Random Neural Firings

the inner workings of a restless creative brain

Smells Like Raw Talent


5th row, center aisle, 1994, Macauley Theater, Louisville, KY. Not long after Kurt Cobain’s death, I sat mesmerized as Tori Amos opened her concert first with a breathless, edge-of-your-seat rendition of “American Pie” and then sang a slow, agonizing ballad of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I looked at my friend, Terri, and whispered (cuz Tori at that moment, commanded whispers, not yells – yells would come later), “is that what I think it is?” It was so different from the loud, discordant original that it took me a moment (OK, more than a moment) to figure out what song she was singing. She would also sing some of my early favorites of hers – Little Earthquakes, Precious Things – but the way she wrapped her mouth and her body around her piano and  those first two songs is burned into my mind.

This was a time when radio still wouldn’t play two women back-to-back. (I know; I worked in radio at the time which is how I scored the awesome seats.) Tori Amos was/is maybe my generation’s Janis Joplin. Free, freaky at times, insanely talented and impossible to take your eyes off of. An original – even (or especially) – when she’s covering other’s songs. Do yourself a favor and listen to some of her covers.

A few months later. Not long after, I saw Courtney Love and her band Hole perform live at Phoenix Hill Tavern in Louisville, in support of their album Live Through This. Her husband had just committed suicide and she had to go on tour. I don’t have the talent to write about that night and what I saw. I witnessed bravery, despair, anger and power. I don’t care how fucked up she is. A lot of rock stars are and I think we are entirely too hard on her for behaving like a lot of her peers do. I remember her baby doll dress. I remember she brought her daughter on stage at some point wearing large headphones to protect her tiny ears. That album still gives me chills. And that concert was a true rock concert – daring, insane, loud, bad acoustics and one lead singer who begged, pleaded and stole my attention.

The Holidays are Over-Commercialized. No They’re Not.


Everybody says the holidays are over-commercialized. We buy too much stuff people don’t want or need. Our kids have ten times more toys and crap than we had. I really don’t need another scarf or pair of gloves.

And while it’s popular to say these things – and I agree in principle – I think we’re forgetting what is at the heart of all that gift giving: the desire to give. I want to know my in-laws better so I can surprise them with a gift that will make them smile and warm their hearts and remind them of their Atlanta relatives. I love my niece and nephews and want to express that with something that makes them smile. My son’s grandparents want to get something for my son that he will love, not because they are competitive gift-givers, but because they love my son. Gift-giving is one way we express our love for others.

Now, perhaps it would be better if we gave gifts all year round, or whenever we saw something that reminded us of someone we love. And many people do that. But we have this one time a year (and birthdays) where we all stop and think of others – quite a bit actually. What is my mother-in-law’s favorite color? Does she have everything she needs for her kitchen? Would she like some art for her renovated bathroom? Now, multiply that by all my family members and close friends and I’m spending a whole lot of time thinking of people I love.

I don’t see how that’s so bad.

p.s. – I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t do a myriad of other things to show people we love them, such as spending time with them, writing notes, cooking for them, etc. Just that gift-giving is one way we express our love.

Black Friday Deals


Let the shopping begin! According to Gallup, Americans are planning to spend more on Christmas gifts this year than last (and much more than they planned to spend in 2008-2009). I don’t care how much I’m spending, I like to get a deal. Great deals abound online; Amazon’s been running Black Friday deals all week. I’ll be tweeting out deals as I see them and posting links on my Facebook page so check in with me at either place for up-to-the-minute specials.

For those of you braving the mall traffic, or standing in line at Best Buy, first of all, my lazy hat’s off to you. I prefer to click my way to great savings. But while you’re mentally debating whether or not that ginormous flat screen TV is really a good deal, whip out your phone, scan the barcode and find out if it’s being sold for less somewhere else.

You’ll need an app, of course. There are dozens, but here are the ones I use most often:

1) ShopSavvy – scan the item’s bar code and it will return prices for both local stores and online

2)  Amazon’s App – this app has a feature that allows you to scan a barcode and it will tell you the price on Amazon. You can add the product to your wish list, or buy it from your phone. And if you can’t find the barcode, or the store has it covered with their own price sticker (which happens more often than I like!), you can take a photo of the product and Amazon will use an image search to match the product. It’s pretty slick. Android version here.

And before you head out, you might want to plan your trip using BlackFriday by DealNews. The app is chock full of ads (including some “leaked” ads) and has comparison shopping tools. (You can also visit the DealNews website which is a great resource for the best deals, by product or store.)

All right, so while you’re out and about, I’ll be chasing my toddler and some good deals from my laptop. Or my iPad. Or my phone. DO NOT LET ME BUY A KINDLE FIRE or anything else that connects to the Internet. Happy Shopping!

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for up-to-the-minute sales. Follow me on Pinterest for unique gift ideas.

Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)


The first time I saw the video for “Losing my Religion,” I instantly thought the visuals reminded me of a Caravaggio painting. I took a few art appreciation courses in college and Caravaggio was one of my favorite artists. He was famous for his dramatic interplay of light and dark (chiaroscuro) and the way he used light to capture/memorialize a moment in time. His subjects freeze mid-sentence.

It seemed to me that this video used a similar palette (mostly browns, similar to Caravaggio) and created a series of moments frozen in time. And then there was the way Michael Stipe was lit “there in the corner.” It was visually daring and instantly memorable. Can’t you just see Stipe standing there, karate chopping the air, in that empty little room?

This is the song where I first fell in love with R.E.M. I knew some of their songs before but crushed hard after this. This is the song that made me go who are these guys again? Conversely, this is the period when my husband thinks the band sold out. Personally, I love them still and if you haven’t heard their album Accelerate which came out a few years ago, download the title track. You might just fall back in love with them. Even my husband begrudgingly admits that it’s a pretty good album.

You all know the lyrics and what they’re about. Michael Stipe calls it a “classic obsession pop song.” Have I said too much already? Y’all wanna just listen?

Romeo and Juliet – The Song


Boy pines for girl who doesn’t even know he exists. She mocks him, she laughs at him, he mourns:

“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be
All I do is keep the beat, and bad company
All I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme
Julie, I’d do the stars with you, any time.”

It hurts my heart every time I hear “all I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme.” That lyric slays me every time. Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) wrote it but I first heard the song a couple of years back when The Killers covered it. I’m sure the purists hate Brandon’s voice on the cover, but it’s the version I’m most familiar with and so it sounds “right” to my ears. It doesn’t really matter who sings it, though. It’s an exquisitely crafted song about heartbreak. Just listen.

I told you this blog was random!

U2 – Mysterious Ways


I’m a casual fan so I can’t tell you for certain that this is my all-time favorite U2 song, but it’s certainly one of my faves. And I love the video! I worked in television when “Mysterious Ways” came out. I used to keep a video cassette in the VCR (remember those?) and would rush to the TV to hit the record button for snippets of music videos, commercials, show opens – anything with an effect, a background, a type treatment even – that I thought I could copy in my work. This video had that magic. The distorted field, the way the video bends and moves in time with the music. It’s one of those rare instances (in my opinion) when a video really brought a song fully to life. You can see the notes.

And lyrically the song is just genius. Sing it with me: “Johnny take a ride with your sister, the moon; let her pale light in to fill up your room . . . if you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel, on your knees boy!” Oh yeah. Good stuff.

The Opposite of Lent


I watched this 3 minute video, featuring Matt Cutts, on TED Talks today. The speaker’s premise is simple: try something new for 30 days. It’s like the opposite of Lent. Instead of STOPPING a behavior, try STARTING one. Instead of giving up sugar, try adding a serving of vegetables. 30 days is just long enough to make a habit of something, too.  Mr. Cutts  started small and found that as he completed each 30 day challenge successfully, he grew in confidence and took on bigger challenges.

I watched the video and immediately thought of what I want to do for the next 30 days: watch a video on TED each morning. I mean, seriously, I always put off watching because I think I don’t have time when, duh, they’re never longer than 6 minutes and I can surely find 5 minutes or so to watch smart, inspiring people impart wisdom. It’ll be a GREAT way to start my work day, get me thinking and motivated. And surely something I would look forward to doing for the month of July.

If you aren’t familiar with TED, get thee over there right away! Famous people and some who aren’t famous but should be, all videotaped giving short, interesting mini-lectures.

Promise or a Threat? I’m Going to Write Once a Day for the Next 30 Days


I’m participating in a blogosphere writing challenge: for the next 30 days (starting today), I will be responding to a provocative question/prompt. It’s all part of a celebration of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book “Self-Reliance,” which I’m not sure I’ve even read. I’m not doing this because I’m a big Emerson fan – although I suppose I’ll have to download some of his stuff to the Kindle now – I’m doing this because my friend, Alicia (here’s her blog), tagged me in a Facebook post, which is our generation’s version of a dare. And I’m never one to let a good dare go unchallenged . . .

Charlie Sheen Should Have Been Fired a Long Time Ago


He’s been accused of felony assault for attacking his wife in December, 2009. His previous wife requested a restraining order after he threatened to kill her. He hires prostitutes (or “paid escorts”) and flaunts his drug and alcohol abuse. Can you imagine if Charlie Sheen worked at your company and did any of those things? I don’t care if he was our top producer, he would have been fired at any company I worked for, and I’ve worked for some that looked the other way a LOT. (OK, maybe WCW would have let him stay, but I digress.)

So what’s it take to get fired these days? Threaten a woman? Nah. That’s kid’s stuff. TALK BAD ABOUT YOUR BOSS? Oh no you didn’t. Apparently, that is the line in the sand that CBS and Warner Brothers drew.

The New York Times nails it here.

Cross-posted at New Thought Marketing.

posted under Pop culture | 1 Comment »

Perfect Gift for Angry Birds Fan


Any Angry Birds fans out there? Angry Birds is an addictive little game for your mobile phone and one of the most popular apps available. Cheap for iPhone users, free for the Droid. My husband plays it. I play it. Lots of other people play it. This guy likes it so much he turned his children into birds and pigs to recreate a bird suicide mission in photography.

Or there’s this guy who created a set of Angry Birds out of Legos, which I dare not show my husband for fear I will lose him all weekend to the tackle box of Legos he saved from his childhood.

If you’re a fan, or know someone who is a fan, I’ve put together some links to Angry Bird merchandise for your shopping pleasure.

  • The official Angry Bird shop. i-Phone cases and plush dolls.
  • Looking for something hand made? Check out these crocheted angry birds. My husband wants this pig and I think it would look great in the built-ins in our living room. I think home decor should have a sense of humor, don’t you?

So there you have it . . . the perfect gift for the Angry Birds lover in your life. Rumor has it there’s a board game coming out soon, too, but I think we’ll skip it. Half the fun of this game is its low commitment; you can play it for a few minutes in line at the grocery, or anywhere, anytime.

Cross-posted with a few minor edits over at my work blog.

Tech Tuesday – Stream Movies Free on Amazon


Today, Amazon announced a service with unlimited streaming of over 5,000 movies and T.V. shows – FREE if you’re a Prime member, which I am. I have to be. I order so much from Amazon that I think UPS in my region would have to layoff a worker if I stopped.

Prime membership is $79/year and gets you free two-day shipping on a whole lot of things. I’ve even bought an umbrella on Amazon when we left ours behind on a trip. I just ordered a box of my son’s oatmeal, which was cheaper than at the store, and free to ship. And Parents, join Amazon Mom NOW if you haven’t already. It’s free and you get 30% off diapers and wipes. BEST DEAL ON DIAPERS OUT THERE. Trust me, I’ve done the research. (Better than Costco even.)

But back to the movies. Here are details on today’s announcement. Happy streaming!

Tech Tuesday – Pandora’s (Music) Box


Have you tried Pandora yet? Pandora is an Internet music station that figures out what kind of music you like and serves you up more of it. They call it the music genome project. As I understand it, they analyze the rhythm, beats, instrumentation, etc., of artists you like and create radio stations for you of similarly styled music.

I have to say it works great. I love music by the Killers and so I set up a Killers station. The way Pandora works is when you click on one of your stations, it first plays a song by that artist. So I’m listening to a Killers song right now. But next, it might play something by Coldplay or Muse or Queen – and nine times out of ten, it’s a song I have on my iPod or wish I had. It’s a great way to have a mix tape without taking the time to put it together. And of course, you get introduced to some new songs and artists in the process.

You can set up as many artist stations as you like. They’ll serve up a quick ad every 5 or 6 songs or so. They also have their own created stations by genre. When we were in the mood for some Christmas music over the holidays, we just quickly surfed over to Pandora and played their holiday station.

They have great apps for your phone, too.

I honestly have no idea how they mapped my music genome (for real?) but somehow they got inside my musical head and nail it every time.

The Old Spice Guy


That Old Spice Guy was on Ellen and I’m sorry, but he is just TOO funny and cute. I love the ads; one of the few TV commercials to break out of the clutter in recent history. Also one of the few spots that my hubby and I don’t fast forward through.

Have you Read Roger Ebert Lately?


Roger Ebert doesn’t miss eating. He says, “I began to replace what I had lost with what I remembered,” and tells stories of root beer with his dad, favorite diners and tuna melts. His blog is a revelation.

Also, read this profile of him on Esquire that’s burning up the blogs. Beautiful. Touching, but not in a way that will make you cry. I wouldn’t do that to you (at least not without warning you first!).

Speaking of warning you: I warned you this blog was random-y. It’s about to become more so.

Friday RoundUp


I’m in a loving mood this morning. Here’s what caught my eye this week:

I love Tim Gunn. I wish he were a relative, that cool uncle who always brings something fabulous to Thanksgiving dinner and entertains all the kids with stories of his world travels. Thank goodness Project Runway is back! When you’re not watching the show, check out their site. You can send a personalized greeting from Tim to your friends’ cell phones. I sent several to friends yesterday. It’s a hoot. Try it yourself! (Oh and don’t tell me what happened; we recorded it to watch over the weekend.)

I also love Jonathan Adler. If it’s orange and on this page, I want it.

I love Becoming-Mom. Her blog is full of great resources and right now, she’s sharing everything she learned about making the perfect cake for her son’s 1st birthday. I just watched the video from the party and cried. I can’t believe my baby’s going to be one in a few months! I told my husband how amazing her party was and that ours would be nowhere near that good. I’m good, but not that good. Just sayin’. Creative, heartwarming, adorable; watch the video.

I heart Zutano. In case you haven’t heard. I’m still obsessing over the 50% off sale on Zutano clothes at BabySuperMall. I’m just so ticked off that they only carry up to 12 months. Cuz I would sooooo be loading up on new clothes for the munchkin! Because I featured so many of their boy designs, here’s my favorite new girl print for those of you with baby girls (or girls on the way – Kate!).

Things I’m NOT lovin’? Jon Gosselin. Or Kate, for that matter. I wish their 15 minutes were up.

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