Monday, November 23, 2009

Mitchel Musso Gets My Vote for Teenage Celebrity of the Week

Okay, so far as I know, there's no such award (and I'm certainly not instituting one). And I don't really give all that much thought to teenage celebrities, and I have to admit that I didn't really see the draw when my daughter and her friends kept babbling about how "hot" Mitchel Musso was. I was thinking something more along the lines of "he seems like a nice kid". But I do believe in giving credit where it's due, and I think Mitchel Musso deserves some credit--especially in contrast to Ashley Greene, who we encountered earlier the same evening.

Yesterday, I took my daughter and two of her friends to see New Moon at the Hollywood Palms theater, where the stunningly beautiful Ashley Greene (aka Alice Cullen) was signing autographs.

For a price, that is. A fairly hefty price, actually. $20 per person to take a picture with her, even if it was the same photograph. $20 for an autograph even if you'd just bought a $20 photo. So I paid $80 for my daughter and her two friends to get a picture together with Ashley Greene and then have Ashley sign my daughter's t-shirt. All together, I think that the three of them spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 minutes with Ms. Greene for my $80.

To her credit, she did take the time to add my daughter's name and a few hearts and kisses to the back of her shirt. Maybe I expect too much. But as many of you know I've spent some time around celebrities interacting with fans, whether by design or because they got caught trying to eat dinner or grab a cup of coffee. Some of those celebrities set the bar pretty high. All of which is to say that I'm not easily impressed, and I'd had my fill of shelling out cash for a twenty second smile when Mitchel Musso unexpectedly appeared on the scene and my daughter's brain melted. And her friends' brains melted. And I'm pretty sure that I actually felt my wallet cringe.

Musso was only signing CDs. It was free if you already had his CD; if not, you had to buy the CD to get his autograph. But the powers that were made it clear that the artist made the rules, and the rules of this game were much more lax. For instance, I only had to buy one CD to get all three girls into the line to meet him, and he was fine with posing for a picture with all of them, CDs or not. But that was only the beginning.

Since my girls had just seen New Moon, they were still wearing matching "Team Mike Newton" t-shirts. He commented on their shirts and asked whether they'd just seen New Moon. When they said yes, he asked whether it was as good as the first one. When my camera acted glitchy and I was afraid the picture wasn't going to turn out, he smilingly held the pose and waited while I pulled out my phone and took another couple of shots for back-up. Sweetest of all, he noticed that there were three of them and only two CDs (long story) and while he chatted with them, he pulled the insert out of one of the CDs and signed that too, saying casually, "Here, I'll just sign this too, just in case. Then you'll have three."

One of them asked for a hug and he hugged all three, one at a time, in no apparent hurry. And the oldest (15) slipped in a "you're hot" before quickly walking away, he ducked his head, smiled up at her and said, "thank you".

The girls walked away flapping and twittering like they were going to take flight, and repeated their conversation with him and their commentary on how hot he was and how nice he was and how HIS CHEEK WAS RIGHT AGAINST MY FOREHEAD all the way home, where they used On Demand to rewatch what seemed like every episode of Hannah Montana. Treating your fans well is good business, too.

It was nice to see; having hoards of people waiting in line to see you, touch you, stand close to you, get your autograph can go to your head. I imagine that could happen much more easily if you were a teenage boy, and the screaming hoards were teenage girls. But thus far, Mitchel Musso comes across as a good kid who understands that his fans are individual people, and that how he responds to them matters. I hope it lasts.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Baby Envy

When I was a teenager, I couldn't wait to have a baby. I loved to babysit and kept it up well into college. I planned for the day I'd have my baby and thought about what toys and books I'd buy her and admired every picture of a baby that appeared in a catalog or magazine and every live baby who passed my way.

When my daughter was born, though, I more or less lost interest in other babies. They were still cute, but everything had changed. All of those other babies, after all, had just been reminders of the baby-to-come. Once she was in my life, everyone else paled in comparison. And so it went for several years.

But she's thirteen now. Don't get me wrong--I'm no less excited about her than I was in her infancy. In fact, I continue to be surprised by how much it doesn't change, by the way that each new age and stage has its own magic. But she's clearly not a baby anymore; she's a teenager and very nearly a woman. And that means that the whole "in comparison" thing doesn't come into play anymore. At 43 (and long past the point at which I could think about giving her a sibling), I find myself coveting babies again just as I did in my teens.

This afternoon, I went to my cousin's baby's christening. The place was awash in babies, and as I listened to new mothers complain about the lack of sleep and constant crying and older mothers talk about how glad they were that those days were gone, I was thinking about whether or not I could still adopt.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not the Jodie Foster I Wanted to Be

I'll admit it--I wouldn't mind at all identifying with Jodie Foster in a lot of ways. She's done some interesting things in her many roles, and has generally looked great and often kicked ass while doing them. Her character in Flight Plan, for instance--wouldn't want her problems, but her fortitude? Her cunning? Her muscle tone? I'm in.

Today, unfortunately, I had a sudden flash of myself as a Jodie Foster character, and it was Dede Tate.

Today, my daughter performed at the Illinois Music Educator's Association festival--an event organized to bring together the most talented singers and musicians from the northern half of the state and give them the opportunity to work with professional directors. She was totally in her element, soaking up advice and basking in the sound and feeling of a hundred well-honed voices from all over the state joining in a single note and I...I am basically tone deaf.

Oh, I can hear enough to know that she's basically a good singer. I love to listen to her sing, both when she stands in front of me and performs and when I open my bedroom door in the morning so I can hear her in the next room as she gets ready for school. But when she hits that one difficult note that she needs to work over and over again, I can't tell that she went wrong...and I can't tell when she finally gets it right. When I watch her sing a solo, I don't know whether it was her best performance ever or she faltered a little.

In short, she's already moved far beyond the point at which I have anything useful to offer her in what is fast becoming the most important area of her life. I can applaud, I can drive, I can sign permission slips and pay entry fees and even hire teachers, but I can't simply say, "That was really good" and have it mean anything other than "Mommy loves you."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Someone to Look Down On

I've always subscribed to the theory that racism is largely a white-trash phenomenon, and that its roots lie in the fact that most people have some kind of strange need to feel like they're better than someone else...anyone. If a man can't feel superior because he's good looking or good at something or makes a lot of money or has a nice house or drives a hot car, well, by God, he can at least say he's WHITE (or whatever distinguishing characteristic he fills in here to give him "pride").

About a month ago, my daughter had a substitute teacher in social studies; as they discussed the growth of the United States beyond the initial 13 colonies, he repeatedly referred to the southern United States as "where all them hillbillies are from". This upset my daughter (who doesn't have a southern cell in her body) enough that she seriously considered whether or not she should raise the issue with the school administration. She opted not to because there's enough absurd behavior in the school to keep us all busy for a very long time, and we've learned that we have to save our complaints for the serious safety issues. So she didn't say anything, but she remained troubled.

This evening, because she was kind of down in the dumps because we had to cancel our tennis plans this afternoon due to her bruised ribs (another fiasco brought to you by our friendly neighborhood school district), we went out to a local pizza place that has a game room. Video games, while not quite so good for the health or the spirit as a good tennis match, also don't put much strain on an injury. So we ate dinner and went to hang out in the game room, and as we were loading up our keys with cyber tokens, she said, "remember the guy in the glasses".

Yep, you guessed it. Mr. Superior works behind the ticket counter in the game room at our local pizza place. I begin to believe that there are, in fact, only seven plots in the world.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bad Day at the Coffee Shop

I had a tough day at Panera.

First, when I got there this morning, I discovered that none of the electrical outlets were working. None. I figured they'd gotten tired of us all hanging out there with our laptops and flipped a switch. Oh, well. My battery is good for nearly four hours.

The only problem was that they had cream of chicken with wild rice soup, which is my absolute favorite, especially now that the weather is turning cold. And I knew that my battery would be dying by the time lunchtime rolled around.

I weighed my options, worked a little more, drank some coffee and asked an employee why they'd turned off the electricity. It was news to her, so she went right off to ask the manager. Unbelievably (no pun intended), she came back almost immediately to tell me that he didn't believe her. Told her to go plug something in and see what happened.

So I plugged my laptop in and showed her that nothing happened, but when she returned to the kitchen...nothing happened once again.

It was getting close enough to lunchtime that I thought maybe I could just stick it out long enough to get my soup. But when I walked up to refill my coffee, I inquired of the manager. It was easy to get his attention, because the business was at about 50% of the normal weekday volume. He feigned surprise that the outlets weren't working, swore that they'd never do that intentionally "at least that he knew of", and said he'd look into it.

I got a Diet Pepsi and discovered that the syrup was off. I drank it anyway and went up for a refill, only to discover that the ice machine was empty.

An hour later, when I went up to order my soup, he asked whether they were working now, as if he thought they might have spontaneously regenerated. He seemed surprised when I said no, but I didn't care anymore. I was going to eat my soup and then go home and work there, with full access to electricity.

I ordered my soup.

I paid for my soup.

And then I learned that they were out of my soup.

With ten minutes to spare on my battery, uncertainty about my debit card having been credited and ten minutes left on my laptop battery, I left Panera--and spent the next fifteen minutes waiting to get out of the parking lot because apparently healthy young men had to sit with turn signals blinking for several minutes in an effort to get a parking space ten feet closer to the door.

All in all, it was the worst day I've had at Panera...and that said a lot to me. It said a lot about how nice things usually are at Panera when I go there to work during the day, but it also said a lot about how nice life usually is. Usually, apparently, the conveniences are plentiful and the soup is available and the soda is just right and the road is clear. Sometimes, a day filled with every little obstacle is nothing more than a reminder of just how little they are.