Category Archives: Arts and Entertainment

Sleigh Ride Crazy?

There’s something about the frenetic, jolly pace of “Sleigh Ride” that keeps it upbeat, no matter how mellow the genre. Here’s a brief compilation » Ella Fitzgerald, Squirrel Nut Zippers (manic!), She and Him, Reliant K, Diana Krall, and a little bit of Barenaked Ladies — all doing their version of the aforementioned song. But I promise, you won’t be bored.

Maybe it’s a latent expression of OCD, or maybe just another holiday obsession (I watch every version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” that I can get my hands on … ), but I’m still searching for noteworthy versions of this tune. Msg me, please!

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

TV for Ladies – IMHO

Thanks to my ‘On Demand’ habit, I have been able to watch a surprising number of this Fall’s new tv shows. And because I am, ahem, a lady, it seems that most of my chosen shows have been specifically targeted to the ladies. Score, tv marketing people! Although you may not want to have me figured out exactly, it seems you do. As such, this is what I have seen so far:

The New Girl: Starring the adorable and quirky Zooey Deschanel and three dudes, one of which is a Wayans. Deschanel moves into a charming urban apartment with three young guys she’s never met, after abruptly splitting with her live-in boyfriend. (She catches him cheating on her.) This show instantly fell apart for me because it relies on the premise that any three guys in the world would not immediately fall in love with and/or be attracted to Zooey Deschanel. Plus which, she plays a sweet girl, not a crazy person or a man-eating monster, and she dresses cute, and is post-breakup vulnerable. C’mon now writers, at least throw a credible obstacle our way.
Verdict: Almost worth it for the “Aaah OOOgah” bit Deschanel does with her glasses on seeing a hot guy in bar, but not quite. Although sitcom writing has improved greatly since the seventies, this one is still smells like “Three’s Company.”

Ringers: Sarah Michelle Gellar plays identical twins –one a rich, married Manhattanite and the other a SoCal floozy — who are both on the run from the law, significant others, creditors and (possibly) agents who don’t care about them anymore. Of course they trade identities, a la every other movie and soap opera about twins, and no one notices. Although the plot is meant to be intriguing and sexy, it is just contrived and — in the words of a knowledgable ten-year-old — “stoopit”. Making it even worse in this age of fantabulous CGI effects, the show doesn’t seem to have updated its “both twins in the frame” technology since The Parent Trap. And I mean Haley Mills’ Parent Trap.
Verdict: Except for some drool-worthy Manhattan interiors, this one is a total miss. Sorry Sarah Michelle, you know I love you, but better luck next time.

Revenge: A young woman, whose decent middle-class family has been ruined by a wealthy and despicable  “Kennedy-esque” clan, returns to the scene of the crime — the Hamptons — to single-handedly bring down the east coast dynasty. No super-famous stars in this one, though they are all attractive and some do look familiar. Don’t ask me why this show is better than the Sarah Michelle Geller vehicle, to which it bears some resemblance, but it is. Perhaps because it offers us some really good baddies, and we don’t mind at all when they are set adrift in a rowboat in the Long Island Sound, perhaps someday to come ashore in Jersey (eew).
Verdict: Impossible plot in a beautiful location. This one knows what it is. A guilty pleasure.

Prime Suspect: I saw the star of this series, Maria Bello, promoting it on a morning talk show, and I thought “Oh no, this sounds horrible. How could they?” I’m a huge fan of the Helen Mirren/BBC series of the same name, and my reaction was somewhat akin to hearing that NBC had remade — I don’t know what an appropriate analogy would be here — say, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ with Justin Bieber.  No, no said Maria to the ‘Good Morning Whatever’ host, the new show is quite different;  it’s New York in 2011, not London in the 90′s. And it would have to be different. Because the original series was subtle, it had complex characters that you cared about, very few if any guns and car chases, plus Helen Mirren and her hair that always looked good.

But, like any idiot who drives past a car wreck on I-95, I just had to slow down and look. So I watched the pilot. And it was good. Yes, it’s a different show. Maria Bello”s character, Jane Timoney,  carries a gun that would stop Dirty Harry in his tracks. And there are car chases and fights. And Jane’s boyfriend has been upgraded from an endearingly schlumpy construction company owner to a  white-hot, shirtless carpenter.

But there are still quite a few similarities to the original series. While the sexism that dogged Helen Mirren’s every step has abated a bit, it’s still there for Maria Bello’s Jane Timoney.  In fact, both the old and new Janes get a significant career boost from a colleague’s unfortunate medical event. And then there is both old and new Jane’s weird affinity for children (not entirely believable in the original series either), and her ability to get information out of suspects by getting in their heads,  rather than hitting their heads with the phone book.  And Maria Bello’s hair isn’t bad either.

Bottom line: I’m a fan of the new Jane. Giant gun and all. Not the least because she actually DOES something. She’s not a “columnist” or a “decorator” or a “philanthropist” whose work all happens off screen, and apparently at 3 o’clock in the morning.  I like her toughness – even if it’s a bit of fantasy. Somewhere along the line, someone must have told Jane,”If you want to cry, go outside” and somehow, someway,  she’s been able to pull it off. Gonna DVR every episode and hope they’re all as good as the pilot.

Should I buy a web site template?

Not so Easy WebsitesFor some reason web designer seems to be one of those jobs that lots of people think they could do if they just get through the “Web Magic For Dummies” book. And maybe one of the reasons why web design seems so accessible are all those sites that offer “free” website templates and promise that you can be up and running in a couple of hours.

The “freelancer wanted” bulletin boards are littered with pleas from small business owners who need help making their web templates work. You will not be alone.

On occasion, I have been asked to design a website using a purchased template. It’s not my favorite way to do things, but there are some advantages.  Most templates are well designed and use clean, valid code. And they’re compliant with popular browsers. But editing them is not for amateurs.

If you don’t know at least a little something about html and css, a web template is probably not for you. Even a moderately experienced designer will have to come up with some ingenious work-arounds to adjust a canned template for a real customer.

However, if you’re a bit of techno geek, and you’d like to learn about building websites, and you don’t mind spending long hours at your computer making your template work, then go for it. It’s fun. And you will have a somewhat valuable skill when you’re done.

On the other hand, if you’re not a geek of any kind, here’s my advice: gird your loins, look at your budget, and hire a professional to do the work. Get estimates from a few designers, and be specific about the scope of work. Adjust what needs to be done to fit your budget.

But what if you really have no budget?  Look into a totally and utterly free blog. WordPress is my preferred blog provider at the moment, but there are other good providers out there, like blogger. If you want to brand your blog with logos, backgrounds and customized pages, you may need some assistance.  Don’t expect to be able to do much customizing right away, but a blog will give you a functioning online presence, and a way to engage in dialogue with users.

Perhaps your 12-year-old nephew spends too much time online already, and his skills could be put to use.

Facebook pages and twitter are two more ways to get online and start networking for free. But please don’t confuse the idea of “free” with “guaranteed popularity.” You have got to be in it to win it with social networking, and the constant provision of content and feedback that drive successful social networking can eat up a lot of time. There are professionals today who are becoming experts at marketing with these tools, and their services can be worth every penny.

While I wave most newbies off templates, there is one group to whom I freely recommend them: developers. If you are a developer — someone who makes websites function efficiently and securely using back- or front-end coding — but would be happy with green type on a black background, then you would be smart to invest in a template. You know how the code works, but you just don’t have a feel for design. For you, my brainiac friends, a template could be just the ticket.

Still wondering if a template is right for you? Try this simple test: the Should I Buy a Website Template Decision Tree

And stay tuned for the next article: How do I find a web designer?

Songs from 2010 – Actually

It crept up gradually. I became a person who stopped paying attention to contemporary music. It’s not that I stopped listening to music. I still listen to music. To be sure, I’m not plugged in during every spare moment, like when I was a kid. (There’s too many good shows on tv.)  If I hear something I like, I  ask, “Who is that? When did that come out?” 1997? Oh. Well. Totally missed that one.

After all, I have the i-pod for walking around the neighborhood running errands. And the  gym. But there’s no new exposure on the i-pod. It’s all stuff I already have. Also I play music in the background when I’m working at home. That’s usually internet radio, and there is new stuff there. But I’m usually concentrating on work, so the chance that I will stop and check who the artist is — while I’m in the middle of a sql query — is minimal.

So really the best opportunity for hearing new music is in the car. The satellite radio is tuned into news, blues, ambient, and a couple of alternative and pop stations. I hear plenty of stuff that I like. I glance at the display while driving down I-95. Must remember.  “Sleigh Bells.” Good. And then 15 seconds later: *blank*. Will not remember “Sleigh Bells” until I hear them again. Ooh, I like them. And then I forget again. Will not buy them, will not download them, will not seek them out on MySpace. In short, I’m short-term memory woman.

So this month I made a concerted effort to see if there was anything I liked from 2010.  And here in no particular order, with my memory reactivated by the internet and my ipod, are some of my indie-pop favorites from the year gone by. Unless some of them are from 1997.

And while I’m looking back at 2010, I’d like to give Kanye West credit for being 2010′s most talented tortured artist. With an emphasis on artist. Who else is doing braver, more interesting things? Considering that he could write ring tones in his sleep and just wait for the checks to clear.  I salute you, sir!

Sentences that are never good

.One of my favorite Simpson’s episodes (just one of many) is the one where Homer and his neighbor Ned Flanders get into a suburban-style competition and try to out-do each other vis à vis ostentatious consumption. At some point it comes down to who can buy the more impressive RV, and Homer finds himself at the local RV dealership, hoping to buy a mega-mobile-home called “The Ultimate Behemoth.”

The salesman (a smooth-talker wearing a bolo tie) and Homer sit on opposite sides of a desk and talk.

SALESMAN (laughs): I’m not gonna quote you a price till I check your credit rating. And let me — I want to make myself clear on this. This is a formality. If you’re saying to me, “Bob, is this guy good for it?”, I say, “Yes.” I don’t check this machine, but I don’t own the place, even though’s my name up there. Long story, but that doesn’t matter. I’m gonna have to run it through the computer.

The salesman presses [Enter] and suddenly, a loud siren erupts.

HOMER: Is that a good siren? Am I approved?

SALESMAN: You ever know a siren to be good? (chuckles). No, Mr. Simpson, it’s not. It’s a bad siren. That’s the computer in case I went blind, telling me “Sell the vehicle to this fella and you’re out of business!” That’s what the siren says.
So that got me thinking. Like a siren or a phone call at 4 in the morning,what other things are never good? I’ve come up with a few phrases, and I’m certainly open to more:

  • “Do you have a plunger?”
  • “It’s the school calling.”
  • “What kind of insurance do you have?”
  • “We need to talk.”
  • “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
  • “Was the cat still in there?”

Give Me Chocolate!

my storiesIt had to happen, being home all the time. Yep. I’m kinda hooked on a telenovela, called Dame Chocolate, which — until I tuned in — I thought was a BBC program about an oddly-named member of the peerage.

But no. Dame Chocolate is about, well, I’m not really sure, since my Spanish only gets me about 70% through the plot. There’s a pretty, blond Mexican girl named Rosita, who’s supposed to be hot but awkward (“nice-legs-shame-about-the-face”, even though the actress is just plain hot) and her handsome American cousin of Mexican heritage, named Bruce. Rosita and Bruce’s recently deceased grandfather has left them shared ownership of a magically successful chocolate factory, somewhere in Mexico (or possibly Miami).

Of course Rosita and Bruce can’t stand each other, and of course they’re not-so-secretly enamored of each other. Which is only slightly less disgusting than it sounds because they’re not cousins by blood, due to several remarriages, etc.

Anyhoo, the latest catastrophe is that someone has destroyed all the flowers that provide the “magical” chocolate ingredient, and somehow Rosita has to find a way to get Bruce to share his flower-destruction disaster plan with her. Look, I’m not saying that it makes sense.

Stay tuned!

Hairspray Part III

If you want to know what a Baltimore accent sounds like, check out John Travolta’s Edna Turnblad in the latest incarnation of John Waters’ Hairspray .

Based on the trailer only, it’s FANTASTIC that Travolta bothered to do the accent (was he studying Divine?) and almost makes him as likeable as he was in Pulp Fiction . In fact, you might say he’s a real dollbaby.