Category Archives: Arts and Entertainment

Requiem The Soundtrack

requiem the soundtrack
photo credit: Julie Cohn of Cork, Fork & Passport

The waning months of 2015 and the beginnings of 2016 were hard on the world of music and arts.  Rare voices and singular talents were lost. Bowie, Frye, Rickman… those were hard losses to take.  Each had a place in the soundtrack of my life, maybe yours too? Requiem The Soundtrack is a bit of a love letter to voices gone but still so much a part of the story.

Did you know Alan Rickman sang?

Okay, so maybe Alan didn’t sing well. He might not even be deserving of inclusion in Requiem The Soundtrack save for the fact that his voice is inextricable from my memories. Truth be told, I could listen to that luxuriously deep voice reciting tax code. You’ll forgive me for subjecting you to Johnny Depp’s screeching in Sweeney Todd… eventually. 

Bowie may have been the biggest loss. It’s a very short list of people that have had such enormous impact on music, art, fashion and culture. Our youngest daughter may have been the biggest Bowie fan I’ve ever met.

In the days following his passing there were lots of tears. Stuck in DC traffic a week after the news, Under Pressure came on the radio. Before I could turn the channel, her brother was misty-eyed. It was his favorite song too. I let them cry it out. For the span of 4:08 minutes they bonded. That was the power of Bowie in our lives.

Before we could recover enough to listen to Space Oddity the news of Glenn Frey’s passing came. This one hit me harder.

Though I’m a kid of the 80’s I’m also the child of a musician. My Dad plays dozens of instruments, shared a stage with Chuck Berry, and knows the girl in Dan Fogelberg’s song Same Old Lang Syne {he and Dan went to school together, my dad played for his dad}.  Music has always been how I connected with him. Songs from The Eagles were the first chords that bonded us, musically.

I can vividly recall sitting outside on cool nights in the California desert town where I grew up, watching him sing to my mom, “I love the way your sparking earrings lay against your skin so brown…”  She was his Witchy Woman, her spell cast from sapphire eyes under dark lashes. Frye’s voice harmonizing  with my dad’s, true magic. 

So many disappeared voices make their way onto my playlist of memory.  The Optimistic Blues of Allen Toussaint. Nobody but Townes Van Zandt should ever sing Poncho and Lefty. Down in the Boondocks they’re missing the dulcet voice of Billy Joe Royal.

As vividly as though it happened yesterday, I can remember driving down a single-lane road headed from Boston to The Cape and hearing that Amy Winehouse had died. We were in two cars and my oldest son called to be sure I didn’t need to pull over and cry. They all know how much music means to me, because it’s the same with them.

Then there are the bands that won’t ever quite be same without members that made the music; Pete de Freitas from Echo & The Bunnymen, the Chilis without Hillel and The Stooges without Dave. There is no INXS without Michael Hutchence – no matter how many reality shows they dream up.

I can think of a song for almost any milestone in my life. When I look back there seem to be a whole lot of holes where amazing talent once lived. Perhaps that’s the inevitability of aging. The beauty in that though is that those songs don’t go away. Technology these days lets us dive into the pool of memory anytime we want.

Not a day goes by where I’m not on Spotify, or offline with my collection of tunes. Music is as much a part of my everyday as it is my memories. We have a playlist for road trips, work days, house cleaning, there is even one a bunch of us put together in morbid homage to my bestie’s thyroid cancer. {for the record, she kicked cancer’s ass}

Any time I need to hear the voices of those gone, I just turn my smartphone and wireless headphones on and they live again. 

 

 

This post was inspired by weekly #VZWbuzz chats that often feature ways that technology impacts our daily lives. As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events.   All opinions – and playlists – are entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 

Baltimore Comic-Con: Where Real Nerds Keep Artists in the Spotlight

Baltimore Comic Con

Sure,  you know who Stan Lee is. You watch the Big Bang Theory (almost as religiously as I do) and can spot Stan’s cameo in every incarnation of a Marvel hero movie to hit the silver screen. Maybe you even know who Matt Murdock is.

If you also happen to know who Bill Everett was, then you’d have felt right at home at Baltimore Comic-Con.

Baltimore Comic-Con honors the heart of the comic book culture in a way that seems to be fading under the glare of the lights and mainstream media coverage at the larger “cons.” Which made it the perfect first con for our kids. 

Watching my nine year old in the ballroom of the Baltimore Convention Center as he sat mesmerized, listening to Joel Hodgson recount the materials he used to build Tom Servo (a Leggs egg and a gumball machine, by the way) was priceless. The kid loves MST3K. Um, who doesn’t?

 Upon walking into the lobby and seeing a group of cosplayers dressed in awesome Attack on Titan garb, my fifteen year old daughter squealed, “Yes! My people!Dr. Who Comic illustrator Kelly Yates Baltimore Comic ConTotal win.

For this parent of daughters, the prodigious amount of Girl Power on display at this convention was reason enough to go back next year. From a fierce female Thor and her pal Miss America, to Marguerite Bennett, author of several story-lines in the DC Universe including: Batgirl, Lobo and Lois Lane, to the budding talent of Kate Allen who creates, writes and illustrates her own comics and graphic novels, the level of estrogen-laden awesome was immense and powerful.

Of course there were the typical conference staples: baubles, gadgets, gear, merch, on-site appraisals, and a phenomenal cosplay costume contest. Truly something for everyone – even things you never knew you wanted, but suddenly had to have!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for an event where I can cozy up to Patrick Stewart (make it so – yes, please) or Benedict CumberDragon, but the community that begot huge conventions of Nerdom – like International Comic-Con San Diego (which was still relatively easy to get tickets to when I went back in back in ’94) – began at the roots.  With the art, the artists, the storytellers.

The expo hall was packed with artists from nearly every fandom you can name. Daughters one and two are major Whovians. You think you know Dr. Who…?  Not like they do! Getting to meet and enjoy a photo op with Kelley Yates was an epic moment.  Taking home one of his Dr. Who illustrations –signed– was their own personal nirvana. Maryland’s own Frank Cho (Mighty Avengers, Hulk – Marvel Comics) did an unbelievable demo in which he created a veritable masterpiece for the live audience.  Seeing the passion in the artists and getting a glimpse of how they bring a world to life illuminated my children with the reality of possibility…and that was the meat of the experience.  The rest was great, but garnish.

Meeting illustrators and creators of original graphic novels, artists who’ve expanded universes that began decades ago…to me, THIS is the living, breathing heart of any Comic-Con. Keep the marquee names on the red carpet, let Bruckheimer promote his next movie on the talk-show circuit. Keep the “cons” about the artists, the creative cosplay of die hard fans, the amazing and world-changing creativity of the true nerds. 

My advice?  Plan your trip.  Start designing your costume.  Save your pennies for must have merch, sure…but know who created the fantasy world you like to visit.  Follow the artists, and make a point to see them in action, in the flesh.  Next year – go to Baltimore Comic-Con!

Baltimore Comic Con Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom 

Authors: Lara DiPaola and Jamie Ratner

 

 

The International Spy Museum: Cloaks, Daggers and 007

International Spy Museum  

Across the street from the Old Patent Building in Washington, D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood sits a building that looks rather unassuming. Don’t let the brick façade fool you into thinking that there is just another museum inside. You’d fall prey to a well-crafted cover. This is the International Spy Museum, and you’ve never seen anything like it.

The mission we chose to accept:

  • Establish Cover Identities.
  • Infiltrate operations at 800 F St NW, Washington, DC, United States – 20004: International Spy Museum.
  • Test family travel compatibility.
  • Get out alive.

There may have been more to it, but the message self-destructed in two minutes.

When you enter this exhibition of espionage it is rather apparent that you aren’t at the Smithsonian any more. Check your identity at the door and get ready to enter, “Spy School.”

An elevator whisks you into an antechamber where the lights dim and a panoramic screen alights with a history of the importance and impact of spy-craft throughout the ages. As the lights come back up you’re escorted into a room where you’ll choose and memorize your Cover ID, an important step in your mission.

Offical Letter from the Canadian Ambassador and signed screen play from Argo

Our kids loved this! Okay, so did I. (could you tell?)

The International Spy Museum is the only public museum in the US solely dedicated to the spy-craft, history, and contemporary role of espionage. Open since July 2002 and in development since 1996, the museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display – many have never been seen by the public. (Yes, that lipstick pistol is REAL!) These artifacts – from a 1777 letter by George Washington authorizing a New York spy network (ahem, fans of Turn) to a 1980s coat with a camera concealed in a button – really do serve to “uncover” the real-life impact of espionage.

This really is an immersion experience, how “deep” you go into your cover is up to you.

Once you choose your cover you move on to the next area where a lesson in the tools of the trade awaits. The kids got really into the interactive portion; climbing through air ducts, searching for listening devices, learning the lingo. My husband and I – both big fans of the show “The Assets,” as well as movies like “Argo” – were drawn to the video screens where the actual players in these real-life dramas tell their own stories. The irony of the kids pulling us away from the TV was not lost on me.

Other exhibits we found both intriguing and educational in our journey into the hidden world of intrigue include:

The Secret History of History – This series of galleries chronicles the history of spying from biblical times to the early 20th century. There is even a reconnaissance pigeon display. Leave it to the French to play fowl.

Spies Among Us – These exhibits, films, and videos examine espionage through World War II, showcasing real-life spy stories. I’m sort of a romantic when it comes to this period in history. Sitting in a mock bunker and listening to encoded radio messages sent by the French Resistance and trying decode them was almost like being in a time machine.

Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains – This was my favorite! It takes you from the 60’s and Dr. NO all the way to Skyfall. Ian Flemming’s typewriter, Bond movie posters in nearly every language , and hello… Duran Duran music! More than just geekery for nerds like me, the exhibit shows the evolution of how the pop culture vision of the “Bad Guy,” has been influenced by the changing times, and fears. This area is also the most fun for kiddos. I won’t give anything away but let’s say I got startled by something here and the kids are still laughing at me. When a museum becomes part of family lore, you know it had to be good.

I’ll admit to having been a bit disturbed by the final exhibit, The 21st Century. Until that point most of our visit dealt with the historical past, it felt a bit fantasy – like a place you were just visiting. When you get to this final stop you’re made to really think about here-and-now issues; weapons of mass destruction, cyber warfare. Those hit close to home. Framed against all I’d already seen, I couldn’t help but think, “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”  

Luckily the last stop on your visit is the gift shop. Nothing like exercising the credit card to make you forget cyber crime… doh! Actually this is the perfect ending. The shop is packed with books written about and by spies, fun trinkets, toys the kids “had” to have and even some of my favorite British treats. I’d hoped for Sean Connery, but happily settled on taking home some chocolate dipped Digestives biscuits.

Family Travel fun at the Interantional Spy Museum

International Spy Museum 411

Address:

800 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004 – Phone: (202) 654-0950

Parking:

The museum is partnered with this nifty service called Parking Panda. You can purchase a guaranteed parking space in advance of your visit for as little as $16 depending upon when you go. That is pretty darn cheap for DC! There are several public garages nearby as well as some (very hard to get) metered spots on the street. 

Nearest Metro Station:

Gallery Place/Chinatown stop.

Hours of Operation:

Open Daily 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas day)

Admission:

$21.95, Adults (ages 12-64) $14.95, ages 12+

$15.95, Seniors (65+), Military & Law Enforcement

$14.95, Children (ages 7-11)

FREE, Children (ages 6 and under)

SPY Combinations:

$27.95, Operation Spy + General Admission

$27.95, Spy in the City + General Admission

$39.95, Spy in the City + Operation Spy + General Admission

$24.95, Operation Spy + Spy in the City

My International Spy Museum Tips

  • Take the Metro!
  • Buy your tickets in advance, the lines can get long
  • Plan on a minimum of three hours
  • Push buttons, turn knobs, look closely there is more to see than you’ll notice at first glance
  • If there is a long line for an activity station, come back later. Groups tend to dwindle and if you miss something you’re really missing out
  • I highly recommend purchasing the full combo ticket for your first visit

 

(Lead Photo Courtesy of the International Spy Museum)

 

 

Smokey & Friends: Memories, Music and a Giveaway

The latest release from Smokey Robinson, "Smokey & Friends" smolders and rocks - Giveaway

My earliest memories involve my Dad with a guitar in his hand, sitting at a piano, or dancing around with Mom. Music has always been a part of my life – a friend.

I grew up with the sounds of everything from 60’s protest songs, to classical compositions, dad’s original tunes to the soulful sounds of Motown. The Shirelles sang me to sleep at night. I can’t thank my parents enough for giving me the gift of good music. Now I’d like to do the same for you.

The legendary Motown icon and Grammy® award-winning singer-songwriter, Smokey Robinson released an album that is sure to become as iconic as he is. A compilation of duets with other music legends (hello, Sir Elton) and some of today’s top artists (John Legend, swoon) titled, “Smokey & Friends.”

Everything is good in the world tonight, when Smokey sings along with; James Taylor, Sir Elton John, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, and Mary J. Blige, as well as with some of today’s hottest artists including John Legend, Miguel, Jesse J, and CeeLo Green, among others.

John Legend lends an elegance “Quiet Storm,” with his soul-filled grace at the piano. Legend starts the track with an homage and thanks.

“Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson one of the greatest poets of our time, Smokey it’s an honor to sing this with you.”

The honor is all ours, dear music fans. I literally got goosebumps when Smokey began to sing.

Smokey & Friends

The Tracks Of My Tears – Elton John

You Really Got A  Hold On Me – Steven Tyler

My Girl – Miguel, Aloe Blacc & JC Chasez

Cruisin’ – Jesse J (almost good enough to erase the memory of Gwyneth Paltrow butchering it with Huey Lewis – almost)

Quiet Storm – John Legend

The Way You Do (The Things You Do) – CeeLo Green

Being With You – Mary J. Blige

Ain’t The Peculiar – James Taylor

The Tears Of A Clown – Sheryl Crow

Ooh Baby Baby – Ledisi

Get Ready – Gary Barlow

Whether you – like me- love Smokey’s velvety, soulful, put-the-kids-to-bed-early groove, or enjoy a more contemporary vibe, there is something for you here. Like Sinatra’s duets before it, “Smokey & Friends,” is sure to become a timeless classic.

I’m so excited to have two copies of “Smokey & Friends,”  to give away!

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You Don’t Have To Try

When I first heard Colbie Caillat’s new song, Try, on the radio last week I thought, “Well there is a good message in that song.” Then I moved on. Colbie isn’t exactly my genre of tunes, but I’d listen to it twice just for the message. 

Then I started to see my Facebook stream flood with links to the video. Call me Queen Lemming, I had to click.

Then I had to get tissues.

Then my teen daughter, and even my seven year old daughter.

This video goes far beyond the song. It’s the message every child and young adult, boys and especially girls, and – admittedly- even I needed to hear.