Reunited … and It Feels a Little Mysterious Wednesday, Nov 17 2010 

For those of you following the exciting missing-mug saga, the whimsical pig mug has been returned to its owner.  It appeared, as quickly as it had vanished, in a little-used cabinet in my work kitchen. Granted, I had checked this cabinet multiple times, as had other mug investigators.

I hope the little piggy had fun on his fortnight-long journey, wherever he may have been.  But I said no questions asked, so I am happily enjoying my Cinnamon-Stick tea.  It’s going to be a good day.


First Names That Are Ruined Forever Tuesday, Nov 9 2010 

As we know, I am 35 (and 49 weeks…) so most of my contemporaries have entered the wild world of child-rearing.  One of the most important decisions faced during those nine months (after, of course, the big “should we or shouldn’t we?!” plunge-taking step) is what you are going to name that child.

Do you opt for a family name or something more contemporary?  Popular or fringe? Androgynous or no?  Presidential (Harrison, Madison, Reagan) or soap opera (Brandon, Tanner, Dawson)?

As my wise cousin @blathering once said: “When naming a child, especially a girl, couple that name with ‘Dr. ______’ and ‘President ______’ and chuck anything that sounds ridiculous.” Dr. Destiny, for example, might not inspire confidence in someone getting their first colonoscopy.

There is a list, however, that most parents can feel fairly safe in avoiding.  In some cases, for completely opposite reasons.  Maybe in 50 or 100 or 500 years we’ll see these names crop up in elementary school classrooms again, but not until Olivia and Sophia and Ethan and Jacob have had a damn long run at the top.

12. Jeeves. Before its second life as an oft-mocked pre-Google search engine, Jeeves became known as the go-to stock name for butlers. Certainly, a butler is a noble profession (one that can segue into Lieutenant Governor, no less), but perhaps not one to which parents want to preordain their little boys.

11. Casper. He’s a ghost!  And he’s friendly!  See the irony?  He’s also a super creepy rapist (spoiler alert!) in the harrowing and indelible movie KIDS, which haunts me to this day 15 years after the fact.  Casper the ghost haunts far less than this movie, as a matter of fact.

10. Dora. The Dora the Explorer cartoon may have elevated this name for a brief period, but the show’s ongoing popularity and guerrilla-style marketing is so prevalent that the name is becoming hard to associate with anything else (just like a few more names on this list).  (more…)

The Tuesday Twelve: Worst “Sexy” Halloween Costumes Tuesday, Oct 19 2010 

When did Halloween become the night when every bar and house party turns into a PG-13-rated sex romp? When I was in college, even in my early 20s, costuming oneself was about humor. Creativity. Sometimes comfort.  (The winning costume achieved all three). And then, thankfully once I was way too old to consider such nonsense, the tide turned and the costumes became severely lacking in substance. Both figuratively and literally.

The thing is, as Gawker pointed out last week, there are plenty of ways to dress sexy for those gals who wish to do so.  Daisy Duke … Elvira … Genies … old-school Britney … and etc. But this fascination with taking non-sexy characters and sexing them up?  Is at best disturbing and at worst a sign of the imminent decline of civilization as we know it.

Thanks to @cheapsuits for his help researching today’s topic.  I’m providing this list in just enough time for any of y’all to order your favorite before next weekend.  All run between $50 and $80, which is another terror entirely.

12. The Tin Man. No heart, no sex organs, needs lubing up to function. Hot.
Tin Man

11. Mary Poppins. A spoonful of sugar … oh, never mind.

Mary Poppins

10. Transformers. As sexy as Megan Fox, minus the toe-thumb.

Lady Transformers


Nine years ago. Sunday, Sep 12 2010 

Yesterday, I read a handful of recollections from 9-11-01. The heroes.  The fortunate ones who, for whatever twist of perverse fate, narrowly avoided tragedy by being out of work that day.  Those who lost someone or someones. So I thought I would capture my story on the 21st-century equivalent of paper.

Fair warning: my story is boring. I was safely in the Midwest, as were all of my family members (except for those who were in the Deep South).  The friends of mine that were in New York or D.C. were out of harm’s way and quickly able to communicate via email. And yet, I remember my personal minutiae of that day as though it were nine hours ago.

Two months prior, I had moved five hours west from Cincinnati to St. Louis.  I was still having doubts about said move. It wasn’t for family or for a boy or even for a job; I was in fact keeping my same job and telecommuting from five hours away. I had just wanted to return to my roots and my dear old friends.

My dear old friends, while dear, were also at a different life point.  I, single, had an apartment in the city.  They, married, had homes in the suburbs.  They had husbands and bigger jobs and priorities that often didn’t include me, which was understandable. But my understanding of this didn’t exactly keep me from being lonely.  I had recently met a group of single, city-based girlfriends, but we weren’t exactly close just yet.  I was also very casually dating a guy I’d met at a bar at around 2:30 a.m. (when everyone does their best date-screening).  He was polite and generous and sweet and I didn’t care about him one bit.

So there’s the backdrop.  I was up early in my second bedroom-slash-office, hard at work writing about investment strategies. As was the custom at my old company, an email preceded by two asterisks (**) simply meant “the subject is all there is to the email; no need to open the mail.”  Around 8:50, an email comes from our CEO: “**AA plane has flown into the World Trade Center”  Oh-kay.  Horrific pilot error, everyone thought.  American Airlines stock will plummet.  My God.  The poor passengers.  Unsettled, I continue to work.

Fifteen minutes later: “**A second plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”  What the f*ck. No idea what’s going on in my office hours away but I had to get to a television.  Jogged out to my living room; phone begins to ring.  It’s my best friend, one of those for whom I’d moved to St. Louis, inquiring about whether our close Brooklyn-based friend worked in or near the WTC.  We didn’t think so.

Ignoring my computer, I sit with phone to my head and television on.  The towers collapse. I decide I need to get the f*ck out of my apartment. Not for fear, but for human, non-digital interaction.

I drove my car on a beautiful early-fall day to a local pub, Tom’s Bar and Grill. Bellied up to the bar.  Ate a taco salad.  One beer and several ice teas. Chatted for 3-4 hours with those who had come to do the same.  Mostly middle-aged men.  One bankruptcy lawyer and his friend.  These were my new best friends, and I knew I’d never see them again.  The guy I was halfway dating (who, my middle-aged friends advised me, needed dumping based solely on my obvious apathy) called me from his business trip to the West Coast and said he’d be on a flight home the next day.  Had he even been paying attention to the news, I thought? He ended up stranded for three more days before renting a car and driving cross-country.

My home the afternoon of 9/11

My home the afternoon of 9/11

I didn’t work for the rest of the week as the stock markets were closed. I cleaned and shopped and cooked. I called everyone that meant anything to me, no matter if they lived in Cincinnati or Tennessee or California.  I wore red white and blue topped by my ex-boyfriend’s Yankees cap that had an embellished American flag. People looked at me sympathetically as though I were a legitimate New York resident on vacation in the heartland. I felt like a poseur.

I felt shaken and sad and terrified but strangely alive and inspired by the patriotism that swelled universally. Everyone exchanged those sad smiles like you do at funerals. The restaurants and parks were full of people appreciating the company of loved ones. Revenge wasn’t even on the table; solidarity and survival were paramount.

Writing this, I’m almost sadder on September 12, 2010 than I was on September 12, 2001. The palpable sense of hope that rose up from such tragedy has been completely eradicated in such a relatively short time.  Divided we fall, people.

What’s Your (Boy Band) Personality Type? Thursday, Jul 1 2010 

Jordan, Danny, Joe, Donnie, Jon

If there’s one talent I have, it is determining which New Kid (on the Block) someone was a fan of 20 (!) years ago. The other day at work, I pegged a girl as a Donnie fan, and could have wagered a month’s pay on this prediction.  It’s simple really, and I’ll let you in on the secrets if you want a fun-slash-lame bar game.

Let’s start with my favorite, Joe “Joey Joe” McIntyre. The youngest by a few years, fair-haired, blue eyed, vocals on the edge of puberty, just plain-out adorable and sweet.  And the most likely to be a virgin (as though any of them resisted groupies for long).  Nonthreatening. Hammy.  With a twist of Oliver Twist. Joe fans are the girls who date younger men, love the nice guys, and go for clean-cut, corn-fed cuties.

Next up, Donnie “Donnie D” Wahlberg, without whom we may never have known Dirk Diggler.  Donnie was the “bad boy,” although if you are really that bad, you either wouldn’t be singing lead on songs like “Cover Girl” or you are in deeply self-loathing (as may have been indeed been the case with A.J. McLean, see below).  In Donnie’s case, “bad boy” meant an earring, a motorcycle, rumors of (gasp!) drinking, and … oh … those pesky allegations of attempted arson.  No big.  These days, Donnie is quite the nice looking older chap, has a decent resume (although dwarfed by that of his kid brother) and his shit together.  Donnie fans may have had a nose ring in high school and like the “alternative” guys, or at least guys with tattoos and/or in bands.

Then there is Jordan Knight.  If we deny his disgusting and bloated performance on The Surreal Life, we are left with a good looking simpleton and front man.  Jordan was the one who shed his shirt in front of a wind machine, whose dimples could make even the Moms in the audience melt, and who took the leading role more often than he didn’t.  Jordan fans can be one of two things. Either they were fringe New Kids fans, who didn’t know much else, or they are the girls who maybe aren’t that bright and assimilate with the pretty face, empty head.  (No offense to Jordan fans! Ahem.)

Jon Knight? Jordan’s long-suffering older brother.  He was “shy.”  He was “quiet.”  He was “mature.” He was boring!  For years there have been gay rumors about Jonathan, which actually makes some sense.  Jon fans are the hardest to figure out.  Sometimes he attracted Donnie girls that were a little offput by the “craziness” but still wanted to be alternative.  And obviously, shy girls would be drawn to him as well.

And finally, Danny Wood. Okay, in all my time as a “hardcore” Kidophile, I never met one fan of the completely Simian Danny (who has grown into his features and looks better these days by a country mile).  Perhaps using performance-enhancing drugs (and the performance he was enhancing was his dancing … and lifting weighs in videos), Danny rarely sang and rarely had solo pinup shots in Bop.  I would imagine the girl who claimed to be a Danny fan is, like all Andy Taylor fans, first of all lying, and second of all trying real damn hard to be contrarian.  To which I would say, sweetheart, he’s still a New Kid, even if he’s the ugly New Kid.

This formula extends with great ease to the Backstreet Boys:

Nick Carter = Joe (young, cute, blonde)

A.J. McLean = Donnie (bad to the bone, tortured)

Kevin Richardson = Jon (older relative to Brian, quiet, lame)

Brian Littrell = Jordan (front man, “cute,” minus a heavy degree of douchery)

Howie Dorough = Danny (uhhhh … whatever. Have you seen the “I Want it That Way” video?)

And some extent, even the Beatles fit the mold.  Paul is Jordan/Brian, John is Donnie/AJ, George is Jon/Kevin, and Ringo falls somewhere in between the youthfully/goofy and the not-so-attractive. Ringo, incidentally, nabs my favorite slot there as well.

So who had the right stuff for you?

Chivalry is Alive! In Exactly One Place. Tuesday, Jun 29 2010 

Let’s face it … the changing times, the advent of feminism (or as some may prefer, “Girl Power”), and a sea change toward utter apathy has resulted , of late, in a relative lack of chivalry. Perhaps it is because I am not as cute as I once was nor am I elderly enough to command respect and/or sympathy.  But no, rather, I think we’re in the throes of a changing tide. If you are a lady between the ages of 14 and 70 trying to wrestle a rollerbag into an overhead bin? Expect dudes in the surrounding rows to continue reading their USA Todays. Standing around waiting for a first-come, first-served table?  Watch out, because those Fred Durst wannabes will swoop the f*ck in before you and your girlfriends can spin on your high heels.  And it’s fine, really, because we’re independent, throw our hands up at you, etc. etc., but there is a certain thing as manners, and respecting the comfort of others.

One place where charity isn’t extinct, however, is on office-building elevators.  True story.  I work in an iconic building smack dab in the financial district and I would say at least 75% of the elevator riders each morning and lunch hour are of the XY chromosome variety.  And without fail, they always, always, allow me to board first, even if they are directly in front of the parting doors and I’m several steps away. The same is true for the elevator exit – they hate to see me leave, but they love to watch me go – HA!  In fact, this relic of proper upbringing is so prevalent that it becomes shocking in other elevator situations if I am not treated with the same courtesy.

Perhaps letting the womenfolk board and unboard first is just one way to miss out on 15 additional arduous seconds at the office, but I’ll  take what I can get.  And in a city life that recently involved getting slugged in a dodgy burrito joint 10 minutes after a massive and universal celebration of human rights, simple elevator preferential treatment seems like a lot.

Chubby Chasing Wednesday, Jun 23 2010 

What's the secret Monica diet?

Yesterday at worker, a co-worker said, “I would love to see one of those people who ate tons of junk food in high school and was still super skinny … what does that person look like now?” I spoke up.  “That person … was me!”  Duh-duh-DUH!

My daily intake my senior year in high school consisted of the following … two Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and a steaming cup of hot chocolate for breakfast (the school provided the seniors with breakfast as a perk).  Lunch was either the delicious, lard-based Southern cooking of my award-winning cafeteria (fried shrimp, fried ham-and-cheese turnovers in phyllo dough, richly cheesy chicken-and-broccoli casserole, all topped off by an orange/cream dreamsicle) or – if I left campus – Taco Bell.  Dinner, as I had to hang around for drama rehearsal, was often Taco Bell again or Chick Fil A.  The only exercise I got was P.E. twice a week and some heavy petting with my boyfriend (sorry, Mom).

And what do I look like now? I’m 25 pounds heavier. Now, this isn’t a Nicole-Eggert-worthy shocking change, and I’m certainly far from obese.  But as my older friends always warned me would happen, my metabolism hit a wall right around 30.  To merely maintain that 25-pounds-heavier frame? I eat relatively healthy – no meat, no fast food, moderate snacking, lots of fruits and veggies, little-to-no alcohol during the weekdays. If I were to revert to my 1992 diet, I’d be in a world of hurt. Perhaps fused to my own couch.

So I’m not one of those gals who has “always struggled with her weight,” but because I was previously disposed to skinnyness despite my bodily abuse, I do continue to struggle with my will power. Yes, I do eat healthy most of the time, but if I’m in “diet” mode, I still have to occasionally snack (even if that snacking consists of healthy things).  And attempts to commit to a workout program have been pathetically, well, pathetic.  When it comes to certain things – quitting socially smoking, for example (sorry again, Mom) or cutting meat out of my diet – the power is there.  When it comes to throwing on the workout shorts and heading out for a run after a soul-sucking day at the office, well, I’d just rather watch TV or play online, comforted by a big bowl of calorie-light-but-sodium-rich Asian rice crackers.

So here I am, 35 and a little chubby in parts (as a misguided Lothario once told my very curvy friend, “You’ve got love in all the right places.”) Not fat, not where the boys from Stand By Me would call me “lard ass,” but not waif-thin like I was in high school.  Youth (and metabolism) is wasted on the young.

How do y’all get off your duff and onto the elliptical?  Because simply looking in the mirror isn’t working for me just yet.

What a difference an article can make Wednesday, Jun 9 2010 

Scream poster (altered)

Liver Alone!

No, not a magazine/newspaper article (Dewey Defeats Truman!) I mean article in the grammatical sense – The, A, An.  Specifically, The.  At work today, some of us were laughing over a former co-worker’s Facebook page, which lists just one favorite movie: The Gladiator. Key word being THE.  Now, I think Russell Crowe is overrated and I actually dozed off in the theater when seeing (The) Gladiator, but I still know the “The” is oddly misplaced.  So we were left to wonder … is there another movie called “THE Gladiator?”  As it turns out, yes.  From 1938.  But I’m pretty sure she just screwed up the title.

So what other movies would be laughably misnamed with the addition of a simple “The?”  Here’s a few … all of which could grammatically include an article (e.g., I’m not saying “The Raising Arizona” or “The Jerry Maguire”).

The Raging Bull
The Taxi Driver
The Citizen Kane
The Clerks
The Titanic
The Chariots of Fire
The Scream
The Network
The Crash
The Private Parts
The Toy Story
The Field of Dreams
The Caddyshack

What are some others?

Years-long karaoke mystery: solved! Saturday, Mar 20 2010 

Microphone, karaoke

Step Up to the Mic

Just read a Facebook-status stream that quoted the following:  Justin Timberlake’s “What Comes Around, Goes Around,” (Leave Britney ALONE!); Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” (Excellent use of the song-title parenthetical); and RATT’s “Round and Round,” (owing its recent resurgence to The Wrestler, or possibly Richard Christy‘s”Round Brown Mounds” song parody).  And it got me thinking about another song of that ilk, “Round and Round” by Tevin Campbell (a wee R&B singer I have now referenced twice in this young blog).  Don’t know it?  Yes you do (if you are 30 or older):

“Nothin’ comes from talkers but the sound …
We can talk all we want to,
but the world still goes around and round …
Round and rou-ound
We go round and round and round
And what we’re lookin’ for still isn’t found”

Okay, so … whatever. This whole divergence from my planned Saturday reminded me of one of the strangest karaoke “performances” I’ve ever seen.  Possibly even stranger than the skinny limited-teeth yokel (you know the one) singing some Biggie Smalls song and screaming the N-word repeatedly, while always backing it up with – “Ha ha!  It’s in the song!  I can say it!” – while in the atrium of a converted RAX.   

Picture an enormous country/rock and roll dive in Cincinnati, circa 1999/2000.  Popular for Friday night post-softball karaoke.  I daresay I have spent literal months in this joint – 6 to 8 hours, every Friday night, for 3 or 4 years.  The patrons and singers like them some Tim McGraw.  Some Johnny Cougar.  Some Jonny Bon Jovi.  Some Jani Lane.  The occasional “Bust a Move” or “Baby Got Back” from a couple of white chicks.  Fair share of country-fried rock.  “Rocky Top.” I think you get the picture.

So this 20-something girl, white sweater and jeans, goes to the stage.  Out starts “Round and Round” by … Tevin Campbell.  Even 10/11 years ago, this is one weird song choice.  Wrong venue, wrong era, just wrong. The song is dead and buried, folks. And then she begins, stoney-faced, to simply read the words off the screen. “Nothing comes to dreamers but a dream … ” and so on and so forth.  It’s not that she had a bad or off-key singing voice … she wasn’t even attempting to sing.   I had the single tape (a/k/a/ the “cassingle”) of this tune and could barely remember how the melody went at this point.  Such a travesty.   Why pick a song you don’t know?  Why pick a Tevin Campbell song at all?

Suddenly, a decade later, this morning … it hit me.  This woman wanted RATT.  Love will find a way, just give it time.  I’m convinced!  Right venue, right demographic, right RATT. Confronted with clearly the wrong song, she suffered through rather than appeal to the KJ (karaoke jockey).  This poor girl is/was less confrontational than I am.  I will take 90% of a bad meal home in a doggie bag rather than tell the waitress it was sub-par, but if I wanted to sing “The Power of Love”  (Huey Lewis) and heard the maudlin strains of “The Power of Love” (CELINE) starting, I would sure as hell not throw myself on the sword.  I mean, lady, what’s worse?  A moment of irritation at the hands of the KJ, or four minutes of quizzical pondering from the audience?  Or in my case, four minutes and ten or so years.

What goes around, goes around, goes around, comes all the way back around.


BOP ’til You Drop Thursday, Mar 11 2010 

Teen Beat

Rob's so dreamy! A-Ha, meanwhile, is magical.

Haim frenzy continued in the office throughout Thursday, and in memoriam, a challenge that continued throughout the work day was … what true “80s heartthrobs” are left and living large? Who can a gal my age look to with a sense of peace and hope in the wake of such tragedy? Swayze. MJ. Haim. Even Andrew Koenig, while a minor player in pop culture, was a loss to all children of the 80s. Show me that smile again.

Names flew about like wildfire … Rob Lowe, Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, Jason Bateman, Johnny Depp. Leo.

But as the afternoon wore on, we realized we needed to set boundaries, both for what constitutes modern-day “success” and what it meant to be a real “80s heartthrob.”

First, the heartthrob.  This was defined as “having appeared prominently on the cover of 16, Bop, The Big Bopper, Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, Dynamite, or an equivalent.  “Respectable” mags, such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, or People don’t count.

Second, the 80s.  Said cover appearance had to happen between 1980-1989.  This rules out Mark Wahlberg (who didn’t launch on the scene until 1991).

Third, the “successful.”  If an actor, he must have been in the regular cast of a TV show during the last five years OR a big-screen (i.e., not straight-to-video) movie in the last three years.  Yes, this seems arbitrary. It is trickier for musicians, because while they may not have released new material of late, their legacy might stand.  For this, I feel I’ll know it when I see it.  Example.  Tommy Page and Tevin Campbell?  Not so successful.  Donnie Wahlberg?  Arguably successful, considering he still gets acting projects AND his “band” had a sell-out tour in 2009.

So before I begin my list and my commentary on the players, my few readers out there, are there any stipulations you might suggest to separate the Neil Patrick Harris from the James Spader, the Jon Bon Jovi from the Joey Lawrence?