Category Archives: Music

Away at camp

2015-07-06_11-19-59

 

O was safely delivered to camp on Sunday. My father had a clever idea. When I asked if we could borrow his SUV to bring O’s trunk to camp, my father said, “Why not let him take the boat over?” (The camp is on the same lake my parents’ house is on.) O loved the idea, so he piloted us over there. His arrival definitely attracted attention on shore. The only trouble was, the dock’s gate was locked, so one of the parents had to find the camp director so we could get in. She’s known my dad for years, so I don’t think she was too annoyed. 😉 The only thing my father asked of O was that he ask the camp director, “Permission to come ashore, ma’am.” It was pretty clear she knew this was one of my father’s antics. 😉

I brought O to his cabin, met his counselor, then helped him get settled. I didn’t want to hang out and embarrass him, so I said, “I think I’ll get going back to the boat now,” and the boys in the cabin perked up. One said, “Hey, you’re the ones that came on the boat? Cool!” I guess he made a memorable entrance. O’s cabin is visible from the water, so my father and stepmother will know where to look for him when they boat over at night. (They like to come over and see if they can see him…grandparents!!!)

The night before my father took us out on the lake and we watched fireworks. July 4th during the day had been drizzly, but by nightfall, the skies were clear, the air was cool, and was the perfect evening for fireworks. Once they were over, we sat offshore and listened to the Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower” play at a house party. The perfect tune for Independence Day! (BTW, it was also my father’s 76th birthday. I can hardly believe he’s that old. He was complaining about a pulled muscle he’d gotten from, get this, running laps around the track! He’s a former marathoner, still in great shape.)

Today (Monday) the house feels empty. I already missed O on the drive home, but I know he’ll be having fun these next two weeks.

Crafting

Not much knitting got done since I last posted, though I did work a couple of rows of Pebble Beach last night before bed. Each row is now over 300 stitches and I’m not even halfway through the pattern.

On the way back home from CT I stopped at That $2.99 Fabric Store in Auburn. They had some great denim there, but I have plenty of denim in my stash so I controlled myself. I bought a couple of yards of midnight blue lace to use as an inset on a dress I want to make and two yards of cream-colored polyester charmeuse for slips/bodice lining.

It looks like this week’s sewing project will be creating a Roman shade for one of our bedroom windows. Since I finished the drapes for our northern-facing window, my husband has become quite spoiled and wants the eastern-facing window to have a similar covering. I can’t blame him–the light shines right in his eyes at dawn.

Hello Ladies

hello_ladiesI was thrilled to read the first positive review of HBO’s “Hello Ladies” this morning. Dade Hayes, a columnist for Forbes.com, writes, “Over the winding course of its flinty, eight-episode run, the show has blossomed, becoming at once antic and deeply felt, an unusual mix of sharp wit and melancholy.”

At last, a critic gets it!

If you haven’t seen the show, it’s the brainchild of Stephen Merchant, a frequent collaborator with Ricky Gervais. (He was Gervais’s sidekick in this hilarious skit with Liam Neeson I wrote about here last year.) Merchant plays the lead, a socially awkward British web developer named Stuart Pritchard whose main goal in life seems to be scoring with a supermodel in his adopted town of LA. Critics have lambasted the show, calling it “cringeworthy” because of the outrageous and uncomfortable situations the supremely self-unaware and often unlikeable Pritchard gets himself into: telling homophobic and racist jokes during a hot tub party whose guests included a gay couple and a black editor from Vanity Fair and demanding that a bouncer return a tip when Pritchard doesn’t physically step into the club.

Basically Stuart Pritchard is an English Larry David, but for some reason the critics who loved “Curb Your Enthusiasm” can’t stomach “Hello Ladies.” I fear it’s a case where the more acidic British sense of humor is a little tough for some Americans to swallow. Case in point: “The Office,” which Merchant co-created with Gervais. I know Americans who adore Michael Scott on the U.S. version of the show, but they watch an episode of the original British version with Gervais playing David Brant, and they sit there with stony faces, occasionally shifting in their seats with physical discomfort. (I happen to like both versions for different reasons.)

Other things I love about the show: the rest of the cast! Especially the character of Jessica, Stuart’s pool-house renter and aspiring actress, who is just dorky enough that you can’t help but root for her. (The actress Christine Woods deserves kudos here. She plays Jessica with such nuance.) If you’re an “Alias” fan, Kevin Weisman‘s face will be familiar to you. He plays Stuart’s foul-mouthed frenemy who uses his disability to charm the pants of beautiful girls, much to Stuart’s annoyance. I haven’t spent a lot of time in LA, but its portrayal in “Hello Ladies” feels right to me: Like some of Merchant’s characters, I feel invisible there because I’m not blonde, buxom, and Botoxed. Bonus: soundtracks include Hall & Oates, Gerry Rafferty, and Al Stewart. Remember “Year of the Cat“? I hadn’t heard that song in years until watching “Hello Ladies.”

HBO hasn’t renewed “Hello Ladies” for a second season, and I’m nervous because critics were so hard on the first two episodes. I won’t give anything away, but last weekend was the first season finale and for those critics who thought Stuart Pritchard was entirely too self-obsessed, well … there’s a heart beating in that pigeon-chest of his. I hope the network that gave us TWO seasons of the dreadful “Mind of the Married Man” will give Stephen Merchant another year to develop this very funny — and yes, oftentimes uncomfortable — comedy. If they renew it, I’ll definitely pay Verizon for the HBO upgrade.

What do you think? Have you seen the show? Thoughts?

Bay City Rollers love

Last week, O and I were at the mall, wandering around Newbury Comics, when I spotted life-size cutouts of some cute-looking boys.

“Who are they?” I asked.

O gave me That Look. That Look that imparts I know absolutely nothing about pop culture. “Those are the guys from One Direction.”

“Which direction?” I asked. Loudly. (This is how I get back at him for sassing me at home.)

He explained that One Direction is super popular with the girls at school. When I asked if he’d like a One Direction CD, he wrinkled up his nose.

“I guess that would have been like offering my brother a Bay City Rollers’ record back in the day,” I said.

When I was about O’s age, I was head-over-heels crazy in love with the Bay City Rollers, a pop group from Scotland. They wore leisure suits trimmed in tartan, had these doofy spiky hairstyles, and were unbearably cute. Not to mention that when they weren’t singing, they spoke with sexy brogues that turned on just about every pre-adolescent girl in America.

Most of my friends in sixth grade loved either Les McKeown, the rakish lead singer, or Derek Longmuir, the blond drummer. But I loved Eric Faulkner, the guitarist. I look at pictures at young Eric now and wonder what I saw in him, but when I look back at all my girl-crushes on movie stars and musicians, I can see it: the eyes. He had such sad-looking puppy-dog eyes like Paul McCartney’s, my first pop star crush when I was in second grade. (I was too young for the Beatles; I only knew Paul as the lead singer of the Wings. Yeah, I know … sad. But I was a child of the 70s.)

I just looked Eric Faulkner up and prepared for the worst. But you know? I think he’s even sexier now and I suspect I’d like his mature music better. What do you think? Were you a Bay City Rollers fan-girl (or fan-guy)?

Getting stuff done

Sorry I’ve been quiet. I’ve been knitting away on my Aran sweater, some days accomplishing a lot, and others not doing much at all due to The Other Projects (see below). The back and one sleeve are done and blocked, and I’m at the quarter mark on the second sleeve. This leaves the two front cardigan pieces, knitting the buttonbands/neckline edging, then sewing it all up, which, frankly, I’m sweating over. Can I finish by March 17? It’s just under a month away.

So, The Other Projects. I’m giving up my office so that my son can have his own room. Technically he does have his own room right now, the biggest one in the house, but he shares it with my husband’s home office. And O is miserable in there. Let’s just say that my husband is something of a packrat and there’s just no room for O to spread out his toys, or even have a friend sleep over. The plan is, O will move into my office and have the space completely to himself, and I’ll move my books, fabric, sewing machine, and yarn to his old space and set up a little workstation for writing out in the livingroom. It’s not an ideal set-up for work, but it’s more important to me for O to have his own bedroom and some privacy. Plus, he’ll have his “own” bathroom downstairs, which he’ll share with visitors, of the course … and the cats! Anyway, these plans have led to purging and cleaning, which feels great, but is time-consuming.

Then The Other Project is that I’ve been revising a book for electronic publication. IRL I’m a freelance writer and author/co-author. Back in the early 00s, my co-author Linda and I published a book called The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success, with a small publishing company called Marion Street Press. The book ended up being a big hit, with great reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Investigative Reporters and Editors, The Writer magazine, and, happily, readers! We followed up with a second book, The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock, and a second edition of The Renegade Writer. Unfortunately, our publisher decided to sell his press, and the new owners were … well, let’s put it this way: We missed our old publisher, Ed, who was fair, honest, and dedicated to our books. Even though our books were doing well and we’d long earned out our advances, the new owners weren’t paying our royalties. Finally, we consulted with an attorney and discovered that non-payment of royalties violated the terms of our publishing contract so we could take full-ownership of the rights to our books. This was about a year ago.

Anyway, Linda and I have long been talking about updating The Renegade Writer, since the second edition was over five years old, an eternity in publishing. So I spent most of February going through the manuscript, and finally this weekend uploaded .mobi and .epub files to Amazon.com and BN.com and now The Renegade Writer 2.5 is live! (The Kindle version can also be purchased through most of Amazon.com’s international sites, which is awesome because the physical book was hard to find in England, France, Japan, etc.) It feels good to have it done and out there, although I’m fretting that I’ve made some terrible error, like forgotten to take out the Rickrolling link I put in to entertain Linda as she proofed, hee hee. (I’m not sure she saw it … either that, or she’s chosen to ignore my childish pranks.)

BTW, what is so bad about Rick Astley? He’s awesome! It’s a happy tune! So, the video’s a little lame, but it’s waaaaay better than Gangnam Style, which my son informed me this weekend is the most popular YouTube video ever with over a billion page views. Ugh.

So besides cleaning, sorting, editing, and uploading, I’ve been shoveling (more snow this weekend) and now O is out of school for February vacation, so that means playing Chief Entertainment Officer, unless I want him glued to Minecraft for the next five days. How is your February going?

First recordings of family Christmas found

wall_familyLast night I was knitting and watching BBC World News when this story caught my attention. Curators at the Museum of London found the earliest recordings of a family Christmas celebration. The recordings, made between 1902 and 1917, capture the holiday festivities of the Wall family in London (above). Back then, recording ordinary family activities was quite rare, according to the BBC report. The phonograph machine was cutting-edge dictation technology used in offices, not in family parlors.

Do check out the recordings on the BBC’s website. They are quite special! Like the museum curator, I, too, got chills listening to their voices, especially of the seven-year-old boy singing.

 

Criminal or besotted?

Normally I avoid news stories about older men seducing young girls — pedophilia stories give me nightmares — but the recent case of British math teacher Jeremy Forrest, 30, who ran off to France with his 15-year-old student Megan Stammers nabbed my attention. Not because of the creepiness of it all, but because it highlights the gulf between Anglo and Gallic sensibilities.

The British focus on the fact that a teacher ran off with a student, a child in the eyes of the law (I believe the age of consent in the UK is 16). Stammers was cast as the victim, Forrest the manipulative kidnapper. Some papers reported that he’d seduced female students in the past. The case has British police urging David Cameron to continue cross-border arrest and investigation work with the EU, as Forrest was charged on an EU arrest warrant. With that kind of cooperation gone, what will happen when the next British schoolchild is ferried off by a creepy pedophile?

The French, on the other hand, took a laissez faire stand. The age of consent in France is 15. What could be more romantic than a pretty girl running off with her musician boyfriend to the south of France? So there’s 15 years between them … love is blind, they say. He had a wife? Eh, so what? Men will be men. They just didn’t see why the British were making such a fuss.

In the end, Forrest was arrested by the French police and he’s about to be extradited to Britain, but again, his attorney on the Continent  exhibited that classic Gallic attitude: “Jeremy Forrest is in no pervert. This is a story only about love and passion … I believe it will never end. His only crime is to have fallen in love with a 15-year-old, without any recourse to violence or manipulation.” Ah, so this is why Woody Allen loves Paris. It wasn’t the baguettes.

American newspapers that reported on this story took a similar stance as the British, not surprising given our Puritanical background and our hardline position on underage sex, especially when it involves a teacher and a student. We just aren’t very tolerant of that, unless the teacher is a female and the students are 16- and 17-year-old boys — then the attitude seems to be “those lucky lads.”

What do you say? Do you take the Anglo/American position that Jeremy Forrest violated the law or the French position that he was simply following his heart?

Olympic Fever!

Friends and family keep asking me, “Don’t you wish you were in London right now?” Guess they don’t know me very well because my idea of hell is being stuck in loud, sweaty crowds with no easy means of escape. Not to mention if you want to watch the Olympics, the best seat in the house is usually at home where you can see everything much better thanks to network cameras. I’ll save London for another day. I’m content to see the sights from this side of the ocean.

I did stay up last night to watch the opening ceremonies. Well done, I thought. Not much of a surprise there as I like Danny Boyle, but I did find it odd that it overly emphasized British literature, film, and music over than sport and athleticism. I’m not going to complain, though, because the soundtrack was outstanding: the Clash, Bowie, the Sex Pistols, the Chemical Brothers, the Pet Shop Boys, Clapton, and more. We did not see Elton John or Coldplay. And I loved that when Queen came on, their music got an extra cheer from the crowd.

Speaking of queenly matters … did you like the James Bond short? I thought it was fun. And good for the Queen for playing along, although she looked rather glum all night.

Another thing I enjoyed about Boyle’s direction? The homage to Britain’s sense of humor. The Brits just don’t take themselves so seriously, unlike Americans. (A huge generalization, I know.)  I doubt you’d see the likes of an American director let someone like Rowan Atkinson goof around with a renowned orchestra. I mean, look how offended we get when Ricky Gervais pokes fun at Hollywood celebrities? Wait — I guess it’s the Hollywood celebrities who get offended. But I stand by my original assertion.

I loved the look of the Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms for the U.S. athletes, though I was dismayed to find out they were made in China. Grr. And while I’ve seen the athletic wear that Stella McCartney designed for Team UK, I wasn’t thrilled with the look of the uniforms they wore at last night’s opening ceremony. (Those gold patches under their arms? Yuk.) I also liked Canada’s outfits — they were simple, but really stood out.

Anyway, it was a pleasant way to spend the evening and I managed to get a good bit done on my 2012 Ravellenic Games entry, my Go America! socks:

socks for Ravellenic games

I had to rip them back a bit after I’d discovered I’d cast on an extra stitch, but otherwise good progress. This morning I manged to add another two inches to the leg, and I suspect by the end of the weekend I’ll have the heel turned. My son is down in Connecticut this weekend, so I have some extra free time.

Are you watching the Olympics over the next several weeks? Are you participating in the 2012 Ravellenic games?

That’s Bond, Sir James Bond

Yesterday I spent another dreary, rainy day with my knitting, watching Casino Royale (the remake) and Quantum of Solace, both for the nth times. And yes, I can’t wait until November 9th, when the next Bond film, Skyfall, will hit the big screen here in North America. (You lucky dogs in Britain get it two weeks ahead of us.) I’ve got a lot of anticipation riding on this installment: Sam Mendes directing, starring roles for Ralph Fiennes (!!!) and Javier Bardem, not to mention more of broody, rough Daniel Craig and the always-a-pleasure-to-watch Judi Dench.

I’ve also been catching up on my show biz reading this weekend, and just learned there’s another guest star scheduled for the film: Queen Elizabeth! According to The Telegraph, Bond will be receiving a knighthood in Skyfall, and the Queen has agreed to participate in filming the scene. How cool is that? I’m also loving that the London Olympics will somehow play a part in the film.

I hate to get my hopes up — I’ve had some big Bond disappointments (A View to a Kill*? The Living Daylights?). On the other hand, with all this great casting and a top director, how can they miss?

 

*A View to a Kill, imo, has one of the best Bond songs. Duran Duran rocks it 4 ever … just don’t judge the song by the video. That hi-tech Walkman, LOL!!!

End of the season

Last night in the States was the tw0-hour Christmas finale of Downton Abbey’s second season. What did you think? I’m going to watch it again today on PBS.com since I missed chunks of it here and there; my husband decided to fix our dishwasher just as the program came on, which meant many interruptions. Harrumph!

I enjoyed the scenes with Daisy last night, esp. her role in the kitchen. (I won’t say anymore in case you haven’t seen it.) Then today I found this interesting piece on NPRs site about Downton Abbey’s sumptuous food scenes and how they don’t correspond with our perceptions of British food as being lumpy, tasteless, and bland.

I’ll leave you with this to enjoy with your lunchtime soup. The only scene that’s missing is the ending scene in last night’s finale. 🙂

Subaru to hockey moms: When you die, you can go to hell

 


Did Subaru’s advertising agency pay attention to what Shane McGowan is singing in If I Should Fall From Grace With God?

Although it’s one of the catchiest sounding songs ever IMO, the lyrics are pretty depressing. It’s a song about what should be done with the singer’s body after death if the “angels won’t receive [him]” and he can’t be buried in consecrated ground. “Coming up threes boys” must have given them the idea to put three cute little boys in the ad, when really, it’s a reference to the old wives’ tale that drowning men come up for air three times before succumbing; bad luck and death also come in threes.  The song has references to the longstanding Anglo/Irish conflict, and if I understand the lyrics right, McGowan is basically telling the English they can go to Hell with him (“Let them go down in the mud/where the rivers all run dry”). (ETA: I reread the lyrics and the “them” could also refer to “our fathers.”)

I’m guessing like most Americans, the agency creatives love the energy of the music. So do I! I’m sure some of them were in college in the 80s and remember getting shit-faced at parties, the Pogues cranked in the background. Still, every time I see the ad I can’t help but think they’re telling hockey moms to go to hell. In which case, maybe they wanted to slip a sly sense of humor past the client.