Friday, September 29, 2006

Updates: Wedding Hoedown, Mortified.

First of all, regarding the question of wedding music in the previous post, we have arrived at a somewhat happy compromise. The classical guitarist will play, but we put the kibosh on "I Can't Help Falling in Love," "Ode to Joy" and other offenders.

For the processional, I tried to make "Hallelujah" work (I'm partial to the Jeff Buckley cover), but it didn't suit the short time frame involved for the aisle-trotting. It did occur to me that a song containing the lyrics "Love is not a victory march/It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah" doesn't exactly say "happily ever after, babe," but hey, I like to keep it real.

In the end we decided to go with "Pavane," and here is the embarrassing admission for that one: I first heard that song on a Sex and the City episode.

Moving on, it looks like my flirtation with Mortified is done for now. Though everyone agrees it's hilarious how pathetic my obsession with Prince was, the SF show's producers seemed to disagree a little bit about what to do with me.

One of them was up for taking my entire diary and editing it into a monologue, saying she thought she could knit together all the funny stuff; her partner seemed to think there just weren't enough story threads there besides Prince, and that I needed to look into other diaries for more material.

I think I agree with the latter assessment, for the purposes of the show. What makes Mortified work is the way they turn everything into a little vignette, with multiple story threads and plenty of laugh lines. Entries that might be kind of funny to read to your friends wouldn't necessarily work as part of an onstage act.

Though a trip back to my other diaries is a possibility for the future, when it came to this particular purple polka-dotted diary, I just wasn't up for trying to turn a donkey into a thoroughbred of humiliation.

One possible additional "thread" that came up in my second audition was my relationship with my brother, who crops up from time to time as a thorn in my side. Here, for your enjoyment, is an entry illustrating said relationship.

January 25, 1984

Benny. That's his name. The person that's making life worse. And, by the way, he happens to be my brother. Mr. Jerk, that's him. He makes me cry almost beacause he gets away with EVERYTHING he does to me. It's like, if he shot me, I'd get in trouble for being within his target range. Like tonight, when I borrowed a piece of tape from him. OK. I jokingly turn off his light, and next thing I know, he's off on a spaz. He sat on me and really hurt me, making me say that he was great, and that I'm sorry (the little bitch). I'd already told Mom, and she said we have to work it out for ourselves. Nyah, nyah, nyah. See what I mean? It bugs me. It bugs me because if I did that to him (after he got off me, he was actually cheap enough to take the tape back), I would be punished or yelled at. He gets away with murder and I'm sick of it. No more.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Veiled Threat, Part Two.

In a little less than a month, I am going to walk down a short, grassy aisle in a white dress and make some very important promises. Of all the details attached to this ceremony, there has only been one real disagreement: the music that is played during the aisle-walking.

Here are the options on the table.

1. Silence. This is the option favored by my betrothed. I imagine the sounds of sniffles, outbursts from guest toddlers, whispering and creaking chairs as I make my way toward the altar. Since I'm not going to deliver a eulogy, I'd rather have a little atmosphere.

2. Harp. This is the second choice of my opponent/life partner, because he thinks it would be amusing. I agree that it would be amusing, but since we're not going to film an '80s comedy where the harp gets upended by a loose pet or toppled into a swimming pool after a crazy mishap, I think the joke will be lost.

3. Classical Guitar. This is what's being offered by the ceremony venue. We are not allowed to have amplified music, which means no boombox. When I voice support for this option, I get characterized as a lover of classical guitar, as if I like nothing better than to kick back with some acoustic Bach or something like that. This is not true. I merely think the guitar option will be both pleasant and easy to ignore. "You KNOW I'm going to get shit for this from my friends," my poor fiance says. To me, that's just gravy.

As a way of making the whole affair less stilted, we're thinking about some musical alternatives for processional and recessional music. I, for instance, wouldn't mind walking down the aisle to an acoustic version of "Cherry Pie" by Warrant. Another suggestion was the theme to The Odd Couple for the recessional, when we face our guests as husband and wife. Any other ideas?

Monday, September 11, 2006


The e-mail inbox can be a capricious conveyer of fortunes, both good (Cake today at 3 p.m.!) and bad (VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Holiday shifts). I'd like to inaugurate a new, semiregular feature showcasing life's electronic uncomfortable moments.

The motivation to do this came not from an e-mail, but from an IM conversation, where I learned that one of my employer's major show hosts refuses to direct his listeners to any Web URL featuring a subdirectory, because it would require him to utter the word "slash" as part of the address, and he will not say "slash," because he feels that is not "conversational."

It's true that for a radio host to say something like "Visit slash egomania" is, indeed, not at all conversational for listeners who happen to tune in from the year 1985 and have never seen the World Wide Web before. I imagine people across the country changing their dials, muttering, "I can't understand all that gibbity hoo-hah on the radio these days!"

This instance made me think about many other bizarre moments of inflexibility and pomposity I have encountered at said organization, much of it appearing in e-mail form. That, in turn, got me thinking about all the icky-feeling e-mails I have gotten in my whole life. There are so many, and it's time to start the healing.

The following e-mail is from another "on-air personality" who bristled when I asked her if we could have some of her show guests write an online companion to their conversations.

Look.,.. I fear that if they are asked to write something for you in advance, by the time I get to taping them, they will sound rehearsed and flat, and be reading from their notes. I want the sound of spontaneity -- of people thinking on their feet -- on the radio. So please .... Keep your requests for AFTER I have recorded my interviews.

This is a pretty mild, yet adequately condescending and dismissive, example. Because of space, unfortunately, I have had to delete many other mails in which I was treated like a misbehaving (virtual!) pet. From now on, I am going to start saving anything objectionable, so that I can publish it. I would love to have others share their own examples of unpleasant e-mails, either workplace-related or personal. You can submit them in the comments or e-mail them to me and I will print them in a subsequent post.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Diet Aid.

Every morning I take a spin through the Haight Street Market and pick myself up breakfast (Fage Greek yogurt and granola), lunch (Amy's) and usually some kind of snack. Today's impulse purchase was Bug Bites. You can't do much better than two little squares of chocolate after your Amy's Palaak Paneer, that's what I was thinking.

I pretty much ignored the part of the package where it said "endangered species Chocolate," because what the hell does that mean? I'm just trying to have a sweet treat, and if it helps out a snow leopard along the way, then everybody wins. As long as it's not actually made of endangered species, it's just dandy with me.

Here's where the "Bug Bites" concept goes awry: Sitting on top of my square of milk chocolate was a picture of several fungus beetles. My tip to the Endangered Species Chocolate Company: Putting a picture of an ugly (cocoa-colored) bug on my chocolate does not make me want to save the bug OR eat the chocolate. It makes me want to kill the bug and not eat chocolate for a long time.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Shame and My Game.

As someone who doesn't do well with change, yet somehow constantly initiates it, I've been having a hard time with my move to San Francisco. On a recent visit home to D.C., people asked me how I liked living here. Everyone expected me to talk about how awesome it is, and were visibly surprised to hear me say I miss Washington. But I do miss it. I miss warm summer nights. I miss thunderstorms. I miss going out on U Street and Adams Morgan. I even miss the DelMarVa beaches, with their middling scenery, humidity and cheesy amenities.

Since getting here six months ago, I've made several shoreline visits: Baker Beach, San Gregorio, Ocean Beach, Stinson, Limantour, Half Moon Bay. All are indisputably beautiful, in their own way. Many tend to be windswept and sparsely attended; only one of the above (Stinson) has a snack stand and enough population density that you can smell the suntan lotion in the air.

It is breathtaking and amazing to stand on all of these beaches, but I was missing a certain kind of experience. "Is there a beach that's warm, full of people and cheesy? Like, with a boardwalk? Does that exist here?" I asked. "Sure," I was told. "Santa Cruz." We set out on Saturday, and were there within 90 minutes.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, first things first, is not a boardwalk. It is a cement-based amusement park that, unforgivably, serves only Pepsi products. It was not the string of stores and treats that I grew up on at Rehoboth Beach. On the other hand, it was a filming location for The Lost Boys, and it's a bunch of junk food and rides and video games next to a beach, which is almost never bad.

Going to the boardwalk is a sacred summer ritual for me, not least because it is a time to reconnect with the arcade. Many hours of my childhood were happily spent either in front of a Namco machine or our Nintendo console at home, which is why I have the knowledge base required to find videos like this one highly amusing, but couldn't tell you where Turkey is on a map.

Thankfully, Santa Cruz had its share of arcades; and thankfully, the sparse lighting in arcades makes it harder to recognize that the person hunched over Galaga while frantically cursing and banging the "fire" button, or entering her initials into the QBert player hall of fame, is a 35-year-old woman. I can spend hours in those places, and it's worse now that I have discovered a new kind of game.

There were at least three different types of drum simulation machines at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, something I'd never seen before. One of them, DrumMania, is from the makers of Dance Dance Revolution and has the same format: the screen dictates your moves as the song plays, and evaluates how well you manage to execute them (in this case by striking drum pads rather than stepping on a platform). I liked this game because at the right setting, it mimicked my real-life drum lessons, where I only play one or two elements at a time and get praised for my progress.

Another arcade featured MTV's Drumscape, a simulator that simply allows you to play along with the hit of your choice until the time runs out. It has more electronic pads and sounds realer. As I was contemplating whether or not to try it, some kid who looked to be about 9 years old sat down -- with his own sticks, not the ones attached to the machine. It was on.

He played along to Queen's "Under Pressure." My jaw dropped, and a crowd gathered behind him as his little arms flicked this way and that, banging out fills and flying from pad to pad as if he had come out of the womb percussing. People applauded when he was finished. He walked away as nonchalantly as if he had just finished peeling an orange.

It wasn't until another kid sat down (one who sucked) that I could work up the courage to try the machine. I waited the amateur kid out. Then I waited for the arcade staff to fix the bass pedal when it broke. My companion was getting restless, having played all the skee ball he could play. "I just want to get one turn on this," I said, feeling embarrassingly needy and serious about it.

Finally, I got my turn. I had already decided I would play along with "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns n' Roses, since I couldn't find any Prince. I started spinning through the song choices, using the drum pad. Where was GnR? A time counter told me I had 30 seconds left to make my choice, as I continued to scroll through songs that I didn't know well enough to play. "I can't find Guns n' Roses!" I exclaimed, and tried to go back to the original menu. Instead, I inadvertently made a selection: Aaron Carter.

"Noooooo!" I yelled. "No! I didn't pick Aaron Carter! That's not what I want!" The Backstreet Brother blared deafeningly from the machine as I sat there. A few people were behind me, either watching or waiting to use the machine, but I was too ashamed to turn around. All I could do was try to play, but I didn't even know the song, was too unskilled even to bang out the right song selection on the pads, much less a real beat. It was too much: Somehow, openly standing in front of a Ms. Pac Man machine for up to an hour and trying to get past the banana level was OK, but my internal barometer said that drumming along with an Aaron Carter song in public was taking it all too far. I gave up the sticks in the middle of the song and walked quickly away from the machine while the amateur kid seized the opportunity to get back on the machine and suck some more. I went back to the other arcade and played another round of DrumMania ("Perfect! Great! Perfect! Perfect!") to console myself.

That's the trouble with video games: I'm now more interested in getting another turn at DrumScape than I am in my next lesson in front of a real kit.