The Moms, The Merrier

I bought my mom a Mother’s Day card yesterday and I cannot share it with you because she reads this blog. (Hi Mom!) However, I did find this other card that I did not purchase, but rather hoped that my future spawn would one day purchase for me. If this card seems like something your mom would like, you can purchase it here.

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And while I cannot tell you what PRESENTS (get excited, Mom!) I have purchased for my  mother, I thought I’d go ahead and compile a list of suggested gift items for the Pop Culture inclined Moms of the world. Each image header is hyperlinked to the item page for your shopping convenience.

Mother’s Day is May 14th. (Look Ma, I shopped early!) So you should have plenty of time to get one of these lovely items shipped to you.

For the Gilmore Mom:il_570xn-1135740263_dckq
Available from kimgilbert3 on Etsy for $40

For the Heathers Mom:
il_570xn-1068432483_5jys
Available from BlueVelvetHeart on Etsy for $22

For the Gamer Mom:
41pymcsuwwl-_sx326_bo1204203200_
Available on Amazon for $17

For the Crafty Mom:
51uypgpyytl-_sx349_bo1204203200_
Available on Amazon for $11

For the Political Mom:

Available on Amazon for $10

For the Jedi Mom:

Available from StitchBoomBang on Etsy for $17

Grab That Dough!

fltsHello hello, Very Special Readers! So much has happened since we last spoke. For example, your internet service provider can now sell your search history without your permission! I’d like to apologize in advance for all of the weird ads you will probably encounter by virtue of having visited this blog. But as far as I’m concerned, the joke’s on them.

Most of my browsing history consists of food related searches. And no, I don’t mean “hot new restaurant for 20-somethings in Greenpoint,” I mean “what is a serving of fiber?” Before you laugh at me, I’d like to point out just how far my cooking skills have come in the past few years. I probably didn’t even know fiber was a word when I wrote this post.

I’m also a hypochondriac (not to be confused with a germophobe. That is something different. Show my irrational fears some respect!) who watches a lot of television from 30 years ago. Ergo, I fully expect internet advertisers to show me Metamucil ads meant for a 79-year old woman with a fungal infection. I’m happy to announce that I meet absolutely none of the aforementioned criteria, so this makes me giggle. I’m giggling only because it’s terrifying and creepy and GEORGE ORWELL WAS RIGHT and I want to throw this computer-monster-machine across the room before it eats me!

But here’s the thing, most of my in-real-life friends don’t really want to discuss very special episodes ad nauseam. And while I can usually get them to follow me down the Baby-Sitters Club rabbit hole, some of them haven’t even seen The Golden Girls. (I know, I know what are my priorities? Why am I even writing this? I need to get busy and become a Golden Girls Evangelist.) So I have to keep the internet connection because how will I update The Very Special Blog if I go off the grid?? I’d have to get a glue stick and mail you all zines like it was really 1990.

Alas, this was originally supposed to be a fun post about how I exercised the great-restraint of a money-conscious person now in my LATE twenties. (It’s okay. I can tell you. The advertisers already know I’m not really 79.) However, the plan for this post took a sharp left turn after I got an alert on my phone and started reading a lot of articles about internet privacy. And what could I do but post on the internet about it???

51xkhswcn9l-_sx312_bo1204203200_Back to The Golden Girls, I did not purchase this really, super awesome book of Mad Libs. I didn’t even open it in the store because I didn’t want to give myself the option of becoming emotionally attached. I couldn’t even buy it for someone else as a gift because the only gift I need to buy right now is a law school graduation gift (ahem, please leave suggestions in the comments.)

(See what I really need is advertisements on good law school graduation gifts, but all I’m going to get is Metamucil or maybe the complete series DVD box set of Kate & Allie).

Anyway, I do have one last essay from my writing class last year to post. (Only, I didn’t actually read this one in class, which means it’s choppy and needs work. And I may or may not devote the time to cleaning it up, which means you may or may not ever see it.) But after that I have a very exciting new series planned! I will give you a hint (aside from the one that is already in the title): “entertainment showcase.” Stay tuned!

This Breakup Is Brought to You by Milli Vanilli

This piece was also from my writing class last year. Other appropriate titles were “This Breakup Is Brought to You by Tonya Harding’s Triple Axels Played on Loop,” “This Breakup Is Brought to You by Annie Lennox’s No More I Love You’s, TLC’s Creep, and Sara Mclachlan’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy with a Heavy Dosage of Milli Vanilli,” and 1st runner up: “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart? Milli Vanilli.” Also, I actually did blog about this at the time it was happening, but I mentioned only the data entry I was doing at work because my deadly sin is pride.  

Listening to music is always hard after a breakup, especially if the foundations of that relationship were largely facilitated by music. There was the classic rock we traded on burned CDs back when computers had disc drives. And the late 90’s pop that provided the soundtrack to our late night drives.

It became clear to me just how far we had fallen since he played Smokey Robinson on vinyl for me in his dorm room when post-breakup I started binge-listening to Milli Vanilli. And if you have ever binge-listened to Milli Vanilli—though I’m fairly confident that I am the first person to complete this task since 1990—you know that this truly consists of listening to the same eight songs on repeat for about a week.

But maybe this was the most appropriate bookend to our relationship for me–a naive young adult who signed up for the deal of a lifetime only to find out that it was all a sham.

Underneath all of the charm and empty promises, he was the guy who went with me to hear my favorite band from high school play in Nashville and knew all the words perfectly. But it wasn’t his music. He had learned it like he had learned me.

I have deleted his number from my phone, given away of the gifts his family gave to me, and thrown out our old pictures. But I will keep Jenny Lewis’s guitar pick. The one he caught at the concert and casually slipped into my coat pocket.

Cupcake Wars: Hanson

535a6c6b2f220790c96812e05ff7d331I know, I know I said I didn’t have time to post. But when you hear that Hanson is scheduling a 25th anniversary tour (coming soon to a city near you!) and you may finally have the opportunity to hear your favorite song of all time played live, you have to RE-PRIORITIZE. Plus, I’ve seen this episode before so it shouldn’t take long. Back in 2013, Hanson stopped by Cupcake Wars to promote their album “Anthem.”

Round 1:
The Challenge – Oklahoma (BBQ Pork, Fried Squash, Sausage Gravy, etc. The teams have to use three ingredients to make a cupcake reminiscent of Hanson’s home state. It sounds pretty disgusting).
Cupcake 1 – Brown Sugar Corn Cake, Graham Cracker Crust Strawberry Filled, Black-Eyed Pea Cream Cheese Icing, and Fresh Strawberry Garnish.
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Taylor said, “I think you took the challenge and actually wove it into a whole flavorful cupcake that I would actually want to serve to someone. I can see this at the after party to launch the tour.”
Cupcake 2 – Sweet Corn and BBQ Pulled Pork Cupcake, With Brown Butter Strawberry Cooley, honey butter cream, and fondant corn on the cob.
Isaac said “the flavors were impressive and the frosting was really good.”
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Cupcake 3 – Sweet Corn Cupcake filled with Strawberry Braised BBQ Pulled Pork, topped with Strawberry Italian Butter Cream, and garnished with fresh strawberries.
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Zac said, “This cornbread felt like an Oklahoma meal to me. Oklahoma’s kind of Southern food, barbecue, cornbread, and so the butter cream to me tasted like the way people put butter on their cornbread.
Cupcake 4 – Cornmeal & Grit Cupcake, Filled with Strawberry Glazed BBQ Pork, Strawberry Frosting, and Garnished with Strawberry on top.
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Taylor said, “It was great to have the barbecue in there. I thought that was really creative.”
(Sadly, this was the losing cupcake. Sorry, cupcake.)

Just in case any of this sounded at all appetizing to you, here are some recipes from the episode!

Round 2:
The Challenge – Make 3 cupcakes of your own choosing and make them look pretty (50% taste, 50% presentation).
Cupcake Set 1 – Boston Cream Pie, Apple Pie Cheesecake, Citrus Beer
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Taylor said, “I think there’s a lot of creativity, but it doesn’t particularly represent this album. It looks a little bit more like a country band. I’m not sure you nailed it.”
Cupcake Set 2 
PB&J, Coffee Liquor and White Chocolate Ganache, Chocolate Stout Beer
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Isaac said, “I didn’t love them.” (Spoiler alert, this team lost.)
Cupcake Set 3 
Sweet Potato Pie with Blueberry filling, Raspberry Cake, Creme Brulee
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Zac said, “This is like the worldwide smash hit. The flavors are great. And I think you did a great job.”

Round 3:
The Challenge – The 1000 Cupcake Display!
Display 1 – A guitar on a stand with a spinning record that shows the name of their record in lights.
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Display 2 – A Hanson stage with a drum kit, piano, and electric guitar sitting on the stage. The name of the album will be above the stage, big, and in red. (THIS ONE WON!)

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Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Me & Billy Dee

“He was in Lady Sings the Blues.”

“What’s that?” I said as my mother listed yet another piece of television or film that I had never heard of.

“He did a lot of commercials…but I guess you wouldn’t have seen those either,” she said.

It was an unusually cold February day in Florida, and I was glad that I had worn my purple corduroy jacket as my mom and I waited in line at Disney World. But this line was not for something cool like a Princess meet-and-greet or a chance to ride the teacups. This was one of the longest lines I had ever been in and it was all for a signed photograph of Billy Dee Williams—a name that meant absolutely nothing to me.

Like most things Disney, the process was incredibly efficient. Billy Dee Williams would sign a photo of himself, smile for a picture with his fans, and then a handler would politely and firmly tell everyone to move along. At seven years old, I was too short to see past the people ahead of me in line, so without recognizing his name or any of his movies, I was totally and completely bored.

Finally, we were the penultimate pair in line:

“He was in Star Wars,” she said.

“Oh. Who was he in Star Wars?”

“Lando Calrissian.”

“Who’s that?”

“Han Solo’s friend.”

“Luke Skywalker is Han Solo’s friend,” I said, trying to think of any other possible friends. This wasn’t the guy who wore the Wookie suit, was it?

“Lando Calrissian is Han’s friend from Cloud City.”

“I remember Cloud City but I don’t remember Lando,” I said. Who the heck was this guy? I’d seen all of the Star Wars movies but I could not remember “Lando” at all.

“He’s the one who had Han frozen in carbonite.”

Much like Han Solo, I was suddenly suspended in motion. Any ounce of boredom suddenly drained from my body and I was left with only one feeling: self-righteous indignation. As I realized that we were in line to see the Star Wars equivalent of Benedict Arnold, the handler swiftly whisked away the couple in front of us.

Wearing a grey sports coat with a brown striped scarf and round, wire-rimmed glasses, Billy Dee Williams smiled down at me, looking like a nice man who might work at the library. If I had not known who he was, I might have quite enjoyed chatting with him. But I knew his backstory and I was suspicious.

Halfway through the second-grade, I was no dummy. I knew intellectually that actors played characters and that they were not actually those people in real life. But how could anyone possibly play such a horrible role and not share at least some of the characteristics as the fictional person he played?

Had seven year old me been offered the part, I may have said something along the lines of, “Listen, Mr. Lucas, it is an honor to be considered for this role, but I could NEVER do that to Han Solo.” Billy Dee Williams, on the other hand, had no problem portraying an intergalactic swindler. No, I thought, it is definitely not safe to trust this guy. And I was not going to be nice to him.

He tried to strike up a conversation with me. I responded with an icy stare. Mortified, my mother admitted that I had not know who he was until she reminded me that he had frozen Han Solo—a revelation that she was beginning to feel may have been a mistake.

In what seemed like an act of genuine kindness, he laughed lightly and tried once again to talk with me. He told me that it was okay that I did not like him because that meant he had done a good job in the movie. I refused to speak to him, choosing instead to respond with a skeptical look.

Incidentally, my little rebellion had begun to put the efficiency of the meet-and-greet line into jeopardy. We had spent several seconds with Billy Dee while his Disney-issued Sharpie languished on the podium. As it turns out, I was also making it very awkward for my mother to ask him for a favor.

The rules of the Disney line were very strict. Billy Dee Williams was supposed to give out one-signed photograph per visiting group. But our dear friend Eloise was a life-long fan of his and was at home recovering from Hepatitis B, which she had contracted during a blood transfusion for an enzyme deficiency. According to his handler, Billy Dee most certainly did not have any time for an additional autograph. I offered to give Eloise mine (which was not personalized and which I clearly did not want). But he insisted on signing an autograph for Eloise.

Actually, Billy Dee didn’t want to just give her an autograph; he wanted to know how she was doing. He recognized her enzyme deficiency, which is more prevalent in the Black community and with which he was more familiar with than my mother and I. Then, in another clear violation of Disney rules, we took a photo of the two of us for Eloise. This was purely a labor of love on my part, as I would never deny Eloise something that was clearly, and so unfathomably important to her.

But you can tell I would rather be anywhere else than in that picture. I am very purposefully not smiling, but the corners of my mouth are slightly upturned in a smirk as my eyes pierce the camera’s lens—a historical documentation that I did this under protest. Billy Dee Williams is smiling, but it is not the charming smile that made him famous. It’s an “I know this kid hates me, but I think this might be funny one day” kind of smile.

I remember skipping away from the tent that day claiming a small victory for myself. I was just a kid and I had taken a stand against that guy from Star Wars!

I also remember Eloise keeping a framed copy of that autographed photo in her home until she passed away a couple of years later.

I’m not much on celebrity autographs and though I’ve gotten and lost a few over the years, I still have the one I got from Billy Dee Williams.

As I’ve gotten older, Lando Calrissian has become one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars franchise. But that is not why I kept the autograph. I keep it as a memory of someone who took extra time to send love and kindness to a stranger. I keep it as a reminder of someone who so gracefully and genuinely understood exactly where my seven year-old brain was coming from and who probably, hopefully, did not think I was a total jerk.

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All I Wanna Do is Chat Pop Culture with You!

Listen team, I’m going to put something out there and ask you all to hold me accountable. I have a tendency to decide to make MAJOR life decisions right around the New Year. So come December when I get the urge to shake up my life again, I’m going to write a blog post and you’re going to tell me to cool my jets. I’ll explain more later, but basically I’m not free on Saturdays right now. 

Saturdays are frequently when I queue up my posts. (So you know all of those times where I say “Today, I decided to…” well that “today” was usually like a Saturday or basically any other time than when I actually scheduled the post. Yes, sorry, I have been LYING to you about time for years. But time is a flat circle anyway, right?

I promise more very special episodes are on the horizon, but for now I thought I’d offer you a few more options from deep within the files of my laptop. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not talking about a slideshow depicting the history of Joey Lawrence’s hair. Let me explain. 

A year ago, I took a writing class from the lovely Lisa Jakub. It was a memoir writing class, and I somehow decided that taking the class would inspire me to write a memoir. (This was an incorrect assumption.)

Instead, I  learned a very expensive lesson and discovered once and for all that nothing makes my heart flutter like writing about Pop Culture. Suffice it to say that this does NOT create an adequate through-line for a book. As it turns out, the many incarnations of Prince’s public persona is not what one might refer to as an “organizing principle.” 

While Lisa was a lovely and encouraging coach, I would not recommend taking a memoir writing class unless you have already figured out some kind of legitimate idea for a memoir. But that brings me back to my current point. I’ve written a lot of personal essays about life and Pop Culture. SO if you’re pumped to hear about the time I snubbed Billy Dee Williams, a poignant recollection on nostalgia through the lens of Andy Gibb’s hair, and my breakup mixtape then stay tuned!

If you’re bummed that you will have to wait several weeks to get additional pro-tips on how to avoid drug dealers who look like backup singers for The Jacksons*, then here is a handy list of some of my favorites to tide you over until I can binge watch television again:

 

*this guy.

 

Arthur: To Eat or Not to Eat

p184303_b_v8_adTIL Arthur is still on television. And you know what? That’s just great! Being a kid in the 90’s was pretty freaking amazing. I feel like being a kid now would be less amazing. I mean Sesame Street isn’t even on public television anymore. We now live in a time where your parents have to be rich enough to have HBO for you to watch Big Bird. And that’s just wrong man, that’s just wrong. So yes, it cheers my heart to know the youth of America still get to see Arthur (the aardvark? Was he an aardvark? Woah, I just looked up what an aardvark actually looks like. Crazy.)

Alas, I missed this episode because it aired like fifteen years after I stopped watching Arthur. But I’m excited to revisit the series.

In this episode, there’s a candy bar called “Rabid Dog.” The commercial makes it look like speed for children. It also makes sparkles come out of your mouth. You know what, I was a cautious child. I don’t think I would have wanted any part of this. But Buster, Arthur’s very best friend, is into it.

He sees the commercial on television and runs to the candy store. Arthur calls after him, “Don’t you want to watch the rest of the cartoon.” SCARIEST SENTENCE EVER UTTERED ON TELEVISION. You’re a cartoon Arthur. The cartoons you’re watching, look exactly like you. Do you know you’re a cartoon??? WHAT IS YOUR REALITY??

mv5bmtq3odiyndkwnl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmta4njm0mje-_v1_uy268_cr870182268_al_When the lunch lady cannot read most of the ingredients on the label, she insists that Buster eat an apple instead. (I don’t know why he like asked the lunch lady to read his candy bar wrapper, but whatever.)

Binky (the resident jackass on this show) buys all of the candy bars at the store and resells them on the playground. I mean seriously, this dude is a criminal at like age eight. Someone needs to reign him in.

Meanwhile, a student, who seems to have a college level education in chemistry yet manages to somehow be a second grade student in public school, reads the back of the candy bar and identifies some of the ingredients as radioactive and others as being made of bugs. (Buster is most upset about the bugs, which is weird I think for a bunny.)1280x720-plw

Soon the students start to feel “hot and dizzy,” which seems pretty mild to me for having pounded a candy bar full of what I assume is the equivalent of pop rocks and coke.

hqdefaultBuster and his mom head down to the corporate headquarters of the candy bar company to find out what some of the agreements are. The “Supreme Dog,” as it were, tells them that it’s a trade secret. But he does explain what happens to your brain when you eat a Rabid Dog candy bar. And it’s meth. It’s literally meth.

Buster asks the Supreme Dog to eat one of the candy bars, but he refuses to get high on his own supply. I would say this episode is far-fetched even for a very special episode, but we’re living in Trump’s America…soooooo…

We see a newspaper article that informs us that the Supreme Dog has been arrested. This makes everyone quit the candy bars cold turkey. Ah, if only.

Speaking of cold turkey, has anyone ever seen the movie Cold Turkey? Yeah. It’s pretty weird.

That little girl wiping tears from behind her glasses is BREAKING MY HEART.

But like, back to Buster real quick. A bunny in the second grade managed to destroy an evil corporation and this happens OFF SCREEN?? That’s the show I want to see!

Very Special Lesson: I mean apparently, asking a few questions of an executive can expose an illegal drug trade, but I’m not sure because the writers of Arthur didn’t let me see that part. So all I can reasonably tell you is not to eat things that make sparks fly from your mouth. Yet somehow, I feel like that goes without saying.