Friday, December 12, 2008

Addendum to previous post regarding buying books

A few weeks ago I wrote that Op-Ed piece about buying books for the holiday season, because I was watching what was happening to the book industry. Well, I wasn't alone. I usually feel like I'm behind the times, but for once I was ahead of the curve:
from Publisher's Weekly:

Publishers, Authors Campaign for Books as Gifts
-- Publishers Weekly, 12/11/2008 2:05:00 PM

Most of the nation’s largest trade publishers have united behind a new online advertising campaign aimed at getting customers to buy books in physical stores and in online retailers. features a video produced by Random House that features authors from a variety of houses explaining why books make great holiday presents. In addition to the BooksAreGreatGifts site, which includes the video and links to publishers’s sites, retailers are promoting the video and it is also being distributed to MSN and Yahoo. The AAP hopes to add other authors over the course of 2009 to promote book gift-giving year-round.

In a separate effort, the Authors Guild has sent a message from Guild president Roy Blount, Jr. to its members urging them and their friends to organize book-buying splurges at their local bookstores. Noting that a serious dip in holiday sales could be devastating to bookstores, Blount suggests that customers make the rest of their holiday purchases books. Readers could also stock up on books to give as gifts later in the year, Blount says. “There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves.Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books,” Blount urges.

So my little op-ed piece -- I'm in good company with Roy Blount, Jr. Not bad! If that's not an Accomplishment, I don't know what is.

Here's the original post:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Accomplishment #22: Build a Bonfire (#94)

Okay. Um... I probably don't need to really tell you this, but I'm not exactly the Burning Man type of girl. Sure, lots of people are totally into it, and come from all over the world to burn the man, and that's great. But me? Nah. I'm not one for mud and grit. Or fire. Or camping. (So Accomplishment #46, Take a Camping Trip, is gonna be Real Fun for me.) Or seeing naked people on acid hugging one another. (Okay, sorry. That's Woodstock. I don't lament missing that, either.) So... this Accomplishment, I admit, I totally wussed out on. Now, if I were a true Accomplisher, I'd actually go to Burning Man and do it up 100%, but I don't think so. I'd be the one who'd die of dehydration or lose my teeth or something like that. I love you, Blog, but not enough to risk my life or teeth for you.

The book (97 Things...) tells you to experience a bonfire at least once in your teen life. I guess I did -- I went to the big campfire on the last night of junior high church camp, where all the girls loaded up on so much Kissing Potion their lips were cherry flavored reflectors as everyone sang Kum Ba Ya and felt, like, totally holy and sad because it was the last night we'd ever be together. Ever. But while I might have sung and exchanged addresses with bunkmates I'd never see again, I didn't have anything to do with building a bonfire. So I'm not sure if that counts. And I think I went to one at the beach and sat there, alone and miserable, while my friend Tammy made out with some guy. But then again, that could have been pretty much anywhere I ever went with my friend Tammy, so I'm not sure if a bonfire was even a setting. (I do know that happened on the bus a few times. Ugh.)

When I think of bonfires, I think of two things, other than Burning Man. (Or Guy Fawkes Day. Now, if I were a wealthy Accomplisher, I would have flown to England on November 5th to partake. I am a very poor Accomplisher, so therefore, I didn't.) One is the scene in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, where there's the Nazi's big book burning bonfire and Hitler signs Indiana Jones' dad's Holy Grail book.

Yes, that scene is AWESOME.

And secondly, the scene from the Great Movie Grease where it's the football game and Sandy's the cheerleader and Rizzo and the Pink Ladies push her into Danny Zuko and he acts all cool and... Whatever, here's the clip:

(With the fabulous slumber party scene for your added enjoyment!)

Our high school football games didn't have bonfires. I don't think, anyway. My friends and I didn't have what you'd exactly call school spirit, and since the jocks were the ones who were mean to us, we didn't exactly feel terribly supportive of their endeavors. But I went to some games my freshman year, and then sophomore year, my friend Andrea and I took Marching Band to get out of P.E. so we had to go. We couldn't even play instruments, and yet they let us in, and we were constantly in trouble. But the humiliation of wearing our polyester band uniforms in public was better than the humiliation of athletic excursion and ineptitude, even when a kid barfed all down my back at a game and we were asked not to come back in the spring. That one semester of band took care of all our PE requirements for the rest of high school, so yeah, it was definitely worth it. And you couldn't recognize us in the yearbook photo, so, well, you would never have known we were band geeks if I hadn't just confessed.

Anyhow, this past Thanksgiving we went to my sister's house in Sonoma. She and her husband live in a magical adobe house and they have miniature DONKEYS.

Thanksgiving 2008
This has nothing to do with the bonfire. I just love this donkey.

And as an added bonus to the BBQed turkey and donkeys, there would be a bonfire. "Terrific!" I thought. "It's part of my blog!" The book even says that it's all part of spiritual yaddie yaddie (obviously my words there), and a way to celebrate holidays for many cultures. So what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with overindulging on food and flames? It was what the book said to do. An Accomplishment in a snap!

So we went to my sister's house, where I ate too much shrimp dip and turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and cake and wished that pants with elastic waistbands were more fashionable.

And yes, indeed there was a bonfire:

Thanksgiving 2008
Come on, baby...

Except all I did was look at it for a few minutes, and then told the kids that they couldn't eat marshmallows because they'd already eaten a bunch of them and cake and they'd be bouncing off the walls and so I was the total killjoy and, well, that was about it. I didn't even throw a stick on there.

But I actually sat next to a bona fide bonfire. And being that this is not an every day occurrence (in my city, you don't really want to see a bonfire, trust me -- it would mean there something going on) I feel that this is a Bona Fide Accomplishment.

And I found that I am more of a hanging with the donkeys type of girl anyway, so that counts for something.

Thanksgiving 2008
The Donkey Whisperer

Twenty-two down, 75 to go.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I have been remiss...

... in posting lately, and I do apologize. But I swear, it's because I have been Accomplishing things! Who knew that Accomplishing things could take up so much time? I'm looking forward to having some time to simply hunker down and post some entries, and I promise, it will be soon.

In the meantime, I want to thank everybody for their support for my reading -- it was fun! The turnout was fantastic (thanks to everyone who came!), and I appreciated the applause. In the end I wrote about how Facebook is really the online equivalent of junior high school. (You can call it "networking" all you want, but let's face it -- there is NO WAY I'd ever get a job from my facebook page. But you CAN subscribe to this blog via facebook! I heart modern technology!) A lot of people could relate to it, but one girl came up to me and said, "I will NEVER join facebook, but you have rockstar hair!" And then yesterday, when I was at Top Dog buying a bratwurst while in a grubby sweatshirt and *gasp* no tiara, a woman said, "Hey! I saw you read at Mixing Bowl last week!" Yes folks, I am famous. I can no longer go to places like Top Dog without being recognized. I will be going to The Ivy and 21 from here on out.

Should you want to recognize me as well, this is me reading and looking very serious indeed:

photo by Ken Duffy

And on a different note, tis the season for the next Mid Century Potluck -- the MID CENTURY SUPPER CLUB WINTER WONDERLAND HOLIDAY POTLUCK that is.


If you're in the bay area and you've always wanted to accomplish creating a dish featuring canned meat and aspic, be our guest!

Okay, must go finish all those pesky Accomplishments now. I promise, more updates soon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Accomplishment #21: WriteYour Own Op-Ed Piece (#72)

[Okay, the book says if you have an opinion, write an Op-Ed and send it in to your local newspaper, and if it doesn't get published to post it on your blog. I DO have a strong opinion about something (big surprise), but I am skipping the whole rejection part, and just posting it to my blog. It still counts, right? Since I am the queen of 97land, I think it does.]


Because I work in publishing, I get daily emails and updates about how the economy is wreaking havoc on the book and publishing industries. Even before all of this recent economic turmoil happened, more and more independent bookstores were going out of business, eaten up by the bigger chains and inability to discount their books to compete, and rents skyrocketing to the point that more and more bookstores had to shut their brick and mortar establishments. And I am not talking about little, tiny, out of the way bookstores that someone opened recently on a whim; I am talking about well established stores that had been in business for decades. I actually cried when I found out that my favorite travel bookstore, Candida's in Washington DC, shut down, as did the giant Olsson's. And those are just two examples.

Now experts are saying that this is going to be a bad retail season, which drives fear into everyone's hearts. This is the season that keeps most retail businesses afloat, and without good sales, we could see a very ugly period ahead. And hit hard is going to be the book business. It used to be said that the book industry was nearly recession proof, as people still would buy books because they were inexpensive, enjoyable, and accessible, but now I'm not so sure. With the internet and the economy, things aren't looking so good.

I would like to encourage you, should you be buying gifts this year, to please buy BOOKS for everyone on your list this holiday season. A few months ago I would have said to please buy from your local independent, and I still believe that is the first choice to exercise whenever possible (if there is even a local independent near you anymore -- I'm still worried they are going the way of the DoDo and ultimately the polar bear, which makes me cry and we need to change the subject), but buy them from any bookstore. Everyone's hurting.

And do I really need to tell you that books make great gifts? Come on... But I will anyway:

~ Books are relatively inexpensive. These days they cost the same or less than a two hour movie, yet they last much, much longer, and can be read again and again. They are a bargain.

~ Books become your friends. If you are sad or worried, a book can cheer you up with a good plot or good advice. They can make you laugh out loud, or tell you a story that will make you cry. They can inspire you to go and do Great Things. (Or Accomplish a bunch of stuff you never did in High School.) And they will NEVER flake on you or cheat on you, and will be there for you as long as you keep them on your shelves. (Though some WILL tell you not to eat that second helping of ice cream. The Health & Diet genre can be a bit cruel and pushy sometimes.)

~ Books are treasures. There is something about a book that has been given to someone that makes it magical, especially when the giver has inscribed it. I still have most of the books my father gave to me when I was little, and while the author's printed pages are precious, my father's handwriting is absolutely priceless.

~ Sharing a book you love with someone has the ability to shape someone's life. My sister, though she didn't inscribe it, gave me a copy of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers in 9th grade, because it was one of her favorites. It became one of mine, too. And my other sister gave me a collection of John Steinbeck in 9th grade also because she loved him, and again, so do I. Passionately. (And have been thinking a lot about The Grapes of Wrath lately. Time to revisit it.)

~ There are so many to choose from. Even if the people you're shopping for aren't readers, there is a book in the store that they will love. Whether it's a coffee table book full of pictures, a graphic novel, a how to, or a travel guide for somewhere they might go or have been... Trust me. It's in the bookstore.

~ One stop shopping! The best gift you can give yourself that pays off for everyone is lack of stress. What better way to combat it than get all your shopping done in a nice, clean well lighted place that's not the mall or Wal-Mart? Just thinking about that upped my blood pressure. Ugh.

~ Books are a good and cheap and diverse education. I don't know about you, but I'm too broke to go back to school. The next best thing? Books. And books about EVERYTHING. you can virtually teach yourself anything. Sure, you can Google it, but you can't use a HIGHLIGHTER.

~ They are the easiest thing to wrap. Take it from me, the world's worst wrapper. My presents look like they were wrapped by a four-year-old. One time I went to a baby shower and the guests actually laughed at my crappy wrap job. But books? I am a PRO. In my bookstore tenure, I must have wrapped thousands of books. And it wasn't practice that made it perfect -- it was the clean, even lines. Not a lot of tape, and no need for a gift bag, God's answer for the Gift-Wrapped Challenged.

~ Sustainability. I know, it's hip to be green, and how green are books that trees have to die for? Well, a lot of books are now printed on recycled paper, and they do last a long time. Even when you're done with it, you can pass it along. Plus there's that Kindle, which I don't prefer but it's a fact. And like I said before -- easy to gift wrap so no gift bag and wasteful decorative tissue.

~ Books smell good. Seriously. New book smell is heavenly. One of my favorite things to do is walk into a new bookstore and get happily pummeled by that scent. I even like the smell of old books and their musty history, but then again, I'm weird.

~ Reading a printed page is way better than scrolling down on a computer screen. I have never heard about any reported cases of anyone getting carpal tunnel by reading a book. Sure, maybe your butt will fall asleep and you may get a papercut, but it's not like clicking a mouse, which can result in physical therapy or some fancy and expensive aerodynamic or whatever keyboard that doesn't really work anyway.

~ What my Favorite tee shirt says is true:

my favorite tee shirt
'Nuff said. Available here: buyolympia

~ Buying books helps the good people of the book industry. Okay, I was an English major in college, so I've never made the big bucks. And with the exception of maybe Danielle Steele and John Grisham and Stephen King and other blockbuster exceptions, people in the book industry -- no matter what side of the counter they're on -- gets paid much money. Writing, producing, editing, marketing, publicizing and selling books is really hard. Trust me. We're all underpaid, but it's a labor of love.

~ Books are Community Organizers. You think I'm joking? you may laugh at Oprah's book club (though I don't know why you would or should), but that's only one of them out there. Social circles are formed around books, as are movements. And there are a lot of towns out there who rely on their libraries and bookstores for events, education, and jobs. Ahem. Communities.

~ Speaking of Community Organizers... Our new president is a writer and reader, and this is one way he leads by example. Shouldn't we up the ante a bit and follow suit? It would be amazing to shed the dumb American stereotype. And what better way to do it than READ BOOKS.

Okay, I could go on, but that's plenty to get you started. Ask is anyone you know has a Wish List, Amazon or otherwise. Pay attention to what they're talking about -- I'm sure a book on that topic is out there. Ask your bookseller for ideas -- they may not get paid a lot, but they have some good suggestions. And think about what you've read and loved that you could give to someone to enrich their lives. And very important: BE VERY VOCAL AND TELL EVERYONE WHAT BOOKS YOU WANT, TOO. Sure, sure, it's better to give than to receive and all that BS, but make sure you're covered, too.

And may I suggest this little gem?

97 Things
the book that started this blog.

Thank you for reading.

Twenty one down, 76 to go.

Monday, November 10, 2008


The piece for Wednesday night has been written, thanks to channeling my muse:

The fabulously Pucci-clad Jackie Susann.

So if you're in Oakland on Wednesday night, come on down to The Mixing Bowl!



This month we're mixing things up a bit with some delicious prose.

November's writers are electric with humor, grace and pizzazz – just what you'll
need to heat up these chilly autumn nights!

So, please come out and support these talented writers (and have a bowl of yummy
soup or a steaming cup of tea while you're at it!)
Your Host,

Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen

The Word is Out: Oakland's Emerging Writers Mix it Up!

"The Word is Out: Oakland's Emerging Writers Mix it Up!" – a literary reading series
featuring some of Oakland's most talented emerging writers. A mixture of poetry
and prose, this series includes a range of writers from Oakland's diverse artist
communities and Bay Area Creative Writing programs. Come mix it up at The Mixing
Bowl Cafe and experience great food and contemporary works from Mills College, California
College of Art (CCA), Stanford University's Stegner Program, Deep Oakland, Voices
of Our Nations (VONA) and more.


WHEN: 2nd Wednesdays of the Month


WHERE: The Mixing Bowl Cafe,
4920 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609

READERS: Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Melanie Hilario is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach. Constantly on
multiple projects at once, she feels sort of like the Samuel L. Jackson of the writing
world. Mel loves her dog Gogo, kung fu, grammar, and the city of Oakland. Her novel
misses her terribly, but they have frequent one-night stands in between jobs.

Diana Ipis completing her first collection of stories and starting a novel based
on a short story. She is a graduate of the Mills MFA program and has attended residencies
and workshops at Hedgebrook, Blue Mountain Center and Voices of Our Nation Arts
(VONA). She was the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant in 2008. She
published her first story "Drunken Chicken" in Hyphen Magazine this spring.

Karen Finlay(not to be confused with the performance artist who spells her name
with an "EY") received her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College,
where she wrote serious, hard-hitting pieces about buying Go-Go's records and
getting her period for the first time. Since then, her work has been seen in many
emails, myspace comments, and on her blog, She
has also aired some dirty laundry as part of The Rebel Reading Series and has been
featured on A Gemini who loves pina coladas and hates getting caught
in the rain, she has a deep love/hate relationship with The Twilight series by Stephenie

Cleavon Smith, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Mills College Creative
Writing MFA Program was born and raised in Mississippi and moved to the Bay Area
while still serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy. Cleavon has been a National
Endowment of the Humanities Fellow and his prose and poetry has been published in
the "Potomac Review," "The Best Gay Asian Erotica," and "Nine Lives," a collection
of essays about the lives of Bay Area elders in facilitated care. He lives in Oakland
with his fiancée and their cat Cedric and teaches in the English Department at Berkeley
City College.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

If you're in the Bay Area, I'm doing a reading...


Just wanted to let you know that I'm doing a reading on Wednesday, Nov. 12th at 7 pm, in Oakland, CA.

There's just ONE teeny little problem.

I have NO IDEA what to read. To write about, actually. I am having Writer's Block like all git out. I've been so involved in the election that I've put it off, and now I'm, um, up that creek without a paddle. I know it will be memoir (as it always is), but I don't know what the THEME will be. Ugh.

If anyone can come up with a good topic that I can use, I will send you a present.


And if you come, I will give you big hugs and my undying gratitude.



This month we’re mixing things up a bit with some delicious prose.

November’s writers are electric with humor, grace and pizzazz – just what you’ll
need to heat up these chilly autumn nights!

So, please come out and support these talented writers (and have a bowl of yummy
soup or a steaming cup of tea while you’re at it!)
Your Host,

Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen

The Word is Out: Oakland’s Emerging Writers Mix it Up!

“The Word is Out: Oakland’s Emerging Writers Mix it Up!” – a literary reading series
featuring some of Oakland’s most talented emerging writers. A mixture of poetry
and prose, this series includes a range of writers from Oakland’s diverse artist
communities and Bay Area Creative Writing programs. Come mix it up at The Mixing
Bowl Cafe and experience great food and contemporary works from Mills College, California
College of Art (CCA), Stanford University’s Stegner Program, Deep Oakland, Voices
of Our Nations (VONA) and more.


WHEN: 2nd Wednesdays of the Month


WHERE: The Mixing Bowl Cafe,
4920 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609

READERS: Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Melanie Hilario is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach. Constantly on
multiple projects at once, she feels sort of like the Samuel L. Jackson of the writing
world. Mel loves her dog Gogo, kung fu, grammar, and the city of Oakland. Her novel
misses her terribly, but they have frequent one-night stands in between jobs.

Diana Ipis completing her first collection of stories and starting a novel based
on a short story. She is a graduate of the Mills MFA program and has attended residencies
and workshops at Hedgebrook, Blue Mountain Center and Voices of Our Nation Arts
(VONA). She was the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant in 2008. She
published her first story "Drunken Chicken" in Hyphen Magazine this spring.

Karen Finlay(not to be confused with the performance artist who spells her name
with an "EY") received her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College,
where she wrote serious, hard-hitting pieces about buying Go-Go's records and
getting her period for the first time. Since then, her work has been seen in many
emails, myspace comments, and on her blog, She
has also aired some dirty laundry as part of The Rebel Reading Series and has been
featured on A Gemini who loves pina coladas and hates getting caught
in the rain, she has a deep love/hate relationship with The Twilight series by Stephenie

Cleavon Smith, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Mills College Creative
Writing MFA Program was born and raised in Mississippi and moved to the Bay Area
while still serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy. Cleavon has been a National
Endowment of the Humanities Fellow and his prose and poetry has been published in
the “Potomac Review,” “The Best Gay Asian Erotica,” and “Nine Lives,” a collection
of essays about the lives of Bay Area elders in facilitated care. He lives in Oakland
with his fiancée and their cat Cedric and teaches in the English Department at Berkeley
City College.


December 10, 2008
Grace Loh
Ly Nguyen
Caroline Kim Brown

Contact: Armando Koghan at 510-655-5630 (The Mixing Bowl) or Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Barack Obama
Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America.

I am so proud of my candidate and country right now.

And I'm so cried out that I have no more words, just feelings of pure elation.

Yes we can... and yes, we did.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Just had to add this...

Though this isn't my accomplishment, that's what this blog is all about, right? And what's better than a Halloween Accomplishment?

Please check out my friend Stacey's blog entry for today. One word: AWESOME. More words: So Disgusting and Fabulous.

Go here:

(Don't look in the bottom of that Jack O'Lantern.)

Happy Halloween!!!

(And for a good Halloween soundtrack, go here:

Spooky Halloweenie music that rocks!)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Accomplishment #20: Make Your Own Halloween Costume (#60)

Life has many perfect moments and here is one of mine:

October 31st, 1976. Halloween happened to coincide with our weekly Brownies meetings, so instead of our usual poop brown uniforms and orange sashes, we little brownies donned our Halloween costumes and lined up in the gym at Stone Valley School for a costume contest. I was a semblance of Minnie Mouse: my mom's white gloves, black leotard, black tights, a little black hood (that I wore for many subsequent Halloweens), and genuine mouse ears from Disneyland with a little bow and rose that had "Karen" embroidered on the back. But the piece de resistance was the skirt, a little white ruffly skirt with blue kitties all over it. (My mom and I thought it was hilarious to be a mouse while wearing cats.) And for the contest itself, a pair of my mom's shoes. (The rest of the day I'd worn Mickey Mouse tennis shoes.)

Hopped up on sugar because of all the candy and cupcakes we'd devoured all day, we all bounced in place and giggled as the Brownie leaders and several older Girl Scouts looked us over, and judged our costumes. There were different categories -- funniest, cutest, etc. etc. But the crowning moment came when the troop leader said, "And the best costume is... Minnie Mouse."

It was my shining moment of greatness. I remember her voice, the absolute thrill and pleasure simply coursing through my veins as I shyly clomped in my mom's shoes to get my prize: a little bag of candy corn. Candy corn and success have never tasted so sweet since.

Ironically, I don't really like Halloween, thanks to habitual barfing (either from candy or cocktails, over-indulgence being the theme) and the fact I worked at a vintage store for 8 years, and Halloween was our busy season. (I was always amazed at how ignorant and moronic college students were, either not having any sort of pop cultural clue or their penchant for being as pimpin' or slutty as possible.) Working there completely ruined the holiday for me. We were always exhausted by Halloween, and all I ever wanted to do was go home and crash. (There are several years there where I should have done just that.)

But even though Halloween isn't my favorite, I'm actually pretty good at it. Thanks to my mom always making my costumes, and then years of being a dorky new waver (every day is Halloween, I looked so absurd, I looked so obscene), and eight years outfitting girls who should know better as hookers or *giggle* sexy angels! *giggle*, I'm not bad, even when it's last minute and thrown together from crap in my own closet. (My senior prom dress from 1926 has served its purpose well as many flapper Halloweens.) I've even won a few costume contests since that fated day as Minnie Mouse.

A few years ago, I actually listed all my Halloween costumes, and here they are for your reading and mocking pleasure:

1972 -- a witch
I only remember this because of this picture.

Witchy Poo.

My parents totally decorated when I was little, hence the skeletons. My dad would put the record player behind the planter with "The Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House" ("I don't even speak Chinese!") playing, and answer the door like Lurch. ("You raaaang?")

1973 -- store bought Raggedy Ann

I loved this, even though it was dumb. My mom hated these kind of costumes, and I can't believe she let me get this. Maybe she was tired that year or I threw a fit in the supermarket. But I loved it so much that I wore it AROUND THE HOUSE. Actually, I just wore the mask (I insisted), and my dress with Raggedy Anns all over it. But I wore the store bought smock waaaay after Halloween. I remember that year I was obsessed with Miss America because I had the Colorforms, so maybe that's why she got me the Raggedy Ann -- she didn't want her child trucking around the neighborhood in a bikini. Perhaps that's what led to my life long love of tiaras, because I was denied.

1974 -- The scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz
Um, I have no idea why I decided to be the scarecrow and not Dorothy, or even the lion. But I was waaaaay into it. We took the picture from the book and my mom crafted it perfectly out of old brown, ratty fabric. We even had STRAW. That part wasn't so comfortable, but I remember thinking, I have the best costume EVER.

1975 -- Indian
Had to do something with the leftover fabric from the year before, and I got to wear make-up and a WIG.

1976 -- Minnie Mouse
The aforementioned shining glory of my life.

1977 -- a cat

Same black leotard. Same black tights. Same black hoodie thing my mom sewed ears on. Green skirt. We copied the makeup from Peter Criss. So basically I was KISS for Halloween. Total disappointment after my stunning victory the year prior.

1978 -- A Hula Dancer
This was, by far, the most ridiculous costume EVER. We had just gone to Hawaii, where we picked up a grass skirt and plastic lei. Okay, fine. But A. It was cold and B. I look about as Hawaiian as an albino. So my mom made me wear a brown turtleneck and brown corduroy pants, and a gross CURLY brown wig (that used to be hers) and dark brown foundation. Mahalo a lot, Mom.

1979 -- Annie
I've already told you about my Annie obsession. But this was the closest to being Annie as I ever got. I wore an old red dress with a collar made out of dingy white felt, and another one of my mom's old curly wigs. My parents tried to get me to put Ritz crackers over my eyes (like the comics) for a picture but I refused because I thought that was dumb because her eyes weren't like that in the play. Duh!

Junior high... I was probably at home sulking, because what can you be with braces and crummy hair? I probably wanted to go as a a roller disco goddess or something. But it possible that I went as Pippi Longstocking, the one costume I didn't need a wig for.

Eighth grade -- PIERROT
The last of the hand made mom costumes. I was getting too old, but was into, uh, PIERROT and rainbows and unicorns. So gross. But the costume was beautiful and I got lots of candy.

Ninth grade... probably stayed home and sulked, or dressed up all "punk rock" and went and played video games. Thankfully, there are some things you don't remember.

Sophomore year -- MOD.
Well, Bob Smith and I just wore our regular clothes and went trick or treating -- it was IRONIC because we were too old, but we just wanted to get out of our houses and get free candy and freak people out. So when people said, "What are you supposed to be?" we rolled our eyes and like, "DUH" and said, "MOD." SO SO SO SO LAME.

Junior Year -- that alien thing from Buckaroo Banzai

My friend Traecy had a rubber mask that looked like the alien in Buckaroo Banzai... I can't even remember what it was, but we LOVED that movie. So I wore my regular clothes and the mask. Our friend Karin worked at some restaurant, but she didn't get off till 8 and we went in and waited for her so we could all go to Dolce, the cafe where we all hung out. I was thirsty so I got a coke and put the mask on, but was drinking it out of a straw through the eyehole. we all thought it was HILARIOUS. Karin's boss didn't think so -- he kicked us out and fired Karin. She was going to get fired, anyway, but we spent the rest of the night consoling her. I don't think I did a bang up job wearing the mask.

Senior year -- TWO costumes: My friend Doofus and Dusty Springfield

That year, we went to a club in San Francisco, and I went as Dusty Springfield. Just because I thought it would be cool. I had a teased out wig and wore a TON of eye makeup. And looking back, it was cool.

Dusty Springfield, 1985

But on actual Halloween night, my friend Andrea and I got the idea to go as our friends -- she went as our punk rock friend Julyan, and I went as our doofy friend Doofus. (Poor kid to endure that nickname. Rumor has it he became a doctor. I hope so -- "Doctor Doofus" is just too good.) Black hairspray, lots of gel, eyeliner, pegged pants, "cholo" shoes, and a tee shirt that I wrote Tears for Fears on, his favorite band.) Doofus, however, went as Curt Smith from Tears for Fears. Julyan didn't dress up. We went to the City but didn't go anywhere -- we all felt way too stupid to be seen in public.

College freshman year-- I didn't dress up -- I was too cool and sophisticated. (Though I probably went out and drank a bunch of wine coolers and barfed. Real sophisticated.) Except some of my friends borrowed my clothes, 'cause, like, my clothes were funny and retro! My roommates went to Isla Vista as sexy devils. Sigh.

Blur until senior year, when I was a Beatnik. My best friend Monica was Madonna. We went to the freakshow on Santa Monica Blvd, where we ogled an ugly queen dressed like Divine, and then... tragedy struck. Remember those old cereal commercials that had SOGGIES? They were these cartoon thingies that were supposed to be soggy cereal. Kinda creepy. Anyway, Monica, my gay ex fiance #2 Joe and I were standing there, laughing at the ugly queen who was shouting obscene insults at people, when suddenly this THING dressed as a Soggy grabbed Monica and took off running full speed with her. One second she was there, and the next second she was abducted. We chased them down the street, and then he let her go and she went sprawling. It was hilarious, but really weird.

Somewhere in there I wore some ears and went to the Castro, and had food poisoning and threw up. I was SOBER.

Flash forward... Flapper
My friend Julie worked at a hair salon in the Castro which The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence used as a dressing room for the festivities, so she invited us to the party. I brought a bottle of vodka, but there were no mixers, and the liquor store was out. So Ilhan (dressed as The Ugliest Woman Alive) and I drank it straight from the bottle. A Sister said, "Giiiiirl, you really know how to party!" An hour later I threw up on that very Sister. Not my best moment, but lovingly caught on film by The Ugliest Woman Alive.

Halloween with Karen and Julie

1993 or 1994 (?) -- Eddie from Ab Fab

My best friend Kelly was Patsy, and I was Eddie. It was GENIUS. Without even meaning to, we never stayed out of character. We both barfed, and I lost my hat.

Flash forward.. 1996 -- Sexy cat

There was a time in my life that I was super skinny, and thought I was super hot. And what do ego-inflated skinny girls dress as? Sexy cats. (But without the KISS makeup, ala my cat from 1977.) Even I wasn't immune to the slutty costume fever. Ugh. I was a sexy cat (actually, Ann-Margret as a kitten with a whip, ha. Ha.) three nights in a row that year -- once at a boring party, once at a more fun party (that I chose to go to instead of my high school reunion -- a good choice on my part), and again at a Cramps show. By then, the costume had taken its toll. I went out straight after work with no dinner, and got so obliterated that I wound up barfing under the table, and then passed out on the street where a bum gave me a blanket. CHARMING.

1997 -- Weird fairy thing
I wore a black tee shirt, tiara, and wand and lots of eyeshadow. It was pretty boring, but I was so tired from work it was all I could muster.

Then the years get muddled, but one thing's for sure -- I never bought candy because I never had any trick or treaters.

Flash forward -- Bananaram.
My friend Lara and I thought it would be funneee if we went to New Wave City, a club that plays 80's new wave hits, dressed as Bananarama. Only whoever was supposed to be the third part flaked out, so we were just Bananaram. Somehow I had convinced my friend JK to come with us, and he dressed up as John Cusack in Say Anything, with a trenchcoat with rolled up sleeves and everything. Totally out of character for this guy. We laughed at each other all night.

Flash forward -- Haysi Fantayzee

Haysi Fantayzee and a pig at The Deluxe

I went to Amber's annual Halloween party where the only person who knew who I was (everyone thought I was Boy George) dressed as was a guy dressed as Slim Jim meat stick and kept following me around, saying, "I have the Shiny Shiny import 12 inch!" and I said, "I don't really like them -- I just thought it was a funny costume." (FYI -- Haysi Fantayzee was a really crummy band from the 80's, and the members did look like Boy George, even though they maintained HE stole the look from THEM. Their song repertoire included such "hits" as "Shiny Shiny" and "John Wayne Big Leggy." Um, yeah. I know. )

2002 (?) -- Norma Desmond
I went as Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard, and what was cool was that my friend Alec went with me as Max. (He didn't have to do much for the costume.) We went to The Parkway movie theater to see Bucket of Blood, and Alec kept making me do Gloria Swanson impressions. It was really, really boring. We won a prize, though.

2003 -- A reject from Beyond The Valley of The Dolls and Haysi Fantayzee redux

I went to a nightclub and wore this ghastly 1960's one piece hot pink nylon jumpsuit with lace ruffles and an enormous wig I borrowed from my friend Sean, and went as the missing member of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' Carrie Nations. It was an absolutely horrible costume.

Haysi Fantayzee, Redux

But on Halloween night, I recycled the Haysi Fantayzee costume again and it ruled. I actually put thought into it, and made Pat go as Adam Ant so we could have an 80's theme going. We went to The Loved Ones show at The Ivy Room, which was so fun. My friend Jamie went as a mulleted cave-man, and kept pounding on the ceiling with his club after every song, 'CAVE MAN LIKE LOVED ONES!!!" I think everyone wanted to kill us. But I won Best Costume and money and free drinks for the rest of the night, only by the time the contest rolled around, I had drunk enough to drown a small mammal so the free drinks prize was useless. And they thought I was Boy George.

2004 -- Nancy Sinatra
I just recycled Sean's wig and wore knee high boots and a turtleneck and mini-skirt. But my boots were made for sleepin'; I went home and went to bed, avoiding the two trick or treaters that knocked on my door. (I never bought candy.)

2005 -- sickly, not sexy, flapper
Not bad for coming up with a costume that afternoon. And it was the best, stress free Halloween EVER. A bunch of purple eyeshadow under the eyes, same old flapper outfit and voila! Spooky!

The last few years -- cat ears. If that. And kind of getting over the whole going out and getting dressed up and messed up. And now that we live in a house instead of an apartment, I have to buy candy for the hoards of goblins at the door, and be there to dole out the treats so we don't get tricked.

And you know, thinking back while writing this, I don't really hate Halloween after all. I've had a really good time, starting with that little witch costume, and knowing my mom, even before that. I was lucky she made my costumes, and I was lucky that even though my parents hated it, they let me be creative and weird on a daily basis as a teenager and beyond. And let's face it -- I LOVE CANDY.

So this year I'll be staying home, and it's okay with me. I'll appreciate everyone else's costumes. But if I did go out, this is who I'd be:

Little Edie always has the best costume of the day!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Be safe and SPOOKY!

Twenty down, seventy seven to go.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Accomplishment #19: Join a Political Campaign (#69)

In 2005, I went to the American Library Association trade show in Chicago. Those trade shows are tough. Long hours, talking to people all day, smiling when you want to throw something, and utterly exhausting. It was my first one, and caught up in the excitement, my coworker and I stayed after on the first day to go see some senator who was scheduled to speak for the opening commencement. I'd never heard of him, but I guess the other 10,000 people crammed into the hall at McCormick Center had, as it was Standing Room Only. The guy was over half an hour late, and thinking of the long shuttle lines and the blisters on our feet and empty stomachs, we decided to forgo the ceremony and go back to the hotel and change into comfortable shoes and find food.

I will regret that decision for as long as I live. But thanks to that decision, I'm not making another stupid one as far as Barack Obama is concerned.

After that, I started hearing more and more about Obama, and remembering hearing the librarians speak of how inspiring he was, I took notice. (I trust librarians. I think many of them may be the smartest, most savvy people around.) And you couldn't help but notice what was happening to our country -- billions of dollars funneled into a war no one seemed to understand or want, New Orleans pulverized by not only natural but reckless and irresponsible government causes, and whispers of a recession making everyone uneasy. (And now the whispers have turned to screams and groans.) To name just a few. And it made me so angry.

Now, I've always been a little apathetic when it comes to politics. Not so much apathetic, but just uninvolved, really. I don't even think I voted until I was in my early 20's (for Clinton, of course), but I've voted each time since then. And I love voting -- it's so exciting to go to the booth, and seeing my candidate's name on the ballot and checking it off, and getting my sticker. And each time, without fail, no matter how small the measures are, I always feel so emotional because I don't take it for granted that as a woman I'm allowed to vote, and that my vote helps make a difference. I choke back tears each time.

So no, I'm not apathetic, but up until now, I've never thought that anything I did other than voting would matter, and never took the time to volunteer or even put a bumper sticker on my car. Four years ago, I didn't pay that much attention to the campaign, because I was so damn sure that America wouldn't make the same mistake again and re-elect George W., and I am still reeling that we were all so wrong.

This time, I want to make sure I help to get it right.

I will never forget the first time we watched -- I mean, really watched -- Obama speak. After he was done, we both had tears running down our cheeks, and Jon said, "That man is the future for my children." Usually when I watch politicians I am so hypercritical, watching for the gratuitous pandering that makes their sincerity ring false, but I didn't get that with Obama. Knowing that he would take the time to address librarians, and that he cared enough to go to some librarian convention and speak... that spoke volumes to me. It just made me believe that he does care. And nothing he has said or done in the subsequent years and months has made me change my mind. In fact, things he has said have made me even more solidly convinced. (Especially about the US car companies. My dad worked for GM for nearly 50 years, and what has been happening breaks my heart. Michigan also has the highest unemployment rate, too. But that's just only one of the things.)

resoled Palin walks around in Valentino. Obama walks the walk. Obviously.

So this year, for the first time in my life, I not only put a bumper sticker on my car, but I have read and forwarded emails and donated to a presidential campaign. And as scary as it was, I even volunteered.

Last month I signed up for Get Out The Vote to go to Nevada for Obama with a group of amazing friends, who have already gone to Nevada to do it. I was so inspired by them that I decided to go with them, because I felt I have to do something. Even my wonderful sister wants to go if she can. (She's already volunteered in Maine. I have the coolest sister in the world.) We signed up to go the weekend before the election, but now it's in question because they actually might not need us! They were expecting 250 Northern Californians in Washoe County last weekend, and 1500 showed up. And the early votes are all swinging toward Obama, which has been so exciting. (And he's going to be there this weekend. Hurrah!) So we don't know if we will go to Nevada, but even if we stay home, we're going to do something. (Which will involve phones and "good bad for you food," as Jeff says.)

Going with friends is one thing, but going by myself -- that was scary. But after the last debate, as I watched McCain (who is "proud" of Sarah Palin, who is so so so scary) pander and mug, and Obama keep his composure as usual, I signed up to do a phonebank in my neighborhood. Olivia couldn't make it, so I was alone.

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived. I had never done this before, and I felt like a scared little kid on my first day of school. But as it turns out, the hostess was just fabulous, and everyone was so nice. (And it turned out I knew someone there, which was funny.) Spirits were high because Colin Powell had endorsed Obama that day, and we all admitted that we cried when we heard it. And all we had to do was call MoveOn members in Minnesota and tell them about volunteer opportunities in their area from a script. easy peasy, and it got easier as it went. A lot of people didn't answer the phone on my sheets, but I talked to about 10 people -- all nice, and I even signed up two people. Woo hoo! And there were snacks. Good snacks. I drove home feeling like a million bucks. And pretty damn American.

I know there's been brouhaha about being American and living in a big city all that jazz, but pfffft. Whatever. I am American. And I knew what Michelle Obama meant. I love my country, but that doesn't mean I'm always proud of it. I'm not proud of how we are seen in other countries because of our government. (And reality TV shows like "My Super Sweet 16." Bleeccch.) I'm not proud of how we have dealt with everything, especially Guantanamo Bay (hellooo!). But I was raised by two members of "The Greatest Generation," and they taught me to love my country and I do. I always have. And I have never been so proud of my country or felt so American as I stood on Utah Beach in France, scattering my dad's ashes and paying homage to all those Americans and Allies who were there on DDay. So how dare Sarah Palin insinuate that I am un-American, and unpatriotic? (And have us think that all Americans are Joe Six-Packs and soccer moms? I don't even like beer OR soccer. Shut UP already, lady!)

This is the election of our lifetime. In our Nevada training, the team leader said there hasn't been this much excitement since Robert Kennedy (and oh God, please don't let anything like that happen), and before that, FDR. So it's not only important for our country to get involved, but important for ourselves as a personal point in history. This may be the most historically significant election we will ever live to see, for so many reasons. And it has felt good to take part in it.

But even if I hadn't done the phonebank or gotten a tee shirt or anything like that, I have, in fact, helped to change one significant thing. My sweet, sweet 83 year old mom, who has voted Republican since, well, since as long as I've been aware of it, is voting for Obama and No on the evil Prop 8 (the ban on gay marriage). A member of the Republican party called her yesterday and she told them, "I'm voting for Obama." and when pressed about Prop 8 she said, "I can't. In my heart I know it's wrong. Why stand in the way of someone's happiness?" I love my mom. (No matter who or what she votes for, I love her.) Now, that's change I can believe in.

So now, in the last few days of the election, see what you can do. Volunteering has felt amazing, but above all else, you have to vote. You just have to. The entire world is counting on us. We have to get it right.



Nineteen down,78 to go.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Accomplishment #18: Learn to Match Beats (#52)

When I was in college, I had my own radio show on the college radio station. Now, that sounds like I was a fancypants, but the honest truth is -- I wasn't. For one thing, it was a small, Lutheran College (but the record and cart collection was good -- typical "alternative" college radio selection), where it wasn't unusual for freshman girls to have posters of Amy Grant AND The Cure on their walls. It was also a cable only station -- you could get it on campus, but off campus you had to have some cable deal to get it. (Which was basically unheard of in 1986.) And even though I had "The Mod Monday Show" because no one knew what to call all the music I played, I basically just played whatever I felt like, which was usually not "mod." I never spoke on the air unless I had to read a PSA, never had a DJ name for myself, and by the end of the year I was so sick of it that I'd just put on a long record and go hang out with my friends. And no one ever noticed. Let's face it -- the choice was KRCL, or KROQ. KROQ won. One night, to test to see if anyone was listening, I swore on the air, and crickets chirped. The only excitement I really ever had was once some off campus listener made a very, um, nasty call to the station and I was so bored I actually listened to him, and then a few times my bona fide mod friends came to DJ, and one of them wound up stealing the station's "Setting Sons" by The Jam record. Turd.

Flash forward many years later, and I met these guys who were fanatical 45 collectors and had a show on San Francisco Cable Access called "45 Party." It was a fabulous show -- all it was was a camera on a vintage turntable playing 45's. The first time I happened upon it I FLIPPED. The songs were all 60's and really cool, and the whole thing was just so weird. A few weeks after I saw it, I just happened to meet these guys through my former boss, and it was right when they had decided to have a real live girl play the records. So... I sat on the guy's Larry's couch for half an hour playing Sonics 45s on an old record player, while they filmed and ate chicken. A half hour, all in one take. It was excruciating. (They also made me change out of my black turtleneck into a red midriff shirt -- I thought I was going to die.) I wound up doing a bunch of episodes -- first in Larry's living room, then a dance party in mine, and then it got fancy in a studio. And though I was the most frequent hostess, the most popular girl was a girl named Vanessa, who did the entire show in a bubble bath. (The bubbles started to uh, disappear.)

And, much like my college radio station, it was cable access so not many people saw it, though I got recognized in some circles and one creepy fan letter that was much like the aforementioned call to the radio station. And like the radio show, I got my friends to do it so I stopped. I never even saw most of the episodes, and the ones I do have on video have made my friends laugh unmercilessly at me for being such a dork. (And as far as I know, they are NOT on youtube. Thank God.)

Other than those two things, my only DJ experiences have been while drunk at parties, throwing on Specials and The Who CDs and screaming at people to dance (and they do), and then tossing aside the finished CDs and making a huge mess. My boyfriend has a kajillion records and is a dj, and some of my good friends DJ all over the place, even running their own club. And I've always been perfectly satisfied to go and dance, not go and spin records.

But one night, in the midst of the drunken DJ/CD playing then throwing, I remembered this Accomplishment and pretty much told them they had to let me DJ for fifteen minutes. "It's for THE BLOG," I whined. And I even made up a Star Wars themed DJ name, DJ Vajedi. They laughed. The next morning, sober, I remembered what I had done and shrugged it off, until the next DJ/ CD playing then throwing escapade. And this time, they said okay, only I didn't know it until I saw it on Twitter and on myspace. (See previous post for what Carlos posted on myspace. Flattering!) And, y'know, if it's like on myspace, it's like, totally happening. So I got all excited, and put it on myspace and facebook and all that other stuff and then went through all my crappy records to decide what to play.

Now, Jon and all my friends have amazing record collections, while I have stuff like "Pineapple Princess" by Annette Funicello and "Percy Faith Plays Songs for The In-Crowd!" and "The Theme to Dr. Kildaire." I mean, I have some good stuff, too, but pretty much everything I own I got for a quarter with no record sleeve and teenagers' names sctawled on the labels. ("MARCIA'S!" or "THIS IS BILLY'S!") I guess in DJ/ collector's terms, everything I own would be a G-. (According to Jon, that's about as crummy as you can get and have it still barely play. Mr. Record Afficiando only gets at least VGs. Whatever, SNOB. "Pineapple Princess" rules!) But I diligently played my selection, sadly discarding The Lonely Bull" by Herb Alpert because everyone would hate it and an old Rufus Thomas because it skipped. (Conveniently singing, "Dog" over and over again.) But when I had a nice little stack of 45's and a few LPs, I put them in cute little record boxes, chose a sparkly outfit and a leopard coat, and then got in the car and hyperventilated with panic. (It didn't help that the streets were closed and it took half an hour to go two blocks.)

"I've never done this before, you know," I told Carlos when I got there, rushed and nervous and five minutes before I was supposed to start.

"WHAT?" he said. I could see the "Oh God" in his face, as in, WHY did I agree to let Dorkus Malorkus do this? "I thought you'd been a DJ before!"

"Yeah, like a million years ago!" I said. "I'm so sorry..." And I felt bad. It was nice of them to let me do this, after I'd practically forced them to let me, and I was going to make an ass out of myself and them and everyone was going to be bummed. There was a reason that I was starting at 10 because no one is usually there yet, but I still didn't want to make even the 5 people hanging out stuff their fingers in their ears as I scratched records or had the scariest DJ issue ever -- DEAD AIR. (It even sounds spooky.)

"Don't worry about it!" the always kind and gracious Carlos said. "It's easy. I'll show you."

"Yeah, the needles and headphones aren't even here yet," said Scott. "You'll be fine. Go get a drink."

So I did, and sat with my girlfriends, and then Sean, the other DJ, showed up with the necessities. "You ready?" Carlos said, and I gulped and crawled into the DJ booth.

All the guys were sweet and gave me directions, and memories of DJ-ing at the radio station came back. I dropped the needle on my first song and squealed as "Karen" by The Sufaris blasted out over the speakers. "I'M DEEJAYING!" I screamed, and cued up another record.

DJ-ing at Kaleidoscope!
deep concentration

I had so much fun that they let me go on for much longer than 15 minutes. A few friends showed up and there was even dancing, and lots of "YAYS!" I didn't make TOO many mistakes -- just a few moments when I forgot to turn down the volume on one turntable while the other was playing, some awkward starts and a bit of dead air for a song with too long of a lead in, but you know, I didn't do too bad. I had fun choosing which songs flowed smoothly into each other (matching beats!), mixing up some genres, and loved it when people liked the songs and danced. Even the seasoned DJ's told me I did a good job, and it was a high honor. And then it was time to hand it over to the real stars of the night -- Carlos, Scott and Sean, and I shimmied out of the booth and danced. It was fabulous.

And since fancy DJ's publish their playlist, here's mine, though not in the exact order, because like the CDs, I just threw them back into the box. They're all just G- anyway:

Karen -- The Surfaris
She Loves You -- The Beatles
Willie and the Hand Jive -- Johnny Otis
The Girl Can't Help It -- Little Richard
The Magic Touch -- Melba Moore
Tell Mama -- Martha Velez
The Witch -- The Sonics
Come on Now -- The Kinks
Comin' Home Baby -- Kai Winding
Girls on the Rocks -- Bob Crewe Generation
I Haven't Got the Nerve -- The Left Banke
Too Much Talk (and Not Enough Action) -- Paul Revere and The Raiders
Leave No Stone Unturned -- Fortune and Maltese
It's a Crime -- the Conquerors
She Does Everything For Me -- The Zombies
If I Really Bug You -- Jose Feliciano

Here's a sample: The Magic Touch by Melba Moore, one of my all time favorite songs:

Now, I admit, I kind of altered this Accomplishment a bit. The book, written for a modern teen, recommends not bringing "back breaking crates of records" and instead using CDs and computers to match beats like a pro to enhance your social life. Bah. I still believe in the greatness of vinyl, no matter how scratchy. Sure, I have CDs and an iPod and all the modern trappings, but there is still something so wonderful about the sound of a needle hitting a record, and the little pops and crackles that give old records their personalities. DJ-ing vinyl is an art form, and I don't want it to die.

Therefore, I am all that more thrilled with this Accomplishment, and thankful to The Kaleidoscope DJs Carlos, Scott and Sean, and for my fabulous friends who came out. Yay for DJ-ing, and yay for Accomplishments!

DJ-ing at Kaleidoscope!
DJ Vajedi on the decks.

Eighteen down, 79 to go.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Preview of an Accomplishment to Come

A little preview of an accomplishment to come...

You've heard her spin crazy tales! You've watched her spin around drunk! Now you can listen to her spin some records!!

This Friday, Karen Finlay gets her 15 minutes of fame as DJ VA-JEDI, spinning records at TEN PM on FRIDAY NIGHT!!! You don't want to miss this -- she'll be playing all her FAVORITE HITS and you KNOW she's gonna rock the house! For FIFTEEN WHOLE MINUTES!!!! (But if she gets you dancing, well maybe, just like Sanjaya Malakar, she'll get to stretch that time a little longer...)

Then, stick around for more dancin'!

House of Shields - Friday, October 17th!
Only $4!

A night of '60s garage, soul, psyche, r&b, ska, freakbeat, and cosmic mod grooves!

With DJs:

Major Sean
Dr. Scott

House of Shields
39 Montgomery St.
(btwn Market & Mission), San Francisco
Friday, October 17th and every 3rd Friday of the month!
10pm, 4 bucks! Ride your Vespa or Lambretta to the club and get in FREE!!

A Taste of Kaleidoscope:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Accomplishment #17: Join A Club (#13)

I kind of adhere to the old Groucho Marx adage: "I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." Maybe it's because I'm not much of a joiner, or maybe because I don't exactly feel like I belong anywhere anyway. Or, perhaps, I have a secret fear of initiations. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because I signed up for Girl Scouts after Brownies, not realizing that NO ONE else did, and my mom wouldn't let me out of it so I got teased mercilessly on uniform day. These things really do have long term effects, you know. (And I stuck it out and made puppets for sick kids and sold cookies and went roller skating. What torture!)

But when I was little, there was a club I wanted to belong to more than anything: The Mickey Mouse Club, of course. (And I'm talking OLD SCHOOL Mickey Mouse. Not some New Mickey Mouse Club starring Lisa Welchel or Britney Spears. That's just terrible.) I'd watch it religiously, every day after school. I had the record and would play it on my Mickey Mouse Club record player, jumping up and down on my bed with manic glee to "I'm a Happy Mouse" and then flop down and wish I could be as cool as Annette as she sang, "Meetin' at the Malt Shop After School." (I had no idea what a malt shop was. We didn't have one in Alamo in 1976. A Tastee Freeze, yes. A malt shop? Nope. It was something exotic.) I imagined her in her fabulous cowgirl outfit, holding hands with the dreamy Bobby who also was a dancer on The Lawrence Welk Show. Talk about glamorous!

But while I loved that show so much, and my lip would quiver when it was time to say goodbye to all our company, there was one thing I hated:



That awful little strumpet had my name. AND she had CUBBY, the cutest boy on there next to Bobby, because he was older and way out of my league, holding Annette's hand at this malt shop place, after all. NO. Karen had long blonde hair and got to hang out at Disneyland and be in the Mickey Mouse Club. I hated seeing her looking all smug, in a tee shirt with MY name on it, and I would fume as only a rotten eight-year-old can. It should have been ME on that show, not HER. Never mind that it was already 20 something years old by the time I watched it -- Cubby and stardom should have been MINE!

Okay, okay, MMC Karen has nothing to do with me not being in clubs, though it's more fun to blame her. I think the real reason is that I am not a good participant. I joined a book club and stayed for one book, and then it fell off my radar and they could still be meeting for all I know. Then another time I found myself in talks about joining an all girls club called "The Last Call Girls" (get it? HAW HAW) and then they started talking about getting JACKETS made and I was like, "Oh dear." I had to take the meeting minutes for a committee at work the other week and even that sent me into a subtle panic. Groucho is spot on -- I shouldn't be in any club because if there were members like me, that club would be defunct.

But I have found a perfect club, and I am a proud member. If there were cards, I would carry one. It's called The Mid-Century Supper Club.

A few years ago, my boyfriend sent me a link to a blog called, "My House is Cuter Than Yours." And it's true -- her house IS cuter than mine, and probably everyone else's, too. (He found it via Swapatorium, which just had its final posting a few weeks ago, and I'm sad about that.) Mary, of MHICTY, had a regular feature on there where she took old recipes and recreated them with humor, aplomb, and cute dishware. And I thought it was just the most wonderful thing ever.

One of the wonderful creations from My House is Cuter Than Yours

Then this past year, I discovered all the cool things about Flickr I'd missed -- I had always dumped my regular old pictures in there, but I never dreamed it was this whole community of fun and fabulous people and photos. I found groups and photo pools about Pyrex and Bauer pottery and old lamps... be still my heart! And then, afterpoking around, I found The Mid-Century Supper Club Group and actually clicked and joined. Me, not a joiner, was frothing at the mouth to belong to this particular club. And I swear, it has been one of the most fun things that happened to me in 2008.

Started by three lovely mavens, "Charm & Poise,""-Julia-" and "Miss Retro Modern" (everyone has cool Flickr names), The Mid Century Supper Club took Mary's idea and upped the ante, inviting everyone to join in the fun. What you do is you take old recipes from cookbooks circa the mid 20th century (guidelines say 1945 - 1965, but they're not terribly strict) and recreate them (so pictures accompanying the recipe are the best), take your photos and post them to the pool. Genius!

And unlike that Book Club of long ago (we read Seabiscuit, BTW, highly recommended), I have actually participated. With GUSTO. For one thing, it was a great excuse to go thrifting and find a bunch MORE old cookbooks, like I didn't have enough already. And another thing -- I'm a terrible cook, so this was going to be a challenge. And even better -- my boyfriend, a much better cook than I am, was just as into it as I was.

We scoured the cookbooks and decided on 2 recipes to try: I was going to do "Three Men in a Boat" from the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys & Girls, and Jon was going to do "Skillet Franks and Noodles" from Campbell's Cooking With Soup.

Here are the originals:

After much laughter and having to buy shredded dried beef in a jar (that made my cat go insane and she ate some and barfed), here are our finished products:


And they both tasted absolutely TERRIBLE.

Our next feats were much better:

I made Best Oven Hash (and it really WAS):

Best Oven Hash RecipeHASH

But Jon totally kicked my butt and did PENGUINS:
Egg and Olive Penguins RecipeSmorgasbord penguins

How fabulous is that???

Meanwhile, my friend Jennye was inspired, too. She made some delectable creations and then said, "Let's have a Potluck!" and so we did:

Mid-Century Supper Club Potluck
Just ONE of the tables of inedible greatness.

And it was so successful, we did it again last weekend:
MCSC Autumn Potluck
Wieners were a big theme this time around.

And we're doing it again in December for a WINTER WONDERLAND EXTRAVAGANZA.

So see, this is a club I can (literally) sink my teeth into. Not only is it fun, but it inspires me to participate. And not only participate, but be such an overly enthusiastic cheerleader for it that I have forced my friends to make things like WIENER BOATS and don aprons. (And they LOVE it.) And then I get to share it in the Mid Century Supper Club Pool, where people who Get It say, "That's great!" I must admit, it's nice to belong somewhere and to something. And it's always fun to throw parties where people bring lots of wieners and cheeseballs.

If you'd like to belong, too, check out The Mid-Century Supper Club Group on Flickr, with guidelines, photos and discussions:


And if you'd like, here are more of my photos:

Mid-Century Supper Club Collection

I highly recommend it. It's even better than singing with Cubby on the Mickey Mouse Club. I swear.

Seventeen down, 80 to go.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Accomplishment #16: Learn CPR (#86)

I like to think of myself as a person who would step forward in a crisis and help out. You know, like if I were on Oceanic Flight 815 on LOST and I didn't get thrown into the sea when the plane ripped in half and wound up on the island, I would totally help. There I'd be, right next to Jack, doing CPR and mouth to mouth and saving people from drowning and freaking out. (And then I could do all the crazy adventuring stuff with all the LOST elite people. Me and Sawyer would TOTALLY rule the island, talking about what a wacked-out looney-tune Locke is, and that Jack is too sanctimonious and not that much fun.)

Jack gives Rose CPR and saves her life.

Alas, chances are that I would freeze up. I saw two dogs get into a fight this weekend, and was rooted to the spot, feeling bad for the dogs and their owners and just tried to stay out of the way. (Which, actually, was probably the best thing I could do.) Whenever I've sat in the emergency exit aisle of an airplane I've agreed with the clause that I will help out in case of, well, the plane exploding, though I wonder if I'd do any good and if I'm a bad person for sitting there all because I just want to have some extra legroom.

But now if I'm sitting in that emergency row, and some Scottish guy on a Mysterious Island forgets to punch in the numbers code and there's a big magnetic implosion that causes my plane to rip in half over the Pacific Ocean, I am ready. For I am A TRAINED FIRST AID PROVIDER.

Yes, you read that right. I am a Trained First Aid Provider. I have a title. (I even have a little signed card, but when I was tearing it out of the book I ripped it so it doesn't look too pretty.) I could potentially save a life. All I ever really knew about CPR before I saw on an episode of The Jeffersons, where George gives mouth to mouth to some white supremacist guy and saves his life, but when he found out it was George who saved him he said, "You should have let me die." So, okay, I didn't really know much.

It all worked out quite handy, really. Not only am I trying to Accomplish these 97 Things and this was one of 'em, but somehow I wound up on The Safety Committee at work. (It was an automatic thing -- there weren't elections like in junior high or whatever.) And so we had a fun day of free sandwiches and CPR. YEAH!!!

CPR Training
Umm, alarming, isn't it? Dummy carnage.

Free sandwiches aside (because free food is always a good thing), I'm actually really glad I got to take class. I still don't know if I would ever jump into a Situation and shout, "Stand back, people! I am A Trained First Aid Provider!" but it's good to know that I could, potentially, help out.

I highly recommend taking a class (you get to learn all sorts of neat things like The Heimlich and how to use a FIRE EXTINGUISHER and see movies with bad, pock-faced actors in traumatic situations) -- if anything, it gives you a peace of mind that you will be slightly prepared if anything were to happen.

But in the meantime, there are some pearls of wisdom I will share with you:

If you happen upon an emergency scene, remember SETUP:

S -- STOP. Basically pause and look for hazards, and try to assess what happened.

E -- Environment -- pay attention to your surroundings -- look for barriers or dangers.

T -- Be extremely careful of, yes, traffic. You don't want to get hit while giving first aid.

U -- Unknown hazards -- keep alert for apparent or developing hazards, that may cause necessary retreat.

P -- Protect Yourself and the patient -- gloves and breathing barriers. Though, admittedly, you might not have those on you at any given time. (But I do! I have a handy key chain kit, now that I am a Trained First Aid Provider! And I am now able to find my keys in my purse!)

here's a face and mucous barrier:
CPR Training
No, it's not kinky. Get your minds out of the gutter.

The first thing you must do when you reach someone who is unconscious is assess responsiveness. Even if you feel silly you must introduce yourself, and if you are as cool as I am, you tell them that you are a Trained First Aids Provider. And then you must tap them on the shoulder and say, "Are you okay?"

If they don't respond and are alone, you need to then call 911 or emergency services. And here is a fact: it is much better to call from a landline than a cell phone; all 911 calls on a cell are routed to the highway patrol, and minutes are wasted because they must GPS track the call. After 8 minutes, a person will be brain dead, so you don't want to waste valuable time. If you are in a group, direct a specific person to call -- again from a landline if possible.

Now... I don't want to tell you too much, because you are not a Trained First Aid Specialist like I am and not as cool as me. Okay, okay, I'm kidding about that but serious about this -- it's because I'm not a trainer, and I think this is really essential, and essential to learn it correctly. Either sign up for a class yourself, or go here:

Red Cross Website

But I am glad I took this class. Among the many political links today, someone sent me a link about that while the economy is tanking, stress levels are rising. And obviously, high stress can lead to heart attacks and other illnesses. (I had to take a friend to the ER the other day for chest pains, which "just" turned out to be stress. Thank God.) Which could very well lead to you having to administer first CPR, which is why it would be good for you, too, to learn First Aid Training.

Plus, you may get to have free sandwiches, watch amateur movies of burly guys in the workplace cut their arteries and spout fake blood, and practice on creepy dummies and/or your friends!

CPR TrainingCPR Training
A lady dummy and Jason in the "recovery" position.

My favorite new things I learned:

You CAN give the Heimlich maneuver to yourself. Lean over a chair with your belly on the back and thrust upwards.

They no longer tell you to look for a pulse -- people have a hard time finding it and waste too much time looking. Just look, listen and feel instead.

There is a "Good Samaritan" Law which states that if you administer help, the patient and/or family can't sue you.

When doing compressions on a patient's chest, the beat is 100 compressions a minute. To get the idea, a song that has 100 beats per minute that you can think of is, humorously enough, "Stayin' Alive" by The Bee Gees. (Now try to get it out of your head.)

I'm really happy and relieved that I took this class and learned new skills. (I even got 100% on the Red Cross First Aid Quiz!) Now I know that if my plane explodes, I can help Jack save people on the island. It's a good feeling.

But honestly -- I hope I never really have to do it.

Sixteen down, 81 to go.