Silver Springs

I love a good breakup album, and Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours might just top them all.

However, my favorite Fleetwood Mac song written during that time, Silver Springs, never made it to the album. I first learned of it when the band reunited for Bill Clinton’s inauguration its comeback tour in 1997, The Dance.

(I was reminded of it this morning when I came across a stellar cover of Silver Springs by Florence + The Machine.)

Stevie Nicks wrote the song as her relationship with guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was ending. (Simultaneously, as the group was recording Rumours, bandmates Christie and John McVie were divorcing.)

 

Silver Springs is beautiful, both lyrically and musically; the song actually sounds like a river flowing by, with a woman wailing to her lover from an underground cavern beneath. I wonder if he banished her or if she sent herself there, forcing herself to watch him and his new paramour through the crystal clear water.

Despite it not being on Rumours, Silver Springs was included on Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain box set in 1992 and on their 2002 Greatest Hits album. In the late 1970s, it was a B side to Don’t Stop and Lindsey Buckingham’s massively popular response to Silver Springs, Go Your Own Way.

Silver Springs

I Don’t Care About the Oscars Anymore

I once dated someone who considered himself to have superior taste in entertainment, most notably music and cinema. Up until that point, I’d really only listened to Top 40 radio and I didn’t have much of a taste in movies at all. The mix tapes he made me while dating were pretty good–I’m showing my age again–but he refused to listen to anything I liked that I found on my own. We saw a lot of Serious Movies too, but for someone who claimed to care about movies more than I do, he took me to see Cable Guy–oh, how he loved Cable Guy–and Titanic. He was completely floored by The Shawshank Redemption, even though I knew what was going to happen because I’d read the novella. (Although he’s known mostly for horror, Stephen King’s work spans a number of genres. The movie Stand By Me also is based on one of his short stories.)

After we broke up, my horizons grew beyond Top 40, thanks to a noncommercial radio station I started to listen to. And I started to watch a lot more independent film, too, but mostly I’d try to watch all the Oscar nominees each year, because I thought that was an arbiter of taste. When I started dating the person who became my husband, it rapidly became apparent that we did not have the same taste in music or movies (or television shows). And that’s fine! I had some friends who wanted watch the same movies I did, but then we all got married and had babies and going to dinner and a movie became an investment.

I live in a different town now, and if I want to see a Serious Movie, I just go by myself. I once felt sorry for people going to the movies by themselves, but now I understand that they were doing exactly what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it, without any distractions.

But I don’t see many Serious Movies unless they’re out on Netflix or Amazon Prime around Oscar season. Instead, I go to the movies with my friends as a form of entertainment. We usually see a movie a few weeks after it opens, so we have a better chance of happening upon a nearly empty theater with some very gracious patrons. Because my friends and I are LOUD when we are at the movies. We sang along to all the songs in Pitch Perfect. We hurled warnings at Anastasia in Fifty Shades of Grey. We stood with Katniss.

I stopped paying attention to the awards ceremony years ago, regardless of the host or the presenters or the nominees. I discovered that the Oscars aren’t based on merit, but as the result of fierce campaigning and power-brokering on the behalf of studios and a handful of actors. I’m guessing–I’m not a Hollywood Insider or even a Hollywood Outsider–that becoming an Academy Award winner allows you to make films or star in them a whole lot easier, so it really perpetuates a cycle of the same kind of entertainment being made every year.

I know on the surface that this theory is pretty weak; films like Fifty Shades of Grey and even Hunger Games don’t win Oscars but they are huge hits at the box office. But they’re based on books that already have sold millions of copies, generated copycats and spinoffs, and are pretty much destined to be hits, despite questionable quality.

I have friends who have Oscar parties: they get all dolled up and it’s a really serious affair with ballots and prizes for the attendants who guess the most winners and everything. I’d go to one of those if invited (again, as a conduit to hang out with people), and I’m actually quite interested in Chris Rock’s material and what he has to say–but something tells me he needs to get everything approved by Powers That Be, just like the Oscars themselves.

I Don’t Care About the Oscars Anymore

Make America Work!

There was another #GOPDebate last night. I don’t watch any of the debates (or town halls) because the candidates don’t truly debate. They don’t answer the questions and instead use time to spout forth talking points that the moderators don’t have the resources to immediately fact-check, or insult each other, or blame the media for having the audacity to ask the question in the first place. Also, there are way too many candidates for even a halfway meaningful discussion; I think that’s why all of them so far have devolved into some kind of parody of a reality show.

Speaking of reality show, Donald Trump has defied all expectations–inside the Republican party and out–and remained the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. I guess The Powers That Be in the GOP finally understand that an establishment candidate isn’t going to cut it. Even though Trump is a living, breathing example of income disparity and tax cuts and entertainment in one nifty package, his followers extol him for “telling it like it is” (even though he won’t release his tax returns), his business “success” (even though running the government is not the same as running a business, and his very vague promise to “Make America Great Again.”

(When he wears that red hat I’m constantly reminded of Beach Boys’ lead singer Mike Love wearing a “Beach Boys” hat while singing in concert. It gets me every single time.)

My issue with Trump is that he doesn’t spell that well and he tends to retweet people who demean and debase women, LGBTQ populations and religious minorities. Why give those kinds of people any kind of platform?

So a large swath of the electorate seems to think a suitable candidate for President needs to have (1) starred on his own reality show, (2) written his own books, (3) be successful in his area of specialty, (4) have no government experience whatsoever. I think I’ve found someone who not only fulfills all the criteria above, but also is a kinder person in general.

My Reality Star Nominee for the GOP* Nomination: Mr. Tim Gunn

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  1. He was so successful as a mentor on Project Runway (he won a Primetime Emmy in 2013) that he got his own show, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. He’s also appeared as himself on numerous other programs and continues to do voiceover work.
  2. He’s written four books, including a (Fashion) BIBLE.
  3. As Dean of the Parsons School of Design, he completely revamped the program, which is now considered one of the finest design schools in the country. (He made it great again!)
  4. Gunn has no experience in government, although he’s a fifth generation Washingtonian; his mother worked for the CIA and his father was an agent for the FBI.

Simply put, I can see Tim Gunn in any kind of situation, advising his team on how to proceed and then clap his hands and say “Make it work!” very sternly and you know that people would get shit done.

Fashion is a booming international industry that includes labor, the arts, textiles, and much, much more. You know he’d look impeccable at any kind of summit, be it at Camp David or in the middle of the desert.

He’s also pretty kind, compared with Trump, at least. He doesn’t insult the designers on his show, he gives them advice (and more often than not, he’s right) and encourages them.

So instead of Make America Great Again, I think a better slogan would be Make America Work! It can work for everybody– economically, socially and politically–and everything, too. Make America Work for you! Make America work for everyone else! It’s a catchall phrase that everyone can agree on.

*I’m not a registered voter of the GOP. This post, as like nearly all the others, is for entertainment value. Although Tim Gunn would be the most fabulous president ever.

 

Make America Work!

I’m Doing Everything Wrong

On Wednesday morning, something miraculous occurred in my house.

I overslept (watching Shadowhunters the night before an hour later than usual and insomnia) and my kids got up, showered, dressed, made their breakfast, ate breakfast, brushed their teeth, cleaned up their breakfast dishes, packed their lunch snacks and were practically in hats and coats by the time I lumbered downstairs.

All of this happened without fighting, and electronics and television were off.

I MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.

Based on previous experiences of parenting euphoria–when my kids slept through the night the first time, when they stayed dry through the night for the first time, when they behaved well and other parents complimented my husband and me–I knew something would happen immediately to take away my high and I’d come crashing down to Earth.

All I had to do was check Facebook on my phone. I follow Slate on Facebook, and came upon this article. I took a deep breath. My kids and I have started to talk about allowances, and I came up with an age-appropriate chore chart for each child. We all reviewed it together and I printed out copies and posted them in their rooms. I said, OK, if you complete all the chores for the week without me having to remind you, then you’ll get an allowance.

That was about a month ago, and I still haven’t had to give out an allowance yet. Whenever someone asks, I direct him or her to the chart, the child says “Oh,” and that’s the end of the conversation.

I come across these articles once every few months. The Atlantic has a handy list of everything I’m doing wrong. Slate has devoted a whole section of its website to this kind of piece. Even the Washington Post gets in on the act.

It’s amazing that I’m nearly 40 and I’m a relatively productive member of society. According to these articles, I’m a walking grenade without its pin.

I’m not denying I make mistakes; I do that every single day. Could I go about doing certain things in a better way? Absolutely. I don’t know everything and in my quest to be right all the time I sure do want to know how to do things more efficiently.

When I read this articles I only make it about two paragraphs before the condescension and negativity drive me away. I certainly don’t want to take any suggestions because a lot of the time, they’re more complicated and come from experts like a personal chef who doesn’t have two picky children and a pickier husband with a discerning palate.

Hey, writers and editors of You’re Doing It Wrong articles: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Instead of focusing on what people are doing wrong, tell them what they’re doing right, and emphasize the benefits of following your advice. For example: We’ve discovered how to make great tasting pasta in half the time so you can spend more time listening to your family tell you they hate it. Or: We know you love sushi, here’s how you can enjoy it more without spilling all of the soy sauce all over the place. And: Your kids start to learn about money in math class in second grade or so. It’s great if you start teaching them about allowances then.

(Aside, my daughter learned more about financial literacy from selling Girl Scout cookies for four years than I could ever teach her from the Slate article.)

 

 

I’m Doing Everything Wrong

An Ode to Vinegar

Even though I do most of the physical shopping for the family, my husband (with the exception of clothes shopping and gift shopping) does most of the planning, and I merely execute his vision. A few years ago he got into couponing–or, as I like to call it, “productive hoarding”–and other than driving me up the wall with trying to figure out where to put 1,578 bottles of barbecue sauce, he got really great deals and saved us money.

Since then, I’ve become a little more active in looking for deals. I’ve got the Target Cartwheel and other couponing apps. But some things I use on a daily basis rarely, if ever, go on sale.

For example: I really like method cleaners. I use them on granite countertops, windows, bathroom surfaces, shower stall, wood; you name it. For the most part, they’re plant-based and they smell and work great. However, they’re expensive: the granite cleaner costs $7 for a 28-oz bottle, and that lasts us a month or two. I can get it in bulk but the savings are not that much more substantial there. Everything else I buy at Target and even though I’ve got Cartwheel and the Red Card, it’s still costly. (I do not understand why plant-based cleaners are so expensive. There are plants everywhere all over the world. Surely it’s not a supply-and-demand problem.)

As I looked at an array of empty spray bottles this weekend, and a sinking feeling I was going to spend major bank replenishing every method cleaner I had, I decided to play on google and see if I could make my own plant-based cleaners.

And you know what? It turns out I could, and most of the cleaning solutions I researched had one main ingredient: white distilled vinegar. It is inexpensive ($3.29 for 1.32 gallons at my local BJs), natural (vinegar is made when yeasts turn natural sugars into alcohol; then a bacteria turns the alcohol into acetic acid), and versatile. I used it along with water for a wood/glass cleaning solution; I combined it with Dawn, lemon juice and water to create a bathroom cleaner for soap scum, and I poured undiluted vinegar into a spray bottle solely to clean stainless steel appliances.

Another benefit: it’s antibacterial. I went on a trip to Washington DC a few years ago with my family, and at one of the Smithsonian Museums a docent was giving a lecture about World War I. (Bottom line: everyone was woefully underprepared for World War I.) Anyway, medics used pickle juice to help treat wounds because of its high vinegar content.

I called my dad to tell him and he basically said, “Online Offal, I invented vinegar.” He uses it for laundry (in lieu of fabric softener), weed killer and more.

As I’ve been preaching vinegar and its virtues over the past several days, my friends were all, “What about the smell?” (And then they told me I was boring.) This is the only part of the whole business that was expensive, although if you shop around you can find good deals online: essential oils. Just one drop of the oil into a spray bottle was enough to eliminate any vinegar odor. I used orange essential oil for cleaning and lavender essential oil for laundry and I couldn’t smell any vinegar at all.

Some caveats: vinegar can’t be used on granite (the acid eats through) and be sure to google before cleaning a delicate surface. Some great online resources include The Vinegar Institute and VinegarTips.com.

 

 

An Ode to Vinegar

Getting Shit Done

I have a close friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple years ago. We met when we worked together at a non-profit, where she was an event planner. Being an event planner sounds glamorous, but the hours were long and and her to-do list longer. She was a supremely effective event planner because She Got Shit Done. We clashed at times–“Online Offal, I don’t care how many people disagree with you that the word barbecue does not have a q in it, just finish writing the damn copy already!”–but we share the same sense of humor, and when you find another person like that you don’t let her go.

Anyway, my friend attacked her diagnosis and treatment like one of her events, and she’d email a small group of family and friends when she needed help. She was extremely precise in telling us what she needed and what she didn’t want. So we all Got Shit Done, and she’s doing great now.

It’s come time for me to talk about politics.

I vote in every election. It’s very sexy to vote for President but I’d argue it’s more important to vote in local elections, because these are the people who are more likely to directly affect your life in a meaningful way.

Every time I vote in an election, I try to choose people who will Get Shit Done. It’s my favorite characteristic of a good community/state/federal leader. I don’t need a candidate to snuggle my kids or shake my hand or be my friend. I already have people in my life who fulfill those roles. I need the candidate to be able to work with difficult people, compromise if need be, and offer solutions when hit with obstruction. Throwing up your hands and holding a press conference solely to point fingers at someone is not a very productive way to spend your time, in my opinion.

Over the past few years, there has been a spectacular failure of people at the local, state and federal levels to Get Shit Done. A lot of it has to do with the fact that people have been pigeonholed into being Conservative or Liberal and anyone who does not share their political philosophy–however nuanced or complex–is The Enemy.

I live in a state in which there has been no budget for eight months. The governor is a Democrat and the legislature is mostly Republican. No budget means that no money is going to community agencies and until emergency funding was provided on Dec. 31, no schools. This is all because people can’t get along, and they think that Making a Stand means they’re doing their jobs. People in my community literally don’t have jobs because the funding has been stalled.

I live in a state in which the Attorney General has lost her law license yet still manages to hold office. She will go on trial for perjury and for leaking information from a secret grand jury to a reporter in order to go after a rival. (There hasn’t been a week that’s gone by where I haven’t wondered if she does her job. She’s been up to a lot more shenanigans, but being an attorney general without having a law license takes the cake.)

I live in a community in which our school board president, after ousting the superintendent following a $66,000 investigation that revealed nothing, violated the state’s Sunshine Act when he and other members met secretly about that matter and  when he encouraged other members of the board to deliberate secretly on a search firm contract to find a new superintendent. The interim superintendent costs $700/day and his first act was to send a letter to the community justifying his compensation–instead of merely putting his head down and Getting Shit Done.

(The school board president and interim superintendent have maintained the real crime is not violation of the Sunshine Act but the someone recording a private meeting and then leaking it to the press. By the way, under the same school board president, the school district drastically cut arts, music, physical education and library science two years ago because of the poor economy at the time.)

I live in a country in which the majority leader of the Senate refuses to meet, much less hold confirmation hearings and vote on a new Supreme Court Justice. You know, he basically refuses to do a key part of his job for the remainder of the term.

Look, I get it. There are parts to any job that suck; that’s why it’s called a job. You can complain loudly on talks shows or in op-eds or at press conferences that you have to do it, but you still do it. My friend didn’t like having cancer, but she couldn’t change anything about it. So she just bucked down and Got Shit Done.

I wish there were a lot more people like that.

 

 

Getting Shit Done

Sometimes Reading Good Literature Is Like Taking Vitamins

I mentioned a few posts back that I’m a sucker for a BBC-produced costume period drama, and War & Peace has been in our DVR queue, unwatched, while I plow through the book.

No one does drama like the Russians. My in-laws visited Russia a couple years ago, and they told me that for a lot of Russian people, their identity is wrapped up in suffering and struggle, like they’ve recognized their lot in life and try to succumb nobly to their fate. (Also, vodka.) Yes, their government is corrupt and the weather is awful and communism can be soul-sucking but man, can they do drama.

I like to think Tolstoy (War & Peace and Anna Karenina) treated literature as a catch-all profession. Everything is in these books. Philosophy, society, fashion, agriculture, treason, redemption, religion. Everything.

It’s taking me forever to get through War & Peace. I think it took me three weeks to finish Anna Karenina, but even though it’s just as long as War & Peace, there was a desperation to Anna’s story that kept me going. The “war” part of War & Peace is painstakingly descriptive war reporting. (Aside: I took Latin in high school and we had to translate a lot of Julius Caesar, who also was a big fan of writing about war; in particular, all the different people he conquered and then subjugated.) What’s a lot more interesting is how the men behave when they come back from the army on leave; how the Russian army is fragmented because certain generals are more interested in personal glory than overall victory against Napoleon and in doing so, sabotage other regiments; how women are supposed to remain true to their soldiers but it’s OK that they mess around. There is great stuff there, but I have to get through the war stuff.

So it’s a good story, and I’m roughly 400 pages in, but it takes me a long time to get in the mood to read it. I know it’s going to be good for me, but sometimes I consider War & Peace to be one big pile of kale with vitamins on top. I know it’s going to be good for me, but I dread the process.

Related: My favorite radio station played side one of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot this afternoon when I was chauffeuring my daughter around town. I owned the CD (back before digital music was readily available, kids!) and like reading War & Peace, listening to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a lot like taking vitamins. The possible exception might be the track “Heavy Metal Drummer,” which was easily the album’s most radio-friendly song.

 

Sometimes Reading Good Literature Is Like Taking Vitamins