Home media – how to do it?

Back in the old days when we were kids, there were three things: a rotary dial phone, a TV that got maybe 3 or 4 channels, and a record player with actual records you would put on the turntable. Remember that? Maybe some of you who are younger don’t, but that is how it was for me. But nowadays…

We have a sort of patchwork of different things, and have dissatisfactions in various areas, but started looking into some other options and it seems like no matter what you do there are drawbacks of one kind or another.

We have DSL through our home landline on AT&T / SBCGlobal. We have our music library in iTunes on our laptop. We have a stereo system bought in the pre iPod days, so it has a CD player and a receiver that are connected to each other and to the speakers but not in any way connected to our music library. We have an old, non-HD TV, which also has a DVD player and Wii attached to it, DirecTV with basic package, and Netflix Instant which we get through the Wii. We have the option of getting Comcast but it’s more expensive than DirecTV so we have stuck with DirecTV instead. All this is working ok but has various issues that continue to be somewhat irksome.

  1. The Netflix Instant selection stinks, and our local DVD rental place closed, so movie selections are not easy to come by. I hear you can get them through Amazon or iTunes as well, I haven’t looked into this so I’m not sure whether if we did if we could play them on our TV or if we’d have to watch them on the computer. Or we could pony up another 5 bucks a month for the “real” Netflix with DVDs.
  1. Neither of us watches much TV any more, so DH suggested this weekend bailing on the DirecTV altogether and just watching stuff online ad hoc. However, from what we ascertained after looking into it over the weekend, you can mostly do this but there are some major things missing – and in our household that means televised sports / ESPN / MLB. Pretty much if you don’t have either cable or satellite TV you cannot watch televised sports except maybe once a week the regular networks will show a game. That is the one thing my DS1 likes to watch on TV – not really all the time but it would be tough to give up complete access to the Giants all summer. So I think having some access to ESPN through either Comcast or DirecTV is probably a higher priority for us. Of course if we had Comcast we could have cable internet which supposedly is a lot faster … I don’t have too big a problem with our DSL speed though for the most part.
  1. I looked into being able to play our iTunes library through our receiver to play it through our speaker system, so we could hear music a little better than through the cheapo iPod dock we have in the kitchen, or else through earphones. It turns out this is possible but you have to buy a $99 AirPlay wireless … thing … to plug into your receiver. (Or maybe run a cord from the computer, but the distance does not make that feasible in our house.) If you have the AirPlay you can use your iPhone or iPod Touch as a remote to select songs. That would be awesome actually, if I want to invest another hundred bucks in a perhaps outdated system.

Sigh. My DH is not one of those men who is on top of all kinds of techy, media-ish types of things, and I’m not really either. I was thinking of going to Best Buy and having a chat with them about what the different options are or whether there are ways we could improve our non-system to be better in one way or another. But I thought I would throw this open for discussion. What do you have? Are you happy with your media layout? Advantages and disadvantages of what you have? Is it more integrated than the system I have?



Walking songs needed

Hi all –

I just got an iPod Nano (Happy Birthday to me!) and need song suggestions to help me set an aerobic pace when I walk.   My “comfort” speed is about a 20 min mile, so ideally I want something a bit faster than that.  Also songs that I won’t get sick of and/or will be “inspiring”.

What are your favorite songs to workout to?


Ho Ho Ho Mix 2010- The Final Cut

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to make non-traditional mix CDs for family and friends every year.  I love doing it, but I’m a bit stumped.  So I’m turning to the hive mind to help me out.  What are your favorite non-standards?

As requested, here’s the final 2010 Ho Ho Ho Mix. Thanks for all the help!  I think I could actually do the 2011 mix right now, if I were so inclined!

So the results are in.  Ho Ho Ho Mix 2010:

Your Holiday SongIndigo GirlsHolly Happy Days
Mr. Heat MiserBig Bad Voodoo DaddyEverything You Want for Christmas
Cold DecemberMatt CostaVH1 MusicGood: The Cure To Common Music
Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All YearRosie ThomasA Very Rosie Christmas
Last ChristmasTaylor SwiftThe Taylor Swift Holiday Collection – EP
Thank You SantaMitchel MussoPhineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites
Deck the Rooftop Glee CastGlee: The Music – The Christmas Album
That Christmas FeelingOlivia OlsonPhineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites
Angels We Have Heard On High Glee CastGlee: The Music – The Christmas Album
MistletoeColbie CaillatMistletoe – Single
Silent NightTaylor SwiftThe Taylor Swift Holiday Collection – EP
My Only WishJessica Simpson    My Only Wish – Single
It Really Is (A Wonderful Life)Indigo GirlsHolly Happy Days

Last year I did:

Christmas WrappingThe Waitresses
Christmas TVSlow Club
Christmas TogetherShooting Star
Valley Winter SongFountains of Wayne
The 12 Days of Christmas Straight No Chaser
Green Christmas  Barenaked Ladies
Christmas In America  Melissa Etheridge
Christmas In HollisRun-DMC
Christmas and Me Are ThroughYour Vegas
Snow in AustinEllis Paul
Here Come Better DaysThe Robby Sea Band
Auld Lang SyneStraight No Chaser

And this year so far the raw material looks more like:

Mr. Heat Miser (Big Bad Voodoo Daddies)
Cold December (Matt Costa)
Why Can’t it Be Christmas Time All Year (Rosie Thomas)
Last Christmas (Taylor Swift)
Than You Santa (Mitchel Musso)
That Christmas Feeling (Olivia Olson)
Silent Night (Taylor Swift)
Deck the Rooftop (Glee Cast)
Angels We Have Heard on High (Glee Cast)
My Only Wish (Jessica Simpson)
It Snowed (Meaghan Smith)

I thin I need on or two more to pick from- I don’t like to repeat artists if I can help it. So…WWMTD?


Girls Rock

This afternoon, I watched the documentary Girls Rock with Simone–at least until she got a little bored and decided she wanted to finish the rest of it later.

The film is about Portland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp For Girls, which was founded by a group of students in 2001.  It’s mission is to:

The Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls, a 501(c)3 non-profit, builds girls self-esteem through music creation and performance.
Providing workshops and technical training, we create leadership opportunities, cultivate a supportive community of peers and mentors, and encourage social change and the development of life skills.

It was an interesting and mostly inspiring film, well worth watching.  The goal of the camp is not to create rock stars, or even musicians–it is to teach girls to make noise, both literally and figuratively.  

As the mother of a young daughter, one of my biggest concerns is that she doesn’t miss out on any life experiences by conforming to–falling victim to–a feminine ideal that is still very restrictive.  Girls learn to apologize before they speak, feel insecure about taking up space in the world, and make themselves as small as possible.  This experience is not monolithic, but it is very common.  In my experience, both as a child and now as a mother, one trait that is discouraged in girls is good old fashioned exuberance.  A naturally exuberant girl receives so much constant correction that by the time she’s a teenager, this energy and passion–highly valued in adults but discouraged in children–might ironically have caused her to be more self-conscious and apologetic than a naturally quiet, compliant girl who receives praise and encouragement for being good and nice.

Heaven knows I’ve been guilty of discouraging my daughter’s natural physical and emotional energy, especially early on when I was a new mom.  A big part of this had to do with my own insecurity–I knew I wouldn’t take kindly to anyone else reprimanding my child, and so I went overboard trying to keep her reigned in so that wouldn’t happen.  More recently, I have made a conscious effort not to parent from a place of fear.  Still, my worry is that I send the message I want her to receive with my words, but an opposite and more powerful one with my actions.

The camp encourages screaming and loud music, and seemingly values volume over musical ability–probably for both symbolic reasons and because they cannot give the girls any real musical skills in a week.  I appreciate the idea, although it took some consideration.  I’m sensitive to loud noises and the musicians I prefer are often feminist, but usually folk singers–Ani DiFranco, Ingrid Michaelson, Brandi Carlile.  However, I have come to appreciate the idea of encouraging girls to be loud, and of course the camp is teaching more than one kind of music–after all, the first thing they do is divide the campers up by genre.  I probably zeroed in on the loud because it offends my senses so.

The film also discusses working with the girls on how they view and treat other girls.  As one teacher said, “I suspect that girls can sometimes punish each other for feeling disempowered.”  They say that there are no mean girls.  I have a certain visceral skepticism of this, if only as a result of my own transference.  I haven’t known many stereotypical mainstream cheerleader sorority types, and those I have known have been….nice.  The mean girls I’ve encountered have primarily been hipster, indie types, most of whom would have considered themselves feminists.  They weren’t so different from many of the counselors in the film.  And when I say mean girl, I do not mean it in a “well behaved women rarely make history” type way–I mean it in a classic “mean girl” way.  

Ultimately, though, the camp is amazing.  The girls are empowered and taught to question every aspect of our still-patriarchal culture.  At the very least, they will leave knowing it when they see it.  Even better, the Portland camp is the first of its kind, but it’s not the last.  They are popping up all over the country.  Check your local listings!



I have always been somewhat creative, but when my kids were little their intense needs kind of got in the way of having much time to do anything very creative.  In the past few years I’ve had more of an opportunity to do creative things.

My grandmother was an artist, so maybe that came down to me.  When I was a kid I used to do a lot of drawing, and also did things like make magazines and write stories.  My sister, two friends and I one summer made a whole fashion magazine for our trolls (not the internet kind) called “Cosmipolitroll” – we sewed outfits for them, took pictures, and then wrote blurbs by the photographs.

For a couple of years recently I was really into knitting and did that constantly after the kids were in bed.  More recently I have been getting into reading graphic novels (this started with reading the ones from the library to my kids since they like them) and am thinking about doing some more drawing again.  I’ve been trying to do that with my kids more – drawing and such.  My younger son in particular likes to draw and make comics / cartoons.

I also like photography and want to learn Photoshop and Illustrator.  Then there’s the whole crafts and scrapbooking sphere which a lot of moms are into, and of course cooking and baking can be a huge creative outlet.  And (update) I forgot to include music, also another important one.

I know we have some artists and writers here.  Are you a creative person? How do you express your creative streak?  How do you work it around your parenting time, or do you work it in?  


The MT Mixed Tape Extravaganza

Resulting from a music discussion earlier this year…wait..no, late last year…uh… whatever…

So anyway, it was put forth that we would invite people to participate in a mixed tape (CD) exchange.   Remember making heartfelt mixed tapes for old sweethearts?   Mine were full of Peter Gabriel and Dire Straits because I was the coolest kid in Northern Ontario…

Here’s what you’ll do if you want to participate – email me at lonestarcanuck (at) gmail.com.  

I will pull names out of a hat and match you up with two other participants.    Then I’ll tell you who to contact – you contact them and get their mailing information and arrange to send CDs to them.   Two someones will contact you and arrange to send CDs to you.    It’s simple in its craziness.  

At the end you should send off two CDs and get two CDs – unless someone flakes out.   Which happens.   Heck, the last time I tried to do this on the internet it happened and I didn’t get a damned thing…but I helped a nice lady in Wisconsin to discover Ruthie Foster and so that makes it all worthwhile.  

Now, as far as what to put on your CD – it’s totally up to you.  You may have a wonderful favourite song from your youth that you think needs to go out to the world or you may just be absolutely in love with something new.  

Think about what you want to share and maybe about songs that say something about you as well – expect lots of Stompin Tom Connors and kd lang if I get your name…and maybe some Tragically Hip….and Great Big Sea…

I’ll set a deadline to email me by the end of next week so those who are out on vacation can participate.   I’ll also post reminders in open threads in the hopes that we don’t miss anyone who wants to participate.  

And if you don’t want to participate at all that’s totally cool too.  

Thanks to all who have emailed so far.  I’m keeping a list and I’ll give it a week or so for everyone who wants to participate to email then send out your lucky match ups.   Don’t even think about worrying that your taste in songs is “good enough” or anything.   Whatever you like and want to share is good enough.   If you feel the world needs to know more about “The Elkherders of Greater Siberia” and their tune “To all the Elk I’ve loved before”  then put that sucker on your disc.    It’s about learning new stuff, y’all.  


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos. Don’t forget to recommend us!

What’s up?

We talked about our favorite Christmas movies. Believe it or not, there was an actual story in the press about children who have had their tongues stuck on poles a la A Christmas Story.

In related holiday news, our Gloria wrote about procrastinating on Christmas shopping because she can’t afford to buy many gifts. Instead, she is making lists differentiating what she wants to buy and what she can afford to buy.

Katy Farber over at the Non-Toxic Kids blog had a comprehensive list of green gift ideas.

Our Suzanne had a fun diary on “super good music.” An iTunes certificate anyone?

Pat of butter in a sea of grits — isn’t that a great handle? — wrote about everything you know and don’t know about family leave in the United States.

There were many studies out this week. One had to do with how soy may actually help keep breast cancer from recurring. Another one reported by Reuters was how cell phones do not give you brain cancer. That was a relief, at least to me, since my cell phone is my only phone.

In case you missed it, Daily Kos’s navajo posted pictures from the SF Kossacks holiday party. There were a few MotherTalkers pictured, including myself, Amy and Shenanigans. Also, I posted the Kos family holiday photos this year.

Finally, here is an opportunity to meet Bay Area MotherTalkers. We are getting together at Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco this Tuesday at 7 p.m.. Please join us!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: The Super Good Music Edition

I have been waiting to post this all day! Thanks for the fun diary, Suzanne. -Elisa

In another thread here some of us went off on a tangent about the wonderful Dar Williams. I linked to one of my favorite songs by Dar, The Babysitter’s Here

I was wondering what other music you guys are fans of, what are you listening to?

I find it difficult to find new music these days. I live in an area that does not have a top 4 radio station and my XM radio is so fragmented it is actually difficult to find current music. Honestly some of my best “new artist” discoveries have been from backgrounds in TV shows and ipod commercials. Yeah. I first heard Ray Lamontagne a few years ago in the background on “Rescue Me” his song Burn which I instantly fell in love with. I have also been having  renewed love affair with some old favorites, like Paul Simon. Have you listened to Graceland lately? Or Hearts and Bones? Some incredibly beautiful lyrics there. I think he is in a way a major American poet, truly. Well, looking forward to your suggestions! itunes for Christmas anyone?


Remembering John Lennon (w/poll)

John Lennon was shot dead 29 years ago today.  Daily Kos user noweasels remembers him and that night.

I was born shortly before the Beatles broke up, but I remember loving their music even as a small child. My older siblings played a lot of the records, and I practically wore out the two cassettes from the “red album,” a collection of songs recorded between 1962 and 1966.

Although Paul’s always been my favorite Beatle, I love a lot of John’s work too.

“Help!” still sounds so fresh:

“Norwegian Wood” isn’t one of my personal favorites, but it was a very influential pop song because of the way it incorporated non-western musical elements.

Revolver is probably my favorite Beatles album. I prefer Paul’s songs, but John’s contributions to this album, especially “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” made this album one of the “very first psychedelic LPs.”

“A Day in the Life” is a phenomenal track. There is no way Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would have had the impact it had without that song. The album isn’t one of my favorites from the Beatles, and I’ve never been a big fan of  “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” but “A Day in the Life” is just perfect. A few years ago I saw the performance artist Brian Olsen paint a huge Lennon portrait from beginning to end while “A Day in the Life” played. I wish I could find a YouTube of that, because it was so fun to watch.

I don’t think Magical Mystery Tour is anyone’s favorite Beatles album, but “I am the Walrus” has had a lot of staying power.

The “White Album” was uneven in quality, in my opinion, but “Revolution” is right up there with the Beatles’ best records.

I heard somewhere that Lennon didn’t care for the Abbey Road album. That used to be one of my favorites. “Come Together” and “Because” are the most memorable Lennon tracks.

Lost of people don’t care for the Let It Be album. I don’t think it’s that bad. “Across the Universe” is one of the highlights.

Lennon released about a dozen albums outside of his work with the Beatles. “Imagine” is clearly his most influential composition, but I’ve always preferred “Instant Karma”:

Please take the poll and share your own thoughts or memories about John Lennon.