Category Archives: Popular Culture

You Are the Fish of My Dreams!

My music guru (my fifteen-year-old son) showed me this video which I believe is entitled Fish by the group Leningrad today. I love it. Since I love you, too, I thought I would share it. (If you want to know what they are singing, click the CC option.)

You are welcome!

A Couple of Musical Summer Nights

The Rotary Club in our little town of 23,000 puts on a two-day outdoor concert every year. The last two years we have had jazz and blues artists, with headliners like Jonny Lang and Buddy Guy. The Rotary went multi-genre this year. The first night featured country music, while the second leaned toward motown and classic rock.  When I was a little kid, I thought John Denver and Glen Campbell were pretty cool, but by high school, country music grated on my nerves like a rusty carrot peeler. Okay, I DID record Waylon Jennings’ theme song to The Dukes of Hazzard and played it over and over, but that was because I was in love with John Schneider. Also I was really impressed with Charlie Daniels, but c’mon, The Devil Went Down to Georgia? That is practically rock. To this day, I am not a big country music fan, but when I saw Rocket Club was in the Friday night lineup, I was very excited.

Before you judge, you need to click and listen. Seriously, just give it sixty seconds. Please.

These guys transcend my prejudiced notions about country and I am a fan. My friend Suzy and I geeked out and went to the merchandise tent where we purchased CD’s, got autographs and met the band. One of the people with them took this picture including about fifty-five percent of the band (Billy Thommes and Joel Sayles not pictured):

Please note I am IN the picture, and am not responsible for cutting off parts of Chris Hawkey and Brian Kroening’s faces. Don Smithmeier and Luke Kramer are intact. This was probably the best we could get, considering tight quarters.

Rocket Club was followed by Rockie Lynne, who rode in on a Harley with an entourage of what looked like 100 motorcycles. One of  his people revved her engine as she went by us and knocked a little plaque off my arterial walls, or at least it felt like it. Lynne’s performance was heavily seasoned with appreciation for the folks who are serving and have served in our military, and he did a nice job. The Friday night headliner was Travis Tritt. By the time he took the stage, I was a little weary of the whole down-home thing, but then he rocked my world with an acoustic solo performance of Long Haired Country Boy. I wish I could find a link to good video of a similar performance with the long gorgeous bluegrass intro, but the closest one I could find here on youtube made me nauseous to watch. You can click and then close your eyes if you want. You are warned.

The second night we were entertained by The Butanes, G. B. Leighton, Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited. We particularly enjoyed CCR, but I had trouble at the end deciding what to watch, the Jumbotron screen or the shenanigans of the group of people who plunked their camp chairs in front of us. Their featured performers were “Green T-Shirt Guy” and “Put Your Shirt Back On Guy.”  Green T-Shirt Guy celebrated CCR with a lot of ironic country dancing, occasionally straddling his date’s chair and employing the classic pelvic thrust move–because nothing says “I love you, girl” like punching her in the face with your crotch. Put Your Shirt Back On Guy didn’t have a date, but he didn’t let that get him down, putting a grind on a noticeably older woman nearby who I came to call “Insufficient Brassiere.” She was into it, but her wing-chick, “Uncomfortable Friend,” was not so sure. It was like a three ring circus; I didn’t know where to look.

It was a lot of entertainment for $10, yes, ten dollars whether you watched one act or came to all seven. Attendance easily exceeded the 14,000 I heard were there last year. Judging from the beer cans and pop bottles left on the ground, the Rotary made a few bucks with concessions; we certainly did our share. It was well organized but the word “sausagefest” comes to mind. Why aren’t more, or any, women performing? I’ll have to ask around about that. I don’t like to brag, but I  know a few people in the Rotary. If you tell me who you think should perform, I’ll put a word in. What acts would YOU recommend for next year’s festival?

 

House Beautiful

One of the best things about my new job (the one with the lowly title of Administrative Assistant, but which I think of as Problem Solver, and some days as Problem Solver Deluxe,) is that I get to DO things, quite fun things, that I would never likely do otherwise. Hobnobbing with the chefs and local news celebrities on the Kitchen Stage was one, and more recently I  attended Rocket Club’s CD release concert/party for their second album North Country at the Varsity Theater which was awesome, all of it, and on a Thursday night to boot. Last night I got to go to Mpls St. Paul Magazine’s 40th Birthday Bash at the Showcase Home for the ASID (American Society of Interior Design) Home Tour.

Here is a picture of the house, as painted by one of the owners, John Larsen, for the cover of the special issue.

Being an easy jog away from Hennepin Ave. the location isn’t quite as bucolic as pictured, but the home is across the street from Kenwood Park and a stone’s throw away from the Lake of the Isles, at least according to the map. I didn’t see the lake, but there were a lot of distractions. Like the check-in tent where we had to present our tickets for admission, and this woman dressed in a paper gown made of pages and covers from Mpls St. Paul Magazine.

 

Now, I don’t want to suggest that Mr. Wordtabulous deliberately took a less than flattering picture of me, because I know for a fact that he deleted at least one that had me, as he said, “with my big mouth wide open.” So I am going with the idea that ANYONE standing next to someone who was hired because of her beauty (and because she also fit into the dress) will look a little less awesome by comparison. That’s me on the right, in case you are confused. When did my arms get so big? (Okay, I was a little nervous about my dress. My sister-in-law Ann told me I HAD to buy it almost two years ago and I hadn’t had a single appropriate occasion to wear it since, but last night, after a sartorial conference with my neighbor Mary Ellen, we agreed its time had come. Thank you ladies! I fit right in. Enough about me.)

 

The festivities were held outside. It was a gorgeous night so the canopies over the yard were largely unnecessary.  The party was well supplied, with Barefoot wine and Summit beer and Two Gingers whiskey livening up the drinks area, delicious sushi rolled on-site, and trayfuls of appetizers (the habanero poppers gave me hiccups) circulating. Heaps of tantalizing cupcakes decorated a table. The DJ supplied dance music from 70’s and 80’s and while there wasn’t any dancing going on while I was there, there were plenty of colorful people, including some local celebs familiar from television and the Kitchen Stage (Rena Sarigianopoulos, Elizabeth Vries, Todd Walker, Amelia Santaniello, Stephanie March, and Bill McCoy were a few I saw) and some of my friends from work all laughing and talking. But the star of the party was the house.

 

The 100+ year old house was redecorated by over thirty designers who divvied up the 20+ rooms and, in cooperation with the owners John and Mike, managed to create an eclectic look with a harmonious flow, balancing function, sophistication and playfulness. The charm of the older home remained in the original woodwork, but was complemented by new wallpaper and drapes that were both luxurious and modern. And as always, I was fascinated by the light fixtures.I am also coveting the library.

And the rugs. And the entire kitchen (so many cupboards, and discreet outlets every 12 inches?) And the cutest little laundry closet I’ve ever seen. Yes, that is a stained and leaded glass window and a Cambria countertop on a sink that is anything but utility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So beautiful.

Mr. Wordtabulous and I had a long haul back to the ‘burbs, and children to catch lingering over Xbox instead of cleaning up the dinner dishes and getting ready for bed, so we made an early exit. As we do. I’d like to thank the homeowners, the designers, the magazine and my employers for another eye-opening experience and a few ideas (we have a plan for a window seat now, and Mr. W is not opposed to big print drapes, who knew?) Lastly, thank YOU, dear reader, for riding along!

To Err is Human, to Post is Feline.

In 2002, when I read the writing on the wall, I knew one of two things was going to happen. Either I was going to drive my growing sons crazy chasing after them and wailing, “Hug me! Why won’t you cuddle anymore?” or I was going to get a kitten and transfer all my neediness onto it. No-brainer. Mr. Wordtabulous has always been miffed that he was not consulted, only informed of the cat acquisition, but to my memory I have only brought three major things into our home without discussing it with him: garage sale dining room table (epic win,) garage sale loveseat/hide-a-bed (epic fail) and Catabulous (epic win, with allowances for noise, midnight bed stomping and litterbox maintenance.)

Having neglected my blog lately, I was racking my brain for a topic to post on (yes, preposition, I know) and all I could think of was how adorable my cat is. One of my simple but guilty pleasures is looking at pictures and videos of cats online. They are funny, and often beautiful, and sweet. I like how people caption the photos. I am amused when people dress their cats, although that is going a bit far. The thing is, people LOVE cat pics and they get a LOT of hits. So “Cynical me” posed a question to “Deer-In-The-Headlights me” (she is my default–the one who is wandering around taking everything in and hoping to make sense of it all before the screeching crash.)

Cynical: Would you ever write a cat blog?

DITH: What do you mean, like a single post, or a whole, like, themed blog?

Cynical: Don’t play coy with me. Would you ever start a blog strictly around cat images, cat care, and cat love? Just to get the hits?

DITH: Let me think. I do really love my cat. If I did start such a blog, it wouldn’t be just for the hits.

Cynical: Oh, please.

DITH: Stop it. I don’t think I have enough material.

Cynical: That isn’t an answer. And seriously? About a fourth of your posts have something to do with a cat anyway. You aren’t far off from being a cat blog. As for material, what did you just buy?

DITH: A leash. For my cat.

Cynical: And if we looked in your photo gallery on your phone, what would we find?

DITH: Cat photos…lots of them. But he’s very photogenic! And everyone else I take pictures of look like they’re in pain!

Cynical: So you have the material, you have the obsessive interest, and you have the attention-seeking personality that would dangle tags like “cat,” “cute,” “funny,” and “playful,” with the objective of luring people in just to raise your stats. Why don’t you start taking pictures of your cat next to photos of movie stars, or of him watching trailers of new release movies so you can work those into your tags, too?

DITH: I don’t like your tone. And I don’t think people who write cat blogs are only interested in hits, they are sharing the joy of cats.

Cynical: Now you are just pandering to the cat bloggers.

DITH: Wow, you’re mean. Look, the answer is no. I wouldn’t write a cat blog just for the hits. Also, I don’t have the attention span for a single topic and I lack commitment. That is why my blog is the whack-a-doodle mishmash that it is. I write what I want to (yes, yes, PREPOSITION.) Besides, if I were really cynical, I’d write about Walk Off the Earth T-shirts and local news anchors because according to my stats THAT is where the action is.

That being said, here is a funny picture of my cat sitting on top of the novel A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. If only he was wearing my WOTE t-shirt and sitting on Leah McLean’s (from KSTP) lap.

Speaking of Poe,

Okay, we weren’t speaking of Poe, but after my last post and my rather self-conscious reference to “the feather light caress of mortality’s scythe,” I have been thinking about him. Like a lot of people, I hit a patch in my tween and teen years when I read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe and other authors who made the macabre an art form. I would probably have been at least a little bit goth, had there been such a thing in those days. I have never fully emerged from that patch; part of me loves the dark side, though I’d rather read it than watch it and prefer suspense to blood and gore. (Side Note: my friend Darlington tells me that in his culture–Rwanda, but in other areas in Africa as well–people love Hollywood movies but cannot comprehend our love of the horror genre. I suspect that if we faced real possibilities of genocide, murderous insurgency, and death by famine and epidemic we would enjoy horror flicks less also.)

So in reflecting how Grandma Marian’s death affected me, I was struck by how my response to death has changed as I’ve aged. Experiencing the loss of my own grandparents as a child, death seemed harsh but unimaginably distant. When one of my schoolmates died of a hidden heart defect we all grieved, but it still seemed the greatest of improbabilities, a one-in-a-million long shot, a lightning strike. Later, I lost a friend to breast cancer and then more and more people, not that much older than me, seemed to be coming out of the woodwork with life-threatening diagnoses and fatal tragedies. I lost my father to a car accident, one friend to an aneurysm and another to a drunk driver, my best friend’s mom and my husband’s mom died of cancer, and my sister and my mom both got cancer. My sister and mother survived, but death, always a possibility on an intellectual level, was becoming undeniable even to my gut. When my husband’s grandmother died, even though she’d lived an abundant life into her nineties, death felt a whisker’s breadth closer. I heard the swoosh of a blade through the air and felt the barest touch of metal to my skin. The scythe, I thought at the time. Now I realize that Poe had it right; it is a pendulum, and it is nearing. My husband’s grandfather confided to him before he passed on some years ago, that he was ready to die. He’d had a good life, he said, and all his friends were already gone. With this most recent funeral, it struck home that perhaps every loss as you age cuts deeper.

Some cope with this reality by chasing sex, things, or inebriation; or by creating a legacy through child-bearing, corporate empire-building, or writing a book. Then there is God. Some would charge that religious faith is just the covers a child hides under, hoping they will shield him from the horrors in the dark. I believe it is more than that. My faith, imperfect as it is, doesn’t protect me from death or loss, or even worry and fear. It does shore me up when I start to crumple, and it does help me reach out past my own self interest in a loving way to others, especially those others I find hard to love. It gives me an assurance of a bigger plan that I don’t need to understand to play a part in. And all it asks is that I keep trying, even as that figurative pendulum swings ever closer. I can do that. Maybe I can build a legacy of sort, as well.

The life of Edgar Allen Poe had its share of horror, but his legacy of literature has excited the imagination for nearly two centuries. The movie The Raven, starring John Cusack (one of my favorite actors,) is released Friday (April 27th) and I am looking forward to it. Poe, played by Cusack, teams up with a detective to catch a serial killer, who stages his kills based upon Poe’s stories. I don’t expect the same level of entertainment from the movie that I derived from Poe’s stories and poems, but I hope it is well done. That is the least we can ask from a film that dares to invoke a master of the macabre.

What movies and books give you shivers and thrills? A few of my top listed books: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and It by Stephen King. Movies: “What Lies Beneath” and “Coraline.”

Clicking the Reset Button

Whoo.  The worst thing about vacations is that inevitable moment when you face the mess that you left, or that accumulated while you were gone and have to ask yourself, “Was it worth it?” Yes, I am sure, on an intellectual level, that it was, but my gut cringes at the laundry that still remains, the tasks left undone, the feeling that there is a ticking time bomb buried in here somewhere and the craven hope that I will be quite close when it goes off. So at least I get out of doing the laundry. This is all small stuff. Bigger stuff is here too, like the death of a loved one. Mr. Wordtabulous’ grandmother died while we were on vacation and her funeral was Monday. I was so focused on celebrating her long and fruitful life that my tears in the parking lot at work caught me by surprise the next day. Grief puts everyday concerns (like stupid, user-antagonistic software and self-image issues) into perspective, but also taxes the system overall. Everything this week has seemed a little sadder and somewhat more pointless. I am okay with wading around in the shallows while the blues work themselves out, but when I start to get into deep water and the waves are lapping up around my face I look for help. I find this video by OK Go helpful. It has a message I like, but mostly it just makes me laugh. So I thought I’d share it with you, because maybe you could use a laugh too.

Don’t be put off by the marching band, go ahead and play it. I’ll wait.

See what I mean? OK Go first came to my attention years ago with their Here It Goes Again treadmill video, and I also like their White Knuckles. Last Leaf is amazing, but if you are feeling blue, then for heaven’s sake don’t watch it last or you will be so melancholy you will want to go nap under a blanket for a week.

Music is amazing for building or altering mood. I can be struggling along and then I hear that one tune that resets everything, like a carpenter’s chalk line, pulled taut, then snapping back. (The internet has failed me; I was looking for an image to illustrate this. Either it is an incredibly difficult shot to capture or no one has realized how apt the snapping chalk line is as a metaphor. Just another thing to let go of.)

So, what songs reset your day?

Friday Night

Crushed red pepper dances on my lips and tongue. Pizza has been delivered and eaten (deluxe for us and cheese for the kids.) My husband and I argue over whether I have taken the lion’s share of the 2007 Silverado cabernet.

(So tasty, what if I did ?)

Highlights of another wild Republican debate await analysis and potential mockery.

It must be Friday night. There is always a lot to think about and recover from when the week’s end arrives. Situations immediate, local, national and global prompt consideration and discussion, but not too much. The wine softens the edges, a much-needed deceleration of intensity. The news tells us danger impends from every direction. Fine, whatevs. I can only be so freaked out for so long. Cynicism threatens.

What has changed? Nothing. Politicians have threatened us with Armageddon for being fooled into buying their opposition’s line. Ships have run aground. The younger generation has raised the standard of attention-seeking misbehavior. Nations have raised the specter of war against their neighbors and ideological opponents. This has been going on forever. At what point does our civilization’s impending destruction become blasé? At the point where it becomes a marketable form of entertainment and advertising revenue. So, forever.

Seriously, we have plenty to worry about. But what use is it to worry or complain when there are things we can do to help? We can raise a voice of reason, give a hand, donate time or money or lend an ear. We can give up our self-gratification for a few minutes to put someone else’s needs first. We can take a breath. Let’s start now.