Monday, April 13, 2015

Like, Ya Know, Speak Like a Leader!

When it comes to our teenage girls, there is a new verbal fashion trend of epidemic proportions – like, ya know, um, ah, I mean, whatever, ya, I can’t, I can’t even…

In preparation for my upcoming panel presentation on how to “Say it Like You Mean it,” I reached out to my Digital Daughter Ambassadors (DDAs) to ask what they thought about the “like, ya know syndrome” and other verbal habits, their pervasiveness and potential downfalls.  I was curious about the girls’ level of awareness and whether they wished they could get rid of their own involuntary verbal tics.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Body and Soul: How a Masterful Instrument Repairman Had Me Swooning

“Just listen to these 16 bars,” Mr. Scott said to the unassuming black man, who I later learned could play like Chester Washington from “Earth Wind & Fire.”  

In all of its beauty, the stereophonic sax solo rang out, transforming Mr. Scott’s cluttered front room into the moodiest of jazz clubs.  I had just walked in through the screened-in front door, but now stood equally transfixed by the many colors of the sultry saxophone that caressed our faces, causing our eyebrows to curl upward and our eyelids to squeeze tight. 

The sax solo was from the 1939 jazz standard “Body and Soul,” first recorded by Louis Armstrong and now with hundreds of versions, including this one by Westchester musician Joe Stelutti.  It brought me to my happy place.

“Mmmm,” I swayed and swooned. 

A hidden gem down a suburban side street in Yonkers, NY, Scott Music Instrument Rental & Repair is a home-based workshop that preserves the art of musical instrument repair – all due to its namesake, master technician and gifted musician, Virgil Scott. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dear John Carmack

Full disclosure.  I never really liked (or was good at) playing video games – a tough admission from one who has lived the digital entertainment life, watching it crest and wave, strategizing and brainstorming its course.  But what you created so many years ago fascinated me and opened my eyes to a genius I had merely glimpsed in my years at Cornell University, surrounded by friends with nicknames like, “The Bug Finder.”

And then, there I was, back in 1994 with my own geeky nickname, “The DOOM girl.”

So, why I am writing you years later, and almost 20 years since the momentous launch of DOOM II (“Doomsday,” October 10, 1994)?  

Well, through my work and play, I am both a communicator and active observer of the studied, and at times astonishing, changes in consumer technology, digital and social entertainment. I am always hungry for the next big thing.  Our press invitation for the DOOM II launch presaged, “Prepare Yourself for the Second Coming.” I am wondering, is your new venture the “Third Coming"?

John, you have inspired me to look forward – and back…  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Camp Reunion: Summers at Camp Hadar

Last weekend I went to my camp reunion.  I was a camper in the late 70’s to early 80s, and although I can barely muster the memories, when I walked into that NYC bar and saw familiar faces, it all came rushing back.

Camp Hadar was your basic, coed sleep-away camp for kids of all interests – more like  “Meatballs” than today’s fancy camps that you might mistake for a country club, and with no competitive specialty like circus camp, space camp or fashion camp.  There were wooden cabins with clotheslines for wet bathing suits and towels, unkempt sports fields, jungle gyms and swing sets, an arts & crafts lodge and a fenced in swimming pool.  We had the typical camp traditions (e.g. Miss Hadar awarded to the male counselor that looked best in a dress, Gangster Day, 50s Social, Carnival, Olympics), and we lined up at the flagpole for the pledge, sang camp songs, cheered and even prayed for our food (Hadar was, like many, a Jewish camp).  We looked forward to getting out of camp for trip day and, if we were good, were treated to Friendly’s Fribbles at midnight.  It really wasn’t anything special…but it was.
 I drove to the reunion with my friend Missy who I hadn’t seen in 15 years.  We both live in Westchester, she in a huge stone mansion with its own pool house.  She still had the same red hair and tiny hips, and an ongoing banter and spirit that kept you smiling. 

When we walked in, the first one I spied was our very own camp celebrity, and the owners’ son.  You couldn’t miss Bobby with his Keith Urban hairdo and brown leather jacket, but with the six-deep line of women waiting to say hello I decided to walk deeper into the bar to see if there were any other familiar faces.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Crawl: Swimming as Salvation

Back in 1992, I was in a crazy car accident. 

A North American Van Lines tractor trailer side-swiped my tinny Toyota Tercel on Rt. 4 in New Jersey, spinning my car around three times in what seemed like a slow-motion roundup ride, my screams going from loud to soft as the car careened and ended up backward on the median.  Although my Tercel was totaled, I walked away virtually unharmed, albeit in a stake of shock and picking the shards of glass out of my hair. 

It wasn’t until weeks later that my lower back started hurting and thus started my trip through the land of chiropractors. Each chiropractor seemed to practice his own special method.  One left me in a dark room positioned with various blocks under my back and legs while music played.  Another tied me into all sorts of pretzels and then prescribed me with the powder form of vitamin C and a charcoal supplement that made my poop black.  I guess his theory was that the digestive system was tied to spine health?  Anyway, nothing worked.

Fortunately, I was laid off from that highly stressful advertising job that had me on the road driving our creative (for this fateful trip, the new packaging for J&B scotch – and no, liquor was not involved in the accident!) to some very uninspired clients.  

And, just like that, I had plenty of time on my hands to recover. 

My friend Trish recommended that I try swimming.  Although I spent my summers in camp where every day involved a dreaded hour of swim instruction, I never made it past advanced beginner.  But, I did love the water and my gym had an olympic size pool.  So, I decided to give swimming a go…

1 lap.  Exhausted.
2 laps. Doubly exhausted.
10 laps.  Help!

But after a few weeks, I found my rhythm AND my back started feeling better!  A miracle! 

Now, years later, with ills that seem to be adding up daily including a torn Achilles and continued lower back pain, I am hoping that swimming will again be my cure-all.  Even more, I somehow believe it could be my physical and mental salvation.

It seems I am not alone.  According to Lynn Sherr, author of Swim: Why We Love the Water, “Swimming stretches my body beyond earthly limits, helping to soothe every ache and caress every muscle. But it is also an inward journey, a time of quiet contemplation, when, encased in an element at once hostile and familiar, I find myself at peace, able — and eager — to flex my mind, imagine new possibilities, to work things out without the startling interruptions of human voice or modern life. The silence is stunning.”

For me, swimming feels like the best stretch ever. Like that of an infant waking up from a deep sleep.  Swimming makes me feel young and thin – the water sculpting my body with each stroke.  And like Lynn Sherr, swimming allows me to think creatively and deeply, with no interruption, my body reaching for Zen with every stroke.

Actually, I never gave up on swimming…I saw it as my summer sport, believing that the only way to do it was outdoors, under a blue sky (which is preferable). But this year my New Years resolution is to swim year round.  And, I am proud to say that even though on Saturday morning it was a frigid 5 degrees, I pulled on my bathing suit and ice-cold bathing cap and swam 32 invigorating, lovely laps.  My shampoo and conditioner were both frozen, but no matter.  My passion for swimming will not be undone. 

That is, unless this new pain in my shoulder keeps me out of the pool…ARGGHH…SPLASH!!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

20 Years Hence, Sinéad or Madonna?

Back in the 90s, was it Sinéad O’Connor or Madonna that moved and inspired your 20-something soul?  

Last night, my husband and I found our selves four rows back at a Sinéad O’Conner concert for her “American Kindness” tour.  With her trademark shaved head and wearing a shapeless Bob Dylan long-sleeve t-shirt, she at once seemed to flash her adorable dimples and her transfiguring scowl.  She morphed before our eyes – first as a beautiful, self-possessed women, and then as a rebellious teen-age boy.   She was hard to capture, even though I tried with my iPhone camera:

But her sound was extraordinary – her voice clear and transporting.  She had the audience in a frenzy – men and women alike –and it gave me cause for reflection…

In 1990, Sinéad’s breakthrough album, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” contained her most famous single, “Nothing Compares 2 U” (written by Prince), winning her a Grammy award in 1991.  The album was an international success and the music video of “Nothing Compares 2 U” (she was even before her time using texting characters) focused on her heartbreakingly expressive and beautiful face, and is still riveting

I think I felt at the time, that she and the album were mine.  That Sinéad Bernadette Marie O’Connor, a singer-songwriter from County Dublin, was talking to me – a single Jewish girl living in Hoboken, NJ.  It was the soundtrack of my 20-something years when I was studying voice, starting my career and involved in a romantic but tumultuous relationship with an Irishman (a County Kerry man with a thick Irish brogue). But last night, as I watched all the 40-something women and men dance and sway in the aisles, I realized that she deeply affected us all.

And then in those same influential years, there was Madonna, maybe the biggest role model for women at the time.  Sinéad’s album, “I Do Not Want…” was straddled by Madonna’s, “The Immaculate Conception,” in 1990 and “Erotica” in 1992.

I never saw Madonna in concert, but I watched her closely, listened to her music and danced my heart out to her hits in the clubs.  In 1990, she went on the Blond Ambition World Tour and gave a controversial performance of “Like a Virgin” and was criticized by the Catholic Church and the Pope who asked that we not attend her show. 

As you may recall, Sinéad was also soundly criticized by the Pope and the Catholic Church – particularly harshly for her defiant ripping of the Pope’s photo on “Saturday Night Live.” Sinéad’s personae and sensibility was really the polar opposite of Madonna’s. Both artists railed against the Catholic Church – but Madonna took on sexual freedom and Sinéad, sexual child abuse. 

While Sinéad could transform herself from the inside with a mere look or sway, Madonna was able to transform her image on the outside – reinventing herself with every album and music video.  While Sinéad didn’t care about style and clothing, Madonna could “strike a pose” and inspire a whole new fashion trend.  And, while nothing Sinéad did or does on stage seems choreographed, Madonna started out as a dancer, and is still today, the consummate entertainer – complete with back-up dancers. 

At last night’s concert, Sinéad treated us to some of her biggest hits, including one of my favorites, “Emperor’s New Clothes,” . I recalled how her line, “How could I possibly know what I want when I was only 21?”  struck me then, and how even now, at 40-something, I wonder what I want (but that goes under the middle age crisis category).  

All of Sinéad’s newer songs from her album, “How About I be Me (and You Be You)?” rocked the house.  She had great chemistry with her band and the harmony was spectacular, particularly in “4th and Vine” and “Take Off Your Shoes.” 

The show ended with her vocal, accompanied only by the drone of an electronic organ.  She combined her unique artistry as a musician with her soulful talents as an ordained priest…and we all walked out knowing that we had witnessed something substantive and remarkable.

So, who is it for you, Sinéad or Madonna?  Would love to hear your thoughts and insights…


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CONUNDRUMS IN ABSURDIA: An Unscientific Quiz on Living and Parenting in the 'Burbs

1.     You throw a birthday party for your 8-year-old, with magician and a balloon-animal twister.  All the kids show up but all they want to do is text and play on their smartphones.  You…
a.     Are relieved that you wont have to entertain a bunch of noisy kids.
b.     Are appalled!  Who buys their 8 year old a smartphone?
c.      Get creative and have them play “hot potato” with their smartphones
d.     Take away their phones and force for them to be social and have fun.  You paid for it, didn’t you?

2.     You’re shopping at a the local market and your bill for organic chicken breasts, olives, parmesan cheese, tomatoes and a loaf of Italian bread comes to $50.  You…
a.     Are proud of the high-quality products our town offers
b.     Wince and tell them “never mind”
c.      Roll your eyes, but pay up.  You feel good supporting our local vendors.

3.     On the weekends, your husband lives in fleece.  You…
a.     Figure it is okay. You like to be comfortable too.
b.     Love his snuggle quotient
c.      Give it away to Good Will and tell him that you found an even more comfortable fabric called cotton.
d.     Explain that Under Armour is the new black.

4.     Your daughter comes home from a Bat Mitzvah celebration with an obscene amount of parting gifts including an iPod, sweatshirt, custom chocolates and 10 framed photos.  You…
a.     Explain that the real world isn’t like this.
b.     Are thrilled!  You needed another iPod and the sweatshirt fits you too!
c.      Appreciate the generosity but secretly dread the day your children become a Bat Mitzvah.

5.     Your child works the goldfish booth at a religious festival and can’t get over the complaints she got on their too-tiny fish-bodies, bulging eyes and poor backstroke.  You…
a.     Explain that goldfish are a valuable commodity
b.     Don’t know what to say.  Who are these people you call neighbors?
c.      Examine and write up a complete report on the goldfish specimens for size, bulging eyes and backstroke ability.

6.     You just moved from the city to the ‘burbs, thrilled that your two toddlers will have a nice lawn on which to frolic, but your new next door neighbor informs you that ticks are a problem and to keep your children off the grass.  You…
a.     See this as a sign that the world is coming to an end.
b.     Research Lyme disease and allow your kids to frolic, certain that you will be able to detect a target, no problem.
c.      Keep your kids off the grass.
d.     Pour cement on your front lawn to create a basketball court.

7.     After the snow melts, you discover a large and smelly deer carcass on your lawn.  You…
a.     Call animal control and are disgusted to find that it will cost you $150 to have the deer removed, but do it anyway.
b.     Haul the deer on a tarp to the side of the road and hope the garbage man picks it up.
c.      Find an out-of-the-way spot on your property and get the family together for a burial.
d.     You are a city slicker.  You have no idea what to do…