Tuesday, August 10, 2010

And, bring on the hearing aid, please!

My inability to understand popular song lyrics is getting worse, to the great amusement of my sons, who can understand anything, including obscure mispronounced rap. Not only do I literally not understand the "enunciation" (if one can properly call it that), but I also do not understand the slang, culture, context--it might as well be beamed down from outer space by aliens.

Lately we (the boys and I) have fallen madly in love with the Seattle band Fleet Foxes. We started with the legendary "Mykonos," and then started snooping around on Rhapsody for the rest of their songs. We also found a fantastic video, a claymation by the lead singer's elder brother. The song is called "White Winter Hymnal," and we have had many discussions about what its possible meanings are/are not. Some of our ideas about meaning are grisly--or perhaps it doesn't mean anything and it's just an exercise in vocal beauty. For such a tiny lyric (the same thing three times and it's over), it's a hauntingly beautiful song with the usual unbelievable harmonies for which Fleet Foxes are known:


Anyway, the first time I heard the song, I of course MISheard it and was more confused than ever, to the boys' great delight. They LOVE it when I make linguistic mistakes and lord it over me with glee. I thought the lines were

The eye was following The eye was following The eye was following . . . (etc.)
The pack of SWALLOWS in their coats
With scarves of red tied 'round their throats
To keep their little heads
From falling in the snow . . .

'Tis a puzzlement, no? I said, "Why would a pack of swallows be wearing scarves? Why would the scarves keep their little heads from falling in the snow? And, swallows are migratory and show up at Mission San Juan Capistrano on March 19th; why would they be flying over the snow in the first place?"

Tyke cracked up, and said, "NO, MOM! It's 'I was following the/I was following the/I was following . . . The pack all swallowed in their coats/With scarves of red tied 'round their throats/To keep their little heads/From falling the snow.' Gees, Mom, you are so STUPID sometimes!"

I still don't understand why red scarves would keep anybody's head from falling in the snow, unless it's a gang-related costume, and unless the Michael referenced later is not part of the correct gang. I have also considered that it was about dogsled teams, but that doesn't really seem to pan out, either. However, the part I find grisly is

And I turned 'round and there you go
And Michael you would fall
And turn the white snow red as strawberries in summertime

Sounds like bleeding out to me. Yeccchhh! But I still love the song and the video, meaning or no.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010


"Dictionary" is a word my children, 18 and 13, do not recognize as part of their generation's extremely limited lexicon.

I do not understand people who don't use books. My answer to all their questions is always, "Go LOOK IT UP!" We have a huge home library for all uses. And they have been well-trained by me and by their teachers how to use a dictionary. I have a dictionary--many, actually--a whole shelf of them--and always have one by my side. Today's dictionary-by-my-side is the Oxford American (language guide edition), but if someone asks a question I can look it up anywhere in the house, even in the OED, faster than they can find it on the web.

I'm always running over to the boys with dictionary in hand. "Look it up," I suggest, helping with the helpy book. "Nahhhh, that's all right. I'll just go to yourdictionary.com" (and get a brief and not thoroughly explanatory definition, with probably no etymology or language of origin or history).

I suppose what really bothers me the most is not their unwillingness to look something up in a book, but their unwillingness to look up ANYTHING. There's just no intellectual curiosity going on. This is ridiculous in a household where both parents are total chronic bookworms, always reading, always asking questions, always trying to learn something new and doing it all with JOY. We have set the stage and are playing the roles all the time, but we have no audience!

Thing #1 spends all his time composing music on his electronic pianos and the computer, or ruining the guest room by building makeshift recording studios and nailing my favorite blankets to the walls. He never reads anything but IM or Facebook.

Thing #2, at this moment, a regional and national champion swimmer, is Mr. Social Butterfly (hahaha; butterfly, get it?). He is multitasking: addictively texting ALL DAY with multiple girls at once on his phone, eating a whole huge bag of tortilla chips, looking at millions of pictures of himself and the team members that other swimmers have posted on their Facebook accounts, smoothing his curly swimmer hair, looking at Narcissus through the webcam, and listening to Rhapsody streaming music with earphones.

Yesterday, while on the phone texting, of course, he was planning a first date to the movies with a girl who has been a slow burn for the past year or so. I was going to drive him, but not stay, since he was nervous enough and he's a good kid who does not need a chaperone. So as he's texting this girl, he is trying to type the word "chaperone" and asks me how to spell it. (The masculine is "chaperon" and the feminine is "chaperone" and we were talking about a mom coming along.) So I told him how to spell it and he typed it into the phone. THE PHONE'S DICTIONARY did not verify "chaperone," so he concluded that I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO SPELL.

Look it up, a$$hole! Then the inevitable: "How can I look it up if I don't know how to spell it?"


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bad Hair Day

Admittedly, my haircut and color are easily four months past their "use-by" date. Even when it was at its best, my hair took on other people's personalities and appearances while I was sleeping.

It's an odd bit of family history that, after 15 generations on both sides (even, more amazingly, in my DH's family too) in what is now the United States, absolutely everyone in the line having come from England since the Norman invasion (and we know who they were because we have the documentation), the one darn rogue Irishman who slipped in somewhere along the line often expresses himself in my hair. I can look at pictures of daddy and my ginger grandpa and his 13 siblings and his pioneer mother, Granny, and see the same stubborn waves in exactly the same stubborn places. It's weird, as if I'm not myself--I'm THEM. There's a peculiar huge, unconquerable wave on one side in front. Nothing squelches it.

Even with a new cut, I wake up and look in the mirror before brushing my hair to see who I am starting out as today. Frequently it's John F. Kennedy. Other days it's Conan O'Brien. (See? The Irish never die.) But in response to the Kennedys and O'Briens, it's not Irish but Anglo-American eyes that are smiling.

I'm not at all horrified when I skip countries and go to Scotland, and I see Rod Stewart in the mirror. I could so use that energy! And wish I could play soccer. And some mornings I go home to England and am just plain Mick Jagger. Not bad! Goes well with my wrinkles and smile, but alas, not my bank account. I'm pretty sure I couldn't handle the touring, even at my not-so-alarming age, either.

Well, now it's grown out. I've had some surprises as it extended itself. An amusing one was Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd.

But my very somnolent Academy Award best was this morning--I loved it so much I went around for hours without brushing my hair--Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?!

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cannibalism and Self-Destruction Ads

I'm getting weirder in my older age and considering going back to complete vegetarianism. My subject today is not a new trend--it's been around for a long time--but it just really annoys me, and I notice a couple of ads circulating right now that especially get my goat. GOAT! Get it?

Saturday Night Live has, for ages, done various parodies of restaurants that specialize in selling meals such as, say, chicken, or rabbit, or pork, and they've made fake ads in which the persuasive ad "character" is the animal that is on the menu. Those are kind of funny in a disturbing way. But the real commercials that currently bother me are about a cereal family, a child in a play portraying a sandwich, a talking chicken, and a fish.

First, the cereal family. They are a brand of shredded wheat squares. The parents are large squares; the children are little squares. The ad depicts the cereal family at home, with a traditional dad in his easy chair after work and the little kid square putting on the dad's big shoes. The gist is that the kid square thinks he "has big shoes to fill" if he's going to be like his dad. But the dad tells junior that he need not get as big as his parental unit. In fact, kid square is just the right size to be eaten by human kids! Such cheery news! Here's a dad pimping out his own son for human consumption! This is just so . . . not right.

Second is the school play with the sandwich. Child is dressed in a sesame-seed bun as a sloppy joe, the contents of which come from a can. The purpose of the ad is to convince consumers that this brand of pre-made sloppy joe contains "a full serving of vegetables." The bun-portraying kid taunts other vegetables on stage, namely the corn, for being a grain and not a vegetable. Do give me a break. To add insult, the second scene of the ad shows the kid's family at the dinner table with the kid still in costume eating sloppy joes. So, the kid is eating herself for dinner. That's so . . . not right!

Third, the chicken--not a costume chicken, but a real chicken--is apparently lobbying her famous-name, mega-poultry-company CEO for unhealthy food. He talks about how all their chickens only get the best feed. Then he upbraids the hen, "And no candy, Gladys," and she clucks sadly, "Uh-oh." She stars in an ad for people to eat her. Darnit. This is what she has to look forward to, and she doesn't even get to indulge herself in a little candy? Not fair! Find the peanut M & Ms and pig out, Gladys. Go for it before the guillotine gets you!

Finally, the fish. it's one of those artificial taxidermied singing plaques.

. In everyday life, I have a morbid fascination for those awful fake singing fish. If I had a really obscure basement that hadn't been renovated into a nice walk-out suite, I might actually have such a plaque, because I get guilty and shameful pleasure out of the kind of kitsch that just makes you say, "Huh?" Or "That is SO TACKY!" It's morbid fascination for the hopelessly unwanted and non-artistic. This is why I own a bunch of silly animal figures that started with a white-elephant party when I was a child. My first idiotic animal was a ceramic dish in the form of a turtle rolling around on its back with a lid made of its plastron and a way too-long tail that curled up over its tummy and its insanely smiling head curling up to stare at the tail--it just looked WRONG, and so it was hilarious. I don't even tell people I enjoy these kitschy things; friends just sense it in me and give me embarrassing stupid animal gifts. My kitchen is filled with them. I even have a braless mermaid and a wooden trout hanging in the window. And then there's e-Claire, the cast-iron cow, whom I found in Deerfield, Massachusetts, and Cam the Ram, her cast-iron counterpart, whom I use to hold open cookbooks. And Curtis, my furry buffalo statue, a gift from my husband who knows I had a childhood fear of bison. One of my dear friends calls my unnatural interest "whimsy," and brought me a solid glass turtle paperweight from Finland whom she appropriately named "Finn." He greets people in the entry hall.

Anyway, as usual I digress beyond recognition. Back to our ad's scaly friend, the fish. He sings, "Give me that fillet of fish! Give me back that fish!" And he's singing about the contents of his own body, which has been put into a sandwich. Eeeewwwww! He's wagging his fish tale while the guys who bought him in a sandwich are eating him on camera! That's . . . not right!


Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Not of the congressional kind, but of the offspring kind. Demands. I have probably already written up on this here blog my Raggedy Ann Theory. Everyone in this family sees me as a tool, not a person. I'm Raggedy Ann sitting stupidly on a shelf until somebody needs me and throws me around, and I'd better be available 24/7 and never argue against their preposterous wants and better drop everything else to instantly and magically fly to meet their needs.

The week before Christmas, Thing #1, the Elder, who is going to conservatory next year (maybe, if hell freezes over), phones me from his first school (goes to two, long story), and gives me a LIST of things to do. I have 15 minutes to do them all and still drive to the school! Yeah, right!:

  • Bring $20 to the door of the school so he can order a slew more transcripts.
  • Be there at no later than 12:45.
  • Put money in his online lunch account because he ate everything up yesterday and just found out there's a zero balance.
  • Bring him a hot lunch because the cafeteria won't let him have anything right now.
  • Bring seven postage stamps of the postcard denomination for the transcript office.
  • Give him a ride to the other school in the city to make it on time for afternoon class.

RIGHT NOW! No "Please" or anything. Heaven forbid.

So like the idjit I am, I jump into Whirling Dervish mode, find $20, and replenish the lunch account while leftover pasta is sizzling in the microwave. Then I speed to the post office, because, wouldn't you know it, we have no postcard stamps and I am NOT going to give him seven precious Forever stamps for some dumbbell postcards.

I zap over to the post office, which is mobbed with people sending last-minute Christmas gifts, and stand in line biting my nails up to the elbows waiting for those postcard stamps. Then I run back across town to the school, with the "hot lunch" getting colder every minute.

Kid takes the $20 and the stamps. Comes back to the car with the entire book of stamps and stuffs them in the door handle. I give him a "what the . . . ?" look. I hand him the lunch and fork and napkin, and he says, "Turns out they let me have a lunch." That's when it hits me: my car is small, and my arm is LONG and strong . . .

He is a teenage piggert, so he decides to inhale the pasta anyway. We get stuck in lunch-hour traffic on the way into the city, and he's cussing because I am going to make him late! You see where the BLAME lies? It's my fault!

When I drop him at the door of the Academy, he has forgotten his ID badge which opens the security door, and he has left the stamps sitting in the car-door handle.

I drive off.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


St. Lucy, Martyr

This post will, ultimately, be about song lyrics and a saint, however off-kilter the rambling intro might be. And, this is not the kind of "Eh?" people refer to as Canadian, speaking of the recent Vancouver Olympics, which I am heartily glad are over. I have no use for ice fornicating (Robin Williams calls it something else) or maybe I should call it ice pornicating, but I love speed skating, half-pipe, and skiing. Other than that, I can't stand it. I mean, girls, cover up your waggy little fannies with real clothing and quit dragging your ponytails on the rink [you're too old for a ponytail, by the way!] and quit simulating orgasms in public [perhaps I should have dropped the L and said "in pubic"?] , and quit crying the disgusting glitter off your eyes like a baby if you don't get a gold! Wash out the industrial-strength hairspray and have real hair! JEEZ!

Which digression randomly brings me full circle to my thesis: my "Eh?" is the Old Person kind of "Eh?" The kind old people used to say when they couldn't understand what they thought they heard, or perhaps they heard nothing because they were too stubborn to wear a hearing aid. It's the kind my great-grandfather used to say at the Sunday dinner table, peppered alternately with, "Suuuuurrre." "Suuuuurre" always meant that he sure hadn't caught what we'd said and could he have another slice of rhubarb pie please, Gramma Flo.

As I get older, I admit that as my body diminishes I grow less tolerant of general foolishness: bad driving, buckwild crazy parents allowing their children to run like bulls at Pamplona in large public places such as warehouse discount stores, "journalists" working for such esteemed publications as the WSJ who cannot distinguish between the words "gads" and "scads" when context says they clearly mean "scads" (and by the way why are such colloquialisms showing up in the WSJ? I will tell you why--they have almost certainly fired all my colleagues, the copy editors, and no longer even have dedicated beat reporters but use random remote quickie stringers who have no clue about their location, audience, OR content.)

Retreating now from the rant about my beloved newspaper industry, I also have no tolerance for women in really noisy
clicky high heels; I want to stick my leg out and trip them. In addition, I can't stand people who whistle aimlessly and improvisationally and cannot carry a tune to save their lives; this holds for people at home as well as those in public. And the people at home know who they are and are regularly admonished to STOP IT! I want to smack my hand over their lips and take them down. That is just the beginning. Clearly, there's not room on the entire Internet for my list of peeves and grievances.

Lately, what really gets my goat is not being able to understand the lyrics of the music my younger son, the champion swimmer, likes. I hope with all the maximum iPodding his ears don't wind up looking like Michael Phelps's, although he is eating almost an actual pig in a blanket and three gallons of--coffee--ice cream--every day. (See Saturday Night Live on Hulu episode with Michael Phelps--v. funny to a swim mom.) Also, regularly, he says, "Mom, listen to this awesome song!" And I listen, but I don't hear and comprehend anything. I don't understand the lyrics AT ALL. I might hear and understand, in my own way, the words of the lyrics, but I don't know what they mean in the context of the songs.

He listens to more and more pop and rap and I just don't get it. I ask him to translate. And I still wind up saying,
"Eh?" Recently, he started playing a pop, not rap song that he and I really like. Not terribly new. Very dancy. It's called "Replay." The artist is Iyaz, and the music is poppy/Caribbean. It opens with, "Shorty's like a melody in my head." Tyke was streaming the song from Rhapsody way across the open family room, and I was trying to listen, but all I could pay attention to was what I could NOT understand. So I said, "Wait, Tyke, did he just say '/Like my eyeballs stuck on a plate?'" My son nearly sprayed his ginger ale all over the monitor. "Mom, you are an R-tard!" And I was laughing, too, because just when I said it I did realize that not only was I an R-tard in his eyes, but also that I had made a completely subliminal reference to artistic representations of Saint Lucy, and my son did not get it because he knows nothing about saints or art history, and I thought that was hilarious right back at him. I was laughing more because he did not understand my allusion than because I hadn't understood the lyrics.

I guess this may be a generational thing, but so be it. So I asked him to play the song again, and he said, "Mom, it's 'like my iPod's stuck on REPLAY! Not 'my eyeballs stuck on a plate!'" In truth, these are the lyrics:

"Shorty's like a melody in my head/that I can't keep out, I be singin' like/
Na-na-na-na every day/Like my iPod's stuck on REPLAY [echo replay]"

I stood corrected, but now every time he plays the song we deliberately sing it "Like my eyeballs stuck on a plate!"

But my mishearing doesn't stop there. Another line from the song I did not understand sounded to me like, "I'm afraid of a pork chop." So, again I said, "Tyke, tell me he did not just say 'I'm afraid of a pork chop'!" And he said, "Mom, what is WRONG WITH YOU?"

"That girl--like somethin' on a poster . . ./some other line/That girl she's the gun to my holster . . ."

It may be neither here nor there, but furthermore I take umbrage at the metaphor of the girl being the "gun to the holster." Because, I think if you consider the image you will concur that the boy is probably the gun to the girl's holster, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And another stupid ad

Some time ago I posted about a particular pregnancy test that seemed to me completely inappropriate. I don't think pregnancy tests themselves are inappropriate--in fact, until finishing menopause (hooray!) I found them pretty handy. But this same company now has an ad, narrated inexplicably by a man (why does he get more credibility than a woman who would be the expert and marketing target?) which claims, "One out of four women can misread a pregnancy test."

First, stop the fear mongering. Of course they don't. They're terrified of the answer either way, so 100% of them are certainly jittery but not too dumb to figure out the result. You'd be surprised how that hightened awareness can focus one's mind on making sure she understands the results of a pregnancy test.

Second, hell's bells. What kind of idiotic spawn are we turning out if one quarter of women are so stupid that they can't read a plus sign for positive or a minus sign as a negative? Duh? They have to have whole words to explain it to them? If they can't read a single sign, how can they read a whole word?

If this claim is true--and I don't think it is--I suspect rampant illiterate texting and IMing, combined with ignoring reading and any other sort of homework, may be a contributor.

Next they'll come up with a test that talks to you after you pee on it ("Yes, you are pregnant!" "No, you are not pregnant!"), because the manufacturers assume that the women are so challenged they can't read at all.