8 years ago my sister suggested I find a way to publish the amusing emails I sent her about our dog Zoe. Now there is blogging! Zoe tales are about Zoe (3 1/2 lb Chihuahua), Gracie (bigger and the world's friendliest Chihuahua) and other stuff I am thinking about. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

And Then There Is This...

I start getting all warm and fuzzy and thinking maybe we all can just get along and that children are the future and they'll lead the way. Then I read this - Oprah - let that sink in - Oprah Winfrey who is, according to Forbes magazine, a billionaire and the most powerful celebrity in the world, wasn't allowed to come in and shop in an Hermes store in Paris last week. Last week! Perhaps on a remote island with no televisions could you argue that Oprah would not be recognized but Paris and in a shop for a company that aggressively courts celebrity wearings of its product?!?

I just this morning wrote to a couple of folks that Oprah experienced this back when she was a mere millionaire and that race trumps class in America in ways that aren't always the case in other countries. But if Oprah Winfrey can get shut out of a shop in 2005 in France - what hope is there for ordinary non-famous, non-billionaire black folks in America?

Oprah will discuss what she calls her "Crash" moment (after the movie) on her show when it resumes in September.


Ordinary Good

It doesn't always suck. Despite my spate of pessimistic posts on the state of race, I am reminded that the hope can be greater than the despair.

I am grateful because...

Last night I was invited to join a book club and met a great group of mostly white folks who welcomed me.

I met a white woman there who is raising a biracial son and who is not blind to the fact that there are some difficulties ahead and is doing her best to be aware and to guide her child.

I've made new friends that are kind, supportive, curious and questioning even when I rant and ramble on.

I had lunch today with a white woman whom I met at the dinner after the talk about my ancestors and she was generous and supportive with her time and advice.

Another neighbor - also an older white man - noting that my house had been sold, first expressed his disappointment that he wouldn't get to pet my dogs anymore (complimenting the pets - always a good choice) and second asked me if I would be moving to Oakland. No shock and awe - just kind support and understanding. I'll miss my neighbors.


Happy Birthday to Gracie

Yes - today is the 10th anniversary of the birth of the Chihuahua formerly known as "Buzzy." Zoe may get top billing here but Gracie is no less special to me. She's been with me from the tender age of 5 weeks, and despite her habit of turning into Devil Dog when it's time for routine maintenance (e.g., nail clipping), she's my sweet, goofy, super friendly, lick you from head to toe if you'll let her, sweet girl.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005


blackfeminism.org has a post about an article in the Boston Globe that illustrates the difficult choice some black folks face - do you live where your people are, which often means your access to services can be limited, but you don't have to struggle with racial identity issues or do you move to the better serviced white suburbs where you're subject to being treated like an alien invader?

Two points from the article jumped out at me - one about being warned about not choosing to live in "unsafe" (black) neighborhoods and another about housing prices creating an invisible racial barrier. The first has happened to me so many times I've lost count. The second is something I see even in very diverse areas like here in the SF Bay Area. Oakland vs. Piedmont being a perfect example.

Both the original article and the post with thoughtful commentary are worth a read.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Ordinary Racism

I had another close encounter of the racist kind today. I've had a lifetime of them and I'm just so tired of them.

I was talking to a neighbor this afternoon while our dogs started the process of saying their goodbyes. This neighbor is an older gentleman and loves to tell stories and reminisce. He told me a story about growing up in San Francisco and about how great the high school he went to was. He mentioned that when he was a student there in the 50's it was a great, fabulous top school. And, then, when laws changed that opened up schools to students from all neighborhoods things went downhill (in his mind.) He illustrated his lament of the educational changes wrought by not restricting kids to only the schools in their segregated neighborhoods by telling me that when he was a student there were only 2 black students and when he went by the school more recently, there were perhaps 2 white students.

Why do people say shit like this to me and assume I agree with their fucked up world view? Because I look white. Even though I am a card carrying Negro (it says so on my birth certificate), I am paler than many white folks I know. Therefore I get to hear what white people really think and would never dare say in front of black folks.

When I tell my white neighbors that I plan to move (home) to Oakland I get consistently shocked reactions. "Oakland... Oakland, CA (shudder) why?" they ask? Unspoken subtext: why would a nice, sweet little white girl like you want to move to that city full of black people?

I could blog for months and just tell you stories like this. And what can I do? Wear a t-shirt everyday proclaiming my blackness? Tell every jerk who shares their racist self with me to sod off? I don't because it wouldn't make much difference. I live my life as a black woman and eventually people figure it out or there's an appropriate opening in the conversation and I let them know. If I can, I let them know that I don't appreciate or share their point of view. But, calling people on their racist bullshit doesn't open their eyes - in fact it is quite the opposite - they close off and get defensive - "I'm not racist - I've got really good, justified, logical, fact based reasons for my bias."

I think people are really conscious of their bias - they've just learned for the most part to justify it to themselves and are smart enough to not share it with the people who are the objects of their bias. What most white people are, I believe, is unconscious to their power and how that power and the structures and systems built into every aspect of our culture and society enable their bias.

I'm sick of fighting and deeply sad that apparently I'm never going to stop hearing how much people would hate me if they really knew who I am.


Be Careful What You Wish For

Or even just blog about. So I admired the easy renting made possible by the Craigslist housing postings/Google Maps mash up here. And I lusted after Michelle Kaufmann's architecture porn and put it out in the universe that someday I wished to live in a Breezehouse. So now my house is sold and I'm hitting the mashup daily. Sigh.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Hit Me Baby One More Time: Week 3

My prediction: Everybody will Wang Chung tonight.

Wang Chung - Everybody Wang Chung Tonight

This version sounded exactly like the original. That's a good thing in this competition. I saw several of the bands from the cavalcade of stars that is Hit Me Baby... back in their heyday. I remember being really impressed with Wang Chung as a live band, which can be tough when you've got a lot of electronica going on. But the thing with Wang Chung is that they've also got yer traditional rock instruments at the heart of their music. The not-so-spontaneous ad lib (something along the lines of "we love you LA") showed that the vocals were indeed live and I was still impressed with the quality 20 years later.

Sophie B. Hawkins - Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover

Time has not been as kind to Sophie's voice. Her performance was that of a writhing, barefoot, hippie, drummer, shaman woman. She did not put a spell on me and damn, I'm glad she's not my lover.

Cameo - Word Up

Man, these guys were the epitome of bad 80's fashion. Remember the bright red codpiece over the skin tight tights? Well, in case you forgot, Larry Blackmon was here to remind you of the fashion mess he was when he went away. Although they dressed like the wanted to be Funkadelic's younger brothers, no matter how catchy and enjoyable Word Up was, Cameo's brand of perfectly good funk just cant touch the insane genius that oozes from George Clinton's maggot brain.

Howard Jones - No One Is To Blame

Well, props for showing the receding bit of hair he has left after his gravity defying finger-in-a-socket 80's look (unlike the cowardly dude from Flock of Seagulls who hid under a baseball cap and over compensating pony tail.) This song is pretty and melodic but boring as hell. Was then, is now.

Irene Cara - What a Feeling

Let me straighten your memories out for you. This is the big hit from the movie Flashdance which starred Jennifer Beals. Irene Cara was in the movie Fame. That's why your memories are all mixed up - light skinned sistahs in movies that involved dancing and singing.

OK - now that we've got that straightened out... my guess is that this was the biggest, most mainstream hit of the night, thus the audience was most into it. Plus, Ms. Cara busted a few moves and gave some good diva vibrato at the end. Therefore, I put her in the lead at halftime.

Today's Hits (standard disclaimer - "today" = recorded sometime after the 1980's)

Wang Chung - Hot in Herre (Nelly)

Honey, would I lie to you? You read that right. But, dude, seriously, from note one, OMG they pulled it off. Who woulda thunk that a couple of middle aged Londoner family men could rock this joint. But, Cornelius, watch out because rock it they did and it was damn entertaining even without any human ATMs.

Sophie B. Hawkins - 100 Years (Five For Fighting)

Oh happy, happy, joy, joy - a ravaged vocals singer doing a crap song. Well, at least gave us a 180 degree head to ankle costume change with an updo and slinky black gown. The best part was the preceding "where are they now?" segment that showed her playing the piano in her Venice, CA bungalow with a parrot on her shoulder. Aye matey.

Cameo - 1985 (Bowling For Soup)

There was no way this song would work because there was, in my estimation, no workable irony combination that could be made. Wang Chung's cover worked, for example, because it was played straight, no chaser - not making it their own, dawg - genius! The one thing I noticed from this performance is that with "unique" performances like these, clearly the audience goes nuts whenever they even remotely recognize a chorus or a line from one of "today's hits." Possibly the worst performance of the show.

Howard Jones - White Flag (Dido)

This is a straightforward ballad (not the one that Eminem used for Stan) so, sung in Howard Jones voice, it sounded like a Howard Jones tune. That tells me that this is essentially a pretty, but uninteresting ballad that was only remotely radio worthy because Dido has got some interesting texture to her voice.

Irene Cara - I'm Outta Love (Anastacia)

Irene Cara gets the Vanilla Ice shameless self promotion award of the evening as she uses this obscure track (outside of clubs, Anastacia is best known in this country, sadly, for getting breast cancer at a fairly young age) to debut her new group Hot "Cara"mel - get it, huh, huh? A sorta En Vogue lite girl group, the song they covered was so obscure that it may have well been a Hot Caramel original. I felt they lost all their momentum from earlier and my guess is that Wang Chung will take the prize.

But, hold on, nope - the audience is still feeling Irene Cara and her $20,000 prize goes to Women in the Arts, Inc.

Contest - anyone who can correctly identify the 5 songs I dropped lyrical hints to in this review. (Tie breaker will be identifying the 6th non-lyrical hint.) Bonus points for identifying other pop culture references. Winner gets a pop cultural-o-licious prize. Leave your guesses in the comments or email me at zoetales at gmail dot com.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Hit Me Baby One More Time: Week 2

Let me begin with a plug for Dancing With The Stars which is turning out to be a nice bit of summer fluff. I point you, as always, to TVgasm for an excellent recap, but encourage you to watch for yourself - watching more TV is good!

Now onto the recap at hand...

The show kicks off with

The Knack - My Sharona

The band wore very appropriate black suits with skinny ties, simultaneously giving nods to the 80's new wave skinny tie look and the Beatles (winking at being proclaimed the new fab 4 as we were reminded in their intro.) They really performed the song and were selling it. The audience was way into it, singing and bopping along.

Haddaway - What is Love?

You know this song as the soundtrack to the SNL Roxbury skit with Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell as clueless clubbers. Regarding Haddaway's performance - all I can say is, wow NBC is good with finding the absolutely campy-ist backup dancers to embellish the dance hits! Haddaway got 5 in tube dresses that barely covered them. The audience members bobbed their heads ala SNL but were more interested in what those dresses would reveal as they rode up with every gyration than in the song. Host Vernon Kay called the performance cheeky. Touche.

Tommy Tutone - 867-5309 (Jenny)

I give this band props for having fun with it and not acting above the show. It was a perfectly fine performance. Nothing snarky to say about it.

The Motels - Only The Lonely

The audience was subdued in its swaying, but there was polite recognition and cheering. Everyone knows this song but nobody loves it, I think. Also, it was a bit of a downer after 3 upbeat pop tunes. I never really dug Martha Davis (or the Waitresses.) Of the raven-haired new wave gals, I preferred Deborah Iyall of Romeo Void for her walking-the-edge-of-a-razor-could-snap-at-any-moment edginess.

Vanilla Ice - Ice, Ice Baby

So this was the big moment of the night - would he do Ice Classic? Nope, we got New Ice. But not so far removed from the original that the audience couldn't sing along with Rob's rap/metal version. And the audience ate up what Vanilla was serving.

Round Two - Songs from Today's Charts (and by that, they mean anything recorded after the last millennium when these bands had their hits.)

The Knack - Are You Gonna Be My Girl? (Jet)

Fine choice even though it was a bit out of Doug Fieger's range. The Knack managed to lend an appropriate nervous energy and again sold it with facial expressions, gestures and hip swiveling.

Haddaway - Toxic (Britney Spears)

We learned that Haddaway now plays golf. The backup dancers were back with truly frightening outfits featuring fishnet thigh-high stockings sticking up from under black boots and below denim minis and shiny bustiers. They managed to out trailer trash Britney. And, despite panning across a funny Kevin James look-alike in the audience lustily singing along, the performance failed to live up to its camp promise.

Tommy Tutone - All the Small Things (Blink 182)

Awww, poor Tommy has to work as a software developer to pay the bills - kind of sad. But Tommy did a nice job with this song, giving it a nervous, edgy punk pop sound that was pure Tutone. Nice, but the crowd didn't seem to dig it - they couldn't get into it without the exact copy and didn't react except at the chorus where they could sing along and bop as instructed.

The Motels - Don't Know Why (Norah Jones)

Well, they get the "you made it your own, Dawg" award of the evening for their sped-up version. Apparently they got the memo backstage that songs needed to be upbeat. I didn't like it and the crowd didn't know what to make of it and they just clapped along distractedly to the drumbeat since they couldn't sing along.

Vanilla Ice - Survivor (Destiny's Child)

Wow - when VI said he was going to do this as his cover choice, I thought "hmmm, interesting- girl power." But then the little promo before the song indicated that this was a selection from his new record. And sure enough this was not a cover, but a completely new rap with just a hint of the melody and the refrain "I'm a survivor." Poor VI - it is amazing how you managed to find the strength to make it through the fire that is selling 7 million records. Share your pain. But, props for being clever enough to figure out how to pimp your new record - nobody else did. The audience dug it and loved the choreography. So, damn - I think he's gonna win this thing. Will the money go to the Van Winkle foundation?

All around, a good time from performers who were, for the most part, spirited and game and even Vanilla Ice wasn't too bent on being a sad sack like he often is.

So ... the winner is: Vanilla Ice with his twenty grand going to Make A Wish (who I give props to for ending their practice of granting dying children their last wish to go hunting although apparently they didn't do it because they recognized the hideous irony.)


Hot or Not?

Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise?


Monday, June 06, 2005

Summer Reality

I committed to blogging Hit Me Baby One More Time, but I wish I had waited to actually see the new batch of reality shows. Surprisingly, Dancing With The Stars is more fun. I had to tune in after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that noted that the head of programming at ABC (a Stanford MBA) resisted pitches for this British remake (yes, British producers are the rulers of goofy reality TV shows) until she gave in and was hooked after 10 minutes. Since I'm obsessed with boy bands it's no surprise that my favorite from week one was Joey McIntyre of NKOTB (also he was the most reminiscent of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.) But the popular favorite seems to be boxer Evander Holyfield. He was great fun to watch. The worst was Kelly Monaco who came across as incapable of more than one facial expression and one emotion as she is on General Hospital. She was savaged by the judges and will probably get booted this week. And may I just say, Trista Sutter of Bachelorette fame (but she's hoping this show will cause people to think of her as a dancer rather than as just the Bachelorette - hmmm, going on a reality show to make people forget that you starred in 2 reality series and one ridiculous, over-the-top, very pink, multi-million dollar televised wedding) did an amazing job of maintaining her permagrin at all times.

Buzz on the Ashston Kucher's Beauty and the Geek and Hell's Kitchen is good. I'm checking out The Scholar tonight.* But the best news for the summer is that realistic non-reality show Six Feet Under is back tonight. My friend Gary Calamar does the music. But I'd love it anyway.

*Caught The Scholar - kind of strange. Brought to you by Bunim-Murray, the Real World folks. When they are competing it's a bit annoying because they're in high school but they're smarter than you. It's no fun if you can't make fun of them. Then when they're not competing and studying in the dorm - well, they're in high school. And they act like it. The Real World cast with HS students would be of interest perhaps only to other HS kids, and even then, maybe not because these are the 4.6 GPA havin' nerds - not likely the super cool popular kids - and we all remember just how desperately important all that was in HS. There were flashes when I really dug it - as a super nerd myself I could appreciate some of the neuroses. We'll see - it's certainly not feel good on the level of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition but I might warm up to it a bit.


Misc Roundup

Stalking can pay off ;-) Zoe Tales made it's first blog roll. Thanks to Elisa for the link love - we are humbled!

Speaking of Elisa (yes, more shameless stalking) - check out her fun, snark-filled review of the Tony Awards - from a straight woman, no less. I've got two words for you - "crapping taffeta." Enjoy.

Finally, just discovered our Technorati ranking - we're #695,411 - not bad out of 10 million, eh?


Friday, June 03, 2005

OK - comments figured out and a note on permalinks

So, with Elisa's help, I've figured out the comment thing. There are two avenues for commenting - one that comes with Blogger and a separate one that installed when I installed trackbacks with Haloscan. I mentioned in my comment on the post below that I'd try to turn off the Haloscan but I think I'll leave it on. The Blogger system (I think - non Blogger users can you confirm?) asks you for a Blogger ID or leaves you anonymous. Haloscan lets you put in your email and/or URL if you want and name yourself as you will. So - until I post a post that generates alot of comments and the conversation gets disrupted by people using both systems, I'll leave both enabled so you, the reader, can decide which you prefer.

And, just so you know (because it took me a minute to figure this one out) if you want a permalink (a link just to the post instead of the whole blog) click on the time stamp at the end of the post.


Comment Woes

Blogger is supposed to notify me when a comment is left here. The notices go to my gmail account for this blog. Blogger and gmail are owned and operated by Google. So you'd think these two would play nicely. But no.

If notice of the comment is sent to me, apparently the entire comment is eaten by my email and it doesn't appear on my blog. If I'm not notified of the comment then it shows up here. Thus you have a situation like today when Elisa left a comment on my Buffy Boyfriend post that arrived in my gmail box but didn't appear on the blog. So I look like a crazy person because the lone comment on that post is my response to her comment and it makes no sense!

To clarify, Elisa wrote "Oh yeah...would have pegged you for Spike all the way!! :)" , which is what I was responding to when I said yeah because of the punk rock vibe.

So, for now, advanced apologies if you leave a comment and it doesn't show. At least I'll get it (I think) and I greatly appreciate them. Same goes if you leave a comment crying out for a response (Anglea - it was Grandma Elsie) and I don't respond right away. I check the blog regularly and am therefore the single largest source of traffic and readership of my blog - traffic spikes from big-name bloggers who get coverage in Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal notwithstanding ;-)


Couldn't resist

According to ReplayTV, tonight's Dateline covers...

The new face of terrorism; singer Kelly Clarkson.


Hit Me Baby One More Time: Week 1

Our cast of has-beens for this week consist of:

  • Loverboy
  • Cece Peniston
  • A Flock of Seagulls
  • Arrested Development
  • Tiffany
As the opening credits roll, we are treated to "fans" screaming out the name of their favorite act. The guy with the headband and the girl with the iron-on "lover" t-shirt looked authentically cheesy enough. But the two O.C. extra rejects weren't terribly convincing as Arrested Development superfans.

We are introduced to our host, Vernon Kay, who enters with arms outstreched in a messianic pose, inviting worship from his adoring fans. I simply shrug and ask, "Vernon Who?"

Vernon shares with us the promise that "great music never dies." And when I think of the greats, my mind instantly turns to the one-hit-wonders of the 80's. Then Vernon slaps us senseless with the news that, not only will our greats share their greatness with us - they're gonna "put their spin on one of today's hottest songs!"

Now the rules: the studio audience (who weren't, I'm sure, made up of clueless tourists who wander around Hollywood Blvd. thinking that they are actually going to see some movie stars [tip folks: go to the Beverly Center and you'll almost certainly see at least one C-lister] and then are surprised when they only see prostitutes and sailors on leave hanging out at the USO, and surplus folks from the Tonight Show line who couldn't get tickets for Leno) will choose a winning performer and then the Ameriquest Mortgage Company donates $20,000 to the charity of the winner's choice. (I'll give you a separate post on the oddity that is Ameriquest sponsorship.)

On to the performances:

Loverboy - Working for the Weekend
From the montage to the performance, we witness the transformation of Mike Reno from skinny rocker in skintight red leather jeans to helium-filled stay puft marshmallow man with the thin and gritty voice to match. Highlight of the performance was the guitarist lip-synching into the mike when there were no vocals other than the lead.

Cece Peniston - Finally
Since lip-synching solo to dance music is boring, Cece was provided with two male back-up dancers randomly twirling and plie-ing to complete the bathhouse anthem vibe. The diva's voice is intact, though and, as Randy would say, she can still blow.

Flock of Seagulls - I Ran
I saw this band in their heyday and they sucked then. Mike Score managed to out-puffy Mike Reno and out-working class him in attire, too (Reno proclaimed WFTW to be intended as a "working class anthem.") My guess is that lead singer and synth player Score is the only original member, especially since the guitarist was running around playing something resembling a flying V and channeling Eddie Van Halen.

Arrested Development - Tennessee
I know they didn't have Dionne Farris with them but they did have the wise elder old guy - cool. AD had the crowd genuinely moving and cheering. And may I just note - Speech is tiny! I mean seriously, he didn't even reach Vernon's shoulder. But speech on, Speech, your words are powerful.

Tiffany - I Think We're Alone Now
Tiffany (who won the UK version) doesn't play an instrument and gay nightclub back up dancers wouldn't really be appropriate for a teen mall rat anthem, so Tiffany was given three unnecessary back up singers who distractedly swayed in unison and shifted their weight from leg to leg. I swear one of them was popping her gum. The audience shook their ample, non-gravity defying clevage in unison and in support.

Act 2 - Today's Hits (and I use that term loosely)

Flock of Seagulls - Hero (Enrique Iglesias)
The producers decided that obscuring Mike Reno's girth in fog would be a good idea. As for the song - Loverboy's version was no crappier than Enrique's.

Cece Peniston - There You'll Be (Faith Hill)
Again - Cece's got the vocal chops but it would have been nice to see her apply them to something that showcased them other than this dull, cloying sap. Plus, the distracted house backup singers didn't help.

Flock of Seagulls - On The Way Down (Ryan Cabrera)
So - FoS put their spin on the pop, boy and his guitar, guilty pleasure tune. It was a synth rock totally craptastic version. It was so tuneless and horrible (Mike Score couldn't even pretend that he was into putting any effort into it) that it shows you how much a cute boy who can either sing or at least have the benefit of pitch correction can "sell" a really weak song. (On the other hand, covers of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" by alt bands like Fountains of Wayne and Travis showed it to be a great pop song.)

Arrested Development - Heaven (Los Lonely Boys)
Again, in the words of one mister Randy Jackson, they took this song and made it their own, dawg. This version bore little resemblance to the original, mainly because AD inserted two original raps into it and that made it so much better, I thought. The crowd loved it too and once again they were on their feet cheering and grooving.

Tiffany - Breakaway (Kelly Clarkson)
One word woman, "spandex!" Seriously, I know you were in Playboy and all, and it's great that you're a mom, but if you really want to try to re-live your faded teen pop glory, it doesn't mean you should let it all hang out when you're clothed. (NBC managed to post the one screen shot that doesn't do justice to the sight of a middle-aged mom in a low-rise mini skirt and deep v halter.) The song you ask? Proof that Kelly Clarkson can sing.

And the winner is... no surprise, Arrested Development. They were the real deal and were the only act to have you really miss them. And, extra coolness, their donation went to UNICEF to support their efforts to respond to the crisis in Darfur in Sudan.

Edited to add link to TVgasm Recap - I'm glad to see the comments generally jibe with my take.


My Buffy Boyfriend

Elisa found this groovy little quiz and she knew I'd want to take it. So, drumroll please ...

Oooo, hot.
Your boyfriend is Xander.

Who is your Buffy boyfriend?
brought to you by Quizilla

Pretty much on target, I'd say ;-) Though, as I commented on Elisa's blog, I'd pretty much take any of 'em except for Riley who was boring and felt too threatened by the fact that Buffy was stronger than him.