Thursday, December 31, 2009

Quiet New Year's Eve Starts With Coffee

Caramel brulee latte at FourBucks with Matt before we settle in at home to bring in the New Year. This year we are spending the night in a decidedly more quiet fashion than recent years. Best wishes for the New Year to everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Technically.. It's Still the Christmas Season

Since the Epiphany isn't until January 6th, I figure I'm not being too tardy in giving the Christmas update.

This had to be one of the more odd years. To be casual and personal, I swear that all the women in my family either had PMS or they're in some weird stage of menopause that makes them a little cranky.

Christmas Eve is a big deal for my side of the family. We eat a meatless dinner, open presents, and those who are still awake go to Midnight Mass. I'm just going to share the Christmas Eve dinner story.

This year is the first Christmas that all the cousins are age 21 and older. My cousin Andrew celebrated his newly legal status by disappearing just before prayers and oplatek breaking. As the family gathered in the dining room, my Aunt Ginny whispered urgently to my Uncle, "Where is Andrew?"

"He went on an errand."

"Where did he go?"

"Don't worry. He'll be back," my Uncle evaded her question as she tried to look him in the eye. My Aunt asked my cousin, April, if she knew but she wouldn't give a straight answer either. I finally asked out of the corner of my mouth, "So where did he go?"

"Beer," she replied.

Andrew sauntered in after we were all seated. His mom glared at him and said, "Don't talk to me," shaking her head as she walked away after sharing a saved piece of oplatek. He shrugged and grinned at the rest of us, taking a seat at the kids table.

As said before, all the cousins are age 21 and over but we still are required to sit at the kid's table in the kitchen. I think my younger cousins still prefer this because there's less harassment from various family members of, "Are you eating?" "Why aren't you eating?"

We still heard plenty of that since we sit right by the stove and all the food. This was great for getting food first, but not so great for my cousin Craig. My mom, as she carried a bowl of hot mushroom soup to our table, had a clumsy moment and began spilling some of the contents on Craig's leg causing him to yell,

"Ow! Ow!"

"Oh! Oh!" my mom panicked as she noticed what she was doing, but then proceeded to spill more soup on top of Craig.

Fortunately, Craig wasn't burned but his pants were left a little soggy and smelling of soup.

Fried fish, mashed potatoes, pierogis, and green peas round out the rest of Christmas Eve dinner for our family. The pierogis are the ones that we made back in October by the hundreds. Every year, as we roll out the dough someone says, "We have to be sure to make a lot of cheese. Everyone really likes the cheese pierogis."

Sometime between then and Christmas Eve, the women cooking apparently forgot this fact and sauteed up mostly sauerkraut-filled pierogis, which the majority of the people at the kids table do not eat. We can be a rather finicky bunch.

"Where are the cheese pierogis?" we cried to our parents and grandparents in the dining room.

"They're on the plate! You have to poke at them to see what is what!" they yelled back.

I began carefully poking each steaming doughy pocket to see if I could see the hint of white Farmer's cheese inside, "Nope, sauerkraut. Nope, that's another saurkraut. This one is apricot filled. Oh, here's one!"

We stared at the one cheese pierogi on the plate.

"Mom! There's only one cheese pierogi here!" April called out.

"Well, you're just going to have to make yourself more or come to this table to see if we have any," my mom called back to her.

Andrew, knowing he had to make up for sneaking out on prayers, took a plate over to the adult table and returned with enough cheese pierogi to just satisfy everyone.

"They mixed up the sauerkraut and cheese pierogies. You can't tell what is what!"

We sighed, shook our heads and ate.

The mood changed somewhere during dessert. Everyone around the adult table was leaning back, swapping stories and and laughing. My cousins, who had retired to the living room, were lightly teasing each other but smiling too. No one even argued when I threw dish towels at them and told them it was time to tackle the mounds of plates and bowls on the counter.

A moment of relaxed harmony. Merry Christmas to us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 - In Review

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? My new job. There was a lot of stuff in it that was totally new to me.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Not a fan of making resolutions

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? We had several friends who had babies and a couple more that conceived this year but won't give birth until 2010.

4. Did anyone close to you die? My Great-Aunt Margie died somewhat unexpectedly this past July. She had gone in for surgery but I guess I didn't consider that she wouldn't make it out. She's been missed over these holidays.

5. What countries did you visit? Once again, I stayed stateside.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? A plan for where I will take myself next. More free time.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
- March 19th: Morrissey at SUNY UB.
- July 4th weekend: Spending time with friends but losing my Aunt
- July 25-26: John Hughes Party in Pontiac. One crazy road trip so we could have an awesome time with out of town friends and friends from Jamestown.
- Any date that we went to a wedding. There were 7 of them.
- September 6th: my first Labor Day Festival that I helped organize
- September through November 21st: The preparation and performances of "The Producers"
- Thanksgiving Week: Managing to see a large group of friends from high school for the first time in years plus squeaking in visits with other friends

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Getting better at paring back where I needed to in order to maintain sanity.

9. What was your biggest failure? Still not saying no enough.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? No flu or serious injuries of my own.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Lady GaGa - The Fame

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Matt still gets high marks.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Some behavior by people I had to interact with because of my job.

14. Where did most of your money go? Mortgage and car related stuff

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Playing in the pit orchestra for "The Producers." It was so much fun!

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? Probably anything by Lady GaGa

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? I think there's a chance I'm sadder than last year at this time but overall I would say I'm probably happier.
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner by a good 7 pounds at least. 20 pounds lost over 2 years!!
c) richer or poorer? I think richer since we've been better about saving money.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I still wish I had read more even though I was better about picking up a book here and there during the middle of the year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? It goes along with 18 somewhat, but I almost wish I read fewer blogs and actually blogged more.

20. How did you spend Christmas? We went to Cheektowaga for Christmas Eve dinner with my family, Midnight Mass at St. John Adalberts, left Christmas morning to come back to Jamestown for Christmas day with Matt's parents.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? I stayed in love.

22. What was your favorite TV program? Paranormal State, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, and Tabatha's Salon Take Over

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? No. I'm not big on hate because it wastes so much energy. There are people who disappoint me, but I don't hate them.

4. What did you want and get? I needed a job in order to avoid being laid off and I got one.

25. What did you want and not get? That sense that I'm on the right track.

26. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I worked and later went to Forte for drinks with some friends. I turned 33.

27. Who did you miss? I missed seeing some friends but in an odd way I missed Matt because we were so busy during the week and then with plenty of stuff on the weekends we actually didn't get a lot of time to just sit back and say, "Hey, how you doing?"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Mayfly Project - 2009

It's the end of 2009, so it's time to assess the year in 24 words for The MayFly Project:

Painted dining room. Acquired violin student. New job. Seven weddings. New friends. Lost family member. Wrote for The Word. Played pit for The Producers.

My past attempts at MayFly summaries:

2001
2002 (longer)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2000-2009: My Music

The first decade of the millennium saw a change in my music listening habits. About half-way through the decade, I was given an iPod as a wedding present. Almost overnight, I went from listening to full albums to listening to my vast music collection on shuffle. The idea of creating a list of my personal top ten albums of the decade seemed almost silly because of this change, but then I realized that there were a few albums that I did listen to in their entirety over and over even though I had that lovely piece of technology.

In alphabetical order because I really couldn't rank them:

Coldplay - A Rush of Blood To The Head: Undoubtedly, this will end up on a lot of "Best of the '00s" lists for music. It was a stellar sophomore album that I couldn't get enough of when it was released. I haven't enjoyed Coldplay's latter efforts and this remains my favorite album by them to date. While the tour was in support of X&Y, the 2005 concert was one of the best we've seen.

Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine: After an alternate version was leaked online and fans begged her label to release the album, we finally got this from Fiona Apple. Thank god.

The Format - Dog Problems: What I wrote in my 2006 review still holds.

Fountains Of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers: This is my favorite album by FOW. It completely blew me away as I listened to it on a road trip to Rochester back in 2003. It got a mention in a Six Degrees of Music Separation post. Classic power pop music.

The Killers - Hot Fuss: "Somebody Told Me" was the hot first single and then I heard a few more on a mix CD a co-worker made for me. When Hot Fuss finally landed in my hands and was put into my portable CD player, it stayed there for months. I only wish The Killers could have matched what they accomplished on this album. It's solid.

MC Lars - The Graduate: WBER and eMusic were the two things that turned me into an MC Lars fan. I love his nerdcore style and the way he embraced the online music culture. My only regret is that I've never seen him live, but with the frequency that he comes through Rochester, NY I hope to some day!

Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious: I loved Soul Coughing in the 1990s, so I was delighted to hear that Mike Doughty had put out some solo albums. His first two albums, Haughty Melodic and Skittish/Rockity Roll, had a couple great tunes but Golden Delicious had the sound that connected. I think I could listen to "Like A Luminous Girl" on repeat all afternoon.

Morrissey - You Are The Quarry: This is the album that made me say, "He's back. This is it. This is the best thing he's done since Vauxhall And I." I was ever so glad to get to see him a second time this past March. Morrissey will always be one of my top favorite musical artists of all time.

OK Go - OK Go: Would you believe I bought this album without hearing one song off of it simply because I liked the cover and it was $9.99 at Walmart? One of my best impulse purchases ever. I had read about the album in Elle magazine, of all places, so I figured it was worth chancing $10. More power pop than you could shake a tambourine at and part of that I'm sure has to do with Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger's involvement.

U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind: This album gave me and Matt one of "our songs." We did end up using "Beautiful Day" as our "entrance music" at our wedding reception. The album was a great "come back" after putting up with Pop back in 1997. It was no small relief to hear that U2 could still create amazing music.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Toss It All On Top

The collection of sprinkles that go into making an everything Xmas cut out cookie.

Naked Cookies

Cookies before being frosted and decorated.

My Parent's Glorious Christmas Tree

As I say almost every year, why put up and decorate a tree when we can just come and appreciate my parent's gloriously decorated tree? It continues to be magnificent another year.

Incidentally, when I lived at home, decorating the tree was a big part of my holiday responsibilities and we had just as many ornaments back then.

Friday, December 18, 2009

WIRQ - 50 Years

I discovered today that the little radio station that started it all for me is going to be celebrating 50 years of being on the air in 2010.

WIRQ has been Irondequoit High School's radio station longer than any other high school radio station in the nation. My introduction came one night sometime my freshman year while dialing through radio stations as I avoided doing homework. Even though it was after 7pm, the station was still on the air for the weekly alternative countdown with Tim Carey and Jason Repp. I quickly popped in a cassette and hit record.

The cassette has since mangled a little with songs being recorded over in spots, but it still has snippets of some great, seemingly obscure songs of the early 1990s. I even caught part of a mic break where Tim, Jason and some other guy who dropped by the studio are riffing on the theme song to Shaft. The number 1 song that week?

Tim: "For the fifth week in a row.."
Jason: "Ehnnnnn"
Tim: "Detachable Penis.. King Missile.. 94.3 WIRQ"

I listened on and off over the next year and decided my need for more alternative music in my life could possibly be filled if I joined the station. Unfortunately, the summer of 1993 would be when the high school principal shortsightedly shut down the station. I forget what his reasoning was, but I'm sure it included stories of drug use, sex under the soundboard, students skipping class, and the principal's disinterest in the music being played on the air. Fortunately, a group of rabid station members successfully petitioned to the school board to have it re-opened.

My long time friend Shannon dragged me to the first re-organization meeting for WIRQ in November '93 since I was afraid I just might not be cool enough to step inside this legendary place. A few weeks later, I had my first training session to become a DJ. I quietly observed the personnel director at the time do her air shift. The next training session was with Ryan, a guy in my class. He was supportive as I stumbled a little over reading a public service announcement for some art exhibit at the Rush Rhees Library on the U of R campus. Then, almost 16 years ago to today, Ryan stepped out of the on-air studio and I did my first solo mic break. It was all over from there. I was hooked.

Two weeks later, chicken pox took out another fellow DJ and I was suddenly filling in for his daily show during 8th period of the school day. When he came back, he let me continue in the slot. Not long after that, I added a weekly afterschool show that included the dual-broadcast with WBER to my on-air time.

Senior year, I swapped duties with my friend Shannon and became the Music Director for WIRQ. Even with no prior experience, I threw myself into creating weekly play lists, reporting to College Music Journal, talking (or bullshitting) to Record Reps about what we were spinning and further feeding that aggressive beast inside that wanted to live inside a radio station even though I had been setting myself up for years to be a music teacher. No one was really surprised when I switched majors to broadcasting at the end of my freshman year in college.

WIRQ provided a super-charged awakening to my love for radio. I'm so thrilled that it still exists, even as technology changes, for other high school students to get to experience what it's like to be a radio DJ before college. Congrats on 50 Years WIRQ!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Story Time

I'm feeling the urge to embellish, but I'll try to stay true to history as I share one of the Christmas traditions my family has endured for years.

Christmas cookie decorating has held a hallowed spot in the days of pre-Christmas preparation for my family. Always a raucous affair, when I was a child there were bowls and bowls of frosting scattered around the dining room table between heaping trays of anise-flavored cut-out cookies. My eyes would grow large as I peered over the tower of sweetness at my dad and the daunting task of sprinkling colored sugars over the confectionery delights. He'd grimly assess the job and mutter, "Well, your mother certainly made enough this year."

Cookie by cookie, we'd slap on frosting with a butter knife and carefully consider whether the Christmas Tree shape should have red garland this time or maybe just nonpareils. That studious contemplation gave way to less heavenly creations and gingerbread men started to look a little punk-rock, Christmas trees took on ghastly shades of pink and purple, and the ultimate I-don't-care was the "everything" cookie where all the sprinkles on the table were scooped up and dumped randomly on top.

When I was a child, cookie decorating took hours. When I reached my later teens and also found friends or significant others who were willing, we had more help at the table. That help became a significant factor in cookies being finished in a more timely fashion which allowed my dad to retreat to the family room sooner to watch the hockey game, and me to escape to go out anywhere that wasn't my house. The addition of a third cookie decorator was so vital that one December, after a recent break-up of a long-term relationship, my dad asked, "Do you think he'll still come and help decorate cookies?" I have the pictures to prove that my former-boyfriend was a good soul who understood.

Neither my dad nor I are even casual artists but once a year we do our best to create a display of colorful, edible delights. At the end, for all our grumbling there was a measure of pride in the work we did and gladness at some time together. To toss out it out there again, maybe this is what Christmas is truly about. I'll take those moments.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Enough Excitement for One Monday

Morning routine was smashed for 15 minutes after I discovered my dogs, probably Buddy, had pulled my purse off the dining room table and strewn the contents through the house. Only a few things were destroyed like a tube of hand cream and the plastic bag that contained extra batteries for the digital camera. I was grumbling, putting things away when my breath caught in my throat.

"Where is my wallet?" I said out loud, looking accusingly at my dogs who had guiltily slunk into their room.

I looked under the dining room table, the den/dog's room, the living room, the kitchen, and came back into the dog's room to plunge my hand into the crevasses of the couch. No wallet. I did come up with a bone that had been missing for some time and wondered briefly where the hell the dogs had found it since I had checked that spot before.

My chest felt tight. Visions of chewed up credit cards, picture ID, and other assorted bits churning around in Buddy's stomach haunted me as I became more and more frantic in my search. Matt got up and came downstairs to help me look. We searched all the same rooms I had been through before.

As I stood in my office pondering the slow death of my dogs, Matt called out, "I've got it!"

It had slid under a cabinet I hadn't thought to look under before. There were teeth marks on the cover, but everything inside was intact.

A huge sigh of relief escaped my lips as I began to put everything back into my purse. The adrenaline rush wiped me out.

That was enough excitement for one morning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lady GaGa - Why The Fascination?

Before I start, I must give credit to Nick Dean for making me aware of some of the articles and for basically saying it was okay to be a fan.

Over the past year, Lady GaGa has blown up in pop culture. I didn't quite understand what the deal was with her, but I couldn't deny that I liked her songs.

Then I started to read about her after being pointed to the article that appeared in Slate.

Later, I realized she could really sing and play piano (check in at 1:45 mark):


Not only that, she wasn't afraid to speak her mind as part of the March for Equality Rally in Washington, D.C. this past October:


To cap off the year, Barbara Walters sat down with the artist as part of her "Most Fascinating People of 2009":


Of course, some people consider Lady GaGa's presence in the music scene to be of more sinister nature by trying to point out her connections to the Illuminati and claiming she's trying to control people's minds.

Maybe they have a point...

Lady GaGa presents quite the exhibit. It's visual and auditory. I think the key to her success is that she presents an image that she doesn't seem to live once off camera. There's a stability there that other pop stars, whether in music, film, or television, haven't been able to offer us for awhile. So much is crazy in our country right now that an indulgence in some pop art is comforting, especially when we get the impression that maybe the artist isn't about to enter drug rehab, go after her significant other with a golf club, or try to sign a TV deal to film the multiple off-spring that are about to emerge from her womb.

Yes. The clothes are bizarre. Yes. The videos are, well they're something. But it's put out there as an expression of herself in a palatable enough way that I find it easy to be on board as an interested participant.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Web Comic Love

Over the last year and more, I started reading a sizable handful of web comics regularly. I've always enjoyed comic strips in the newspaper, but found that some of my favorite strips had become stale or were in re-run mode. My friend, Sabrina, started sharing links with a couple comics she followed online and it snowballed from there.

I think part of the appeal of web comics is the ability for the artists to broach topics you wouldn't normally see in the Sunday funny pages. Plus, I enjoy it when the artists do cross-over collaborations with other web comics. It gives the impression of a supportive, fun community. Then there's the style of the strips in terms of use of color, each artist's personal drawing style, and even how the strip has evolved over the years. A great example of how a strip has evolved is Questionable Content.

Here's the list minus one or two I'm sure I'm forgetting based on how often they update their site:

Questionable Content

Girls With Slingshots

Shortpacked

Red String

Least I Could Do

Anders Loves Maria

xkcd

Johnny Wander

Unshelved

Friday, December 04, 2009

Music Mix: Not All The Usual Christmas Music

I burned the following holiday-themed mix this morning (more after the track listing):

Not All The Usual Christmas Music
  1. Cyndi Lauper, The Hives - A Christmas Duel
  2. Cracker - Turn On Tune In Drop Out With Me
  3. The New Pornographers - Joseph, Who Understood
  4. Hall and Oates - Jingle Bell Rock
  5. Owl City - Fireflies
  6. Vince Guaraldi - Skating
  7. MC Lars - Gary The Green-Nosed Reindeer
  8. Discovery - Orange Shirt
  9. Aimee Mann - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  10. Lady GaGa - Bad Romance
  11. Whirling Dervishes - You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch
  12. Dirty Little Rabbits - Hello
  13. Jill Sobule - Merry Christmas From The Family
  14. Metric - Help I'm Alive
  15. Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
  16. Lady GaGa - Christmas Tree
My relationship with the holidays is rather testy. I wrote about this in my recent editorial in the Word. I opened with "A Christmas Duel" because it moves, it's loud, and it swears. It's about a married couple who can't stand each other but decide to make the most of the Christmas season. Me and Christmas? Well, we don't get along too well so it's the perfect lead in for the mix. The theme carries over to possible-Illuminati member Lady GaGa with her new single, "Bad Romance."

In between, there's a smattering of current popular/alternative songs with some not so usual holiday songs. "Skating" by Vince Guaraldi sticks out for me because it's not "Linus and Lucy." I love that song, but I wanted something else. I think taking a different tactic with the holidays is my way of accepting that it's here. Just like how it's not Rudolph saving Christmas in the MC Lars' slow jam about one of the other reindeer.

I did include some perennial favorites like "Merry Christmas From The Family" by Jill Sobule which goes along with the dysfunctional family that really isn't theme. The Phil Spector produced "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home" by Darlene Love is a backwards plea to myself I suppose. I've resisted this season to point of doing nothing, so maybe it's time to resign myself to letting the joy come in if it wants.

Of course, my sense of humor would not let the mix be complete without the almost awful, innuendo filled gem by Lady GaGa. I couldn't leave it off all misty eyed!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Spirit of Trying

One of the traditions that got started around the holidays in our house some years ago was the tradition of not putting up a Christmas tree.

Some of it was fear of what the dogs would do to it. Some was laziness. Some was general frustration with the holidays and not "feeling it."

Today was a rough day. It was a rough day that has followed a long stretch of time where I've been going and going and going. I'm tapped out more emotionally than physically. However, my waistline is telling me that I better stop eating leftovers and concentrate on reaching for the fruits and vegetables.

The most I figured I could hope for tonight was to come home from work, shut myself in my bedroom and just cry. But somewhere in the late afternoon hours, I saw a friend post on Facebook that she was putting up a Christmas tree tonight. Something about it felt right. My schedule had been cleared due to my beloved Zumba class being canceled for the night. I thought, "Well? Maybe?"

I still came home and cast sad looks across the dinner table at Matt as I relayed my frustrations. We ate, took a nap, and I woke up with a plan. The plan is what you see in the picture. I may never get around to putting lights on it or ornaments, but the tree is up in our dining room along with the tree skirt my mom made for us some time ago. I might even consider trying to make a holiday music mix.

An attempt to find some Christmas spirit can't be all bad. We all could use a little more light in our lives.

Away, Away

We're on a mini-vaca in an area where they're experiencing forest fires (thanks asshole arsonist). It's an area that makes Clift...