Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mamma Mia!

Anyone who listens to Dean Richards on WGN on Sundays (or watches him on WGN TV) knows of his love affair with this year's movie, Mamma Mia. Love affair as in, he'd love to take all copies of the movie and soundtracks and crush them under the weight of a black hole--even a giant Mack dump truck would do in a pinch--so that they disappear into oblivion. He cannot stand the singing by the main actors in that movie.

Steve Cochran, the evening announcer for WGN radio, couldn't let that one lay, of course. Right before Christmas, Dean was on Steve's show going over the best and worst movies of the year. Steve, comedian that he is, handed Dean a wrapped gift. Dean opened it. You could see the pained look on his face through the radio. It was Mamma Mia, of course. Not just the DVD, either--this was the CD of the Mamma Mia soundtrack. Dean, of course, expressed his true feelings and thanks for this 'gift'. One of the WGN folks suggested re-gifting it. At this point, all sorts of things popped into my head about what he could do with that CD, so I wrote him an email. It went as follows:

Dear Dean:

I heard on Steve's show this evening that you'd received a Mamma Mia
soundtrack from him, and there was a suggestion to re-gift it. However,
there are so many other uses for this, and I thought I'd share some with
you as inspiration. Note that the tongue is planted firmly in cheek....

1. Since I'm sure you're going to get a bunch of these for Christmas,
string them up with pretty colored string, a la Martha Stewart, and
attach them to a decorative hook. Non-decorative hooks, of course,
simply will not do. Adjust the string lengths so that the CDs will
overlap to whatever degree you desire. Hang it up outside as a wind
chime. I'm sure the music it creates that way will be just as lovely.

2. Thread a napkin through the center hole and use it as a napkin ring
for an '80's or 90's theme party.

3. Find a dowel rod that is just slightly smaller than the center hole.
Spray paint it whatever Martha Stewart has said is the color of the
season, and let dry. Place one or more disks on the hole, and slide
them down so that they're an equal distance apart, and use a hot glue
gun (following all safety instructions on the package) to secure the
discs in place. Glue on various kitschy things to add decor, making it
gaudy without being completely gauche. Place the dowel upright in a
decorative stand and secure in place. A non-decorative stand, of
course, simply will not do. Use this as a tiered appetizer tray on your
table. Make sure it's clean, of course. This is important. I'm
thinking you could fit about 8 to 10 mini-tarts or Hershey kisses on
each CD tray. Imagine the oohs and aahs that will come from your guests
when they view this creation.

4. Conduct scientific experiments. There are many things you could
attempt to do, such as testing how much pressure it takes with a ball
point pen, key, or wire brush in order to scratch it. You could test its
melting point or the amount of vegetable oil it takes to dissolve it in
one of the local university chemistry departments. Please do not do
this inside your house. I take no responsibility for any noxious fumes.
Please use appropriate safety gear and whatever other legal disclaimers
belong here so that I can't get sued if the CD blows up.

5. Coat it with peanut butter and then roll it in birdseed or sunflower
seeds. Thread some twine through the center hole and hang it outside
from a tree as a little bird feeder.

6. If you have received so many CDs that you still don't know what to do
with them--glue them all around a giant styrofoam ball, covering it as
fully as possible. Hang it from the ceiling and shine a light on it,
using it as an impromptu disco ball. Play real ABBA music at the party.

7. Use it as a plant coaster for a Chia pet. It's the only kind of
plant I can think of that deserves that honor.

Hope you find these suggestions of some use. I'm not quite sure what
use that might be, of course.

Happy Holidays to you and the entire WGN crew!

Dean actually took the time out of his insane schedule (I honestly don't know how he keeps up with it all) to drop me an email back, saying, "Absolutely hilarious!! Merry Christmas, Dean." I thought that was quite nice of him to send that, and I got a kick out of giving him a good laugh.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Hope you're having a wonderful Christmas and holiday season with loved ones and friends. We've decorated the tree, baked cookies, ate way too much wonderful rich food, talked and laughed, and, of course opened gifts. What does a Geeky Mom get for Christmas? An iPod, of course. I'd somehow managed to fill up a 4 gig iPod and still had to un-select a lot of music to fit what I could on there. I love the new Nano he got me--it'll hold 4 times that, so I shouldn't run out of disk space for at least 4 days now.

Trusty Hubby also got me TuneTools for iPod, Multimedia edition. I'm not 100% sure what to think of the fact that the information for this product leads me directly to the tech support page instead of the usual "Gee, look how wonderful our product is!!!111!!!11!!!" page. This generally does not bode well for the product. Nevertheless, the software has, among other things, a transfer feature to move music from your iPod to your computer. This is A Good Thing in case you have multiple iPods in your family, as we do. I discovered rather early on in my iPod life that if you sync an empty iPod or even someone else's iPod on a full iTunes library, iTunes will occasionally cheerfully delete your entire library. This made me Most Unhappy the one and only time this happened. I just KNEW those 1's and 0's were really still in there, but iTunes refused to cooperate in spitting them back out, no matter what I did. Apparently this happens fairly often, because when I emailed Apple about this to try to get my music recopied, they didn't even laugh, they just gave me a download code for my purchased music after I provided them the information they wanted.

I also discovered if your hard drive gets wiped, as has happened to me 3 times in the last year now, and your iTunes library happens to be considerably larger than your iPod, which is my case, you lose whatever's not on your iPod at that point, unless you've gotten smart and backed up your music elsewhere. Most of us are not smart enough to back up their music 'elsewhere', wherever that might be. Then there's also the issue of sharing music. Now, I'm not talking about outright stealing of music, I'm talking about sharing music within your family, although I suppose the RIAA will inform me via certified email/letter/voice of God that there's some fine print inserted on the edge of the CD in microscopic print that I may only copy it to one iPod at a time, and that I agree to this legal contract if I merely touch the outer plastic wrap of the CD.

So after losing my music twice, I decided to back up my music "elsewhere". This included purchasing an external hard drive, which I believe may have added to my score on the Geek test (and if there is no question about this on the Geek Test, there should be). I also decided to save it on a different folder on my computer as well to make importing to different iPods easier. Apple does not always make this immediately obvious. I suppose they want people using their iTunes as often as possible, lest we miss one of the Genius ideas they present. This simple would not do.

So, I browsed and found a free and very useful utility called PodLift. It's not fancy, and you have to follow the instructions carefully, but there aren't that many instructions and they're easy, anyway. It's saved my music a couple of times and has made it easier to transfer music to other iPods. Since it's freeware, you can't argue about cost, especially after all the money spent on iPods and accessories this time of year. Hopefully you will enjoy it as well.

Have a very Merry Christmas!