Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bad News and Good News

Great quote from the new issue of Chronicles magazine:

"...modern technology was going to be the vehicle to create a new world with a new consciousness. What a bummer that the new consciousness too often means being a dope."

On the other hand, music rec:

Corinne Bailey Rae's eponymous debut. Only $7.88 at Amazon, this is going to be this summer's breakout album. Found out about it by listening to CD101.9 "Smooth Jazz," which I think officially stamps me as a nerdy old person, but I'm feeling pretty hip having bought this one on the day it was released. Not that it was a secret. She has a couple of hits in the UK.

Corinne is a danceable Norah Jones. The intended hit, "Put Your Records On," is a very groovy happy catchy song, which in its psychedelic lite imagery reminds me somewhat of Prince's "Starfish and Coffee"; but there are plenty of other good cuts too--good beats, good melodies, good lyrics. The 8th track, "Breathless" is about a friend who wants to be more than a friend.

And just to tie this post together, track 6, "Call Me When You Get This," celebrates relatively new technology in its title.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Men are, as the amusing sign says, working in trees. At my house. Now, we wanted them to take down the Norway maple that is pushing our garage over. But I am not enjoying being here while they do it. To wit:

1) They are jerks. "Tight," the leader comments on my driveway upon arrival. "Yes," I agree, "but people have gotten back there before." "Trucks?" he asks. No, a******, people can walk down the driveway. Yes trucks!

2) They are grouchy crybabies. One of them is making the exact "Ha Ha" noise of Nelson Muntz on The Simpsons while the other tries to back the dump truck through the gate (the cherry picker and chipper got through already)

3) It's really noisy. Even with all the windows closed and the shades drawn, there is no escaping the fact that something huge is being dismantled in my back yard. I can't seem to buckle down to anything.

4) The cat is freaking (see #3). He keeps meowing and meowing and meowing, and following me around. He clearly thinks I am too stupid to notice that there are huge machines in our yard making loud cutting and grinding noises, and wants to call my attention to it.

Edited to add:
5) The truck is running in the driveway, so my whole house smells like exhaust fumes.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Yet Another Thing I Can't Do Professionally

My brother asked me to recommend songs for the Father/Bride and Mother/Groom dances at his upcoming wedding. He said he and his fiance were having trouble finding "appropriate" choices, and boy he's not kidding. A perusal of some of the songs recommended on the web for parent/child dances reveals some lyrics that make my blood, personally, not exactly boil but feel icky.

Finally, though, I found the _perfect_ song for my mother and my brother. Jimmy Durante's version of "Make Someone Happy" from the "Sleepless In Seattle" soundtrack:

Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy;
Make just one heart the heart you sing to.
One smile that cheers you,
One face that lights when it nears you,
One girl you're ev'rything to.

Fame if you win it,
Comes and goes in a minute.
Where's the real stuff in life to cling to?
Love is the answer,
Someone to love is the answer.
Once you've found her, build your world around her.

Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy,
And you will be happy, too.

Bonus: my mother loves Jimmy Durante.

I came up with a list of other songs that are maximum 10% icky when applied to parent and child. Clip and save!

Bride and Father
Your Smiling Face
How Sweet it is to be Loved by You--James Taylor
Turn Around--Harry Belafonte
The Way You Look Tonight--Frank Sinatra
Isn't She Lovely--Stevie Wonder
A Whole New World from Aladdin

Groom and Mother
The Wonder Of You--Elvis
Close To You --The Carpenters
Your Mother Should Know-- The Beatles
Try To Remember from The Fantasticks
Little Things Mean a Lot-- Kitty Kallen

For either
God Only Knows-- Beach Boys
Sunshine On My Shoulders-- Jonn Denver
Through The Years-- Kenny Rogers
Wonderful World-- Louis Armstrong
You are the Sunshine of my Life-- Stevie Wonder
Have I Told You Lately-- Van Morrison
Bridge Over Troubled Water-- Simon and Garfunkel or Johnny Cash
All You Need is Love-- Beatles
I Will-- Beatles
Perhaps Love-- Placido Domingo and John Denver
Teach Your Children --CSN
Our Love is Here to Stay-- Nat King Cole or Ella Fitzgerald

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Let's All Go to the Lobby

On Tuesday I told the children if it rained, we would go to see Cars after basketball camp.
It did not rain, so we went to the beach. They were disappointed. I had underestimated the universal human urge to spend extra money on passive entertainment, even in the face of an opportunity to spend the afternoon doing something that other people spend hundreds of dollars to do for a four-day weekend.

It did not rain on Wednesday.

Today it did not rain, but they had their last piano lesson of the school year from three to four, and it was really not enough time/too late to go to the beach, plus NSBR was eating in the city tonight, so I decided to take them to Cars and then to Friendly's for dinner afterwards.

Some highlights:

*Cars is very cute, very clever, very entertaining. But full of imaginative inconsistencies that bother people like me and NSLR. To wit: these humanoid cars, living in their own whole world, have love affairs and spouses but not, apparently, children. Where do the dashing young race cars come from?

*Since R.'s diagnosis we all drink diet soda when we drink soda at all. But S. asked "Can I have anything I want to drink," and I said yes. She ordered a horrendous concoction, a festival of artificial coloring and high-fructose corn syrup called "The Cotton Candy." When she finished it, she looked up at me and said with complete sincerity,

"And you claim that I never try new foods."

*The trailer for Mark Wahlberg and Greg Kinnear's new movie, Invincible, wins a big prize tonight. It is rare that a trailer makes even a big sap like me tear up. And you would think the trailer for a movie about football had no chance, no chance at all. But when Vince Papale's father says to him, "When I told you not to get your hopes up, that didn't mean I wasn't," it killed me. It's like the quintessential parental sentiment.

Daily Cash Hemorrhage

I subscribed to Daily Candy. I know, that was my first mistake. I really can't explain it now, except that sometimes they recommend something that doesn't exactly cost money, or gives me an idea for using something I already have, or doing something...

Then today Daily Candy Kids recommends something called the Banzai Falls Mega Racer. It's a backyard waterslide. My feeling is, if it's nice enough outside to get wet in the back yard, go to the beach. There are mothers around here who do the sprinkler or slip-and-slide thing on the principle that they have to get things done around the house sometimes. But I never really understood how they get things done around the house while their children are coming in and out the back door covered with mud and wet grass every five seconds, screaming "Mommy! Billy flew right off the end of the slip-and-slide onto the edge of the patio and five of his teeth fell out!"

At any rate! I decided to check out this Banzai Falls item just to see how awfully cool it was. Perhaps it would be a good gift for one of these other families...

It costs $399. That's $400 for you realists out there. Plus, presumably, some serious shipping and handling, and probably tax.

$400. For $400 you can join many pool clubs for the entire summer. Perhaps even one and a half pool clubs, or more. For $400 you can go to three weeks of cheap basketball camp, or one week of expensive squash camp. Two weeks of resident scout camp. Four flower girl dresses (you can tell I'm thumbing mentally through my recent expenditures). Three bridesmaid dresses. A monthly train pass and a fistful of Metrocards.

I don't know how to sum this up, except to say $400.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tiny Rant

Okay, so, if your son was going to basketball camp, hours 9-1, and the confirmation letter said "The children will break for a snack around 11," what would you think?

I would think, in fact I thought, that the children would break for a snack around 11. And that I should plan on feeding NSLR lunch at 1 when I picked him up, and make sure he had the calories he needed to make it through four hours of basketball with a snack break at 11.

But if I were all the other mothers, I would know that that sentence actually means, "The children will eat an entire lunch, that you had the sense to pack, at 11:30." So NSLR called me the first day to ask why he had several snacks, but no lunch. Answer: because I am lacking the common sense/ESP/rumor mill that tells people these things. Things such as "once we start having half days at the end of the school year, they're all half days, even if the calendar does not identify a particular day as such." Or "although we've never mentioned it, if you want to bring home Nutmeg the guinea pig for the weekend, you sign up on the sheet that hangs on the back of the preschool director's door" (I'm actually pretty psyched I missed out on that one).

Starting Tuesday, R. brought a sumptuous lunch.

NSBR is always saying that I read too much into the things people say (and write). But sometimes it seems to me that I have the opposite problem, that I take people's communication at face value, and they are like Humpty Dumpty in Alice In Wonderland: words mean what they want them to mean.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Make It Simple, To Last Your Whole Life Long

Last night was the farewell concert of the elementary school music teacher and chorus leader. She has taught in this town for 33 years. She was my piano teacher for a couple of years, and I was in a smaller "concert choir" she put together as her Masters thesis project in 1980-81.

When I do musical programs and projects at my children's parochial school, or I go to their Christmas concert and see the 11 children in the 4th-8th grade chorus, belting in unnecessarily loud and totally untrained voices to the accompaniment of an electronic keyboard, I am sickened and infuriated. Lately I had begun to say to myself, "Well, obviously your expectations are unreasonable."

And then I went to S.H.'s concert last night. Her chorus was composed of approximately 100 3rd and 4th graders. Assuming the town and school population has stayed pretty much the same over the years--and it's not like there was a lot of space left to build on--that means half of each grade is in Chorus. Their plaintive little voices sounded beautiful and appropriate. They moved and did gestures to go with their songs. A real pianist played a real piano.

So either my expectations are not unreasonable or S.H. is an exceptional teacher. I guess both.

S.H. had chosen some of her favorite songs she had done over the years. Among them were:

Over The Rainbow (she is originally from Kansas)
Getting To Know You (she sang the intro and the children joined on the chorus)
Why Am I Me from "Shenandoah", featuring two male duetists and their older brothers who had done the duet a few years ago

Sing...which was one of the songs that our group of alumni had chosen to do. It actually worked out beautifully. After what S.H. thought was the last song in the program, the principal introduced the alumni and we walked out. A group of younger alumni sang a 4-part version of "Irish Blessing" that they had actually rehearsed.

We then sang "Let There Be Peace On Earth," with which S.H. ended every town tree lighting ceremony. I had suggested it because I remember her directing arms waving wildly and her voice exhorting us, "Make your mothers cry!" She had held it together until then, but completely dissolved at this point.

Then we sang what turned out to be a reprise of "Sing" along with the current chorus, and the band teacher beckoned S.H. over to conduct. So few things ever feel absolutely perfect, but this did.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the last person on earth who cares about music, but last night renewed my faith a bit.

How Cool Is This?

Roundabout Playpump

The wonders of Wikipedia: start out trying to analyze Yes lyrics, find out about a truly humanitarian invention.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lunchboxes and the Limberlost

Dawn drew my attention to Jenniferschmoo, who in turn made me aware of Laptop Lunches. I ordered three laptop lunch kits for my kids and I firmly believe that they will bring about a lunch renaissance. In an odd generational/cultural reversal, when my mother first saw them, she said, "Like Korean children have!" (My mother is addicted to two Korean soap operas and I guess they feature bento boxes). But all I could think was "I wish Grammie could see these: they remind me of A Girl of The Limberlost."

I'm pretty sure this book is in the public domain, since I've been able to link not only the full text but also a searchable version above; thus I feel free to quote extensively on blog. If these passages persuade you to read this book, my work is done.

Wesley opened the package and laid a brown leather lunch box on the table. "Might be a couple of books, or drawing tools or most anything that's neat and genteel. You see, it opens this way."

It did open, and inside was a space for sandwiches, a little porcelain box for cold meat or fried chicken, another for salad, a glass with a lid which screwed on, held by a ring in a corner, for custard or jelly, a flask for tea or milk, a beautiful little knife, fork, and spoon fastened in holders, and a place for a napkin.

Margaret was almost crying over it.

"How I'd love to fill it!" she exclaimed.

Margaret, a neighbor, does fill it the first day. Then Elnora's mother, with whom she has a complicated relationship, decides she can't let Mag Sinton show her up (reading this passage always makes me ravenous):

Half the bread compartment was filled with dainty sandwiches of bread and butter sprinkled with the yolk of egg and the remainder with three large slices of the most fragrant spice cake imaginable. The meat dish contained shaved cold ham, of which she knew the quality, the salad was tomatoes and celery, and the cup held preserved pear, clear as amber. There was milk in the bottle, two tissue-wrapped cucumber pickles in the folding drinking-cup, and a fresh napkin in the ring. No lunch was ever daintier or more palatable; of that Elnora was perfectly sure. And her mother had prepared it for her! "She does love me!" cried the happy girl. "Sure as you're born she loves me; only she hasn't found it out yet!"

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Moms of Summer

How you know you live in a really nice town: the spontaneous glee of the mothers on the bleachers when someone from the opposing team makes a great play.

Have I mentioned how I love being a baseball mom? Most of the time? Yes I have.

It's even more fun this year, because they're so much better. Stealing bases is allowed in this league, for the first time, so every game is just like this...ballet of stolen bases. R. got a hit in the clutch a few games ago and now his teammates (and coaches) call him "Rally R." Also "Walk Man" because he gets so many walks. So many. It's good to get on base, but it would be nice if he got more hits. NSBR and my dad explained to me that all these walks are actually one more function of NSLR's brains-over-brawn tendency: he knows the pitching in the 10 and under league is very uneven, so if you just stand there, chances are you're going to end up with a walk. The power hitters can't resist swinging at anything that looks even slightly good.

More later. Have to get the kids to bed.