Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I Love Paris In The Springtime...

Truth is, I love Paris in the Fall, Winter, and Summer, too. However, since I don't live there, I'm happily settling for my lovely little neighborhood and all it has to offer. Except for the pollen. I developed an allergy to allergens about three years ago, and I'm really suffering these days.
Regardless, I have brought the patio furniture out of the shed and onto its rightful place in the back yard. The grill's been fired up on more than one occasion -- even had a dinner guest last week for yummy burgers -- and I've been stocking the freezer with steaks, my special hamburgers, and pork chops in barbecue sauce. Next, a trip to the Booze-A-Rama to lay in a variety of imported and craft beers, and I'm practically set for the grilling/chilling season.

I am so looking forward to spending time out back that I have even planned to pull what appear to be weeds sprouting up between the patio squares (or whatever those brick-like thingies are called). No one could ever accuse me of being a gardener, but I learned quite a few things from Patricia, my favorite relative and quite the country squire. I know what hostas are, and mine have begun to sprout leaves. Hydrangeas, too, plus Rose of Sharon and forsythia. The ivy is nicely covering the fence and the rose branches are looking dangerously sharp. All I need to do (after clearing out those weed-like growths) is plant some impatiens in the window box and I'm set. Maybe I'll get reckless and try to grow some of my favorite herbs, like rosemary. I'd plant catnip for the furry roommates, but there are several outdoor cats in the 'hood, and I'm afraid I'd start some problems with that. We'd have to have Phoenix House come and do a Kitty Outreach or something. Nope, bad idea.

Last year's big project was shed replacement and landscaping/fence repair. This year, I've decided to have a security light installed, one that I can also use for illumination while grilling/entertaining after dusk. I've located an outdoor outlet that a professional electrician can use to hardwire some kind of lighting system. And the patio furniture needs a coat of white Rustoleum, so I'll get to that soon.

The best part of all this, of course, will be the social aspect. I love grilling for friends, sharing great food along with quality beer, wine and homemade iced tea. I'll be sure to make some special summertime mix CDs to enhance the back yard experience, but will ensure that they're played at a reasonable volume so as not to disturb the neighbors (some of whom will already be hanging in the yard!). It doesn't get much better than this. Well, perhaps in Paris...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Egregious Lack of Posts Lately...So Here's Some More

Yes, I admit it. I have been horribly lax about writing in my blog of late. Blame it on spring fever, blame it on being cranky because of a massive dental bill, blame it on the bossa nova, but, ultimately, it all comes back to me. So if I've disappointed anyone other than myself, heartfelt apologies and a promise to post more frequently. Here's an encore post for today to try and redeem myself...

When I'm not being an ol' crankypants, I try to keep myself occupied with new and interesting things (old ones, too). I recently discovered the incredible instrument that is Joss Stone's voice. I'd been hearing about her for a year or more (the gal just turned 18), a white teenager from England with a voice like Janis Joplin's. The full impact of her talent didn't hit me until I saw a clip from this year's Grammy awards. She teamed with the incredible Melissa Etheridge on a tribute to Joplin, and while it was Etheridge's night, Stone shone with her rendition of "Cry Baby." Then, as you may have heard, Etheridge stalked out onto the stage with her electric guitar and beautiful bald head and proceeded to rip into "Piece of My Heart." Outstanding. You can download it for a small fee, which goes to fund breast cancer research. I've been listening to it almost non-stop, and it really came in handy last Friday night, as I was stuck in horrendous George Washington Bridge traffic. As my car creeped along for about 45 minutes, I kept hitting the repeat button on the CD player and sang/belted/screamed along with Joss and Melissa, alternating joy with rage until my voice gave out (probably after the fifth time). I cannot fathom how Etheridge screams so beautifully. I don't have any of her CDs, but I have great performances by her from "The Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" CD and from the Paul McCartney-organized Concert for 9/11. It makes me think that I need to buy some of her stuff, and some of Joss Stone's, too.

Speaking of CDs, I finally tackled a chore I've been avoiding for about a year and a half. My brother re-hung my CD cabinets inside a large closet (I call it the media closet, as it is also crammed with albums and VHS tapes that I can't bear to part with, as well as a couple of thousand CDs) and half the collection was neatly put away, categorized by genre, then artist, then chronologically. The other half of the collection was stacked haphazardly in the closet. It only took about an hour and a half, but I got the rest of them organized and properly placed in the cabinets. Of course, this doesn't include the couple hundred CDs hanging out in the living room, bedroom or office, but I'll get to them soon. Eventually I'll have burned copies of favorites for the car and office, so I can then properly store the scattered discs, but that's a chore for another day. (I don't like chores of any kind, so postponing them is one of my favorite things to do!)

Next project...finding a home for the stacks of DVDs that seem to have popped up everywhere. The lovely storage cabinet I purchased for them was supposed to hold 350, but only takes about 240. Unfortunately, there's no room for the two or three additional cabinets I would need to purchase, so I have to figure out another way to contain them (any ideas are welcomed). Besides, my dentist has all my damn money anyway.

More Soul Than I Can Control

Recently, I heard from a friend that her young children (one aged seven and a pair of four-year-old twins) have been requesting that she play my special mix CD, made to mark a milestone birthday. It contains songs that trace my musical taste, from childhood to present, and the kids are very fond of Todd Rundgren's "Bang The Drum All Day." I asked her how she managed to deal with Ian Dury's "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll," and she said they skip over that one. "All I need is for Nicholas to burst out with THAT one in school!"

I think it would be very educational for NikNik to learn and perform that song! Reminds me of a time in nursery school, when we were all seated in a circle and asked to sing our favorite song. All the little losers were singing "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and "The Farmer in the Dell." Me? I burst out with my rendition of the Four Tops' "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" and was humiliated by the teacher, who told me it was not a song. "It is so! I hear it on the radio, and my parents have the record!" I ceased being one of the favorites at that moment. Oh well. At least I had soul.

Monday, April 04, 2005


Ha, bet you thought this would have a religious bent, right? Nope. I'm talking about media conversion, specifically from vinyl to compact disc and from VHS tape to DVD. An extremely talented friend of mine has all the hardware and software necessary to make these conversions. Here's what I gave him this weekend (note: none of these are available on the updated media, so it's just a transfer of something I already own onto a format not available in any store. Nothing illegal.):
Tootsie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). "It Might Be You" is one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard. Written and performed by Stephen Bishop (who also composed the soundtrack), it's definitely on the list of songs to be played when first dancing with your new husband. (OK, I may not have the husband, but I have the list!) Here's some little-known trivia about the song: it was performed in the wonderful movie "Waiting to Exhale" by Roberta Flack (all four of the stars sing along with it in the car in one of the last scenes of the film). Unfortunately, it's not on the soundtrack, and I have to find out if it's on one of Flack's CDs.

Mannix (Original Television Soundtrack). Mannix was one of the great detective shows of the late 1960s. It also had a killer soundtrack by famed composer Lalo Schifrin. A great jazz musician and composer, Schifrin used a variety of styles on the soundtrack, and it kicks butt. The last track, "EndGame," is a dynamic, driving and exciting piece of work, punctuated by horns and amazing drumming. We used it for many years at my mother's dancing school, and I finally stole it one year when I noticed it hadn't been in use. It's a classic. A CD version was released a few years ago, but to my extreme disappointment, all the tunes had been "updated" and "rearranged," and, frankly, they sucked compared to the original. Although my purloined copy is very scratched up (the dancing school staff was never very careful with the albums, which drove me nuts, especially when my mother would sneak some of MY music to the studio), my buddy's got the technology that should smooth things out. Yay!

Jack Wagner, Lighting Up The Night. Jack Wagner is best known as an actor on soap operas, as well as prime time and tv movies. When he started on General Hospital in the mid-80s, he was a singing soap star, and I was one of many who bought his albums and went to his concerts. It didn't hurt that he was drop-dead gorgeous! Anyway, his first couple of albums were on Quincy Jones' Qwest label, and were never reissued on CD. I was able to find a (very expensive) Japanese version of his first album, but not the second (Lighting Up The Night). When I met Jack at a signing about 10 years ago, I asked him if the first albums would become available on CD, and he said that Jones owned the rights to them and didn't seem inclined to reissue them. Well, Mr. Jones, I usually get what I want...and I will have Lighting Up The Night on CD this week!

Concert for the People of Kampuchea (Various Artists). This is a great double album from a concert organized by Paul McCartney to raise money for the people of Kampuchea. You may remember the country's original name as Cambodia. Anyway, a wonderful gang of artists (The Who, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, Ian Dury, The Clash, Queen, and Paul McCartney among them) did this fundraiser around 1979 (or so), and it was never released on anything other than vinyl. Boy, would I love to have a DVD of this show! I'll settle for a transfer to CD, and be very, very happy.

Times Square (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). This movie, produced by Robert Stigwood (Grease, Saturday Night Fever), was probably an attempt to do for punk what those other two films did for '50s music and disco. Didn't quite happen that way. Tim Curry was the biggest name in the film, which introduced Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson as "The Sleaze Sisters," trying to survive and thrive in the sleaze capital of the world -- NY's Times Square. It has a killer soundtrack, with music from Joe Jackson, The Ramones, The Pretenders, Lou Reed, Talking Heads, and other great bands. Now I'll be able to listen to it in the car!

If Looks Could Kill. This 1989/1990 era movie starred Richard ("21 Jump Street") Grieco as a teenaged James Bond-type, playing spy throughout Europe. Lots of fun, but not available on DVD...until now!

Liza Minnelli Live From Radio City Music Hall. One of her first big comebacks (1992), and a terrific show.

Frank, Sammy and Liza: The Ultimate Event. This was a concert tour filmed for HBO in 1987, starring the incomparable Sammy Davis, Jr., Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra. All were in great voice and it's a wonderful two hours. My friend Mike played trombone in the orchestra (also in the Live From Radio City Music Hall concerts), so I asked him why The Ultimate Event had never been released on anything, and I believe his answer was because of copyright/performance complications, which makes sense, unfortunately. I can't wait to see it on DVD!

Looks like I'll be glued to either the tv or the stereo this weekend!