in this season of inevitable year-end lists, i decided to be a sheep and throw another log on the proverbial fire.  

generally speaking, i'd prefer to write about movies, but frankly, film in 2008 was shit (friends in Hollywood be damned -- you know it was a lame year, The Dark Knight excluded).  then i supposed i might write about TV -- the highs and lows of reality programming complete with clips, perhaps -- but in the end i figured television was so incredibly different here in Great Britain that talking about TV would be silly for my mostly American readers.  with little left to choose from, i've chosen the obvious:  music.  

almost everyone i know is a music snob.  some work in the industry at labels, agencies or magazines, some are life-long professional musicians and some are simply fanatics who make claims like:  "i saw Dismemberment Plan back in 2000 when they opened for Pearl Jam in Europe" or "i've been listening to REM since they were on Hib-Tone records" -- but my list is really not for such people.  in fact, one might argue that mine is a list for NO one.  it's just stuff that came to mind when i thought about what caught my ear in.  it's not ground-breaking, and you will certainly not be any more hip for having read it, but since i haven't blogged in a while, i'm posting it anyway.

* note:  i know some of the following are not 2008 releases, but does anyone really care?


SINGLE I COULDN'T GET OUT OF MY HEAD:
"THAT'S NOT MY NAME" - THE TING TINGS


BEST SONG DISCOVERED BY WATCHING A TV COMMERCIAL (A FOUR-WAY TIE LISTED FAVE TO LESS FAVE):
1. "AROUND THE BEND" - THE ASTEROIDS GALAXY TOUR (iPOD TOUCH AD)
2. "SHUT UP AND LET ME GO" - THE TING TINGS (iPOD/iTUNES AD)
3. "HUMMINGBIRD" - BORN RUFFIANS (ORANGE MOBILE AD)
4. "LI'L KING KONG" - SIMPLE KID (SATURN VUE AD)


CD I LOVED UPON VERY FIRST LISTEN AND PROCEEDED TO PLAY OVER AND OVER WITHOUT SKIPPING ANY TRACKS:
"LOVE AND SQUALOR" - WE ARE SCIENTISTS (RELEASED IN 2006, SPECIAL THANX TO LUCI)


SONG THAT'S COMPLETELY NOT MY STYLE, BUT WHICH I PURCHASED RIGHT AFTER HEARING (HALF BECAUSE I DUG THE BEAT, AND HALF BECAUSE I THOUGHT THE TITLE AND REFRAIN WERE HYSTERICAL):
"LET ME TOUCH YOUR BUTTON" - WYCLEF JEAN


IRRESISTIBLE INDIE-POP SONG (I HEARD THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME ONLY RECENTLY AND FOUND IT AS INFECTIOUS AS WEEZER):  
"UNDERSTANDING" - PETE AND THE PIRATES


FAVORITE NEW (MAINSTREAM) ARTIST:  
THE LOVELY WELSH GAL CALLED DUFFY (FAVE TRACK:  "WARWICK AVENUE")


RESURFACED OLDIE OF THE YEAR:
"HERE COME THE GIRLS" - ERNIE K. DOE  (THE SUGABABES' COVER OF THIS SONG WAS USED AD NAUSEUM IN A BOOTS DRUGSTORE CAMPAIGN HERE IN GREAT BRITAIN, BUT THE ORIGINAL'S THE VERSION TO GET.)


FAVE SONG FROM A DOCUMENTARY (EVEN THOUGH THE DOC WAS A 2004 RELEASE):  
"BOHEMIAN LIKE YOU" - THE DANDY WARHOLS (DOC TITLE:  "DiG!" WITH THANKS TO SIMON FOR TELLING ME TO WATCH IT)


COVER SONGS LISTENED TO MOST (THOUGH NONE RELEASED IN 2008):  
1. JOSS STONE - THE WHITE STRIPES' "FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL/BOY"
2. BARRY WHITE - BILLY JOEL'S "JUST THE WAY YOU ARE"


ARTIST I WISH WE'D HEARD FROM THIS YEAR:  
BEN FOLDS


NUMBER ONE SONG OF 2008:
"SHADY LANE" - PAVEMENT
REASONING BEHIND THIS CHOICE: 
"SHADY LANE" WAS THE SONG THAT PLAYED AS MY HUSBAND AND I EXITED OUR WEDDING CEREMONY LAST APRIL  :-)


P.S.
i also really dig reading non-fiction.  the best non-fiction i read in 2008 was:

1.  Freakonomics - Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner (2005)

2.  How to Stop Worrying and Start Living - Dale Carnegie (1948)

3.  Affluenza - Oliver James (2007)
*  it must be noted i've not yet finished Affluenza, but am far enough to put it in my top three.

 
 

you put your left leg in... your put your left leg out...  (note: i do not know the people pictured)


as i've mentioned countless times on this site, there are many subtle and sometimes mildly amusing differences between American and British things.  today's item is a old party dance usually done by preschool children and drunk adults attending cheesy leisure cruises.

known as the Hokey Pokey, the "dance" became popular in America in the 1950s (copyrighted in 1950).  according to popular legend it was created to entertain crowds at a ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Ray Anthony's big band made it an American hit in the mid-1950s (most likely because it was the B-side to the "Bunny Hop").

here in Great Britain they call this same dance the Hokey Cokey.  internet research has revealed that the Hokey Cokey peaked in popularity as a novelty dance in Britain during the mid-1940s (making it about 10 years older than the States' version).  this means that strictly speaking, the dance should be called the Hokey Cokey in the States.  there is also internet research that shows the Brits sometimes call it the Cokey Cokey (go figure).

interestingly, in Britain the "Hokey Cokey" is regarded as a traditional song, and is therefore free of the copyright restrictions that are placed on it in the States.  (Ahh, the sweet Orwelian nature of the United States.)  One might argue that the American copyright should not exist at all, as the song existed in Britain 10 years earlier than America -- and is credited to completely different authors.

ANYway, that's all for this morning.  i'll try to keep posting as the holidays pass.  surely there's a blog or two to be written about lard-based mince pies, leaving whiskey out for Father Christmas in lieu of milk and cookies and eating flaming Christmas puddings soaked in booze.

Fun fact:  in New Zealand the Hokey Pokey is called the Hokey Tokey.  I expect a lot of hippies do this dance there...

 

 
MERRY CHRIS-MYTH 12/19/2008
 

i've been reading a lot of random stuff in the free daily newspapers that float around the tube stations every day during commuter hours (stuff like Metro, London Lite and The London Paper).  usually it's the basic global headlines of the day peppered with the most shocking crime reports available and the odd human interest story.  this past week i came across a little piece about common myths.  i thought i'd share some with you...

1.  EATING LATE AT NIGHT MAKES YOU GAIN WEIGHT- FALSE. 
this myth originally came out of a Swedish study that suggested night eating was bad because obese women tended to eat more at night than regular-size women.  what this failed to point out was that obese women eat more food at ALL times of day (not just night), so it's not WHEN they eat - it's simply WHAT and HOW MUCH.  this makes sense to me.  it also allows me to continue sneaking chocolate-dipped macaroons late in the evening.

2.  YOU LOSE MOST OF YOUR BODY HEAT OUT OF YOUR HEAD - FALSE. 
this is an old wives' tale borne out of poorly conducted research by the U.S. Army, which found that soldiers wearing Arctic suits in freezing temperatures lost 45% of their body heat via their heads.  the research failed to point out, however, that the soldiers weren't wearing hats, so NATURALLY their body heat exited via the only body part exposed to the cold.  heat would have been lost equally from ALL body parts if they had all been covered.

3.  GREASY FRIED FOOD AND ASPIRIN HELPS A HANGOVER - FALSE. 
according to Professor Rachel Vreeman at Indiana University (as published in the British Medical Journal), there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support ANY cure for, or effective prevention of, hangovers (though i will say that drinking three glasses of water for each alcoholic beverage you consume seems like a healthy way to go if you ARE hitting the pub, and a greasy diner breakfast used to hit the spot back in my 20s when i drank like a fish).

4.  SUICIDES INCREASE DURING WINTER AND HOLIDAYS - FALSE.
a U.S. study conducted over a period of 35 years shows there is NO increase in suicides before, during or after a festive holiday.  several additional studies found similar results.  there is also no hard evidence that a dark and/or cold winter edges people into depression.

5.  EATING SUGAR MAKES KIDS HYPERACTIVE - FALSE.
a dozen studies have found no proof of the so-called "sugar high."  in studies where children were given a drink that was sugar-free, but the parents were told that the drink DID contain sugar, parents rated their children as more hyperactive after having the drink.  in fact, says one professor, the differences in the children's behavior were simply in the parents' minds.

6.  POINSETTIA PLANTS ARE TOXIC - FALSE.
a study of 849 incidents conducted by the American Association of Poison Control Centers showed that no one can die from accidentally eating or ingesting part of a poinsettia plant, and 96% of people do not need medical attention of any kind.  also notable, none of the 92 children in the study needed any treatment at all, so go ahead -- get festive.



 
 

i have too many things in my head today to write a single-subject entry.  instead i'd like to rattle off a little list of annoying questions that have been passing through my head in the last few days...

1.  why don't people who use public toilets "confirm" their flush before vacating a toilet cubicle?  part two:  why do most toilets in England have ridiculously low water pressure?  it's gross.

2.  how is it possible that my husband has a 14-year-old male student who's obsessed with The Beatles, but has never heard of Nirvana or SOUNDgarden?

3.  why don't Londoners stand aside and let people OFF the tube before shoving their way ON?  part two:  when i stand aside and let people off the tube, why do other waiting people shove past me, ignoring the fact that i'm trying to be rational and efficient, AND ignoring the fact that i am CLEARLY next in line to board?  (someone's going to get elbowed in the throat one of these days...  but you didn't hear that from me.)

4.  why do cosmetic companies put false eyelashes on models in MASCARA commercials?  shouldn't they really be commercials for false eyelashes?  part two:  why do hair care companies put hair extensions on models in shampoo and hair color commercials?  shouldn't they actually be commercials for hair extensions or wigs?

5.  are teenagers much more irritating these days, or am i just getting old?  part two:  why do English teenage girls look like whores?  do any of them have mothers or role models who aren't drag queens?

6.  why don't people obey the "KEEP LEFT" signs on busy public staircases?  do they ENJOY walking against a crowd of scowling commuters?

7.  why do men in suits and ties instantly look like assholes to me?  part two:  am i a bad person for judging them based on their clothes?

8.  there are tons of people on buses and trains listening to music on headphones, including myself -- why am i the only one bobbing her head and tapping her feet?

9.  why do women with baby carriages and toddlers in tow stroll around like the whole world needs to stop and help them (or slow down for them) just because their little parade is blocking the whole sidewalk?  no one thinks you're cute.  and how about getting a frigging babysitter?  or better yet, invest in a contraceptive once in a while? 
* people out there with kids please don't send defensive comments here -- i'm sure no one reading this blog is like THOSE women.

10.  why doesn't my "luxury" flat have heating vents in the bathrooms?  this is ENGLAND.  it's COLD...

11.  why do Subway sandwich shops smell so good when you pass by, but if you actually eat one it's almost always a let-down?

12.  why are the trailers for this year's Golden-Globe-nominated films so AWFUL?  and is there REALLY only one man in all the world who can do the voice-overs for them?

13.  where does Britain's Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow get his ties?

14.  why does my iPhone battery wear down so much faster than my iPod battery?

15.  why is instant coffee so popular in England? (Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero are always packed, don't get me wrong, i'm referring here to jars of instant coffee in offices and homes.)

16.  why do i have a feeling no one will comment on here to answer these questions for me?


Happy Friday everybody  ;-)

 
 

(not my tree)


i dig Christmas (or The Holidays, as my politically correct friends prefer to say).  admittedly, i am not a religious person, but there's definitely something special about traveling in a sea of people to visit friends and relatives, thinking up cool presents to give and hanging sparkly stuff all over the place while drinking eggnog or mulled wine.

being rather excited (and a little obsessive-compulsive) i started my gift hunting back before Halloween.  i also taught myself a new skill in order to hand-make a present or two (this was much more time consuming than i had imagined, but hopefully the recipients of these items will appreciate the thought and time involved and not focus too much on the numerous flaws).

ANYway, my cards and shopping have been finished for a while now.  all that's left is an afternoon of cookie baking (cranberry and white chocolate chip cookies this year).  woo hoo and yum to that.

the one thing that's bothering me is the feeling i got when the last package and pile of cards were safely checked in at the post office.  i figured it would be pretty satisfying to get that done, but instead of relief or pride, i exited the post office and immediately felt crummy.  my entire mood went sour instantly.  i felt unhappy, dissatisfied and cranky.  then i felt inadequate.  i started reviewing everything in my mind and thinking of what i could have done better.

i mentally criticized everything:  the design of my greeting cards, the ribbon and paper i chose for the wrapping, the color and fabric of clothing -- basically everything.  i had an overwhelming feeling that when the gifts and cards were opened by their recipients the people would all have something negative to say.  i even worried about how my handwriting looked inside the cards.

now, i know full well that most people don't respond rudely to things they get at Christmas, but i have certainly heard enough catty remarks to know that things often get "discussed," and the worry that MY things will be those discussed critically was (and is) almost crippling.

it's always been tough to NOT worry about what others think, despite the fact that people love to tell you not to.  it's much easier said than done.  i think EVERYone worries about what others think to SOME extent, and if someone claims they don't, they're probably kidding themselves.

i don't give gifts because i have to, but because i want to -- however, i wish i could squash the feeling that i could have done better.  this is especially hard when you live on another continent and your card or gift has to speak for you in your absence.

perhaps i'm more neurotic than the average person.  perhaps the holidays can be stressful even though you really do love them.  perhaps other people feel this way too but just don't say it out loud.


ahh.  the sweet neuroses of Christmas.

 
 

usually i have something to say on here -- however inane it may be -- but today i've got something to show.  it's a toilet.  but not any old toilet that you or i may have in our home or office.  it's a toilet we came across while traveling in Belgium. 

our hotel there was pretty awesome, and the experience did not end when you stepped into the toilet cube.  the video below is of a random bathroom located in a hallway in said hotel.  the bathroom itself is not really impressive -- it's the toilet that makes it cool.  for lack of a better description, it's an automated toilet that cleans itself (including the seat) after every flush.

press play below -- keep your eye on the toilet seat, and oh yes, there's audio...