Wednesday, June 27, 2007

special plates

I was driving home today and saw this special plate on the car in front of me:

watchable wildlife

Take that, invisible wildlife states! You suck and we rock!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Porch Pots says Hi

Tonight when I was walking back to my apartment from the mailbox Porch Pots Lady yelled my name and waved so I waved back, even though she was out watering those plants. My own porch, which needs to be swept, is littered with dried leaves and a branch that blew in during a storm the other night, but hers is still blooming with life, and it continues to fill me with envy.

“She has a wreath now, a live wreath!” I explained at lunch the other day. “I caught her watering it the other day when I came home!”

“You caught her?” Brian snickered. “Out on her own porch, in broad daylight, watering her plants?”

“How dare she!” Nancy added, rolling her eyes.

Nobody understands, myself included. It’s almost like my blind, reasonless hatred for Nellie Furtado. I step out on my porch and see those plants, and suddenly I’m wishing for a blight upon her crops.

This is the same reasoning that got so many of my Sims killed.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

new glasses

I picked up my new glasses, and they look exactly like they did when I tried to see them in the mirror.

new glasses

I thought that my prescription had just changed a little, but these are so sharp I feel like little red sniper scope dots from my eyes should be darting around the room when I look at things.

Book and Movie Review: "Heart-shaped Box" and "Knocked Up"

I finished Heart Shaped Box pretty late the other night, mainly because I shut off the TV and the computer and stayed up past midnight to finish it.

It's not a bad book, but as scary goes it kind of has its ups and downs. In the beginning I was really creeped out, to the point that I stopped reading it for a night. Then it quickly seemed to be falling back into decent but not really scary ghost story territory, but about two thirds of the way through there was a scene so creepy that I realized my arms and legs were completely covered in goose bumps. By the end it was back down to decent but not scary, though, so I guess it just had some really well written moments.

Stacked against the work of other authors' children (Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, but wanted to establish himself in his own name rather than trading on his father's), it was better written than anything Christopher Rice has dropped on us, and the ending had fewer outlandish coincidences suddenly adding up at once than a Carol Higgins Clark book. I liked it, overall, and will look for his next book and for the fall release of his short story collection.

Last night I went with Jenn and George to see “Knocked Up”, which was funny in places and really slow and boring in places. It also flashes a vagina toward the end of the movie, and shows a baby coming out of it, like that horrible movie you had to watch in health class. Everyone in the theater was like, “Oh my God!” and then, “Jesus Christ! Again?” and then, “Holy shit, is that the baby? What the hell?”

It’s not like I’ve never seen one before, but it was rather surprisingly graphic for a comedy. It’ll probably also give me more nightmares than the book.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


One of the things Naomi Klein discussed in No Logo was the idea that my generation and the one following it are the most branded generations in the history of the world. While she may have argued against branding while simultaneously creating a website to transform her own idea into a brand, she did have a point. Most of the people I know will spurn a can of Southern Lightning if there’s Mountain Dew available, and won’t touch a box of store brand macaroni and cheese when there’s Kraft right next to it.

When I stopped on the way home tonight to pick up croissants I noticed a fairly glaring example of branding:


The average shopper knows nothing about those chips except that Doritos makes them. The bland, featureless bag gives no indication of taste or flavor, and black, as a food color, offers no suggestions. If it was red, or orange, you might think spicy or cheesy, or if it was green you might think immediately of sour cream and onion, since that’s the universal color for potato chips in that flavor. Instead it’s black, a deliberate choice on the part of the Doritos marketing department that probably also assumes their target market isn’t old enough to remember the Monterey Jack flavored Doritos, in a black bag, that were available alongside Crystal Pepsi for a while there.

Who would buy a bag of chips, knowing only that Doritos makes them?

Me, of course. I was curious.

The smell inside the bag when you open it is hard to place. There is definite cheese, but also a salty spicy tomato kind of smell, like guacamole sometimes carries. There’s also a hint of onion, but sweet onions.

Visually, they look like any other Doritos, except for the green ones. They’re a yellow corn chip dusted with orange flavoring of some sort. It’s actually the same shade of orange as regular, plain old red bag nacho cheese Doritos, which again is a deliberate choice on the part of the company. When I was in high school we took a trip to the Ontario Science Center, and one of the exhibits was an experiment in flavoring. You put in a quarter and got a container of orange colored candy, and then were supposed to say what it tasted like. Mine, surprisingly in light of the color, tasted like mint. My friend’s tasted sour.

These chips look like the plain old nacho cheese ones, but taste like something else. Like the smell, the flavor is hard to place, and it makes you think about how much packaging and coloring and naming really does work to predefine your experience. I’ve eaten about six chips so far, and I still can’t quite define it. I’m not really enough of a foodie to pick out all the flavors, but it tastes kind of like a pot of chili, but without the bite from the peppers. There’s a vaguely cumulative sense of heat or spice, but it’s not immediate. They’re not tomato-ish or cheesy, either.

Overall, they taste like Sloppy Joes.

I wish they’d come in a smaller bag.

magical t shirt

My friend Donna sent me a t-shirt this week, and I keep forgetting to say thank you.

I pulled it out of the envelope and put it on as soon as I got to my apartment:

unicorn shirt

Now I’m sad I don’t have a Pride Festival to go to this year, because that would be perfect.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I got a weird phone message from Mom today.

“Hi. It's not an emergency, but... well... you need to know what's going on. Bye!"

Vaguely alarmed, I called home and got Dad.

“What’s up?”

“I got a weird phone message from Mom. She said it’s not an emergency, but I need to know what’s going on?”

Dad repeated it to Mom, who said, “I thought he’d know what that means.”

I didn’t know we were speaking in code on our voicemail now. I look forward to the call informing me that the owls are not what they seem or that Freelancer needs an extraction.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Book Review - Mr. Confidential

I just finished Samuel Bernstein's Mr. Confidential, the story of the rise and fall of "Confidential" magazine.

Bernstein writes well, keeping the tone light and amusing, but this is also a drawback. Like when I had to read that stupidly lopsided Mountains Beyond Mountains book for my old job, this book offers an overwhelmingly positive portrait of Bob Harrison, the publisher of "Confidential", as if Bernstein didn't speak to a single person who didn't like him. The Amazon review says it's an "unflinching portrait", but it does flinch, coming right out several times to say that no one was ever hurt by an article in "Confidential", and that it was all in good fun.

I’m innately suspicious of any biography that offers a one sided portrait. Nobody is a saint all the time. Saint Francis probably kicked a dog once when no one was looking, and Joan of Arc probably snuck twelve items into the medieval equivalent of the Ten Items or Less line, but that doesn’t make them bad people. Writing about anyone as if they did no wrong (or, in the case of Martha, Inc., as if they did no right) dehumanizes them and prevents the reader from relating to them. They stop being a person and become a character or, worse, a caricature, and biographies should treat their subject matter with more respect.

Back to the book at hand, two Harrison detractors are mentioned, but the author goes out of his way to make sure they don’t seem credible. There’s an entire chapter on how one of them became an alcoholic and murdered his wife and then himself, and Bernstein accuses the other of lying about so many other things that the reader is left to conclude that she must be lying about Harrison, too. That’s fine for a puff piece, the kind of thing you might read in “US Weekly” or even, if it still existed, “Confidential”, it’s pretty biased for a book that claims to be objective.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My new glasses are from Versace, but they were on sale

I had an eye exam this morning, and ordered new contacts and two pairs of new glasses, because there was a sale.

Ordering glasses is usually a disappointment to me, because I’ve never really gotten a pair I liked since I got old enough to pick out and purchase my own, because it’s hard to pick out glasses when you can’t see them. To see the glasses clearly and in focus, I have to get so close to the mirror that my face loses all cohesion as a unit. The glasses are in focus, an eye, maybe an eyebrow, but that’s it.

That means I’m not picking out glasses based on how they look on my face. I’m picking them out based on how they look on what I think my face looks like, and, as the poor eyeglasses lady found out today, that’s not always a good thing.

“What about these? They’re kind of round.”

“These are tiny. My head is huge. Do I look like Archie’s principal in these? Be honest.”

“Uh… maybe these. They’re hip, and kind of funky.”

“They look like Buddy Holly glasses.”

“Do you… like Buddy Holly?”

“Of course. But if I wear these, I’m gonna look like the old fat Buddy Holly that nobody wants to put on a stamp. These glasses are totally going to Elvis me, but with Buddy Holly.”

“Uh… why don’t you look around, and see if there’s anything you like, instead of me making suggestions. Then you can try them on and I’ll tell you what they look like.”

“That should work.”

Except that it hasn’t for the last twenty years, so I have no faith that it will now, either. I give that girl credit for trying, though.

Friday, June 15, 2007

stuffed president

I’m home from work today because of an eye appointment which got moved to tomorrow. This morning I decided I would stop by the grocery store on what should have been a routine trip. Everything was going along normally until, on my way out, I passed the claw machine and saw this:

Nixon in the claw machine

President Nixon?

A stuffed plush President Nixon?

For a second I was certain it couldn’t possibly be Richard Nixon. What child would want a toy of President Nixon?

Who would sit around a marketing meeting going, “We need a plush toy that people will be willing to throw insane amounts of money into the claw machine for. Something children will beg their parents for quarters to get. Something guys will try to win to impress their girlfriend. Our blue-headed mallard isn’t really doing it, and fake Shrek hasn’t moved in months. What can we get?”

“Sir? What about disgraced former president turned respected elder statesman Richard M. Nixon?”


That couldn’t be right. I entertained the thought that it might actually be a bad Jay Leno (although the same thoughts come to mind; what child wants a toy of Jay Leno?) but the tag confirmed it:

presidential tag

It’s Nixon.

This leaves me with two questions. The first, obviously, is, “Why? Why does that exist?” and the second is, “How much will it cost to get that out of the claw machine?”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

They're very American!

I was walking through Target when I spotted a wall of these, enough to cover an entire endcap in the Pantry section:

spirit cakes

Good God, I thought. Is there nothing people won’t slap a flag on? And what kind of people buy these out of all the other cupcakes in boxes? Is there really someone who’s going to look at these and think, “I like Ho-Ho’s and all, but they’re not very, you know, AMERICAN. I better get these instead.”

On the other hand, perhaps they’re not so absurd after all. What could be more American than driving to a big box store in walking distance to buy 3000 calories, utterly devoid of a single vitamin and individually wrapped in non-biodegradable plastic, for a dollar and change?

I don’t know about the other nationalistic shoppers at Target, but that argument was enough to sway me. And there is something more American than buying them:


Eating them.

So many people have written over the years that America is a sham, an empty dream, all flash and no substance, an oddly tasteless snack cake with waxy frosting that looks interesting but leaves your mouth dry. Could it be that Little Debbie, far from being a jingoistic Americentric flag-waving baker is actually a subversive metaphorist? Is she making her own comment on the “Spirit of America” by embodying it in the form of empty calories in a pretty wrapper?

Probably not.

Sometimes a snack cake is just a snack cake.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

letter to "Top Chef"

Dear “Top Chef” contestants:

Please refrain from ever again referring to food as “sexy”. I don’t like to think of my chicken as vaguely sweaty, a little bit sticky, or unwilling to sit in the wet spot on my plate. Likewise, unless my vegetables are curled on their sides in the fetal position the next morning practically falling off the edge of the plate they’re shamefully trying not to share with a meat whose name they can’t remember from the night before, they don’t have much in common with sex, either.

Also, Tre, this isn’t “Memento”. You don’t need to tattoo instructions on your arm.

In closing, please develop a challenge for this season that incorporates Twinkies.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

book review - All Families Are Psychotic

Since giving up the left hander book I've already finished Douglas Coupland's All Families Are Psychotic!

This is my third Coupland book, and only the second of his fiction. (I'm counting "Dictator Style" as nonfiction even if the bookstore had it in the humor section.) This was funnier than "Girlfriend in a Coma", but you have to immediately suspend disbelief almost from the first page, as the family and the situations they stumble into through their own dysfunctional interactions get more and more outrageous. In the last half of the book, every chapter was an exercise in "Oh my God, now what?" but it stayed funny the whole way through.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mystery of Moo Face

Today when I got home from work there was a flyer for one of the local fitness centers stuck in my door. When I stopped to pull it out, I noticed this on the porch:

moo face

I shook my fist in outrage.

“Moo Face? Have I gotten so fat that people are leaving me notes implying that I’m a cow? Who was it? Two Jobs Girl? Porch Pots Lady? Rescue Dog Matron? Which one of them did this?”

I took my letter to Moo Face inside and opened it, where I discovered that I am not Moo Face:

the letter

(Click that to make it bigger.)

While I’m no longer enraged at my neighbors, I’m filled with questions. Did Moo Face drop this, or was it a letter that Kristina never had a chance to deliver and has carried around for three years? Why would either of them carry it around for three years? Did something happen to Kristina, or Moo Face?

Did something happen to both of them?

What if the letter is cursed? What if I take it home and unfold it and read it and then I wake up in the middle of the night and Moo Face is standing over me with an axe screaming, “Kristina’s back from Hilton Head!” and then I get hacked to pieces like Joan Crawford’s husband in “Straight Jacket” and one of the cops or ambulance workers who comes in to carry out my body picks up the note and then that night he wakes up and Moo Face is standing over the bed?

What if I hadn’t watched so many bad horror movies when I was little?

I left the letter on the porch in case Moo Face comes back for it.

I also locked the door.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

out of town visitors

Kim and Kevin came to town yesterday so that Kevin could go to a convention, and I met them out at their hotel last night so that we could go to dinner. I squeezed them into my car (they’re not fat; putting any group of people into a bug automatically qualifies as squeezing) and took them out to Buddy’s for barbecue. After a quick trip to Super Target we split up for the night, and then this morning I picked Kim up while Kevin went to the convention.

I took Kim to the used bookstore, where we spent hours and hours walking around. I picked up four books, but Kim must have gotten at least a dozen, and I thought we’d have to pry her out of the store with a crowbar even after Kevin called. Once he called, we drove out to campus to meet him, and then went to get sandwiches for lunch at McCallister’s.

Or McAllister’s.

I can’t remember the name even though I’ve driven past or seen ads for it plenty of times. We ate inside, because it’s hot today, but had a lot of fun watching the birds outside pick apart the food on the tables waiting to be bussed.

deli birds

After lunch we went to buy t-shirts, and then I drove them around campus for a tour.

campus visitors

There’s not really a lot to see on campus on a non-game weekend, especially in summer, and they had to get back on the road soon, so we wrapped up with a quick trip to the gardens.


Other than making a big, oven baked homemade mac and cheese tonight, I don’t really have anything planned for the rest of the weekend.

Friday, June 8, 2007

I'm a quitter

I’ve been trying to read the same book since the first week of April, and I’ve finally surrendered and given up. Usually I read a book in a week or maybe two weeks if it’s long, so taking this long on one book and not even being halfway through it is kind of like slamming my hand in a car door repeatedly. Each time I pick it up and try to read another page it feels like I’m getting poked in the eye with a railroad spike, but now that I finally gave up on it, I have a nice, crushing feeling of failure, since I haven’t put a book down without finishing it since junior high.

It’s a lose/lose situation.

I was trying to read Stanley Coren’s "The Left Hander Syndrome". I’m left handed, so a book that claimed to be able to tell me how I got that way, if it’s true that I’ll die sooner than right handed people, whether or not I’m more creative, and a number of other questions seemed like it would be interesting.

It wasn’t.

It’s like Coren had someone go through and remove any metaphor, any analogy, any attempt at colloquial language, and did their best to make this as boring, dense, and dryly academic as possible. Granted the subject matter doesn’t seem like it should really set the world on fire or that it would be a gripping page turner, but reading this was a terrible experience.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

special thursday

The SUV in front of me on my way home this afternoon had two “Fred Thompson 2008” bumper stickers on the back, one on either side of the red, white, and blue “Remember 9/11” magnet. How the hell did people get bumper stickers so fast? Didn’t he just decide to run yesterday or the day before?

I would have taken a picture, but my Thursday night pizza was on top of my bag, so I couldn’t get to my camera. I had a pizza because Thursday is, as Brian says, my “special day”, when I go to the comic store and then get a five dollar pepperoni pizza from the store next door. I take both of them home and read my comics while I eat half of my pizza.

With a knife and fork.

I don’t want my comics all greasy and smeary, you know?

Not that it would be all that tragic if “Omega Flight” got smeared all to crap. I’m sending my comic guy a note tomorrow to cancel that from my pull list before I forget, since I’m three issues in and can’t find a single good thing about it other than that Julia Carpenter is on the team, and I like her.

I hate her new codename, though.

And her redesigned costume.

Still, though, it’s a comic that’s so bad that this issue they actually used “your” instead of “you’re”. Not only does it look like they drew it with a half-melted crayon, but they can’t even take the trouble to proofread it.

I'd rather spend my comic budget on something like "Fables" or "The Plain Janes" instead. I liked that so much I ordered copies for two of my friends today.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

being neighborly

I never lived off campus before I moved here, but I always had this vision of what it would be like to live in an apartment, mostly shaped by “Melrose Place”. There are mild differences, of course.

The people who lay out by the pool are significantly older, since my apartment complex has a lot of retirees, and no one has ever fallen into it during a fight, during a wedding, or while staggering drunk on platform heels because Billy told them he wanted a divorce.

The laundry room here has windows and a television, so it’s bright and cheery, rather than basementy, and I’ve never found Sydney tied up in it while Kimberly wires the building with explosives.

On that same note, the building has never blown up or caught on fire, even though we did have a power outage when our building was struck by lightning Easter weekend.

I guess I just always had this picture of living in a building where everyone knew each other and sat out on the steps at night chatting and got really involved in each other’s lives even though they had nothing in common. Also, I assumed everyone else would be really hot, but people here pretty much keep to themselves most of the time. Every once in a while they surprise you, though.

Today I was pulling in and Porch Pots Lady was outside watering her plants. I was grumbling internally, vowing once again to get at least one plant to try to offer up a little competition. She waved and I waved, as we do when we see each other, but then she called me over rather than letting me scurry into my apartment.

“Do you cook?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Here, let me give you some herbs!”

fresh herbs

She gave me a handful of oregano, and when I said I’d probably make spaghetti with it she said, “Oh, you’ll need basil, too!” and picked me off a big handful. I was so touched and surprised. My neighbor gave me something to put in my mouth, just like that time Jake decided to start dating Allison.

My dinner involved much less raging alcoholism, faking blindness, and also dating Kelly from “90210”, but it was still good.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


Marvel Comics had a long running, frequently revived series called “What If?” that offered stories based on a single question, like, “What if the Fantastic Four Got Different Powers?” or “What if Spider Man Didn’t Marry Mary Jane?” With that in mind, I offer, “What if the Punisher Stopped Hitting the Gym?”


While the main answer seems obvious, the secondary one seems to also be that he’d make friends with one of Sgt. Pepper’s bandmates.

This morning Brian and I drove downtown to the convention center at World’s Fair Park for the Adventurecon comic convention. Brian hasn’t read comics in years, but remembers them fondly, while I still make my trip to the comic store every week. I’ve been to part of the convention center, but this is the closest I’ve been to the Sunsphere:


We weren’t sure which building to go to a first, but it was pretty easy to follow the costumes:

vintage trek

Even the kids got into it:


Brian and I were both a little concerned that the kid was leaning over a several yard drop with nary a parent in sight, but hey, it wasn’t our kid. When Brian pointed out that we should leave so we didn’t become witnesses, I pointed out that I’d at least be able to send the picture to CNN.

Some costumes were a little scarier than others. I’m not sure what this guy was dressed as, but he could have used some underwear, because you could see all his space junk whether you wanted to or not:

oh god

I saw a really sad Green Lantern that I didn’t get a photo of, some Lord of the Rings elves with rather modern handbags and hair clips, a half dozen 45 year old Hogwarts students, and people from pretty much every other science fiction fandom you could think of. I waited so long for Brian to get out of the ticket line that I thought I sprained my sneering muscle, but I managed to find it again in time for Mr. Not-Quite Fantastic:

Mr. Sort of Fantastic

Brian asked why one of his gloves was gold, and I answered, “He’s wearing the Infinity Gauntlet.”

Right after that I realized I didn’t really have a sneering leg to stand on.

I guess, in the end, different people have fun doing different things. Some people like dressing up as Boba Fett or a pale, female Darth Maul…


…some guys like dressing up like Elvira…


…some people like staying in character even on the escalator…


…and some people like smugly sneering at them from behind their camera. In the end, all that really matters is that everyone goes home happy, like this biker scout and his girlfriend.

imperial love