Historical Earworms and Digital Step Encouragement

25 Oct

Schoolhouse Rock Is Trying to Make Me Go Insane

I’m amazed at how much energy I spend making sure I have a good song playing in my head.  Like most people, I’ve got this ongoing soundtrack playing in my brain as I go through my day, and lately, it’s been kind of crappy.

The biggest culprit?  Schoolhouse Rock.

Yes, those songs are educational (although the Money Rock ones kind of suck.  I don’t know many fourth graders who want to learn about Dollar Cost Averaging) but they are catchy.  Damned catchy. Like, weeks after I hear one, it remains agitating around my subconscious, waiting to surface and hijack my cranial DJ.

The other day, I woke up with the Three Ring Circus song in my head, and I had a heck of a time getting rid of it.   I find that if I can sing myself two songs in a row, the earworm autoplay gets overridden, but this one was insidious.  For one thing, I couldn’t think of a single other song in all of the history of music.  And once I came up with something, Three Ring Circus kept sneaking back in.

I’ve since discovered that “Build Me Up Buttercup” by the Foundations is a pretty good earworm antidote.  I present it here, in case my previous links have infected you:

Technology, You Know More About Me Than I Do

I got a FitBit a few weeks ago, because I don’t have enough electronic gadgets to check obsessively.

It all started when my work handed out these free pedometers called “Pebbles,” in an effort to get us off our lazy butts and be less expensive to insure.  It’s a cute little thing; looks like a little black pebble that I stick on my shoe.  Only problem is that it only updates data when I’m in the office, so I can’t tell how I’m doing on the weekends or when I’m working from home.

So I had a little cash on a Best Buy gift certificate (Thanks, Mom and Auntie Dorothy!) and picked up a FitBit One.

Here’s what I’ve learned about myself:

  • I took 26,199 steps when walking around Disneyworld the first day of our trip, but only 17,111 on the last day.  I think I got tired.
  • Most mornings I climb 4-5 floors just getting the kids out of the door to the bus.  Most of it because I get down the stairs and immediately remember something I forgot upstairs.

My FitBit gives me little encouraging messages now and again, too.  Things like “LET’S GO MARY” and “I LIKE YOU MARY.”  It doesn’t feel sincere, though, especially since my name pops up on a separate screen, obviously inserted in.  I would just as soon expect to see “RUN FAST HUMAN” and “YOU ARE WEAKENED BY YOUR CORRUPTIBLE FLESH.”

Look What I Found

Here’s some cool stuff I found online:

Klingon Pop Song – my friend Joe Griffin recorded the vocals and did the mix, so I feel famous by association.

The Haunting Remains  of the Virginia Renaissance Faire –  I worked here in its second year.  My husband was the Production Stage Manager.  It was a beautiful site, but not enough people came out to see it.   Now it’s kind of creepy and kind of sad.

These Are Not The 130 Star Wars GIFs You Were Looking For – So many awesome GiFs!  (and I pronounce it with the hard G, even though that’s not right.  I’m a rebel, what can I say.  Rebel scum.)

LukeSaberROTJ

This is the exact moment I knew I wanted to be a Jedi when I grew up.

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Elite Catalogs and Cabinet Porn

21 Oct

It’s late October, which means Halloween is nearby, with Thanksgiving and Christmas close on its heels.  Which means one thing:

It’s catalog season.

I’m getting all kinds of weird catalogs in the mail, especially since The Powers That Be know that I have children and will need to buy them every possible thing they desire for Christmas else they suffer from horrible childhood trauma.

Today I got the HearthSong catalog.  “Toys you feel good about giving,” they said.

Inside the front cover, I saw this:

Kids play in balls larger than they are

GBOP from Hearthsong.com

My first thought was SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.  How crazy would that be to have something like that?  (Or, as my son said when he saw this, “crazy awesome!”)  I could see us totally laughing our heads off playing with this thing.  Yeah, it’s $89, (for one) but it’s huge!

Then a few more thoughts crossed my mind:

We live at the top of a hill, which slopes down to a pond.  That could be a problem.

We would play with it obsessively for one weekend, and then put it away.

And where would we put it?  It’s huge.

OK, so maybe the Great Big Outdoor Play ball isn’t the right gift for us.  But look at this!

PutterPool from Hearthsong.com

PutterPool from Hearthsong.com

Now this I could do.  We have level floors, so no chance of rolling downhill to a drowning death.  And I love mini-golf!  This would be fun.  And it’s only $70.

It would take up my entire family room.

How long till we’d lose half the balls?

And where would we put it when we were done with it?

That’s when it occurred to me.  This was a rich person’s catalog.  And come to think of it, I didn’t so much envy the toys in here (although they’re pretty awesome) as much as I envied the house.  I mean, look at that house in the PutterPool picture.  That room has beautiful windows!  And from the artfully scattered toys, I can guess that’s a playroom.  I can just imagine the rest of this house, and this family.  The house is beautiful, orderly.

Clean.

That’s why I love the Home Decor board on Pinterest.  The houses are perfect in a way mine will never be, even when the kids are grown and moved out.

That’s why I love watching Food Network, too.  It’s like clean kitchen porn.

Oh, yeah, baby.  Look at those counters.  Now let me see the cabinets.  Yeah, just like that.

Oh, yeah, baby. Look at those counters. Now let me see the cabinets. Yeah, just like that.

So this catalog isn’t so much selling toys as it is a fantasy lifestyle.  Which is silly, considering my life is pretty awesome.  Even though just about every flat surface is covered in clutter, and I’m dressing the kids out of the hamper of clean, unfolded laundry.

I’m a lot happier when I’m content with what I have, instead of striving for a fake world that doesn’t exist.

But I’m probably going to get the kids these Make-Your-Own-Robots.

******************

More about how toys are taking over my house in Guilt Legos and Pointy Elbows

See why I’m watching Food Network instead of ESPN in Action Popcorn and Athletic Ignorance

Finding Our Own Song to Sing

10 Jul

I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately, mostly for a 80’s that didn’t exist outside Teen Magazine and John Hughes films, so when WXRT featured 1986 in their Saturday Morning Flashback this past week, I was really getting into it.

One of the songs that came up was this.  I had to use Shazam to remember the title.

It summoned up memories of Bloom County, Live Aid, Hands Across America, and the general political feeling I remember at that time (it helped that they’d played a U2 song right before).

I don’t know if it was because of my age, or the zeitgeist of the time, but I felt so much more empowered then than I do now.  Yeah, we said, things are bad, really bad.  But we can do something about it.  We can use our culture to raise awareness, raise money, and stage protests.  And we can make things better.

Lately, I feel like we’ve given up a little (and again, I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older and perceiving things differently).  Now we’re saying, why bother?  The badguys have all the power and there’s nothing we can do about it.  Our politicians won’t talk to each other.  The corporations care only about money and have all the power.  Climate Change is so overwhelming we don’t even know where to start. Even our entertainment is gritty, real.  No room for idealism here.

But we need it.  We need to feel like we can make a difference, even if we don’t fix absolutely everything.  Let’s change our thinking.  Wendy Davis did.  Gabby Giffords did.  Edith Windsor did.

Image

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Copyright © 2013 Getty Images. All rights reserved.

We will fight for the right to be free
We will build our own society
And we will sing, we will sing
We will sing our own song

Let’s find our own songs, about wealth equality, about education, about the environment.  About the power of the many vs. the power of the few.  Let’s focus less on what makes us different, what political team we’re on, or what religion we practice, and more on what we have in common, because it’s a lot.

Small actions add up.  They change our thinking, empower us.

We can change the world.  We’ve done it before.

What do you think?  What actions can we take that might make the world a better place?  What issues do you care about?

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Rainstorms and Apocalypse

26 Jun

I woke up this morning to a thunderstorm.  Another red and yellow paramecium is swimming in green across the weather map toward me.  There was another one yesterday that woke me up at 3 in the morning, causing me to run around the house, closing windows.

There were more last week, and the week before that was The Derecho (which I, with my 8 years of Spanish 20 years ago, got mixed up with “derecha,” so I wondered where “La Izquierda” was). 

Two years ago, a tree nearly fell on my car as I drove through a Severe Thunderstorm while taking my son to day care.  We just finally got the last of the damage to the car fixed. I still carry a little stick with me; part of the foliage that got caught in the front grill, a reminder of how lucky I’d been that day.

At the risk of sounding old, I don’t remember summer being this stormy.  I don’t remember it being this hot, either, but I’m willing to grant my perception was probably a little different when viewed from our carpeted basement where we played Atari games.

Global warming, says my brain.  This volatile weather is a sign of climate change, and it’s only going to get worse.  I had comforted myself that, living where I do, in the middle of the country, far from rising coastlines, hurricanes, and tsunamis, I’d probably be OK.  But, of course, that’s silly.

The hard part is, I feel powerless.  The People in Charge, the ones who have the power to change the laws and actually Do Something, aren’t.  They have profit targets to reach, shareholders to please (who are us), and jobs to protect (their own).  I know; I work for a large company and I can see the pressure people are under to Deliver.

And the Government disappoints us, too.  Red or Blue, do we really trust them?  A conservative friend of mine posted something on her Facebook page about Getting the Bastards Out.  I feel the same way, although I suspect we’re referring to different bastards.

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s former Chief of Staff, the guy we thought we could count on, is gutting education and closing schools in favor of charter schools.  Who would have thought that Josh Lyman would let us down?

I read once that my generation (Gen X) doesn’t have heroes, and after some thought, I realized that was probably right.  We don’t have anyone to look up to.  No one’s going to save us.  Even Superman is “gritty” now. 

Not surprising that we invented social media, the almost too democratic medium where we can all share everything. 

But how are we going to fix these big problems?  Education, the middle class disappearing (mostly downwards), the war on women and rape culture, disappearing bees, and global warming?  I don’t feel like I can do much, to be honest.  I can donate money to causes (and I do), I vote, I sign petitions.  But I can’t help feeling like it doesn’t help much.

The one comfort I take is that we’ve gone through stuff like this before, and I imagine some of this comes from my age.  I’ll bet every nearly-forty-year-old has these thoughts–realizing she’s starting to get a little too busy and a little too tired to fix the problems of the world–whether it be in 2013 or 1973.   

In the mean time, I guess I’ll just keep going to work. After all, I’m lucky to have a job these days.  

The storm has passed outside.  The map is green, the rain is patting on the street, and the smell of petrichor is in the air.  

Stuff I Learned on My Disney Vacation

3 Apr

For Spring Break, we took the kids to Disney World, and added a 3 day cruise on the Disney Dream.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  No matter how much time I leave for my connection in Atlanta, it will somehow disappear.  We had 2 hours.  They changed the flights around, and next thing I know we’re running for the gate.  It’s like some sort of time vortex.

2.  Do not attempt to turn in front of a Disney’s Magical Express bus.  Some poor guy tried this and his car got squished between the bus and the curb.  The driver didn’t see him and the intersection was weird.  The real tragedy was that it was midnight and we had to wait for another bus to take us to our hotel.  (Also: I find it offensive when they do retro “remember when” theming on the decade in which I graduated high school).

3.  The Contemporary Resort has a secret built in wind tunnel and slip-n-slide.  We were getting off the bus just as a killer storm whipped through.  I grabbed the boys in one hand and my glasses in the other (my husband was nobly helping another couple with their stroller) and we fought our way through the wind to the lobby.  Once the doors opened, the gale force wind was at our back and a damp marble floor lay in front of us.  Some very heroic cast members had placed themselves in our path to catch us, which I thought was really sweet.  (Also, very glad we had a dryer in our room).

4. I will from now on pack for weather up to 20 degrees below the prediction.  I packed shorts and t-shirts.  The only long pants we had were what we wore on the plane down.  For three days the weather was below 70 (and in the morning, it was in the 40s.  Holy bugmonkeys.)  

5.  I will do really stupid things for my kids.  Like go swimming when it’s 65 degrees out.  (But that was warmer than yesterday.)  (and the pool was heated) (but we didn’t swim long before my 6yo turned blue).

6. The French Toast at the Grand Floridian Cafe is really good.  The cranberry orange pancakes, not so much.  I had the pancakes.

7.  The Mears bus drivers are amateur comedians.  Twice we had drivers who had a crazy spiel.  Neither was the one who squished the car, though, so maybe they had something there.

8.  The pools on the Disney Dream are too small.  One is 5’3″ deep all across, so there’s just a ring of children around the edge at all time.  The other, shallower, one, is just a damp child container.  

9.  The ship’s alarm for the muster drill is a real let down.  My 8yo was curled up in terrified anticipation of what would probably be a boat-shattering wail.  The crew members let us run back to the stateroom to hide.  When the alarm turned out to be 7 beeps, I felt a little silly.

10.  The verandah was totally worth it.  After the Sailing Away party on deck got too overwhelming, my husband and I sat on the verandah (you pay extra for the ‘h’) in our stateroom and watched as Port Canaveral slipped away*.  And I spotted two dolphins, which was super neat.  

11.  Our waiter sounded exactly like Hank Azaria in The Birdcage.

12.  I am done with Yoga on the Beach.  I’ve tried it twice, and both times I just wound up digging little pits for each limb to settle into until I finally fell over.  And this time we were at a good 20 degree angle downwards.  Call me spoiled, but I like a flat surface.

13.  Sunday mornings on a cruise are not relaxing.  Maybe I’m used to Sundays at a con, where you vacillate in the lobby until you muster the motivation to go home.  On the cruise, our welcome expired quickly;  they needed to get ready for the next group coming in that afternoon.  Breakfast was at 6:45 sharp and we were off the boat by 8 am.

14.  Our best day was the cheapest.  For our last day, we decided to skip Typhoon Lagoon.  Instead we swam in the hotel pool, played some putt-putt at Winter Summerland, and took a boat ride.  I rented a bike for my 5yo and he rode around Old Key West, while DH and 8yo went over to Downtown Disney.  The most expensive part was the Mickey Mitts they bought, which cost $20 each.  

In fact, my favorite parts were when we were just relaxing.  Sitting on the verandah, walking back to the hotel from the Magic Kingdom, or when my son and I sat on the ground outside Toy Story Mania and waited for our FastPass to be ready.  The parks were almost a distraction at worst, and a backdrop at best.  

Except for Expedition Everest.  That ride kicks ass.

 

 

 

*it reminded me somewhat of being on the circus train, actually.  Not in terms of the accommodations, which would be like comparing a five course gourmet meal to a dried up fruit treat stuck to the floor of my car, but in terms of sitting in your room and watching the world go by.  

My Oscar Picks

22 Feb

Usually I do pretty well on these, especially since I’ve only seen four of the nominated movies (Brave, The Avengers, Wreck-It Ralph, and Paperman).  We shall see on Sunday night.

Best Picture – Argo

Leading Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis

Supporting Actor – Tommy Lee Jones

Leading Actress – Jennifer Lawrence

Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway

Animated Feature – Wreck-It Ralph

Cinematography – Life of Pi

Costume Design – Mirror Mirror

Directing – Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Documentary Feature – “Searching for Sugar Man”

Documentary Short – “Mondays at Racine”

Film Editing – Argo

Foreign Language Film – Amour

Makeup and Hair – The Hobbit

Original Score – Life of Pi

Original Song – Skyfall

Production Design – Anna Karenina

Animated Short – Paperman

Live Action Short – Curfew

Sound Editing – Zero Dark Thirty

Sound Mixing – Les Miserables

Visual Effects – Life of Pi

Adapted Screenplay – Argo

Original Screenplay – Zero Dark Thirty

 

What do you think?  Am I crazy?

How I Fought Writers’ Block Yesterday

1 Feb

I’m kind of between projects right now, so I’m working on a bunch of short stories.  Which is, I guess, a project in and of itself.  So, never mind.

Anyway, I started to find myself in this place where everything I wrote was Crap.  Seriously bad.  I hated it all.   I didn’t want to write because what was the point, really?

So here’s what I did.  

I opened up Write or Die, a fantastic application that nags you to keep typing.  (I have the desktop version, which is great when I need the internet turned off)

I decided i was going to write the biggest pile of crap I could.  Trite, stupid, lame, awful.  Just really go for the bottom of the barrel.  And I decided I’d throw it away as soon as I was done.

I hit the button that disabled the backspace key, set the timer to 30 minutes and clicked on “Write.”

I amused myself by parodying the kind of work I specifically didn’t want to do (it was about a Very Special Girl who was Chosen By The Fairies because she was so Very Special).  I made typos but couldn’t fix them, of course (leading to the fabulous sentence, “I watned toaask where we were gong, but it was goo winty to ask.”).

After a few minutes, stuff started to happen.  

First of all, the voice changed from this glurgy crap to something more sarcastic.  More like me.  

A plot started to develop.  It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, since I hadn’t remotely thought it through, but there was something kind of fun there.  A bit of a proto-relationship emerged between the two characters.

Buddhism teaches that the way to deal with a problem is not resistance, but acceptance.  You sit with it, acknowledge it, and it loses its power over you.  

Just like when you use active listening to validate someone, the argument you’re having loses all its energy, by facing my fear of mediocrity, and embracing it, I took away its voice. And then I started to hear my muse.*

I’m not going to be submitting what I wrote yesterday to Apex anytime soon. 

But I didn’t throw it away, either.

 

*That link goes to a brilliant talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about creative genius.  Watch it.

 

Other posts of mine about writing:

Reading as a Writer: The Sarantine Mosaic

Teaching myself to write: outlines and storyboards

small things good

happiness + frugality

Writing the Other

Learn to write characters very different from you sensitively and convincingly

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