Saturday, December 23, 2006

My small heart grew three sizes today

After I got a new car earlier this month, and in anticipation of the extra expenses of a car payment and higher insurance, we decided not to exchange gifts this year. I was expecting a pretty low-key, uneventful Christmas; a nice dinner with Paul, some presents from my folks to open, a movie or two to watch.

Then a few days ago Paul told me if I still wanted one, he would get me a kitten for Christmas. He had considered bringing one home in a big box with a bow, but decided (rightly so) that I would prefer to pick it out myself. I lost my cats, aged 17 and 18, over the last two years and have been craving some new feline companionship. So this was shaping to be an exciting Christmas after all.

This afternoon we went to an adoption fair hoping to bring home a kitten. Instead, we brought home two! They are siblings, a male and a female. They're five months old, still quite frisky and kittenish. They are tiger-striped, mostly gray and black with some white on their bellies and faces. The male is bold and gregarious, a talker and a toy stalker. His tail has the markings of a ring-tailed lemur. The female is slighter and a bit more timid than her brother, but warms to you quickly. She is a cuddler and shoulder-climber with a sweet, dainty little face.

Many thanks to Bottle Babies Kitten Rescue and Guardians for Animals for making the adoption possible. These two had an adventurous few months, according to the volunteer running the adoption fair. They were discovered on a sidewalk in Hamtramck just minutes old, still covered with afterbirth. They were taken in and bottle-fed by foster parents. When they got old enough they were placed in two different homes but had to be returned each time after the owners developed allergies. So they spent a good while in foster care and were much beloved by their extended foster family, who knew them as Pablo and Lola.

So beloved in fact, I wondered whether their names should remain Pablo and Lola. But everyone wants to name his own kids, right? It's part of what makes them yours. I decided to call them Pee-wee and Elvira after my favorite Groundlings alumni, Pee-wee Herman and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. They both share characteristics with their namesakes: Pee-wee is playfully silly and Elvira is an enchanting beauty. Pee-wee is already responding to his name. I'm sure Elvira will too once she comes out from under my bed. They're still getting used to our giant dog.

A few shots of their first day home:



And a great shot of Cleo from this morning:

A Twisted Christmas, part deux

More Twisted Sister Christmas goodness:

A Twisted Christmas (animated)

Game Tap album overview

Live action video

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I am the girl you know, I lie and lie and lie

As a longtime fan, I was expecting to come away from the VH1 special The Return of Courtney Love relieved at how far she's come since rehab and eager to hear new material. But by the time it was over, I was frustrated and pissed at her.

Courtney may be off the crack but I don't believe for one second she's clean. By her own admission she's overusing prescription drugs. (I bet the makers of Abilify are thrilled to have her for their poster girl.) Rarely during an hour of interview segments did her affect approximate sobriety. The constant squirming, rocking and slurring were difficult to watch, to say nothing of her pass-out-and-fall-in-the-floor moment. The near-incoherent exchanges with Billy Corgan and Carrie Fisher (God, is Carrie her sponsor?) made me wonder how any sane, stable person could stay friends with her.

Most of all I felt sorry for Frances, her thirteen year old daughter. Frances never had a normal upbringing at the best of times but Courtney really put her through hell the last three years. Her extreme drug binges and suicide attempt resulted in Frances being removed from her custody. Courtney just cashed in twenty-five percent of the Nirvana catalog because she blew through $20 million in her crazy addict haze. Let's take a moment to let that sink in: she blew twenty million dollars. That makes the subtext ("Won't you please buy Courtney's new album and help keep her off the streets?") of this hour-long infomercial for How Dirty Girls Get Clean a bit hard to stomach. So did the tour of her ridiculously opulent home.

At first I thought Courtney was having a moment of self-awareness when she said, "I'm just glad to not be a professional widow," acknowledging the moniker bestowed on her by the scathing Tori Amos song. But then I hit the six-seconds-back button on my TiVo remote a couple of times and realized she was saying that to justify selling off a quarter of her daughter's legacy. The scene where she trotted out the coat Kurt killed himself in was so exploitative I had to look away from the screen. That will stay with me a long time. There is truly nothing she won't sell.

Courtney left her indelible stamp on rock music and on my life. Pretty on the Inside turned me on to many great riot grrl groups, Live Through This was the most played disc in my collection for at least five years, and Celebrity Skin had at least one devastatingly great song. Maybe she has another great album in her, maybe not. I'll always love Courtney, the artist. But I'm finally beginning to tire of Courtney, the personality. Sometimes addicts just don't get better, and watching her spiral downward with an innocent kid in tow is not my idea of entertainment.

Ride Roundup

Like most coaster enthusiasts I couldn't wait to get to Kings Island in 2000 when they debuted Son of Beast. It would shatter most records for wooden coasters- the tallest, fastest, longest drop. Most significantly, it would be the only wooden coaster on earth with a loop! It was enough to give even its predecessor The Beast, still my all-time favorite coaster, a run for its money.

It took a while but eventually I got there and rode Son of Beast. And I loved it! I thought it was the new best ride to come along in ages. The whole world unanimously disagreed with me though, from coaster fan sites to most of my friends and family. Everyone who rode it said it was far too rough and they got battered and bruised. Maybe my natural padding protected me from injury. I couldn't get enough of SOB- fast and scary, great helix action. I think I rode it three times the first day and a couple more times on my next visit.

Sadly, in July SOB had a structural failure. A support beam cracked, causing a dip in the track. When a loaded train hit the dip it was jolted to a sudden stop, injuring 27 riders.

After a state-ordered shutdown and much inspection and analysis, the park recently announced that the coaster will reopen in 2007 minus the loop, which has already been removed. According to Screamscape:
The loop on Son of Beast is widely considered the smoothest portion of track on the entire coaster, so it’s ironic that it has to go. They are removing the loop so that they can buy more standard wooden coaster trains instead of the custom ultra heavy trains built just for Son of Beast designed to handle the loop. According to Maureen Kaiser (park spokesperson) using new lighter trains, “will reduce the load on the physical structure and lead to a more comfortable ride experience.”

Coaster enthusiasts online are saying that since the ride is so rough, removing the loop makes SOB completely pointless. Message boards are rife with speculation about whether the layout can be altered so it's still an interesting ride, or whether the park should just dismantle it altogether. Since it cost an estimated $20 million to build, I wouldn't look for the wrecking ball anytime soon.

Admittedly, I thought the loop was there strictly for novelty and didn't add much to the ride. But as SOB's lone defender, I'm sad to see a unique coaster lose its one distinctive feature. Let's hope the designers get it right next time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Random news

Bette Midler has joined the long roster of Jewish artists to release a Christmas album. This prestigious list includes Beck, Carole King, Carly Simon, Phil Spector, The Ramones, Sammy Davis Jr., Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Kenny G and famed assclown Michael Bolton. While you ponder the significance of this news, please enjoy this animated Christmas video by the not technically Jewish Dee Snider (his dad is Jewish) and his band Twisted Sister.

Kazakstan is planning to make its capital, Astana, an indoor city covered by a giant tent. Borat was unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The irony-challenged auto industry

The company I work for is gearing up for an annual automotive convention- ordering our gimme hats, getting the booth ready, etc. With a cluelessness typical of the auto industry, the convention's organizing body has chosen "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" as this year's slogan. Timbuk 3 was one of my favorite bands from the late eighties to early nineties, so of course I got a chuckle out of this. Either the people in charge never bothered Googling the lyrics or they went right over their heads:

I study nuclear science
I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades

I've got a job waiting for my graduation
Fifty thou a year -- buys a lot of beer
Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades

Well I'm heavenly blessed and worldly wise
I'm a peeping-tom techie with x-ray eyes
Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades