Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dance Craze

Remember back when you were in middle school, and the gym teacher would announce that instead of playing dodgeball or running the mile, that the class was going to spend the next two weeks learning how to square dance? And everybody would groan? I never did. I have always loved to dance, and I didn't care if I hold the hand of the ickiest boy in school and promenade in a circle. I wanted to dance!
When I was about ten years old, in the living room of our house in Maryville, Missouri, my little sister Dana and I made up our first dance, to the Pink Panther Theme. Imagine two little blonde girl "detectives" walking backwards around the room, hunched over while pretending to hold big magnifying glasses, slowly circling, seemingly unaware of the other, until eventually we'd bump into each other at the end of the song. It was brilliant, right? I'm sure with just a short refresher, the two of us could resurrect the 35 year old choreography from memory, and now that I've put it out there on the world wide web, I doubt my daughter will allow the next all-family holiday gathering to go by without making sure it happens!
I'm pretty sure we made up a dance to Disco Duck not long after that, and I will never forget the amazing, expressive and passionate moves we came up with to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" a few years later. That was right around the time Mrs. Giannini taught us how to do The Hustle (along with a multitude of variations) in gym class, and another friend and I came up with a disco dance routine we intended to perform in front of the whole school that involved the brand new and extremely popular stick-your-finger-in-the-air-then-put-it-in-your-pocket bit along with our own brand new move, the twirl-a-pocket-watch-on-a-chain-while-walking-sideways shuffle. We were amazing when rehearsing in my friend Kelly's basement, but I'm pretty sure we lost our nerve and never actually performed the dance in public.Or perhaps I've just blocked the embarrassing moment from my otherwise indelible childhood memory.
Somewhere along the road to adulthood, I lost the interest in learning all the latest dance moves. I never did the Lambada or the Macarena, I never learned the dance to Thriller. But when Psy's Gangnam Style hit the airwaves (or rather the Youtube stream), it stirred something within me. Seriously. My daughter walked into the kitchen and yelled over the music, "Mom! What are you DOING?!" as I rode a pretend horse across the room. But you know that by the end of the song, she was doing it too. Gotta love dance crazes. And I'm hoping today's playlist will bring back all the great dance crazes of the past, from The Twist to the Time Warp to the Tootsie Roll!  And if you want to learn the dance craze of today, just click on the video above.
  1. Psy - Gangnam Style It's Korean, it's fantastic, it's a resurgence of The Pony!
  2. Los Del Rio - Macarena
  3. The Commitments - Land of 1000 Dances
  4. Rocky Horror Soundtrack - The Time Warp My personal favorite. I've taught it to many a kid!
  5. The B52s - Rock Lobster OK, so this one isn't exactly a specific dance...except for one requirement...when Fred says "Down," you get down on the floor, on your back, and flail!
  6. Family Force 5 - Wobble It's all the rage with those pesky teenagers
  7. Cupid - Cupid Shuffle
  8. Big & Rich - Fake ID There are so many great country line dances, but this one's pretty sweet.
  9. Michael Jackson - Thriller
  10. Village People - YMCA
  11. Van McCoy - The Hustle
  12. Bo Diddley - Hand Jive
  13. Chubby Checker - Let's Do The Twist
  14. The Diamonds - The Stroll
  15. Nat Kendricks & His Swans - Do The Mashed Potato
  16. Dee Dee Sharp - Mashed Potato Time
  17. Grandmaster Flash - Electric Slide A wedding favorite
  18. 69 Boyz - Tootsie Roll Thanks to the gals in my book club who clued me in to this craze!
  19. The Upgrade - Teach Me To Dougie I'm still not sure I understand this one.
  20. Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames - Do The Dog
  21. Kaoma - Lambada
  22. The Rolling Stones - Harlem Shuffle
  23. Sweet Charity Soundtrack - Rich Man's Frug I want this dance craze to come back in the worst way!
  24. Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grapelli - The Charleston If you'd like to see this one performed live on stage this weekend and next, check out the U-Prep Fall Musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie" at the David Marr Auditorium.

By the way friends....Grooveshark is doing a little upgrading this week. I'm not very happy about it, because they're apparently in the middle of designing a new & improved widget for sharing streaming playlists. But it's not finished. Which means that you can't just click on the arrow and play today's Dance Craze playlist. But you can click on this link, which still takes directly to the playlist on Grooveshark, and you can play it from there (by clicking on 'Play All.') And because I feel kind of bad about this week's wonky widget weirdness, here's a few more smattering of dance craze videos below to make up for it!
 Line Dancing in Footloose
The Time Warp from Rocky Horror
Let Me See You Wobble!

Hey, Macarena! AAAAAY!
The Rich Man's Frug from Sweet Charity

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Dream Come True

Fifteen years ago, early in the morning of October 20th, I had the most vivid dream of my life. In my dream I was in a hospital delivery room, giving birth. I was pushing and pushing, and then finally, she was born. A beautiful baby girl with thick black hair and blue eyes. She was put into my arms, and that's when I woke up, solid in the knowledge that I was going to have a girl.

In real life, I was very very pregnant, due any day. The baby's room was painted in yellow & white stripes because I'd decided against ultrasounds that would help me determine what flavor baby to prepare for. But when I woke up that morning, I knew a baby girl was on the way. And I knew she'd have those blue eyes and dark hair.

If you're a mother, you know what I mean. Over those nine months, you gain a connection to the life growing inside of you, and you just know. Funny thing though... up until that moment I really had no idea. I hadn't even decided on a middle name if the baby turned out to be a girl (if it was a boy, Noah Michael, after my grandfather). But I knew that dream was a little heads up for what was in store.

That evening, while stepping out of the car at about a quarter after six, my water broke. Six hours later, just past midnight, after a whirlwind labor, Sophia Louisa was born. She had the eyes and hair just like the baby girl in my dream. The hair was so striking, because it wasn't fine baby hair that so many babies are born with, which tends to fall out after awhile. It was lush, thick and long, already over her ears and down to her neck in the back. It was black on the ends, but the roots were more of a chestnut color. It never fell out, but from that day on, it grew out lighter and then lighter, until her hair became a golden blonde.                                           

Before she was born, her dad and I used to pass the time wondering what would result from the combining of our DNA: would our baby be born with his long, thin feet and arms and my short, stubby legs? His roman nose and unibrow and my elfin ears? As it turned out, she got the best of both of us. His long legs, arms and feet, his blue eyes. My hair, nose and facial shape, and my curves.

Fifteen years later, there are a lot of other qualities my daughter has developed that are similar to mine, but the most obvious is her love of music. As you can imagine, music has always filled our lives wherever we go. In the house, in the car, there's always a soundtrack. Some of her favorite songs came through exposure from us (The Beatles and anything C&W from her dad, Rufus Wainwright, OKGO and Maroon 5 from me), but she's definitely developed her own awesome, individual style.

For her birthday this weekend, all she's asked for is to get the screen repaired on her iPod Touch (her device of choice to do her two favorite things: listening to music & photography), but so far I haven't been able to find anyone in the area who will fix it for less than the darn thing cost in the first place. So while I try to find a way to make that happen, I asked if she'd like to create this week's playlist and share her favorite music with the world.

A few days ago she was whittling her list of songs down to a reasonable 38 (down from about 80), and I have to admit, I was delightfully surprised by many of her choices. I asked her to explain why she chose some of the songs that you'll hear when you click the play arrow below. So she not only chose the music for today's playlist, she also provided the commentary below.

Sophia, happy birthday. You have turned into exactly the person I dreamed of. Not just the exterior features that literally came to me in a dream, but the human qualities that you have developed during your fifteen years on this planet. You have endeavored to be the best friend you can possibly be to so many people. You're a good listener when they have problems, and you always look for solutions. You're accepting, generous, kindhearted and honest. You are a compassionate soul with a goofball spirit, in no hurry to grow up yet wise beyond your years. I don't know how I got so lucky.

  1. Beatles - Here Comes The Sun I love love love the Beatles, from the first time I heard them.
  2. fun. - At Least I'm Not As Sad This is my song of the week!
  3. Coldplay - Talk Seems like Coldplay always have a song that relates perfectly to something going on in my life right now.
  4. Foster The People - I Would Do Anything For You
  5. Group Love - Tongue Tied
  6. OkGo - Here It Goes Again
  7. Imagine Dragons - It's Time This is a song I heard first on Glee, one of my top 3 favorite tv shows (along with Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother).
  8. The Animals - House Of The Rising Sun I fell in love with this song when I heard Pip do it on The Voice last season. Wish I had that version instead!
  9. One Direction - I Wish
  10. Weezer - Islands In The Sun This was from the movie Aquamarine that I saw back in elementary school, and I've always liked it.
  11. Michael Jackson - Black Or White
  12. Maroon 5 - Stutter
  13. Goo Goo Dolls - Iris
  14. Avett Bros - Paranoia in B flat major Every time I hear this song, it makes me skip around.
  15. Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man
  16. Nine Inch Nails - In This Twilight Not the regular version, gotta be the piano remix.
  17. Gregoire - Trois Plus Moi I'm taking French in school this year at U-Prep
  18. Journey - Don't Stop Believing The first really great song I ever learned to play on the piano.
  19. Skillet - Yours To Hold
  20. Journey - Faithfully
  21. The Police - Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
  22. Maroon 5 - Payphone
  23. Rascal Flatts - Summer Nights
  24. Norah Jones - Chasing Pirates I saw her in concert last summer while visiting my aunt. She's amazing, even if I did fall asleep.
  25. Taylor Swift - Mine 
  26. Train - Soul Sister
  27. Kristin Chenowith - Popular I'm always involved with the school musicals, and this is one of my favorite songs from a broadway musical. In fact, I sang this for my audition last year.
  28. Foster The People - Don't Stop
  29. Michael Jackson - Thriller
  30. Gorillaz - 19-2000 I love the Gorillaz. They're weird like me. 
  31. Rupert Homes - Escape (The Pina Colada Song) I used to take ballroom dancing lessons, and for some reason we used to sing this song all the time during class.
  32. Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing 
  33. Smash Mouth - Walking On The Sun
  34. Commodores - Brick House 
  35. The Drifters - Under The Boardwalk This song always seems to get stuck in my head.
  36. Rufus Wainwright - Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk This was my first favorite song, ever since I was really little, probably because he was singing about jelly beans and chocolate milk. Not so much the cigarettes.
  37. Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up You've just been Rick Roll'd!
  38. Julian Smith - Stuck Inside Your Head This is just in case you get one of these songs stuck inside your head. I love everything Julian Smith does.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Columbus Day

We call it Columbus Day, but other countries have different names for it. Some call it Day of the Americas, others call it Day of Discovery, Dia de la Raza, Dia de la Hispanidad. Whatever it's called, it originated as a day to commemorate the day that Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. Not necessarily the good ol' U.S.A., because that's not what Columbus discovered. It was actually what we now call The Bahamas. Then the Antilles and later Venezuela. He never actually made it to the continent of North America, although he did make it to Hispaniola, which we now call Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where he was governor for a while.
Celebrating this holiday pisses off a good sized chunk of the population of this country and residents of a few other countries as well.
In fact, a number of nations and states have decided to opt out of commemorating this day at all, but like Christianity did to Pagans so many eons ago, the day is still marked, but with a new name and a different meaning.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ring The Alarm

I don't want to scare you, but I'm alarmed. Alarmed enough to share a few real life true crime horror stories with you. Don't worry, there's still a musical connection to today's Mistress of the Mix. In fact, this playlist is a progressive story all on its own (that unfortunately seems to end too many times with "Catch & Release").

A few weeks ago I went to a friend's afternoon wedding. It was lovely. Two best friends who met over their mutual addiction affection for World of Warcraft, who now get to spend the rest of their lives together. If you'd seen the look on the groom's face when he finally got to hold his bride's hand after she walked up the aisle. The most adorable, infectious, ear to ear smile, like he'd just won the lottery. I wonder what kind of look he had on his face when he carried his wife across the threshold that evening, only to realize that while they were exchanging vows, someone had smashed through their front door and burglarized their home? Stolen were the bride's clarinet, a library book (WTF?) several wedding gifts and the X-Box that ignited their love.

Another couple who attended that same wedding returned to their house to discover they had also been robbed. You may have heard about this burglary, because the victims had invested in a video surveillance system which caught two women in the act. The video shows them entering the yard, getting into an altercation with the dog, putting on rubber gloves, pulling off window screens, and climbing into the home, somehow not noticing the cameras trained directly on their faces. The victims posted the video on Facebook, got it on the tv news, and the next day at least one of the thieves was apprehended while trying to pawn some of the stolen jewelry. Meanwhile, the bride told me that she wasn't the only person in the area who had her home broken into while saying her vows on the very same day. Brides are being targeted. Maybe through newspaper notices, maybe through bridal registries, maybe through Facebook.  We don't know. What we do know is that people are getting so desperate that nothing's off limits. You're getting married? We know where you'll be for a few hours! A loved one has passed and you attend the funeral to say your last goodbyes? Thanks for leaving the house, don't come back too soon! You're a tax paying, contributing member of society who goes to work every day and leaves your house completely unattended? SUCKA!

So what are ya gonna do? Not go to work? Not attend functions? Not let anyone know that you're getting married? Not have a life?

I'll tell you what I did after I discovered someone casing my house earlier this year - a woman who's had her photo on Shasta Mugshots 14 times in the past year and a half for crimes like burglary, posession of burglary tools and lurking - I got the neighborhood together, and we started talking. We've got cameras. We're picking up each other's newspapers. We're communicating and looking out for one another.

A couple of days ago I sat down with a couple of Redding cops, and asked them what's the best thing we all can do to minimize our chances of being victimized, and it wasn't hard at all for them to come up with a quick answer. They said the best deterrent, hands down, is an audible alarm system. If an intruder breaks a window or enters the home while an alarm system is hooked up, the police say the criminal will most likely spend less than a minute in the home looking for drugs, jewelry and cash or checks before taking off, instead of taking their time. Let me tell you what happens when they take their time.

Simpson University's Cathy Giacomelli went shopping one Sunday afternoon, while the rest of the family was out doing family stuff. While they were out, a guy who'd already been arrested and released twice in the 48 hours prior entered their backyard, swam in their pool, fought with their dog, then went into the house where he snacked on some fruit, drank a beer, took a shower, dressed in Mr. Giacomelli's clothing, grabbed his fishing license, and the keys to his company car, and took off. With the car. He took a few high speed laps around the neighborhood before the police apprehended him. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released after 3 months and returned to Redding.

None of this was a surprise to Dan Londen, sales manager for Precision Alarm. He agreed with everything the cops said, and added one item to the shopping list most thieves seem to have these days - weapons. He says besides having a working alarm system, keeping your valuables in a safe that's bolted to the floor is the best way to keep your guns and valuables, well, safe. (Full disclosure: I've been a client of Precision Alarm for more than 10 years, and I like 'em).

I called Dan because I wanted to know what kind of investment you might be looking at to follow the advice of our city's best experts in crime and punishment. He told me that there's a few different ways to approach having an alarm. "Starter systems can be had for the low hundreds," if you want to buy your own, says Londen. Monitoring the system will cost less than a dollar a day, about $25/month. You can also lease a system through an alarm company, which basically spreads the cost of the system across the monthly monitoring fee, starting at about $40/month.

The good news is that if you invest in some type of alarm system, you can save on your monthly home insurance premium. I called my friend and Farmer's Insurance agent Sal Azevedo to ask him how much it would save. He said between 5-10%, more if the alarm is directly monitored by not only an alarm company, but the fire department as well. Sal also had a few more great tips for homeowners to protect themselves against burglary. "Most burglars aren't smart enough to drive to Chico, but they're not selling your tv at the flea market, they'll take it down to the pawn shop. So keep an inventory. Take digital pictures of your valuables, and store them online or on a cd. And write down serial numbers." Sal says if you do this, there's a good chance you'll get your stuff back. "And get to know your neighbors. Make sure you all have each other's cell phone numbers so you can watch out for each other and get in touch."

Which reminds me of another story. Some very good friends of mine in Seattle went to work one day, and came back home to find that their house had been completely emptied out. I'm not exaggerating. Somebody backed a moving van into their driveway, and removed everything from their home. TVs, stereos, furniture, clothing. Everything. The neighbors saw the whole thing go down, and just assumed the family was moving. Nobody called the police.

Well, today I'm ringing the alarm. I just hate to see my friends violated, and I hate the thought that there are people out there making it their mission to try to destroy what's supposed to be the happiest day of a couple's life together, although getting your home broken into is a violation that would ruin anybody's day. And I hope it never happens to you. This playlist is for you Kandis & Steven, Abby & Robby, Mike & Delynda and the Giacomelli's.

  1. Ring The Alarm - Beyonce
  2. Crime & Punishment - Jon Levine
  3. Criminal - Britney Spears
  4. She's A Burglar - Freddie King
  5. Carjack - Gary Myrick
  6. Bank Robber - Clash
  7. Misdemeanor - Whitney Houston
  8. Thief's Theme - Nas
  9. Bad Boys - Inner Circle
  10. Cops - Slightly Stoopid
  11. To Catch A Thief - Lovage
  12. Watching The Detectives - Elvis Costello
  13. Get Myself Arrested - Gomez
  14. Police Truck - Dead Kennedys
  15. Jail - Beyonce
  16. Jail House Rock - Elvis Presley
  17. Jail House Blues - Ella Fitzgerald
  18. Jail - Richard Pryor
  19. Jail - Fat Boys
  20. Catch & Release - Silversun Pickups
  21. Out of Jail - Waylon Jennings
  22. I Fought The Law - The Clash
  23. Innocent, Not Guilty - Garlnd Jeffreys
  24. I've Changed My Plea to Guilty - Morrissey
  25. The Jury - Morphine
  26. The Verdict - Joe Jackson
  27. Guilty - UB40
  28. Prison - Eek-A-Mouse
  29. Life In Prison - Merle Haggard
  30. Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
  31. Prison Bound - Social Distortion
  32. Penitentiary - Citizen Cope
  33. Penitentiary - Bessie Tucker
  34. Riot In Cell Block #9 - Blues Brothers
  35. Death Row - David Allen Coe
  36. Oh Warden - David Allen Coe
  37. The Slammer - Wailing Souls
  38. Behind Bars - The Jayhawks
  39. Chain Gang - Sam Cooke
  40. Chain Gang - The Pretenders
  41. Probation - Buju Banton
  42. On Parole - Motorhead
  43. I've Changed - Chuck Berry