Annapalooza

Please Get This Song Out of My Head June 11, 2016

Back in August and September I was pretty much in work hell: long hours, a stressful project, lots of new things to learn. This particular work project also required spending my days in a small conference room with two to four other people at any given time, often for 10-12 hours in a row. At one point I taped a sign to the door that said, “Please do not discuss the outside world”. This, of course, was a tribute to The Simpsons (because everyone knows that’s what the sign says outside Grandpa Simpson’s retirement home.) Sadly, not many people understood my pop culture reference, nor did they think it was funny. I thought it was downright hilarious, but the conference room was in the middle of the environmental, health and safety department, and who knows what those people find funny. Dilbert cartoons about ergonomics?

Anyway, lack of contact with the outside world can certainly drive a person quite batty. I don’t know about you, but when I get to the appropriate level of battiness, my mind turns into a one-woman radio station for those with ADHD. I have no control over the genre or taste level on this station; the songs just pop into my head before I can do anything about it. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism…or perhaps I am somewhere on the ADHD spectrum myself but never really got diagnosed? Not sure. But the results range from annoying to embarrassing to what-the-f*ck?

One particular day my mind was so active with songs that I actually started writing them down. Here’s what I came up with:

  • “Family Man” by Hall and Oates. It makes perfect sense that I would have this song in my head first thing in the morning. I am not a morning person and furthermore I’m an introvert, so the last thing I want to do when I get to work is join a room full of people. So “Leave me alone, I’m a fam-ily man” just seemed to stick, minus the whole family man thing.
  • “Let the Good Times Roll” by The Cars. Obviously I was going through a sarcastic phase here.
  • “Whooomp There It Is” by Tag Team. I think someone came in the room and said “I’m back again”, and then it all went from there, naturally.
  • “Special” by the Pretenders. I honestly don’t know how this song got in my head.
  • “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas. This was right after lunch when all I really wanted was a nap. But instead I had that incessant wedding celebration song in my head.
  • “Rocky Top Tennessee” by one of the kids from the classic Kenny Rogers movie “Six Pack”. Yes, I realize that this was probably sung by someone famous, but I never did know my country singers. Except for Kenny, Dolly, Loretty, and The Statler Brothers. (Do The Statlers count? I think they do.) Anyway, when I sing Rocky Top to myself, it’s always this calm, reflective version sung by this little redneck boy while Kenny Rogers the washed-up racecar driver is driving the RV. Granted that kid was a little sh*t the rest of the movie, but boy could he sing like an angel.
  • “Give Your Heart a Break” by Demi Lovato. Hmmm. I thought this was by Selena Gomez but I just Googled it and I was wrong. Anyway, it was played on the radio ALL. THE. TIME. and I could not get it out of my head.
  • “We Built This City” by Starship. One of the worst songs of all time, yet here’s an interesting fact: A few years ago I saw a concert with Lou Gramm, Eddie Money and Mickey Thomas from Starship, and Mickey was the only performer who could actually still sing and not sweat through his shirt in less than 30 seconds. You have to respect that.
  • “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. Somebody mentioned something about ‘making a change’, hence I started whispering that in my head and it morphed into this Michael Jackson song which so many people find inspirational. I don’t. If my mind’s radio station is going to give me some Michael, then it better be “PYT”.
  • “Walk Away” by The Eagles. Again I had to look this up because I though the song was called, “Seems to Me”. And I always get my 70’s bands confused, so no, I didn’t know it was The Eagles. Which is odd because growing up just about every washed-up 70’s band came to my hometown to play in a festival each summer. This was before I figured out how awesome “No Sugar Tonight” was. Ugh, doesn’t your teenage self just disgust you sometimes?
  • “Give Your Heart a Break” – again. Damnit, Sel – I mean Demi!!
  • “The Final Countdown” by Europe. At this point I must’ve seen some hope that we were wrapping up the long day, and this was the most appropriate song of course.
  • Get out of my head, Demi Lovato!!!

And the final song of the day…

  • “I Alone” by Live. Because what else captures the triumph of another long work day better than a song about placenta falling to the floor?

 

P.S. If I had my way, I would have preferred a recently-discovered song from Pitbull’s Globalization station (don’t judge) on my satellite radio. It’s a nifty little number featuring Jennifer Lopez saying, “I done had a long week, now it’s time to celebrate. This drink’s for you.” Sure, Pitbull was dedicating the song to all the single ladies and single mothers out there (like his mom), but I think he could make an exception for the hardworking white ladies too, right?

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Dear John Hughes: Sentimental Fun for Gen-Xers March 8, 2015

Let’s face it: getting through Wisconsin winters is pretty rough. Most days I come home from work in the dark and cold and am in my pajamas by 6:00 sharp. That is, if I don’t lie down for a “little nap” first. I find my lottery ticket purchases skyrocketing, and I watch way too many episodes of House Hunters: Bargain Beachfront Bargain Hunt.

So when I saw that Dear John Hughes, a musical celebrating (what else?) the incredible music featured in John Hughes’ teen flicks of the mid 80’s was coming to Chicago, I jumped online and ordered tickets. What better way to pull me out of my winter funk than listening to the soothing sounds of Psychedelic Furs, Oingo Boingo and The Smiths? Truth be told, I had no idea if there was even a plot to this show, but it also starred Rumer Willis…and if there’s one thing I am, it’s a celebrity whore. Sold! (At about a hundred bucks a ticket – ouch!)

My fellow celebrity whore/pop culture-loving friend Becky and I took the train to Chicago, scarfed down a quick lunch, then high-tailed it to the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. Despite the 2:00 pm start time, the crowd was already enjoying some pre-entertainment beers, which is always a good sign.

I immediately loved the pre-show music selection, featuring lots of new-wave and lesser-known 80’s music, along with some songs clearly from Hughes’ movies but not featured in the performance. So far so good.

So now – on to the details.

The set was simple: several risers with compartments/room for the live band, with one single “framework” piece along the top for different characters to pose in front of (for the whole silhouette effect). This particular theater also had two very high balconies on both side of the stage and two little mini platforms as well, which were well-used by the cast. Cast members also often used the aisles in the theater, which made it extra exciting when Rumor Willis was nearby (sorry – the whole celebrity whore thing again).

So basically the show is divided into five chapters: The Princess and the Athlete, A Criminal and a Basket Case, The Geek, Prom, and Detention.  Each chapter uses lines and characters from Hughes’ most-loved teenage films:  Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Weird Science. (The latter is used the very least.) In order to maximize the use of the most classic Hughes’ movie lines, the themes may use a Sixteen Candles line one moment and then a Pretty in Pink line the next. I’ll admit it took a little getting used to, but in the end it just worked…largely because Hughes distinctly understood the different personas of the teenage world, and these movies all had recurring character types. You’ll see just how easily these characters could cross into each other’s worlds.

It was also difficult when a particular actor would deliver a line with a totally different inflection than the original Hughes’ movie actor. Let’s face it: When you’ve seen Sixteen Candles as many times as I have, you’re expecting Farmer Ted’s lines to be delivered just exactly like Anthony Michael Hall. One actor had the unenviable task of doing Stef from Pretty in Pink…and didn’t come close. But honestly, it’s pretty hard to top James Spader’s brilliant rich kid smarminess…because Spader is just so good.  The one notable exception to this was Ruby Lewis, who could do a very convincing Edie McClurg as Grace (“They think he’s a righteous dude”) as well as Annie Potts as Iona (“Applause. Applause. APPLAUSE.”) Lewis probably had the strongest voice in the bunch, but Michael Thomas Grant was a close second when he really did a fantastic Ducky singing Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness.

As for Rumer Willis, I was pleasantly surprised that the girl can sing…and I liked her impressions of both Watts and Ally Sheedy’s “Basket Case” as well as Jeannie from Ferris Bueller. In fact, her biggest song of the show, Turn to the Sky by The March Violets, was one of my favorite moments. (By the way, this show just made me love the music of Some Kind of Wonderful even more – not to mention this movie was highly underrated and must be seen by more people. Please. Just do it. You won’t regret it.)

The show keeps a good balance of feel-good songs that everyone knows (Twist and Shout) along with some lesser-known ones that resonate with die-hard Hughes fans. I was particularly happy to hear Left of Center by Suzanne Vega, Young Americans by David Bowie, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths, and We Are Not Alone by Nik Kershaw. If You Were Here by The Thompson Twins is also one of my all-time favorites (although there is another version of the song by Cary Brothers that just blows me away).

Overall, the show was fun and sentimental-packed. You’ll wish it was 1985 again and you were popping in that VHS tape of Breakfast Club that just came out. I know I am.

 

Anne Hathaway Saved Me from a Painful Decision November 1, 2012

I almost choked on my Halloween candy when I heard the news.

Anne Hathaway is scheduled to make an appearance in my own little town of Ripon, Wisconsin, on Thursday! I was stoked! Normally I have to buy a ticket to L.A. or New York in order to stalk celebrities, but here is one that will literally be a mere few blocks from my house! Would it be too much to put “Welcome, Anne” signs in my front yard, much like Linus did for The Great Pumpkin?

But wait. Before I could even plan my outfit and prepare my strategy on how to meet her, I saw that she was coming to town to campaign for Obama.

Cue the universal noise for buzzkill.

Now if you know me, you know that the chances of my attending an Obama rally are about as likely as Leonardo DiCaprio dating anyone who’s not a model. As much as I love my celebrities, it just won’t happen.

The thing is I really like Anne Hathaway. She seems like a nice person, after all. Plus, we both spell our names with an ‘e’ at the end, so we have that bond. (On a side note: If you ever encounter someone named Anne, please ask how she spells it. Most of my life people have omitted the ‘e’.)  And I do understand how she wants to use her celebrity to endorse things she believes in. However, I also think it would be foolish for anyone to base their political opinions on celebrity endorsements.

I realize that there are a kajillion more entertainers that share Ms. Hathaway’s opinions, and therefore this sometimes makes it hard for a pop culture-obsessed person like me not to get a little frustrated. Back in 2008 I attended a Stevie Wonder concert at Summerfest in Milwaukee, where I was treated to Stevie’s gushing support for Obama which even included a musical chant. To say I wanted to stick a fork in my eye was an understatement.

Now I am afraid that I am going to run into the same thing this weekend in St. Paul. I am going to see Madonna in concert, which has basically been on my bucket list since junior high school. I respect Madonna for her work ethic and amazing entertainment abilities; that woman can put on a show. However I also know that she has been very political on her latest tour; and this is something I am dreading. The people of New Orleans recently booed her after she told them they better vote for Obama. I can only hope she learned her lesson and will tone it down a bit, although we’re talking Madonna here. Subtlety is not in her repertoire. However, I paid good money for those tickets and I don’t want the night to be overshadowed by politics.

And so I’ve had to train my brain to separate the performers from their beliefs. Entertainment is such a huge part of my life, that if I didn’t separate them I’d miss out on so many enjoyable, incredible things. My radio would be silent except for Ted Nugent.  It would be 24/7 Clint Eastwood movies. (Hmmm that may not be such a bad thing, but still.) Don’t even get me started on all the musical theater I would miss.

I would need to get a bigger yard sign for Anne Hathaway. I was thinking something along the lines of this:

Welcome, Anne! You are a talented actress and I thought you did a great job hosting the Oscars even though some people thought you were way too hyper. But honestly who wouldn’t look hyper next to a stoned, self-absorbed James Franco? And I totally stuck up for you when people said they hated your short hair. You cut it for your amazing upcoming role in Les Miserables! That is artistic integrity! In any case I think it’s lovely and gamine and you have the bone structure to pull it off. Plus I also liked your wedding headpiece by Mr. Valentino, even though most people hated that as well. I will continue to support your amazing career, but I’m afraid I can’t support your presidential candidate.

Fondly,

Your Fellow Anne

Update on late Wednesday night via Twitter: Apparently Anne Hathaway has cancelled her appearance in Ripon (and in all of Wisconsin, for that matter.) I guess Anne Hathaway saved me from a painful decision…along with a lot of poster board and paint.

 

Top Five Ways Madonna Could Die February 2, 2012

This weekend Madonna is performing during halftime of the Superbowl big game.  Now if the Packers had actually made it this far, this would have been my absolute dream scenario.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  However, I have not given up my dream of seeing Madonna perform in person.

Madonna needs to do me a big favor and go on tour (and fast).  I’m tired of waiting for something as epic as the Blonde Ambition Tour to come around again.  It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t have another album to promote; trust me, people will come.  Secondly, until that time comes, she needs to keep herself out of harm’s way.  I can’t have her dying too young like another pop icon that I will (sadly) never get to see.  I was pretty devastated by that.

Now, I figure Madonna is way too healthy to die of anything related to clogged arteries or lack of exercise.  If she is going to go anytime soon, it would be either purely accidental or under suspicious circumstances. 

Just in case, I have put together a small list of things Madonna should look out for.

Top Five Ways Madonna Could Die

1)      Taken out by the Gay Mafia after its leader Elton John loses another award to her.

2)      Mysteriously disappears from the public eye.  Months later, a super buff and veiny-armed Rosanna Arquette emerges with an adopted foreign toddler in tow and starts making crappy movies.

3)      Suddenly keels over in private yoga class; toxicology reports find cause is massive amounts of poison found in lifetime supply of lacey fingerless gloves.  (Kind of gives new meaning to Arsenic and Old Lace, am I right theater geeks?)

4)      Not to be outdone by Lady Gaga’s “meat dress”, makes appearance in John Paul Gauthier-designed catnip dress, only to be attacked by rabies-infested feral cats.

5)      Accidentally overdoses on wheatgrass while playing drinking games with frenemy Gwyneth Paltrow.

Please be careful, Madge!

 

Desperately Seeking Attention Spans November 6, 2011

I suppose it is appropriate that this post comes a few days after Andy Rooney’s death.  Mr. Rooney was notorious for his weekly rants on 60 Minutes, delivering them in the crotchety, whiny manner of an old guy who doesn’t really give a rip.  You see, something set me off today, and so now I am going to go all Rooney on you and deliver a rant of my own.  It’s about attention spans.  And how so many people (especially older children) seem to lack one.  Normally I would not get too worked up about such things.  However, when a lack of attention span threatens good manners, self-discipline and respect of others, it crosses the line and just makes me a big crankypants.

Now the thing that set me off today was a performance by the Oshkosh Youth Symphony Orchestra.  My fifteen-year-old stepson was performing along with other area kids ranging from middle school to college age.  These kids were going above and beyond their band class; many of them traveled from miles away to do something pretty incredible.  So imagine my irritation when a girl about 10 years old sat in front of me and played games on her DS (portable gaming device) during the entire concert. Really?  Regardless your taste in music, seeing a symphony in person is pretty amazing, not to mention just plain loud at times.  Yet this girl kept her eyes peeled on the little lit-up screen the entire time. 

This bothers me on several levels.  First of all, the fact that she had the device with her showed that she automatically assumed she would be bored.  Secondly, she could not tear herself away from the device for one short hour?  Thirdly, why did her mother allow this?  She was sitting right next to her daughter yet did nothing to stop this absurdity.  Surely they were there to watch a brother or sister perform in the orchestra.  Therefore, you do the right thing and show the proper respect to that sibling.  You listen.  You watch.  You congratulate them on a successful performance or a strong effort.  In my case, you went to watch your older brothers play YMCA football every Saturday morning in the fall.  It was cold.  It was long.  It was boring at times.  But I survived, and I surely didn’t have an iPod Touch in hand so I could play Angry Birds.

To be fair, we were all warned about this, weren’t we?  As soon as MTV-style television and the internet arrived, we were constantly fed short tidbits of information; our brains were interrupted and distracted, and we were doomed to become fidgeting citizens who got bored easily. I see it happening all around me, and I’m not even an A.D.H.D. specialist, nor a cranky 92 year-old journalist.  I do know that I’m guilty of loving plenty of mindless TV shows, some of which insult my intelligence as well as my attention span.  However, I’d like to think that I can go on a long car trip without a DVD player, a Smartphone or a portable gaming device.  Our kids know better than to ask for the DVD player when we are simply driving to Oshkosh.  It’s twenty minutes!  Talk to all the people (myself included) who took long family road trips with only the radio, conversation, and the ABC game.  Excitement was finding a small town with a Dairy Queen so you could score the letter ‘Q’.  Heck, my husband’s family once took their seven kids, a friend and the family dog on a trip to the Black Hills.  (I do have to question their sanity a bit though; seven kids are enough, so what would possess them to bring another kid and a dog is beyond me).

Another common display of the poor attention span would be restaurant dining.  How often do you see families out to dinner, only to see the kids texting the entire time?  Again, why aren’t parents speaking up and taking their phones away?  Not only is it anti-social, it’s rude to ignore your fellow diners.  It’s basically telling them that they aren’t worth the effort. I wonder how these kids are going to have the patience to sit in a lecture hall and take a two-hour test.  Trust me, kids, it will happen one day.  Just you, a writing device, and a little blue testing booklet for 120 minutes.  Unless of course universities build in snack breaks. And then you’ll really see me lose it.

 

Awkward Encounters with Rock Stars August 28, 2011

“This song goes out to Anne, my number one fan.”

Well I did it again.  I met a rock star and I totally geeked out.  Sadly, this has not been my first awkward celebrity encounter, and not all of them have been with rock stars.

I take you back to high school.  As odds would have it, my childhood babysitter Maggie was getting married to a guy named Sean Cronin.  Well, Sean’s brother is none other than Kevin Cronin, aka The Lead Singer of REO Speedwagon. Lucky for me, I was a wedding guest, so I actually got to see Kevin sing “I Can’t Fight this Feeling” during the ceremony.  I also got to see him join the wedding band for a few numbers (he did a mean “Johnny Be Good”). 

But perhaps the funniest part was when the band rolled out The Chicken Dance.  The dance floor immediately filled with flapping, clapping, shimmying Wisconsinites.  As for Kevin, he stared at us all, eyes wide and mouth open in amazement.  I honestly don’t think he had ever actually seen The Chicken Dance before.  I can only imagine what his L.A.-living, rock star head (of quite curly hair, I might add) was thinking.  For the record, I don’t care what anyone says:  you are never too cool for The Chicken Dance.  If it comes on, you just join in, period.

So here’s where the awkward part comes in.  Of course I wanted Kevin’s autograph, and the bride’s father got wind of this.  Before I could say “Riding the Storm Out”, he takes my hand, marches me up to Mr. REO Speedwagon and declares, “This young lady would like your autograph!”  I don’t really remember what transpired next, but I do know that I got a 3×5 index card with his autograph scrolled on it, along with “Hi Anne” and a big smiley face.  Pretty impressive, right? 

It’s not like there haven’t been other awkward encounters with celebrities.  There was the mute encounter with Woody Harrelson where I just got my picture taken with him.  There was a convention where I got to ask Tim Gunn a question from the audience while my microphone shook violently the entire time.  (Make it work, Anne, Make it work!)

So a couple years have passed since my gush-filled convo with Tim Gunn.  I am much, much more composed and mature now, right?  I can handle my celebrities.

You know where this is going, right?  Yet again I turn into a shy 13-year-old.  Either that or Cindy Brady in that episode where she was on a  t.v. quiz show, got stage fright and ended up staring at the bright red “on air” sign the whole time.

I take you to the scene of the awkwardness.  Date:  Friday, August 19th, 2011.  I have made plans to see one of my favorite bands from college, The Freddy Jones Band.  In the early nineties they were a pretty big deal, comparable to Big Head Todd and the Monsters and The Bodeans.  One of my all-time favorites songs is their most known hit, “In a Daydream”, which I recently blogged/gushed about.

So it happens that two of the members of the band are coming to Fontana, Wisconsin, to do an acoustic set at a lakeside bar “where it all started” for them.  As I was waiting for the band to go on, I struck up a conversation with a couple who looked like they had gotten there early.  It turns out that the man had gone to school with the band since 4th grade.  No way.  Way.  Now mind you it’s not like I’m seeing any huge celebrities that night, but for me it’s like I’m back in 1994; their awesomeness had just never worn out on me.

So the concert begins late, around 11:00, and I can clearly tell that these guys still thoroughly enjoy jamming together.  I love every minute of it, then they decide to break for a bit.  Sure enough, schoolmate goes down and talks to Marty, the lead singer.  A few minutes later ohmygod ohmygod they’re coming this way!  Once again I was introduced to a rock star, and nothing much could come out of my mouth.  I think at one point I even said that “In a Daydream” still gives me chills to this day.  Yes, I actually said that, and there wasn’t even a nearby rock for me to crawl under.  I did get to clink glasses with Marty, and when he asked me what I wanted to hear, all I could blurt out was “You’re going to play it anyway, you’re going to play it anyway.”

So there it is.  My second awkward encounter with a rock star, and probably not my last.  I was like one of Bret Michaels’ adoring fans/suitors from Rock of Love, really.  If that suitor were a sober, modestly dressed, easily embarrassed sort who can’t even work up the nerve to ask Bret for a picture.  Hence the attached far-away picture of Marty performing, sans my mug.  Enjoy.

 

15 Songs that Give Me Chills July 31, 2011

You know those songs that literally give you goosebumps?  You know the ones.  The ones that send chills up your spine?  Sometimes they may actually bring you to tears for no particular reason, or you may associate the song with a specific impressionable moment in your life. Now listen to me:  You have to be very fragile with these songs.  One listen too many and suddenly the chill (and come to think of it, the thrill) is gone.  I almost think you have to ration out your exposure to such songs, lest they lose their charm.  It also helps not to listen to too much mainstream radio.

So without any further adieu, here is my list of chill-inducing songs, in no particular order:

1)  In a Daydream, Freddy Jones Band.  It’s that song you want to listen to when life is good

2)  By Your Side, Sade (especially the live version).  Most. Romantic. Song. Ever.

3)  Higher Ground, Red Hot Chili Peppers (originally by Stevie Wonder).  I imagine myself doing a perfectly choreographed flash mob dance performance to this, much like the jazz class in the chick flick Center Stage.

4)  One Fine Day, Natalie Merchant version.  I listen to this when I’m down and want to know that things will be better; Natalie’s voice is calm and reassuring.

5)  Sweet Jane, Cowboy Junkies version.  Truly haunting and pretty.  I refuse to watch the movie Natural Born Killers since I hear this song is played during a shooting spree.  Talk about ruining it for me.

6)  Misguided Angel, Cowboy Junkies again.  Daddy doesn’t like the guy she’s fallen in love with, but she’ll love him the rest of her days.

7)  If You Were Here.  The original was done by The Thompson Twins, and I love it as well…however the remake by The Cary Brothers for the film Easy A is even better.

8)  The Blower’s Daughter, Damien Rice.  Ah yes if we could all be as breathtaking as Natalie Portman and have this beautiful song playing as we walk, a la the movie Closer.  And p.s., if anyone can tell me why that movie is called Closer, I’d really appreciate it.

9)  Hold You in my Arms, Ray LaMontagne.  Perfect slow dance music.

10)  Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley.  More good stuff to listen to when you’re depressed.

11)  Anna Begins, Counting Crows.  Whenever I was at the popular dive bar in college, someone would play this on the juke box, as if they knew it was my favorite song.  Hmmmmm.

12)  Mothers Work, Kate Bush.  I have never given birth, but this was the perfect song to accompany labor in the movie She’s Having a Baby.  Once again, the late John Hughes knew his music.  Guaranteed to make me bawl upon listening to it.

13)  I Can’t Make You Love Me, Bonnie Raitt.  Listen to this one if you have an unrequited love.  Sobfest.

14)  City of Angels, Gabriel Yared.  If I were a professional figure skater, this is the music I would use for my long program.  I’ve choreographed it in my head.  (What?  Doesn’t anyone else do that?)

15)  No One is to Blame, Emile Millar for the movie Waitress.  This is the remake of the Howard Jones’ classic, with brilliant lyrics that just make you ask “Can’t I catch a break?”