Month: November 2009

Rip it to shreds

OK, I admit it: I am a type-A, large scale, major league worrier.

I’m not to the level where I’m afraid to leave my house, or anything along those lines. But I do worry. My worrying tends to be along the lines of playing out different scenarios in my head, and minimizing risk or error. (That comes from a decade of working at jobs where minimizing risk and error was my main task.)

One thing I’ve always been a worrier about? Making sure that any of my personal documents are properly trashed once I no longer need them. That may seem a little OCD, but I’ve had at least a half dozen friends who have experienced identity theft.

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Music Monday: The eighties are back (sort of)

I may be a hundred years old, but I still have an open ear for new music. It’s important to keep up with the young whippersnappers.

And anyone who’s been listening to alternative/pop music over the last few years knows that the synth-pop of the 80s is showing up in threads of new songs by new, current artists.

Here’s a few songs I’ve been listening to that I love – and that shamelessly rob from that era.

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Do what you love, be who you are

It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been a year since I had the rug pulled out from under me professionally. It’s been a year since I was laid off. (Happy Holidays and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!)

I was one of thousands – hundreds of thousands – that lost their jobs in the fourth quarter of 2008, so my story is hardly a unique one. And the loss of that job was driven first and foremost by financial concerns and needs.

Being laid off challenged me and made me re-examine my goals, so perhaps I should say “thank you” to my former employer (instead of the other two words I’ve been muttering) for this learning experience. But it’s hard not to absorb the initial shock of such an event – and it’s even harder not to take it personally.

For me, that process was compounded by the fact that, after a lot of work and a great deal of time and effort, I’d finally landed in a professional arena (writing/media/marketing) that I’d been working to get to for over a decade. Losing that job made me question my professional identity. It also brought on an onslaught of feelings: I was hurt. I was sad.

And for a long, long time, I was pissed. Really, really pissed.

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Music Monday: Prefab Sprout

Today’s Music Monday post is about a British pop/alternative band with a very strange name.

Not many people Stateside have heard of the Sprouts, or know their leader, Paddy McAloon. That’s a shame, since McAloon is a masterfully good songwriter and singer on par with better known British counterparts like Elvis Costello and Paul Weller.

I have a lot more to tell you about Paddy, his music and his career in another post. But for today, let me introduce you to the music of Prefab Sprout.

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Immigration: A mile in their shoes

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A great illustration by Alex Eben Meyer

Anyone who’s watched a news channel, newscast or read a newspaper in the last few years knows that immigration is a controversial topic.

There’s a million different perspectives and opinions on this matter; this post isn’t intended to start a debate. But I have a confession to make: Although I may have been concerned and aware in a very general sense, I just never really thought about immigration in a deeper sense – or understood what it means to the people who are in the midst of doing so.

For most of us, having to even perceive this country as a place that isn’t ours – a place where your legal right to be there is in question – is almost unfathomable. And I’m definitely a product of Middle America. I grew up in a housing plan that was, as the song says, little boxes made of ticky-tack that all look the same. It was a very insulated little bubble to grow up in.

As an adult, my worldview has become far more diverse (it’s impossible not to have a sense of other cultures and other ideas in a city like Chicago). In my circle of friends, I know several people who have emigrated from other countries. My best friends grew up in Canada and have been living in the United States for the last decade or so.

Still, I rarely pondered the actual process of immigration, or the challenges that people who come to this country face. But that all changed for me recently.

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The mysteries of LinkedIn

facebook_v_linkedinThere are hundreds (if not thousands) of social networking sites, but the category leaders are well defined. I have a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Facebook has a strong business component, but the site is, at this point, primarily driven by individual users who are focused on personal communication and networking. (MySpace has some users, though its biggest strength these days seems to be as a site for musicians.)

And LinkedIn is head of class in professional networking.

Most people “get” Facebook after using it for a while. But I’m always incredibly surprised at how many people aren’t on LinkedIn – and how many people who are and have NO idea how to capitalize on their membership.

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Music Monday: Joni Mitchell

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The blonde in the bleachers, she flips her hair for you.....

Another birthday Music Monday – this one’s all about Joni Mitchell, who turned 66 on Saturday.

Joni’s always been one of my favorites. I love a wide range of music, from diverse genres and artists. But her music and lyrics speak to me at a level few others do.

Many people who know her know songs like “Both Sides Now” and “Big Yellow Taxi.” I’m not as excited about her earlier work as her more jazz influenced work, which really started when she released Court and Spark.

But the thing that I love about her music, and her choices, is that after Court and Spark (released when I was all of a few years old), she had a high commercial profile. She could have taken the easy route and released Court and Spark II.

Instead, she made a series of albums that were daring, trailblazing and breathtaking. It wasn’t an easy road – critics were divided and audiences were disappointed. But she followed her own path.

I’ve thought about that a great deal when my instincts tell me (as they often do) to follow a path that isn’t a well worn or well-identified one.

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Music Monday: k.d. lang

Today’s Music Monday is dedicated to k.d. lang, who turns 48 today. It’s great to feature her in a Music Monday post, because I can use lang’s live performances – her gorgeous voice is as good in concert (if not better) as it is on her albums.

First up: Save Me, the opening song from lang’s finest album, Ingenue.

An earlier country-influenced check, during the phase where lang beautifully (and eerily) channeled the late Patsy Cline.

And one of her most fun songs – Miss Chatelaine.

And finally, her chilling, soaring version of Roy Orbison’s Crying.