Monday, April 28, 2008

Thomas Dolby Gets Nude

Well, that title will get me some fairly tasteless Google hits, I imagine. But I hope, along with the questionable queries, I'll get some from folks who have heard about Thomas Dolby remixing Radiohead's song "Nude" off their most recent recording, "In Rainbows." Radiohead has a remix contest going on right now (voting ends May 1st.) Anyone with a hankering to tinker with tuneage can download the "stems" of the song (the various lines for bass, voice, guitar, strings/fx and drums) for $5 each off iTunes, create their own version of "Nude", and upload it to Radiohead's remix site for the general public to listen to - and if they like it - vote for it.

Among the nearly 2,000 mixes out there - by amateurs and professionals alike - is a really damn good one by Mr. Dolby himself. He not only remixed the existing stems, but also taught himself some of the lines and blended his own handiwork into the mix. Neat, huh? It even features seagulls and lapping waves Thomas recorded out on the shore next to his home that give the mix (in my mind, at least) a very wistful, nostalgic feel that matches that feeling of opportunities lost in Radiohead's lyrics:

Now that you found it
It's gone
Now that you feel it
You don't...

It's pretty cool. In keeping with that coolness, Thomas has dubbed his remix "Bathing In the Icefloe", and you can give a listen to it right here:

Neat, huh? Mellow and catchy. I find myself whistling it all the time. I'm hoping, if it garners enough votes, it might actually get released. I wouldn't mind having that guy on my wee Podlet when I'm toiling away at the keyboard.

Right now, Thomas' mix is at #12, hovering on the doorstep of the Top Ten mixes. If you dig it, give it a vote!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dancing on my toes

Even when life keeps handing me shriveled lemons, and lemonade isn't even a vague possibility, I know I'm lucky. I was born in a nation of opportunity and wealth. Though most days I don't experience wealth as many of my fellow countrymen see it - with a new car, big screen TV, and the trappings of The Good Life, I am fortunate.

Yeah, I'm a magnet for crappy drivers, I walk with a cane, I'm broke 99% of the time, and one eye doesn't work right. But I have a roof over my head, a job with insurance, and I can buy groceries - even if they aren't the super-healthy foods I should be eating. (Good nutrition here comes with a higher price tag.) I'm not paralyzed with fear of imminent starvation because of the rising price of rice and flour. I'm not worried about civil war or some cureless plague ravaging my community.

I'm lucky.

Today, I hurt, but a little less than yesterday. I had physical therapy this morning, and, for a few hours, the pain in my back has subsided. It will be back, but I hope it will fade with time. It's a small victory, and it's one I wish I didn't have to think about. I wish the most difficult choices I had were about where I wanted to go on vacation or what my next car will be. Instead, they're about whether I can afford to fill the gas tank twice during this pay period and whether I can buy new eyeglasses next month or not. Most of my friends don't have these problems. They are not affluent (well, some are), but they don't live in financial fear in this country.

I do. And I cannot lie and say I'm not horribly envious of my friends and their stability. Of their ability to choose without fear. Of their comfort zone.

But still, I know I'm lucky.

And I won't forget that.

Even when I was very young, I was a "chubby" child. Today, surely, teachers would be sending home notes of concern that my kindergarten/grade school self was a child at risk. My mother made healthy, good food, and I rode a bike or walked everywhere. Still I was fat. Yet, back then, I was fit, and, much more than now, I was happy.

My physical therapy doc commented last week on how lucky I was that I was very flexible and had strong bones - otherwise the damage from the car accidents likely would have been even worse. I'm still incredibly flexible (when I'm not in incredible pain) and can turn myself into one helluva pretzel for a woman of my size and years.

Back in that distant childhood, I had a strange habit that displayed those strong bones and great flexibility in a peculiar way - I would turn my toes under my feet and walk and run and dance wildly on the tops of my toes, like some twisted ballerina dancing en pointe. Spinning, whirling, full speed, across the lawn of our house in New Jersey, I remember my family shrieking in horror to see me bouncing around on those toe-to-foot joints, faster than fast. And I would laugh and laugh at their incredulity. Off-kilter mind, clearly, but with strong bones. Flexible body. Precariously perched, barely balanced, but running headstrong into whatever was ahead.

Maybe it was just one of the early moments that pointed to the fact that I was never going to fit in the mainstream. I was smart and geeky and a fringe player as a kid, and I still am now. And, despite the crap karma keeps tossing my way, I'm surviving. And I'm damn lucky.

I've found a new way to dance on my toes. Sure, I'd rather not have to do it. But I can.

And, as long as I have to, I'll keep dancing. You'll never find me in the middle, never in the spotlight, never on that well-paved path. I'll be on the edge, out here, twirling on my toes, holding my balance. And maybe, someday, someone will join me.

We lucky few.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Bassover!

I know there is no Hell in Judaism. But I was raised Catholic, so Hell and all its associated images of pain, misery, and eternity as Wilbur-on-a-spit at Satan's pig roast run rampant throughout my brain.

With this post, I figure I have a pretty good shot at ending up in a Very Catholic Hell, but here goes...

Remember the Big Mouth Billy Bass? Oh, of course you do - that damn fake mounted fish that sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy" or a variety of Christmas tunes at the press of a button. Having a good number of Jewish friends, I always felt bad around the holidays that the makers of the Christmas Big Mouth Billy Bass had not taken into account that there might be some Jewish kids who would enjoy cheap animated crap for the festival of lights.

It would have been easy to do. Heck, there are people who have programmed Billy Bass with the voice of Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and Homer Simpson. I'm amazed no one considered the potentially lucrative Jewish holiday market! After all, it's not just Bubba Christians who love All Things Tacky! Bad taste knows NO religious, ethnic, or national limits!

So, savvy marketing guy somewhere, here's whatcha do...

Take your basic Billy Bass:

Add a yarmulke:

Maybe some sidelocks, if you're aiming for an old school market:

And then replace the traditional "Billy" plate with something more appropriate that still captures that Southern good ol' fish feel of the original:

Program this baby to sing the Dreidel Song, and - BAM - a new holiday classic is born!

How many people can really tell the difference between a bass and other fish? I know I can't! Wrap this sucker in a box labeled "Hanukkah Halibut" and you're golden!

But why stop there? Judaism offers an array of holidays only rivaled by the Catholic Church. This guy could be repackaged for events throughout the year!

How about the Passover Bass? Or, simply, "Bassover"! He could be programmed to ask all the Seder questions:
"Papa, why is this fish different from all other fish?"

It could go on and on...

For people mourning a loss alone, the fish could be programmed to speak prayers of mourning with you. With deepest sympathy, I present... the Kaddish Codfish:
(See, I told you I was going to Hell.)

On a lighter note... Purim Perch, anyone?
"Huzzah, everyone! I'm Harry Potter!
Expecto Patronum! Take that, Haman!"

The High Holidays would not be neglected, of course. Rosh Hashanah could be represented in a *very* limited edition - edible and celebrating the worldwide reach of the Jewish community. Behold, the Rosh Sashimi:

BTW, Wikipedia says there are an estimated 1,000 Jews in Japan. This might be a big hit as a specialty item.


I know I've already hit rock bottom with the raw fish number above (and you can blame the Sasquatch for coming up with "Rosh Sashimi" and blame me for the atrocious photo manipulation), but I'm about to dig far, far below ground level with this final offering... the Yom Kippur Kipper:
Yum! Kipper!

This solemn fish will remind you to repent on the "Day of A-tuna-ment". (Again, blame the Sasquatch for that. I wanted to go with the "Day of A-tin-ment" since kippers come in tins, but he reminded me kippers aren't exactly on everyone's radar in the United States. Regardless, do you know how hard it is to fit a tallis on a fish in MS Paint? God, I need Photoshop...)

Now, hopefully, my Jewish friends won't be offended by my fishy holidays. Don't worry - the Catholic Church allows so many opportunities for icthymockery. I can think of one or two for Islam, too, but I have the sad feeling some folks wouldn't appreciate the humor of the "Burqa Bass" (or "Salaam Salmon") I've just drawn up. Catholics, on the other hand... Oh, just give me some time to ponder...

And, btw, a very good Passover to all my peeps celebrating with friends and family all over the world. I hope you got enough kosher Coke to sustain you for the next few days!

Shalom, y'all!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Married People Earn More Money"

I see those words every morning now, on my way to work. Along Connecticut Avenue, bus shelter after bus shelter features an enormous poster of a happy couple in wedding attire, smiling away. Some of the posters feature a black couple and others feature a Caucasian-ish (possibly Latino) couple, showing pure joy on their faces next to that huge tag line: "Married people earn more money." At the bottom right, the words "Marriage works." At the bottom left, there is a link to this website.

I get that they are encouraging young people to consider marriage. That's great. But to advertise in urban bus shelters that marriage is a way to bring in more cash? Yeesh.

"We're married. We can buy and sell you pathetic single losers!"

I give those posters the big middle finger as I drive past them. Speaking as someone who would love to find a partner and best friend who loved me - and has very little chance of ever doing so - I find this campaign grotesque. GET MARRIED - GRAB MORE CASH!!! WHOOOOOO!

The website has a text box that talks about other benefits of getting married:

Wow. How smug. And check out the item in larger type - how insulting to many single parents who struggle, but persevere and do a fantastic job in raising their kids. I'd rather see someone raise a kid as a strong single parent than remain in a bad marriage, but that's just me, I suppose.

And whatever happened to getting married because you want to spend the rest of your life with your best friend?

Maybe I'm delusional.

Perhaps. And maybe it's because I am unwillingly single that it bothers me so much.

I just find this crass.

When these signs were first posted in New York subways back in 2005, MTA spokesman Tim Kelly said, "That campaign must’ve been invented by someone who’s not married.”


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hey, don't look now...

...but there goes the pope in his papal white and his Prada shoes!

(wrote this yesterday, but fell asleep and forgot to post it...)

Fox 5 has just broken away from their usual afternoon fare of Judge This, That, and the Other One and Baby Daddy DNA broadcasting to show the arrival of Il Papa at Andrews Air Force Base. As a lapsed Catholic who has serious issues with the Church, I really don't have much at stake in the Holy Father visiting DC, except for how it might affect traffic. Genuinely, I would have more respect for him if his first act as Supreme Pontiff had been to order mandatory counseling for all priests and toss every child molester from the ranks worldwide in the wake of the waves of sex abuse revelations.

But that didn't happen.

And here he is. The pope is in white from head to toe --- nope. He's in white down to his ankles, but his booties are these incredibly garish red Prada numbers. Yikes! I know it's a nod to the old papal red vestments, but whooo-wee, thems some homely expensive shoes!

Dubya and family are there to greet him - I can only imagine, since he calls Putin "Pootie-Poot", Bush is probably greeting the pope as "Benny" right now. "Heya, there, Benny! We all wanna welcome y'all to our fine li'l city! Heh heh heh. You live in Rome, right? Didja watch 'Rome' on HBO? Man, there sure was a lot of nekkid folks in that show, heh heh heh... I liked them centurians. THIRTEEN! WHOOOOO! Heh heh heh. We got hot dogs and kraut waitin' at the White House for ya. They're all beef, 'cause y'all don't eat pork, right? Oh, heck - yer German, maybe I shouldn't have said 'kraut' - sorry, Benny! Heh heh heh..."

The closest I imagine I will ever get to the pope (other than when he's three blocks down the street tomorrow) is this:

Yes, kids, it's "Pope Soap on a Rope"! I remember someone selling a similar version when John Paul II came to the 'States eons ago. Totally tacky and tasteless, yet, I cannot help but wonder if it might wash away my sins - if not the sins of the world.


The commute into DC is anticipated to be hellish over the next two days. Oh, what joy!

Update today: the Sasquatch just saw him roll past in the Popemobile on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Honestly - and I know I'll offend someone with this - considering all the sex scandals with the Church, I think this might be more appropriate transportation for the time being:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Of sawdust and lawyers and the writing of words

There's very little evidence left of Saturday night's downed tree, other than a sheen of sawdust across the street. MoCo emergency workers were out there with chainsaws until at least 5 a.m. Sunday. I finally dozed off at 5, so I don't really know when they departed the scene. All I know is, when I woke up around 10, the tree was gone. The car belonging to my nice British neighbor got walloped by the end of the branches, leaving the car with big dings and an all-over coat of deep scratches.

I saw the missus talking to insurance adjusters at her door this morning, and I offered up photos of the car under the branches, if that would be helpful. Both of the adjusters stared at me like I'd grown a third eye. The missus hadn't been there when the tree fell, but husband was up, watching English football. Over the stadium crowd noise on his TV, he hadn't heard the crash. I knocked on his door to bring the bad news.

"Umm, hi... I know it's late, but I thought you should know... there's a tree on your car." This guy is so incredibly polite, so amazingly gentle, so utterly British - his response was to say, "Oh, my. I guess I should go out and see this." I, of course, would have been swearing like a sailor, bolting for the door. I admire his low-key nature. Perhaps it could be bottled and sold as a calming agent for DC commuters.

Speaking of which... I have to take the car to the quick claims place tomorrow morning. I will attempt to be mellow and Zen. I will probably fail. I'm not at my best at 7:30 in the morning, frankly. Then again, who is?

Do any of the DC area folks have a recommendation for an attorney who handles auto accident cases on a contingency basis? Yes, I know the people who advertise on local TV - but if any of you have had a good experience with anyone in particular, I'd be grateful for the advice. The lawyer my doc suggested doesn't work on contingency, and I can't afford to pay up front.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations!

Despite having taken my nighttime, sleep-inducing pain killers, I'm inspired to write, and I'm halfway through a radio commentary about concert-going etiquette. Not sure it will fly with WAMU, but it's worth trying! Hopefully, you'll hear me on your radio again soon!

Before I go -- I have to share this one fine thing with you. My friend Madame Ambassador e-mailed me today with an image that has warmed my heart. Enjoy:

Wherever you are tonight, my friends, I wish you peas. Lots and lots of peas.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I don't think earplugs will help...

MoCo has just arrived at 2:30 a.m. - wish AudioBlogger still was around so you could share in the ear-unfriendly fun. The night of a thousand chainsaws has begun. Let's see how long it takes to chainsaw and remove the carcass of a three-story tree...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bullet, dodged

About an hour ago, the Sasquatch was dropping me off after a short trek up the Pike for a little erranding. About fifteen minutes ago, in the spot where the Sasquatch stopped to drop my gimpy self, an enormous tree cracked and fell, out of the blue, crushing some neighbors' cars and landing right in the spot where we had been.

Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky we are.

Maybe some higher power figured I'd been through enough crap for the week. Maybe karma was on a smoke break from kicking my ass. I don't care what the reason was, I just know we were lucky.

Initially, it sounded like someone skateboarding outside. I thought, "Damn, it's a little late and little dark for that, no?" But then came the tremendous powerful sound of the tree cracking and falling. I had no idea how close it was to me. I know it was over in mere seconds, but it felt - and sounded - like slow motion.

Whoosh. Crack. Boom.

I'd go take some flash photos, but there are freaked out people trying to get branches off their cars right now. I don't think they'd appreciate my half-assed efforts at nighttime photojournalism.

One guy is just saying,"Omigod, omigod" over and over again. Poor SOB.

Update - had to go out to talk to the police, as my drunk downstairs neighbor was so wasted he couldn't string together enough words to describe what had happened. So, I took some photos. Please keep in mind, I still suck at nighttime photography with my little Canon:

Drunk neighbor checks hand for splinters after petting the tree.
Yes. *Petting* the tree.
Film at 11.

The last vestiges of life that had been holding this huge sucker up.

The enormous trunk lying across the street.

Smaller branches (they are all over the street.)

Crappy photo of the least damaged of the cars on my side of the street. Right between these two guys? Where the bulk of the tree now lies? That's where the Sasquatch and I were. Eeeeeek. I had to go find the nice people who own that burgundy car to let them know they had a tree on/in their windshield. Oof.

I didn't take photos of the crushed cars - I just didn't want to get in the hair of the folks who are already stressed out.

I hear guys with walkie-talkies outside now - that distinctive Nextel beep is echoing across the street. The nice MoCo cop who came to the scene put in the call for someone to come remove the tree, and they sure arrived with great haste. I anticipate a loud night of chainsaws. What fun!

The people who own the white car pictured above just came home -- they'd had a party earlier in the evening and everyone went off with their sad-looking designated driver to some bar, drunk as skunks. They're having a little freak-out in the street right now over how damn lucky they are. Drunk, happy, and damn lucky.

Look into the light, Carol Ann!

Well, it's not quite Poltergeist, but I had my own appointment with bright lights today.

First, before I get to the story, let me say thank you to the folks who left such nice, supportive comments - I really appreciate it. And, for those who asked, yes - Joe was great! I was in so much pain by the time the gig was over, I almost passed out in front of 9:30 and was hyperventilating to the point that the poor Sasquatch said, "Dude, you're really scaring me." That experience aside, Joe rocked. I highly recommend his new CD "Rain", which Joe himself described as "pretty damn good." He's right. Go get it!

Now, as for me... my mule-kick headache post-accident developed into what I've been describing as a "horizontal headache" - as if someone had drawn a thick horizontal line of dull ache across the back of my skull, from ear to ear. When I told this to the doc this morning (hooray for medical professionals with Saturday hours!) he was not surprised. After some x-rays and range of motion tests, he pulled out a pen light and had me try to follow the light with my eyes.

I did not do so well, apparently. I was very slow to follow. My inability to follow the light and the horizonal headache are the obvious signs of a bad occipital concussion. This also explains the freaky fuzzy vision - and later tunnel vision - I had on Thursday night. Lovely!

I bet you're thinking, "Well, jeez, Merujo, it sure is a good thing you have insurance!"

Wellllll... yes and no.

The woman who hit me this time has the same insurance carrier I do. And, to her credit, she didn't run away, she was (over)solicitous and she *did* call our insurance company. However, here's where the problems start. Said insurance company has now informed me three times that, if this new accident has caused additional harm to my already messed up back and neck, they will close my first claim (which was on my PIP coverage, and therefore, up to $10K, NOT out of my pocket initially) and put all new care on this woman's bodily injury insurance.

What does this mean? It means any new appointments/therapy/x-rays/MRIs/etc. would be out of my pocket until all treatment is done, and only then would they make a lump sum payment to me for medical care and pain & suffering. This is not good. As the usual suspects here know, I live paycheck to paycheck. I'm lucky if I have around twenty bucks left at the end of any given pay period. I have $2.77 in savings. Literally. Now, because a second inattentive driver has struck me, I may be screwed out of ANY additional medical care because I can't afford the buckage out of pocket for any treatment before a final lump sum payout. There have been a lot of exhausted, white flag-raising tears in the past 48 hours, trust me.

Unsurprisingly, I find this a singularly unamusing Catch-22 situation. My physical therapy doc gave me the phone number of a good lawyer this morning, and I'm calling him on Monday. The doc also informed me he doesn't want me working for a few days because of the concussion and gave me a slip noting that I am, for work purposes, "totally incapacitated" through the 17th. Ironically, I'd asked for Monday and Tuesday as vacation. I guess I can put those vay-cay days back in the kitty. Sick leave it is, at least for a couple of days.

The whole "totally incapacitated" thing actually freaked me out. I mean, I feel bad and the doc even noted that I looked bad this morning, but I didn't understand how bad the concussion was until he stood back and just looked at me with concern after my slow reaction to light.

I'm starting to think there should be a cheesy trophy for Most Accident Prone Blogger, and, more or less, it should just be handed back and forth between Magazine Man and me. No joke.

I think I'm done with spending any time behind the wheel for the day. Instead, I'm about to enjoy the afternoon getting reacquainted with my wacky Irish pal, Vic O'Din, and his mellow contortionist buddy, Flexerall.

And seriously, I'm not driving anywhere the day Crowded House plays DC. Look for me in the balcony at the 9:30 Club that night - I'll be the one drooling through a prescribed narcotic haze, wrapped in bubble wrap. Snap! Pop! Play "Pineapple Head", please!

The sofa, she calls me...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bad drivers of the DC region: YOU SUCK!

I went out at lunchtime. I made the mistake of getting behind the wheel of my car.

And I got rear-ended.


Nice and hard.

But this time, at least, my car is okay. Scratches, dings, but that Taurus is a tank. My lower back and head, however? That all hurts like hell.

And I have tickets to Joe Jackson tonight. Last time I got hit? I was going to see Thomas Dolby.

(Apparently, some higher being has a wretched sense of humor and doesn't want me to see live music. I think I'm staying home from work when Crowded House comes to town...)

I have a bag of ice on my head. It's very attractive office attire.


Yours, in great discomfort,


Friday, April 04, 2008

Falling down on the job

I know, there hasn't much here in recent weeks. Hard to keep people interested in a blog when there's no new content. I thank those of you who continue to check in!

Truth is, I'm working on a writing assignment that's keeping me pretty busy and focused off-line these days. This particular assignment has to be finished by the end of April, so you'll see more of me after this month. I hope to be able to tell you about said assignment a bit later this year.

In doing research for this item, I've read a lot of old newspaper articles from the 1940s, including columns by the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Bill O'Reilly of the day, Drew Pearson. American University holds the archives for his syndicated column and radio show, the Washington Merry-Go-Round. In reading one column, I came across this incredibly offensive point:

"Dynamic Ed Stettinius, handsome Undersecretary of State, has just chalked up another victory in revamping the U.S. machinery of foreign affairs. Soon after Ed entered the placid, staid old Department of State, he succeeded in banishing the Negro messengers from tables outside the doors of prominent officials, relegating them to the men's lavatory. Afterward, Ed tackled another problem--State Department floors..."

So, let me get this straight... the man who would succeed Cordell Hull as Secretary of State under Roosevelt and Truman, help found the UN, and was a longtime friend of Liberian President William Tubman, moved the "Negro" messengers from the doorways of officials to the toilets at the State Department?!?

I need to research this. I don't necessarily trust Drew Pearson's columns because of the crap he wrote about the group my mom flew with in WWII. He helped whip up a misogynistic frenzy to bring around their downfall. That's unfortunate because Pearson was one of the few journalists who would later voice outrage at the evils of McCarthyism. (And McCarthy famously slapped or kneed Pearson in the groin in a public venue during that ugly period of our history.)

I hope this is another piece of BS, but now I want to know more. If it's true, it's another shameful piece of our historic puzzle. If it isn't, it's a mark against Pearson for wartime yellow journalism.

Either way, it distresses me. Move the black guys to the crapper. Yeah, that works.



I'll post as often as I can over the next three weeks, folks, but things will be a little thin this month.

Meanwhile, on a more pleasant point, enjoy this video from Crowded House - who, after 20+ years, I finally get to see in May. I am smiling an almost painful Cheshire Cat grin as I write this:

There is something very sweet and sad about this video, which contrasts such visual innocence with lyrics about Paul Heaton's suicide. Personally - and somehow appropriately for Paul - my favorite kid is the guy on the right going nuts on the conga. He makes me smile.

DC peeps: Crowded House is playing the 9:30 Club on May 2. Tickets are $45. It will be SO worth it!