Thursday, August 27, 2009

Loss of a Legend: Ellie Greenwich

Ellie Greenwich, an eminent songwriter, producer and singer who made her mark in the early heyday of pop and girl groups, died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 68.

Image courtesy of, where you can sign up for free and listen to Ellie Greenwich Radio

Greenwich co-wrote several of her early songs (including "Leader of the Pack" and "Going to the Chapel") with her then-husband, Jeff Barry.  The couple collaborated with producer Phil Spector to churn out hits like "River Deep - Mountain High," "Da Do Ron Ron," "Then He Kissed Me," and "Hanky Panky."1
When her marriage to Barry fell apart after just a few years, Greenwich had difficulty reconciling the idealism of her songs with the reality of her own failed love life.  She said:
"… well, the disillusionment, you can imagine: the person who wrote 'Doo Wah Diddy' and 'Chapel Of Love' has gotta be devastated. I realized, those words, 'Till death do us part,' they don't really mean anything. Through the good times and bad times - what happened to that? We're having bad times - why should this be over?"2
She suffered a nervous breakdown after her divorce3, but went on to produce and write more hits.  She helped discover Neil Diamond when he was "'down-and-out songwriter,'" as he put it yesterday, and "'... was one of the most important people in [his] career.'"1 Greenwich's life was made into a Broadway musical, The Leader of the Pack*, and she was a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Most importantly, Greenwich was a prominent woman in an industry overridden with and run by men.  She broke into the biz not as a singer (though she was one), but as a writer and producer, a rarity at the time.  She simultaneously believed in a kind of fairy-tale romance and proved herself a force to be reckoned with in man's world.  

Tracie, over at Jezebel, has put together a particularly wonderful youtube compilation of Greenwich's "impact... on pop culture."   This Manfred Mann video is my favorite, but they are definitely all worth checking out.

Maracas! Apathetic drummer!

Ellie Greenwich wrote songs we have probably all sung too loudly in our cars or into a hairbrush in the privacy of our bedrooms; her lyrics are with us forever.  

*Incidentally, one of the first musicals I saw.  Annie was the first professionally-staged musical I went to as a kid, but my neighbor (infinitely cool just by virtue of being a teenager) growing up was in her high school production of LotP, and I remember clapping so hard at the end that my hands hurt.  It definitely turned me on to theatre in a big way and made me want to do that when I grew up, or, you know, got to high school.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Basically the same thing

Sandwiched between the FOR HER and ETIQUETTE sections at Chapters, my favorite kill-two-hours bookstore?  FEMINISM.  I'm pretty sure the one copy of Simon de Beauvoir's The Second Sex comprised about a third of the section.  The thing is hefty, no doubt, but it didn't stand out much amongst the likes of To Hell In High Heels and The Naughty Girl's Guide To Life.

Chick lit.  Sigh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Finny Finn Finn

So my bf, being a New Zealander as well as a Good Doctor, has introduced me to some pretty awesome/classic Kiwi tunes.  If you're going to have a conversation about music that includes New Zealand, you can't really avoid the Finn Brothers.  In fact, I think that might be the whole conversation.

Neil and Tim (Finn) have played together, fought, broken up, and reappeared in many musical incarnations as New Zealand's chart-toppers (all this before the introduction of my true favorite Kiwi musicians, Bret and Jemaine).  So I guess I kind of knew that one song by Crowded House, but I didn't that realize Neil (younger bro) had started the band after the disbanding of Split Enz (Get it? nz? Like New Zealand? Thanks, Wikipedia), Tim's much less commercially successful endeavor*.  Just check this out.

So Neil was all, "Thanks for letting me be in your college band when I turned 18, bro, but now I'm on to better things!"  They sort of re-collaborated in the early 90s, again under the name the Finn Brothers, but then Neil kind of took the songs they had written together and gave them to Crowded House and then had to let Tim in the band because he worked on the songs and it would be awkward (slash copyright violation) otherwise.  But then Tim peaced out when they were on tour in Europe.  Brotherly rivalry much?  I'd be pissed, too, if my younger brother was a better song-writer and knew how to play an instrument.  

I think that's what I love most about that Split Enz video, though.  Tim is knee-bending and two-stepping his way around that weird makeshift set (I wonder if that was their university theatre department?) and his elbows seem to be anchored to his ribcage as he "dances" with his arms; then, right at the end, Neil bops up behind him on a guitar and they harmonize and you're like, "Who's that cute, bouncy guy seems way less awkward than the guy singing?"  

I do legitimately like that song, so no diss on Tim.  I also enjoy that New Zealand, or, you know, just its music scene from the 80s and 90s, has some kind of a dramatic history.  Yeah, yeah, there was other dramatic history in how the English tricked the Maori people into signing over all their land and rights (silly mistranslation of documents), but there's no grainy 80s footage of that exchange, and it doesn't make me smile.  I'll stick with the Finns for now and leave the evils of colonialism for another day.

IMPORTANT ADDENDUM: I was totally wrong.  The singer in that video was Neil not Tim; Tim came bopping up at the end.  So I guess Neil was even more openly upstaging big bro than I thought.  Lead singer in Tim's band!  What gumption.  I still like that video, though, and the song.

*I guess they were actually quite successful in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, but who even goes to those places?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Birds

I. Hate. Pigeons.  For similar familial opinions on the topic, check out my sister's post on las ratas del aire.

We have a history.  I don't like them and they don't like me.  Much like the results of my futile childhood attempts to interact with horses, my fear and annoyance seems only to amplify their bad behavior and general distaste for me.  That's right, I also don't like horses much.

But horses are pretty and majestic and so I'll let them live on their farms or in open meadows or wherever; pigeons are filthy and stupid, eat anything, shit everywhere, and have a propensity towards dive-bombing my head.  On at least three occasions, I have narrowly escaped getting a face full of high-velocity pigeon.  Once I ducked so late in the game that the stupid thing grazed my hair.  I tried not to think about where it had been.

My latest battle, though, has to do with excrement.  Let me lay in a little background for you. The GD and I live in a large apartment complex (ha, you thought I was going to say 'large apartment') that's comprised of four five-story buildings surrounding a courtyard.  Because the apartment is not big and it's built with maximum Irish efficiency, our washing machine is under the microwave in the kitchen (leaving us exactly one lower cupboard for trash and no drawers), and (as in many European homes) there is no dryer.

None of these things are particularly problematic.  We keep the silverware in a tray on top of the microwave, we squeeze in when one person is doing dishes and the other wants something from the (counter-height) fridge, and we conveniently have a small balcony and drying rack for laundry.  Again, no complaints.

Our courtyard (besides being a daytime hang-out for kids and nighttime location for loud drunks) attracts a particularly precious combination of gulls and pigeons.  Particularly at night, the seabirds seem to fly in from the coast in Hitchcockian numbers, screeching at a level that almost drowns out the thumping base from the bottom corner apartment.  This is annoying and a little alarming (I always think of Jessica Tandy and my own impending doom at having left the window open), but it is still not what drives me crazy.

I have probably done laundry about 6 times since I have arrived here, and 3 of those times (including the first day I was here), a bird has shat on my drying clothes out on the balcony.  The first time, it was actually the GD's stuff that I had washed, but the second it was my jeans which take forever to dry and I was personally offended.  The third time was yesterday.  I had washed all of the bedding and painstakingly found places and creative ways to hang everything  up so that it would have a fighting chance at drying before bed time, and just when the sheets (outside) were nearly dry and I was about to switch out the comforter cover (hanging on balcony door), I witnessed a pigeon stop by just long enough to take a big crap on one of the sheet.  The bottom sheet.  The one we need to sleep on so we're not directly on the mattress.  I cursed my luck and threw it back in the washing machine.  

The thing that really drives me nuts is that the GD was living here a month before I moved in, and this never happened to him.  He has (of course) done laundry since I arrived, and it's still always my loads that get dumped on.  This is just like the three or four times that a horse, beloved by and loyal to my sister, tried to throw me as a child.

The whole thing leads me to believe that I have some kind of anti-Snow White complex.  Come to think of it, all of those Disney princesses loved wild animals.  Sleeping Beauty had those bird friends who'd dress up as a prince for her so she'd have a dancing partner in the woods; Jasmine had an effing tiger for a pet; and no one would even hang out with Cinderella except for some very talented singing/talking mice.  I think maybe wild animals don't like me because I don't buy into all that being-rescued-by-a-prince crap-- I think they don't like me because I'm a feminist!

Well, pigeons, if it's my principles you're after, I guess you'll just have to keep crapping all over my laundry, because I'm not backing down.  You just keep coming around with your tiny little heads and beady eyes, I will keep thinking about (but not actually testing) how much Raid it would take to get rid of you.  And I will not sing to you or dress you up as my boyfriend just so we can have a quick waltz around the balcony; I'll be inside with the windows shut, reading Jezebel.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Not right now, maybe next year?"

Oh, the attempted humor (or is it just the language barrier?) of the non-native-English-speaking man in the library from the gym who asked me out.

Yeah, things really start to happen when I leave the apartment.

We met first at the gym, just one week ago.  Me, the only woman in the weight room, trying to do bar squats in the least evocative way possible; him, a Latin American man in street clothes, his shiny black curls slicked back off his face. A woman! he must have thought, What is she doing with big, heavy bar?

He asked if I needed help.  I did not.

Apparently my rebuff was too subtle, because he was back in a matter of minutes, this time saying, "I want to do some of these with you."  As my mind raced, trying to untangle how two people could do squats at the same time with the same bar without the situation taking a horribly wrong turn, I set the bar down and said, "Um, okay."

It turned out he wanted me to spot, but does a man stronger than myself need little old me to spot him with a 20kg bar?  No, he needs me to spot him, to feel faint at the sight of his flexing thighs and flashing green eyes.  I was not up to the task.  I looked at the ceiling, out at the pool, and generally tried to make myself unavailable in the case of a weight emergency.  I did not ask him to return the favor and made sure not to smile as he walked away.  

He returned for one more set, but I put on my best apathetic face and didn't make eye contact when we passed on the way to the locker rooms; and so, I thought we had parted ways for good.

I guess my sweat-drenched men's gym shorts were too sexy, my general odor too enticing, and my one-word responses too seductive, because when I happened to pass him on the steps to the library today, he recognized me immediately and went in for the kill.  "You got lost?" he asked, laughing at his own joke.  What?  Like, on the way from the gym last week? 


"You are looking very good."

"Okaaayyyy huh."  

I thought that perhaps my extremely uncomfortable laugh paired with a sudden increase in pace followed by my intense absorption in a library computer would be enough of a hint.  It was not.  He was persistent.

"I just need one minute.  Honestly you are looking very good and I need to see you again or I will die.  Can I see you?"  

Wow, for someone who speaks such weird, broken English (I am not doing it justice in my transcription), you really have the topical stuff down.  



"I'm busy."  This is not a reason, folks, but no means no.

"Not right now, maybe next year?" Another chuckle at his own brilliant comedy.


"Why not?"

"I'm busy all the time."

He thought that was funny.  "No.  Why not?"

I pulled out the big guns.  "I have a boyfriend."

"It is not enough."  He lingered until finally (the desired effect), he wandered away, still chuckling to himself in disbelief.

But wait, what?  "It is not enough?"  What is not enough?  One boyfriend?  Or it's not enough of a reason?  And more importantly, why did it take me saying that I was with another guy for him to leave me alone?  I find that to be the most frustrating point.  He only abandoned the pursuit when he found that I might be "taken," because a single woman refusing him was just too much to wrap his big, shiny head around.  

*Woman's smile = open invitation to men 

I'm the doctor!

I was roused from my internet stupor Saturday afternoon by the following text message* from our neighbors K and the OGD (Other Good Doctor): 
"Hey, our friends we were supposed to see tonight were at a mansion party last night and aren't up for anything, so now we've got all this food and wine and only you, me and [the OGD] to eat/drink it."
I can't say that I found anything to complain about in her misfortune.  I have never turned down a challenge involving excessive food and drink, and in this case, the fewer the merrier (er, drunker); plus, plans for Saturday night!  Awesome.

I realized it was already 2:30 and hopped on the DART down to Dun Laoghaire (pronouned Dun Leary, silly Irish language) to catch a puppet show I had been reading about at what seems to be the only puppet theatre in the area.  I was pretty excited about it, imagining Bread and Puppet-/In the Heart of the Beast-style antics.  I had read about the founder and lead artist of the Lambert Puppet Theatre and he seemed like an interesting guy.  They had staged puppet adaptations of Oscar Wilde!

The place was flooded with kids.  I was the only one there without a small brood in tow; in fact, I was the only one there solo.  I tried to exude Artist! as an explanation of my presence to the surrounding families, but I think Weirdo! was the more probable read.  When Lambert himself came out and started an Abbott and Costello-style routine with a stuffed dog, I knew I was at the wrong show.  The kid behind me (two, too young) was kicking, and the kid next to me (ditto, ditto) was covering what kid one couldn't hit from the side.  I stuck it out for the Billy Goats Gruff (just ask me to sing the Trip, Trop song!), but skipped out at intermission, missing out on the Three (Tree! - Irish) Little Pigs.  So, I kind of accidentally found myself at a show for preschoolers, but I did pick up a pamphlet on the International Puppet Festival - Ireland 2009.  The brochure looks sweet--acts from Russia, Spain, the Czech Republic, France and Italy--and the festival is much more in line with what I was looking for.  One of them in a Spanish puppet adaptation of The Miser, only "it is no longer money that everyone covets, but water."  The puppets are made out of faucets and stuff!  I'll definitely be there for that one.

Free of the tots, I hopped back on the DART and headed home, then across the courtyard towards the promise of wine and company.  What I got was champagne (fancy), cheese (French), wine (check), dinner (penne bolognese), more wine (check, check), drunk (duh), a TV (more later) and a rousing game of Operation.  Yeah, this one.

Doctors love money!

Predictably and (hopefully) due to my level of inebriation, I completely failed.  The OGD was ridiculously good.  Apparently there's something about being a real doctor (dexterity, nimble fingers, concentration under pressure) that carries over to extracting ice cream cones, pencils and butterflies from a red-nosed, buzzing man.  K also kicked my butt.  I can only presume this is because she owns the game and (therefore) practices constantly.  I got the wrench-- $100, a poor showing.

A second game was vetoed (that final butterfly really took it out of all of us), and we all piled onto the fold-out couch to watch Spinal Tap, which I barely managed to stay awake for.  It was 11pm.  I thought about pulling a similar stunt as earlier in the day and skipping out half-way through, but a combination of pure laziness and pride (bruised by my recent defeat) kept me glued to the couch and my eyes (mostly) open.  Plus I wanted the OGD to carry over the promised extra TV (again, pure laziness), and I thought there would be a higher chance of that happening if I stuck it out.  The movie ended and the OGD's proposal of an outing was mutually shot down by the women; just the same, he did bring over the TV (which is sitting on a chair, untouched and unplugged), for which I was grateful.  

Sunday was a bit quieter (a little more hung-over-er) with the GD arriving home from work in the a.m.  Apparently my drunk dial(s) had not been too disruptive, but I did effectively get the Operation jingle stuck in his head all night (I did not sing it, he just made the association).  At least it was thematically appropriate.

In other news, I continue to be under-worked and under-paid.  I have some rehearsals starting up next week (I'm and extra!), at which point I'll just be regular-worked and under- not paid.  In the meantime,  I'm thinking I should buy Don't Break The Ice, practice at least an hour a day and then invite K and the OGD over for dinner.  Best to have some wine on hand, as well.

*I accidentally deleted the original message; this is a close approximation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So you just stay home and play synthesizers*

Or – When you’re unemployed, there’s no vacation (except when your bf has a week off work).

The Good Doctor stole the internet today (or, you know, he took our little Broadband To Go stick to work), so I am forced to hang out in a café for the free Wifi—not a terrible consequence, as it turns out, and on track with my goal of getting out of the apartment at least three times a day.

Last week was gloriously full of oversleeping and riddled with evidence that the GD and I are both very set in our ways. TP over the front or back of the roll? Lasagna foiled or unfoiled? Front and foiled, obvs, but one must pick one’s battles when one is living with someone with whom one wishes to continue living. I learned this lesson repeatedly by picking as many battles as possible (compulsively and without intent of harm) during the GD’s week off and then feeling like an ass about it immediately after the fact. But, come on, put some foil on the lasagna so it doesn’t dry up. Right? Am I right?

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one making an ass of myself in week one of the Living Together Adventure (LTA), and we’ve come out of it stronger than (and as stubborn as) ever. Don’t worry, we didn’t spend the entire week arguing about who was going to do the dishes (that’s right, we both wanted to do them in our respective ‘right’ ways). We didn’t go far, but we did manage to get out of the city on several occasions last week. We went out to Howth (pronounced like a frat boy chanting "Hoath!") on the train and walked the peninsula to the point where some actual hiking trails started and a downpour forced, er, allowed us to turn back to town for a pint. We took the bus to Sandymount, a lovely little suburb that’s also right on the water and made me happy to be living by the ocean again.


On Saturday, we took a windy and slightly hung-over coach ride out to Glendalough (which is part of Wicklow National Park) and (after an emergency 40-minute sandwich detour), we ‘hiked’ one of the trails through the park. The first part of the ‘nature trail’ sure had a lot of pavement and noisy European teenagers, but one we broke off onto the ‘Ramble,’ things cleared out a bit. That’s right, the trails were ranked Easy, Moderate, Ramble and Hill Walk. How is a Ramble harder than Moderate? (It’s not.) Also, Hill Walk? How much more lamely could you phrase that? Moving Your Feet Forward On A Slight Incline? Anyhow, we totally would have done that one, but it was supposed to take 4+ hours and we didn’t have that kind of time; plus, there was an alarming warming sign by its description on the map depicting a man falling off a cliff, and I found that to be off-putting.

Alas, the weekend ended, the GD went back to work, and I decided to create a less ridiculous sleeping schedule for myself. I have to pretend I have a job by saying things in my head like, “Anne, you are due at the gym by 9:30am. You have a very important meeting with the treadmill,” and, “The servers at Taste of Emilia are waiting for you to order your coffee and write for an hour in their café.” So far, dividing my time between things like this and the general pursuit of domesticity (doing dishes and laundry; elaborate meal-planning and baking projects; finicky tidying and rearranging of furniture) seems to be an effective way of killing a day. I’ve also secured myself a spot as an extra in a Dublin Fringe show from Argentina, and I’m trying to become a volunteer with the Fringe Festival, itself. Pretty productive, right?

The only real tragedy I’ve suffered in the last week is the half-death of my ancient iPod. The thing is still kicking, but the headphone jack has crapped out. I can still listen to it on the GD’s dock in our living room, but alas, no more trips to the grocery store with the world around me completely drowned out by Girltalk. I think the damage may be a result of The Dropsies at one of my important gym meetings, but I drop that thing ATT, and this is the only serious injury it has sustained. I refuse to let it die completely, though, because I cannot afford to replace it with one of those new-fangled ‘color screen’ iPods with a million GB of space that I could never use. MyPod will serve out its final days honorably: as the soundtrack to my confined life of poverty and small domestic tasks§.

*FOTC: Inner City Pressure

†Amazing little Italian place right around the corner. Apparently Emilia is a place in Italy, and most of the food and drink is from that region, including the little sample platters of parmagianno with balsamic they give you when you’re drinking a delicious glass of red wine! Also, bomb cappuccinos. The only place in Dublin they don’t put chocolate on top.

‡Not the correct use of the term ‘half-death.’ I think it has something to do with cells, or maybe that's half-life. I do not claim to know.

§That one guy from The Stepford Wives would like to watch.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Time, time, time and not a thing to do

The past few days have been pretty quiet around here. I'm settling into the apartment, the GD has been working crazy hours this weekend (one week of annual leave starting after his nap today!), and I'm doing my best to get into the habit now of audition-searching and looking for ways to make connections here in Dublin. I have (already) managed to eke out a friend; that is to say, the gf of one of the GD's friends (and former co-worker) is similarly unemployed and bored out of her mind, so we've joined forces. Her situation as an unemployed writer (who came from a good job in Australia) doesn't really bode well for me and my artistic job-seeking plans (having come from a series of short-term, non-commital jobs, myself), but I hope we can find some kinship in the excessive amount of freetime we share. She seems to enjoy drinking, so in that regard she's got my vote, and she and the OGD (Other Good Doctor) live in an apartment directly across the courtyard from ours. Convenient? I think so.

I called my sister last night to ask her what that one website was where you could find tv shows watchable outside the U.S. She pulled through for me and I entertained myself with several hours of 30 Rock hilarity last night while I went into a bit of a cleaning frenzy on the stovetop. Yeah, it's good to have the GD home from work. It will be even better when I have people to call when he's not around. Maybe I'll take out a personal ad:

WF available most afternoons for baking, margaritas, light manual labor. Seeking daytime platonic companion to share in activities, crack jokes, generally be entertaining. Dance background a plus. Or, you know, employment. I'd take employment, too.

Needs a little work. Don't worry, I've got time.