Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's Opera, Dick?

This past Saturday, I had one of the more surreal moments of my life. And considering my life, that's saying something.

I had Paw Duty, taking my dad around to all the places he needs to go to get his shopping done. It turned out to be short and easy and fun, and we had a nice day. But that wasn't the surreal part. It's always kind of fun to go out with Paw. We laugh a lot.

But boy, did we laugh on Saturday.

I got into the car to head out for Paw Duty, and my radio was turned to the only station I ever listen to. See, I'm not big on the radio as a rule, and when my radio is on, it's only turned to one station. The NPR station out of R'noke.

My favorite Saturdays are "Saturday Classics" afternoons. I don't know, I like them. The fare is light and recognizable, and the announcer is happy and makes the occasional classical music joke, and it's generally just a happy few hours of show.

However, all that fun and frivolity comes to a screeching halt when The Met is in session. That would be your Metropolitan Opera, and when they rev up their motors, local programming is no more.

And apparently The Met had decided to put on a big show Saturday.

Now, I don't have a bit of trouble admitting that I'm just your regular old gal, and I hate opera. I think it's dumb. I don't get it. Sure, I might like the one-off song from an opera, "Largo al Factotum" comes to mind most readily, but I like Michigan J Frog's Looney Tunes version way more than any tenor who might be singing it on a stage. And many's the time Mr M and I have entertained ourselves singing the lines from "What's Opera, Doc?," "Oh, Bwoomhilda, you'we so wovewy." "Yes I know it, I can't helllp it."

But there it was. I got in the car on Saturday and started it up, and there was opera staring me right in the ear.

However, after only a few seconds of listening, I realized something odd. This wasn't your run of the mill old-time Italian or German or French fare. This opera was...well, it was modern!

And it was weird! I wasn't sure I'd ever encountered a modern opera. So I listened on the five or so minutes to Granny and Paw's, and that's when I first began seeing my soul lift from my body and hover around.

I mean, it was opera and no mistake. Overblown voices singing their dialogue. (That's what I hate about opera. Sing the damn songs and speak your dialogue, thank you very much!) But the dialogue was just, well, it was weird. "Ahhhhh, we're in the car, and we're driving, and isn't it looooovely!"

Shaking my head, I arrived at Paw's. He was waiting for me at the door and came out to the car. I didn't have to turn off this piece of weirdness. When he entered the car, I hiked the volume a bit and told him I was listening to possibly the oddest thing I'd ever heard.

And so we headed to the store and listened. Paw seemed to be as bemused as I was, and when a soprano sang, "This is a lovely piiiiece of laaaand, what a beautiful spot for a piiiiicnic!" we both got the helpless giggles and tried our damnedest to figure out what in the hell this must be about. Paw started calling it the "Down Home Opry," about country people going out to have an "all day meetin' and dinner on the grass," and I took to calling it (via the Andy Griffith Show) the "Traveling Religion Opera," about Pentecostals traveling along trying to convert people. But sadly, we reached our store, and we had to leave our show.

So we went in the grocery and got our stuff done. And came back to the car, started it up, and this piece of theatrical claptrap was still going on. We laughed just at the fact that it was still going, and still tried to figure out what in the hell these people were singing about. We didn't get far.

I got back to Paw's, and helped him carry in groceries, and hung out with him and Granny for a little while. But I had to get back home again, to tend to Milo and to make a meat loaf because Mr M was coming over that night. I got in the car to go home. The opera was still, well, raging.

And I say "raging" because things had really picked up since I left Paw! A man was using a whip on another man! And he was singing, "I'll use my whiiiiip! Whip! (crack!) Whip! (crack!) Whip! (crack!) Whip! (crack!)" And a woman was wailing, "Ohhhh, do not whiiiiip that maaaaan!"

And that's the first time I started to think, "Oooh, this is an opera about the Civil War!"

And that thought was all but confirmed for me when a man sang, "See him standing like a Stooooonewall! [Stonewall Jackson, right?] And he [and I'm not making this up, folks] stinks, stinks, stinks, stinks, stinks with success!"

Well, I was having a surreal ball, and I had to run just a quick couple of errands for myself before going home, and man, was I happy about that, because I got to listen to this shit some more, and then came the point where I got back in my car to finally start heading home, and then something musical slapped me right in my rube face.

After the whipping (crack!) and the Stonewall and the stinking with success, all of a sudden the music slowed down, and a woman started to sing. And here's what she sang.

"IIIIIIIIIII am the wiiiiiiife of Maaaaaao Zedonnnnnnnnng!"


Well, this just put me into outer space, and I was almost home at that point, my soul beating me and my car home by a few minutes, and to be honest, I just wanted to sit in my car for the next half-hour and listen to this awful drek-o-rama.


But I remembered I had the R'noke NPR station tuned in on iTunes!

I got out of the car, loaded my groceries and other sundries into the house, pulled up iTunes, and played NPR in the house. It was 3:30. I was thinking there couldn't be more than a half-hour left of all this, I mean, "Weekend Edition" had to start soon. And after that half-hour, when it was all over, I'd have to hear what in the fucking hell I'd been listening to.

I listened while I made up the meat loaf. I listened while I spot-cleaned the house. I was done until Mr M came, and this crapola was still going on. I sat down at the computer and continued listening.

And then, finally. Massive applause. It was over!

Well, it wasn't over, but the second act was. And after the second act ended, an announcer came on telling me what the hell I'd been listening to off and on for the last 3 hours.

And hey, there might be people out there way smarter and more erudite than I, and you might already know, but I had been listening to an opera called "Nixon in China." Written by someone named John Adams (no, not the president) in 1987 (see?).

And I almost turned it off there and then, having gotten my answer and expecting Mr M, but I figured, "Oh, what the hell. I've invested this much time in it, why quit now?"

And boy, am I glad I decided that. Because what I've had missed....

As Mr Announcer told us his very self, Act 3 of "Nixon in China" takes place while Henry Kissinger is in the bathroom. (I guess this allowed Nixon and Mao to converse freely between themselves.)

And so I got to hear the opening of the act, where a big-voiced man playing Kissinger sang, with gusto, "IIIII have to gooooo to the tooooilet! Wherrrrre is the toooooooilet?"

I kid you not. I totally blacked out at that point and remember nothing after it.

And so at 5:00 it was finally over (four hours after it began), and "Weekend Edition" finally began. But it didn't matter what the news of that day was, nothing could beat a place for a picnic, a man being whipped, and Henry Kissinger having to pee.

And yes, it was still dumb, but it was dumb in a way that made me and Paw laugh hysterically together. After it was all over, I called Paw and told him what we'd been listening to, about how I started to think it was about the Civil War, then the wife of Mao Zedong showing up, and about Henry Kissinger going to the bathroom. And he laughed even more.

And so, thanks, Mr John Adams. I know you wrote your opera in all seriousness, and have probably entertained highbrow people and made them think and rub their chins and discuss your work at dinner parties, but you also unknowingly made a regular old gal and her regular old dad laugh together and have a really fun bonding afternoon.

I doubt you'd appreciate that very much, but the gal and her dad sure do.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy and Paw

Oh, Lord have mercy. First blog of the week, and I already have to apologize. Man, that's a bad pun, even for me.

But you see, I watched the Grammys last night. I wasn't going to admit that in public, but now that I have, I guess I may as well blog about it.

"Grammy?" OK, that's obvious. I guess "Paw" would refer to Mick Jagger showing up.

Now, I have to tell you right up front, I have hated the Grammys my whole life. And that's kind of what prompted this whole blog. You see, I would normally not watch them under any circumstances, seeing as how, well, I've hated them my whole life. But a couple of things happened that got me watching this year.

First of all, there was nothing else on TV last night. At all. And I was home with a lot of free time. And second, I heard the Avett Brothers were performing.

OK, so the stage was set for me to tune in. But wait. There's kind of a third thing, one that goes into the whole "I've hated the Grammys my whole life" thing.

See, as anyone who's read any of the press about the Grammys today knows, the big story of the night is that someone won the Best New Artist Grammy that apparently only 1% of the population has heard of. Her name is Esperanza Spalding. To be honest, I'd never heard of her either, but she seemed to be a lovely girl, and she plays jazz bass, which is just fine by me.

She won over several more popular artists, namely Drake (who began life on "Degrassi: The Next Generation") and some little dude with a lot of hair named Justin Bieber.

And the Bieber fans are livid about this. How dare some unknown take the Grammy away from their Chosen One, their version of Jesus, Our Lord, at least for the last 12 or so months.

And this, my friends, is why I'm writing my whole Grammy (and Paw) blog tonight.

The reason I began hating the Grammys is because I watched them when I was a kid, and none of the people I liked won. I liked teen idols as a kid? Then Sinatra and Dean Martin won. I liked Elton John as a teenager? Then Fleetwood Mac and Jethro Tull won. It was maddening. "What's wrong with these people? Don't they know good music when they hear it?"

And there are two things I could say about this. The first is that no, they don't know good music when they hear it. They're bloated fatcats who vote for who they want to, and you'd better like it or lump it. The second is that no, you're a kid and your taste in music sucks, so you'd better like it or lump it.

And that is exactly what I'd like to say to the people last night whose favorites didn't win. The Grammys will never make you happy, so please, do what I did. Realize that they do in fact suck, thumb your noses at them, and go out and discover the people they don't reward with their little grammophone trophies.

Elvis Costello didn't win Best New Artist? Well, fuck you, Grammy People, I'm going out to find people even more obscure than Elvis (at the time)! And I did, and I'm glad I did.

So there. That's out of the way.

Now, about last night's show. Whew, where to start. First of all, as I was sure it would, it made me feel very old. I generally have no trouble admitting I'm way out of the loop where today's music is concerned, but Holy Jumping Shitballs, it was brought home to me during last night's show. I may have known a few names of people throughout the night, but there were few to whom I could explain their nominations this year.

So of course, the nominees and winners meant little, but I got over that, because over the years I've come to expect that.

However, there were a few points that I did care about, enough to have the whole show get up my nose. (Which happens every time I watch, and I even expect it, which begs the question, "Why do I watch?" and the only reason I have for this is that I am the proverbial glutton for punishment.)

And so I shall try to address them here, quickly, but you know me, so it probably won't be so quickly.

OK, here we go.

1. During the Grammys I saw: "The Wannabe" Lief Garret, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Tammy Wynette, Joy Division, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, James Brown - can't anyone be original? Is this what 2011 has brought us to?

2. When did the Grammys decide that the whole show would be (first) performances all night? I had watched the damn show for over an hour, and after that over an hour, only one grammophone had been given out. At the end of the night, and I don't know, I'm totally guessing here, no more than 15 awards (of roughly 4000) had been presented.

3. When did the Grammys decide that the whole show would be (second) all these odd combinations of people singing together? Can't one artist just come out and sing a song? (OK, apparently they can, Arcade Fire did just that.) But it seemed no one could take the stage last night unless they were accompanied by at least two other people. And OK, fine, seeing John Mayer (hate), Norah Jones (hate), and Keith Urban (don't care) doing a version of "Jolene" was great (it really was nice), and seeing my Avetts with Mumford and Sons (I saw them for the first time and they were good) and Bob Dylan (well, what can you say?) were great too - it seems they just want to frontload all the stars to make you overload, like having too much cotton candy at the state fair.

4. Speaking of having 4000 Grammys now, remember when they used to have commercial breaks or downtime where they read the "lesser cared-about" awards? Before breaking for Revlon or Target, someone came out and read the "Best Traditional Polka" or "Best Spoken Word Under 4 Minutes?" Well, screw that - apparently no one cares anymore, so if you won a Grammy for that, you're screwed. In fact, your Grammy (and Paw) listening at home never got to hear your unknown name mentioned. Hey, if winning a Grammy is so important, why the hell don't they at least read your name? Oh yeah, because Justin Bieber needs to dance with Usher.

5. Since when is it OK at the Grammys to lip sync? I don't care what anyone else says, Lady Gaga was lip syncing. And hell, let's get this out of the way right now: that song she "wrote" is just Madonna's "Express Yourself" - I mean, why else would I have been singing "Express Yourself" all day today at work - no other reason - but she was hopping and dancing and running around, and there was not a single hard breath in her microphone. Not a bounce while she was hopping. She was lip syncing, and anyone who says otherwise is a fool. Oh, and someone in the press today mentioned that Rhiana (yeah, right, Rhiana, like she has talent) dropped her microphone at one point to her waist, and her vocals still continued loud and strong.

6. Mr and Mrs Will Smith, would you please take your kids out of the public eye and put them in school? Hell, put them in "Half-a -Day" school, so then you can use the other half a day to send them to acting and singing school. They are not talented, they're regular untalented kids. Stop using your famous feet to kick through the door to make them famous now. It does nothing but give them a false sense of security and talent, and annoys the rest of us. Let them try again when they're 18 or so and have a little learning under their belts. Your son is not a singer or actor, and your daughter is not a singer or fashion designer. You all seem like nice enough folks, but this shoving of your kids down our throats when they're so untalented makes me want to punch your kids in the face, which I know you don't want, so teach them a little first, OK??

7. This is the Grammys. It's about music. Or so I thought. Why are Seth Rogen and Jason Siegel there introducing acts? Besides the fact that they movies to promote? Why are Eva Longoria and Selma Blair and Kim Kardashian getting coverage for showing up? We have enough celebrities in each category - we don't need to cross-breed.

8. I'd heard of Arcade Fire, but didn't know anything by them. And though their first performance was widely panned, I have to say I loved it. OK, the bike riders onstage were more then lame, but they themselves - 8 or 10 people making up a band, thrashing, people singing into bullhorns, a keyboardist screaming for five minutes into a microphone - that's excellent, and I'm happy you won the so-called best Grammy of the night, even though I may never listen to you again. (Although the fact that when you did win the so-called best Grammy of the night, you went to sing again, which seemed more than rigged.)

9. Ricky Martin, if you ever wear silver lam�é pants again, I'm hiring a hit man on you. I mean it. You've already come out. We all know it now. You don't have to advertise anymore.

10. Gwenyth Paltrow, you are an actress. A marginal actress, with a couple of good performances. You are not a singer. Your voice is mediocre at best, and that's stretching it. Quit singing, on television and with recording artists better than you are.

11. What in the hell happened to country music? A lame-ass country song won both Song of the Year and Record of the Year, and a couple of other grammophones, and the song that won for Best Country Song was not only lame, but a total rip-off of a fantastic song from a decade ago, "This Old House," by the Rice Brothers. You have some atoning to do, Country Music - go to Robbie Fulks and genuflect.

12. Dear Grammys: We know you only gave out 15 (or so, I'm still guessing) awards last night, but with all those silly performances, your show was 3 1/2 hours long? If you're not going to give out real awards, and not even announce the "lesser" (to you only) awards of the night, anything over three hours is a crime against humanity. And I'm thinking of having you brought up on the charges.

OK, so that said, I fell off to sleep a little after the Grammys ended (30 minutes - at least - overtime), but I drifted in sleep in fits and starts, shaking with the knowledge of what music has become.

Hey, maybe that's why I don't sleep anymore. I know what music has become. Or not.

On an up note, though, Gwyneth aside, I like that "Fuck You" song by Cee-Lo. It's catchy and funny. He should have been allowed to do it alone, and with all the profanities intact. Oh, and much as I hate to admit it, Mick Jagger ("Paw") doing Solomon Burke was fine indeed. He danced longer than I ever could have, and he's older than I am.

Seacrest out.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Milo played at the dog park yesterday. However, he rolled in the dirt for 45 minutes with a Schnauzer. Like you do. He is so filthy he's like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown - you pat his back, and a cloud of dirt appears. I hope I have the strength to throw him in the shower tonight. Or at least tomorrow night.


Monday, February 07, 2011

Picture Monday

Ooooh! Yes! The elusive Picture Monday has reared his head!

Well, it's all a mistake on my part, really.

I had complete plans for a Picture Sunday. You see, of course, on Thursday I saw my beloved Hackensaw Boys.

It was a bit of an odd show. Boys in fine form, make no mistake, and as sweet as ever. However, the sound was horrible, some local guy (I think) was doing it, and I don't understand why, after the sound check and everyone's happy with their mike levels, those levels can't just stay exactly where they are. But no, they'd go up and down, every time someone came in to sing lead his mike would be off and there'd be silence, while the backing fellows would be nice and loud. It got to be right maddening.

Also, I didn't have Taytie and Paul, my boys, there to dance at the front with, I went with my cousin Jacob. And not only is she more of a sitter at concerts, she was also nursing a mighty bad cold that night. So we took a table (on really uncomfortable "high stools" - those things are murder if you have short legs), and watched from pretty much the back of the room. However, once I ventured to the front near the end of the show to take some pictures, I realized it was so hot up there I probably wouldn't have survived stage-side, anyway.

Ahh, pictures. I did mention those.

It was toward the end of the show I ventured up for pictures because I was on a mission. Well, to be honest, Sherman and I were on a mission. See, as those with me from the beginning of my Hackensaw Odyssey may remember, it's kind of a tradition for Sherman to have his picture made with anyone who plays onstage as a Hackensaw Boy. He gets the new members, the substitutes, the regulars ... and they're not just him sitting on the stage with them, they're actual portrait pictures!

Well, as would happen, there has been a new percussion/charismo player of late, seeing how Justin (Salvage Hackensaw) is stuck in California. Well, he's not so much stuck, he's there with his wife doing art and being happy and only playing gigs on the west coast. In his place has appeared Nugget Hackensaw. He was most excellent onstage, drumming and banging and singing and being very happy and cordial, and so Sherman and I headed out right before the end of the concert to get his picture made with the newest Hackensaw.

I snapped several concert pics near the front of the stage, then it all ended, and I went looking for Nugget (whose name is Brian) to make a total fool of myself. And - I did just that! I told him about the tradition of Sherman, he laughed, especially when I mentioned he would now be in the Sherman Club, and he sweetly and happily posed for a picture with the boy, Sherman in one hand, can of beer in the other.

Then after it was all over and Cousin Jacob and I were out in the car, that I realized something horrid. Seems I don't know my new Christmas camera quite as well as I thought. Sure, it was the updated version of the one I had before it, and I just assumed all was well as I was snapping. The concert pictures were bad. The picture of Nugget and Sherman, horrible. So blurry not even Paint Shop Pro could fix it.

Epic Hackensaw fail. I'm surprised Sherman forgave me.

And so that was that. I had no pics for Picture Sunday. I mean, I wasn't so worried about concert pics of The Boys, you've seen a million here. But I wanted that Sherman picture with the New Boy. I gave up and went to bed Sunday.

But! But!

I got up this morning and had to get the trash out, which meant doing Poo Duty!

Now, last week here in B'field we had some massive winds. The kind that I feared when taking Milo out for a pee, I'd be flying him around like he was a kite. I got up the next morning after said winds, and yes, my poo container, where I keep all my little seal-tight baggies of Milo's poo for the week, had clean blown away.

Now, this poo container was anchored down by a full gallon can of paint inside it for heft. When I got up that morning, the can of paint was still around. And the lid, some 50 yards away. And 10 or so sealed bags of poo, all over the yard. But no poo container itself. Blown clean away.
And so I had to head out to the store to buy a brand new poo container.

When I got to the store, they did not have the indiscreet gray container I had before. They had navy blue, clear (clear? ack! everyone can see it's poo!), and a deep pink. I chose the deep pink, thinking somehow it would match my new burgundy roof and my old burgundy shutters. It doesn't. But it is distinctive, and hopefully will give at least one passerby a smile.

But here's the thing. Didn't notice it at all until this morning, after I'd wearily dragged out three (yes, three, I've been cleaning out the back bedroom) huge bags of trash this morning, and it was time to fill one of them with the contents of the new poo container, that I noticed this golden nugget.

I flipped off the lid of the new poo container, and noticed a sticker on the inside of the lid. And this is what that sticker was.

Yes! Listen to me, friends! Parents, do not, under any circumstances, put your baby in the poo container! First of all, it's outside in the freezing cold. It is also still anchored down with a full gallon can of paint, so the baby will be very cramped. Plus, how traumatized will the little tyke be, snapped into that container with a week's full of poo?

Heed my warning before it's too late!

I mean, really. Put the baby in an airtight container? What have we come to?

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
*Milo finished his round of meds today. I am totally convinced he will go back to his old ways now that it's done, and that I have a perpetually stressed-out doggie, and that we will just get together and jitter ourselves into oblivion.