Thursday, March 26, 2009

Amadou & Mariam: "Welcome to Mali"

Some musical artists just make me want to die. In a good way. One of them, is Amadou & Mariam. They are intriguing for more reasons than their unabashed musical talent: They are from Mali (making the title of their latest album fairly straightforward), they are married, and they are blind.

I harbor this theory that if more people listened to Amadou & Mariam the world would be brighter, warmer, and that humanity's collective stress level would subside (less collective cortisol buildup means maybe less warfare? Less aggression? Less greed? Less shitty driving?).

The couple has made sweet music together for almost 30 years. I got hooked on them in graduate school with the album Dimanche a Bamako (notable track highlights: "Sénégal Fast-Food", and "Politic Amagni").

I declare, here and now, with great pomp and circumstance, at my desk, that Welcome to Mali is one of the best albums of 2009. I herewith provide a track highlight: "Magossa". Enjoy. (Thank you,

The Busted Knee, The New Knee, & Conspiracy Theories

My Dad is recovering from knee surgery. Time and age had stripped away the remaining cartilage in his knee (technically, time and age done gone and vaporized the "meniscus", but what's a teeny orthopedic detail?). The surgery was a success, and now his left knee contains some tidily arranged cobalt chromium alloy and plastic, all held together with bone glue.

My Dad is recovering nicely. I also now forgive the surgeon for repeatedly calling me "Dear" during the final pre-op appointment. During this appointment my Dad, never one to miss a chance to articulate his fervent belief that all Democrats everywhere are mostly responsible for the global economic meltdown, and wholly responsible for the current state of "godlessness" in society, managed to insert a wily verbal slam against President Obama when the surgeon casually mentioned Medicare. His comment was poppycock to the max, but even I was impressed by how he connected a couple of disparate thoughts in a five second soapbox right there in the examination room, his left pant leg rolled up as the surgeon wrote in permanent pen on his busted knee: "This One!"

There is a look I give my Dad when he, in my opinion, gets way the fuck out of bounds in promulgating his batshit crazy conspiracy theories and political philosophies to anyone not a member of the immediate family. On their own my eyes go wide, and I inaudibly channel: "Shut UP! Stop! Shut UP! Stop!" By thinking it and not saying it, technically I am still being somewhat respectful. I believe this look is similar to the one that I give misbehaving students while substitute teaching. I tried this look in front of the mirror once. Not a good look.

To our surprise, my Dad-the-partial-invalid channels an inner diva. He's a demanding patient, who at the same time charms all the nurses with supremely corny jokes. He absolutely loves having visitors. I telepathically remind them to stick to subjects like the weather and computers, or risk full-throttled verbal assaults that will likely cover in one shot: Rush Limbaugh's possible, yet forgivable, drug use; anti-American global conspirators intent on ruling the world; how the Medici family of medieval Italy infiltrated and soiled the sanctity of the Vatican; and the "despicable creep" of socialism into government institutions [please note: his words, not mine, not ever]. He always manages to conclude this one-sided conversation with a rhetorical flourish on one of his subjects du jour: the pro-life movement, or the U.S.'s "clear" decline into an economic depression due to the current president's communion with communism [please note: his words, not mine, not ever]. I might add that he animatedly discusses all the above in a cheery tone, leaving his muzzled audience baffled ("But, he's so happy! But, it's such bad news!").

The part I like best when visiting my Dad at the convalescent home where he's recuperating is when I wheel him around the hallways of the home. We call it "going for a ride". He looks forward to it because it breaks up the monotony of the day. To say I'm happy he'll be back home in a week or two fails to convey a deeply embedded relief that at almost 75 he's got a lot of life left in him yet. He's got a brand new knee, he's healthy, and once he leaves his wheelchair and walker behind in the dust, all future rides will be in his prized '65 Mustang, windows rolled down, conservative pundits blaring, conspiracy theories brewing, and a gleam in his eye that retirement, baby, is where it's at.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Springtime Just May Kill Me

Daily temperatures have gotten warmer, and I'm not exactly shedding a salty tear. There's no longer any need to go on increasing my nightly chances of dying in an accidental fire due to portable heater abuse (my parents and I had a very pointed disagreement on just how low the thermostat in winter should go).

The mountains that surround the Salinas Valley are green. Bucolic, even. Flowers are in bloom, providing a visual cacophony that the third-rate poet in me just can't stop marveling at. When I venture outside to catch some rays, go on a walk, or simply seek to commune with this new season, I now return layered in a thick swath of microscopic allergens. More specifically, pollen.

After an allergy skin test three years ago, I discovered I was allergic to the world. Especially, the world during spring. The nurse administering the test determined that I was so allergic to trees, as I swelled up in a sterile room, arms all pricked up with various allergens, that she cut off the testing, fed me some Prednisone, and asked me to consider walking myself to the ER if my throat closed all the way up. Fucking great, I thought. Now I can't just blame all my sniveling on cats (generally, my favorite allergen scapegoat). Turns out, trees and grasses (like, all of them) are an even greater nemesis.

There are worse things in life than a physical response to spring that inspires a violent uprising of antibodies in my body, and the dénouement of a histamine surge. There are worse things in life than stuffed tissues (used and unused) in almost every pocket of all my clothes (often resulting in batches of newly washed clothing, generously sprinkled with tissue bits, as if I had just stood over my clothes generously grating tissue over them, like a fresh block of parmesan over a steaming plate of pasta). And if everything outside weren't so damn beautiful I might just give into the temptation to cut off my nose so as eliminate dealing with it at all.

Spring showers do bring May flowers. And those spring flowers give me incessant pollen showers, leaving me sneezing for hours, wishing for residence in a sterile tower - at least until June, or a move to the tundra. As long as there's wi-fi in the tundra...

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Music Skinny: The-Dream, Part 2

My infatuation with The-Dream has progressed into the week. Another tight song to check out: "Right Side of My Brain".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Music Skinny: The-Dream

This dude. Oh, this dude. He's got some mad skillz: He penned Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)". His name is The-Dream.

If you can write a stream of songs that stick in millions of peoples' heads involuntarily, like the latter song mentioned above (which in turn created a You Tube sensation because good-hearted, but maybe talent-less, citizens of Earth believed that their lip synching and booty-shaking abilities were worthy of being video-ed and then virally distributed -- one aftermath of Web 2.0), that means you've got a sharp sense of how to craft a melody, and that also means if you're actually a paid songwriter, you probably have a couple of Maseratis in the garage. The-Dream's latest effort "Love VS Money" is a solid album of slow-groove, melodic hooks. And, if you care about the lyrics: Sex. Lots of sex, actually. Personally, I'm not one to complain about hooky melodies and baby-making music. Love makes the world go round, etc.

Surefire hit off "Love Vs Money": "Rockin That Sh**". (Couldn't have said it better myself) Check it out.

Blue Eyeshadow To My Rescue

I'm not a huge holiday person. With the exception of Halloween. Halloween is great for those of us who never lost the desire to dress up despite the onset of puberty and the loss of parental encouragement to don castoffs and Mom's donated lipstick (as a 7-year-old it seldom matters if a tube of exotic lipstick is the wrong shade for one's skin).

Due to Halloween I don't have to come up with some legitimate reason for why I want to wear a purple wig or affix lashes that almost look like little furry spiders to my lash lines. Due to Halloween I can wear skirts that are too short, tights that are too glittery, and sashay with abandon just because. (Ever notice how sashaying instantly leads to a good mood? Try it.) God, I love Halloween. I used to also love the candy, but adulthood has also stripped me of my proclivity toward sweets, and hastened me further along the path to all things savory. If I could be part of a group of adults to go trick or treating I would want it to be a wine bar crawl, with an assortment of cheeses, olives, and little mini quiches.

I'm a silver lining kind of gal, but due to hormones, allergies, or perhaps the cycle of the moon, my silver lining detector quit on me last week. I felt the internal whirring stop, and thought about writing a (funny) poem about what it might be like to throw myself off my parents' roof.

Now, I must quickly add that while my silver lining detector sometimes shuts off, my (perhaps I'll call it "macabre"?) sense of humor is as available to me as my nightly bruxism. So, in no way do I advocate suicide as a solution to anyone, ever. However, sometimes a good laugh, even one rooted in politically incorrect material, is better than no laugh at all.

[The rabbit hole of frustration that unemployment can engender admittedly provides an awful lot of material for bad poetry, endless haikus, and expletive-filled anecdotes to friends; I don't know that living happily, sans fiscal concerns, and staunch singledom provides the same volume of fodder. I think I bring up a good point here.]

One way to get my silver lining machine whirring again is eye shadow. Like, at Long's or Target. When I'm actually *in* an income bracket, I can explore this psychology with more expensive brands like MAC and Laura Mercier. In the meantime, I'm quite happy with drug store eye shadow. I don't know why giving myself a smoky eye is like taking a month's worth of Prozac, and I have no desire to question it.

Long's has a cosmetics sale going right now. I'm out of the rabbit hole.