Fluff: Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

Jezebel ran a post called How Tragic Kingdom Saved My Life and while that particular album didn’t evoke a similar response in me, I adore the idea of dishing the music that’s been instrumental in one’s life.

I suspect that most of us have an ultimate soundtrack filled with songs for different occasions and from different eras of our lives. Growing up in the 80s I was exposed to a variety of musical styles and artists – and much of it was mad cheesy. Despite having interests reflective of many genres – including the oft derided country and hip hop – I still find myself going back to the same few artists: David Bowie, Earth, Wind & Fire, Lyle Lovett, The Legendary Pink Dots (I was a teenage goth) and for some inexplicable reason Eric Clapton – don’t ask, it’s a long story.

I wish I could say I had uber amazing in taste in music, but I don’t. I like all kinds of foolishness without shame or a clear understanding of the concept: guilty pleasure. I don’t like listening to radio unless it involves blathering about cooking, gardening or alien abductions . I tend to like the structure of a set schedule of programming, given that I have ADHD and all.

What kind of music are you enjoying of late? Recommend something. Enjoy. Let’s be fluffy, respectful and all that jazz – yes, I love me some showtunes.

Currently, I can’t get enough of McCartney particularly the instrumental “Momma Miss America”:

Useful Weekend Fluff: Your Fucking Recipes

I hate to distract anyone from the serious business of talking about how FUCKING AWESOME we all are, but it’s come to my attention that many Shapelings are spectacular cooks, some with dazzling signature recipes, and I would like to know more about these things. Tell us, please, about those recipes. Plus any helpful tips you have for those of us who are rather unspectacular cooks.

Speaking of which, one commenter (and I’m sorry I don’t remember who and couldn’t find the comment again when I skimmed back) said something in that thread about feeling like her accomplishments were too mundane to merit unabashed horn-tooting (though happily, she got over it), and the funny thing to me was, one of the first things she listed was being able to sing. Shapelings, I can do a lot of things well, but hoo boy, singing is not one of them. That is no boring, pedestrian talent/achievement to my mind. I have been told a million times that anyone can sing with training, but I would seriously need to put in years of work to be able to do karaoke without causing the audience physical and emotional pain. (I have learned to shut up people who insist, “Oh, come on, it’s karaoke! No one will judge!” by saying, “No, you don’t understand. The problem is not that I’m worried about embarrassing myself. The problem is that you will be embarrassed for me.” That usually makes people drop it. And if you think I’m exaggerating, ask Sweet Machine about playing Rock Band with me.) Xander in the Buffy musical episode? Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia? Finn on Glee? All way, way, WAY better singers than I am. WAY better. (And I have seen what people with training and/or talent and/or better ears than mine say about all of them, so don’t even try to tell me there is hope for a way, way, WAY worse singer than those.) Basically, anyone who can successfully hit the note they were trying for more than about one out of a hundred times is a way better singer than I am. I suppose it’s possible that with extensive training, I could become a passable, or at least somewhat less cringeworthy singer. But I could probably never be good, I could definitely never be great, and since voice training is not a big priority for me, I will most likely remain mind-blowingly bad at it for the rest of my days.

And that’s perfectly OK. I’m Kate fucking Harding either way. But I bring up that particular shortcoming to remind you all that things you might think are too ordinary and unexciting to count as Things That Make You Awesome can, in fact, seem like superpowers to the rest of us. Those of you who can sing, cook, sew, do math, program, make small children like you, keep yourself (let alone other people) organized, play team sports without frustrating the rest of the team to death, function with chronic pain, stretch a dollar, keep from swearing constantly, make a point succinctly or function without half a pot of coffee first thing in the morning all amaze me to varying degrees. Whatever talent, skill or even coping mechanism you take for granted would probably amaze someone. Don’t forget that when assessing your own awesomeness.

OK, now amaze me with your recipes.

Fluff: Strange Days

My Oscar picks.

The Hurt Locker

Best Picture

The Hurt Locker

In addition to expanding the field from five films to ten, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has instituted an Instant Runoff Voting system. Leaving aside the merits or flaws of this system, it’s a provocative decision that could result in a big night for The Hurt Locker. Like its director James Cameron, Avatar is a very polarizing film, which means when offered the option to rank films by preference – which is what you do with IRV – instead of voting for a single film, Avatar might not be everybody’s all American, thus allowing The Hurt Locker, which is likely to be everyone’s favorite first runner up, to snag the top prize.

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow

Having swept many of the directing awards, including the BAFTA, it seems likely she’ll snag this one too. The film is well received, she hasn’t pissed off too many academy voters and she makes movies that straight dudes like. I am a huge fan of her work, with Strange Days and the two parter “Fallen Heroes” from season six of Homicide: Life on the Street being my favorites. That said, I am not under any illusion her win will usher in powder pink Perestroika for women filmmakers or signal the collapse of the male dominated movie industry. Bigelow makes action movies, favors hand held cameras and jump cuts. So I do feel conflicted over her nomination because it reinforces the whole idea of there being women’s stories and then real stories and only those real stories – ones about men, war or power – are worth telling. But, hey, you gotta dance with the one who brung ya!

Best Actor

Jeff Bridges

This is The Dude’s year! After seeing the reaction Bridges received during his Golden Globe acceptance speech, I became pretty convinced he was going to be nominated and win the Best Actor Oscar. The only person who could jostle The Dude’s White Russian is Colin Firth, but unless some new shit comes to light, I really can’t conceive of that happening. This is a beloved actor from an acting family who has given stellar performances throughout his lengthy career. Am I wrong?

Best Actress

Sandra Bullock

For some reason I thought Bullock was on that same island where they’re keeping Meg Ryan and where Rachel McAdams is going when she turns forty. Apparently not! The movie – The Blind Side – is riddled with all kinds of -ism fail, but it’s the kind of showy role the academy loves to see its leading ladies do. With all the subtlety of a trumpet fart in church, Bullock has taken a page from the Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment) and Cher (Moonstruck) How-to-win-an-Oscar play book.

Best Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz

Like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive and Lou Gossett Jr. in An Officer and a Gentlemen before him, Christoph Waltz leveraged his charismatic megalomania for a shot at Oscar gold. He’ll get it too. The academy loves them some over the top supporting performances and oddly enough, it is this award and not the Lead Actor award that generally catapults its winner onto the A-list. Before The Fugitive, me and like Mama Lee Jones were like the only people interested in TLJ’s career.

Best Supporting Actress

Mo’Nique

While I hesitate to curse the incomparable Mo’Nique with this dubious award, I’m pretty certain she’ll get it. Like the “Best New Artist” Grammy, this award is a career killer. Mary Steen-who? If it doesn’t render you unemployed, it at least renders you irrelevant as an actress. There are a few notable exceptions, but for the most part, it’s probably better NOT to win this. Fat, Black women have done well in this category, both as noms (Whoopi and Queen L) and J-Hud won it. Of course, what are they doing now acting wise? It certainly does not do for women, what the equivalent award does for men. Still, the academy loves seeing minorities give poverty pr0n or shuck and jive performances, particularly if it seems (to the academy anyway) to be drawn on some personal experience.

Please note: these are the folks I think will win and in many cases aren’t necessarily the folks I think should win

Fluff: Tron Legacy or Tron 2: Electric Boogaloo

Tron: Legacy finally has an official release date – Christmas 2010 – and I am a trying to tamp down my excitement. Look, I come from a time where one had to use a steam engine to play Combat. Tron blew into town at time when Disney was trying to get its groove back.  The Black Hole (1979) and the highly underrated ghost tale The Watcher in the Woods (1980) had not revamping the brand the way it had hoped. Remember, The Little Mermaid was still seven years away.

Tron was expected to usher in a new direction for the mouse, However, with its modest box office success, accusations of “cheating” (via the use of computer technology still in its infancy) and mixed to terrible reviews, Tron seemed poised to become the Thank God It’s Friday of the sci-fi film world.

Tron: Legacy

Enter Tron’s release on laser disc. I believe this was a game changer in some respects for sci-fi action films, more so than Ridley Scott playing footies with various cuts of Blade Runner. Seeing it on Laser Disc, with the visuals set to Wendy Carlos’s dazzling synth work probably did more for the film than legions of Queer Studies papers deconstructing the homoerotic relationship of Clu and Tron, though the papers were highly entertaining and very much appreciated.

Because we can all use some respite, let’s dish Tron. Are you intrigued? Disgusted by someone tampering with your childhood? Are you excited about seeing Bridges and Boxleitner back in action? Memories of the film? It’s all game, provided it falls under the rubic of FLUFF, sci-fi films and such.

ETA: I really, really, really need a break from discussing Black female desirability.

It’s National Handwriting Day*

Normally, I am not swayed by faux-lidays, but I was excited to discover today is National Handwriting Day. Often times it is far quicker for me to put fingertips to keyboard yet I am still drawn to pen and paper. I’m sure my slight obsession with all things office supply related might have a touch to do with it.

I am a lefty-turned-righty so my handwriting is heavily influenced by learning to form letters and numbers as a left handed person. I still write many of my letters from right to left.

Some friends attribute my strong powers of mental recall to photographic memory and Synesthesia – conditions I have – though I believe a considerable amount can be attributed to my rabid handwriting habit.

Writing by hand makes things stick for me and apparently there is some cognitive benefit too according to a study performed at the University of Washington.

According to research carried out at the University of Washington that involved test subjects of second, fourth and sixth graders, kids who write it out by hand demonstrated the capacity to write more, write better and write faster compared to their computer-using counterparts.

It’s a nice excuse to test drive pens you might have lying around or make some new friends. Plus, I’m sure there are lots of people who would love getting some snail mail written with love.

*Hey, it’s still 1/23 on the East Coast!

The Gifts That Keep On Sucking

I found this list of terrible gifts. I think my favorite is Fart Insurance pills. (the list includes classist commentary on Mama’s Family. My apologizes)

I tend to give gifts that are fun, but somewhat useful. For example, my step-dad is a Loctor (an MD who is also a Lawyer) and a rabid sci-fi geek. If there’s a better way to keep him organized than a Darth Vader Desk Tidy I haven’t found it.

Snarky’s Note: I didn’t get him this.

The worst gift I probably gave him was a TIE. Totally fail on my part, as ties are clearly thoughtless Father’s Day gifts. In my defense, the tie did have the Rebel Insignia pattern. While generally a loving man, I’m fairly certain the idea of mind-choking occurred to him.

I miss the mark as much as anyone, but I tried really hard this year to come up with creative gifts that wouldn’t be returned, re-gifted or resold at some future yard sale.

Best gift I ever received: A Little Mermaid Coloring book/crayons with cash tucked inside. I was 16; we’d moved back to the states. (from Europe when my parents divorced) La Mommie (sung to the tune of La Bamba) worked long hours while attending graduate school full time. She told us we weren’t really Christmas people and waited for the pouting and whining to commence. Instead my sister and I cheered and did a booty dance! Then we decorated the infamous Christmas Chair (a nondescript armless office chair) and went on about our business.

I was moved by the coloring book not merely because I’m a rabid office/art supply addict – though certainly that should be factored in – but it was truly the embodiment of It’s the thought that counts. It was one of the few times in my life where that sentiment accurately captured the moment and wasn’t an admonishment to circumvent ungratefulness.

Whoa, I didn’t mean to go all Sappy’s Machine on you!

Worst gift I ever received: Blueberry scented Yankee Candle from a coworker in an office gift swap. I knew I was done for when I could smell the gift before I actually opened it. Sitting in a crowded Cheesecake Factory with coworkers cackling about the calorie count of various desserts while receiving such a terrible gift was more than I could stand. I remember wistfully gazing at my gift recipient fondling her $25 certificate to Sanrio and feeling very much the personification of No good deed goes unpunished.

I’m not pop psychologist, but it’s my observation terrible gifts tend to be more memorable because like bad haircuts they require more time and attention. A great gift immediately becomes a part of your life. You wear it, eat it, bath in it or drive it with the top down. Bad gifts are Zombie Playas, possessing an uncanny ability to pop up just when you thought they were gone. Open a closet door and that horrible quilted vest falls off the top shelf or you stub your toe on that set of hot pink tools only slightly less useful than a Fisher-Price set. All the work required to rid yourself of the disappointing gift, coupled with the conga beat of it’s the thought that counts usually results in frothing amounts of bitterness and more clutter. Whenever I happen upon terrible gift of years past I find my lips automatically curve into the same Lee Press-On smile used when I initially received the item, despite being alone.

Shapelings, best/worst gifts you’ve received or given. This is an open-ish thread, but let’s keep centered on holiday gifting. I especially want to hear how people are handling the economic downturn and what effect it’s had on your gifting. Among my friends we’re doing a “Oh, no they didn’t” swap of all the really craptastic gifts we’ve received. I got a diversity activity set COMPLETE with diversity crayons. The same ones my partner and I spied at a crafting store that oddly enough was going out of business.

Friday Semi-Fluff: Letters to Santa

Ohferbleepssake.

This Christmas, the Pennsylvania Medical Society is asking children to ease up on the milk and cookies for Santa Claus. That way, his ample waistline won’t be further widened by the 787.5 million calories he would otherwise consume in that state alone.

No, see, I get that large chunks of this are written with a knowing wink to the adults. I get that this is somebody’s/bodies’ unsuccessful attempt at whimsy with a moral. I get it. But I also live in a house with two young PBS watchers. So when I see this:

The poll is part of the society’s annual campaign to highlight a Christmas tradition as a way to teach a health lesson to those who don’t park reindeer on the roof.

…it strikes a familiar chord. Yes, God forbid we have a situation involving BOTH children AND food that doesn’t teach a dad-blame HEALTH LESSON. Because that strategy — teaching children to associate tasty bites of food with shaming, moralizing lectures — has clearly proven SO successful to human happiness that we can’t afford to suspend it even for one stinking second during a holiday celebration.

“The average person gains 1.4 pounds per year, one pound of which is often gained over the holidays because of overeating,” said Pennsylvania Medical Society President James Goodyear, MD. “There’s no better time than right now to adopt the Santa Snack Plan — to help Santa and yourself not only on Dec. 24, but also all year.”

The Santa Snack Plan is a way to cut down Santa’s (and your) unhealthy eating, such as the strategy modeled by the small percentage of Pennsylvanians who said they would leave carrots, apple slices and celery sticks for St. Nick.

Yeah, ‘kay. Couple things. First, let’s note that it’s weird to call something the “Santa Snack Plan” when part of your whole pearls-clutching point is that the traditional and widely-favored Santa snacks are OMGBADFOODS! You might consider calling it the “Opposite of Santa Snacks Snack Plan” or the “We Can’t Stop Moralizing About Food Even One Evening A Year Snack Plan” or the “We’re Stuck At Home Having Snacks Because We’re So Obnoxious and Ungracious Nobody Will Have Us Over For Christmas Dinner For Fear of Being Lectured At Snack Plan.” Possibilities abound.

Second, uhhh, I’m pretty sure kids – especially any demographic that might, conceivably, Look To Santa As A Role Model For Their Own Eating Habits – are supposed to gain quite a bit more than 1.4 pounds a year. Whence the panic, O Pennsylvania Medical Society?

Third, I’m trying to figure out what the children’s thought processes are imagined to be, such that this particular health lesson is called for. Once a year, some kids in some parts of the world leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus. So the thinking is that kids love Santa, and Santa eats cookies, and therefore… kids will eat cookies cookies nothing but cookies until they puke and gain 1.4 pounds a year and get fat and become our national shame and drain health care dollars and die?

Right, well, is that before or after they go back in time, become Anatolian bishops, give lots of stuff to the poor, die, get canonized by the Catholic and Orthodox churches, have a feast day named for them, hang out for a few centuries, get coopted by Coca-Cola, move to the North Pole, hire elves, raise reindeer, and start making and delivering Wiis for all the children of the land? I mean, if Santa’s eating cookies is such an OVERWHELMINGLY TEMPTING EXAMPLE that children are POWERLESS TO RESIST HIM?

Or is the idea that parents leave the cookies out and then eat them, which is totally NOT OKAY because even in a season of celebration, the very worst thing you can be is a fat fat fatty fat cookie eater, a setter of bad examples for the children, who’s getting fatter by the year? A whole 1.4 pounds fatter!

They’re. Just. Cookies. Sheesh, people took notice when Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster felt the need to clarify that cookies are a “sometimes food.” But MOTHER OF PEARL, special once-a-year holiday things are the very SOMETIMESIEST of sometimes foods. But no. Sorry. Not even then, and not even for Santa.

(And say, incidentally, you know what makes yummy apple slices and refreshing carrot sticks* completely suck? When they’re given to you as a consolation prize along with a lecture about exercising unfailing control over what you eat, for the rest of your life, without taking a break, lest you eat the ohhh-soooo-tempting COOKIES that are not for YOU!)

So here’s your Friday Fluff assignment, Shapelings. Write an over-the-top joy-sucking, earnest, moralizing, Grinchy note to Santa to leave out with your lack of cookies. Here’s mine.

Dear Santa: Suck it. You’re fat. Here are some wafer thin ass-wipe flavored mints, letters from all your exes listing your flaws and failures in excruciating detail, and a self-improvement handbook. Also, some coupons for things you don’t like, and a box of tooth whitener. I hope you hate yourself enough, because the children of the world see you as a role model, you dirtbag. Please leave my stuff under the tree and get the hell out of my house. Love, A Sarah.

(Readers of other faiths or none should feel free to address their letters accordingly. Just make sure they suck all the joy out of an ordinarily joyful experience.)

*-Sorry, but I do not care for raw celery sticks, ever.

Fluffcation: Real names of prosimians

Bush babies

Unless, of course, some Wikipedian is punking me, these guys are all related to our friends the lemurs. Say hello to your new friends:

False Potto
Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur
Prince Demidoff’s Bushbaby
Southern Needle-clawed Bushbaby
Lesser Iron-gray Dwarf Lemur

And, my personal favorite: Grewcock’s Sportive Lemur

The False Potto’s scientific name is, apparently, Pseudopotto martini. Clearly, this is a fantastic cocktail in the making, so Shapelings, have at it: what’s in a Pseudopotto martini?