Monday, April 30, 2012

Burning Questions: The Pop-Star Edition (Featuring Comebacks, a Resurrection and Yet Another Justin Bieber Gaffe!)

Why do the two surviving members of TLC want to tour with a Left Eye hologram? I loved TLC as much as the next massive TLC fan back in the '90s and early '00s, but I never thought the trio needed to end after the 2002 death of original member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas certainly didn't need to search for a replacement on the ill-advised UPN reality show R U The Girl. After all, TLC was not exactly INXS, a band that, though comprised of ace musicians, soared on the charisma of its lead singer, the late Michael Hutchence.

I loved Left Eye as a pop personality, but when I think of TLC's best work -- "Creep," "No Scrubs," "Waterfalls," 2002's excellent, underrated and mostly Left Eye-free 3D -- I can barely remember her vocal contributions, except for a throwaway rap on "Waterfalls." I can't even recall much of what she did the time I saw TLC at Madison Square Garden with Christina Aguilera as the opening act. Not only is resurrecting Left Eye as a hologram for the in-the-works TLC tour beyond morbid, but musically, it's hardly necessary. If TLC must have a rapping third member, why not hire Lil' Kim to take her place? It would guarantee increased press coverage and ticket sales, and judging from Kim's recent output, it's not like she'll be too busy doing anything else.


Are you sleeping on SWV's comeback? I know I am. I knew Sister with Voices had reunited and released a new single, "Co-Sign," last year, but I didn't know that I Missed Us, the trio's first regular studio album in 15 years had come out in April until I read a glowing review of it in the Bangkok Post this past weekend. SWV had its hits in the '90s (the best of which was "Can We," from the 1997 Booty Call soundtrack), but the group was always overshadowed by TLC, when musically, SWV was something else entirely. At least if Coko, Taj and Lelee decide to launch a tour, there'll be no need for a hologram.


Why does everybody love Chris Brown -- or want to work with him? On this week's Hot 100 singles chart, Brown appears on eight songs, alone and with Rihanna, Pitbull, Kevin McCall, Nicki Minaj, Fat Joe, DJ Khaled, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. Next up: would-be comeback queen Brandy's new single "Put It Down" (out May 8). I guess since "It All Belongs to Me," her recent reunion single with her "The Boy Is Mine" '90s duet partner Monica didn't do much on the charts (and it's no wonder, considering the recent No. 4 debut of Monica's latest album, New Life, which sold a tepid 69,000 copies in week one), Brandy figured it might be better to team up with someone who's actually currently hot for the song's guest rap.

"Put It Down" kicks major ass (as does pretty much everything in Brandy's discography, minus her 2008 album Human), but here's an idea: Why didn't she team up with a real rapper, preferably one not named Lil Wayne or Drake, who are dangerously close to being as overexposed as Brown? Or what about Rihanna? She's even hotter than Brown, and she doesn't go around beating up women. I know Rihanna has forgiven him. That's her prerogative. That doesn't mean the rest of womankind has to just to get high on the charts.

Now that we've got Adele, where does that leave Norah Jones. Yesterday when I was reading an interview with Norah Jones in the Bangkok Post about her upcoming album (Little Broken Hearts, out tomorrow), it dawned on me: She was the Adele of 10 years ago. Remember her 2003 GRAMMY triumph with her debut album Come Away with Me (named Album of the Year, like Adele's 21), its multiple weeks at No. 1, and its millions of copies sold? All that were missing were the No. 1 singles. On Little Broken Hearts, she details her own recent break-up, so perhaps she will follow in the commercial footsteps of Taylor Swift and Adele, who've recently turned their romantic diaries into music for the masses, and rebound with a No. 1 album (after 2009's No. 3-peaking The Fall, which merely went platinum). Who doesn't love an excellent pop-music soap opera?!


What is wrong with Justin Bieber? He recently referred to Indonesia as "some random country" at some random event in London. I can understand if he couldn't find Indonesia, where he recorded part of his upcoming Believe album (due June 19), on a map -- a lot of people can't, including many who are up in arms over Bieber's ignorance -- but it's not as if he's never left his home country of Canada. He's been all over the world. You'd think at some point someone would have suggested Bali as a holiday getaway for him and Selena Gomez. But then, I'm sure Bieber probably has no idea that Bali is located inside some random country called Indonesia, or that Bali isn't a country itself.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another Buenos Aires Burglary: Bad News Travels Faster on Facebook

"hola jeremy soy maxi encargago en tu edificio llama a la persona que alquila tu departamento por que robaron en tu departamento hoy a las 17 hs"

Uh oh, here we go again again!

Another robbery in Buenos Aires, and more breaking bad news on Facebook. If you didn't hear it first, chances are you heard it first on Facebook, or Twitter, both of which do a better job of getting stories out there fast than the network news programs or any major-city daily newspaper these days. They're where the majority of the news that's fit to print -- and some that isn't -- seems to go right before it spreads to the masses. If I'm ever diagnosed with some serious medical condition, it's possible that I will read all about my prognosis in my Facebook News Feed before my doctor has had a chance to deliver the news to me in person.

As unwanted Facebook notices go, the message above that I received on Saturday afternoon (in Bangkok, where I am now) from the portero of the Buenos Aires apartment building where I own a unit is right up there with mass invitations to events in cities on continents were I don't live, full-length movies in Flixster (folks, I can't open them in Thailand), and Hidden Chronicles requests. Higher even.

Newsflash!: My apartment was robbed again. It would be like déjà vu except unlike the break-in on February 18, 2007, I didn't come home from lunch to find three men standing in my apartment waiting to pounce on me. (I won't go into the specifics of that particular incident in this post, but you can read about it here, or in greater graphic detail in my travel memoir, coming soon.)

God knows I should be accustomed to receiving bad news on Facebook. It's the place where I found out that Farrah Fawcett, Patrick Swayze, Elizabeth Taylor, Amy Winehouse and three of the four Golden Girls had died. (My then-boyfriend told me about Michael Jackson's death while we were chatting on MSN Messenger, and Whitney Houston's passing was broken to me not so gently in the subject line of an email.) But grim celebrity news is nothing compared to when the story is all about you.

On the bright side, better now than in 2002. Back then, when I'd run off to London and/or Europe on vacation twice a year, I was far more isolated from the folks back home: Emails could take days to be received and responded to, and my mobile-service carrier never seemed to have a plan that allowed me to make international calls at a reasonable rate. In the '90s, before everyone had personal email accounts and laptops, mini-notebooks, iPads and iPhones on which to check them, it was worse. I used to call my editor at People magazine collect from non-cordless hotel phones in order to make sure there were no outstanding questions on any of my stories. Who even calls collect anymore?

Now we have Facebook, Skype and all of those other apps that people are always telling me about but I haven't gotten around to trying. I responded to Maxi's Facebook message, asking him to contact Bri, the woman who manages my apartment. (Naturally, he never responded.) Later in the evening, after one round of emails, I spoke to her live via a computer-to-cell phone Skype conversation that literally cost me pennies. It was the first time I'd heard Bri's voice since I hired her to look after my place and handle check-ins and check-outs the day before I left BA for Melbourne.

She said that several apartments in the building had been broken into on Friday, but the police were not allowing her to enter my unit because she did not have written authorization giving her power of attorney over my apartment affairs. (An oversight that I've considered once or twice in the last 14 months, but I never guessed that it would come back to haunt me in this way.) She would try to get around this by going to the rental company and getting a copy of the contract listing her as the managing agent. But you don't care about any of that, right?

Right. As for the robbery, she told me that it's a long weekend in Buenos Aires, and because many people are out of town, that's when burglars generally strike. Luckily, the last renters left two days ago, so my apartment was unoccupied during the break-in, unlike the first time.

So how did Maxi find out that it had been burglarized then? The open door was the dead giveaway, but because Bri wasn't allowed inside by the cop, she still hadn't been able to survey the damage. I was surprisingly calm, which was either the influence of Buddha, or the fact that there wasn't much in my BA apartment to steal. Unless the robbers arrived with a moving crew to haul away the furniture, the most they got away with was probably the television set (a cheap, old-fashioned model -- not flat-screen -- that I didn't exactly splurge on, having anticipated this exact scenario after losing a far more expensive brand in the great robbery of 2007), a coffee maker and a printer/scanner.

But as with last time, it wasn't what they took or didn't take. It was that sense of being violated by intruders. The only difference was that this time, I didn't have to fight off three of them, one of whom was wielding a screwdriver and threatening me with it, on the bathroom floor.

And what timing! My birthday is in one week, and just yesterday as I was thinking back on my great celebrations in BA, I was on the verge of becoming slightly homesick. Now I just feel kind of nauseous, and grateful that I'm here, not there. There's nothing to cure that homesick feeling like a reminder of one of the main reasons why you skipped town in the first place.

But if you care one way or the other (and I can't imagine that anyone but my close friends in BA do), keep an eye on my Facebook "timeline." If I ever decide to go back, you'll no doubt read about it there first.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Songs to Run to: The Best Exercise Mix "Tape" Ever

Running and music go together. They just do. If I had to choose between no iPod and punishing heat as a potential deterrent to an hour of hard road labor, boiling temps would win out every time. I can take the heat, but if I don't have tunes, I'd prefer to stay the hell out of the kitchen.

Several years ago when my iPod was stolen in Buenos Aires (astonishingly, the one and only time I've ever lost one), I had to go running around the parks of Palermo for a few days with nothing but my thoughts to keep me going. That was possibly my toughest period of exercise ever, harder than all of the combined weeks of sweltering afternoon heat I'd endured over the previous few years of jogging outdoors.

During those years, which began shortly after I arrived in BA in September of 2006, and the ones after, I've compiled a mental list of the tunes that always get me going on the running trail and keep me there. In general, I prefer to let my iPod's shuffle play DJ and land on them by chance. There's something about an unplanned favorite popping up, a surprise treat while running up that hill (if you happen to be going around Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens), that feels like Christmas Day as a kid, when the gifts are always better when you have no idea what's underneath the wrapping paper.

Maybe I'm starting to go a bit overboard here, so let me get to the point of this post. The next time you've got 55 or so minutes to spare and you feel like going on the run, here's the perfect soundtrack to put you in the mood, and keep you there -- at least for just under an hour.

"B.P.M." Kylie Minogue Anomaly No. 1: One of those rare times when the B-side of a single kicks the A-side's firm, tight ass (which, in this case, would belong to Minogue's 2004 No. 2 UK hit "I Believe in You).


"Crash" Ric Ocasek Who would have guessed that nearly three decades after the Cars '80s heyday, I'd be listening to a barely known track by the band's lead singer (from the 1994 Speed soundtrack) with more regularity than any of its greatest hits?


"Get Off (You Fascinate Me") Patrice Rushen An '80s classic that you won't hear everywhere else.


"A Pain That I'm Used to" (Jacques Lu Cont Remix) Depeche Mode 7:51 of electro bliss that I can listen to on repeat about eight times while making my way around three Palermo parks.


"A&E" (Hercules & Love Affair Remix) Goldfrapp See above. It applies here, too (only to a song that's 45 seconds shorter).


"Young Hearts Run Free" Kym Mazelle Anomaly No. 2: The rare remake of a classic song (in this case, Candi Staton's 1976 hit) that renders its source material thoroughly unnecessary. My favorite thing about Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet.


"Zero" Yeah Yeah Yeahs Though I've rarely devoted an entire run to one act not named ELO, Yeah Yeah Yeahs is one of the few that can keep me moving for close to an hour all on its own.


"Machine Gun" Portishead The unfortunately frequently MIA British trio generally crafts tunes that are more like music to be depressed to, which makes this aberration from the norm all the more thrilling.


"Lost Ones" Lauryn Hill Her crowning achievement, this is anger at its most cathartic and inspiring.


"Running up That Hill" Kate Bush If this doesn't get you to the top, to the finish line or simply to the end, what will?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why I Secretly Sort of Want to See "The Avengers," Or What the Hell Is Mark Ruffalo Doing in This Movie?

As a general rule, I don't do superhero movies. Not anymore.

As a kid, I read my big brother Jeff's X-Men and Fantastic Four comics, mostly because I wanted to be as cool as I thought he was, and it gave us a common interest, two more things to talk about. Usually I didn't actually know what I was talking about, but I did think a black and blonde superheroine (X-Men's Storm) was pretty cool, and the "death" of good girl Jean Grey and her apparent rebirth as bad girl Dark Phoenix was as good as anything Luke and Laura were doing on General Hospital.

In the '80s, I saw the Superman films but preferred reruns of the '50s TV series. Even better: repeats of the '60s Batman series. I went to the cinema for all four Batman movies in the '90s -- and loved exactly one-half of them (the Tim Burton-directed half). After that, I sort of lost interest. That means I missed Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man, the first Superman reboot, Fantastic Four, The Incredibles, Hulk (part of which I once did see on mute in my gym in Buenos Aires) and The Incredible Hulk, X-Men and all of its evil spawn, as well as B-listers like Daredevil, The Green Lantern, The Green Hornet and Catwoman.

I did make it to see The Dark Knight in the theater but only because I was visiting my friend Dave in New York City, and he insisted. I didn't love the movie as much as everyone else did, but at least I got to cross an Oscar film off of my must-see list during the summer. Since Heath Ledger is not around to reprise his Oscar-winning role as the Joker, I have no interest in seeing the next Batman film, or the Spider-Man reboot with Andrew Garfield as the web slinger, or the second Superman reboot (though I must admit that Amy Adams as Lois Lane might pique my curiosity just enough to check it out).

So why in God's name is The Avengers getting such a rise out of me? Although I love Robert Downey Jr. and enjoy looking at Chris Evans (Cellular is one of my all-time guilty cinematic pleasures) and Liam Hemsworth (blame it on my weakness for hot Australian men), I have yet to see either of Downey's Iron Man films, Evans as Captain America or Hemsworth as Thor in their respective 2011 movies.

But I don't think I can pass up the opportunity to see Mark Ruffalo as both Bruce Banner (a big-screen role previously played, but hardly definitively, by Eric Bana and Edward Norton) and the Hulk (whose two previous screen appearances was courtesy of CGI).

Few actors in Hollywood have had as curious a career as Mark Ruffalo. I've loved him ever since I first saw him in You Can Count on Me, couldn't take my eyes off of him in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and was thrilled when he finally earned his first Oscar nomination last year for The Kids Are All Right. He plays the man-child so well, and since I can't seem to get enough of them in real life, it would make sense that an actor who embodies them so perfectly on celluloid would hook me, too. I'm not so sure if the sexuality of lipstick lesbians is as fluid as Queer As Folk, Grey's Anatomy and The Kids Are All Right would have us believe, but I totally understand why Ruffalo would make Julianne Moore bi-curious. If you're going to cheat on Annette Bening, he'd better be really worth it.

"That doesn't even look like him," Lori declared as we stood looking at Ruffalo as Bruce Banner on the Avengers poster in the cinema in Bangkok's Central World, where the film opened this week, well ahead of its May 4 U.S. premiere. She was right, but who else would even know that? It's not like the general movie-going populace is used to seeing Ruffalo on magazine covers and reading about him in the tabloids. Many people probably don't even know his name, only that he's "that guy in that other movie," one in which he probably wasn't playing the lead. He hardly ever plays the lead.

Though he's every bit as skilled and handsome as the Brad Pitts and Ryan Goslings of Hollywood, Ruffalo has had most of his success in supporting roles or playing the second-billed romantic interest to female rom-com stars like Reese Witherspoon (in Just Like Heaven) and Jennifer Garner (in 17 Going on 30). Even when he gets a shot at a franchise, he has to share it with a bunch of other actors.

I don't know what The Avengers will ultimately do for Ruffalo's career -- maybe nothing, maybe everything. If it turns out to be the latter, I want to be able to say that I was there when a long-gestating box-office star was finally born.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In the Gloaming in Koh Chang: The Trouble with Goodbye

"I hate goodbyes. They're right down there with endings on my list of things I'd pay good money to avoid (and I did each of the three times I delayed the end of my stint in Southeast Asia last year until what was meant to be a one-month trip turned into a six-month one).

I don't have to play devil's advocate to see that sometimes "The End" can be a welcome sight -- after the denouement of a terrible movie, the closing notes of an awful song, or the conclusion of a bad romance that should have been put out of its misery months earlier. But when what has come before the end has been a positive viewing/listening/loving/traveling experience, there's nothing good about goodbye.

It's not so much the finality of goodbye that gets to me as the complexity and uncertainty of it. I'm never really sure what to do at the end of the final act, how to say goodbye at the end of a great holiday (to the place and to the guy), at the end of a first date, or at the end of a last one, the postmortem rendezvous that we all occasionally go on seeking closure.

Do I say goodbye by pecking him on the cheek, kissing him on the lips, inviting him up, or just shaking his hand. And what do I do with mine while I'm trying to answer the previous multiple-choice question? Do I pretend like there'll be a next time even if I know there won't be? Do I play it cool -- "Take care!" -- and throw in a casual "mate" or "buddy" when I'm actually thinking more along the lines of "honey"? Do I say, "Call me" (too desperate?), or "I'll call you" (code for "Don't call me"?)?

How do I appear like I'm still interested at farewell when all I can think of are the million things I have to do when the other person leaves -- or when I do? If breaking the ice is difficult, arriving at that moment of finality is even more so. The conversation suddenly starts to wobble from topic to topic, fumbling toward an exit, a graceful note on which to end.

Living in Argentina exacerbated my fear and loathing of goodbye. It was impossible to leave any gathering without offering a "chau" and a kiss on both cheeks to every stranger in the room, people whose names you couldn't even remember, people whom you'd probably never see again.

For me the happiest ending of all, was always one without a single goodbye.

I'm not sure if my best friend Lori knows about my aversion to adieu, though she was one of the people who was most affected by it during my last five years in New York City. Many is the time that I’d throw parties in my Union Square apartment and ask her to lock up, quietly excusing myself from my still-full house just so that I could avoid sappy goodbye scenes with my guests. For me, it was a bad habit that began in college, where I thankfully had roommates to lock up for me when I ditched the proceedings for the Hardback Cafe, or someplace where there'd be more booze and fewer goodbyes.

I'm not sure where Lori stands on the subject of goodbye, but I was pretty surprised to hear that sunset, which is basically an elaborate goodbye to the day that precedes it, is her favorite time of day. As far as I knew, she was never all that big on endings either. But since her arrival in Thailand, she'd been dying to see the sun set from high above street level. Unfortunately for her (though not for me), things kept getting in the way (traffic, sightseeing, shopping, late-afternoon naps to battle jetlag).

She finally got her wish when we arrived at Nirvana Resort in Koh Chang's Bang Bao Bay. Though it wasn't a view from 37 or 63 floors above (ones offered, respectively, by Anantara Bangkok Sathorn, where I live, and Lebua's Sky Bar), when the sun sets on Bang Bao Bay, it's every bit as spectacular.

But then, I have nothing to compare it to. In nearly 43 years of day in, day out, I can't recall ever stopping to actually gaze at a setting sun from start to finish. I couldn't believe the incredible beauty that was spread out before me, the kaleidoscope of warm color, the way the sun was relatively high in the sky one moment, then touching the horizon in what seemed like a matter of seconds. It was one of the visual highlights of Lori's entire visit up to that point.

I'm not sure if it will affect how I feel about endings, about goodbye. Now I know that they can indeed be beautiful, but that might not make the ones I have to say to people face to face any easier. Like so many things in my life, goodbye always comes easier in written form. I can compose a killer break-up email, or an excellent kicker to a magazine article or blog post. Some writers have trouble with ledes and endings. For me, it's always what comes in the middle that gives me the most angst.

But “So long” in writing is much easier. End with a great memorable quote, a clever declarative summary statement, or one simple word: Goodbye.

The end.

3 Goodbye Songs That Will Make Sticking Around Until the End of This Post Worth It

"Goodbye" The Sundays


"The Last Goodbye" Jeff Buckley


"Goodbye Stranger" Supertramp

super tramp - goodbye stranger by feriananda

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Streisand Superwoman: Barbra's First 70 Years

"Hello, gorgeous."

With that greeting, the first words uttered by 26-year-old Barbra Streisand in her film debut in the 1968 musical Funny Girl, the ingénue from Brooklyn, New York, with the crooked, over-sized nose and the flawless singing voice entered the annals of popular culture.

Next step: winning the Best Actress Oscar (tying with The Lion in Winter's Katharine Hepburn) for her silver-screen reprisal of her Broadway portrayal of Fanny Brice, another legendary Jewish actress and singer from New York City. The rest is history-making stardom, one of the most celebrated entertainment careers of all time, and along with Olivia Newton-John, Tammy Wynette and ABBA's Agnetha and Frida, one of the first female singers with whom I can remember falling madly in love.

The irony of her famous opening line in Funny Girl is that "gorgeous" was one word probably never used to describe Streisand, who turns 70 today, April 24. Yes, she was beautiful in her own unconventional way, but not the flawless brand of beautiful that we usually assign to Hollywood starlets. Her nose was too big, her eyes too close together, and for most of the '70s, she wore a curly perm that almost seemed to dare anyone to love her just for her looks.

Cher would go on to win an Oscar for Moonstruck some 20 years later, but Streisand was the first modern music star to soar as a modern film star. Diana Ross and Newton-John were her closest competitors for the Queen of Pop throne in the '70s. They, too, were actresses (Ross even scored an Oscar nod for her portrayal of Billie Holliday in 1972's Lady Sings the Blues), but no diva under the sun could carry a tune quite like Streisand. If Whitney Houston was the black Barbra Streisand, Streisand was the white Aretha Franklin.

Throughout her recording career, she's earned every superlative assigned to her, effortlessly venturing from pop (1980's multi-platinum Guilty album, her commercial zenith) to rock (1971's Barbra Joan Streisand, on which she covered John Lennon, Carole King and Laura Nyro) to show tunes (1985's Grammy-winning The Broadway Album) and even to disco ("No More Tears [Enough Is Enough]," her chart-topping 1979 duet with Donna Summer), with jazz standards, movie music, inspirational songs, and the Great American Songbook regularly thrown into her eclectic mix.

She's had more Top 10 albums than any other female artist (32), and more that have gone gold and/or platinum (over 50). As recently as 2009, Streisand scored her ninth No. 1 album, when Love Is the Answer entered Billboard's Top 200 album chart at No. 1, making the '00s the fifth consecutive decade in which she'd scored a chart-topping album.

For a time, her movie career was just as impressive. I can remember seeing TV trailers for her movies A Star Is Born and The Main Event in the '70s, back when I was too young to realize -- or care -- that she was one of the biggest box-office draws in Hollywood. She earned another Best Actress Oscar nomination for 1973's The Way We Were and won the Best Original Song prize for co-writing "Evergreen," the love theme from 1977's A Star Is Born and the nominee I picked when I made my first-ever Oscar prediction on the night of the 1978 Academy Awards: Streisand had to win because she'd just performed her nominated song. Of course, she did.

In the '80s, her movie output slowed as she turned to directing. She became the first woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Director for 1983's Yentl, but the Academy overlooked her for a Best Director Oscar nomination, as it would again for 1991'sThe Prince of Tides, which earned seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and The Mirror Has Two Faces, the 1996 film that brought old-Hollywood icon Lauren Bacall her first-ever Oscar nomination.

Recently, Streisand has focused primarily on liberal political causes (she's a lifelong supporter of the U.S. Democratic Party) and making music, with sporadic live performances and scattered acting gigs in the two sequels to Meet the Parents, 2004's Meet the Fockers and 2010's Little Fockers, and also on marriage to actor James Brolin, her husband since 1998.

After nearly 50 years spent in the spotlight, her cultural legacy lives strong. As gay icons go, only Cher has been beloved for nearly as long. Meanwhile, she's hip to the younger generation, thanks to her status as Rachel Berry's American idol on TV's Glee, and as the titular subject of "Barbra Streisand," the 2010 international dance hit by Duck Sauce that hit No. 3 on the UK singles chart. (It was beyond terrible, but it's not every day you get name dropped in a smash single.)

Streisand will continue building on her youthful following this November with her role as Seth Rogen's mom in the road comedy The Guilt Trip, and she and Hollywood super-producer Joel Silver are developing a remake of Gypsy, with Streisand in the baity Mama Rose role, for Universal Pictures.

Afterwards, she could easily spend her remaining days resting on her considerable laurels, but there'll no doubt be a lot more music. And my wishful thinking has me hoping she's got a few more acclaimed screen performances left to give, though at the rate she's been going in recent decades, we might have to wait until she's in her 80s for Auntie Mame, with Streisand in the title role, and the film adaptation of The Normal Heart, two projects I've been hearing about since the Louisiana Purchase was in escrow. Whatever she does in her next 70 years, Streisand will no doubt bring to them the same touch of class and perfectionism that defined her first 70.

5 Super Streisand Songs

"Mother" (from Barbra Joan Streisand)


"Evergreen" (from A Star Is Born)


"The Love Inside" (from Guilty)


"You'll Never Walk Alone" (from Higher Ground)


"Above the Law" (from Guilty Pleasures)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chiangmai, Thailand: The Greatest Show on Earth (And Not Just Because of the Animals!)

You know you've been thoroughly entertained when, over the course of an afternoon in Chiangmai, Thailand, you've seen elephants score soccer goals, shoot hoops and paint landscapes on a canvas with their trunks. The monkey business was no less impressive. One of them lifted weights, another showcased monkeys' numerical skills (someone in the audience of five would pick a number -- say, "seven" -- and the monkey would pick the card with "7" on it, even when it was face down), and yet another one, "Monkey Jordan," shot hoops and made them all except for one. (What is it with Thai people and basketball, anyway?)

The animal shows made me cheer and cringe, too. The pets appeared to be happy and eager to show off how smart they are, but something about it seemed off, like their primary purpose in life is to entertain us. The chains around the monkeys' necks didn't help. They only highlighted the fact that they are the prisoners and the Thai people who ran the conservation centers, as loving and gentle as they might be, are their captors.

I tried to forget all of this as Lori and I sat on Oz, the beautiful 20-year-old elephant who took us on an hour-long ride up and down the mountains of Chiangmai. We sat in a compartment chained around Oz's body while Deng, a 22-year-old local who has been Oz's daily companion for four years, sat on his back, riding him like one would ride a horse and assuring us that despite our weight on Oz's back, the elephant was not only comfortable but happy, too.

Aside from the part where they played around in the water, the tigers that Lori spent an hour petting at the tiger conservation center had far less taxing things to do than entertain us. For the most part, they lounged around their living rooms, waiting to receive guests, who would pay from 420 baht (or $14) to nearly 2,000 ($66) for the honor of petting them. (Never fear, as one of the workers, an American expat, told Lori, they are all under 2 years old, which is the age when they become too unpredictable not to pose a threat to interlopers.)


By the time we left, Lori was tearing up over everything she'd seen. My eyes were dry, but I was choked up, too. Not over the animals, though. As impressive as they were, they weren't the main cause of my emotional state. It was the Thai people who worked with them; Danny, the guy who had spent all day driving us around from attraction to attraction in the van; the precious Thai children we'd seen throughout the day. I couldn't believe how beautiful and well behaved they were, like perfect little angels.


I've been living in Thailand for the better part of the last 10 months, and for the first time since my arrival, in Chiangmai I felt that I finally got the Thai people. I'd known that they were kind, friendly and gentle, but this was the first time I truly realized how content they are, how proud they are of their heritage and their country.

Here was Deng, a 22 year old who lives to take care of an elephant. His home is on the grounds of the conservation center, with his elephant charge, in conditions that I assumed were somewhere around half a star, making 4,000 baht (roughly $130) a month. He hasn't had a day off in four years, yet he seemed like one of the happiest people I've met in a long time. He has no girlfriend (or boyfriend), and his parents live far away in Myanmar, yet I didn't get the impression that he felt alone at all. Even if he hadn't been so friendly and gorgeous, he still would have been unforgettable.

As I listened to Deng try to tell us in English what life was like for him and Oz, I thought of the lives I'd left behind, in the U.S., in Argentina, in Australia, even in Bangkok. I thought about the people there, the ones who are so obsessed with making money and spending it. They look for happiness on the job, in accumulating wealth, in material possessions, in overpriced homes, in picking up strangers in crowded bars and clubs, in chasing celebrity (and celebrities). So few of them seem truly happy to me.

Mikey, the hyperactive 2-year-old monkey circling the small raised platform, barely stopping to catch his breath, and Sonny, the 4-year-old who knew exactly what to do when he was told to "kiss" visitors, seemed more full of joie de vivre than any Western human being I can remember seeing in years.

And all they had were the chains around their necks.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Magic and Loss: Dick Clark 1929-2012

The world "legend" is so carelessly bandied about these days, overused and abused, applied to practically anyone who ever managed to secure more than 15 minutes of fame. But in the history of celebrity, few have deserved the modifier "legendary" more than Dick Clark, who died on April 18 at age 82 following a massive heart attack in Santa Monica, California. We'll be hearing it a lot from now until next year's Grammy Awards, as the tributes to Clark continue to pour in.

In some ways, Clark shaped and influenced my youth as much as any musical performer did, more than any non-musician, with the possible exception of Casey Kasem, whose America's Top 10 Saturday-afternoon TV show and America's Top 40 weekly radio program launched my life-long obsession with countdowns and lists. But not even Kasem was as pervasive a presence as Clark, who showed me that I could have a career in music even if I couldn't carry a tune.

I can't think of a time when I was growing up in Kissimmee, Florida, that I didn't see Clark on TV every week. I've heard it said that Ryan Seacrest is "the next Dick Clark" (an honor also erroneously and prematurely bestowed upon Carson Daly at the dawn of this century). Twenty years from now, though, when people think of American Idol, will Seacrest come to mind?

But there's no recalling American Bandstand, the dance party/pop-star showcase that ran on ABC from 1952 to 1989, without Clark, who hosted the program for 33 years, popping into your head, too. It introduced future icons to the masses, broke down color barriers in much the same way the late Don Cornelius would in the '70s with Soul Train, and earned Clark a rep as "America's oldest teenager" -- and not just because he spent so much of his career surrounded by them.

Clark seemed forever preternaturally young until a stroke slowed him down in 2004. But not before he became one of the most-respected, and richest, non-entertainers in entertainment, with a resume that included Pyramid (the game show he hosted from 1973 to 1978), Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve (which made Clark, who counted down to midnight as the ball dropped on New York City's Times Square, as synonymous with America's biggest party night as he was with America's biggest dance party), TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes, and the American Music Awards.

It's the latter that provided me with one of my most indelible Clark moments, one that never aired on television. It was at the 2000 AMAs, and during the commercial break, executive producer Clark was giving instructions to the audience for the next musical performer. He knew that everyone would go wild for the main act, one of the biggest rappers at the time, but he wanted to make sure that they were just as enthusiastic for the artist singing the hook of her latest single, too. After all, Clark said, "She's a huge star in her own right." He didn't want anyone to go home feeling under-appreciated after Eve featuring Faith Evans performed "Love Is Blind."

That was just like Clark, not only wanting to spread the music, but the love, too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

...And Yet 4 More Good Reasons to Love Canada

Leave it to my expat brother Alexi, who has been living in Toronto since the end of the last century, to set me straight and send me a list of key mainstream Canadian artists that I left out of my previous post. Some of them I've never heard of (Angela Hewitt? Ben Heppner? Canadian Brass? jacksoul?), which sort of makes me wonder what I'm missing out on. Crash course time!

Others I'm not terribly familiar with -- or in love with -- outside of a few singles or their glowing industry reps (Crash Test Dummies, Steppenwolf, Diana Krall, Deadmau5). Others (Barenaked Ladies, Nickelback, Michael Buble) don't impress me much, to quote one act, Shania Twain, who did make it into my last post and, for me, epitomizes Canadian pop. And at least one -- sorry, Avril Lavigne fans -- I outright despise. Alexi on Avril: "She sings mostly about the sanctity of her pussy, and it's annoying." LMFAO!

I appreciate Paul Anka's legendary status, but I prefer Pat Boone and Neil Sedaka, whom I've always seen as his sort of U.S. contemporary. As for Rufus Wainwright, who is actually only half-Canuck and was born in the U.S., I tried to get into his music after meeting him years ago in a New York City dive bar. Though his talent is undeniable, his music never quite reached essential status or entered heavy rotation on my CD player/iPod.

But at least four of the Canadians that my brother mentioned are right up there among my personal list of greats.

Leonard Cohen "Closing Time" I was a little late to the Cohen club, not arriving until college when his song "Suzanne" came on the radio while I was studying with a girl named Suzanne. Kismet? A few years later, in 1990, Concrete Blonde's version of "Everybody Knows" as well as Cohen's original were included in the film Pump Up the Volume, whose soundtrack is one of my five all-time favorites, despite including Concrete Blonde's version and not Cohen's. The following year, I'm Your Fan, a collection of Cohen covers by artists including R.E.M., the Pixies and Lloyd Cole, was released, followed the next year by Cohen's own The Future, which included at least one song, this one, that I still listen to at least once a week.


Bob Rock Who knew that my brother, a big fan of classical music (see Hewitt and Heppner, mentioned above), had ever even heard of the man who produced some of my favorite rock albums by bands like the Cult, Motley Crue and Metallica? (Hey, Alexi, what about Sum 41?!)


Nelly Furtado "Say It Right" She's 25 percent weird, 25 percent annoying, 25 percent sexy, 25 percent brilliant, and on this one song, 100 percent perfect. Along with Coldplay's "Viva la Vida," it's the best thing to top Billboard's Hot 100 in the last 10 years.


Jann Arden "Insensitive" A brilliant evisceration of Mr. Wrong. "Maybe you might have some advice to give on how to be insensitive." If he does, Jann, please feel free to forward it this way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

10 Reasons Why We All Should Hail Canada

It's a shame that it's up to Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen to wave the Canadian flag in the U.S. Top 10 right now. (Drake, please come back, and bring Rihanna with you!) The U.S. neighbor to the north has contributed so much more and so much better to popular culture over the years: William Shatner, Michael J. Fox, Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds, Rachel McAdams and Degrassi. But it's in song that Canada has truly excelled, though it seems to be rarely acknowledged.

The British invasions -- all of them -- have featured better styling, and the under-sung heroes of Australian indie pop are sexier and edgier, but what about Canada's steady stream of musical exports since the '60s? Cumulatively, they're sort of the Toronto of their country's cities. Montreal and Vancouver hog the must-visit status, but if I could be anywhere in Canada right now, I'd choose Toronto, and not just because my brother Alexi has lived there for years (though that would be an excellent enough reason on its own).

We've shown plenty of love to plenty of individual Canadian acts over the years, but rarely to all of them in one place. Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was a UK-to-U.S. hit in 1984, as was U.S.A. for Africa's "We Are the World" a few months later, but what happened to Northern Lights' "Tears Are Not Enough," Canada's contribution to '80s famine relief, not only a tear jerker but a solid song, too? Perhaps because Canuck musicians are all over the musical map, making it impossible for the media to package them as any kind of movement, the media rarely bother dealing with them en masse, which is exactly what I'm about to do (minus Jane Child, Corey Hart and Celine Dion, whom I've praised enough).

Joni Mitchell "My Old Man" As '70s singer-songwriters go, my greatest love of all.


Gordon Lightfoot "Sundown" Regrets, I have a few, like never getting around to listening to Songbook, the 1999 Gordon Lightfoot box set that the record label Rhino once sent to me at work.


Gino Vannelli "People Gotta Move" He's best known for his U.S. Top 10 ballads "I Just Wanna Stop" and "Living Inside Myself," but his first song to make it in the U.S. (No. 22) sounds as good today as it must have sounded in 1974.


Anne Murray "Danny's Song" I once had drinks with her and her former publicist (still a good friend of mine) in the New York City hotel where she was staying, and she got all excited when she found out that George Jones was staying in the same hotel. "Who cares?" I asked, although I really did. "You're here!"


Bryan Adams "Back to You" I recently saw Adams, who sang a duet on the Anne Murray album that she was in NYC to plug that time, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and I couldn't pay attention to what he was singing ("Run to You"?) because I was too busy wondering how he manages to still look and sound as good as he did circa 1984. (For some reason, I can't post it, so click here to view.)

Neil Young "Harvest Moon" One of 10 perfect moments I've had in my life: staying in on a rainy night in New York City with my very first boyfriend, listening to Neil Young's Harvest Moon, still one of my all-time favorite albums. Sublime.


k.d. lang "The Mind of Love" I once did the same thing in the Jersey City brownstone I called home from October 1991 to October 1992, only with k.d. lang's Ingenue, and alone, which is sort of how that song cycle about unrequited love deserves to be heard.


Sarah McLachlan "Hold On" She'll probably be forever best known for "Angel" and "I Will Remember You," which is really a shame because this song -- a lullaby, a warning, a plea to a lover dying from AIDS, from 1993's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, her best album and the one that made her a star -- is the most potent thing she's done in a career full of powerful moments.


Deborah Cox "Things Just Ain't the Same" If I were underneath a strobe light right now, and I could spend 9:22 dancing to whatever I wanted to, it would be the Hex Hector Club Mix of Cox's 1997 single, which is completely unrecognizable from its lite-soul source material.


Shania Twain "Ka-Ching!" Where are you, girl? You and your exclamations points are greatly missed!!!


And 5 More Reasons...

1. Kate and Anna McGarrigle
2. Rush
3. Loverboy
4. Glass Tiger
5. Randy Bachman (of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive)

Will Someone Please Explain the Popularity of Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe'?

I like to think that I'm above begrudging the success of others, though I'm only human, so I'm probably not. For the past seven weeks, I've held my tongue as Carly Rae Jepsen's single "Call Me Maybe" has ascended Billboard's Hot 100. Now that it's sitting at No. 10 in the U.S. and perched atop the UK singles chart in its debut week, I can no longer contain myself.

Why?!

Nothing against Jepsen, who seems like a lovely person. She has a great name (though it's probably better suited to the country charts), and it's interesting that Canadian Idol can help launch an international star when American Idol now seems unable to. (Jepsen came in third in the 2007 season.)

But at 26, shouldn't she be singing something that sounds more emotionally advanced than the romantic ramblings of a high-school girl? She's been compared to early Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, which, like so much of the commentary in her glowing reviews (Allmusic: "Call Me Maybe"... an irresistible slice of cutesy teen pop which combines anthemic stabbed synth strings which a chorus that just about straddles that fine line between sugary sweet and sickly") is kind of a back-handed compliment. After all, Spears and Aguilera were actually teenagers when they had their first hits.

It's not that "Call Me Maybe" is awful. It's just so spectacularly ordinary, so twee, so 1999. It makes Taylor Swift sound like Joni Mitchell. Jepsen reminds me of one of the countless comely upstarts that record-label publicists used to trot through the Teen People offices back in the day (circa, 1999, of course), hoping to jump start their careers and get them their first national coverage. Some girls (Pink, Alicia Keys, Michelle Branch) became big stars. But most, we never heard from again. Seriously, though, does Jepsen really have anything that Angela Via didn't?

I'm tempted to blame her success on her connection to fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, whom she kept out of the top spot in the UK and who has publicly endorsed his BFF. But that hasn't really done much for Selena Gomez, Bieber's girlfriend, whose "Love You Like a Love Song" has been in heavy rotation in Bangkok discos for nearly a year but still hasn't risen above No. 22 on the Hot 100.

Or maybe it's her connection to Bieber's manager Scooter Braun, to whose label, Schoolboy Records, Jepsen is signed. Or perhaps it's just another international lapse in good taste. The song has already topped the singles charts in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, so I'm just glad that for once, among most of the world's major English-speaking countries, the U.S. is coming out looking the best.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

5 Reasons Why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Got One Thing Right This Year

I have never loved Beastie Boys as much as I probably should. And I think it's a bit premature to be celebrating the trio's entire body of work, or Red Hot Chili Peppers', for that matter -- at least not before bestowing such an honor on Linda Ronstadt and ELO (Electric Light Orchestra). As for Guns N' Roses, I was probably the only person on the third floor of Hume Hall at the University of Florida who didn't get excited every time "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Paradise City" played on the radio or MTV during freshman year.

I'd be more excited about the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Faces had Rod Stewart not been in for decades now, and despite the awesomeness of "Mellow Yellow," I'm on the fence regarding the size of Donovan's overall contribution to rock & roll.

That leaves Laura Nyro, previously a two-time nominee and two-time reject who had been eligible since 1993, as the lone member of the Class of 2012 for me to be truly thrilled about. I arrived a little late to the Laura Nyro Admiration Society, not buying my first Laura Nyro album, Gonna Take a Miracle, her 1971 collection of covers featuring LaBelle on backing vocals, until after her 1997 death from ovarian cancer.

But by then she'd already been flooring me for years, via hits that she wrote for Barbra Streisand ("Stoney End"), Blood, Sweat & Tears ("And When I Die"), the Fifth Dimension ("Stoned Soul Picnic") and the incomparable Three Dog Night ("Eli's Coming," in my book, her great masterpiece). Please note that despite their impressive creative and commercial output, not one of those acts have warranted induction into the Hall of Fame (perhaps due to its bias against acts who don't write the bulk of their own material, which would explain Ronstadt's continued absence, and Dionne Warwick's), yet Donovan does.

Who cares that Axl Rose declined to show up for the April 14 induction ceremony? If there's anyone I wish could have been there to be welcomed into the boys club (by Bette Midler, who needs to do an entire album of Nyro covers pronto), it's Nyro. But if she had to leave so soon, I'm glad she left us with so many awesome tunes.

Barbra Streisand "Stoney End"


The Fifth Dimension "Stoned Soul Picnic"


Three Dog Night "Eli's Coming"


Blood, Sweat & Tears "And When I Die"


Laura Nyro "Save the Country"

Should I Be Ashamed for Thinking Zac Efron Is Hot?

Remember Summerland, the mid-'00s TV series that was supposed to make Jesse McCartney a star? If not, don't worry. You're not alone. The show ran for only 26 episodes on the WB from June of 2004 to July of 2005 before it was cancelled. If I hadn't been working at Entertainment Weekly at the time, editing the TV reviews section, I might have overlooked it, too.

That's why I'm at a complete loss to explain why, seven years later, it's still running on the Sony channel in Thailand. I mean, is there really such a huge audience here for a nearly decade-old U.S. TV series that never made it past the two-season mark? Why not run Summerland heroine Lori Loughlin's future series 90210, which I thoroughly enjoy, and I'm not ashamed to say it?

Or Ryan Kwanten's True Blood, which I don't enjoy, and I'm not ashamed to say it? And although I don't care for Shawn Christian's Days of Our Lives character Dr. Daniel Jonas, I'd kill to see Sami Brady and EJ DiMera bicker over love, family and their kids on one of the two 37-inch flat-screen TVs in my apartment instead of on YouTube.

Alas, I can't say that I've seen much of McCartney in his post-Summerland years outside of the videos for his handful of modest pop hits, which is surprising because he seemed like everything a future young-adult sex symbol should be -- blond, pretty, and he was playing a surfer, for God's sake. But apparently, there's only room for one massive teen idol from any given series at any given time, and as popular as McCartney may have been circa 2005, Zac Efron is the one who ended up being the Jennifer Aniston/Jason Segel/Jessica Biel of the Summerland cast.

If I had been a devoted viewer back then, I surely wouldn't have seen it coming. Efron, who wasn't a regular until well into its run, was pretty much an afterthought on the show, kind of awkward-looking with no discernible X factor. Who would have thought that we'd see so much more of him, or that he'd grow up to be so hot? That might be the most surprising -- and disturbing -- aspect of his ascent: He's hot, and it feels so wrong to call Zac Efron "hot."

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only grown-ass person of a certain age who feels that way. I've seen teen idols come and go, and never before have I given a second thought to the physical appeal of any of them. Not Justin Timberlake's, not Kirk Cameron's, not Scott Baio's. (I didn't understand all of the hoopla over Baio at the time, but when I recently saw him on Happy Days on Melbourne's 11 channel, which airs nothing but old U.S. TV shows in the morning and afternoon, for the first time, I kind of got it.)

Unlike those others, it's not like I even really watched Efron grow up. I've somehow managed to get away with never seeing a single High School Musical, despite being an editor at Teen People when it peaked. I can't remember ever catching Efron in anything before Hairspray in 2007, and although by then he was a bona fide teen idol, he was only 20, not a boy, not yet a man.

What a big difference five years make. The first -- and truthfully, only -- time I watched the trailer for Efron's upcoming film, The Lucky One, which is out on Friday, I had a hard time sitting through the entire thing. Not just because the movie looks unbelievably bad, but because of how unbelievably sexy Efron looks in it. I mean, was I committing some kind of crime?

It's not like Efron is a kid anymore. He's 24, one year and two months older than my last boyfriend. But I didn't know my ex when he was 17. I didn't know Efron either, but those Summerland reruns have ruined him for me. Looking at him in the preview for The Lucky One felt borderline pedophilic. I couldn't even make it to the end!

Now I have two excellent reasons not to see the movie.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Minor Hits from the '80s That Deserved More Love

Part 1. "You Are in My System" The System

Don't you hate it when one-hit wonders become semi-famous (for 15 minutes or less) for the wrong song? Me, too. Which is why, as much as I appreciate the strong craftsmanship of the System's 1987 No. 4 hit "Don't Disturb This Groove," I always kind of resented it, too (the song, not the craftsmanship). The duo had actually released its greatest hit five years earlier, when "You Are in My System" limped to No. 64 on Billboard's Hot 100. (Perhaps as a consolation prize, it made it to No. 10 on the R&B list).

Alas, hit status was not to be for that particular song. Not even Robert Palmer, who turned "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," Cherelle's minor 1984 hit, into a No. 2 pop smash in 1986, could make "You Are in My System" soar less than a year after the System failed. He only took it to No. 78. His version might actually be slightly better than the System's, but it would be three more years before he made love-dependency cool in pop with "Addicted to Love." Once again, mainstream pop's loss.



4 Other Great Songs About Addictive Love That Aren't Roxy Music's "Love Is the Drug" 

The '80s: "You Are My Heroin" Boy George (1989)


The '90s: "Addictive Love" Bebe & Cece Winans (1991)


The '00s: "Like a Drug" Kylie Minogue (2007)


The '10s: "I'm Addicted" Madonna (2012)

11 Warning Signs That I Might Be on the Verge of Becoming a Grumpy Old Man

Just in case yesterday's Facebook status update -- "Maybe I'm really getting old and hopelessly cranky, but why does 'party' (the noun AND the verb) always have to involve such loud music? Can't people have a good time without damaging their ear drums, keeping me awake and prohibiting meaningful conversation without shouting?" -- didn't give it away.

1. I went to bed before midnight on New Year's Eve (Songkran Eve?) -- 11.23pm, to be exact -- last night, and I didn't feel like I was missing anything.

2. 11.23?! That's so late. On nights when I'm not yawning by the bar at DJ Station, I'm usually in bed at least a half hour earlier!

3. I've become the guy who actually complains to neighbors about their music being too loud. My last year in Buenos Aires, I did it about once a month, always declining their invitations to join them, which was even more unlike me than the part where I took the elevator two floors down just to glare at them from the other side of the threshold.

4. I wrote the status update above after trying -- and failing -- to take an afternoon nap. The combination of loud music coming from an undisclosed location and yelling and screaming at the pool nine floors below left me tossing and turning for a half hour before I gave up completely.

5. The idea of going to one of those outdoor music festivals that my friends in Australia talk about all the time sounds like pure torture. Covering Woodstock '94 for People magazine ruined me for every other one!

6. Speaking of outdoor concerts, I'm still not sure how I made it through the Soundgarden show in Melbourne in February, or how I managed to love it, too, despite spending several hours on my feet with a below-average view of Chris Cornell. Of course, most of the crowd was around my age, so maybe we were all struggling in the same boat. These days, my idea of a perfect show is one that involves perfect seating, not because I want to see better but because I want to actually use it.

7. Last night while I was watching Ringer on TV (in bed, of course), Sarah Michelle Gellar, who I used to think of as being "just a kid," was playing the stepmom of a pot-smoking high-school girl. Yikes! On the plus side, I can still watch high-school mean-girl antics all day long -- though from the relative emotional safety of two and a half decades later.

8. Phrases like "back when I was your age," "you wouldn't remember this," and "I was doing [insert action with which I have decades of experience here] since before you were born" are creeping into my conversations -- sometimes with people in their 30s! -- with alarming frequency. For a moment, I even considered calling my life story Confessions of a Coot, or The Codger Chronicles!

9. I can't remember the last time I gave up my seat on public transportation because, well, I'm old and tired, too!

10. I look for the philosophical side to everything, or appreciate it when other people do, which might be why my Facebook and high-school friend Lisa's response to the status update above -- "Some people never evolve from HAVING a party (experience through the senses externally) to BEING a party (experience that flows from within)" -- made so much sense. Honorable mention: "Party is not a quiet word," courtesy of my friend and former People colleague Heidi.

11. I just spent 15 minutes before 7am (the best and most quiet time of day because nobody else is up yet) coming up with all of these reasons why I'm an old cranky pants. (When did I start using phrases like "cranky pants"?) If that doesn't make me one, I don't know what does.