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Pop culture junkie, native of Las Vegas, not really a writer.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From Blip.fm - Joni Mitchell

Song of the Day: Joni Mitchell's Cactus Tree. This song is so damn beautiful. Sometimes I forget. ♫ http://blip.fm/~addq9

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The desert, my home.

It’s the time of year in the Las Vegas desert when it’s so hot outside it feels like your skin will melt off your body every time you step out of any fully air conditioned building or home. It’s the time of year when the average temperature hovers around 105 degrees and we are always above average. It’s the time of year when even the overnight temps don’t fall below 85 degrees. It’s the time of year when all outdoor activities are suspended unless a pool is involved. And even a day by the pool can be more trouble than it’s worth. I’m a natural redhead. I burn to a crisp in seconds. I apply 75 SPF sunscreen at least once an hour (thank goodness for the invention of spray on sunscreen!) when I’m going to be outdoors for any extended period of time. And I wear a big floppy hat, which, yes, makes me look funny but I look funnier when my skin is the color of a lobster.

But just when I’m cursing my fate of living in the desert for another horrendous summer, something happens to remind me why I love the desert, my home. The other night it was when I came out of the movie theaters at Aliante Station after seeing Casablanca (love). It was about 8:25pm and my truck was on the fourth floor of the parking garage. The sun was already set but still illuminated the sky to the northwest in a way that was brilliant and left layers of color above the city whose lights were just starting to blink on for the night. Instead of just getting into my truck and driving home, I walked over to the edge of the garage to watch as the last remnants of this setting sun changed the sky from blue to purple to black. And I took three pictures with my iPhone which I share with you now. A sky like this is why I love the desert.

You should really click on these pictures to make them larger. They are so much prettier larger!

Monday, July 13, 2009

From Blip.fm - Billie Holiday

I'm going to see Casablanca on the big screen tonight. Here's Billie doing "As Time Goes By" - ♫ http://blip.fm/~9ut7z

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Up - A Review

I finally went to see Disney Pixar’s new animated feature UP the other night - in 3D no less! To summarize the plot, Up is about Carl, who as a quiet child is drawn to exploration and adventure, focusing intently on a famous adventurer of the time named Charles Muntz. He meets a neighborhood girl Ellie, who although the complete opposite of him in temperament, shares his passion. They let their imaginations run wild together as children and eventually grow up and marry. With every intention of going on wild adventures together, they instead find life continually getting in the way. It’s now years later, and Carl, a curmudgeonly widower finally decides to go on that adventure he and Ellie always planned by tying thousands of helium balloons to his house and flying himself down to South America. A neighborhood kid, Russell, a scout of sorts intent on earning his “aiding the elderly” badge accidentally stows away with Carl in his flying house and all sorts of adventure (prominently featuring an exotic bird, a gaggle of “talking” dogs, and the reclusive adventurer Muntz) does find them. Whew. I meant to summarize that a little more succinctly, but oh well.

The first 15 minutes of Up are quite possibly the most beautiful minutes of any animated feature I’ve ever seen. And I don’t mean just visually beautiful, they are emotionally chock full of the beauty of childhood wonderment and imagination, the strength of love that can grow between two people as they form a life together, and the tragedies that life can bring. After a brief scene where we see Carl and Ellie first meet as children, we get to see, in silent film fashion, their life together unfold. So much is learned about these characters in such a short amount of time: their hopes, their careers, their heartbreaks, their seemingly mundane everyday existence, and ultimately her death. By the end of this film within the film I was in tears. And although Ellie as an adult does not utter any lines of dialogue she is a fully fleshed character whose presence is felt throughout the film. I wish there was an entire movie of just Carl and Ellie’s life together. Get on that Pixar, I’ll watch it!

Widower Carl is heartbreaking in his sadness and retreat from the world. In your heart you know that Ellie would not have wanted this for him. When he makes his decision to finally go on their great adventure without her, you can’t help but be thrilled. And he does it so spectacularly with his thousands of balloons!

Little Russell is a delight and he brings welcome, cheerful, balance to our grumpy main man Carl. Although at first unwelcome, Russell eventually gives Carl what he was missing after the loss of Ellie: loyalty, friendship, wonder, joy.

A lot of the humor in the story comes when Russell and Carl are trekking through the jungle in the attempt to get the house to Paradise Falls. The exotic jungle bird that takes a shining to Russell (and the chocolate he feeds it) is appropriately brilliant in color and personality and the dogs, equipped with high tech collars that relay their thoughts into speech, that are tracking the bird are a delight. I cried with laughter when the menacing lead dog, called Alpha (haha), suffers from a malfunctioning speech collar. And the misfit of the bunch, Dug, who ends up befriending Carl and Russell, is perfectly goofy and one of the best things about the entire film.

Pixar really used 3D wonderfully here. Nothing jumps out at you in an obnoxious fashion. The 3D is more subtle, giving the entire movie more depth and really helping to create a tangible world. After Coraline and now this picture I’m excited about what 3D used right can add to a film.

Ultimately Up is a dazzling adventure story that teaches you the age old lesson that you can find adventure in your own backyard and that even the most mundane life can BE an adventure if you go through it happily with the ones you love. It also encourages you to remain open to love in whatever shape it comes in: wife, bird, dog, neighborhood kid. . . :)

I want to see it again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The moon followed me home.

I was driving home last night after seeing Up with my friend Christopher (a movie review will be forthcoming) and hanging above the city was this enormous moon! It greeted me with the equivalent of a smack in the eye! It was so bright! It's hard to outshine the lights of Sin City, but this moon did it. It followed me all the way home and I kept my eye on it through the windshield, through my side window, and then through the rearview mirror. I didn't want it to go anywhere because I was determined to take its picture. Once I pulled into my garage at home I walked out onto the driveway and would you believe that moon sat up just perfectly between the tops of the houses across the street and the lowest branches of the tree in my front yard and I snapped this photo of it with my iPhone. I think it liked having its picture taken. It made sure to suck in its stomach and shine just a bit more brightly until I had my shot. I was kind of sad to leave it. I could have visited with this moon a little more, but it was quickly rising further and further away from me, although it lost none of its brightness. I knew I should let it get down to its moon business, so, satisfied with my picture, I thanked the moon for seeing me home safely and retreated into the house.

(clicky to make biggie)

Monday, July 6, 2009

A short reflection about Wilco (The Band) upon the release of their new Wilco (The Album)

Wilco (The Album)

I think that what Wilco is trying to say through their new album title is, "Hey this is us. This is what we are all about. Listen to this album and know you have heard Wilco." I must say I like that idea. I like Wilco. I like where they are as a band. They are rocking AND melodic, they are simple AND complex, they are jammy AND precise. To those critics out there complaining that Wilco have failed to build upon or evolve from the sound on their last album, Sky Blue Sky, I say, so what? I actually like that! It’s as if they have found the sound and working relationship that makes them the most comfortable and are going to enjoy it for awhile. They’ve done enough experimenting and evolving over the past fifteen years and rotated through enough band members that it’s time to revel in the fact that they’ve found a dynamic that clicks. Listening to this album makes me feel happy and bouncy, even though not every song on it is happy and bouncy. Some of it, like Bull Black Nova, is actually quite dark and scary. But in my heart it’s Wilco itself that makes me feel happy and bouncy. I’m just going to put the entire album on repeat for the next few weeks, and, as they proclaim in Wilco (The Song), let Wilco love me, baby!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Loretta Lynn is Divine

My mom has always been big into country music. I can remember as a kid listening to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, The Oak Ridge Boys, Crystal Gale, Anne Murray, Johnny Cash and of course, Loretta Lynn. I’ve maintained an appreciation of country music as I’ve grown older and although there are a few modern artists I enjoy, I have a greater affinity for these classic country stars. So when I discovered Loretta Lynn would be playing at the “Dallas Events Center” at the Texas Station Hotel & Casino I immediately bought two tickets and invited my older sister to join me. There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to see an icon like Loretta!

I was quite surprised to find that the "Dallas Events Center" is in all actuality a convention area ballroom. It’s not a real theater or showroom, but the same ballroom where the company I work for has had our Christmas party and all-employee meetings! I really feel Las Vegas could have done better by Loretta (no offense to the Texas Station, of course!). My friend Kevin runs sound for the Texas and he came out to welcome my sister and me to the show and let us know that he had the pleasure of meeting Loretta backstage and she was as sweet as could be but was suffering from an upset stomach. Uh oh. The show started up and again to our surprise the first person to come out and sing was Loretta’s son, Ernest Ray Lynn. The whole evening was a family affair because after Ernest Ray sang a few songs, Loretta’s daughter Patsy Lynn came out and sang as well. She was named after Loretta’s dear friend Patsy Cline and she honored her namesake by singing Walking After Midnight. Finally Patsy introduced the reason why we were all there, Miss Loretta Lynn. Dressed in a gigantic turquoise beaded gown, she was as cute as a button and all smiles despite not feeling well. She was really honest about “feeling poorly” and asked us if we minded if she sat down. We of course chorused no and she quickly took a seat in a chair so that her voluminous skirts puffed out all around her. The woman is 74 years old and our show was the last night on a three week tour so it was easy to forgive her for being a little tired and under the weather. Her voice was unaffected as were her spirits.

She sang hit after hit: Hey Loretta, You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man), Honky Tonk Girl, Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind), Fist City (my favorite!!), Coal Miner’s Daughter, When the Tingle Becomes a Chill and others. In a stroke of genius she turned One’s On the Way (written by the fabulous Shel Silverstein!) and The Pill into a medley. So first she’s singing, "I'm glad that Raquel Welch just signed a million dollar pact, and Debbie's out in Vegas workin' up a brand new act, while the TV's showin' Newlyweds a real fun game to play, but here in Topeka the screen door's a bangin', the coffee's boilin' over and the wash needs a hangin', one wants a cookie and one wants a changin' and one's on the way" and then she went straight into "All these years I've stayed at home, while you had all your fun and every year that’s gone by, another baby’s come. There's a gonna be some changes made right here on nursery hill, you've set this chicken your last time 'Cause now I've got the pill! This old maternity dress I've got, is goin' in the garbage. The clothes I'm wearin' from now on won't take up so much yardage, miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills, yeah I'm makin' up for all those years since I've got the pill." It was played so seamlessly by the band that I didn't even notice until she had sang a few lines from The Pill that that was what she had done! It was so perfect and was probably my favorite part of the night!

I think people forget that for such a backwoods country girl Loretta really wrote some great feminist anthems! She was pretty radical for her day – especially in the conservative country music world. She's always been very sassy and straightforward about how she feels as a woman, as a wife of a husband that cheats, and as a mother. You can't help but love her for it.

At one point during the show she told us about how she started out, how she pestered DJs around Nashville to play her record. Then she said that the first DJ to put her record on the air was at the show tonight and she made him stand up and give a little bow. He was a tiny old man, wearing a bolo tie and fancy sport coat. The whole audience roared for him and Loretta beamed at him from the stage. She told lots of funny stories between songs about her family and recording career in that adorable, distinct, Kentucky twang she has. She had great rapport with her band too. They were all men including the backup singers and they were very obviously taking care of her onstage. When they could see her go through a spell where she felt a little worse, they would take over and sing a song on their own, or suggest a duet, so she could sing less.

Towards the end of her set she went all patriotic and religious on us and sang her anti-war ballad Dear Uncle Sam and some of her gospel songs which is where the night got a little weird for me. I’m not used to the audience at a country show. They got very vocal with their political and religious views in response to her stance. There was a lot of supportive cat calling to put prayer back in the schools and the Ten Commandments back on the court house lawns! WTF?? The other weird thing about the audience at such a small country show? They would walk right up to the stage and hand her flowers and gifts and take pictures of her! It was very distracting but my sister says it’s common with the country crowd.

There was a good number of young people in the crowd and I think that stems directly from when Jack White of The White Stripes produced Loretta’s 2004 album Van Lear Rose which won several Grammys. It is a spectacular album with many wonderfully personal songs encompassing her entire life: stories about her mother, her children, and the death of her husband. I was very disappointed that she didn’t perform any of the songs from that album and I imagine a lot of young people in the audience were disappointed too. Her set was very short due to her illness, but I wonder if she had played longer if she would have sang any of them? Maybe they are too personal for her to perform? In the end, it was lovely getting to see Loretta Lynn live despite the small disappointments of the overall experience. I hope she comes back through this way before she stops performing altogether.

I didn’t take any pictures during the show. I couldn’t bring myself to be like the others and just walk right up to the stage and snap a shot! It seemed rude to me! But I wanted to share some Loretta here, so I found some great youtube clips. I hope you will watch them!

Here she sing’s One’s On The Way on The Muppet Show (squeee!):

Here she performs my favorite Fist City (look at that hair!):

And here she is with Jack White doing their duet Portland, Oregon:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From Blip.fm - Cyndi Lauper

In honor of tonight's screening! It's Cyndi with The Goonies R Good Enough! Sloth love Chunk! ♫ http://blip.fm/~9781r