten that they ever reciprocated our affection. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

But hey, how could I forget the "hit"? -- "No Myth" -- before which he joked about what the song is NOT called (Black Jeans, Romeo in black pants, etc...) Anyway, he did a particularly good version of this oldie, hitting all the high notes easily.

Somewhere in between all this, there was also a very funny monologue about MySpace and how he has had many myths about vampires dispelled there (yes, their reflections can be seen in a mirror -- he's seen the flash in the mirror in their photos...yes, they can be out in daylight...somehow he worked in a reference of their parent's shag carpetting...and that the myspace vampires all seem to have Tori Amos as their friend.)

Sorry,I know I've rambled on more than enough, but I'm not the type to rave very often. And this was seriously rave-able. Just wow. By all means, catch this tour if at all possible!!!

Agreed! My rambling has also been way too long, and I haven't even gotten to our post-concert adventures. So stay tuned for the sequel...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

From the ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous

Ridiculous news

The top story on the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer is all about Rock-Paper-Scissors (that's RPS to the serious devotee.) ("Step Up & Throw Down")

Evidently there is a whole psychology to the "sport."

According to the World RPS Society, your choice of throw has a deeper meaning.

Rock: Regarded as the most aggressive throw. Players are more likely to use it when they are losing.

Paper: Considered the most subtle, dignified move. It is also viewed as the weakest throw, so players often will not use it when losing.

Scissors: It represents controlled aggression. Players are more likely to use it when they are winning.

It figures the subtle and dignified move is also considered the weakest. An accurate reflection of what's wrong with our society.

Ridiculous pet couture

As seen at the Ye Olde Marlton Fall Festival last weekend -- Fifiany & Co. -- a booth dedicated to jeweled doggy collars and various other pet garb. And perhaps something for the giraffe in your life...?

(Yes, I see the stuffed cat there too, which is an insult to cats everywhere.)

A few days later, at Petsmart (buying food for my smart pets who would go on a hunger strike before wearing a chi-chi collar) I see a clothing display with a large sign overhead reading, "Dogs Need Clothes Too!"


This is why I have cats. Because I couldn't respect an animal that would let you put a Harley Davidson cap on its head (one of the things I saw at Petsmart.) Sure, it's kinda cute in a demeaning way.

Just say you are lucky enough to actually place any sort of head gear on a cat's head. In the milliseconds before the chapeau is shaken off, kitty will give you the most pissed-off look imaginable.

And that's why I like cats.

Sublimely ridiculous scary doll

Somewhere in an upstairs closet is my Madame Alexander doll collection. When I was what is now referred to as a "tween," my mother gave me a few of the pricey dolls to reflect my heritage -- a lovely Irish lass, an Italian wench (well, she was totally un-wench-like, but I just like saying "wench") and a bride (because that is what your ordinary Italian/Irish wench-lass aspires to, of course.)

Evidently, times have changed or Madame Alexander has been hitting the vodka...or something:

And now, for your viewing pleasure the latest addition to the Madame Alexandar doll family, as displayed in the pages of the Signals catalog. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.

If it is, it is an $130+ shipping joke. There are actually miniature faux birds attacking the miniature faux fur of the miniature Tippi Hedren. (I wonder if Melanie Griffith will pick up one for her collection?)

Personally, I can't wait for the Psycho doll with its own miniature swirl of blood spiraling down a miniature drain.

Michael and Me

Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable Mr. Michael Penn (and me, playing the role of the goofy fan.)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Michael Penn at World Cafe Live, Part 1

First of all, my husband suggested I issue another blanket apology (since it's been a couple months since my first one.)

Evidently, he thinks I may have freaked out any reading pennlisters by the little script in my last post. Because there had to be pennlisters at World Cafe Live on Monday, but absolutely no one spoke to us besides Spencer, Jill and the friendly but non-pennlist fan seated across the table from us.

Maybe it was the flashing neon "Stay Away" sign over my head.

But see, that's a joke. Really. Generally I like to meet new people that share my interests. As long as the conversation is over in approximately 2.5 minutes.

Another joke. Really. I apologize. Truly.

However; I did hear a couple of folks yell out during the show that Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947 was "awesome" (as scripted) so if that was you, please drop me a line and I will apologize personally for being so tongue-in-cheek that I scared you from actually approaching me. Although I'm not going to rule out that maybe you didn't recognize me from my nonexistent picture. Or that perhaps I am really scary and you were justified in staying away.

Anyway, back to Mr. Penn. Objectively, I can only say the show was spectacular. Subjectively, his shoes were really cool.

This is the fourth time I have seen him perform, and even with minimal accompaniment, it was the best so far. He was in great voice and the song selection was perfect (although it all ended way too fast!)

I will do my best to get my act together and post a more encompassing review later this week.

Meanwhile, MP signed stuff for us after the show and was so very, very gracious (not just to us, but I watched him with other folks too.)

You know, you don't have to be a decent human to make great music, but it's nice when the two can co-exist.

So, perhaps I don't need to be a decent human to be a blogger, but it's nice to give it a try every now and then.

(Oh, Merujo, my comment about the lawyer was my usual attempt at humor. I figured you'd know that, but my husband thought it might be misconstrued. I mean, if I had a lawyer representing me, I'd certainly be making a lot more money than I am. And I really like (and wholeheartedly endorse) your blog, Church of the Big Sky -- no joke there.)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Pennlist Script

Monday is a huge day in our household, in that we are actually engaging in an adult activity. (Hmmm, interesting choice of words -- must consult Dr. Freud.) What I meant to say was that my husband and I are having an evening out sans children. (Sometimes a concert is just a concert.)

Anyway, the occasion is a performance by immensely talented singer-songwriter Michael Penn.

A few years back, we were so impressed by Mr. Penn in concert that we joined a Yahoo group devoted to him -- the michaelpennlist. It was the first time I had participated in any kind of organized fan thing since the 70s when I dreamed of being Donny Osmond's Mormon bride, so you know I was really impressed by Michael's performance. (And no religious conversion required.)

Anyway, the Pennlist is a very cool, thoughtful community of music fans generally devoid of the junk that usually mess up these sorts of groups.

However, being a member of a group like this does present a somewhat difficult situation for tomorrow night's concert. For certainly there will be other Pennlisters at the show. And while in theory I like meeting new people that I have common interests with, in reality I suck at the kind of casual conversation this entails.

So, barring a secret handshake, here is a little script I have prepared for any Pennlisters that are attending tomorrow night's World Cafe Live show. All two of you. Stick to your part, and no one will get hurt.

Pennlist script

U = us, as in my husband and I; we generally speak in unison
Y = you

Y: You guys wouldn't happen to be on the Pennlist, would you?
U: Yeah…uh…hi. Nice to meet you.

Shake hands and introduce ourselves and vice versa whereupon I will immediately forget your name(s).

(awkward silence)

Y: Are you from around here?
U: Yeah…uh…(insert vague answer here.) How about you?
Y: (Please give your exact street address so we can stalk you.)
U: Oh yeah, I’ve heard that’s a nice area; although we never leave the house, so we don’t know from personal experience.

(awkward silence)

U: So…have you seen Michael before? (Dumb question, since you’re a Pennlister…)
Y: Yeah. He’s awesome live. Were you at The Point show?
U: Yeah. He was awesome.
Y: Yeah.
U: But we’re just here for the tuning.
Y: (polite chuckle here, please) Yeah… (You plan your escape route.)

(awkward silence)

Y: What do you think of Mr. Hollywood Jr.?
U: Love it. He’s a genius. How about you?
Y: Love it. He’s awesome.

(awkward silence)

U: Have you tried the hummus? It’s awesome.
Y: No, I’m not really a fan of the chickpea.
U: Yeah, we’re generally not into whole legumes either, but in their mashed form they’re quite tasty.

(extremely awkward silence)

U: Have you met Spencer yet? (nothing left to say, trying to divert you to Spencer)
Y: Yeah. He’s awesome.

(incredibly awkward silence)

Y: OK…well…nice to meet you guys.
U: Same here. See you on the pennlist!

Feel free to replace “awesome” with any of the following: “rocks” “sweet” “mind-blowing” “fantabulous.”

Please do not forget the awkward silences. They are integral to creating the general aura of discomfort that we thrive in.