Monday, February 27, 2006

The Bronx is up, and the (laptop) Battery's down

Yes, my little hayseeds, Scarlett has hit Metropolis and has been given a warm welcome by the city's citizens (not to mention the city's immigrants). And by warm, I don't mean weatherwise - it's in the upper teens, low 20s - but I'm not one of those Suth'un hot house flowers, so I find it invigorating.

I had one work-related presentation this afternoon, but tomorrow's the big interview, so I'll take extra-good care of myself tonight. Dinner with a friend at some French cafe around 61st and Lexington. 'Twill be a night of merriment, as Jay is a New York hoot-and-holler, so I'm just resting up a bit now to regenerate my witty Algonquinesque conversation skills before meeting him.

Thanks to all who have wished me luck on my interview. I think I'm prepared across the board - from the Barbara Walters-type questions ("if you were a tree . . .") to how my skills and experience fit the job's requirements. It's not like I'm auditioning for the lead in a Broadway musical or anything, for goodness' sake.

Speaking of which - worst day of the week for someone like me to be in New York. The theatres are dark Mondays. I can't even go to Broadway and press my little cold nose against the glass. Well, I could, but no one's there to watch my drama queen/poor little match girl routine, so why bother? Humph.

Still, just walking the streets of Manhatten is wonderful. Finally a place where everyone walks as fast as I do!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

We'll miss ya', Barn.

Just learned Don Knotts has died. He gave us lots of funny stuff throughout the years, from the old Steve Allen Show to Pleasantville, but he'll always be our Barney Fife.

Guess he's gone to that great Mayberry in the Sky.

Wonder who gets the bullet now?

Missing New Orleans and the Best Looking Men in the World

With Mardi Gras in full force, New Orleans is in the throes of trying to reclaim some of its Pre-Katrina fabulousness. And it was a fabulous place, trust me. It was the most unique city in the United States - in fact, it was an American city by accident of place, really. It was a foreign city. Not un-American. More like non-American. It was a wonderful stew of art and food and music and accents and color. Nothing like it on the face of the planet.

It wasn't cleaned-up and Disneyfied, and yet that was what was so appealing about it. The streets were lined with wonderfully ornate buildings - the chic and well-maintained cheek-to-jowl with those who'd seen better days long ago. Flowers and ferns cascaded over curlicued wrought-iron, masking much of the fading splendor. Except that was the beautiful part: old, lived-in, grand dames of buildings that made you wish to hell they could tell their stories. Um-um.

And music everywhere. Pouring out of every open doorway and window, seeping through the walls and cracks in the sidewalks. Jazz personified. Standing in the heat and humidity of Preservation Hall, smushed in with a hundred other folks listening to music - real music - played with fervor and joy and hard times and sex and sweat - I had my jazz epiphany. This was what the music form meant. You had to hear it in the hot, damp, sultry muck of New Orleans to get it. No air-conditioned concert hall could ever do it justice. And there was no place on earth like it.

And don't get me started on the food. Forget ambrosia. The gods are eatin' red beans and rice with a generous splash or two of Tabasco. Or a muffaletta or a plateful of beignets. Yum.

But one of my favorite things about New Orleans was that it was home to the most gorgeous men in the world. Truly. And they came in all colors, too, so you had a variety to admire. Why, a weekday lunchtime in New Orleans - beautiful Harry Connick-y men pouring out of offices mid-day - could kick-start your heart in a second. Yes, there are handsome men found all over the world, but I'm saying that New Orleans had - hands down - the largest, most delicious-looking collection of menfolk on earth. And all of them had that great New Orleans accent; they were purdy-talkin' good-lookin' men. It was worth the trip just to man-ogle.

Now I guess they're scattered to the four-winds. That could be a good thing, I reckon - spread the wealth, that sort of thing. But, boy oh boy, it was a treat to see a whole collection of 'em in one spot. Disneyland for grown up women. Big sigh.

Certainly New Orleans had tremendous problems, so don't yammer on about that to me. But it had a history and culture like no other city in the US. When I hear folks say "just let it go - New Orleans is over" I know that either they've never been there or they have no knowledge of the history of the place. Swamp Los Angeles or Miami if you must - but New Orleans? Never!

So you party on, NO. Have your Mardi Gras. Do what you must. We'll just have to see what happens. Katrina was a catastrophe of mythic proportions (and I'm not just talking about the handsome-man-diaspora). But your kind of culture can't be held down for long. The music and food and aura are more powerful than wind and water.

Give the Big Easy, Crescent City, Best Looking Men in the Worldtown a little lagniappe in your thoughts and prayers in celebration of Mardi Gras.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday travel round-up

Without seeing nary a cable car or Ghiradelli Chocolate shop, I will bid farewell to San Francisco in a few hours. I've done a lot of complaining about that in the last couple of posts, but there have been a few bright spots.

Marriott Courtyard Downtown has great beds and pillows and you know how picky I am about that), plus the very best ever shower. Really. Never had a hotel shower that actually put out more than a trickle of water. This one's great.

And even though I've complained about being cooped up in a dark room for the past two days, I have learned a lot about things like nanotechnology (very different from nano-writing, I hasten to add) and some interesting lab projects. So all is not lost, by any means.

It's just that we could've held this thing in Dubuque (no offense to you Dubuqians out there). San Fran's just too, too tempting.

OK. Off I go. Like good little Mouseketeers, enjoy your Friday Round-up Rodeo (it is Friday, after all).

Off-topic: What'cha reading?

Waste of a great city

No fabulous news to report from San Francisco. Locked in a dark room watching PowerPoint presentations and participating in strategy talks all day. Hmph. And I leave tomorrow around noon. Didn't even get any sourdough or chocolate. Ah, well. Another time.

Did snap this pic of a stand of palm trees this evening. See you back in Atlanta -

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Are we having fun yet?

Greetings from sunny San Francisco. Five hour flight from Atlanta next to a woman who spent most of that time coughing and sneezing all over me. My throat's feeling kinda scratchy, but that might be psychosomatic. But it's still scratchy. And it's 7pm Pacific Time and I'm ready to crash.

Left my cell phone on the charger at home. Sigh. I'm not a mobile phone user in real life, unlike all the rest o' youse guys with yer phones up to yer ears and yer mouths yammerin' constantly. I talk to myself and only myself as I walk along, thank you - I'll make a great bag-lady someday!) But I do use the thing when I travel. Damn. Sure could use it out here in the wild, wild West. Guess I'll survive till Friday night. At least I've got the internet to keep me warm!

I left my cell-phone in Atlanta, Georgia . . . Nah. Not as snappy as leaving one's heart in San Francisco.

Went straight from the airport to the office, which is right across from the baseball stadium. Did manage to get this shot for the memory book. Maybe I'll have more luck tomorrow. Or not. I've seen tomorrow's agenda. I may have to slip out to the restroom and get - um - "lost." Lost like down toward Fisherman's Wharf and the Ghiradelli Chocolate place or something. That kind of lost. Hm.

A cuppa hot tea, a book (PT's recommended The Best Thing That Can Happen to a Croissant - more than halfway through, now), and early bed. Nighty-night my little cable-car-ridin' Alcatraz fugitives.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Lure of the Ice Princesses

I know you macho men out there hate it, but the big cha-ching machine of Winter Olympics is Women's Figure Skating. It's been that way ever since I can remember, and I'm pretty damned old.

So as I type the race is on. This is what we've waited to see (though Ice Dancing has been quite the unexpected contact sport so far in these Games - wow! How many cutie-pies can smack the ice in one evening, eh?). And though I have to admit that I'm not as into figure skating as I once was, I'll still watch it tonight, just to see if yet another American Ice Princess is born. Finals are Thursday, I think.

I don't remember Tenley Albright (not quite that old), but I well remember Carol Heiss, 1960 gold medal - even had a Carol Heiss coloring book. And I remember when the whole US skating team was killed in a plane crash in 1961. Tragic.

Then came Peggy Fleming for 1964 and 1968 (when she won her gold). Met Peggy Fleming once, by the way, during my Turner days. Even have a picture with her - when I dig it out, I'll post it as proof that I did, indeed, meet a gold medal winner.

There were some dry years - OK, Janet Lynn, but she didn't win the gold - then adorable Dorothy Hamill in 1976. There are women who still sport the Dorothy wedge-do. Then a long line of Kristis, Nancys, Taras, Sarahs - and of course the red-neck, knee-smacking Tonya.

We love to watch the ladies. Doubles? Triples? Axels? Salchow? Toe loop? Camel? Sit-spin? Will they make it, or will they land on their fannies? Well, stay tuned.

Oh, and today's New York Times has a great article on why ice is slippery. No, really. And there's scientific debate about it, too. (No, really.) Read it! It's a wonder anyone can maneuver on ice at all, much less on a blade 1/8" thick.

And some people question that figure skating's a sport? Ha!

As the Bible - er, Polonius - says . . .

Whenever I read the book of Proverbs in the Bible - full of good stuff, by the way - I'm reminded of my dear Mother who was forever quoting proverbs of some kind. All of her words of wisdom were prefaced by things like, "As the Bible says . . . " or "It says in the Bible . . . " then she'd tack on whatever she felt the situation called for.

Now, my mother knew the Bible backwards and forwards, but she often attributed wise words of, say, Ben Franklin or Shakespeare to the Bible. It was no good correcting her. She was dead-on certain that several very famous quotations could be found in Proverbs somewhere - we just weren't looking hard enough.

Her biggest rip-off was from Polonius' advice to Laertes in Hamlet. I cannot tell you the number of times I heard, "Remember, Mary, as the Bible says - neither a borrower nor a lender be!" Or "It says in the Bible - to thine own self be true."

Well, they could have been in the Bible, and you can find passages that have similar meaning. But as many times as I've scoured Proverbs, I've never found "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" or "To thine own self be true" in those exact words. Nope. They belong to Shakespeare's Polonius, no doubt about it. (Fabulous speech, by the way - perhaps some Bible scholar should just insert the thing into Proverbs anyway. I don't think God would mind.)

I don't know if Mother really believed every wise saying could be found in the Good Book, or whether she just enjoyed a good biblical argument. And I never found out who "Sam Hill" was or why some amazing or frustrating event would elicit "Gad poor Aleck!" from her. But somewhere in Heaven she's probably standing toe to toe with Will, Ben, and God trying to prove her point.

So, off you go then - into the world with "To thine own self be true" and advice about borrowing and lending. Or how about "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall"? Now that really is in the Bible.

Get your wisdom where you can, folks.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

True-Crime Writing

"If bookshops were cities, the true-crime section would be the red-light district."

So begins an article in today's Guardian about the evolution and growth of of true-crime writing since Truman Capote's watershed work In Cold Blood. If you're interested in true-crime or how a genre can change/develop in the blink of a new book, give it a read.

I enjoyed reading about the English counterparts to the US's In Cold Blood, Helter Skelter, and The Stranger Beside Me - books like 10 Rillington Place and Cries Unheard and the play Beyond Belief.

Are you a proud true-crime fan, or do you pull your hat over your eyes when you venture to the bookstores "red-light district"?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Time to Silly-Walk Out for the Weekend

Yes, yes - it's Friday, and we're all getting ants in our pants to shuffle outta the building and into the weekend. And that, truly, is worth raising a big ol' glass to (excuse the sentence-ending preposition).

But - wait!- there's more! (Here it comes. . . )

Up-close-and-personal job interview. February 28. New York City. Got the call this afternoon. Not out of the woods yet, however, since I have no idea who/how many I'm competing against. I was told I'd be meeting with 5 people and the interview should last for about an hour-and-a-half. (Just think of the number of people I can offend and the mistakes I can make in that amount of time! The mind boggles!) Still - great news for a Friday afternoon, eh?

So, off we go, friends. For those of you facing a three-day-weekend, the rest of us are green with envy. Now, using your silliest walk - go have some fun!

Unriddling Spoolies and Noxema

Liz, blogging from Wales, posits the following: "What are spoolies and Noxema, maryb?" in reference to my little blog-explanation (see left). The short answer, Liz? Spoolies and Noxema are relics from my childhood.

When I started blogging, one of my first posts was about Spoolies. Here's the scoop: Spoolies were little pink (blue, peach), round, rubbery spools that our mothers insisted on using to curl our hair when we were kids. They made your hair really, really curly - in an 80-year-old lady way - and that's the way our mamas liked it in the early 1960s. We looked hideous. Ten years later, though, when springy, curly hair and short-short skirts were the rage, college girls could get the curly-headed model look by using spoolies (we did it better than our mamas and looked more like 5-year-olds instead of old ladies). I notice that now there are electric spoolies - which frightens me in some primal way that I can't quite put my finger on. Electric spoolies - yikes! How curly do you want your hair?

Noxema is a skin cream that we used on our faces, though most of us connect the cream with sunburn. Back in the days when nobody worried much about the sun except "Are we getting enough?" nice red, par-boiled skin was a good thing. Except that it hurt. That's where Noxema came in. Slather the stuff on and it cools your sunburn instantly. The very smell of Noxema - to this day - smells of a summer evening after a day at the swimming pool and red, glowing skin. If we got a good (bad?) sunburn, we'd go around for days with a dab of Noxema on our noses. There a great scene in Ya-Ya Sisterhood where Sandra Bullock goes to the bathroom and finds a blue jar of Noxema. She dabs the cream on her nose and is transported back to a summer night when she was a kid. Exactly. You can also wash your face with Noxema rather than soap. Mmmm. The smell.

You didn't ask about slumber parties, Liz. First, they were all "party" and very little "slumber." And they were where we learned all the enduring lessons of life. I'll have to post on my Slumber Party Life Theory another time. There are no slumber parties anymore - they're called "sleep-overs" now, not nearly as fraught with fun as "slumber party" to my mind. And since kids in this day and age already know everything by the time they're 6, I don't know how many life lessons are learned at a sleep-over.

Anything to add on the Spoolie-Noxema-slumber party-front, my little Fritos?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Anything for a couple of Krystal Hamburgers and a chance to sit on Rebel

Anybody out there old enough to remember local TV kiddie shows? Just about every market - small or large - had live children's programming that ran weekdays or on Saturday mornings. They were a far cry from our SuperStation FunTime efforts back in the 1980s. Or maybe not.

We were lucky in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We had The Bob Brandy Show. It was a standard peanut-gallery sort of thing with several rows of bleachers and screaming, well-scrubbed kids anxious for a chance to wave at Grandma, eat a couple of Krystal Hamburgers (the Southern version of White Castles), and sit on Bob's horse Rebel.

Whooo-ee! Big-time stuff, I tell ya'. The television station where all this 5pm-fun took place was way up on Signal Mountain (presumably because that's the only place that would generate a television signal) and your parents or Brownie leaders had to take their lives in their hands to get you to your date with destiny. And to the Krystal Hamburgers.

Old Bob entertained us with his guitar-playing and games and a one-in-30-or-so chance to sit on Rebel. At some point in the show, he'd go through the bleachers asking each kid's name, which sometimes turned into a "Kids Say the Darndest Things" segment.

And his wife Ingrid - well. I think she was actually from Sweden (or someplace outside the Chattanooga area, let's say) because she had a really thick accent to which our little Suth'n ears weren't attuned. That, or she had us all fooled. Anyway, her speech was slurred, which could have been the accent, or - the rumor we chose to believe at the time - she was just a sexy little lush who liked to get progressively tipsy throughout the program. Ah, Ingrid.

I think I was on The Bob Brandy Show a whoppin' 3 times, once with my Brownie troop and twice with Girl Scouts. Never got to sit on Rebel. Did get to eat Krystals. I vaguely remember getting chosen to play one of the games. Didn't get close enough to Ingrid to know whether or not she was whisky-breathed.

In addition to big Bob's show, we had a morning offering of Romper Room. "Mr. Music, are you ready, please?" "Romper Bomper Stomper Boo . . ." and the ever-popular Mr. Do-Bee (who later morphed Baby Boomer-style into Mr. Doobie). I was too old for Romper Room, but my little sister Cindy became quite the RR star with Miss Rosemary. Cindy was this cute little blond, curly-haired thing, so she became the show's standby kid in the event another little kid couldn't make it in. Yes, early stardom for her.

Ever participate on a local kid show? Spill the beans. And go ahead. Rub our noses in it if you got to sit on Rebel (or his equivalent wherever you were).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A little moonlight, a little water, a lotta' dough

Edward Steichen's photo "The Pond-Moonlight" sold yesterday at auction for $2,928,000, a record-setting amount. Shot in 1904, it's one of Steichen's early experiments with color photography, so it certainly has historic value. Two other copies of the photo exist - both in museums.

One of my favorite Steichen photos is of the Flatiron Building in New York. I have a poster of it tucked away somewhere. I must pull it out and have it framed. That's as close as I'll ever get to having a real Steichen. Very cool stuff, though.

Best in Show vs. Best in Da' House

The colored bull terrier won "Best in Show" at Westminster last night. Sigh. Always a terrier. I was pulling for the golden retriever (as was the crowd), but the judges will never give a retriever the top prize. Too popular, I guess. Anyway. Here's a shot of Rufus, the Top Dog, as it were.

That's all well and good in Madison Square Garden, but here's a shot of the Brennan Kennel Club's "Best in Da' House," Bailey.

You tell me. Rufus or Bailey? Eat your heart out, Westminster!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What's not to love about Westminster?

I don't mean Parliament, Brit-friends. I'm talking about the Westminster Dog Show taking place as we speak at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Forget the Winter Olympics. Here are the real champs. All these great dogs in one place! Some are kinda prissy, but most of them look completely lovable, even the Rottweiler (which won its group last night, by the way - a Georgia dog, wouldn't ya' know) and pit bull. It's great to hear the history and function of each breed, see them trot around the floor, stand stock-still, and then show some glimmer of fun-loving personality.

The dogs are great. But I always wonder what's with the trainers who sprint them around the ring - especially the women. I mean, are they required to wear the ugliest shoes and clothes ever? I understand you'd want to be comfortable while showing a dog, but really, ladies! There are some really cute, comfortable flats you can wear. Give me a call and I'll point you in the right direction. And, what's with the brocade suits this year? Does the Westminster Kennel Club select a type of heinous uniform and require the chicks to wear 'em? (The men look fine in their suits and ties.) Just wondering.

The other problem with the Westminster Dog Show is the huge temptation to get yourself one of each breed. The "Awwwwwww" Facter is incredibly high. Ooh! I want one of those! And one of those! And a couple of those!

Ah, well. If you can't watch Westminster (tonight's the last night), pop Best in Show in the DVD and laugh your arse off. Too, too funny! You'll never view a dog show the same way again.

Hearts and flowers all 'round

Here's my idea of a perfect Valentine's Day. Me - pleasingly plump, incredibly rich - with butler delivering tea and love letters, doggie asleep in the basket. And you know a good breakfast will be on the next tray. Ahhhh.

Happy Valentine's Day, my little chocolate-covered caramels (with a nut or two inside)!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine's Day Eve

The bad thing about a new year is that it starts off with my least favorite holidays - New Year's and Valentine's Day. The good thing about it is getting them out of the way right off the bat. Like New Year's, Valentine's Day has never lived up to its hype - even when I was a dewy-eyed love muffin.

It was kinda fun when I was little, though. We'd go to the dime store and get our Valentines to sign and bring to school. In the olden days - now listen up, kiddies - the cards came in a sort of punch-out book form. We'd diligently punch out the cards and sign them, making sure we didn't forget anyone, even the stinky, goofy kids. (I'm sorry - was that judgmental?)

The next big project was to decorate a shoebox as our Valentine Box to take to school. Red, white, and pink everywhere - construction paper, crayons, scissors flying. Then - ta-da! A wondrous confection with that all-important slot on the top, where classmates could stuff in all those Valentines for me, me, me!

My mother was very old-fashioned about the logistics to delivering Valentines. In her day, you never signed the Valentine - that was part of the fun, trying to guess who sent it. And you'd deliver them to the door, knock, and run away. All very secretive. Sometimes we'd do it Mother's way when we were delivering cards to friends in our neighborhood. But most of the time - nah! - we liked folks to know who sent them a Valentine.

In elementary school, each classroom had a Valentine's Day Party - complete with cupcakes and ice cream. Right before the party, we'd walk around putting cards in all the boxes - good chaotic fun. The highlight of the party was opening our individual Valentine Boxes, of course. The cards held lots of coded messages - why did she/he give me that card?- and many a blush, hand-slap to the forehead, and "Eyyeeeeewwwwww!" rippled through the classroom.

Then, fun Valentine's celebrations came to a screeching halt when we hit junior high school. Things got too serious. It was no longer about red and pink shoeboxes and cupcakes and little candy hearts with "Be mine" written on them. Nope. Valentines Dances and cards or candy from that "one special person" reared their ugly heads. Shudder.

But it might be fun to pull out a shoebox and see if I can still create a confection of a Valentine receptacle. You know. In case somebody wants to send me a little message tomorrow.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The man at the door

I hadn't seen him since the day before Thanksgiving, when he came to the door offering to clean my gutters for $20. It was a great deal, my gutters needed cleaning, and I took him up on the offer. I paid him $35, which was all the cash I had on hand at the time. After all, a good gutter-cleaning usually costs $75-$100 in this neighborhood, so it would have been a bargain at $50. Anway, he did a great job and said he'd be back another day to help with my gutters.

It's a bitter cold day in Atlanta. I had a good fire blazin' in the fireplace and a book holding my attention when the doorbell rang early this afternoon.

"Your gutters need cleanin' again," the old man said after I opened the door. He stood on the walkway, not incroaching on the steps or my porch. He smiled a tooth-challenged grin and looked hopeful.

He's right. The gutters do need cleaning. But I didn't have any cash on hand - not even a spare $35 - to give to him today. I explained the situation. He offered to clean them anyway and come back another time for the money, but I didn't want him to do that.

"Come back next Saturday and you can do the gutters, then," I suggested, wishing all the while I had some cash to give him just to help him out. We worked out the particulars, and after a "God bless you, m'am," he walked off down the street.

After he left I felt guilty. Why? He was warm enough - had on a coat, gloves, hat, and sturdy boots. Maybe he was hungry. Maybe not. But still I wish I had some cash to give him, just because. Because he's cheerful and does good work. Because it's cold outside. Because my gutters need cleaning.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The plot thickens!

I had just about given up hope of making the short list for the career opportunity waved under my nose a couple of weeks ago by a good friend. She made it sound as though decisions would be made very quickly, so when I didn't hear after almost 10 days, I figured Oh, well! It was an interesting proposition.

But late yesterday afternoon I received an email asking for my participation in the second part of the discernment process. Fortunately, it's a writing assignment - either a short feature article or a press release, my choice.

Wonder what's in the crystal ball? Stay tuned, folks!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thursday Blog-Trippin'

You can't hang out at Shorty PJs 24/7, so I want to steer you to some other blogs that might catch yo' fancy.

Pete, impresario of the Ottershaw Players, has just returned from a quickie trip to Warsaw and has posted great pictures of the city on Flickr. Go see 'em - they be go'geous! (And next time you're in Ottershaw, Surrey, go to the theatre and cause a general ruckus on PT's behalf!)

Another Peter - this time a West Coast one - has begun telling a saga of a cross-country, "hazy" sorta' road trip in 1970, complete with the FBI hot in pursuit. Help me make him spill da' beans about the rest of the story! In the summertime, when the weather is high, you can stretch right up and touch the sky . . . I feel sorry for those of you who hadn't come of age by the summer of 1970. Whoo-ee!

Need a good laugh? Get thee to Overheard in New York. Hilarious stuff, and updated throughout the day, every day.

Get out of the office and take a walk in Derbyshire - virtually-speaking, of course. Charlie Wildgoose'll guide you and show some lovely pics, to boot. Ah, I'm feeling more refreshed already!

Hooking up with old friends is one of life's pleasures. Check out Turner-bud JC Burns' (who I re-found when I googled WTCG and found his website with pictures from my TV past) Positively Atlanta Georgia site. I especially like the part where he says I'm one of the best writers he knows. And his wife Sammy, an archeologist-extraordinaire, puts her talents to work at Archaeofacts. Go learn something fun!

Now - off you go to Warsaw, 1970, New York City, Derbyshire, Atlanta, and Mesoamerica. And put on a little Andrews Sisters' music as you travel. Scoot!

Sound Memory

Emphasis on "sound." Sounds that trigger a gut reaction of some kind, in other words.

I have a little white-noise sound machine next to my bed. Brother Bill gave it to me for Christmas in 2002. I remember the date because it was a very bad time for me. Lowest I've ever been - well, lowest until a couple of other near-fatal blows hit a few months after that - but an ugly, ugly season. A couple of dastardly betrayals, unrelated to each other (I think), slammed me outta nowhere.

'Nuff said on that. Back to the noise machine. Running up to Christmas of 2002, a good night's sleep completely eluded me. It was hard enough to keep breathing in and out and get through the day on some level of mechanical functioning that by the time I hit the bed, the stuff I'd been avoiding all day poured into my head and wouldn't drain out (figuratively speaking, of course). So, no sleep. I was a shell of a woman, I tell ya'.

My family wasn't aware of any of this, so the fact that Bill gave me a little noise machine was completely coincidental. The gizmo has several noise options - rain, waterfall, rippling stream (all make me wanna pee), summer night (makes me wanna kill crickets), heartbeat (makes me feel like I'm in the middle of "Inner Sanctum"), and ocean waves (thaaaat's the one). So miracle of miracles, once I turned on my own private ocean, sleep came quickly and easily. I was still sore inside, but I could sleep again. I used that little machine for months and months, until one night I forgot to turn in on and slept anyway.

"OK, get to the point!" I hear ya' screaming. OK, here's the point. Last night I turned on the ocean-noise machine just for the heck of it as I settled into bed. As the "waves" repeatedly hit the "shore," a soreness returned. Not a sharp pain, more like an old bruise or deep wound long-healed. The sound triggered a memory - mentally, emotionally, and physically - of the time when I had to have the ocean lull me to sleep.

It hit me how much our sense of hearing is tied to experiences in our past. With me, it's usually music, which isn't hard to decipher - songs are reminders of childhood, first dates, parents. But I do recognize the ability of other sounds to pull out a feeling of place and time.

Living intown Atlanta, one memory-trigger sound that I'm always aware of is a train whistle. Train tracks run throughout Atlanta, so I hear the whistles several times during the day. But it's the night whistles that put me right back to age 5 or 7 or 11, trying to stay cool on my aunt's sleeping porch on a hot summer night - before air conditioning - windows open, faint breeze ruffling curtains, trains blowing horns to make their presence known. So now, the train whistles I hear every night always bring a sense of kid-like wonder about big city life (I was a Chattanooga girl, remember, and Atlanta was very big city to me as a child) and what life will be like in the future. It's a hopeful, nostalgic sound.

The sound of the ocean-noise machine is hopeful, too. Though I felt a little bruisier (is that a word?) hearing it last night, its sound was a reminder that I survived the pits of hell and emerged triumphant. Hope-full. So I left the machine on and went right to sleep.

What sounds trigger memories for you?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Like butta', babe!

More good news for those of us who totally bought into the "laughter = aerobic exercise" story the other day. A big, ol' whoppin' study shows that a low-fat diet doesn't cut your risk for cancer or heart disease. ('Scuse me, while I wipe off that melted butter I just spewed on the computer screen.)

It's all over the news today - here's the story in the New York Times - but the funniest thing has been watching all the low-fat diet gurus get their bike shorts in a wad trying to downplay the findings. (Do I see book profits flying outta' the window, fellas?)

As a daughter of the Deep South, I can truthfully tell you that lard and fat-back can keep your joints and gears well-greased and in action to a ripe old age. Not that I'm so old. Yet. But family on both sides - living well into their 9th decades - never shied away from a dollop or two of fat.

Sure - eat plenty of fresh veggies and bread. Just make sure you throw on lots of butter. It'll keep your coat shiny and your cogs limber.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

SuperStation FunTime

Now to the opposite of a creative Sahara.

Picture it: late 1979 - before most of you were born - Ted Turner decides he wants to do a kids' show built around cartoons, The Three Stooges, and The Little Rascals. Our assignment: to package everything in a clever way that would entertain (in a "pro-social" way) between the short features.

Thus was birthed SuperStation FunTime (Ted's title, not ours - and he wouldn't budge on it, either). Our idea was to package a variety of bits, lasting from 1:00 to 5:00, that we could mix and match depending on the length of the scheduled cartoons and shorts.

Using such outlandish characters as The Plant People and The Happy Corpuscles, we took the Bugs Bunny approach to our children's programming - silly and appropriate for children but with a wicked little wink for our adult fans. And we often got away with murder, since the scripts were rife with double entendre. Of course, it would all seem very tame today, but at the time we had quite a following - kids in Vermont, blue-collar workers (and big Stooges fans) in Iowa, and gay waiters in Atlanta. Why, there was a time when cast and crew would go for dinner after shooting/editing, and the waiters would go wild! Something for everyone, I tell ya'.

Nobody took us seriously until we had a contest. We shot a wonderful little mystery and toy maker Milton Bradley offered the prizes. Lots of prizes. So we had lots of drawings and gave away lots of Hungry-Hungry Hippos and Simons. Well, the entries poured in. At first, cast and crew did the sorting and counting, then a couple of interns came in, then the big-wigs had to hire 6 people to sort and glean market information from the cards. Thousands and thousands of cards!

Anyway, the show ran for a couple of years - with a stupid cancellation in there somewhere - and by "ran," I mean we shot new bits for about two years. TBS ended up repackaging them for another couple of years after we stopped shooting, I think.

Shown in the vintage photo (clockwise): Director Tony "T-Bone" Marshall, Writer/Performer Carl Beck, Performer Ron Kirk, Performer Susie Baer Beck, Performer Jerry "Ho-Ho" Homan, guest puppeteer whose name escapes me (sorry!), and Producer Yours Truly. (Yes, we're singing - for a holiday promotion, I think, right John?)

Big thanks to the inimitable artiste JC Burns - who dragged Turner kicking and screaming into the electronic graphics age - for the photo.

Creative Sahara

I've been asked to be brilliantly snappy on several fronts, but I keep coming up dry. Clever titles, clever announcement blurbs, clever song parodies - all the smart-ass things I'm usually good at, and I'm clueless. It's really putting a crimp in my style, I tell you. Oh silly, smarty-pants Muse! Where are you?

Any idea-shaking suggestions out there? Besides heavy drinking, I mean.

(And isn't this postcard a mixed metaphor, hm? I guess once these folks finish being lost at sea, they go on to be lost in the desert. Quite a hapless bunch. )

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Curse of the Creeping Crud

Seems I'm the last one standing - er, sitting - in the office since a mysterious flu-bug swept through the building the end of last week. Am I on borrowed time?

It started Thursday with various and sundry folks complaining of chills, fever, and the like. Friday, things got progressively worse. Today, everyone has staggered in looking much worse for wear and with the same story. Chills, very high fever, cough, sore throat - and it hits very fast and hard. Someone suggested that I just bind a pillow to my head, as I'm likely to drop at a moment's notice and without warning.

So here I sit. In the middle of Pandemic Central. Just waiting for the first throat tickle. Anyone got a Biosafety Level 4 suit on 'em? I feel like I'm working in a test lab for a weird, hard-hitting flu strain.

Had chicken soup for lunch and as always am drinking endless cups of tea. Any other suggestions (besides going home - not an option)?

A Brit-Flick Weekend

Ah, Super Bowl Weekend. Streets are clear. Movie houses are empty. Grocery stores are packed until about 6pm on Sunday, then it's smooth sailing. Since I care not one whit about pro football, I have my own SBW rituals - usually involving lots of movie-going.

I kept to a British theme this year, seeing Nanny McPhee and Mrs. Henderson Presents. I highly recommend both.

Nanny McPhee, which I saw with my bud Joanna, was much better than I was expecting it to be. Wait. Let me re-phrase that, since it sounds like damning with faint praise. No. It's really, really entertaining. The film is The Sound of Music/Mary Poppins/Lemony Snicket with a twist of something else that I just can't put my finger on right now. Emma Thompson brings a whole new meaning to: "I did knock." Colin Firth - yummy, the children - suitably adorable and precocious, Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, and Angela Lansbury - wonderfully scenery-chewing. A very funny, enjoyable film.

Mrs. Henderson Presents - just grand. Wonderful opening credits. BTW, the art of opening credits is fast disappearing as films just seem to dive right into the story - not satisfying to my mind. An outstanding cast. It was fun to see Christopher Guest as the pompous (but ass-appreciating) Lord Chamberlain, since we usually see him in his brilliantly whacky improv films (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, etc.). Bob Hoskins, terrific. And Judi Dench. Her speech outside the closed theatre was head-of-state-worthy. One Oscar commenter said that Dench shouldn't have gotten her nomination because it was a role she could do in her sleep. I'm guessing that if she's done an outstanding performance that makes some snotty-nose reviewer think that she could do it in her sleep, then her Oscar nomination is well-deserved. Go see this one (and not just for the nekkid girls!).

Off to work. It's Monday and sleeting outside. Ho-hum. Travel safely, friends!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Let's all go to the lobby . . . for the weekend

It's been a long, complicated week so I'm heading to the land of dancing movie snacks and taking my Turquoisia buddy Joanna to see Nanny McPhee this evening. I be needin' a kid-vid, if you get my drift. And there's nothing like another Miss Smarty Pants to pull me out of the rough-and-tumble adult work-week.

So shut down those computers early, my little pissants, and "Let's all go to the lobby, to get ourselves a snack!"

I need this guy

I'm in legal hell at the moment. Here's the story. In December 2003 a girl ran a red light and tore off the front of my car - airbags exploded, ankle and knee damage, severe bruising, blood pressure through the roof. But at the end of the day, I was in one piece, which is all one can be hope for after all.

As we waited for the police to arrive, I noticed the Enterprise Leasing "e" on the back of her car and thought "Whew! At least she's got insurance!" Um. Wrong. Seems she was not the renter of the car. And the person she borrowed it from wasn't the renter of the car. And she only had a Learner's Permit. And she was a runaway.

Well, OK, sad story for her, but in Georgia, at the end of the day, the person who actually owns the car is liable, bottom-line - Enterprise Leasing. Police report comes back - girl gets two citations (me - none, of course), a cut-and-dry accident with her clearly at fault, she doesn't show for the traffic court appearance, yada-yada-yada.

Got a lawyer on the advice of a co-worker - someone she knew personally - and thought they'd jump right on it. Ho-ho-ho. What a long, drawn-out process this has been! Even though the attorneys only get paid via a cut of the settlement, they sat on their asses until the last possible moment and served the papers Dec. 13 (2 days before the 2-year deadline).

I don't want to go into everything. It's a mess. My lawyers seem to be a mix of lazy and incompetent. The Enterprise folks are assholes - wouldn't even comp my rental car after the accident (boycott them, please). The girl and the actual renter of the car (John/Jane Doe - we still don't know who they are) are scrambling and making all sorts of weird claims - none of which the police report and traffic court officials support.

This case is a no-brainer. But obviously my lawyers have even fewer than 0 brains, or this would've been settled by now. So frustrating. Aaargh!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog vs. Groundhog

Well, Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of winter, according to the website (For some reason the site won't link, so you'll have to venture there without my help.)

Of course, we in the South ain't gonna take the word of no stinkin' Yankee critter, so we have our own seasonal prognosticator, Gen. Beauregard Lee (you knew he'd have a name like that, didn't you?). Gen. Lee says spring is just around the corner.

I say bring 'em out for a death-match. May the best woodchuck win.

As for Groundhog Day, it has to rank among the top 3 whacky annual celebrations ever dreamed up by a bunch of very savvy, very bored people. Since 1886, we Americans have gone "hog-wild" (sorry, couldn't resist) because some rodent pokes his head out of the ground. Obviously, today's marketers have a lot to learn from the Gilded Age.

As for the Groundhog Death Match, I'm puttin' my money on Gen. Lee. He'd open up a can of whup-ass on Punxsatawney Phil, I'm bettin'.

"Oy! What a fetish!"

That's the name of designer/artist Robert Tabor's exhibition at midtown Atlanta's Red Showroom. It's all about the shoes, my friend. The Red, a furniture design gallery, is located down the street from where I work, so I must pull on my pumps and trot down to get a first hand look. I'll report back, my little stilettos.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The tragedy that spurred the arts in Atlanta

In late spring 1962, 106 members of the Atlanta Art Association and their families travelled to Europe to see the wonders of Western Art. They had this crazy notion of creating a respectable arts center in the not-very-urbane Gone With The Wind town of Atlanta, Georgia - which in 1962 was known for commerce and trade, but not the arts. Though their dream was eventually realized, those 106 Atlantans did not get to see its fruition.

On Sunday, June 3, 1962, the Air France plane carrying the Atlanta arts group crashed during take-off from Orly Field in Paris. Of the 132 people on board (10 crew, 106 Atlantans) only two stewardesses survived. In short, the cream of Atlanta's arts community perished that day in Paris. Dream deferred.

What grew out of the tragedy was the Atlanta Memorial Arts Center, now called the Woodruff Arts Center, which houses the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the Alliance Theatre. The Center opened in 1968, with the casting of Rodin's The Shade (L'Ombre) presented by the French Government to the city of Atlanta as a memorial to the individuals who died in the 1962 crash.

So that's the story of the statue with the bowed head that lives outside the arts center in Atlanta. You never know what will grow out of complete devastation and grief. Here's to you, members of Atlanta Arts Association. Your influence and love of art still ripple through Atlanta, Georgia in 2006.

If you're curious, you can read more about the 1962 Orly crash here, here, and here.