Monday, April 24, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: John Corbett

Masked Mom, it is probably no surprise to learn, is a fan of alliteration and, as you've also no doubt learned if you've been around much, Masked Mom loves an excuse to babble. If, therefore, Masked Mom were to come up with an idea (say, at 2:34 a.m., when sensible people are otherwise asleep but Masked Mom's brain, for some unknown* reason, has been whirring and buzzing at an alarming rate (and, unfortunately, not in any productive way) ), an idea which combined both her affection for alliteration and her passion for pointless patter, she would have practically no alternative but to inflict it upon you, her faithful reader(s)--all five of you.

And so--the debut of Masked Mom's Media Mondays in which Masked Mom brings to the table a completely unqualified voice on books, magazines, movies and music--some current, some dug out from under a pile of moldering paperbacks in her attic. As the old saying goes, I may not know art but I know what I like and I also know what I don't like and in a fit of generosity (and excitement over the chance to babble MORE) I will share it all with you, my faithful reader(s)--all five of you.

So John the '90s he was Chris Stevens, the smooth-voiced, ever-searching-for-enlightment, hot-as-hell-in-a-whiny-sensitive-but-not-too-whiny-or-sensitive-type-way DJ on Northern Exposure and, more recently, the groom in My Big, Fat Greek Wedding and, even more recently, some love interest of Carrie's on Sex and The City, a show which I've never seen but which has so permeated the public consciousness that I still somehow know the main characters' names...that John Corbett released a self-titled country music CD on April 4th.

I was walking by the TV one morning last month and literally did a double take because there was John Corbett, riding horses and hoisting bales of hay and singing his heart out. I liked the song--"Good to Go"--well enough, but probably wouldn't have bought the whole album without hearing a little more of it. Cranky Boss Lady shows no such restraint, though, and she preordered the album from our local music store. (The owner of the store, R, commented to CBL that he had been told more than once how much he (R) looks like John Corbett, which now that he mentions it, I can kind of see. But I think it's funny that R would mention it--I mean once (two decades ago) someone told me how I looked kinda like Sheena Easton, and I can't imagine that coming up in casual conversation, not least because it opens the opportunity for the other person to go, "Yeah, right!" More recently, I've been compared to Queen Latifah--and while I consider it a compliment (and I'm even reasonably certain it was meant as such), it's a long way from Sheena Easton to Queen Latifah. Ah, the ravages of time...)

I've heard the whole album five or six times and read the customer reviews on Amazon. More than one of the reviews says something along the lines of "If you like country music, you'll like this," which is funny to me because I don't really think this CD is all that country--not in the twangy, yee-haw tradition of country anyway. (For the record, Hubby disagrees and begged off after song 4, complaining he'd had enough "twang" for one day. Twang tolerance is a very subjective thing, I guess.) Of course, in a world where Bon Jovi is at the top of the country music charts, I guess lots of things are up for grabs.

I like the album, but I don't like it like it. I will not be listening to it compulsively the way I have some of the other albums I've bought even recently--I always thought I'd grow out of that playing an album over-and-over thing, but it hasn't happened yet. This album is not that kind of album--it's the perfect background music, not too distracting--but nothing in it really jumps up and grabs your attention, makes you say, "Hey! Let me hear that again." The way I figure it, though, the fact that it's not actively annoying (as some actors' forays into music have been) is a pleasant surprise and worth the ten bucks (especially since those bucks weren't mine).

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Harmless.

*The reasons (at least some of them) are actually known, but in an effort to avoid foisting my stress, despair, and random freakouts upon my unsuspecting public (all five of you), I've decided (in a rare fit of discretion) to keep the reasons (known & unknown) to myself.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Eggspectations & A Pointless (Musical) Aside About the IRS

As the parents of four (beloved but increasingly loud, large, and hungry) children, Hubby and I can probably be forgiven for casting a wary eye upon a holiday whose symbolism--eggs, bunnies, chickies, lambs--was derived from ancient fertility rites*. Sure, those symbols in our modern world are increasingly commercial and it's unlikely that plastic eggs and synthetic furry bunnies are somehow going to tap into a supernatural stream of fertile energy, but you can't really blame us for not wanting to take any chances.

Luckily for us then, the boys are all well past the age where they care one way or the other about mythical bunnies and baskets of chocolate. We still go through the motions with them--a "basket" (we've never actually done real baskets, preferring instead to give them crates or tubs or something else that will have a use for the whole rest of the year--something for organizing the gababigzillion little metal cars and plastic blocks of practically microscopic size they once amassed, but anyway a "basket") with a gifty or two and a handful of processed sugar products. So cynical and jaded are they that Son-One and Son-Three asked that their gift be subscriptions to an online video game and Son-One actually printed the receipts himself for their baskets. Son-Two asked for the cash.

Daughter-Only, at almost twelve, also doesn't believe in giant, hopping, gift-and-candy-giving bunnies, but nevertheless is reluctant to let go of "Easter traditions"--like coloring and finding eggs and finding their hidden (by Mom) baskets. She gave me a big speech on the subject on Friday, titled "Why Easter is Ruined." She informed me that since she doesn't really like candy very much and since the boys won't color eggs or hunt for them with her and since I won't hide the baskets (on the grounds that there's so much clutter around here we might never find them), Easter is completely pointless** and ruined for her. When I tried to explain that the boys thought they were too "grown up" for that kind of thing and that it was only natural and not something she should take personally, she said, huffily, "Well, if I was the oldest, I would still do all the traditions for the sake of the younger kids."

I have no doubt that she would do those things for a younger sibling if there were one (and please, powers that be, don't misinterpret that as a wish for a younger sibling) because the truth is it's not just about age or maturity but about something in her very nature. She loves holidays and all the traditions associated with them in a way that her brothers (not to mention her parents, poor kid) never really did at any age.

We're talking about a kid who, on the night before Ground Hog Day, when she was six, set her alarm an hour early and then couldn't sleep for fear the alarm would malfunction or she wouldn't hear it and would then (gasp!) miss the live coverage of Punxsutawney Phil deciding whether or not to stay out of his electrically heated burrow. (And, by the way, how can we be sure it's his shadow that scared him and not the glare of the lights and cameras from all the morning news shows covering the "event?")

This enthusiasm is mostly endearing but I do worry about her. Her expectations for these "special" days are just so high and, unfortunately and guilt-inducingly, out of proportion with the reality she's actually living. So often does her non-celebratory family let her down that she has started a holiday tradition of her own: as Son-One pointed out two Christmases ago, "She cries on every holiday!" And not generally tears of joy, either--tears of disappointment and frustration.

Okay maybe she doesn't cry on every holiday, but it's closer to every one than I even want to think about. And guilt aside (where it never stays for long, as any mom can tell you), I think the problem is as much with her as it is with us, her Scroogey family. It's not merely that we're not excited or enthusiastic enough it's that we're not the perfect family--not even for these special days that dot our calendar each year.

I'm a big crusader against unrealistic expectations--I think all sorts of things can be blamed on them from credit card debt (we expect to be able to live like the people on TV even though our budget is decided by real-life economics and not a team of writers and studio execs and we expect the things we buy to provide comfort) to marriages failing (we expect our relationships to be all hearts and flowers and mush and gush or just expect it to be so much less work than it ends up being).

I'll tell you one thing, though, it's a lot harder to crusade against them when they appear in the form of your eleven-year-old daughter's chronically broken heart. So, this year, we struck a compromise--since she said she would keep the traditions alive for younger kids, we invited her youngest cousins over (whose mother, my sister-in-law, says, "I'm not good at any of that.") to color eggs and hide them in the backyard. And, at least for Easter Eve, Daughter-Only was tear free. My second youngest niece, however, bawled her eyes out because her younger sister found more eggs than she did. Isn't it nice when a tradition can be handed down like that?

The Long-Awaited Pointless (Musical) Aside About The IRS (In Honor of Tax Day):

One day last week, I was on hold with the IRS--which isn't on anyone's Top 10 List of Favorite Places To Be. I mean the IRS is no fun and being on hold sucks in any case--so being on hold with the IRS can't help but be a spectacularly ungood time, right?

You'll be happy, but perhaps unsurprised to know that the IRS, in what was clearly an attempt to make an unpleasant situation more so, has provided music to entertain waiting taxpayers. The musical accompaniment during my call was "The Flight of the Bumblebee". I know almost nothing about classical music--it's got no words so as a word geek, it's not of much use to me. I do know "The Flight," though and it's always inspired a clawing anxiety in me.

Have you ever seen someone who is so freaked out by the possibility of being stung that the very sight of a bee sends them screaming in a tizzy just as likely to cause the bee to sting them as to prevent the bee from doing so? That's exactly how I feel about the music in "The Flight of the Bumblebee." I realize that's probably an extreme reaction, but it isn't what most people would consider a soothing piece of music. All I could imagine was the effect it might have on someone who was waiting to hear bad news; someone who was already freaking out just a little might be pushed completely over the edge by the strains of that damned bumblebee.

When I told Cranky Boss Lady that the hold music was "The Flight of the Bumblebee," she said, "Is that because they're gonna sting you?"

So maybe it's not malicious--maybe it's just a friendly warning. Bzzzz.

*Not only are we not interested in any more children of our own, the children we do have are rapidly approaching (or at) the stage where they are physically capable of reproducing themselves and, therefore, fertility is a frightening concept on a whole other level.
**Yes, Daughter-Only and I both know that there is a "point" to Easter (The Resurrection) that doesn't involve food-grade dyes and shredded plastic "grass." For the purposes of our particular conversation, however, that point had little power.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Letter From the Divine (Little) Miss M--

Dear Masked Mom,
I am supporting the March of Dimes by participating in WalkAmerica. Volunteers like you and me help raise funds that support lifesaving research to prevent premature births and infant mortality. Now in its 34th year, WalkAmerica gives moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, family members and friends the opportunity to help the March of Dimes fight prematurity.

Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death in the first month of life. It’s on the rise - up 27% since 1981. And it can happen to any pregnant woman. In nearly half the cases, the causes are unknown. The March of Dimes is leading the way to find answers by supporting research into the causes of premature birth.

We need your help - and so do America’s babies. Won’t you join me in this fight? Please visit my personal Web site to make a donation and learn more about the March of Dimes.

My personal web page address for donations is ...
Our mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.
Click Now to sponsor me for WalkAmerica!

Thanks for your support! And please visit my website listed below.

Sincerely,Mandi (Little Miss)

p.s. please feel free to forward this message to anyone and everyone! Every little bit helps. ; )

All I have to add is great cause, great blog so go often, give what you can and pass it on!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Perspective, Courtesy of Goose Poop (or the Lack Thereof)

I was waiting at the bus stop Friday after my nieces and Daughter-Only had been picked up--waiting for Cranky Boss Lady who picks me up every morning even though I would just as soon walk and could invariably get to work earlier (on time!) if I did walk, but that's another whiny story for another whiny day, but while I was waiting a pair of geese flew just fifteen feet over my head. They were bickering in their honking way--probably because she wanted to stop and ask for directions and he kept insisting he wasn't lost so why should he stop?! Anyway, for the few seconds they were directly over my head, I was absolutely certain one of them was going to let loose on my head and I knew exactly the extent to which that would ruin my day. For those seconds, I harbored images of dumping boiling water on my head to rid myself of the ick factor as much as to remove any lingering bacteria. Not only is goose poop poop, it's big gigantic poop, slimy and green with chunks in it. Oh, goose poop is just soooo wrong.

But the important point turns out to be not goose poop but the extent to which I borrow trouble on a regular basis, the habit I have of worrying about things that never happen. Granted, I didn't expend more than a few seconds worth of energy on the goose poop possibilities, but it was a reminder to me of how often I do waste minutes, hours, days worrying about things that never really happen. I think some worry is good and necessary--it helps us prepare and avoid disaster and all that, but there's got to be some way to strike a healthy balance. I, of course, have no idea how to strike that balance, and if anyone does, please feel free to let me know. You can usually find me under my blankets in a quivering mass freaking out over eventualities that will never come to pass.

On a lighter note, when Son-Two was six or seven, a bird actually did poop on him, not on his head, but on his leg. He came running in the house and said, in front of company, "Mom, a bird shat on my leg!"

Now, it's fairly easy for me to figure out where he might've picked up a word like "shit" because well, you know, the occasional four-letter word has slipped out of my mouth over the years. But, to this day, I have no idea where he picked up the little-used past tense of a swear word. I do know it was adorable and hysterically funny to everyone assembled.

And, though I might have worried that such arcane knowledge (and the willingness to use it in public) would doom Son-Two to being a friendless loner--just for a few minutes, mind you--that has so far not come to pass.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

That's All, Nothing Else

Falling back may be pointless and annoying, but springing forward is simply inhumane.

It is cruel and unusual punishment.

I heard someone say, "Try explaining to your dog that he's supposed to wait an hour to go." It's been my experience that dogs--and kids--don't really understand this arbitrary tinkering with time and it's not because they're simple-minded or not (yet) mentally astute enough to understand the intricacies of Daylight Saving--it's because it doesn't make a damn bit of sense!

That's all, nothing else.