The Buck Stops Here
March 2006

 
It's become my own an annual event here in Germany: missing SXSW so much, my heart hurts. Every March, it's the same. All that music, all those people, all those moments... all that food... staying up late, then sleeping late and trying to take in a few NCAA games on the TV before I'm off again for more shows... oh how I curse distance, oil prices, airline prices, and the need for money... thank goodness for BootLiquor, my favorite online radio station.
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More than a year ago, Betsy in Austin sent me a video tape that included the first two episodes of "Lost." I was hooked. Unfortunately, there was no way to keep watching, so I waited impatiently for the DVDs of Season One to finally come out in Germany. They did, at long last, and Stefan and I spent the last month watching them all. Now we're both hooked.

I have to admit that my favorite part was on the DVD special features -- Jimmy Kimmel visits the set of "Lost." I watched it twice, and laughed even more the second time.

We get to watch Season Two in approximately seven months... unless I want to learn German in record time and watch it dubbed on network TV here.

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Paris is beyond fabulous.

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The funniest email I have received in a long time, from my friend Erica in Washington, DC:

Dear Friends -

OK - I couldn't stand it anymore. The new phone number that T-Mobile gave me in January was only one number off from the White House comments line.

At first it was funny, but getting voice mails (don't people listen to voice mail messages???!!) from angry Americans at all hours from all over the country, was getting tedious.

So, as of today sometime, the new number is ...

Oh, and if you want to call the White House and complain about something, the number is (202) 456-1111

Pain in the ass I know, but there ya have it.

Thank you! Erica

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A pimp is a slave owner. He's nothing greater or better than that. He exploits people, he owns people, he forces them into activities against their will, through coercion and violence. And people will say, "Oh, she is a hooker by choice. She actually likes this life." just like bigots say, "Oh, black people actually liked being slaves, many of them didn't actually want to be free." So tell me exactly WHY a song about a SLAVE OWNER wanting to be a rapper got honored with an Oscar?!?!

Please check out The 10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women; Standing Against Global Exploitation Project (the SAGE Project), a nonprofit working to end to the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adults.

Other than that, I thought the Oscars ceremony was the best it's been in YEARS. I thought Jon Stewart was Carson-esque in his timing and wit. I howled over the opening and the "rugged men" cowboy montage. I have a feeling that the only people who weren't laughing as they watched were the stars in the theater -- I had no idea so many people in Hollywood had no sense of humor, and was stunned that so many hilarious moments sailed right on over their heads.

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If you haven't already, please Vote for Me

At Lonely Planet, my Blue List:
Doing Good On Vacation in a Developing Country.
Please rate it (I hope highly)!

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I decided to go to Carnival this year, after skipping last year. I didn't do anything for the Thursday (Weiberfastnacht, when the women kiss men, cut their ties or shoelaces, etc.), but on the following Sunday, I joined Stefan in Höhr-Grenzhausen for his town's annual parade. I dressed as a clown, painting my face up as best I could and wearing a large hat that looked like a giant mug of beer. Stefan went in his Arab head-dress from Jordan. The parade highlights: two of Stefan's friends dressed as bathroom cleaning ladies (who kept demanding 50 cents from everyone), the float that was made up primarily of a large, slowly-turning flower that also tilted back and forth and was filled with men dressed as bees (which was, not surprisingly, empty by the end of the parade, as I suspect the "bees" suffered from motion sickness), the three guys dressed as gay leather cop guys (now that's bravery in any small town) and the Catholic youth group float: two women, wearing skimpy clothing, pole dancing, under a banner that read "The Titty Twister." I'm not kidding.

Then we went to Stefan's favorite bar, which is, indeed, a really terrific bar (music heard while there included the B52s and the Police, both rarely heard in techno-and-pop-obsessed Deutschland -- and extremely rare during Carnival). While there, I got to meet "Jimmy", a HG institution: no teeth, looks like he's in his 70s but is much younger, who is known for his Buster Poindexter-like voice and his love of singing to anyone and everyone while drunk. In his large plastic top hat and long black leather jacket, I told Stefan he needed to move to Austin, where he would be adored and probably land an advertising contract.

Then it was on to the firehouse, where I was, without warning, kissed on the mouth by some woman I have never seen before, and where I danced with all sorts of people I can't talk with because I still don't speak German. After seven hours of partying, I finally went back to Stefan's parents, to give my ears and lungs a break (the latter from the smoke). Got to watch part of the Olympic closing ceremonies, including the guy in the online casino t-shirt that crashed the stage (whatever happened to political crashers?).

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WWFD?
(What Would Frodo Do?)

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Stefan and I have a weird interest, which I am now going to fess up to in public: we love old dictionaries.

On one of our first dates, he showed me Der kleine Engländer , a small hardback German-English dictionary of words and "common" phrases. It's from the 1860s, I think. The German is written in that German curvy script that even Stefan has trouble reading. And the phrases... wow. My favorite is on page 51: "We granted the slave his liberty." Now there's a helpful phrase. I also like the suggested responses to "How are you?", which include, "I'm not quite the thing" and "I am done up."

A couple of years later, I bought him an English-German, German-English "Wörterbuch" from 1899. In it, I frequently find English words that I have never heard of, and when Stefan looks at the German equivalent of such words, he has never heard of the German word either.

Last year, I added to our collection when I bought a "pequeño diccionario" for Spanish and English on the street in Toledo. It's from 1957. It's a dictionary of Spanish words with their definitions presented entirely in English, and it's stunning to me just how much our language has changed in just 50 years.

And then, just a couple of months ago, I bought a Universal Self-Pronouncing Dictionary Based Upon the Foundation Laid by Noah Webster, published in 1943. I bought it off e-Bay. It is FABULOUS!! What makes it so great is not so much the traditional dictionary (although some of the definitions are pretty wild now), but the supplements, such as:

And all that would have made it worth buying, but I think my favorite part is the "Letter Forms, Business and Social." You name it, it's here, including: Some of the letters are so outdated, you just have to laugh out loud. But some of them would be great to adapt for current practices: how many times have you gotten ready to write a sympathy card or a letter of inquiry and thought, geesh, I don't know what to write?

Anyway, if you see a dictionary that's more than, say, 60 years old at a flea market, I highly recommend buying it. At the very least, you will have fun occasionally skimming it. But you also may find yourself with quite a little treasure trove of history and information.

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Jack Wild died!! My first famous-guy crush!!

When I was a wee lass, I sat every Saturday morning watching "H.R. Puffnstuf" and wishing "Jimmy" would be my boyfriend and take me away to the fantastical island, but protect me from those scary talking trees... I collected cereal box tops for weeks and sent them off so I could get free records of songs from the show, sung by Jimmy...

I feel so old right now...

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Speaking of crushes, I just discovered that Guy Forsyth toured Europe last year, and I TOTALLY MISSED IT. I am so sick of finding out about my favorite musicians coming to Europe only after they've already freakin' been here!! I regularly troll Pollstar looking for shows -- I look as far away as Amsterdam, because if someone I really love is coming to Europe and that's as close as they are coming to Bonn, I'll go, no prob.

I cannot believe this has happened yet AGAIN. I could cry.

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My time in California was the very best, and the very worst, time in my life. Two of the very best things that came out of that time were these: falling in love with hiking, camping and traveling, and falling in love with Buck Owens.

Growing up in Kentucky, Buck was just that guy on Hee Haw, and country music was that awful "Hot New Country" stuff on the radio. It wasn't until I lived in California that I learned who Buck Owens really was, how he turned his back on the over-smooth Nashville sound, how believed calling what he did "American Music" instead of "Country Music" was much more appropriate, and what a huge influence he was on rock bands like the Beatles. In short, Buck rocks.

In Austin, his birthday is celebrated in at least two music clubs every year, and the best talent the city has to offer line up to pay tribute by playing his songs. You haven't lived until you have stood at the Continental Club, drinking your Shiner and grooving on that sound.

I got the hungries fo yo love and ah'm waitin' in ya welfare line... oh, Buck, don't go...

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WWBD?
(What Would Buffy Do?)

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Germany is hosting the World Cup, and I'm getting into it a little. I'm hoping the USA can win even ONE game. I pull for Germany too, since I live here, but Germany, well, they s*ck. And then I usually pull for whatever Cinderella team emerges. I'd love to go to a game, but apparently I'd have to kill someone to get tickets, and I'm only willing to do that for a basketball game. I'm looking forward to all the fans from other countries being here -- should liven things up. Only German-speaking volunteers are being accepted, so that route is closed to me as well.

I was very-much into the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year, and got six family and friends to join me on my Yahoo Brackets group. I came in second. As I have no more teams in the final four, I'm pulling for George Mason all the way. And may I say that Billy Packer is an idiot? May I? Please?

And if you think I'm opinionated: my brother, Barry, in Louisville, Kentucky, is publishing ShagOnSports (his nickname is Shaggy), a weekly commentary on current sporting news and even sporting history. New post every Monday.

Scuffletown Mudcats!
Go, Team, Go!

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My list of favorite films is out of control...

And I just found a list of the best-selling children's books of all time (through the end of 2000), and am depressed at how many I haven't read... and I want to re-read all the ones I have!

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I'm going to SMACK Joel Schumacher. I'm going to smack him for his PATHETIC staging on film of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera," which I finally saw. He took one of my favorite musicals ever and made it flatter than a pancake. Schumacher has zilcho understanding of conveying emotion and connection through character actions and interactions, nor any concept that people should be engaging in some kind of activity that relates to what they are supposed to be singing about. It's a film of pretty sets with really good actors just kinda walkin' around lip-syncing, in no relation to what they are "singing" about or what they are supposed to be feeling. "Music of the Night" was beyond boring. Gerard Butler could have been stunning had he been directed... not just stuck in a pretty setting and told to walk around. He ruined what should have been a decent movie.

'Course, I wouldn't mind smackin' for "Batman and Robin" either...

Why not Milos Forman?! Or Baz Luhrmann?! Or even Joss Whedon?!?!

Harumph.

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Funniest thing I've read lately: headlines on and links from Fark.com relating to "Snakes on a Plane," an upcoming movie featuring, who else, but Samuel Jackson. And my favorite: If all films were produced by the people that created "Snakes on a Plane". I had an asthma attack laughing at these.

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WWCD?
(What Would Cher Do?)

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I'm visiting Italy in May, meeting up in Naples with Stefan on his way South -- he'll have come down through Switzerland and Austria, and then will be heading by ferry over the Adriatic Sea to Albania, Croatia and what not (and avoiding ALL conflict zones). We're going to tour Pompeii (ya know how we love the old stuff).

Other than that, no vacation travel plans, and lots of free time... so why not think of visiting me?

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Today, about 30 people were kidnapped in Iraq. Yesterday too. And the day before. Every day, about 30 people -- children, small business owners, government officials, religious figures, siblings of any of the aforementioned, foreign contractors, journalists (both local and international) -- are kidnapped in Iraq. Journalists would love to do more stories about good things happening in Iraq, but they cannot, out of fear for their lives. Just ask Jill Carroll. Who I am so happy is free at long last... being a woman did not save Irish aid worker Margaret Hassan in 2004, and given what happened to Tom Fox of the aid group Christian Peacemakers Team, I was preparing myself for the worst.

BTW, in the picture of me reading the Jordanian Times in January? I'm reading an editorial begging for the release of Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped while we were in Amman.

Before sanctions and the first Gulf War, Iraq had the same standard of living as Greece, which hosted the Olympics not too long ago. Hard to believe, but true. I've met so many Iraqis living abroad who don't dare go back. Too dangerous.

Sean, watch your back.

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Customer Service. It's just become this unbelievable JOKE. If someone makes a mistake and gives your airline ticket away to someone else, cancels a subscription you only just paid for, orders the wrong part for your computer, whatever, the order of the day isn't to say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. Let me fix this." The procedure now is to blame YOU, to try to make you so frustrated that you will walk away or pay again.

This web site is a place for consumers to make complaints and name names. And as you read, don't be surprised if you find yourself saying, again and again, "Wow, that happened to me too."

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Some things to check out:

 
Okay, I think I've said something tick off absolutely everyone this time around.
If you have read this blawg, PLEASE let me know. Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing.


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