28 November 2007

The Boy Who Could Fly

It's not often that I reminisce about my childhood. I didn't have a particularly unhappy childhood, by any means; I just didn't like myself overly much, and what's the point of looking back on a time in which you felt you were not totally awesome? There is none. No point. That said, today someone mentioned offhand the movie The Boy Who Could Fly and I was instantly taken back to a much more innocent, yet frizzier-haired time.

The year was 1989. (I think. It could have been 1990. I really can't say. The late-80s, early-90s were, for me, a lost time comprised mostly of badly permed hair, tragic sartorial choices and changing my baby brother's diaper. I've successfully repressed most of it.) The scene: my living room. The cast of characters: myself and my childhood friend Natalie. I remember that my mother was outside in the backyard gardening and my dad had taken my baby brother for some male/drooling turtle bonding. Natalie and I, having grown tired of my toys, looked for other entertainment. First we worked on our Star Search dance routine, which we were sure would not only get us on the show but also ensure our victory over the reigning champions, and which consisted mostly of finger snaps, some tumbling moves and one very ill-timed high kick. To this day, it is probably the best choreography I have ever come up with. Our dance perfected (well, for that day. We obviously could not go full-tilt without the requisite feather boas or sequined headbands.), we decided to relax and watch a movie. I skimmed the shelves of VHS tapes until I came across one with a hand-written label: The Boy Who Could Fly.

Sounds great, doesn't it? A boy! AND HE FLIES. This promised to be warm-hearted family fare, perfectly appropriate for two children in the blush of innocence. I popped the tape into the VCR and Natalie and I settled down on the floor. What appeared on the screen, however, was a little more than we'd bargained for.

The movie opens with a shot of a red Corvette pulling up to a house. A woman steps out of the car wearing killer red stilettos . . . and nothing else. As I can recall, she then goes up to the door and knocks seductively (I assume it was seductively. I was nine, so I didn't really know. She could have been doing Shave-and-A-Haircut, for all my grasp of subtlety.). A muscular, yet disturbingly hairy, man opens the door in much the same attire as the woman. Um, he didn't have on heels, though. What proceeded to follow was enough to ensure that neither Natalie nor I ever needed The Talk from our parents. We got a few years' worth of sex education in one short afternoon.

Natalie turned to me shortly after the first blow-job, but before the neighbor-accidentally-walks-in-and-then-joins-in scene, and said, wide-eyed, "Erin, I don't think this is The Boy Who Could Fly." But I, with all the naivete and perseverence of youth, answered, "oh, no, see, I think they taped The Boy Who Could Fly over this movie. It'll probably start any second."

Thirty minutes later, The Boy Who Could Fly still had not magically appeared, and just as we were about to accept that there would be no flying in this movie we were watching, my mother came in from outside. You know how, sometimes, you're really angry with someone for snooping in your drawers, and the anger is one-half "how could you do this?" righteous indignation, and one-half extreme embarassment that they might have seen your threadbare underwear, or your baggie of pot, or your trapper-keeper that was covered with a picture of Kirk Cameron and had "Mrs. Doogie Howser" scrawled on the top (whatever, fifteen is still a perfectly fine age to nurse your dreams of wedding a brilliant, teenage doctor)? Multiply that by the factor of Holy Shit My Third-Grader Is Watching Porn And Her Super-Catholic Friend Is Watching It With Her. The resulting sum might begin to approach the level of apoploxy my mother exhibited. Natalie had to go home immediately and her parents banned her from coming over to my house to play for a year. My parents insisted on pre-watching every movie I expressed an interest in until I was fourteen. Worse, I never did get to find out what happened to the nice people in the film. They all seemed so happy.

As I look back, I have to confess that it was a memorable - if emotionally scarring - way to find out what we all find out some day: my parents watch porn. It could have been worse. It could have been home-made porn and not, as I later came to find out, something a friend of theirs taped off Skinemax one night. But still, to this day, I have not seen The Boy Who Could Fly. I just have too much related guilt to ever be able to watch it. Natalie at least got to go to Confession, eventually.

27 November 2007

"She'll snap you like a Twiglet."

"Or kill me and make it look like suicide."

On the list of Things I Love, indie/pop music, television, comedy, gay men and Jews rank really high. So it's no wonder that I would adore BBC2's Nevermind the Buzzcocks, a pop quiz panel show about music. It's recently returned for its 21st season, and I couldn't be more glad.

The recipe for NMtB is this: take one snarky, perturbed host (former host Mark Lamarr or current host Simon Amstell), two panel captains (in the forms of Phill Jupitus and Bill Bailey - although currently The Mighty Boosh's Noel Fielding is filling in for Bailey) and four guests who are usually comedians, musicians or celebrities of some kind. Occasionally, they are lemonade well drillers. Mix with that a healthy dose of irreverance, trivia about pop acts both current and former, really pathetic music interpretations and musicians who don't know the lyrics to their own songs and, et voila! You have one of my favorite television shows.

This season got off to a slightly rocky start because one of the panel guests was Kimberley Stewart (see: Rod Stewart; child of, and Paris Hilton; friend of) and whilst several jokes were made at her expense, they did not cancel out the fact that I had to look at her for a half-hour. But last week's episode was much better - the always delightful Ryan Jarman (of The Cribs) discussed his grammar prowess, David Cross (Arrested Development, Mr. Show with Bob and David) displayed an almost-freaky level of knowledge about fellow guest Jermaine Jackson's religious affiliations, and lots of jokes were made at both Michael Jackson and Courtney Love's expense (see above quote).

NMtB airs on BBC2 on Thursday nights. Watch and laugh.

18 November 2007

I am not a violent person.

I have never been in a fight. I don't like mindless violence in the media. I avoid confrontation in my day-to-day life. Yet, I love pretending to hit people in exercise classes.

The Body Combat class that I go to is awesomely serious, broken down not into intervals or routines like most classes, but into battles- with an instructor who urges us to picture grabbing an opponent by the hair, and pulling their head down to smash into our knees, as we do out basic aerobic moves. He shouts to aim for the throat, the groin, the stomach as thirty women (and two middleaged guys) punch, slice and kick the air in front of them to Pink screaming away in the background. We are our favourite action heroes, we are in the Matrix, we will be the victors. And then we stop at the end of the song and drink more water.


It ends with a Salt and Pepa song, press-ups and sit-ups, and the vague suspicion that this is some twisted adolescent sexual fantasy on the part of whoever dreamt up this routine- a room full of sweaty, violent women doing their bidding.

Fierce and festive

This year, I seem to have developed a habit of collecting dresses. Dresses are tricky pieces of clothing, because unlike a top or a skirt or trousers, they have to fit you everywhere, just right.

Yep, I went there. I said trousers. You caught me, I'm not of the American persuasion. Anyway. I love dresses. I love how just one item of clothing makes it instantly look like you've made an effort, and how the right dress can make you feel a million dollars. Or pounds. And for some reason, this year, the wonderful world of dresses have decided to open their doors to my ordinarily difficult-to-dress hourglass frame, and I am reaping the benefits.

So, the best thing about my hot collection of dresses, most of them barely or completely unworn? We are mere weeks away from Dress Season.

Probably my favourite thing about December is the fact that suddenly my diary transforms itself into that of a much more popular person. Dinners, parties, drinks... and often these are work-sponsored outings, which means free dinners, and free drinks. And the final D of December - dresses! As you enter December, it suddenly becomes completely acceptable to wear dresses everywhere. You'd normally wear jeans down the pub? Pah! It's December! Pull out a cute little flowery number!

So, as part of my mission to firstly become Mindy Kaling on a much smaller budget, and part of my possibly misguided notion that I'm ACTUALLY a fashion guru, and Trinny & Susannah best watch themselves, you know, you know, I am going to talk you through my dress choices this season. And how you can work your own festive style, just like I plan to.

First, find yourself a pair of truly opaque black tights. Preferably some that pull you in everywhere and make you look way skinnier than you actually are. Unless you already ARE skinny, in which case pull on a pair of sequinned hotpants and a pair of stilettos and work it, you lucky lady. If not - black tights are your best friend. Instantly slimming, they hide a multitude of pale, dimply sins. Hey, I'm English - my legs are so white they're almost blue. I'm a big advocate of black tights, which you will realise if you get to the end of this mammoth essays on the virtues of great dresses, as they will be mentioned again.

Killer shoes are also a necessity. Don't worry if you can't work heels - you just have to wear them until the drink kicks in, and then you can kick them off. Just try and remember under which table you've stashed them.

My shoe of choice for the festive season is a simple pair of round toe, black stiletto platforms. Cute, slimming, not massively comfortable, but that's not exactly the point, is it?

These were bought last year from the not particularly ethically sound but cheap-as-chips Primark, about this time last year in fact, for a Christmas party. I am planning to work them over the next two weeks at work, to attempt to get my feet used to their sultry embrace. Classic black heels are a must for the party season - they'll go with everything, they'll lengthen your legs, and no one will notice if you wear them to every single party. Whereas if your party shoe of choice is a fierce pair of glittery stilettos, if you wear them more than once in a week, fierce quickly turns into 'Oh, THOSE shoes again.' Beware!

My first party of the season is my work Christmas party, held for unfathomable reasons in the first week of December on a THURSDAY. What is that? Are they expecting that people won't drink and embarrass the company, because they have to work on Friday? Ha. They don't know people. Especially me, who is leaving in January and does not have particularly kind feelings towards the company.

I decided to go classy and wear a black dress that I've been hoarding in my wardrobe since the H&M sale in the summer. It's a great, flattering length - which seems to be totally popular this season, and I'm loving it - about two inches above the knees. Respectable, but just a teeny bit racy. Lest you cannot see from the picture, the skirt fairly high up, but is made of tiny, cute pleats that somehow create a flattering silhouette, rather than the empire line pregnancy shape that seems to be all the range at the moment. Plus, cute bow.

What you definitely cannot make out from the picture is that for whatever reason, the bodice of this dress fits my ample charms like an extra small condom on indie lothario Paul Smith. If you are unfortunate enough to not know what that means, the clue is in the word 'ample'. Yep, it's tight, and means that even if I showed up with no makeup and entirely product free hair, in a pair of grubby trainers and roaring drunk to boot, no one is going to be paying attention to anything other than my chest. And because it is one of the rules of Christmas that you can dress like a total slut, I don't care. With glossy hair, kick-ass smoky makeup, minimal accessories and my trusty black tights and classic shoes combo, it means that if there are any eligible men around, I'm so there. Almost classy, apart from the 'Oh, these things? Meet the girls.'

I'm also planning to work an awesome bag, bought a couple of years ago from Accessorize in an 'OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS IN THE SALE!!!' moment. It's soooo pretty, but is rather like the aforementioned fictional glittery shoes in that it's memorable and eyecatching, and so can only be pulled out every now and then, in a glorious 'You think my boobs look great in this dress? Check out my BAG!' moment, perfect for Christmas parties. Plus, it's beaded, and there aren't enough beaded items in this world. Well. Enough NICE beaded items in this world.

I'm going to skip straight ahead to the party I'm going to the weekend before Christmas, even though in the process I'm missing out several awesome events, but don't worry, I'll go back to them. It's a reflection on how OCD I am about clothes that I know exactly what I'm wearing to an event that is over a month away, but that's just me. Slightly crazy, slightly obsessive.

I bought this hot pink piece of wonder in the summer, and yes, that is the tag you can spot there, as it has never been worn. Despite the fact that it was originally bought as a summer dress, the bright colour actually looks a little twee with bare legs. With black-clad legs it suddenly ups the ante to uber-trendy, and as it's silk, you get this fantastic feeling that you're wearing something way more expensive than it was.

Originally worn (in blue) by Lily 'Hey hey you you I don't like your girlfriend' Allen, it was the hard-to-find dress of the summer. It surfaced briefly in New Look stores in a gorgeous charcoal grey (almost black) colour, and I was tempted, but resisted. Now I kind of regret that decision, as is my way.

I am wearing this item to a Fabulous themed party on the Saturday before Christmas that one of my girlfriends is throwing. As all of our male friends have decided to go out on a boys-only dinner that night, we are throwing a Fabulous party, with Fabulous food (mostly cakes), Fabulous drinks (mostly cocktails) and, of course, Fabulous outfits. My concern is that I will get drunk and/or clumsy (I'm always clumsy, but not always clumsy and drunk. But when I am drunk, I'm always extra clumsy) and will spill fresh mango daiquiris down my beautiful silk dress of wonder. Bad points of wearing colour - stains show up. Also, if anyone else is wearing the same item, it will be instantly notable, as you'll stand out. Good points - work it, and you'll look fierce on a Tyra scale. This dress will be teamed with the black tights and shoes, of course, along with dark, smoky eyemakeup and blunt black nails. The fashion magazines say that this adds a tough edge to an otherwise girly look, which works for me.

The next three dresses will probably become my go-to-outfits of choice for all generic drinks and dinner, dinner and drinks events in December. I link them together as they are, for all intents and purposes, the same dress, albeit a great, flattering dress, that although it's from uber popular-and-cheap New Look, I really haven't seen on that many people. This dress is a dinner-with-friends dress, not a party dress. It's cute - it's not showstopping. And all Christmas party dresses should be showstopping. It's a rule.

The first dress is black and white - I bought it in the summer, and wore it a lot. It has a fairly high (but not too high) waist, and a nice, full-ish skirt, which hides a multitude of sins. And bellies.

The second and third dresses have never been worn. The red-patterned one is my favourite, but I think all three will get at least one outing this December. The awesome thing with these dresses is that they look equally great with bare legs and flip-flops in the summer as with black tights and killer heels in the winter.

Good for = fat days, I-hate-my-entire-wardrobe days, wanting to look cute but not too overdressed
Bad for = showing off your perfectly flat stomach, winning a best-dressed award, looking fierce

Yes, they look mildly frumpy on the hangers, but trust me, they are very cute. Proof that you never can trust how a dress looks without trying it on.

For extra skinniness, team with a killer belt - this will hike up the length slightly, but also define your waist. Killer belt of choice - £12.99, Dorothy Perkins. Cinchy.

Man, my waist looks teeny.

I'm nearly done! My final dress is an example of a dress looking kind of cute but in a 'If your measurements are not 20-20-20, then forget about it' kind of way. When it's on the hanger, at least. Behold. Cute, right? It has little apples printed all over it. But it kind of reminds me of those little romper style dresses that you wore when you were six, at the beach. Like, if it had shorts built in, it would totally resemble something I used to wear. But, put it on, and it is transformed! The top is tight and fitted, nipping you in, and the skirt flares out, creating this deliciously retro look. Adorable in the summer, but in the winter - suddenly it's awesome. I actually only tried it on as an afterthought in the midst of trying on all my Christmas dresses last night, but it looks awesome. I'm now trying to think if I have another Christmas party I've forgotten about, because if so, I'm totally bringing this little number out.

I was trying to avoid including a picture of me in this post, but to demonstrate the complete and utter cuteness of this dress, it has to be done. See? Cute! It's the kind of dress you'd wear to a party when you knew there'd be a handful of hot, eligible men, and then you could spend the rest of the evening drinking Cosmopolitans and being incredibly witty and adorable. It's cute and memorable, without being too try-hard.

Good for - hiding a tummy, showing off a teeny waist, skimming sizeable hips
Bad for - mutton-dressed-as-lamb girls, people who hate their arms, people who can't fill out the non-adjustable bodice.

What all of these dresses have in common is the length, as previously mentioned, which seemed to be very fashionable this year. This is a length that will suit everyone, as it comes to just above your knee, therefore making your legs look longer, yet isn't short enough that you'll be flashing the rest of the party every five minutes. If you're short-legged, it's very beneficial (under-knee becomes mid-calf and gives you the stumpy disease - I'm under 5ft 2, I know), if you're long-legged, it'll make them look even longer, without making you look like a giraffe, and if you have overly skinny or overly chubby legs, just encase them in a pair of black tights and knobbly knees and chubby calves will be instantly normalised into the ideal. Awesome, right.

Please note, the black tights rule only applies in the winter. In the summer, it's a no-no. Summer is about showing off what you have - you don't want to look like you're covering up. Also, it's hot and uncomfortable, and no one likes a sweaty gusset.

What the dresses also have in common is an immensely flattering waistline. As I mentioned, I loathe the empire line trend - I've seen beautifully slim girls wearing empire line dresses, and every single one looks pregnant. Empire line dresses are only good if you really are trying to hide some flab - but if not, steer clear.

If you're merely a little well-covered, and like the fact that Christmas means more meals out and bigger portions and an excuse to eat cake for breakfast - and who doesn't? - then just drop the waist a little. All these dresses have a fairly high waist, but it still falls at the waist. At the slimmest part, no less - and the skirt starts to fall before a tighter number would begin to curve in underneath your belly. Therefore - no belly. Because nothing ruins a party dress like worrying about every lump and bump - you won't feel comfortable, and it will show.

So here is a recap, with my golden rules for injecting some fierce into your party season:

1 - Comfort. Don't air the bits you hate - find skilful ways of covering them up. You're not going to learn to love them overnight. Black tights work for any leg hangups, they can pull in a tummy and teamed with black heels, will make your legs go on forever. And they look classy. Arms - flowy sleeves, kicky cardigans, retro wraps. The bits in between - you just have to find the right dress for your shape. Now is the season!

2 - Killer heels. They elongate legs, and if the office pervert won't leave you alone, they'll do some nice damage to his calves if you aim a kick just right. Or the good old stamp-and-impale.

3 - Accessorise. The golden rules of accessorising are if you are wearing a statement colour or item, that will accessorise for you. Keep everything else simple. If you are wearing a simple black number then pile on the bright eyeshadow and awesome jewellery. When in doubt, accessorise with black. It's not boring - it's classy.

4 - Don't overkill. Legs OR boobs. Eyes OR lips. Long earrings OR a chunky necklace (if one is big, the other should be simple or not at all.)

5 - Drink enough to be witty, but not so much that you can't be understood. Unless you're at a lame party with no attractive men and a couple of good friends, in which case tequila is always an answer.

That was longer than I intended.

- Sarah

17 November 2007

I was born in an old boarding house

If you ask me what my favorite holiday is, I will say Christmas. It's not a lie; I love all the baking and gift giving and, God help me, carol-singing. But if there is a holiday that I love almost as much as Christmas, it's Thanksgiving. It's got it all! Cool weather (not this year), family, and best of all, tables and tables of food. I am a fan of any holiday which revolves primarily around being a glutton, and T-day fits the bill. Despite my misgivings about Pilgrims and genocide and canned cranberry jelly, I am here to say: I love the shit out of Thanksgiving, y'all.

My mom's family tries to get together every year for at least Thanksgiving or Christmas. This year, we're having a family reunion for Thanksgiving. I can already predict that we will have a roasted turkey, a fried turkey, and a ham, that the desserts will flow like the River of Life, and that we will all gang up on my grandfather and make him sing the Tater Pie song.

You see, my mom's side of the family is not what anyone would call vocally talented. As a group, we could probably audition for American Idol and be one of those acts who's brought back during the finale to be humiliated some more. We. Cannot. Sing. But that doesn't stop us from cajoling, bribing or downright threatening the Callahan patriarch into singing the Tater Pie song. The holiday just isn't the holiday without it, and no sweet potatoes can be consumed without the blessing of the Tater Pie song. It goes like this:

Well, I was born in an old boarding house
And they fed me on cold tater pie
I thought to myself
Surely I would die
Choked to death on that cold tater pie

Tater Pie (Tater Pie)
Tater Pie (Tater Pie)
Choked to death on
That cold Tater Pie

That's it. That's the whole song. And believe me when I say that when my grandfather sings it (with the kids and grandkids [and now, great-grandkids] as backup), it sounds like nothing so much as an alley full of feral cats, howling about yams. It's not pretty, people.

But the song is important, because without the song it just wouldn't be a holiday feast, and without the feast, we couldn't have Sweet Potato Souffle. Sweet Potato Souffle was a recipe some member of my family cribbed off of some Southern cookbook long ago, and it has been our constant and faithful companion, lo these many years hence. It is fantastic: light and fluffy, sweet but not rich. I personally am not a fan of drowning sweet potatoes, who have never done anything to anyone except provide them with excellent nutritional value at half the carb-price, in a purgatory of mini-marshmallows, which is why Sweet Potato Souffle is so appealing to me. Plus, this is the dish that my aunt Gina makes every year (Aunt Gina: Friendly and Great At Math. Not So Much With The Cooking, Though.), so you know it's pretty much impossible to fuck up. Try making it for yourself this holiday season!

Sweet Potato Souffle


4 large sweet potatoes
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 stick butter

For Topping:

1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. melted butter
1 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. all-purpose flour

1) Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour. (Make sure you bake them on a pan/wrapped in foil so that the sugar doesn't drip all over your oven.) Let cool enough to peel skin off.

2) Mash sweet potatoes with ricer/fists of vengeance.

3) Add butter, vanilla, eggs, sugar and milk. Beat well until light and fluffy.

4) Pour into buttered casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

-Meanwhile, back at the lab-

5) Mix topping ingredients together; toss to make sure everything is well-coated.

6) Spread over sweet potatoes. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until firm.

et, voila! Simple, easy and delicious! Find an octogenarian to sing you the Tater Pie song and dig in!

14 November 2007

"This book had better end with Anne Boleyn getting beheaded, because she is a fucking bitch."

Anytime I spend time at my parents' house, I turn into something of a magpie. I just can't seem to stop myself from "picking up" something and "accidentally" depositing it at my own apartment. Not big things - I don't take money or their collection of fine china or one of my dad's guitars - I just tend to filch the small, comforting things to spruce up my own nest back home. Books, old clothes no one wears anymore, forgotten Christmas decorations, that sort of thing. And sometimes bottles of champers from the fridge out in the garage, but my mom caught me at this once a year ago and scolded me until I replaced it. I tried to spin it to my mom by saying that I just missed home so much that I needed pieces of it around me at all times, even the booze, but she called my bluff and told me to move back in if that were true. So then I just admitted that I can't afford nice things and have too much of an appetite for said items. She said that was okay, but to please stop stealing her Kitchen-Aid food processor and bottles of White Star. From now on, I try to stick to lifting her books. This is actually guilt-free, as my mom, unlike me, does not reread most books. So I'm actually just taking them off her hands and allowing her to free up more space for new books. (I'm, like, a really awesome daughter.) This weekend while I was over at my parents' house, I snatched up my mom's copy of The Other Boleyn Girl and took it home with me.

My friend Mere read The Other Boleyn Girl a few months ago when she was starting on her her Tudor biographies and historical fiction kick. She would email me and update me on the status of the book, and tell me all about how Mary Boleyn instructed Anne Boleyn in the art of the BJ (in order to keep old Henry interested) and that, later, there was incest. Incest and frank sex discussion? Sign me up! I was actually expecting (and hoping) that the book would basically just be a VC Andrews manuscript with various Boleyns instead of Cathy and Chris. Sadly, this was not to be.

The Other Boleyn Girl is the story of Mary Boleyn, mistress to King Henry VIII (and King Francis of France, not that you'd know it from this book) and Anne Boleyn's sister. In the book, she is long-suffering and humble, and her sister Anne is a royal bitchface who probably drinks the blood of slain chickens on the night of a full moon. I wonder if author Philippa Gregory is bearing some long-seething Catholic rage towards Anne Boleyn, because I was always taught in grade school that Anne Boleyn was a wise, strong woman who strengthened the power of the throne and sought to unify the country under one church of England. Then again, they never taught us about blowjobs or incest in grade school, either, so it's clear my education was sorely lacking. (Thank you, V.C. Andrews. At least someone cared enough to teach me these things!)

In the book, Mary must step aside and sacrifice much of her own happiness to help Anne ensnare the heart of the King. She does this, mostly, by teaching Anne what my old Sociology prof would call an "Abstinance+" education, or, in other words, Everything But. You know, what you do on a first date. Before you go out to the restaurant. Anne successfully sucks and strokes her way to the throne and turns into a terrible shrieking harpy in the meantime. She does seem to lighten up some once Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon is annulled and Anne is knocked up with the fetus who will later become Elizabeth I. I will just say this: if Good Queen Bess actually did practice abstinance up until her death, it was not a trait she came by genetically.

For all this sounds like a complaint, I am actually genuinely enjoying the book. Its inaccuracies are staggering in number, but it's just trashy enough that I don't care about the parts that are wrong. Plus, I have a book!crush on George Boleyn, who is pervy on both his sister and Sir Francis Weston and is a delightful cad. I've still got about 100 more pages to go in the book, and it's starting to really pick up here at the end, which is surprising since I already know how the story goes. King Henry and Queen Anne live happily ever after, right?

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

13 November 2007

Synthetic Does Not Burn Clean

This morning I attended a Veterans Day ceremony/flag retirement at work. I am not what you would call a particularly patriotic person - I'm kind of a chicken and really lazy, so you'd never see me volunteering for active duty in the United States Military. I don't go in for decorating in red, white and blue bunting and I didn't even know the words to "America the Beautiful" until they started singing it at baseball games after 9/11. Actually, that's a lie - I still don't know the words, nor do I feel the need to learn them. I mean, what's more American than "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," anyway?

Even though I'm not lining up to reverently sing along to Lee Greenwood's "Proud To Be An American" (which was a song the school made us sing when we were in 3rd grade and which, even at the time, I thought was really kind of trite and poorly-composed), I appreciate those people who serve in the military. So outside to the flag ceremony I hied.

I've never been to a flag retirement ceremony, so I didn't really know what to expect. The local ROTC were there, looking very somber. The members of the ROTC in my school usually tried to beat me up, so I refused to be charmed by this group's hats or their multitude of medals. There was an emcee who asked all the veterans to step forward and then he recited a poem about, like, people in the military. I'm sure you know what kind of poem I'm talking about - it's the kind of poem that is sent to you in an email forward by about twelve people in your office on any given day. The email is always accompanied by some cheesy American flag .gif and, like, a bear dressed up as Uncle Sam and it ends with an exhortation to forward this email to 15 other people if you love God and Country. The poem always rhymes "pride" with "tried" and never rhymes "flag" with "slag" and generally makes me weep for this nation's artistic merits. I mean, as patriotic verse goes, it's no "O Captain! My Captain!"

After they read the Bad Poem For America, the ROTC retired the flags. First, they took them down, then they folded them (not quite as sharply as I assume they should have. I would not let these ROTC members fold my extra set of sheets.) and then, with a great deal of ceremony, they tossed them into the flaming barbeque pit! I thought that pit was going to be used for a delicious rib dinner after the ceremony. Let me tell you, there were no delicious ribs being grilled.

Which all leads me to today's Thing I Don't Love: synthetic fibers. I don't know if you know this, but most American flags are now made out of nylon. It seems to me that if we are all so het up to fly a symbol of our country - and try to criminalize any actions taken against that symbol by protestors or people who just enjoy defacing things - we might want to do as Tim Gunn would suggest, and use only natural fibers in production of said symbol. Cotton is The Fabric Of Our Lives[TM], people. It is what we entrust to enrobe our bottoms, what keeps our feet sweat-free and cool, the material to which we cling steadfastly, even when it starts to fade and sort of starts to resemble Swiss cheese. Don't we want Our Nation's Greatest Symbol (note: Bald Eagle not Our Nation's Greatest Symbol. I am afraid of birds.) to have the same benefits that we afford our bosoms when we support them with Victoria Secret's Pink Collection cotton bras?

Because I am here to tell you, nation: burned nylon is really fucking disgusting. The smoke immediately became thick and black and acrid; ashes rained down upon us like shrapnel from an unholy war of diamines and diacids. My lungs became clogged and my eyes started watering. I couldn't even finish choking out the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner," one of the few patriotic songs I really enjoy (trumpets! rocket's red glare! This is exciting stuff!).

On the other hand, people at work now think that I'm extremely patriotic. "Wow," my coworker said to me as we turned to go back inside, "you got really emotional there at the end. Are you okay?"

"Yeah," I replied. "That poem was just really powerful."


Listening To: Cansei de Ser Sexy - "Music is My Hot, Hot Sex"

12 November 2007

Welcome; Voxtrot

Hi. Welcome to our blog. I am no good at introductory posts or, in fact, manners, so let's just pretend that I have verbally rolled out the welcome mat for you all. We shall agree that I inquired after your health, complimented your sweater/hair/shoes/mustache, and that I was incredibly witty and urbane and you were charmed by me.

Okay? Great.

So, it's Monday, which is generally a Thing I Don't Love, not that my ire is particularly surprising or unique. Does anyone love Mondays? Do you think there is someone out there who is like, "Awesome! Monday! I can't wait to deal with that mound of paperwork at the office! Man, sitting around all weekend and having fun with friends and family is for losers!" Perhaps people who love their jobs feel like that. I wouldn't know.

But, as I was saying, it's Monday, which means it's time for me to wax poetic about some band or singer that I think more people should enjoy. I was trying to decide who today's band would be, but I couldn't concentrate because I had a Voxtrot song stuck in my head and it just wouldn't go away, not even when I plugged up my ears and sang "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" under my breath. That's some powerfully engaging music, there, when it can even outlast ditties debating the relative dietary habits of gift hippos who live in garages.

Voxtrot are a five-piece indie band from Austin, TX (my old stomping grounds), who sound more like they should be from Sheffield or something. They've been around for a few years, but they're finally starting to get some publicity. Sadly for me, this seems to entail them spending all their time touring England in lieu of sticking around Texas. Then my friend Kaisa sends me emails about their gigs over in London and how she's stayed out till 5 am the night before because the band can't seem to find their way around Shoreditch. It's the email equivalent of her sticking her tongue out at me and saying, "Na na, I stole your charming indie band; can't have them back!"

I may be editorializing, slightly.

But if you're in the mood for bouncy, fun indie rock that will have you singing along, hours later when you are TRYING to get some damn work done, Voxtrot is for you. Just, for fuck's sake, if you are so unfortunate as to live somewhere outside of the great Republic of Texas, give them back when you're done.