ARTICLE: HX my interview with liza minnelli. yes, liza minnelli. to read the story: click on this link; log into the site; then come back and click on this link again, and you'll be brought to the right page.
I am supposed to be doing homework so I've decided to share some delightful internet items with you, dear reader, instead.
First of all, I wrote this about the latest season of "RuPaul's Drag Race," for Huffington Post. Long live Jinks Monsoon.
Before I go on--is it better for my links to open as new pages, or to open as the same page and then you have to go back to view this post again? I am always nervous about choosing one or the other and I have no preference either way.
Secondly, and yes "secondly" is a word, you should get to know the fabulous work and fascinating story of Vivian Maier. Be sure to watch the movie trailer.
And finally: Who is interested in the Eurovision song contest? Eurovision is a long-running competition in which each country in Europe submits the performance of one original song, and people get to vote for their favorites--with the caveat that they cannot vote for their own country. It has been running forever--this is the contest that gave ABBA its start--although over the years it has developed a reputation for being campy, partially because some people purposely vote for the worst act in the hopes of sabotaging the process. (For instance, here is Romania's entry, "It's My Life." It is seriously the worst song I have ever heard in my life. I challenge you to listen to it all the way through.) There are certain cultural differences at work, which make some songs seem silly to people in different places. But this is why I like this contest.
As is the trend for European pop music, many of the submissions are inevitably high-energy, frenetic, electronic songs sung by dance divas who sing at full volume; usually the songs are in English, even though the performers are from a country that does NOT use English as a method of communication, and therefore the singers have no idea how to interpret (or even pronounce) the lyrics. Some are good, some are just noisy.
This year's winner is from Denmark, and it is a typical high-energy song that is the norm for Eurovision, although there are some "folk" instruments mixed in there and the artist performs the song well. I think it's alright.
However, some of the other songs are far more interesting--for instance, please turn up the volume and enjoy the entry from Hungary.
I also loved the romantic little tune from Malta, "Tomorrow" by Gianluca Bazzina (he's really a doctor!), which sounds like a hit song on the radio in the U.S.; and the song "Marry Me" from Finland, which will undoubtedly be performed by drag queens around the globe. And yes both of those are in English. Listen to them! Right now!
Fun fact: the entry from the U.K. was Bonnie Tyler--yes, she of "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" fame. She was good too.
Every year for my birthday, I choose a theme to help my mother pick out a gift for me. Despite my insistence that she stop buying me presents as if it is my 16th Birthday Extravaganza for the 22nd time, every year she drives herself crazy with anxiety as she tries to pick out something I will treasure and adore. Her panic stems from an unfortunate incident of which I do not remember, when I was 6 years old; I had comprised a list of desired birthday presents, but my mother--in a lapse of judgement--went rogue and bought something she thought I would like instead of something I specified I wanted. I don't remember the gift in question...but apparently I was, shall we say, underwhelmed. It left her traumatized and she has relived the horror every year since. Not that she uses that experience to make me feel guilty, oh no.
Past themes have been "Things That Are Shiny," "Polka Dot Party," and "Think Pink." All were big fun. My favorite was "Things You Can Buy From The SkyMall Catalog," which is my go-to source for all my shopping needs; the gifts didn't have to come directly from the catalog, but the items given had be seen on the pages of the catalog somewhere. That was a fun year.
This year's theme is "Things I Collect." But how do you know what I collect, you ask? Well let me give you some examples.
For instance, I need this for my Gay Movies 101 memorabilia collection.
It's the Mommie Dearest Doll. Price: $150, although the eBay resale prices will undoubtedly be much higher. If it came with a tiny container of Ajax, I would sell a kidney to raise the money to buy one of these myself. (more info here)
Next, I would like one of these for my shoe collection.
...and by "shoe collection," I really just mean I have a bunch of shoes, some of which I have never worn because I can't bring myself to risk scuffing them, I love them so much. But I promise I would wear these Donald J Pliner red Oxfords--because they are so fantastic, the world deserves to experience them on someone's feet. I volunteer to accept that responsibility.
For my "Kitchen Gadget Collection," I am obsessed with getting my own bread machine.
Now that I have discovered I can no longer handle eating wheat grown in America, because it has been "modified" to have absurd amounts of gluten in it not found in nature...and eating pasta or bread or English Muffins makes me immobile from pain, even though I grew up in an Italian family and ate pasta every Sunday dinner with no problems...ugh...it's so freaky to think our food is poisoning us because agriculture companies want to make more profit, even though the crops we grow aren't allowed in Europe because they are nervous about our science-experiment mutated plants, and what we call "organic," they just call "food."
This isn't supposed to be about agricultural policy.
So I am going to start making bread out of oat flour. And one of these awesome bread machines would make it more fun. And I'll leave it up to The New York Times to explain the wheat gluten drama.
For my Good Grammar collection, I want--no, need--this shirt.
Finally, for my "My Little Ponies Collection," I would like this.
I don't actually collect My Little Ponies. I just want this gift-wrapped, please.
It is a lovely afternoon, and instead of studying Fun Facts About Congestive Heart Failure for my exam Monday, I am doing absolutely anything else that will keep me away from that book. I cleaned the kitchen, I pulled out my big Crock Pot and I'm making a delicious molé-spiced dip, and I read an interesting article about the Brutalist Architecture movement of the 20th century--yes, "brutalist" is a form of architecture, I had no idea--and then I rearranged my socks. THANK GOD MY SOCKS ARE ORGANIZED NOW.
Gurdy the Cat sends his best. I left him with a friend for a few days, and of course that is always the time when something goes wrong. He cut himself while scratching, and it became infected. My cat has zero immune system; we're not sure why but he gets sick from anything, even from going outside for a mere minute or two. So when I brought him home, and he flopped over on a pillow looking miserable, I stayed up with him all night, reapplying Neosporin and bandaging him with don't-lick-this-off bandages, and engaging in moderate ear-scratching. He's better now. I know he is better because he has again partaken in his favorite activity, which is attacking my feet when I walk by. No besocked foot is safe in this home.
Oh dear, I'm telling you stories about my cat. Although he's more interesting than the gay political fundraiser I went to last night. Seriously, everyone is so bored with everything, no one paid a minute of attention to the speakers. Gay rights, gay marriage, blah blah blah. Great. We drank free liquor and tried to remember how to do the cute flirty things we'd do when we were ___ years younger. It's just too bad that after two drinks, I can speak only at full outside-voice volume. I think people were getting annoyed. And I think this based on the number of people who walked away from me as I was mid-sentence. Whatever, it just meant I had more time to spend by myself at the dessert table.
What kind of nursing should I do? Many people have asked me that. I usually say, the kind of nursing where I keep people alive. Beyond that, I'm not sure yet. I'm open to suggestions.
Another day of reading nursing textbooks, another day spent with F at Starbucks. Topics of conversation included movies, Kosher hot dogs, and movies. She heard a movie called "21" is good and she wants to go see it. Hmm, is this "21 Jump Street," or "21," the 2008 movie about gambling scams (that was cast with Caucasian lead actors even though the students from MIT who did it were Asian but don't get me started on Hollywood racism)? Whatever, neither are playing in theaters anymore. I tried to break it to her gently, but she insisted she was going to go see it, whatever it is she was talking about. When F and I get to know each other better, I'm going to ask to listen to her heart valve sounds. Is that weird? My boundaries of impropriety are diminishing.
There is another guy who comes by, sits with a newspaper and coffee, and dozes off after a few minutes of reading. This time he edged his way into chatting with us about good movies to see. F and I welcomed him with open arms into our chit-chat. He's somewhere in his 50's I presume. What's his story? Why is he falling asleep at the corner Starbucks? Does he have family at home but he wanders over here once in a while just to get some peace and white-noise-in-the-background quiet? I could ask him, I guess, but the mystery of it all is much more fun. He recommends seeing "The Call" with Halle Berry.
Other than Dozing Reader Guy, I didn't enjoy my fellow patrons.
I had no choice but to take this photo.
This guy, who I admit is wearing some snazzy threads, sat down after I arrived and met with this woman for a casual business meeting of some sort. From their conversation I gathered he was interviewing her for something, perhaps setting up a meeting with someone he knew?... Beyond that, I can't tell you anything because he talked about himself THE ENTIRE TIME. He is a lawyer, he went wherever on vacation, he went to a cool party blah blah nobody cares blah. He said all of this with a full-volume booming outside voice. And at the end of him talking about himself, he said it was nice getting to know her and he would be happy to help her. But he learned nothing about her! He never gave her a chance to talk. Lesson to be learned: if you want a man to like you, let him talk about himself. Perhaps this is why I like pretty much everybody I meet.
Then this little girl kept touching me. I pulled out my phone and took her photo in the hopes it would freak out her mom, but no. Mom thought it was cute. Aw. Go away. Although please observe the guy in the background, with his awesome shoes. He spoke very politely in hushed-voice Brazilian Portuguese, which sounds like a mix of Spanish and German with a lot of "oosh" sounds at the end of words. He was not participating in Annoying People Day. He made that Starbucks a little cooler.
Also not annoying, Boy With The Hat was back. Again he sat all afternoon, again by himself, this time with his shirt buttoned up to the collar. Today's activity: tearing a cardboard sleeve into one long thin spiral, like Meg Ryan peeling an apple in "You've Got Mail," except not as romantic.
I am so sick of reading textbooks. Hopefully by the time I'm 40 I'll feel like a grown-up.
Tonight was a big party, for Pride, where they shot fireworks on the beach and Adam Lambert screamed a few songs while wearing an inexplicable shiny leopard-print shirt. I just stood there in the middle of the crowd, thinking about my ex-boyfriend from when I was in my 20's. I wonder where he is. It was somewhat of a buzzkill.
In more exciting news, I saw F, the inexplicably old woman who sits next to me at Starbucks while I read. She understand I have work to do, and at her age she appreciates the importance of shared silences. So we just sit. If a thought pops into one of our heads, we discuss; then we leave it behind.
I asked her if she likes "Downton Abbey," but she said she hasn't seen it. Sadly, her TV had been "broken" for approximately a month. She wrote a letter to the cable company and asked for help, but they didn't respond.
"Where do you live?" I asked. It couldn't be far, if she walked to get coffee; she answered, two blocks away.
"Do you want me to come over and see if I can fix it?" I asked. She paused. I assured her, despite the general wisdom of not allowing strangers into one's home, I had no plans to rob her apartment. "I'm not crazy," I said.
She agreed. "No, I guess you're not."
So we walked the two blocks, very slowly, to her apartment building and rode the elevator up to her floor. Then when she unlocked her door, I walked in to her living room, where she had taped many little pieces of paper, notes written to herself, except instead of words there were swirls and squiggles. Lines, wiggly lines, with loops and symbols that did not look like much. It was like the scene in "A Beautiful Mind," where Russell Crowe's character wrote notes to himself that meant nothing and taped them everywhere.
Except these scribbles looked familiar. "Is this shorthand?" I asked.
Yes, she said. She used to be a secretary.
"Ah." I asked her what some of the notes meant; she said this one was to remind her to turn off the light. That one was to remember to take out the garbage. Take medicine in the morning, buy more soap, etc.
F led me to her bedroom and pointed to the TV. I pressed the power button; nothing happened. Remembering my job working at Gateway computers, I remembered the #1 tech complaint we received, and I looked behind it. Yep, the power cord was curled up on the floor. The TV was just unplugged.
I plugged in the TV, and turned it on. VWOOM, the picture came on. "Problem solved."
We flipped throught he channels together, and I showed her where PBS was on the dial, so she could watch "Downton Abbey."
"It's a good thing the cable company didn't send someone out to fix your TV," I said. And then I had a thought.
"When you wrote that note to the cable company, did you write in English or in shorthand?"
She laughed. "I don't know. But maybe that would explain why they didn't respond."
This was published last week, (link: Dan Renzi) but I saw it today. There is a certain irony in the fact that this "Where Are They Now?" article has gone unnoticed, because apparently even I don't know where I am right now. Although I have been looking. If you have any ideas where I might be, please let me know.
I switched away from cable about a year ago and I love it, so I am blissfully unaware of any of this MTV stuff going on anymore. Half of the people in Miami don't even speak English, so very few people I know even watch these shows. I prefer rerums of "Mary Tyler Moore" on Me TV.
Although I would go back on TV to do Splash. Since "Circus of the Stars" is no longer on the air, this is the next best thing.
There is a Starbucks several blocks from my apartment, which has a particularly comfortable couch by the window. Although there are four other outposts within walking distance for me, I ride my bike to the comfy couch so I have a place to read, away from the distractions of my cat and my TV, both of which I love but they do have a habit of demanding a bit too much of my attention sometimes. So I go. I get a lot of reading done on that couch.
Because it is out of the realm of hotels and frozen yogurt shops, this Starbucks is more popular among South Beach residents instead of tourists. Except unlike me they tend to actually buy coffee. I usually don't, due to my loyalty to the Cuban-inspired cafe con leche I love so much. Although the Java Chip Frappucino with 2% milk is quite delicious. But this is not about Frappucinos.
The swarms of locals at this Starbucks tend to include a cast of regulars who gather in the evenings. You will usually see F, a delightful lady of 80+ years with osteoporosis that has bent her torso into the shape of a candy cane. She putters around town with her wheelie-bag in tow, which is filled with mysterious and important belongings that she may need at any time. I can't imagine ingesting the doses of caffeine and sugar one gets from a super-large Starbucks drink is good for F's aging homeostatic systems, but it's none of my business.
There is also the Boy With The Hat--I say "boy" because he can't be older than his early 20's, although perhaps he's younger--who sits in a chair, wearing his crisp-and-clean baseball hat, and does nothing. He just sits there. For hours. He usually has a drink of some sort, and he keeps himself busy listening to music oh his headphones or folding a napkin into tiny little squares, but that's it. Why does he sit there all day? Is he avoiding going somewhere? Is he hiding from someone? There is a story there.
The problem I have with Beyonce Knowles singing the National Anthem at President Obama's inauguration is this: her desire to look fabulous during her "performance" places her importance above everything else going on that day. She shouldn't be so worried about how she looks. It isn't a concert.
The National Anthem at a government-sanctioned event is not "performed." It is "led," so the masses in attendance can sing along. But Beyonce made up her own notes--which means she thought her interpretation of the song is better than how it is written. And maybe she likes it that way; that's her right. But she made it difficult for anyone to sing along. Her singing is not more important, in that situation, than anyone else in the crowd.
My issue isn't that she recorded it. It's hard to hear the band when you're outside, at a podium, not looking at the conductor. It's the fact that she recorded a version that had her own melody. Some singers choose to improvise in the moment and run up and down chords; but she wasn't improvising. She recorded a different melody and played it, and pretended to sing it. It's so rude.
The singer doesn't have any more right to change the notes than does anyone else in the band. Imagine if Beyonce was singing, and all the trumpet players decided they were bored and started playing whatever they wanted. The song would stop. But no, Beyonce is more important, because she is famous.
I'm so tired of the media portraying singers like Beyonce or Kelly Clarkson as if they are of the same importance as the President of the United States. Official government events like the swearing-in of the president is not the moment for Beyonce or Kelly to steal the spotlight and have a fabulous moment.
I don't care if people interpret songs--go ahead and record your own version and sell it on iTunes, whatever. Perform the interpreted version at your own concert, where people bought tickets to come see you. But Hollywood is not more important than our own government, despite their inflated pereptions of their own self-worth.
Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl--which is a football game, not an official government event--and except for one little run at the end, she sang it as written. It was fantastic, and it was recorded, but to quote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "What difference does it make?"
Welcome to 2013. I hope your new year is going well, and it is filled with a pleasant mix of stable plentitude and exciting surprises.
A few tidbits:
1) Gurdy the Cat is doing well, thanks for asking, after his first and last adventure outside. He escaped out of the broken screen door, which is now fixed and should no longer allow him to wander into the clutches of evil lurking beasts. Although he hasn't even tried to get out there again, so I'm not worried. He prefers to stay on his favorite step, and occastionaly chase the red laser dot while running along my furniture Parkour-style and looking like a total boss.
2) Alas, the same cannot be said for the wonderful man who lived in my building. He recently moved out of his apartment and into an assisted-living facility, where he will presumably live out the last of his days dealing with his progression of Parkinson's Disease. I chatted with him last week when he came by to see a friend, and his eyes seemed to move in different directions from each other. Looking back on his life, he said his biggest regret: not owning a home. All these years living his life, and he threw away money on rent. At least he didn't say he regret not paying attention to his friends, because there is nothing sadder than that.
3) What's your New Year's resolution? Mine is to focus ! Stop with all the distractions, Dan! Not so much time-wasting. For instance, I deleted my Yelp account--this linked story is a few years old, but the same situation just happend to a friend of mine, with them posting only negative reviews of his restaurant but saying he could have the positive reviews appear if he paid them money. Yelp is over. I am going to nursing school; I don't need to waste time writing free reviews just to help Yelp make millions of dollars.
4) I have a new pet. His name is Simon, and he is an endangered sea turtle.
His name isn't actually Simon; and he isn't mine, as sea turtles are endangered so even touching one is illegal. But I met him at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, which is where I tool this photo, and we got along really well. So he's mine now in my own little world. Simon told me he is excited to be returned to the ocean now that his injured flipper is fixed, but he doesn't want to go back before he gets a chance to watch all of Season 3 of "Downton Abbey."
Engaged in Movie Marathon this past weekend. The results: well...
"Anna Karenina": Yet another movie with Keira Knightley wearing a hoop skirt, gasping at the insensitivity of men. This one was made with some interesting ideas--the unusual staging and sets are beautiful, but the dialogue is slow. If want to see this movie, rent "The Duchess" instead, which is actually very good.
"Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away": Exactly the same thing as every other Cirque du Soleil show, except not as good because it isn't live. As my 11 year-old niece would text, "NBD."
"Silver Linings Playbook": The actors are good, but I get the impression the director saw the last 10 minutes of "Little Miss sunshine" and wanted to make a movie just like it, but with adults. The final scene is cute but the movie is generally awkward, like they don't have a script and are making it up as they go along.
"Jack Reacher": Lots of beautiful women are attacked and Tom Cruise drives a fast car. I walked out, it was so bad. Action movies are lots of fun, There is a fine line between "rescuing a beautiful woman" as entertainment, vs. the "beautiful woman being attacked" as the actual entertainment itself. The first is an exciting story; the second is torture porn. "Jack Reacher" had lots of action, but none of it added up to make a good movie. Tom Cruise seems desperate to hang on to his career.
"The Hobbit": Fun. Long, but not annoyingly so. Peter Jackson has a formula that is the same for all these "Lord Of The Rings" movies, but it works--and I could watch an entire movie about Gollum.
I have written a few times about my cat, Gurdy, including an explanation of how I found him covered in oil in a car tow lot. Perhaps due to his memories of his rough early years--or perhaps because he is also a generally odd cat--he developed a moderate case of agorophobia, refusing to take a step outside of the apartment even when I left the door open all day. If I carried him out of the apartment, he would leap from my arms and lunge at the doorknob, hoping to somehow activate it to open the door so he could go back inside.
A few weeks ago he worked up the courage to take a few steps out onto the landing; another day he stuck his head through the rails lining the stairs, and looked down; then he settled on stepping down one stair, where he crouched beneath the edge of the floor and spied on me as I moved around my apartment. It clearly felt exhilirating for him to flirt with danger, a whole step down away from the security of Inside.
Then one night, he disappeared.
He had walked into the kitchen where I was standing at the sink, and meowed a few times. I ignored him, as I presumed he was begging for more food. Then he walked outside to the landing, as usual, and I presumed he went to sit on his stair. A few minutes later, I walked past the door, but the stair was empty.
I looked around my apartment, under the bed and in the closet at all of his normal hiding spots, and I called his name a few times. Like a dog, he would always come running when I called him, but this time there was just silence. With nowhere else to look, I went downstairs to check by the front door, which is just a flimsy screen. The screen was bent open slightly, with enough space at the bottom for a cat to fit through.
So I walked around the building calling his name, to no avail. I went back upstairs, grabbed his bag of Greenies treats, and stood outside shaking them. Nope.
Gurdy, despite his grandiose self-image and street-cred early years, is not a tough cat. He's about half the size of the strays that live around our building, which are fed gluttonously by the old ladies who leave cans of tuna outside every morning. Despite his love of wrestling with my feet, he is a bit of a wimp--in a tangle with a friend's Daschund, Gurdy barely got in a few swats before curling into a ball and crying. (No one was hurt.) Needless to say, if he couldn't handle Biscuit the Daschund, he would be no match for the various feral feline beasts that prowled the perimeter of our building. Nor would he be a match for the speeding douchebags in their day-rental exotic cars who roar up and down the streets of South Beach, mowing down everything in their paths.
Translation: I pictured him dead and I panicked.
As I stood in the middle of my apartment, right then I decided to let fate take its course. He had come into my life unexpectedly, as I scooped him from beneath my car without considering the commitment of actually owning a cat and living with it, like, every day. If these months were all I was meant to have with him, then I did my best for him, and for me. I pondered deep, meaningful words of wisdom I had read on Hallmark cards, like "life is a journey" and "love all of God's creatures however we can" as I reminisced on the good times with Gurdy. I hoped I had made his life better by giving him a solid start, so he could go out into the wild--
--and I heard a scream, which came from right outside of my window. I don't know why, but I looked at the clock. It had been eight minutes since I noticed he was gone. I heard the scream again, although I really didn't know if it was a person or an animal; I had never heard it before. But it was so loud. I presumed, somehow, it involved my cat.
I ran downstairs. My neighbor, startled by the noise, also opened his door to see what the hell was going on, and I passed him as I pushed past the flimsy screen. There weren't any people there, but in the bushes next to the building the biggest raccoon I have ever seen IN MY LIFE was slowly clawing his way through the branches. And on the other side of the bushes, against the wall, there was a small blur of white fur, furiously clawing at the air. Gurdy.
The cat wasn't hitting anything other than the surrounding leaves; his swipes were pre-emptive, as if he knew things were about to get real, and like a car driving through a car wash he hoped he'd land a punch on that fat beast before it got to him. Apparently it didn't occur to Gurdy to just run, although he was somewhat trapped in a corner. If he could've spoken words, I imagine he would've been screaming COME AT ME BRO! COME AT ME! swipe swipe swipe swipe swipe...
The raccoon, bloated from many meals of canned cat food left out by the neighborhood old ladies, was terrifyingly huge. However, his girth also limited the speed he could get through the bush to eat Gurdy. So as he lumbered through the branches, I had time to find a rock and throw it, from a distance that I could run back inside in case the thing had rabies and changed direction to me. The rock just hit the ground, but the noise startled the raccoon, and it ran through the fence to the abandoned building next door. And all was quiet.
I shouted his name, and he sheepishly crept from behind the bush. He just squinted at me, confused, bewildered.
I held open the screen and pointed up the stairs. He looked down and, tail drooped in defeat, he slowly trotted inside, up the stairs, and under the bed. Unfortunately for him, he was also covered in dirt, so a bath was also in his near future. It was going to go down as A Really Bad Night.
So yeah, my cat got out and almost got into a fight with a raccoon but I chased it away.
Eight minutes of exhilirating freedom, followed by thirty seconds of pure terror.
Gurdy hasn't stepped a paw outside of my apartment since.