Tuesday, March 30, 2010

keren ann

The past couple of weeks have been insane... waaaay too busy at work and once I get home, just barely getting the important stuff done.  I know it has to let up sooner or later, I'm just hoping for sooner to get here.

So, just to keep things kicking, I am posting just a little somethin' somethin'.  I thought I'd share a video by an artist I really like, Keren Ann.  Keren's music is a bit nostalgic, a bit melancholy and all chanteuse.  The first album of hers I bought was Nolita back in 2005.  I loved that it was half in English and half in French.  The song below is an English language song but I think I am partial to her French tunes. You may remember this from a H&M campaign a few years back.  In any case, enjoy the music and check out Keren Ann.   

Sunday, March 21, 2010

not by the hair on my chinny chin chin

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.
~William Shakespeare

I think facial hair is one of things either you like or you don't. This goes for both men and women. (And I am not referring to facial hair on women.  That is just wrong.) Rumor has it that the beard is back. Yay! I find it extremely sexy and think most men look better with at least a little hair on their faces. I am a proud supporter of facial hair in all it's forms and happily discuss it when I can. Though, when I talked about facial hair and manscaping, I ended up getting myself in some hot water with Countrymouse.  Of course, I've also talked about some of my favorite singers that also happen to sport epic beards. It's a common thread in many aspects of my life.  

I've managed to instill my love of whiskers on my oldest pup. He's had different combinations of facial hair over his short tenure with the wiry stuff.  Recently, he had a play date with his razor when he decided that he needed a fresh face to welcome in the spring.

He actually thinks it will take him two months to grow back the Fu Manchu and is counting the days.  (That's one of those pesky life lessons... knowing when to say enough is enough.)

So in honor of all the facially furry men out there, I offer you the Beard Playlist.  Enjoy these songs with the bearded man of your dreams (or be the bearded man of some sweet girls dreams!)

The Beard Playlist

  • Devendra Banhart: This Beard is for Siobhan
  • Dollboy: Beard of Bees
  • Natalie Portman's Shaved Head: Beard Lust
  • Wilco: Bob Dylan's 49th Beard
  • Neil Halstead: Baby I Grew You a Beard
  • The Daredevil Christopher Wright: My Attempts to Grow a Beard
  • The Submarines: Fern Beard
  • Them, Roaringtwenties: Fast Acting Nite-Nite Spray with Realistic Uncle Beard

And one video by the great bearded one, William Fitzsimmons.
(FYI: It's a sweet, upbeat song, just in case you've watched some of his other videos I've posted.)

Pssst... did you see the guy to William's right with the handlebar mustache... very cool, indeed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ray of light

I love my father.  He is still trying to adjust to life on his own after being married to my mother for 50 years.  Most days he fares pretty well.  He enjoys his hobbies and keeps himself entertained.  I always seem to have some project on the back burner for him, like this garden arbor he's just finished for me. (More on that once I figure out how to install it!) 

My father is an odd combination of logic and creativity.  His sense of style and aesthetic comes no where close to mine, but definitely make a statement.  He recently got what we'll just call a wild hair and decided to repaint his living room, not that it needed it, but he just thought it'd be a fun project. (I should mention that he built this entire room/addition to his house from the foundation up.)  What follows is the results: 

Even if spring can't get here quick enough to suit me, there's no being gloomy in this room. I always think of Madonna's "Ray of Light" when I think about these wall.  (One of her better songs, in my opinion.)

I'm just glad I have my own crazy walls to go home to at night!


Katie over at Don't Warn the Tadpoles does these cute themed posts called, "Today I love..."   I love these posts because I almost always love what she loves.  Yay!

So here's my hand at sharing something I love...

Today I love Phil Hansen's video,"Influences".  It is a time-lapse video of him painting layers of pictures on his torso. The project took two days to complete and he even slept with the paint on!  Each picture represented an influence on his life.  In the end, he peels off a quarter inch of paint to cut out a portrait of himself.  [Insert deep thoughts here... but it's late and I have to pretend to get some sleep.]

The song, "Influences", is by Mayda Miller.  Definitely check her out if you're a Nikka Costa fan ala "Like a Feather".

What are some of your influences?  Do you think you benefit from the bad ones as well as the good?

Monday, March 15, 2010

et tu, brute?

Salvete, lectricis!

Okay... this is an awesome song and it suits my purposes, so there you have it.  (I have to admit that forever I thought Blood, Sweat and Tears sang this.  And a little FYI... Jim Peterik, who would later go on and form Survivor (ugh) is the lead singer of Ides of March.)

So the band aside, we have the wonderful Bard to thank for our cognizance of The Ides of March.  (I wonder if he was alive and well these days if he'd be known as Will.I.Am Shakespeare?!) The term ides was used to indicate the middle of the month on the Roman calendar.  March, May, July and October recognized this on the 15th and the other months used the 13th to signify the middle of the month.  In modern times, our thoughts turn to Caesar on March 15th. Shakespeare immortalized the assassination of Julius Caesar, which occurred on March 15 44BC,  in his play of the same name.

According to Plutarch,the Greek historian, Caesar was warned of his upcoming demise.  Shakespeare's take on it was:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

So what is it about the Ides of March that fascinates us so much? I think it is about the basic crime of betrayal.  Most of us go through life with only a small core group of people we truly trust. Sure, we're friendly and cordial to people, but I think we are careful about to whom we totally let our guard down. Hearts are fragile things and easily broken.  Speaking for myself, I try to be careful who I let into my heart... be it family or friend.  That's not to say that I don't have real and lasting relationships with people outside that core, because I do.. I just know where things stand. (I also get burned sometimes.) Poor old Julius let his guard down... and when his best bud Brutus came down on the other side of his loyalty, Caesar was shocked.  Thus the famous line, "Et tu, Brute?".  

When our core peeps misuse our trust, it makes us stop and consider everything else in our lives. We have to reassess. If we are wrong about this person we trust, what else are we wrong about?  It is unsettling and has far reaching implications.  

Many times when we think of betrayal in relationships, we think of a husband-wife scenario.  We probably all know of a couple whose relationship succumbed to the insidious aftermath of a breech of trust. Yet, I think we encounter betrayal more frequently on a much less catastrophic basis.  When someone we trust chooses to hide their real selves from us, it undermines the relationship we believe we have with that person.  How can we have a relationship with a person when we don't really know them? Can a relationship be pure when someone is hiding what they really feel or who they really are?  If this person is within the "chosen few", our world starts to crumble a little.  At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves if this is where we want our energies directed.  If something doesn't enrich our lives and bring it some benefit, do we really need or want it? Relationships are always a two way street, but if you are the only one who is being honest, you are hitting a dead end.

So what else can we learn from Caesar?  Well, he was admonished and didn't heed the warning.  That should be a big lesson right there.  The real interesting end to his story is that the Roman senators were looking to change how things were run.  By killing Caesar, they hoped for some freedom from his reign but in reality, their actions ushered in the end of the Roman Republic and the ascendancy of Octavius as Emperor of Rome.  A real out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire maneuver.  The moral of the story is threefold: be cautious who you trust, pay attention and be careful what you wish for.  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

public enemies

I am always surprised when Hollywood is able to get in your head and manipulate you.  Why this still surprises me may be really what surprises me.

I spent this evening watching Public Enemies with Pup#3 and his best bud. I know... the movie has been out for months now, but the truth is I probably wouldn't have watched it on my own but he wanted to see it and Netflix makes life easy. The movie was okay. I'm glad I didn't drop $10 to go see it in the theater. It stars Christian Bale (who my little sister finds yummy) and Johnny Depp (who I find yummy). Marion Cotillard, Johnny Depp's love interest, is beautiful and your heart breaks for her. It is basically a modern day Robin Hood shoot-em-up movie with a ton of (sometimes unrealistic) violence. The disturbing part, for me, was that I actually wanted Johnny Depp's  character, John Dillinger to "win". Dillinger was the bad guy... he was a really bad guy, who did a lot of really bad things.  He didn't deserve to win but throw in a good -looking guy and some good Hollywood screen writing and there you have it. Manipulation.

The real reason I am even writing about the movie is that the soundtrack is awesome.  Awesome.  The movie takes place in the early-1930s. Partnered with the Roaring 20s, this was the hey day of jazz. The soundtrack prominently features the timeless Billie Holiday (and though they didn't make it on the album, Gene Autry and Benny Goodman) among others. Dianna Krall croons a lovely version of "Bye Bye Blackbird".  

Hands down, the stand out cut on the soundtrack is "Ten Million Slaves" by Otis Taylor.

Public Enemies Soundtrack - Ten Million Slaves Otis Taylor - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.
(I know this is a sucky video... sorry.  I promise the song is worth it.)

Here's the entire tracklist from the Public Enemies soundtrack.
1. Ten Million Slaves - Otis Taylor
2. Chicago Shake - The Bruce Fowler Big Band
3. Drive To Bohemia - Elliot Goldenthal
4. Love Me or Leave Me - Billie Holiday
5. Billie's Arrest - Elliot Goldenthal
6. Am I Blue? - Billie Holiday
7. Love In The Dunes - Elliot Goldenthal
8. Bye Bye Blackbird - Diana Krall
9. Phone Call To Billie - Elliot Goldenthal
10. Nasty Letter - Otis Taylor
11. Plane To Chicago - Elliot Goldenthal
12. O Guide Me Thou Great Jehova - Indian Bottom Association, Old Regular Baptists
13. Gold Coast Restaurant - Elliot Goldenthal
14. The Man I Love - Billie Holiday
15. JD Dies - Elliot Goldenthal
16. Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground Blind - Willie Johnson

I would love to include a few more cuts for you to listen to, particularly any of the Billie Holiday tunes or Krall's, but I'll leave that to you. Me? Even if I thought I had been bamboozled by the movie, I went on line as soon as the it was over and bought the entire soundtrack.  It really was that good.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

navel gazing

I recently learned about an art exhibition at the Brevard Art Museum, in Melbourne, Florida called Navel Gazing. Now, I think being clever and pithy are real talents, so this caught my attention.... Florida-navel, art-introspection, promotion-self-absorption... I love it!  And it was clever and pithy enough to make me check it out.  (Hmmm... if I can only convince Countrymouse a weekend in Florida is in order...)

The Museum put out an open call to artists of all mediums to submit proposals for artwork that was representative of Florida by “reconstituting existing ideas, or making fresh-squeezed interpretations” of the state. (They really have this cheeky thing down, huh?)  Eight Florida artists were selected to provide insiders’ views and eight artists from out of state were selected to provide outsiders’ perspectives.   The show runs through April 11, 2010, but there is talk about traveling the exhibition. 

One of the selected Florida home-grown artists is Carolina Cleere.  Cleere is an award-winning photographer who also creates mixed media photo collages.  Her work is filled with surreal whimsy and a gnawing depth. She states, "The primary focus of my work is the narrative portrait of lost innocence".  I realize her work won't appeal to everyone, but it intrigues me.  I find it visually engaging and thought provoking at the same time.  

And isn't that what we really want to surround ourselves with... things that make us think and feel? 

Friday, March 12, 2010

we're all just cowboys looking for a name

Pronunciation: \ˈī-rə-nē also ˈī(-ə)r-nē\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin ironia, from Greek eirōnia, from eirōn dissembler

a (1) : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2) : an event or result marked by such incongruity b : incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony, tragic irony

Here's some real life irony for you... last Saturday I got up at 5:00 am (am... did you read that?... on my day off for God's sake) and drove almost 100 miles each way to attend a Social Media Conference aka Bloggy Boot Camp. The ironic part is that I haven't written a word since and it will soon be a week since the meeting.  Go figure!  I've wanted to write, I've just been slacking off watching Grey's Anatomy reruns extremely busy all week.

The conference was a great experience and I am already looking forward to attending others. In addition to learning more about some different aspects of blogging and meeting a lot of fantastic people, more importantly, I left Baltimore feeling good about what I do. Countrymouse has been reading blogs for years, but he reads heavy duty/ getting paid to write about what I think/ I might even end on up Fox News kinda blogs. This blog obviously does not fit that mold. There are so many more important blogs out there, I wasn't sure that mine mattered. Before listening to these ladies, I felt like writing here was merely my hobby... like knitting (not that I knit) or fishing (not that I fish) or surfing (not that I surf) might be. After participating in the conference, I know that I have a voice. It may be a small voice at the moment but it can grow.  The ladies who presented were professional (but fun) and were informed experts. Some of them were making money blogging and some were still just doing it because it brought them joy. (My dream job would be to combine both.)

Some of the highlights from Boot Camp:
  • Twitter... Twitter... Twitter.  Before going I suspected this and after attending it is confirmed... I am the only person in America who does not tweet.  I have since taken the baby step of signing up for a Twitter account but it still eludes me.  I think I will be spending a lot of time here this weekend.
  • Your blog is your brand.  Decide what it is you want to do and do it well.  Be true to you.
  • Comments = Blog Crack.  What you put into comments is what you get out.  Be sincere... drive-by comments are worthless.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) because we all want to be noticed
  • Buy your domain... own your blog content
  • Apparently WordPress is the schnizzle
  • Be kind. Share. Help a sister out. Why wouldn't you?
  • Memes... This can be a fun aspect, but only pick one or two and be consistent.  Oh and meme rhymes with dream, in case you weren't sure.  (It is not "me me" even if that's what you're writing about all the time.)
  • The FTC is not out for mommy blogger blood.  If you're doing endorsements, just be honest.
  •  Keep your blog organized and clean.  Pictures and videos are always a plus (thank God, cause I am not sure I could post without using 'em).
I have already started making a few changes and I am sure they will continue as I learn more and become more comfortable in the blogosphere.  I am ready to buy my domain name and need some help.  As you might have guessed, all the really good names are long gone, which pretty much means anything catchy, like citymouse.com or randomthoughts.com.  I do have some options available though but I can't decide.  (You should see me trying to order dinner off a menu.)  Would you pretty please with sugar on top answer the following survey?  It's only one question and I promise it won't take but 3.7 seconds to complete.  You can also leave a comment below.

Click here to take survey

The blogosphere is still very much the Wild Wild West and we are all cowboys pioneers. I think it'll be a fun journey and ten years down the road when we look back on these days, we can smile to ourselves and know we were here back in the day. Thanks for joining me on the ride.

Kid Rock Playboy-Video Cowboy Music
Uploaded by Spookytime. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Friday, March 5, 2010

my beautiful ideas

I am off to go see my guys... The Guggenheim Grotto.  If you know me, you know I. Love. Them.  As documented here and here.  I have been waiting for them to come back through here for almost a year so I am beyond psyched.  This is my idea of the way to start a beautiful weekend!  Hope yours is great too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

helpful tips from the happy zen homemaker

One of the things that I both love and hate about Countrymouse is his ability to enjoy doing one thing at a time. If the man is cooking dinner, that's all he does (well, except maybe watch Phineas and Ferb while he's cooking, but that doesn't count). If he's mowing the lawn, ditto. Same with watching the kids, although they've outgrown the direct supervision stage. I used to come home from wherever and the house would look like a war zone. His response would be that he was "watching the boys". Hello... what about the countless hours I spent cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping all while "watching the boys"? On the other hand, when he's talking to me, I have his full attention and when he is trying to accomplish something (like putting together the new cabinet for the television...his project for tonight) it gets all his focus.  

I think some people are just wired that way. Me... not so much. I always seem to have countless things going on at once. I actually feel guilty when I am only doing one thing at a time. My own inclinations aside, I also came into adulthood at a time when women were encouraged to multitask.  This is like telling a shopaholic that life only gets better when you spend money. Yeah. My current job description requires me to "multitask". Are you kidding? That's like paying the shopaholic to be a personal shopper.

(If only my life ran so smoothly... oh, and I'd like to weigh a buck five, too.)

I've spent a lot of time recently reading about multitasking vs. single tasking.  Surprisingly, the pendulum seems to have swung in the other direction... at least a little bit. There is a prevailing thought that we are not as efficient when we multitask and since multitasking is more complicated, it's just more stressful. Our worlds are moving at nano-speed and we elect to heap more coals on the fire. Prioritizing and focusing on our most important tasks allows us to give our full attention to achieving that goal. With this streamlined approach, we get our jobs done with minimal distraction and grief. 

But multitasking feels so good. It makes me feel productive and on top of my game. I move through my To Do List with keen ninja skills. When I am hot... I am smoking hot.  I live for days like this. Are my expectations for myself high? Too high? Maybe. Do I feel badly when I am not at the top of my game? You know it baby.  

So what is the answer? While I am not the Happy Zen Homemaker, I am pretty confident in saying balance is the answer. There are things you should give all your focus to: time with your family, paying your bills, driving (although, I am guilty of not doing this). There are also tons of stuff you can piggyback on to one another: folding clothes while chatting on the phone, cooking dinner while helping with homework, blogging while watching television... the combinations are endless. If you're a mother, a wife, a homemaker, a student, a professional, life is just plain busy. We all only have so many hours in a day to get the important stuff done. That's the key... what is important? When we determine the things in our lives that matter the most and keep them sacred, everything else is up for grabs. And if we can switch gears and ricochet through our day... all I can say is fasten your seatbelts.

* Lovely ninja mouse is the creation of Kimberly Chapman.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

april smith and the great picture show

It snowed... like forever... and now the sky keeps spitting on us.  The skies are gray, the ground is beginning to feel like quicksand under our feet.  Personally, I try not to dwell too much on whether or not my landscaping has survived the season and I am x-ing off days on my calendar waiting for the vernal equinox to arrive. (For the record that will be at precisely 1:32 pm EDT on March 20th, assuming you're in my hemisphere. Sorry Kelly.)

What better way to spend these last few weeks of winter than to listen to something fun? April Smith and the Great Picture Show's new album, Songs For a Sinking Ship will cure what ills you. Her quirky songs are filled with peppy hooks that make you want more. Her style is definitely her own, but it is filled with a mega-dose of cabaret, retro-style pop. Fans of Erin McKeown and Feist will wonder where's she's been all of their lives.

Her music has been featured on NPR's Song of the Day and she's made the NY Post's list of 10 New Artists to watch in 2010. Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nuit Blanche

My mind visits a thousand places every day. Some are places I go because I have to, like if the car insurance is due today and other places I go because they simply bring me joy, like the trip I took to Venice with Countrymouse. Music and images fill my mind too. If I see or hear something and it sticks with me, it gets my attention. This mainly happens with music, but sometimes with movies or videos. I first watched this short film, Nuit Blanche (French for White Night) a month or so ago. Its spin on reality intrigued me and it's resurfaced a time or two since then.  In the words of director/cinematographer, Arev Manoukian, "Nuit Blanche explores an experience many of us have lived before – a fleeting yet powerful connection with a perfect stranger. Set in a dark cobblestone street in the 1950’s, a man catches the gaze of a woman in a cafe across the street. This split-second moment becomes suspended in time, as the two gravitate towards each other in a hyper real fantasy where nothing can hold them back." Hmmm... hyper real fantasy? Mr. Manoukian, can I have some of that?

Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.

Monday, March 1, 2010

here's the poop... i mean scoop

(God bless you Freddie Mercury for legitimizing all us fat bottom girls.)

Booty, Ass, Butt, Derriere, Arse, Behind, Buns, Buttocks, Hind End, Keister, Posterior, Prat, Fanny, Rear End, Tooshie, Backside, Bottom, Hindquarters, Tush, Rump, Tail Rear, Bum, Can, Heiney... Everyone has their favorite and we have no problems saying any of these... but talk about what it does and people will run out of the room like rats jumping from a sinking ship. 

I've got news for you... everyone poops.  It's a very good thing. And if things in the bathroom aren't going *smoothly*,  that's a very bad thing. As much as we'd like to think otherwise, we all know what happens when we ignore bad things...they get worse.  

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  A few years ago this wouldn't have meant too much to me.  It probably wouldn't have even registered on the scale of my chaotic life.  I mean... every month is some kinda Awareness Month any more, right?  Well, some of you who visit here know my younger brother died in January.  What you may not know is that he died of colorectal cancer.  My brother was the healthiest dying man I knew.  The only thing wrong with him was the cancer (and the havoc it wreaked on his body).  He was diagnosed with advanced (Stage 4) cancer after his initial visit and colonoscopy during the winter of 2007.  Freaking amazing.  He had just turned 42.

Chances are you know someone who has felt the cold hand of colorectal cancer on their lives.  Colorectal cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in the US.  The American Cancer Society's estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the US for 2009 are:

  •  106,100 new cases of colon cancer (52,010 in men, 54,090 in women)
  •  40,870 new cases of rectal cancer (23,580 in men, 17,290 in women)
These are NEW cases.  I find it shocking that only 55% of the public participate in colorectal cancer screening. Really?? 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer every year.  

Most people with early colorectal cancer have no symptoms. Symptoms generally appear with more advanced disease states. This is why screening tests, such as colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, are so vital.  Through early diagnosis, 90% of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer can be cured.

Because of Phil's diagnosis, my risk of colorectal cancer increased greatly.  I have had two colonoscopies since March 2007 and my next one is scheduled in a couple of weeks.  (I am actually participating in a clinical study regarding different bowel cleansing preparations.)  I don't know how many you have to have before you're considered a "pro", but I'm feeling like I'm getting pretty close.  (Kinda like birthing babies... I've had five, not a large number out of context, but I'm certainly in the "expert" league in this category.)  I can tell you it's not near as bad as people think.  I won't elaborate on the experience here because there is a wealth of information on the web but I'd be happy to answer any questions personally (ctymouse22 at gmail dot com).

Early detection is the key.  I personally know folks who have put it off for one reason or another ("They're not sticking a tube up my arse", "Just how long is that thing?!", "I don't feel comfortable talking about my bowel habits with others", "The prep is so awful", "I don't think I could go without eating for a day and a half",  and on and on...)  President Obama did the nation no favors when he elected to have a virtual colonoscopy (also known as CT colonography) instead of a traditional colonoscopy. The benefits of virtual colonoscopy over traditional are questionable. If something is found, you still have to have the traditional colonoscopy, resulting in a second procedure and a virtual colonoscopy doesn't allow you to dodge the prep bullet (your colon has to be empty for either procedure). Oh, there's also the little issue about insurance coverage... most insurance companies won't pay for it, taking that option off the table for the average American.  (And you can bet your bottom dollar, even fewer will pay after healthcare reform hits the streets.) President Obama had an opportunity to help dispel some of the bad press associated with colonoscopy. Guess, I'll just have to work extra hard to get the word out.

Here are some Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer:      
(If you have any of the following you should see your doctor.)
  • a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
  • cramping or abdominal (stomach area) pain
  • weakness and fatigue

Many of these symptoms are caused by other conditions... but the truth is you don't know until you've been evaluated.

Stay-tuned for my latest gastrointestinal escapades (cause you know I'll have something to say about them) and in the meantime, here's a little fun I had with Countrymouse when he had his done last year.