I want to go back to that place 'where everybody knows your name.' Not that anyone there actually knew my name, but you get the idea.


Was it Ernest Hemingway who said, "Write drunk, edit sober?"  I'm reading a novelized account of his relationship with his wife Hadley for book club.  I'm LOVING it.  But then I love most all historical romance.  Who doesn't?  The romantic fantasy was actually REAL.  Sort of.  Anyway, that thing about writing drunk and editing sober.  I say one out of two ain't bad!  Unless you're in school.  Then that is bad.  That's an F.

Speaking of school, I used to go to it, like most people.  Waaay back in my younger years when I lived at home and it was mandatory.  Back in those days, there was a little TV show that would be on late at night.  Not M*A*S*H-late, but like after-TGIF-was-over-late.  It was a bunch of boring adults talking about boring adult things in a bar.  'How very boring,' I thought as a child.  I want cute surfer boys and girls who wear glasses and at least one school dance every few episodes.  But no.  I was stuck with Cheers.  'Don't these people have lives,' I wondered?

Little did I know that as an adult I would watch Cheers from beginning to end, and be forever changed.    Forever changed in a 'that TV show meant a lot to me' kind of way, not a 'I'm going to reexamine my life' kind of way.  Because really, the last thing Cheers would ever do is tell you to reexamine your life. You know what happened on Cheers when people reexamined their lives?  THEY LEFT CHEERS.  WHICH USUALLY ALSO MEANT LEAVING CHEERS.  In other words, it only led to bad things.

I know that when I went through 11 seasons of M*A*S*H there was a natural withdrawal phase that was painful and sad.  But at the end of the day, those people made it out of Korea!  Out of the horrific hell of war, and back to their families and lives in America!  To be too sad about that would make me a complete sadist.  No, no matter how much I loved Alan Alda in army green, I could never wish another year, another month, another day of the Korean War on Hawkeye Pierce.  I just couldn't.

The difference with Cheers is, there was nothing for the characters to gain by the show ending.  I knew that they could have gone on with the usual hijinks and missteps and glorious times together, but the network or the producers or the cast or whoever just chose not to.  But in the finale (spoilers) nothing happens to the bar!  It doesn't close or burn down or get a new owner. I know you might think that made me happy, but it didn't!  That's painful.  It felt like my neighborhood bar had decided that instead of shutting down, they'd just ban me forever from coming inside.

So much happened in that bar.   Weddings.  Fights.  Contests.  Sex.  Gambling.  Singing.  The creation and dissipation of relationships.  Death.  Birth.  And a whole lot of drinking.  Not to mention, this man, its owner:

Jesus Christ on a cracker.  Yes, he was a horrible philanderer.  A frequent cad.  A legendary louse.  And sure, the fact that he called every woman he interacted with 'sweetheart' or 'hon' or 'baby' instead of their real name should really offend me, as a woman, and as a feminist.  And of course he has that weird, neanderthal brow that would give David Boreanaz a run for his money.  And I suppose you could point out that he had no ass to speak of whatsoever.  But my God, the way that man could drink a cup of coffee.  Or chew a beer nut.  Or wear a pink sweater.  Or sexually harass a co-worker.  I couldn't help myself.  It was love.  Pure, TV-character-love.  The purest kind if you really think about it.

Sam Malone loved his friends.  He looked after them.  He'd do anything for them.  And his adorable vanity and ignorance!  Ted Danson (and his writers) made a character I should have loved to hate into a character I loved to love and love some more.  It''s almost as if Hawkeye Pierce came back from the war, decided to give up alcohol (and medicine), turned into Ted Danson, and bought a bar.  (Not really.  Hawkeye would never leave Crabapple Cove.)

Of course when I tell people I watched all 11 seasons, the natural question arrives: who do you prefer, Diane or Rebecca?  And my answer is complicated!  Which is why it's the last question they ask me and try to breach a new subject as soon as possible.

(If you didn't know, the loss of Diane and gaining of Rebecca sort of mark the two separate 'books' (each season being a chapter in said books) of the show, much like Trapper John leaving M*A*S*H and the arrival of Bj.  I promise to stop making M*A*S*H comparisons at some point.  Though one went off the air right after another started!)

You see, Diane was a brilliant feminist!  She was basically the female Frasier (which is why they were so perfect for each other, if not for how alike they were...).  Diane was a kind of Elizabeth Bennet.  A horrific snob, but a well-intentioned one.  With her impeccable taste, extensive education, and total belief in herself, she also possessed a darling desire to see other people succeed and achieve happiness. HOWEVER.

Diane would constantly, CONSTANTLY, make fun of Sam's intelligence.  He deserved to be teased for many, many things, but his intelligence was not one of them.  Or at least shouldn't always be one of them.  I'm glad that Sam--who seemed to only be interested in vapid women with weak personalities--would try so hard to be with Diane, ever proposing to her, what, 5 times?  I liked that he enjoyed her kind, if misdirected, attempts at interfering with other people's lives for their 'betterment' and wasn't put off by her extensive vocabulary, extremely modest clothing, or impossibly high standards.  BUT.  Shelley Long, bless her soul, left Cheers.  Hell, she left Sam at the altar!  And that, coupled with her often too-cruel jabs at his lack of intelligence, keep her from being my preferred female protagonist.

Then we have Rebecca.  Rebecca is easy to poke fun at because she's a total gold digger  trying to gain money and status above all else.  In many ways this makes her Sam's equal: he's shallow enough to hit on anyone in heels, she's shallow enough to hit on anyone with a yacht.  She depends more on Sam than Diane ever did in terms of moral support and consolation.  She makes fun of Sam, but more about his womanizing than his brain, which I prefer.  His dim-wittedness is one of his greatest charms!  God, what's happened to me.

And this is to say nothing of Norm or Cliff (who I fear I resemble in almost every way except gender and occupation), not to mention the incredible Carla.  CARLA!  Rebecca may be my preferred female lead, but Carla is my preferred woman for Sam.  I know this could have never been, as she so smartly stated: "I always thought I would be the woman you cheated on your wife with" and not his actual wife.  But I loved their dynamic so much!  Compared to Carla, Diane and Rebecca sex drives' combined would amount to Liz Lemon's (which is to say, hardly one at all).  I felt that she could match Sam'  Not to mention that she was gutsy, conniving, hilarious, and supportive of Sam in almost every way (excusing his dating Diane).  Every time they touched or had a sweet interaction, I got all nervous and couldn't look straight at the screen.  THAT is an otp.*

Anyway, I've been watching Frasier, in part because that's the natural progression after Cheers, in part because so many of my friends have been watching it or have recently watched it, and in part because I can't fucking get over Cheers, and spending time with even one of its characters is better than none at all.  But the problem is Frasier moved.  He's not in Boston.  He doesn't come into Cheers with Lilith and order Brandy.  Now he drinks Sherry.  He doesn't give free psychology advice to his friends on barstools, he gets paid to give it out on the radio.  Frasier feels different as a character.  It's not the same. I suppose that's necessary if you're going to turn a supporting character into a lead for their own show, but it's weird.

And tonight in an episode SAM APPEARED.  And hearing him talk and seeing him walk and hug Frasier and flirt with Daphne and talk about baseball with was too much.

I miss Gary Portnoy's inviting, pathos-filled voice.  I miss Coach and Woody and Paul and Robin and Rebecca and Henri and Kelly and Diane and Lilith and Harry the Hat and even Vera.  Now I try to find solace in the fact that I have a sunken living room and Cheers was a sunken bar.  And that I heard somewhere that Ted Danson has the bar set in his home, and it's a working bar.  God, I almost wish it was destroyed so I wouldn't have to know it still exists somewhere I can't reach or see it.  And what happened to going into a bar and saying 'I'd like a beer' and just being handed one instead of a 100 title long list of different microbrews! I want beer that looks that sparkling cider!  And I want it in an impossibly short mug!  And I want Ted Danson to pour it all over my body and--this took a turn.  You get the idea.

I'm sorry Frasier friends.  I think I need to re-watch Cheers again as I cuddle with my kitten, Norman Peterson.

*One True Pair.

Part 2 in a 25 Part Series: Maryann's Favorite Christmas Things


Growing up when my family would bring out our Christmas decorations we'd also bring out our collection of children's Christmas books.  In my never-ending quest for nostalgia, I've spent hours on the internet looking for the books I remember us having.  I e-mailed my parents to ask if we kept the books in the move from my childhood home (fingers crossed so I can avoid spending a small fortune on Ebay), but these are what I could remember from memory:

1. Peter Spier's Christmas! 
2. The Nutcracker: A Pop-Up Book by Jenni Fleetwood and E.T.A. Hoffmann with illustrations by Phillida Gili and Paul Wilgress
3. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (may the movie never be shown in my presence again)
4. The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet by Diane Goode
5. Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida
6. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
7. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore with illustrations by Leonard Weisgard
8. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (this movie MAY be shown in presence)
9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May, adapted by Barbara Shook Hazen with illustrated by Richard Scarry
10. The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson with illustrations by Eloise Wilkin
11. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore with illustrations by James Marshall
12. The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot with illustrations by Ruth Brown
13. The Biggest, Most Beautiful Christmas Tree by Amye Rosenberg
14. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore with illustrations by Corinne Malvern
15. The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats

If you forced me to pick my top 3 favorites from this list, I would choose Peter Spier's Christmas!, Nine Days to Christmas, and the Leonard Wiesgard Night Before Christmas.  If you have children, or plan to have children, or have ever met a child, or have merely seen a photo of one, buy these books.  Do it. Or I SUPPOSE you could get them from your local library, and just make a point of checking them out EVERY YEAR for your child so that they can leave an indelible impression.  Even though I work at a library, I am a HUGE proponent of buying books.  Especially in the name of nostalgia.  Isn't that a great word?  Nostaaaalgia.  It almost sounds like it's whisking you away to memories merely by saying it.

Of course excellent books exist that I did NOT own as a child, but as an adult who enjoys children's books, I sure would like to.  Here are a few of them:

1. A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith
2. The Night Before Christmas: A Classic Illustrated Edition by Clement C. Moore and compiled by Cooper Edens
3. The Legend of St. Nicholas by Demi
4. The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L'Engle with illustrations by Jill Weber (we actually did own a copy of this but it had this cover and it made it look like some kind of depressing Very Brady Christmas where people get trapped under buildings and stuff.  Not that people don't have near-death experiences in L'Engle books, it's just I never pictured the Austin family looking like that so I always rejected this edition of the book, and to this day have never read the story even though I've read most other Austin Family stories.)
5. Home for Christmas by Jan Brett (we totally owned The Wild Christmas Reindeer, but I didn't include it in my first collage because I'm planning on saving it for a different 25 Things post.)
6. A Christmas Book by Svend Otto Sorensen
7. The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
8. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden with illustrations by Barbara Cooney
9. How God Decorates Heaven for Christmas by Ron Mehl and Melody Carlson with decorations by Lynn Bredeson
10. The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola
11. The Story of Christmas by Pamela Dalton 
12. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long
13. The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree in the World (A Christmas Story for Children) by Leonard Weisgard
14. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

If I could pick 3 I want the MOST from this collection, it would be Letters From Father Christmas, The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree in the World, and The Legend of St. Nicholas.

One of the ways to make yourself happier in The Happiness Project was to curate collections of things.  My family had many Christmas collections, from ornaments to CDs to silver bells.  Our Christmas book collection was one of my favorites.  I plan to expand it, and if needed, recreate it.

DIY With Maryann


Rules of 'DIY With Maryann'

1) Spend more money than you would if you've just bought something already made by a professional.
2) Do not use any professional tools.
3) Do not consult any professional advice or helpful hints on the internet.
4) Use the most inefficient method possible to complete the project.
5) If the completed project didn't turn out perfect, leave it as is.  You tried.

What are we doing today on 'DIY With Maryann'?  It's a twofer.  Tablecloths and lampshades!

Tablecloth: I wanted to have a new tablecloth for the Thanksgiving dinner I was hosting.

Step 1: Scour the internet until you find several cute tablecloths.

Step 2: Note that said cute tablecloths on the internet are about $30!  Consider that an unacceptable amount of money for a sheet of fabric, and decide to DIY.

Step 3: Travel to your local fabric store and find not one, but TWO fabrics you like, and proceed to buy 3 yards of each, even though the table you are furnishing is only about 1.5 yards long.

Step 4: Also buy multiple yards of matching piping for both fabrics, matching thread for both fabrics, and a new pair of fabric-cutting scissors.  In the end, your total should come to more than twice the cost of a tablecloth off the internet.

Step 5: Start making that tablecloth!

Step 6: Cut to the size you want by using another tablecloth around the desired length.  But before you do that, recognize that Cheers was on in the background when you took that picture, realize you're now done with Cheers, and have a little cry.
Step 7: After you've cut the size you want, sit in front of your television evening after evening hand-sewing the piping onto the hem of the tablecloth.  Sewing machines are for people who own sewing machines!  Re-connect with your female ancestors (in case it needs stating, men have female ancestors too, you presumed MISOGYNISTS) by doing some needlework with nothing but a needle, thread and long-lasting hand cramps.

Step 8: Repeat steps 5-7 for the second fabric you purchased.  Decide you like it, but choose to go with the first fabric.  It's so pretty!

Step 9: Clear all the art supplies, junk mail, and library books off your dining table.  It's not like you ever actually eat at it!

Step 10: Put the chosen tablecloth on your table:

Step 11:  Admire your handiwork.

Step 12: Realize you have a LOT of leftover fabric and pick a new project to use it for...

Lampshades: In college I had two friends (Hi, Kate and Jen, if you're reading this!) who took a lampshade upholstery class at their church.  Pretty neat church, huh?  They even made me one that was covered in red plaid.  I can't find it now, but I loved it then.  I really like plaid.  They told me that in the class they'd take blank white lampshades and cover them in fabric.  If I remember correctly, piping and hot glue and patterns were a part of the process.  Ha!

Step 1: Find all the boring white lampshades you own.  You locate three of them in your bedroom, as the room lacks any overhead lighting, so you've supplemented it with a lot of lamps.  Lamps with boring white lampshades!

Step 2: Don't take any 'before' pictures of the lampshades.  They are already so boring!

Step 3: Haphazardly drape your leftover fabric around the lampshades.  Does it look like it will probably fit? Then it probably will!

Step 4: Now tighten said fabric around the outside part of the shade, and just start sewing around the inside!  

Step 5: Make a mistake?  Make a fold!

Step 6: Accept the fact that you will break multiple needles--about 7--by trying to force them through a thick layer of fabric, then a sheet of plastic, then another layer of fabric hundreds of times per lampshade.

Step 7: Once the fabric has been sewn in all around, cut off as much excess fabric as possible.  Any extra will show through once a light is on inside the shade.

Step 8: Stick 'em on your lamps!

Step 9: Admire them.

Step 10: Admonish yourself for not taking better pictures of the lamps and instead focusing way too much on your cat. Promise to show all 3 lampshades in your next 'Around the House' post.

Good luck, DIYers!

with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart

I just realized I started blogging about Christmas before I posted any pictures of Thanksgiving!  My bad.

I have pictures of the people who were there (my immediate family) but none of them turned out super good.  That's the thing about food!  It stays still.  You know what else doesn't stay still? Kittens.  But I digress.  And digest.  Mmmmm...

A big 'thank you' and 'I'm thankful for you' to my parents and sister and brother-in-law for all their hard work and for letting me host us this year.

There was a whole bunch of wine, pie, and carbs for everyone.  And I got to use my new Polish pottery!  I have an addiction.

#237-#198: Personal Favorites

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Part 1 in a 25 Part Series: Maryann's Favorite Christmas Things

I really wanted a better title than that, but such is life.  Hopefully the creativity will flow for the posts themselves!

If you read my blog with any regularity, you know I have a way of abandoning blog post series.  So if this turns out to be a 12 part or 15 part series instead of 25, please forgive me.  25 is such a Christmas-y number.

I thought today I'd start out with something relatively simple, but that gets me in the Christmas mood quick and fast. The answer was obvious: Christmas hymns!

I say hymns because I like to categorize Christmas music.  There's classic kitschy Christmas music, calming instrumental Christmas music, contemporary/modern Christmas music, and then there's Christmas hymns.  Christmas hymns are religious, but also feel ancient.  Listening to Christmas hymns gives me a deeper perspective of how Christmas has been celebrated through the centuries, the Church's traditions of Advent, and makes me feel small--in a good way--like sitting in a huge cathedral.  I see my place in a long line of Christians, and can feel the tininess of my place among them.

I don't know exactly where I heard most of these songs for the first time.  It could have been from a concert by my church's Chancel Choir or my family's vast collection of Christmas CD's.

I don't expect you to watch or listen to all of these, especially if you're already well aware of their existence.  I'll just be happy to have this post to listen to this season!

Good King Wenceslas

For ages I thought the lyric was 'Good King Wences last looked out, on the feast of Stephen...'  Listen to the Horrible Histories version of the hymn for a truth bomb.  The version I listen to most is by Singers Unlimited, but this York Minster choir is great!

While By My Sheep

I liked this one as a kid because it reminded me of "Shout!" by the Isley Brothers with the quiet then the loud lyrics.  "How great my joy (great my joy). JOY JOY JOY! (Joy joy joy)."

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks at Night

Another shepherd hymn.  Good stuff.

Good Christian Men Rejoice

And ladies too!  Woooo!  The Robert Shaw Chorale is also the version on my iPod and the opening is so fucking epic.  Love it.

Coventry Carol

Haunting as hell.  LOVE IT.  Also listen to the John Denver version.

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella 

Weird title.  Great song.

Still, Still, Still

Gorgeous lullaby.

Children Go Where I Send Thee

Is this is even a legit Christmas song?  It is to me.  And was it not even written all that long ago?  No matter. I also might need to do a whole post on this Peter, Paul & Mary Holiday Celebration.  A family tradition of ours.

Sing We Now of Christmas

Oh man, this one makes my hair stand on end.  So creepy and beautiful.

Ok.  Last one!

Of the Father's Love Begotten

Such a pretty tune.  He is Alpha and Omega...

There's plenty of others I could put here.  "For Unto Us a Child is Born."  "Ding Dong Merrily on High."  "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming."  "Carol of the Bells."  So many good ones that give me chills!

What are some of your favorite ancient-feeling Christmas hymns?

(Photo credit)

#198: The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails


The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails (1994)

Favorite Track(s): If pressed, "A Warm Place" and "Hurt"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) Oh, readers.  We were doing so well.  First Michael Jackson, then Simon & Garfunkel.  I felt safe.  Unafraid.  Comforted in the warm, enveloping glow of brilliant pop music and soulful folk.  Now, I'm scared and cold and miserable.  Nine Inch Nails was the band that the angry kids at my high school listened to.  The name of the band itself is unsettling.  I'm not familiar with the band or their music in any way, though I confess I enjoy Trent Reznor's contributions to film soundtracks these days.  All my life I've lumped NIN in with Marilyn Manson, Limp Bizkit, and the not-so-country-early-Kid-Rock.  Was that unfair?  Possibly.  I thought I'd hate The Smashing Pumpkins, and I ended up loving them.  I expected to dislike Nirvana, and I came around to enjoying their work.  So with a heavy, cautious heart, I open my ears to Nine Inch Nails and hope for the best.

(Post-Listening): Not off to a good start.  "Mr. Self-Destruct" is a song...that exists.  Do I personally need it to exist?  No.  I would have been happy to go on in my life without knowing or hearing it.  I'm trying to be diplomatic here!  "Piggy" was...better.  I expected to see it in a film during a drug overdose montage meant to thoroughly creep out the audience.  I know I was.  "Heresy" is not and never will be my favorite song about nihilism.  I sort of liked "Closer" until, you know, the CHORUS.  "The Becoming" had some really choice samples of people screaming in agony, so that was a treat and a half.  "A Warm Place" was actually quite nice, but I've got plenty of other pretty piano music I'd turn to before this. "Reptile": yikes. And of course, "Hurt", which I only know through the Johnny Cash cover, which I don't hate.  It's a nice song.  I like where it goes.

I mean, I could go on and on about how these songs do nothing for me, but it's clear I'm not the intended audience.  I can see these songs being very powerful and important to other people, but just not to me.  So with that, I give my very personal, subjective, exaggerated opinion...I feel it matches the violence inherent in the work!

Is This Better Than Bad?:


Before any other social media sees him...

I want to introduce you, my dear blog readers, to the newest member of Oz an I's family (grammar?):

This is Norm.  Yes, he is named for George Wendt's character in Cheers.  This way, whenever he comes into a room, I can say, "NORM!" with cheerful (get it?) abandon.

I adopted him from a shelter this weekend.  Oz is slowly warming up to him.  They've touched noses and played plenty of games of chase-and-hide.  The funniest interaction so far has definitely been when Oz was licking (grooming) Norm's back, but growling the whole time.  I'm very hopeful that someday they'll be cuddle buddies, but even just respectful of each other would be great.

Get ready for lots of Norm on the blog!  But still tons of Oz as well. :)



This year for Thanksgiving I'm hosting the immediate family at my place.  We've never had Thanksgiving somewhere other than parents' before, except a few times on vacation in Oregon or once in Hawaii.  My folks are wonderful hosts, and usually like to have a big Thanksgiving dinner in their home.  Which is great!  But I thought it would be fun to keep it small and simple this year, and now that three of us (me, my sister, and her husband) live in the same city, and my parents (Only 2 of them! They aren't fundamentalist Mormons!) live in their city, we have them beat and they should come to US.  Fortunately my parents are quite obliging, but just to make it feel more special I decided to make an invitation.

And what holiday invitation is any good without a cat in it?  The answer is none.

Oz doesn't looove to be dressed up or made to sit still in one place, so our Christmas photos turn out pretty good because I can hold him in place (gently!).  But for this Thanksgiving invitation I wanted him to be on his own as a turkey.  I quickly realized that things like a turkey's wattle and caruncle would probably be out of the question.  I'd make a tail fan and call it good.

Below are the three invites I made (with the city blocked out due to my naive belief that I can remain un-stalkable):

It's not pretty.  It's very ugly.  And you can only see half of the tail fan.

Only very slightly better.

The final one I sent out:

His eyes look weird and I should have used the second photo, but I think this one conveys how angry he was about being photographed in a feather fan.

As you might imagine, everyone RSVP'd that they could come.  How could they not?  I'll be sure to take loads of photos and tell you all about it.

Sinclair Island, September 2012


I didn't ask his permission to post this, but my dad stayed with me last night and we were talking about the possibility of seeing our extended family at Christmas, including my great aunt Joyce.  Later that night I remembered the incredible photos my dad took in September on an island with his cousins and Joyce, and I wanted to share it with you.  I hope someday I can take photos this great!  (And attend a beach bonfire that beautiful.)

#199: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel


Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel (1966)

Favorite Tracks: "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" and "Patterns" and "Cloudy" and "Homeward Bound" and "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" and "The Dangling Conversation" and "Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall" and "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" and "A Poem on the Underground Wall" and "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night"

Thoughts: Ooooh baby.  Welcome to our second Simon & Garfunkel album.  We listened to Bookends back at #229 earlier this year in April.  Who's pleased as punch to have them back?  I am.  Thank you, RS list, for bringing the awesome two albums in a row.  I hope this is the start of something new (it feels so right, to be here with yooou!) Let's let the sweet, sweet sounds take us to paradise.  A sad, melancholy paradise.

The first song, "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" features the lyrics the album is named for.  Which everyone knows, but I'm repeating it anyway.  I also think it's safe to say that this is the best known herb song of all time.  Agreed?  It should also be stated that Paul and Art didn't write this song, but in fact it's a traditional British ballad.  They did arrange this version though.  Enough with the boring, obvious facts!  It's a fantastic song, with brilliant harmonies, especially 3-part.  Which leads me to share with you my very favorite version of this song featuring the late, great Andy Williams (my parents tried to remind me of him when he passed, but I kept confusing him with Matlock):

Isn't that transcendent?  Love, love, love it.

Next up is "Patterns" which is a song I didn't grow up knowing, probably because my parents nor the Oldies station in my hometown played it very often.  But it's excellent.  I love the drums (bongos?) and the guitar solo.  "Cloudy" is another song I couldn't sing for you on command.  The start is super sweet and lovely, and the whole song seems perfect for a lazy day on a hillside or a drive through the country.

Next is "Homeward Bound"!  We've also seem that traumatizing pet movie by the same name, right?  Gawd, that messed me up as a kid.  I mean, we had a golden retriever, so:


Anyway, the song!  I of course really like the original version, but my favorite is from a 1976 episode of SNL, where Paul sang it with none other than George Harrison.  You know I love you, Art, but come on.  This will win every time:

I mean, COME ON.  So perfect.

I think the only time I've really heard "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" was in The Graduate.  I mean, I don't really remember it, but it's on the soundtrack.  It's not bad, but I don't need to add it to any playlists.

As a kid it took me awhile to accept that S&G wrote and sang "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" because it seemed such a perfect example of slightly goofy, kitschy 60s songs, not at all their usual sound (in my mind).  But now when I hear it, I wonder how I ever could have doubted it's theirs.  In high school my parents gave me one of those Costco full discography sets of Simon & Garfunkel.  My clearest memory of this song is listening to it on my Walkman in our backyard.

Onto side B!  "The Dangling Conversation" opens the second half of this album.  I first really listened to this song in the summer of 2011.  I had it on repeat for days.  It's sad and beautiful and lyrically brilliant.  And you read your Emily Dickinson and I my Robert Frost/and we note our place with bookmarkers that measure what we've lost. Looove it.  Not to mention the strings!

"Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall" is another one that I don't know at all.  But like many S&G songs, it's musically cute and sweet with a dark, hopeless theme in its message.  It seems like it would fit well in a movie--The Graduate even.  (But it wasn't in The Graduate.)

"A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was MacNamara'd into Submission)" is full of culture references and has a fun beat.  "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" is just incredibly lovely and moving.  Listening to it instantly relaxed me.  I was confused for a while because I somehow thought that Bon Iver had covered this song.  But his song is called "For Emma, Forever Ago."  The titles really aren't that similar, and neither are the songs.  Well done, me!

"A Poem on the Underground Wall" is a beautiful, driving ballad.  The harmonizing is--as usual--flawless.  I didn't really hear "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night"  until a few years ago when someone put it on a Christmas mix for me.  It is unbelievably moving and sobering.  I wonder if anyone ever played it at a Christmas Eve service in a church?

Anyway, I will always consider Simon & Garfunkel as one of the greatest acts of all time.  If you like them, I recommend a modern duo from Norway called The Kings of Convenience.  They harmonize over sweet acoustic guitar.  I'd start with "Winning a Battle, Losing the War" and "Gold in the Air of Summer" (one of my very favorite songs about the season).

Is This Better Than Bad?:

I believe we can safely say YES.

Candles and Unprovoked Rants At the Expense of Perfectly Nice Ladies


I've been home sick with an ear infection (just as fun as it sounds) which meant lots of time at home snuggling with Oz and smelling my favorite Yankee Candle: Holiday Sage.  Yankee says it's like "Hearth-side memories of aromatic sage, earthy rosemary, festive cinnamon, seasonal evergreens, and the perfect Yule log."  Um, yeah.  I also almost finished* our book club book, The Happiness Project, and this was my favorite quote from it:
Though I sometimes mocked the scented-candle-pushing brand of happiness building, I discovered that there is something nice about working in an office with a candle burning.  It's like seeing snow falling outside the window or having a dog snoozing on the carpet beside you.  It's a kind of silent presence in the room and very pleasant.
Fortunately I am all stocked up with 'silent presences' to last me through the winter:

*Why didn't I completely finish it?  I couldn't go on after the September chapter (the book is set up to work through all 12 months) when the author said she would try writing a novel in 30 days.  Not a bad idea at all.  But then she said what she wanted her novel to be about:

"...I came up with an idea: two people having an affair in Manhattan...I thought it would be fun to try to think through the logistics of how two people in the same social circle would keep their affair a secret and to write about New York City...wrote my first sentence: "When she thought about it later, Emily realized that she knew exactly when her affair with Michael Harmon had its start: about 8:00 p.m. on the night of September 18, at a cocktail party at Lisa and Andrew Kessel's apartment."

Now, I am totally breaking one of the Happiness rules in the book by being critical, but COME ON.  A guy and a lady having an affair in Manhattan?  That is the most interesting plot you can come up with?  Maaaybe I would give you a pass if your job wasn't as an author, but IT IS.  Or maybe if the story you're writing wasn't going to be talked about in a book, but IT WAS.  I mean, for the love of God, could you have at least picked a different city?  San Francisco?  Detroit?  Toronto?  And I know you live in New York, so it's what you know best, but throw a rock in a bookstore and you will hit at least 18 books that take place in New York City.  For the love of God, branch out.  And an affair between two upper middle class people who connect at a cocktail party?  AAAAGGGGHH SO BORED.  This is your chance to write about anything!  You're not going to publish it!  It's just a fun project!  Have a little FUN.

My final verdict on The Happiness Project was that while many of the ideas were sound, I wish a different person had written the book.  A person with a different life and different tastes.  I know that sounds mean, and that's because it is, but I would have loved someone with a better sense of humor at the very least.

And while we're on the subject of things that are titled "The [Enter Something Here] Project"** I would like to briefly say that I am sooo disappointed by The Mindy Project.  I really wanted to like it.  I wanted it to be Bridget Jones meets Miranda.  But I can't STAND any of the characters, especially Danny Castellano.  Is it because every thing I've ever seen Chris Messina in casts him as a huge asshole, including this show?  Probably. Here's an example.  In The Mindy Kaling Project this week she was being weighed by her love interest/friend Danny as part of her gynecological exam.  The scene has Danny add waaay more weight on the old-fashioned mechanical beam scales--that at least in my doctor's office, were replaced by digital scales YEARS AGO--than she actually weighs, in order to shame her and SUCCEEDS.  In order to go on she has to take on an alter ego persona that of course, includes the name Beyonce.  Har-de-har-har.  You want a good weight joke, feel free to refer to Miranda, which is also written and created by its lead actress:

A man approaches her in a bar and asks her how she's doing.  Her response: "When I'm naked in bed and roll over, my breasts clap."

Another (also related to breasts and also said to a stranger when he approaches her): "The other day I weighed my breasts to see how much they'd cost to post.  To heavy to go second class if you know what I mean!"

I swear not all the jokes in that show are about her breasts.  The point is, there are ways to joke about things that endear you to characters, not make you hate them more than you already do, or make you think they have the self-esteem of a thimble.  Also, The Mindy Project theme song?  Kill me.  It sounds like a sample of a valley girl gagging laid over a rejected-Sex-and-the-City-imitation-show theme song.  You know, like Cashmere Mafia or Lipstick Jungle.  Honestly the only redeeming factor of the whole show is the much under-used and under-appreciated former MADtv cast member Ike Barinholtz.

But all that griping aside, I sincerely wish the best for Mindy Kaling with her show, and I hope it does really well so she can go on to do other, better work (or that the show itself gets better).  I mean, I'm not publishing books about my attempts to lead a happier life, so why should I be criticizing Gretchen something-something for writing a few boring, overdone ideas in The Happiness Project?  And I'm not writing and starring in my own TV show, so how can I accuse Mindy Kaling of doing a bad job at it?  I think we can all agree I have no right to be negative towards either of these ladies.  I just wish I hadn't wasted so many hours (or half-hours in Mindy's case) on their particular works of art that have Project in the title.

**My friend Ian told me hated anything with this kind of title.  If only I'd listened to him.

This is the music video I've always wanted but never knew it.


One of my very favorite songs from Babel (and so incredible live), directed and starring the amazing Idris Elba.

No words.

#200: Bad by Michael Jackson


Bad by Michael Jackson (1987)

Favorite Tracks: All of them, naturally.

Thoughts: (Be ye warned!  Swear words used in this post!  Why?  I felt like it.)

It's no secret that when it comes to Michael Jackson, I'm pretty ambivalent.  I can really take him or leave him.  You know, he had a few good songs here and there, but in general I don't really think of him when it comes to artists who really made an impact on music and pop culture.

I mean, sure, after he died I did a 32 part blog series about my Favorite Michael Moments, in part to grieve his passing and to help myself deal with a harrowing medical experience.  And yeah, in high school I dressed up as him for Halloween and carried around a full, highlighted transcript of the 9,268 word article from a 1994 issue of GQ titled "Was Michael Jackson Framed?" to show to classmates when they criticized my supposed devotion to an alleged pedophile. I suppose I've also created a 5 part, 95 song playlist of what I consider to be the best Michael Jackson songs, including songs from the Jackson 5, his childhood solo career, and The Jacksons era. It could also be pointed out that I have a Jackson 5 song as one of the 7 songs I would want with me on a deserted island for the rest of my life.  And I guess if pressed, I would say that my top three male artists of all time are The Beatles (they come together (get it?  Michael covered that song) as a combo), Bruce Springsteen, and Michael Jackson.  But still, would that really classify me as a fan, or more a casual observer of the pop genre in general?  You decide.

So I think you can be confident in my unbiased opinion when I say that Bad is actually not the 200th greatest album of all time, but more like the 20th?  And that it's FUCKING RIDICULOUS that it's ranked this far from #1?  Glad we cleared that up.

Are we ready for this album?  I don't think any of us ever really could prepare for an album this good.  But let's go easy on ourselves.  Nobody's perfect.  I mean, Michael is pretty close to Jesus Christ himself in this area, but we can't hold ourselves to that standard.  No one expects that of us.  So let's just jump in, shall we?

"Bad."  For a full review of this song, and I mean a FULL REVIEW, you can check out my 2,851 word breakdown/live-blog of the 18 minute short film music video that Martin Scorsese made for the song.  Also, I need to tell two anecdotes that I'm not sure I told in that review.  First is the immortal tale of Prince saying Michael asked him to be in the video as his nemesis, and Prince refusing because the first line in the song is 'your butt is mine' and he basically says that he wasn't going to have any guy sing that to him.  Nice homophobia, Prince!  Just kidding.  I guess that's a valid reason.  Also, Prince doesn't really like to share the limelight.  In general.

The other anecdote is that I distinctly remember being a child on one of our family vacations with another family, and the older son playing "Fat", the Weird Al Yankovic "Bad" parody, on his cassette player.  So there's that.  Bottom line: this song kicks serious ass.  (Ass that belongs to Michael.  Get it?)  If you can listen to this song and not dance or sing along, you're dead to me. UNH!  CHAMON! (Which I've always thought was actually 'jamon', but apparently it's chamon.)

"The Way You Make Me Feel."  Again, for a full breakdown/live-blog of this song and (full length 9 minute) video, head to this blog post I wrote in 2009.  Here's a choice line from the music video dialog: "You know, reach down inside and pull a little of you out."  You're welcome.  All in all, this song is a pop masterpiece and I loooove it.

"Speed Demon."  The song is fun, the video is more fun.  Why?  Because it used Claymation!  And I went to elementary school with a guy whose dad worked for Claymation.  Plus, Michael's suuuuper adorable in it.  And that's the end of that story.

"Liberian Girl."  This song is a blast to sing along to, especially if you're like me and completely butcher the opening spoken bit that's in Swahili. The video is a veritable who's-who of 80s stars--some of whom are still stars, and many who are not.  I have fond memories of listening to this song with my dad on a road trip (we probably listened to the whole album, but for some reason this song sticks out--maybe we talked about it a lot?)

"Just Good Friends."  I have a whole blog post dedicated to this song too!  A duet with Stevie Wonder, what more could you want?  It's pure divinity.

"Another Part of Me."  If you ever visited Disneyworld in the 80s (or in my case, 90s), then you know this song, because you've seen the greatest 3D movie ever made: Captain EO.  What's that you say?  You wish I'd done a whole post about Captain EO?  MERRY CHRISTMAS, MOTHERFUCKER.

"Man in the Mirror."  Look, we all know this song is the shit.  In fact, if you feel claims of someone's character are dubious, ask them if they like this song.  If they don't, you know you have a creep on your hands.  It's basically been notarized.

"I Just Can't Stop Loving You."  Have you ever wondered which Michael Jackson song is suuuuuper sexy?  There isn't one.  And um, I definitely didn't write a whole post about it.  Nope.

"Dirty Diana."  Have you ever asked yourself, 'do I find late 80s Michael Jackson sexy (because it goes without saying that everyone finds early 80s Michael irresistible)?'  Watch the video for this song, and you will need never ask again.  I may or may not have written a post about it.  But don't try to talk to me about it.  I will get too flustered.  I mean, when he grinds with the guitarist?  I can't.  I CAN'T.  I have lost the ability to can.

"Smooth Criminal."  If you want my thoughts on the video, you can read my full post/review of Moonwalker, the film/video compilation I owned on VHS, which is probably in its entirety on Youtube.  Basically, the song and video are in a class all their own.  A sweet, brilliant, kick-ass class.  Definitely Advanced Placement.

"Leave Me Alone."  Now, any Michael Jackson from the 80s is, to me, good if not great Michael Jackson.  But I have to be honest.  If I had to pick my least favorite song on the album, it would be this one.  Why?  I mean, it's got a cute beat, and it's not annoying to listen to, but I will be the first to say that one of my greatest Michael peeves (I don't have many, as you might imagine), is that he let his anger about intrusive paparazzi and negative media attention seep into his music.  I stand by the idea that if people are listening to your music, they are a fan.  They like you.  They support you.  But I feel bad for liking and supporting you, if your songs start being about how much people suck and you wish they'd stop bothering you.  Because then I feel like you're talking about me!  Over-sensitive, I know.  By all means, talk about how much you need respite from that kind of harassment.  But please don't sing about it.  It's not only a downer, I think it ostracizes your audience.  Or at least this audience.

Overall, this album is Mary Poppins (practically perfect in every way, and, if you read that GQ article, probably OK to leave alone with your kids).  I love it so much.

And we are now in the last 200--the TOP 200--albums.  The level of quality needs to be life changing.

Is This Better Than The River?:  Yes, and Bad is now my new arbiter of unjustified ranking.  Boom!

If watercolor worked on walls (does it?) I would want Bridget to paint mine

I already have 4 Bridget Beth pieces in my home, and it's not enough!  I rarely participate in giveaways, but the prize is too good to pass up, and the friend too dear to not promote!

Bridget is giving away an 8x10 print of one of her gorgeous art pieces from her Etsy shop.  You can be entered to win too if you like her facebook page, and then let people know about the giveaway through twitter, your blog, or facebook.  Then leave a comment on her post to be entered!

I already know which piece I would pick if I won!  "Green Gables":

Here are a few of my other favorites that I plan to purchase as well:

Get on it, and GET OUT THE VOTE!

Good grief. How can anyone resist them?


I certainly can't.