Monday, January 24, 2011

When Writers Cohabitate

I was in the kitchen, doing kitchen things, when that familiar voice called from down the hall, “I just used the penultimate Kleenex.”

Present facts? Check. Lay groundwork for escalating suspense and potential consequences for inaction? Check. Use big words? Check.

This is the Novelist’s Way. Never say “Hey, next time you’re at the store, buy some tissues” when you can instead say something like “I just used the penultimate Kleenex” and arrive at the same end.

My mind absorbed what had been said and what course of action was necessary, then began considering the possibilities created by the phrase ‘penultimate Kleenex’; that so blindly reached for to catch what you could not know was close to the final tear you would ever cry in this lifetime, the thing that holds the second to the last sorrow of the human heart.

This is the Poet’s Way. Needing to go to the grocery store to buy tissues is as much a part of the human condition as anything else, and should be immortalized in poetry as such.

This is what happens when writers cohabitate.

Or maybe it’s just us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How Self-Centered Bastards are Ruining the Special Olympics

If you’ve been on the internet for longer than five minutes, it’s likely that you are at least aware of, if not familiar with, a satiric entity operating under the title of President of The Great State of MANtana, EP for short. If you are not, EP is an abrasive, foul-mouthed, mercilessly misogynistic bigot blowhard who has never been and will never be wrong about anything, ever. Just ask him.

In short, he is not just anti-PC. He is The Anti-PC.

Last year, EP led a team called ‘Retards Helping Retards’ to raise funds for the Special Olympics Virginia Polar Plunge Winter Festival. And was resoundingly called out for his insensitivity, told what a terrible person he was, harangued for besmirching the image of the event, and... oddly enough, not stopped from handing over all the funds he had raised.

Over the course of the past four years, EP has besmirched the image of the Special Olympics to a tune in excess of $10,000. And now he’s doing it again. In just the few days that his fundraiser has been active at FirstGiving.com, he has raised over $600 on his page alone, with other team member’s pages bringing the total of besmirchment to well over $1000. The bastard just won’t stop.

He will, however, compromise. Since last year’s team name of ‘Retards Helping Retards’ was deemed so offensive by the event powers that be, this year’s MANtana fundraiser is operating as the ‘2011 Fucktards Helping Retards Campaign’. So congratulations, PC Police, looks like you... won.

Please give yourselves a hearty pat on the back. From the comfort of your well-heated cubicles and living rooms. While your nemesis is quite literally freezing his nuts off jumping into the Atlantic. In February. Early February. Because, clearly, that’s just what self-centered assholes who hate disabled children do to prove a point. The point being that there is nothing you can do to stop some people from besmirching your events.

But fear not. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you will have another chance to try to stop him again next year. It’s really only a matter of how much money he’ll raise for you before you do.



PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE TO DONATE TO TEAM MANTANA'S SPECIAL OLYMPICS VIRGINIA POLAR PLUNGE FUNDRAISER.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dear Lady Who Tried On the Black Dress Before I Bought It

Dear Lady Who Tried On the Black Dress Before I Bought It,

You don’t know me, but I am the fortunate soul who purchased the black dress that you tried on, found wanting and replaced on the thrift store rack to await my arrival. Now, before I go any further, I would just like to state for the record that I, too, sweat. And I too use products to prevent my sweat from creating olfactory incidents that might be deemed offensive by anyone within a ten foot radius of my armpits. So I understand deodorant.

That is, prior to the fateful day when this dress came into my possession, I thought I understood deodorant. Bringing this dress home and attempting to render it wearable has violently shaken what I previously imagined was a sound understanding of personal hygiene products and their appropriate usage. So now, for my sake and perhaps yours as well, now I must ask...

What in God’s name are you putting under your arms?

I have done battle with the notorious White Smudge on Black Fabric many times in the past. Frequently, it is a simple matter of a damp washcloth and a few well-aimed swipes. Occasionally, the washcloth wants a mild detergent mixture. And sometimes, nothing but a good soak will do. This is the way of the world, the world populated by women who don’t want to stink. Life in such a world is a trade-off. So the sight of white smudges in the armpit regions of this black dress was no real cause for concern to me, it was just something to be dealt with and moved past.

I began with a damp washcloth. I can’t swear that I heard the distant rumble of demonic laughter as I did, but I can’t swear that I didn’t, either. I tried the washcloth three times before accepting that heavier artillery was called for.

Out came the Woolite. A mild mixture of detergent and water was used in conjunction with the washcloth, to no avail. The mixture was strengthened twice before it appeared I was obtaining the desired result. Ha! I said (the neighbors can attest to that), thwarted once again, dastardly white smudge!

As it turned out, the dastardly white smudge was enjoying its first of many laughs at my expense. It was not only not gone, it seemed stronger than ever. I tried the Woolite-water-washcloth routine again. And a third time. Nothing. I soaked the top of the dress for five minutes, then ten, then thirty. It seemed the white smudges were still firmly in place, but I decided to let the dress hang dry overnight just in case my slowly eroding sanity was causing my eyesight to play tricks on me.

Sadly, that was not the case. When I returned to the dress the next day, the white smudges remained.

I tried regular laundry detergent in place of the Woolite. I soaked. I swiped. I massaged the fabric to a point that would constitute a binding marital contract in some cultures. Nothing. The dress was hung up to dry once again. Tomorrow, I said to myself, tomorrow I attack from a different angle, tomorrow victory shall be mine.

The next day brought out cotton swabs and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. This worked slightly better than the combined efforts of the previous three days, which is to say a fraction above the level most commonly referred to as “not at all”.

In the end, I did something I am almost proud of, something I never thought I would be able to say I have done, something I hope to never have to do again. The dress is a heavyweight cotton twill, similar to the fabric used to make sneakers. So I stopped treating it like a dress, and started treating it like a shoe.

Out came the bottle of black scuff remover, and more cotton swabs. The deodorant smudges that refused to be removed were painted over.

Yes, go ahead and read that again. I painted the armpits of a dress. Given the circumstances, I defy any one of you to say you would not have done the same.

So I ask again, Lady Who Tried On the Black Dress Before I Bought It, what are you putting under your arms? And is the military aware of its existence? Do you realize that you have within your bathroom a substance with the potential to save countless lives? That properly targeted application could likely shield us from the spread of even the most virulent of staph infections? That, in the event of a water landing, seat cushions could not only serve as far more effective floatation devices but also offer a choice between Powder Fresh and Cucumber Green Tea?

Or would you prefer to horde your little secret, hug it to your sweat-free self until the world is reduced to nothing more than cockroaches, Twinkies, mutant pitcher plants and your armpits?

I hope you will do the right thing, for your sake and the sake of your fellow man, for all the children of all the world, for a better tomorrow.

Sincerely,
The Woman Who Bought the Black Dress After You Tried It On

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The "Evolution" of Language

Ultimate – last, maximum, finest, not to be improved upon or surpassed

Penultimate – next to the last


Once upon a time, we had “ultimate”, “penultimate”, and a category known as “everything else”. Then, “everything else” started to get a bit crowded, and a new adjective was spawned:

Antepenultimate – third from the end

Okay, so there we had a 15 letter, six syllable word to use in place of a 15 letter, 4 syllable phrase that meant exactly the same thing. I guess that makes sense of a sort. The sort that comes in very handy when writing within specific word count limits. Just not the sort I choose to apply to my daily doings and about-townery.

Now it appears there are rumblings in certain circles to bring back into everyday use an obsolete little gem that takes this sort of sense just a bit further:

Preantepenultimate – fourth from the end

So keeping in mind that language is a fluid and constantly evolving thing, I just have one question:

Are you fucking serious?

Friday, January 14, 2011

How to Not Be an Idiot When Shopping on eBay

“What’s the most inspiring thing I’ve ever said to you?”
“Don’t be an idiot.”
~The Office


Few of us begin the day by saying to ourselves over our morning coffee, “I think I’ll behave like a complete moron today.” Some, perhaps, but few. Which is fortunate, considering the ones who suffer most from these moronic tendencies are not the morons themselves, but those who have to get through the day trying to navigate around them.

Now, “don’t be an idiot”, while very good advice, may indeed seem overwhelming in its generality. But even the most monumental of tasks ceases to be intimidating when broken down into small and easily handled segments. Today, we will focus on not being an idiot when shopping on eBay.


1 – READ THE FUCKING LISTING

Listings on eBay contain valuable information in different forms. Sometimes, it’s pictures. Pictures are very pretty, aren’t they? Yes, they are. But there is other information in an eBay listing that at times can prove even more useful than the pretty pretty pictures. It is in the form of words. Words that tell you things about what you see in the pretty pretty picture. Like how big the thing in the picture is, and what it’s made of. So when you’re shopping on eBay, you need to look at the pictures AND read the words.

When you do not read the words, and the item you purchase turns out to be 1) not everything you had ever hoped and wished and dreamed and prayed for, but 2) exactly what the words in the listing said it would be, this is actually your fault, so please do not turn around and try to blame it on someone else.


2 – KNOW YOUR FUCKING GEOGRAPHY

The things for sale on eBay are not at your house. If they were, you wouldn’t have to buy them. Because of this, they have to be sent to you. From somewhere else. Now, sometimes people selling things will not send them to certain places. So it’s up to you to determine the following:

- Where you live
- Where the thing you are buying can be sent
- If where the thing you are buying can be sent is NOT where you live

There is, for example, a difference between the United States and the United Kingdom. Confusing, I know, beginning with the same word and all. But they are different, there was a war and everything, you may have read about it. So if an item is currently in the United States, and the listing specifies that it will only ship within the United States, and you live in the United Kingdom, you can’t buy it. If you try, it will only end in disappointment, and you should spare yourself that whenever possible.


3 – PAY FOR YOUR SHIT

When you go to a store, you have to pay for things before you are allowed to take them out of the store. eBay is just like that. When you bid on things, and you win those things, you have to pay for them. And not just whenever you feel like it. You actually have to pay for them fairly soon after you win them. If you do not, you will make people sad. If you make too many people sad, you will not be allowed to play eBay anymore.

Oh, and besides making people sad, you will be in violation of a legally binding agreement entered into at the time of your bid.

But mostly you‘ll make people sad and you don’t want that, do you? No, of course you don’t.


4 – A SUPER CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET EBAY TOOL

I don’t tell just anyone about this, so I want you to pay close attention. Write it down, even. At the end of all the pretty pictures and descriptions, on every single listing, carefully hidden in plain sight, is a text link that says...

ASK THE SELLER A QUESTION

What this does is take you to a form that you can use to ask sellers questions. About things they are selling. Things you want to know about things you want to buy before you buy those things. And that’s really the best time to ask those questions, BEFORE you buy things. Sellers are people just like you and me. They are sometimes not perfect, and occasionally forget to include information in listings. Sometimes the information you want is actually in the listing, and you don’t have to ask the seller a question. (Please see Step 1) But sometimes you want to know more and that’s all kinds of okay! Sellers like that! They want you to be happy! They want your money AND your love!


This concludes today’s lecture on How To Not Be An Idiot When Shopping On eBay. Feel free to suggest future “How To Not Be An Idiot” topics in your comments. I’m sure there are plenty out there.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Things that are Bugging Me More & More Lately: The Grammar Edition

We all have things that drive us crazy. And we all do things that drive other people crazy. It’s called “being human”. I for one am all over the being human thing, and do my best to let others be human in their own ways.

However, there are some things that people just really shouldn’t do. They shouldn’t do these things for two reasons. First, these things are wrong. Second, when enough people do these wrong things on a regular enough basis, they become accepted as right things.

I have given up on hearing the word “culinary” pronounced correctly outside of my own home. My sister is beginning to feel the same way about “foyer”. Granted, we were raised to set our sights high, but there comes a time when the towel must be thrown in for the sake of sanity.

So I let “kuhl-uh-naree” go when I hear it these days. It’s just not worth it. The rest of this post is dedicated to the things that I will let go only when my dying breath forces me to conserve my strength long enough to tell my loved ones how much they mean to me. The gloves are off now. I am far too annoyed to continue ignoring any of the following:

Things That Are Just Not Right

EVERYDAY – This is not the group of seven that forms a week. This is an adjective. It means “commonplace”. You can do something in an everyday manner, but you do not do it everyday, you do it every day.

ACCEPTED vs. EXCEPTED – Frankly I find it really disturbing to see these two words misused as often as I do since, not only are the spellings completely different, they do not mean even close to the same thing. You do not except things the way they are, you accept them. Or, you can take exception and not accept them. If you’re feeling particularly feisty, you can accept all of them except the exceptions which do not merit your acceptance.

DEFINATELY – This is not a word. Please stop using it as though it is. Whatever it is you are referring to is not definate, it is definite. Definitely definite.

IRREGARDLESS – Webster’s, Oxford, and Dictionary.com can all kiss my grammatically conscientious ass. This is not “nonstandard”, this is not “informal”, this is just wrong. Stop putting labels on it that make it sound like it’s okay to use under the right circumstances. It isn’t. Ever.


Words That Are Not Verbs

Here’s a hint to help you determine if a word is a verb; if you can’t add “ed” to the end of it to use it in the past tense, it probably isn’t. Now, this rule won’t always apply, but a little bit of common sense will take you a long way with words like:

WORKOUT – You can do an aerobic workout, but you do not workout aerobically. You work out. You did not workouted this morning. You worked out.

BACKUP – You make a backup copy. You have a backup plan. You do not backup your data, you back up your data. You did not backupped your data last week.

LOGIN – You have a login ID. You did not just use it when you loginned to your account. You logged in using your login. You will log in again tomorrow, using the same login.


Is That Your Welcome?

YOUR vs. YOU’RE – These are not interchangeable. One is about ownership. One is about a state of being. When in doubt, talk it out. Do you mean “YOU ARE welcome/great/silly/an asshole”? Then use “you’re”. I know, it’s another letter and an apostrophe. As you suffer through those extra keystrokes, take a moment to gloat. That’s your right when you’re right.

ITS vs. IT’S – see above.

THEIR vs. THERE vs. THEY’RE – A little more tricky, but really, how difficult is it to keep them straight?
Their – belonging to them
There – in that place
They’re – they are, again with the apostrophe being a none-too-subtle giveaway


This concludes today’s episode of Things that are Bugging Me More & More Lately. Please feel free to leave your own personal grammar pet peeves in the comments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dear Dr. Scholl...

Dear Dr. Scholl,

I recently purchased a pair of your Tri-Comfort Orthotics and must say that I am extremely satisfied with their performance. So please understand that it is not the product I am concerned with here.

It is the instructions that accompanied the product.

Now, these orthotics (kudos to you, by the way, for finding such a fancy and clinical-sounding substitute for “squishy insoles”) really only fit in my shoes one way. There are those who could, I suppose, with a great deal of effort and a sharp pair of scissors, make them fit other ways, but for those of us who just assume that the simplest and most obvious answer is the correct one, there is but a single option.

So it really wasn’t necessary for me to read the printed accompaniment that stated “Place Tri-Comfort Orthotics in your shoe so the slightly elevated arch support area rests against the inside edge of the shoe.” I know you had to say it, product liability in a lawsuit-happy world and all, I really do understand why you had to say that.

What I completely fail to understand is why you felt you had to say what you said next.

Because in addition to the above statement about aligning the arch support of the orthotic with the inside edge of the shoe, you were thoughtful enough to print “L” and “R” on the corresponding bottoms of orthotics themselves.

So with all of that in mind, please explain this; if someone is unable to determine that “L” and “R” stand for “Left” and “Right” when printed on products intended for footwear, do you really think the following instruction is going to be helpful?

“The orthotic with the Dr. Scholl’s logo fits into your left shoe.”

Really, Dr. Scholl?

Really?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Actually, Swiss Colony, Just Shut the Hell Up

When someone says “Swiss Colony”, what is the first thing that most people think of? Yes. Beef Log. The Original Beef Log, in all its cholesterol-laden snerk-inducing double-entendric glory, the cornerstone of the Swiss Colony empire.

(They now also offer Beef Log Lite, but for the sake of our male readers, let’s all just agree to not even go there, okay? You’ll still have the Meat Stick Bonanza, Savory Meat Bits, and Cheesy Sausage Trio to work with.)

Nowadays, Swiss Colony doesn’t just offer you their Beef Log. They have branched out quite a bit, and I now consider the Swiss Colony catalog one of my primary resources for theft-worthy confection and craft ideas. And I will steal from no one but the very best. But this latest catalog has exceeded even my lofty expectations.

There are things in this catalog at a level of awesome never meant to coexist with mere humans. At the risk of angering the gods even further, I share these things with you now.

THE PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY PETIT FOUR


Because, obviously, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches needed to be made more appealing by being miniaturized and covered in chocolate.

And then we have

THE JUNGLE PALS COOKIE TIN


I have one minor complaint here, that being pandas do not frolic merrily in the same terrain as warthogs and monkeys, but overall, I consider this a work of genius, with the leaves being the touch that puts it truly over the top. And on my list of people I’d like to meet before I die, I will be adding “the person who woke up at 2 in the morning with the idea of the warthog truffle.”

And speaking of truffles, what better way to celebrate the imminent return of Spring than with

THE FROG TRUFFLE GIFT BOX


Do I have to say anything more? Okay, I will. I understand why they made these a simple unenhanced chocolate truffle. Because making them mint flavored would have caused the catalog to spontaneously combust from its own awesome and someone would have sued.

And finally

THE ZOO PALS GRIDDLE


I... just... want this. I have no other words.

~~~~~~~~~~
(Sadly, the Jungle Pals Cookie Tin & PB&J Petit Fours appear to no longer be available. But the Zoo Pals Griddle, Frog Truffles, and many other bits of candy-coated awesome are available at www.swisscolony.com)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why I Love Spam

For the same reason that I will never remove myself from the eHarmony mailing list, I will never allow myself to get too terribly upset with spammers. Because like eHarmony, spam is as funny as you let it be.

Just sitting there in your junk folder showing off its subject line, spam is funny. There are few things more amusing than grammatical errors combined with outrageous promises. It’s like someone who speaks English as a twelfth language trying to pick you up in a bar. It gets to a point where you just have to laugh.

Every morning when I check my email, I scan the subject lines of my junk folder to see what the spam gods have arranged for my amusement that day.

Sometimes, it’s the way the sender’s name works with the subject line:

“CHASE MIRANDA – Watch Your Pounds Disappear!”
(because that Miranda, wow, can she run...)

But more often it’s the order in which the emails came in causing the subject lines to blend and form what I like to call Chunks of Spam. The following are Chunks of Spam that have appeared in my mailbox.

“Certain Asthma Inhalers shown
Exquisite Replica”

(Other asthma inhalers shown cheap and obviously fake crap)

“Eve Mendes’s Secret is Out!
How protected is your home?”

(AAAHHHOMGNOOOO!!! Lockthedoorlockthedoorlockthedoor!!!)

“Top 10 reasons to try
The $10,000 Spring Scholarship”

(One one-thousand, two one-thousand...)


Colon cleansing spam chunks are just... wow:

“Live Longer, clean your colon
Sears Central Air”

“Supersize your blueberries with
Trial Colon Cleanse Sample”



Never underestimate the benefits of learning a new language:

“Want those stretch marks to vanish?
Conquer the language barrier”


and it may be easier than you think:

“Even if you quit your job, you can still
Conquer the language barrier”



Languages not your thing? Fear not, there are many other paths to self-improvement:

“Improve Your Sex Life!
Nursing Assistant Courses Online”

“Stop smoking without any
Patches used in hernia surgery”

“Dish Network - $9.95 a Month
No dieting required”

“Connect to Financial Aid for your
No Cost Trial Membership”



Spam helps us address our health concerns:

“Don’t let health problems affect
500 cards for $5.00”

“Your kidney failure may
Earn generous revenue online”

“men have experienced bigger
Sprouts in as little as 5 days”



improves our online shopping experiences:

“Find cheap alternative to expensive
Personalized Gifts Just For Her”


“Slim 365 targets belly, hip, and
Gift Ideas for Fathers Day”

“How to get every girl to want
A Really Good Gift”



tells us things we never knew we never knew:

“A top team of scientists and medical doctors
Make money at home with Twitter”


“Search Top Culinary Schools
Denture Creams have been found”


“Special Report for Homeowners
Size does matter!”



and in these troubling economic times, spam is here for us:

“Begin a rewarding career with
Secrets of scoring with women”


“Learn how to make a living on
One second on your tongue”


“Get 250 business cards, plus
Secrets of Seduction”


“Wherever you go, hot women
Get paychecks for 250 – 850”

“When Wall Street crashes
We can keep your male instrument”



Yes, there have been many classics left in my junk folder by the Spam Fairy, but the following two are in my mind tied for Best Chunk of Spam in the History of Ever. So I now ask you, friends, to help me out here. Which do you think should take the title of B.C.O.S.I.T.H.O.E? Write-ins are not only welcome but heartily encouraged, if the Spam Fairy has left you something that you would like to share. For now, the candidates are:

#1
“Asbestos exposure is shown to
Enlarge your penis in a safe way”


#2
“Express your feelings in an elegant way
Quit talking and start shagging”



I know. Tough call. But I have faith in you.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One Woman's Addiction: The Deep Dark Super Sad Secret Story

They say that admitting to a problem is the first step in being able to overcome it. And what better place for such an admission than here, where the people who know and love me nestle cozily among millions of complete strangers to form the secure emotional harbor that is the Internet; here, knowing that I can count on you for support, loyal readers and new friends who happened along out of morbid curiosity piqued by seeing the word “addiction” in a blog subject line; here at last I feel safe in sharing my secret and unburdening my weary soul.

My name is Harlean, and I am addicted to Theme Cookbooks.

You know the ones I mean. The $2.99 evils that lurk at the checkstand in every grocery store in America and throw themselves into your cart the instant you turn your back to reach for a box of Altoids. The ‘30 Minute Meal’ Cookbook. The ‘Fun with Frozen Spinach’ Cookbook. The ‘If You Can’t Wrap It In A Tortilla You Obviously Don’t Need It That Badly Now DO YOU?!’ Cookbook.

Oh yes, I have them all. I am weak, a weak and sorry thing when confronted by the power that is the Theme Cookbook.

I first suspected that I had a problem one evening a few months back when I stopped at the drugstore on my way home from work. I needed a gallon of milk and some cotton balls. This should have been a five minute interruption of my journey, scarcely noticeable and not worthy of mention then or now. Upon reaching my destination, I noticed a display of summer items and, since at the time I was in the market for sun tea jars, I thought a glance at that aisle was in order. They did not have sun tea jars. What they did have was Theme Cookbooks, 3 for $10. Hardcover Theme Cookbooks. When I made my way out of the store forty-five minutes later, after having perused every single available title and overcoming the anguish of limiting myself to only three, I was the proud owner of The Pizza Cookbook, The Comfort Food Cookbook, and The Delicious Snacks Cookbook.

In my defense, I can say only this; delicious snacks. I mean, come on.

And as strongly as I hold to the belief that my life will indeed become a brighter and more precious thing once I have truly mastered the fine art of Cake Mix Cooking, these practical everyday little gems are nothing compared to the draw I feel when confronted by...

The Holiday Theme Cookbook.

Here, I am not just weak. Show me a cookbook with a picture of Santa's Village made entirely of dried cranberries, peanut butter and Nilla Wafers on the cover, and I am not weak; I am done. '50 All-Time Best Holiday Cookies Ever In Whole Wide World'? It doesn’t even occur to me that I have 43 of those recipes in the other All-Time Best Holiday Cookie collections already in my possession; I have slapped my $2.99 down on the counter and am off and running before you can say “cool completely and store in an airtight container.”

Do you know how to make eight magical flying reindeer from a tube of ready-to-bake cinnamon rolls, a box of Corn Flakes, half a cup of chocolate sprinkles and roll of waxed paper? I do. Oh, but wait. The worst is yet to come.

Strong as it is, Christmas is not when the peak of Holiday Theme Cookbook power is reached. Oh no, there is a holiday even stronger, greater and more dangerous in the realm of the Theme Cookbook.

Halloween.

Anyone who has ever made a Haunted Forest Veggie Platter complete with jicama ghosts, olive bats and black-tinted broccoli trees knows exactly what I’m talking about. And those of you who haven’t, don’t. I beg you. Stop before you start, you’ve no idea the power of what you face. Oh sure, you think it might be fun to try it once, it’s a party, what the hell, everybody does it sometime, right? Wrong. The Haunted Forest Veggie Platter leads to the Witch’s Broom Breadsticks, and from there to the Egg Roll Coffins. Before you realize what’s happening, you are up to your elbows in ground turkey, striving to form the perfect CorpseLoaf. There is no end to it. The only true end is to never begin. Trust me on this.

It has been 149 days since my last purchase of a Theme Cookbook. But before you begin to think that I am cured, free of the Theme Cookbook draw, allow me to relate to you what happened just yesterday.

September 19 is Talk Like A Pirate Day. Sadly, my love and I will not be together to celebrate this glorious occasion, but to raise our spirits we turned yesterday’s conversation toward next year, and the idea that we could then throw a Talk Like A Pirate Day party. Before we even finished speaking the words, my brain popped up with “Oh, and you have a recipe for Skull & Crossbones Salad with the skulls made out of canned pear halves, you can make that.”

I haven’t even looked at the book that contains the Skull & Crossbones Salad recipe in almost a year, yet there it was, hovering on the periphery of my mind just waiting to spring the instant it had an excuse to come forward.

I am not a well woman. I realize this now. Once you have taken the Theme Cookbook into your life and home, you can never truly be free of its power.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All Those Curves and Me with No Brakes

I will never, ever, no matter what the years may bring, ever cancel my email subscription to eHarmony. Not because I think I will need their services anytime soon, or even anytime late; I’m quite happy where I am and have every intention of staying here.

But I will keep my eHarmony subscription, if only for the blog fodder they so generously throw into my open and eager arms. Just when I am at a loss for something to bash, there they are, with an email that I simply cannot resist reading. Today’s eHarmony offering was

"Pickup Lines That Actually Work"

Now, I have always been of the opinion that if you want to meet someone, you should do something really ridiculous like, oh, I don’t know, introduce yourself. Crazy, they call me, but something in my head continues to insist that this is a reasonable idea. And eHarmony does not disagree with me on this point, surprisingly enough.

However, on their list of ‘Six Pickup Lines That Actually Work’, this was Number Six. And not even the real Number Six, but buried in the paragraph dedicated to “Can I buy you a drink?” and suggested as a last resort in case you were somewhere that drinks were not available to be bought. This and #4 ('What kind of dog is that?' as a conversation starter) are, as far as I’m concerned, the only two reasonable options on the list, and I find it more than a bit disturbing that the most honest and straightforward of all the Pickup Lines That Work is the last thing they suggest you try.

The first thing they suggest you do is lie.

Yes, eHarmony’s #1 Pickup Line That Works is:

“Aren’t you Laurie James?”

when you know damn good and well that the person you’re talking to isn’t Laurie James, and you don’t even know anyone named Laurie James. #3 is “Don’t I know you from spinning class?” when, again, you know you don’t know that person from spinning class. So eHarmony’s idea of a good way to meet people is to lie and pretend that you already know them.

#2 on eHarmony’s list is:

“Nice shoes.”

Now, this is a great way to start a conversation, but the downside to this as a pickup line is that if you compliment a woman on her shoes, it means you have noticed her shoes, and if you make it known that you have noticed her shoes, she is probably going to assume that you’re gay.

But that’s vastly preferable to what she’s likely to assume if you use Pickup Line That Works #5, which is:

“I just got out of a Mexican jail.”

What? I’m sorry, what? This is the latest version of What Women Want To Hear? Where have I been? When did ‘recently released from prison in a foreign country’ become a sought-after quality in a potential mate? Or is the logic here supposed to be women will assume that if Mexican jail didn’t frighten you, a committed relationship won’t either?

Whatever happened to things like “Is there a mirror in your pants? Because I can see myself in them.” At least with that, everybody knows exactly where they stand.

What NOT To Ask On a First Date

Once upon ages ago, I signed up for my 3 month free trial at eHarmony, then proceeded to never do anything with it. But the great thing about eHarmony is that they will always be there for you. Always. Always. Once they have your email address, you have a friend for life.

While I have no need of their services, it is at this point easier to just delete their emails than to convince them not to send any more. And once in a while, they actually send something with a subject line that catches my eye, an email that I read and feel I have gained something from the reading experience. Yesterday, I received one of those. The subject line was:

“5 Things it’s NOT Okay to Ask”

Well, could I resist reading that? Of course not. So read it I did, and it turned out to be an article listing 5 things you should not ask on the first date if you have any interest at all in a second date.

Articles of this type are like warning labels; they do not come into being until after someone has already done the stupid thing against which we are being cautioned. It was with this in mind that I read the article, the knowledge that enough people have asked these 5 questions on enough first dates and been met with enough resounding date failure that someone finally felt intervention was necessary. The 5 Questions are as follows:

1 - “So what’s your marriage timeline?” Yes, I agree, a bit pushy for a first date.

2 - “How old are you?” I disagree, I think this is acceptable ‘getting to know you’ material, but that is just one woman’s opinion and that woman doesn’t work for eHarmony and get paid to write these articles.

3 - “What are you into in the bedroom?” Hmm... yeah, save that one for the second date.

5 - “Where have you been all my life?” I wasn’t aware that people actually said this in real life, but apparently they do. And on the first date. To me this seems like the verbal equivalent of holding a knife to your date’s throat and screaming “YOU MUST LIKE ME NOW!” There just is no right answer, and I was on the verge of agreeing with eHarmony’s advice to not ask this when dear Liz added the following, redefining what this question may really be asking:

"... No really, why haven't I ever run into you, are you an assassin? Is this a trick? ANSWER ME, ASSHOLE!”

She may be right, and if you even suspect that she is, I would recommend asking this question as early in the evening as possible, preferably before you get into a car with your date.

Now, you may be wondering why I skipped Question 4. I did so because I wanted to save the best for last. I wanted to clear the stage of all the other players and shine the spotlight directly on what I consider to be the real star of this article.

According to eHarmony, it is not considered the done thing to ask your companion on the first date:

4 - “Can I borrow $1000?”

What? The hell you say! Really? It’s not appropriate to ask a relative stranger for a large sum of money at a first meeting? Well, that’s disappointing...

eHarmony really believed this needed to be put in writing. They limited this article to 5 questions that shouldn’t be asked on a first date, and they felt this needed to be one of them. That people needed to be told this. And I have difficulty believing they were running out of things to say and pulled a question out of someone’s left sock because “4 Things it’s NOT Okay to Ask” just didn’t have the same ring to it. They had reason to think that people needed to see this in print. And the reason that first comes to my mind is the warning label theory; people actually did this so often that someone finally had to say “Okay, enough.”

So, if you or anyone you know has ever asked this question on a first date and wondered why the answer you received sounded suspiciously like the tires of your date’s car squealing as they exited the parking lot at what some might consider an unreasonable speed, well, there you have it. This is just NOT OKAY. Remember how NOT OKAY this is next time you are sitting across the table from someone you might want to keep in your life for longer than ten minutes. If you really find yourself at a loss for words, go with the lesser of two evils and ask where that person has been all your life.

(Oh, and in this same email, amidst all the tips, tools and techniques for building and maintaining a healthy relationship, was the link to enter eHarmony’s “What Happens in Vegas” Sweepstakes. So, if you slip up and suddenly find yourself with some free time and needing a way to make a quick $1000, fear not, they’ve got you covered.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Are You SURE You're Not a Really Bored Gay Canadian?

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” – Mark Twain

Anyone reading this who claims to have never taken a stupid Internet quiz, please leave now, because I’m pretty sure you’re a liar. We all have. They draw you in and beg to tell you things about yourself that you would never learn otherwise. I cannot even begin to tell you how well I sleep now, knowing that, should this unfortunate sequence of events ever find its way to me


We need to know these things, and the Internet Quiz is the best and often the only way to discover them.

However, while the Internet Quiz is indeed invaluable in determining what type of socks you are, which of Batman’s enemies you most closely resemble, what your stripper name should be and whether or not Edward Cullen would fall in love with you, there are some things you not only should not rely on an Internet Quiz to determine, but really shouldn’t even need to consult one to aid you in the first place.

Whilst skimming through MySpace’s Quizzer App, I happened across a number of quizzes that, on the strength of the titles alone, brought to mind a bit of dialogue from ‘Family Guy’, a conversation between Brian and his rather-easily-distracted-by-all-things-shiny girlfriend, Jillian:

Jillian: How do I know if I'm Jewish?
Brian: Are you Jewish?
Jillian: No.
Brian: There you go, sport.

I believe the same line of reasoning can be applied in place of the quizzes created to determine the answers to the following questions:

- Are you gay?
- Are you Canadian?
- Are you really bored?
- Do you hate the Jonas Brothers?

There you go, sport.

Now, there was a quiz on the list that concerns me a great deal, because what you might think is a simple question with an obvious answer is just not the case. That quiz is, of course, ‘Do You Like Money?’ You are probably thinking, as you read this, “well sure, of course I like money.” And that is the wrong answer. People fight about money all the time. The two biggest relationship killers known to humankind are sex and money. If you had more sex and less money, you’d be much happier.

Besides, like of money is the root of some evil. You know that.

So, dear friends, loyal readers, complete strangers and hapless souls who stumbled in suspecting that they might be really bored gay Canadians and hoping to settle the matter for good and all, I am here for you. Remove this evil from your life. Help me help you. The ‘Donate’ button is in the sidebar.

And once that’s done, and you feel so much better about yourself and your life and everything that the future holds, come back and let me know if you’ve ever learned anything interesting about yourself from an Internet quiz.

(Velociraptor graphic courtesy of www.bunkbeds.net.  Sadly, the quiz itself it no longer available.  Maybe if we all go buy bunk beds, they'll bring it back.)

UPDATE! Anne was kind enough to inform me that the Velociraptor quiz can be found here. Thank you, Anne!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Okay, But What KIND of Porno?

I don’t want to say that some people are stupid, exactly. Closer to what I mean would probably be something like, some people would reap really large and very noticeable benefits from an increase in their “paying attention to what’s right in front of you” levels. That’s not exactly the same as stupid, and it sounds much nicer.

I was listening to the radio the other day, and a man on the radio was talking about how frustrating it is for him to not be able to figure out anything of what a movie might be about from its title. Okay, fair enough, that can at times be pretty confusing.

Now, if it had been me, if I had been the man on the radio that day complaining about this particular thing, I probably would have cited Hamlet 2 as a recent very good example of a movie’s title not only not saying anything about the actual movie that someone could figure out just from reading the title in the newspaper, but a title that could be considered downright misleading. Yes, you really only have to see about a third of one commercial for the movie itself to know that it’s got very little to do with its predecessor, but speaking strictly of the title, no, you really don’t get much from that.

So it wasn’t the complaint of the man on the radio that I had a problem with. It was the example that he chose to illustrate his complaint. The example he used of a movie whose title tells absolutely nothing about the movie itself was...

Zack & Miri Make A Porno

OK, let’s analyze this, shall we?

If I really had to venture a guess, just based on that title, as to what that movie might be about, I would have to say it’s about... two people... named Zack and Miri... who... make a porno. Am I close? Well golly would you look at that. A quick glance at Google tells me that I have it exactly right.

If there has been a movie since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that was gifted with a less ambiguous title, I can’t recall it. No one was trying to hide anything or mislead anyone here. In this case, that movie really is about exactly what the title makes you think it should be about.

Oh, you want to know why two people named Zack and Miri might be making said porno? I really hate to break it to you, but that’s what you pay the ten dollars for. To find that out. Sorry. The answers to these burning questions are seldom easily obtained and never free.

Now, I might have been able to excuse Man On The Radio for the bad example he chose to make this particular point, had he not gone on from there to his next issue with the lack of information provided by movie titles, using the same title as an example.

He went on to say that not being able to tell what Zack & Miri Make A Porno is about from its title is only half of his problem. The other half of his problem is being able to figure out, from the title, if this is a movie that he can take his young children to see.

Well, Man On The Radio, if you’re reading this, I feel for you. I really do. And since the whole “THIS FILM IS RATED ‘R’ AND MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN UNDER 17” business might prove to be every bit as unreliable as trying to guess an entire plot just from a title, here’s a little something you may find useful in determining whether or not you should take your young children to see a particular movie:

If the title of the movie contains the word ‘porno’ in any context, don’t.

When Beer Ensues

Sometimes, what you say isn’t nearly as important as how you say it.

My love and I have been apart for a little while now and will be apart for a little while longer, due to life being life and circumstances being circumstances, but we check in with each other once or twice a day. Due to a rather large time difference, his day is wrapping up just as mine is getting started, so our exchanges consist of one recounting the events of the day as the other is laying out a plan for how it is hoped the new day will go.

In one recent conversation, at the end of his day, his list of ‘things done’ fell slightly short of the previous conversation’s list of ‘things hoped to get done’. By way of explanation for this discrepancy, he offered the following:

“In the interest of full disclosure, beer ensued.”

WHAT HE SAID:

“I went out drinking with the guys and, as a result, didn’t get all my shit done.”

WHAT I HEARD:

“I am a brilliantly articulate man capable of making even the most pathetic of time-wasting excursions sound somehow unavoidable; though it was I who sought the beer, bought the beer and consumed the beer, you can’t help but wonder, due to my clever use of language, if the beer itself were not somehow responsible for the entire business. Furthermore, I give you my brilliant articulation on this pathetic time-wasting excursion fully aware that had I not offered this information, you would have had no other way of obtaining it, thereby reaffirming your quite obviously justifiable trust in me and in everything that our relationship is built on.”

If he had just gone out drinking, annoyance on my part would have been perfectly reasonable and expected. But how can I fault a man simply because beer ensued? It would be like blaming him for a storm just because he left a window open.

So, ladies and gentlemen, remember this next time you are somewhere doing something that you are not entirely certain will meet with your partner’s full approval. Ask yourself, am I doing this, or is this merely ensuing in my presence? I think if you pay close enough attention, you will find the latter to be the case far more often than not, and your full disclosure of the events in question, when properly presented, will pave the way to a level of love, trust and understanding higher than any your relationship has previously enjoyed.

Dear Fashion Industry...

I feel as though I‘m missing something.

I’m sure there must be some logic behind it that for whatever reason is just completely beyond my grasp; if there were not, it wouldn’t keep happening. Every year. Without fail. Someone out there must understand the very special kind of sense this makes, because I cannot recall a single year when I was not forced to grapple with the bewilderment born in my soul at the sight of

The Open-Toed Winter Shoe.

Over the years, there have been other things that I have questioned in the realm of winter apparel for women; questioned and, if not reached wholly acceptable conclusions, at least made my peace with their existence. Things such as the sleeveless turtleneck. I am resigned to the fact that I will take to my grave a lack of understanding of both the concept and the reality of the sleeveless turtleneck, but other women seem fine with them so I have to conclude that, in this particular instance, it really is just me. Fair enough, not the first time and likely not the last.

Another favorite is the sweaters made from yarn so thick you could blindfold a yak with a single strand of it, which is then woven coarsely enough to allow for the passage of air, hailstones and whatever pigeons may have inadvertently flown into your dresser that morning.

I have heard many times the standard explanation for garments of this type; they are meant to be layered. I have one thing to say in response; if it is not underwear, layering should be an option, not a requirement.

But for all of this, there is nothing in the lexicon of fashion behavior that confounds me to the same extent as the consistent production of the Open-Toed Winter Shoe.

Winter is fairly well-known for some standard items such as low temperatures and many wondrous forms of precipitation. I can think of few things more unpleasant than having any of that finding its way to my foot via the gaping hole in the front of my otherwise quite winter-friendly footwear. Why, in the name of all that is holy why would someone make a shoe that is thick, warmly lined, heavily stitched and sturdily heeled, and then cut a big hole in the front of it? In whose mind does this make sense? This is the same logic that brings us velveteen dish towels and dry-clean-only baby clothes. This logic goes from flawed straight into nonexistent with nary a pause for breath and I for one deeply resent the fact that people actually make money from it.

(Unless any of these same people are interested in hearing about my ideas for ‘Bacon In A Can’ or ‘Appliances by PetPower’, in which case all is forgiven and my contact information can be found in the footer of this blog.)

Even putting practical considerations aside for a moment, let’s ponder this; you are not supposed to wear any kind of stockings with open-toed shoes. That’s in the rules, everyone knows it. You do not go bare-legged in winter. Everyone knows that, too. The industry that made these rules is the very same industry that inflicts upon our sensibilities every year the Open-Toed Winter Shoe. Are they just trying to see if we’re paying attention? Is it some sort of Cosmo Rorschach Test, defining your inner rebel with what you are willing to see as less wrong? Or is it the industry trying to illustrate the true spirit of Fashion, a timeless placeless seasonless thing, a thing that by definition must break rules, even the rules of its own making, in order to thrive?

And for just a moment, that sounded so good even I almost believed it...

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Clanking Sheep of Norway & Other Tales for Troubled Teens

There is one facet of the beauty in that subject line that can be seen by only two people in this world.

The obvious beauty, of course, can and I’ve no doubt will be appreciated by millions, for who among us would not be warmed by thoughts of fjords, wandering sheep, loud clanking noises and smiling juveniles whose potential delinquency has been thwarted by fine literature?

But only two people were there when the connection between those elements was made, only two people know how it happened and why, and these are the kind of things that make relationships worth having; not only the secrets that you share, but the secrets that you create.

The ‘Bellwethers for Norwegian Youth’ Collection. The real translation of ‘Pinot Noir’, and why it should be feared. The revolution of the bacon, hair care, and dry cleaning industries on two continents. This is pillow talk at its finest, those precious moments between two people when you realize just how much you mean to each other without caring how much you may confuse, concern and nauseate the rest of the world.

There is a line in the movie ‘The Opposite of Sex’ (great movie, in a very twisted and rather dark sort of way, Christina Ricci at her absolute trampy manipulative best and Lisa Kudrow not playing an idiot, I highly recommend it.), one of those simple yet profound lines made somehow all the more effective for being delivered by Lyle Lovett. I’m paraphrasing here since I haven’t seen the movie in a few years, but I’m not more than a word or two off at most and the gist of it remains:

“Sex is like biological highlighter. Look for me first when you walk into a crowded room, and I’ll do the same with you. Otherwise, there’s just too many people in the world.”

There is a lot of truth to this statement, and it holds for secrets as well as sex. There are the people who know my secrets, and for them I never feel alone.

Then there is the person who knows the story of The Clanking Sheep of Norway & Other Tales for Troubled Teens. And for him I never feel lost in the crowd.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Underwear and Me


I have no idea what company was just attempting to convince me that I should purchase what product or service.  I know someone wanted my money, and I know they were offering me something in return for it; beyond that, I can tell you nothing.  All I saw before I moved to another screen was:

‘What Does Your Underwear Say About You?’

It is of course possible that this wasn’t an advertisement of any kind, but rather a public service announcement brought to us by Underwear Listeners for a Better Tomorrow or some other equally altruistic bunch who just think we should know, for our own sakes, what is being said about us by our undergarments:

“Me, with a white skirt.  She put me with a white skirt.

“I don’t know what she meant by it.  All I know is it really hurt to be thrown in with the socks after she hand-washed all the other bras.”

See?  We do need to know these things.  And the Underwear Listeners for a Better Tomorrow are here for us.  They don’t want our money, they just want our love!

Somehow, I doubt it.

I suspect that if our underwear actually does have anything to say, it isn’t to us, that it is most likely perfectly content to chat with others of its kind on topics we would have difficulty identifying with or understanding.

So, on now to what they more likely meant; what quirks, what passions, what dark secrets does your choice of underwear reveal about you?  I have a fondness for vintage lingerie.  What does this say about me?  That I have a proportionately larger than average backside and prefer styles that can accommodate that?  No, it can’t possibly be that simple.  I’m pining, that’s got to be it; feeling displaced, reaching for something long gone, something I never knew but always wished for, pining for a simpler time.  Dear God, all this time I’ve been pining and never even suspected it.  Thank you, Random Senseless Internet Banner, for showing me the light.

A male friend once told me that boxer shorts allow men to carry into adulthood the patterns they had on their pajamas as children.  I believe it, but the idea that men would want to continue their childhoods in any manner possible can hardly be termed a revelation. 

If you really need your underwear drawer to reveal to you who you are, you might not like what you find out.  If you need your underwear to reveal who you are to someone seeing it for the first time, they probably shouldn’t be seeing it yet.

And if you are the person who actually got paid to plaster ‘What Does Your Underwear Say About You?’ across the Internet, I want your job.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Blog

First and foremost, I'd like to wish you a very happy new year.

Happy New Year!

I've been meaning to move my blogging shenaniganary over from Myspace for some time now, for a few reasons.  And now I'm actually doing it.  We'll file that under "Me, Yay For."

The first posts here will be the old posts from over there, so if you have ever read that blog, brace yourself for not having to brace yourself for anything particularly surprising.  If you have not, brace yourself for... other.