Saturday, March 07, 2009

Quote of the Day, 17:

I'm going to save the quote for last on this one. Today, while The Boy was getting ready to go to work and I was "supervising" the Babies!, Mr Bunches was watching Pooh's Heffalump Movie. We were at the part where Kanga tells Roo "You're not even dressed yet," which I said was disturbing because Kanga wasn't dressed, then, either.

Then The Boy and I both reminisced about that scene in Stand By Me when the kids talk about what Goofy was, and The Boy asked me what Goofy was, actually. I said I didn't know but that I expected it would bother Goofy that Mickey Mouse owned a dog. The Boy then tried to get into the act and said:

"I never really got Disney cartoons at all. 'Cause, what's Mickey, a mouse?"

Then he left for work.

I'm sure it will fool him.

I go through a lot of ink, both at home and at the office -- what with briefs to write, letters to respond to, outrageous lawsuits to file, the office can especially use a lot of ink, but I go through a lot at home, too, printing manuscripts and query letters and comics to tape to the cupboard doors so that the others in my family can say "I don't get it."

While I have all the time in the world to do that stuff, I don't have all the money in the world, and ink costs a lot. A lot a lot. Too much-- unless you do what I do, and get ink through gets ink for as low as 92% off the retail price. That's not 92% OF retail, it's 92% lower than retail. can get you ink for 8% of the usual price, and that's why I order my ink through them.

Plus, they know what they're doing -- a half million customers already, and they've been around since 2003, both of which equal trustworthy and respectable, in my mind. But mostly it's the savings on the ink prices themselves that lure me in. That and the fact that I can order my ink without having to drive out to the mall and schlep around like a dork -- because that takes valuable time away from printing up those comic strips.

I mean, briefs. (That's in case my boss reads this!)

Sweetie's Hunk(S) of the Week: 5 & 6

It's a tie! Sweetie this week picked a hunk, then picked a different hunk, then went back to the first hunk after all, so I'm naming Co-Hunks of the Week for the first time in history! (I should really be, I think, a little less cheerful, given that Sweetie is so into this now she's having trouble making up her mind which hot guy she should tell me about...)

Our first Co-Hunk of the Week is Joel McHale:

You/Sweetie Know Him As: The supertall host of "The Soup."

I know him as: That. "The Soup" thing. And he was in Spider-Man, but I wouldn't have remembered that if he didn't point it out on the show once.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: He's funny.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's funny."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Reason For Liking Him: I'm funny, too! And a little taller than average! There's hope for us, yet!

The other co-Hunk of The Week is Jason Bateman:

You/Sweetie Know Him As:
Michael Bluth, formerly on Arrested Development.

I know him as:
That, too, but also as the husband in Juno, the one I think got an unfair rap as a bad guy who wasn't really, but if you start defending him then people think you're trying to stick up for married guys leaving their wives, which isn't the point at all, so let's not bring that up and I'll just say "Michael Bluth."

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: He's funny. Must be that, right? Because she likes funny guys, so there's hope for us!

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's just so pretty."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Reason For Liking Him: But... funny? No? There's still hope for us, right? Maybe if I got a better haircut? Wore pants more often?... or... less often? (Cue bass line: bowm-chicka-bow-wow!) Free USA Calls !

Smedley Jenkins: Reboot: The Cash Advance Men.

Adrift in space, on an island that is seemingly separated from the natural world, an island teeming with ordinary people endowed by superpowers and cast into a fate not their own, and teeming, too, with ex-husbands and sexy next-door neighbors, Smedley Jenkins leads a ragtag band of would-be pop singers on a quest to find a new home before they are savagely destroyed...

This Week's Episode: "I Think It's A Commentary On Our Society."

[SCENE: A luxury apartment, located on the island. Smedley, The Fax Pig, and an unknown man are sitting on a luxurious couch drinking luxurious drinks and watching luxurious televisions and eating from luxurious pig troughs. Smedley is talking to the unknown man.]

Smedley: So why is it they call you The Humorist?

Humorist: It's 'cause I've killed a lot of people in my day, and I'm extremely violent.

Smedley: See? I don't get that. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Is it supposed to be ironic? 'Cause it's not. You know that, right?

Humorist: That's what I always said to people, too. But they said people will ignore that if we make a lot of oblique references to jokes and humor.

Smedley: Does that work?

Humorist: If it doesn't, then I guess the joke's on you.

Smedley: But... oh. I see. Nicely done.

Humorist: Was it? I can't tell anymore. How about some more luxurious brandy in a luxurious glass, to show that I am decadent?

Smedley: Great. Bring it on. I think the Fax Pig could use more luxurious swill.

Humorist: I've got lots... what was that?

Smedley: Expecting someone?

Humorist: If I was, would I have said "What was that?" Wouldn't I have said something like Oh, hey, there's our other guest?

Smedley: You don't have to be so mean about it.

Humorist: I guess you just don't get the joke.

Smedley: That was a joke? 'Cause it... oh. Got it.

Humorist: [to a newcomer who just broke down the door] I guess I expected this.

Newcomer: Then how come you're both drunk and not ready?

Humorist: Seems like the joke's on me.

Smedley: Wait, is this some sort of... never mind. Got. Hide, Fax Pig!


Smedley: [coming out from behind the couch] Why'd you do that?

Newcomer: He owed me money. Twelve bucks.

Smedley: Aren't there laws protecting people from getting violently beaten up in slow motion by debt collectors?

Newcomer: You don't get it, do you? Here in this quasi-alternate society that seems both futuristic and retro...

Smedley: ... And is on an island in space. Don't forget that. Plus I'm friends with my ex-wife, for no real good reason. And I think I run both a paper company and a television studio. Which I really should be getting back to, except my wacky personal life interferes all the time. Plus, did you know that marriage is hard?

[Studio audience laughs.]

Newcomer: Right. Anyway, here on all that, the laws no longer protect us, and people need to get better or get out. Or something like that. I think that's the message I'm trying to send.

Smedley: [Looking out the window] I thought the message you were trying to send was "live on the ground floor."

(Studio audience laughs).

Newcomer: I guess the joke is on him.

Smedley: What do you mean... I, oh. Right.

* * * * * * * *

Luckily, we still live in a society where laws keep debt collectors from breaking down our doors and scaring our fax pigs -- but that doesn't mean that we don't have to pay back our bills, and these days, money can be tight. You might find yourself caught in a crunch, with unexpected car repairs, or maybe an emergency trip to the dentist, and not have enough money to cover those and your credit cards and still get gas and groceries.

If you're in that bind, maybe look into one of the easy payday loans you can get from LDCI. LDCI can help you get payday loans without the time consuming paperwork of banks, giving you the money when you need it -- now.

With their online cash advance program, you can get the assistance you need without having to travel around the city to some bad part of town, too. They promise lower interest rates than other check-advance services, too.

Payday loans can be an important assistance to people who don't have time for or qualify for other regular bank loans. Like any debt, you need to be careful about how much you borrow and need to pay it back on time -- don't overborrow and don't default. But used properly, payday loans from LDCI can help bridge the gap between the shortfall today and your paycheck tomorrow, so if you need some money for a short time, check them out.

Friday, March 06, 2009

It'll take a little longer if you want a double: (Cool Things I Never Learned In School, 1)

What's this all about? Click here.

Nobody has ever seen one of the weirdest experiments ever.

Back in 1927, Professor Thomas Parnell heated up some "pitch" (pitch is a tarlike substance used to caulk ships, and is heated up to pour it or spread it) and poured it into a glass funnel with a sealed stem. Then he waited three years to cut off the end of the stem, letting the pitch settle.

Then he waited.

And over the course of the next 77 years or so (according to an article found here, and apparently written in 2004), eight drops of pitch fell through the funnel into the waiting beaker.

Nobody ever saw one fall, but eight drops fell, nonetheless.

This experiment proved, apparently, that pitch is actually a liquid at room temperature, that it can flow, something that would surprise everyone who saw the video they link to on that site, showing a piece of pitch being shattered by a blow. "The Pitch Drop Experiment" demonstrated that pitch is not solid though, and was useful to anyone who... wanted a glass of pitch at room temperature and was willing to wait 77 years, or more, to get it.

So its usefulness may not be readily apparent, but the coolness of this experiment is.

Viscosity is studied in physics class. Did I learn this in physics class, though? No. Instead, I heard about this on Jeopardy! last night -- and then googled it today to find out what the answer meant.

School: 0. Jeopardy!/Google: 1.

Its name might actually be "Mystery Secret Dog."

The neighbor kid next door got a dog about a month ago, or maybe two, and despite his always saying he's against dogs, I think The Boy actually likes his friend's dog. I know Middle likes dogs, too, and Oldest has her Mystery Secret Dog, so it seems as though I am surrounded by dog lovers and I never actually knew it until recently.

Which makes it lucky that I stumbled across Five Star Fido, which sells Planet Dog accessories and dog items. Accessories like "Fetch Me Flyers" disks made just for throwing and catching and fetching -- which I know from my own dogs owned as a kid, dogs love to do. They actually look pretty neat -- like stuffed Frisbees, with larger rims, so that they can be thrown without worrying about breaking stuff, and it looks like the kind of thing that a dog wouldn't mind chewing on and carrying (I always wondered if they hated catching real plastic Frisbees because it looked like it would hurt.)

Now, I can bookmark that page and be ready with gifts when and if Oldest admits to owning Mystery Secret Dog, and when Middle and The Boy end up getting their own dogs, too.

The reasoning behind "Cool Things I Never Learned In School."

Once you start, you can't stop: A trip to the ER leads me to learn how Jung felt about miracles.

Byzantine, as brought into my life by Ira Glass and The New Pornographers.

But how much time will you spend talking about kissing and how much talking about red lights? I thought so.

Ostriches don't hoot, flamingos make noise, and more lessons from the Fisher Price Alphabet Zoo.

Pinecones are better at math than you are.

Follow your nose, lest you lose it

The Weirdest Experiment Ever.

Stinkiness is next to Bounciness.

People can breathe water.

Popcorn eaters are only slightly less at risk than coal miners.

You can trademark part of a word.

Here's Why I Have This Category:

The Boy is going to a baseball game, for a school field trip.

What, you might ask, is the educational purpose of a baseball game during the school year? I might ask that, too, but I would just get an eye-roll, as I did. It turns out there is no educational purpose to going to the baseball game during school. They're going for gym class. They're going to watch a baseball game and get credit for it as part of gym class.

That's sort of the last straw for me, I think. I used to respect this school -- the high school for Middleton and Cross Plains, Wisconsin -- but now they stop classes for Brett Favre's retirement and take kids to baseball games during the school year without even the pretense of teaching them something, and they've made up snow days by extending each class by 0.0003 of the day, and it's apparent to me that schools have given up trying to teach kids, and instead are just warehousing them and trying to kill time until the employees retire.

That's the end of a long, slow slide into irrelevance and uselessness that schools have been on since, well, forever. It's not as though schools were terribly helpful and relevant when I went to them; back then we read things like The Canterbury Tales and studied The Gilded Age and performed experiments designed to teach us how to identify a salt using a Bunsen burner, and I was left bored by about 98% of school -- all the while being curious and excited about everything around me. School was boring; learning was not.

After graduating high school, I learned just how fun learning can be by continuing to learn, and by virtue of some very good professors in college, professors who showed me how math could be interesting, physics could be entertaining, learning could be fun.

After last night, when The Boy first told me that they're going to a baseball game for school, and then told me that it 'wasn't worth his time' to try to figure out a problem because he could "just ask someone at school" how they did it, I decided I had to fight back the only way I possibly can.

No, not by parenting.

Not by educating people.

I meant by wasting time blogging when I'm at my office and should be working.

Hence, Cool Things I Never Learned In School, another hopefully-regular feature on here where I'll present...

... wait for it...

... Cool things I Never Learned In School, in hopes that people will read them, share them with others, tell their kids about them, and hopefully, somewhere along the lines, someone will learn something and the irrelevant, useless schools will be re-energized and start actually teaching kids again.

Also, I'm doing it because I think these things are cool.

I win a debate every 40 years or so, it seems.

When we were in Florida, we rented a minivan to take us around, and while I've never been a minivan kind of guy, I have to say that I liked it a lot.

For one thing, it actually fit everybody into it, and did so easily. Our usual SUV at home has no sliding doors and the seats don't go down too far and they don't have any room between or around them, so with the Babies! seats in the middle, it's hard to get into the farthest back row, making it comical/stupid for our whole family to go anywhere.

But the minivan we had in Florida, a Ford one, had a sliding door on the passenger's side, and the middle row of seats was set to the left, so it was possible to get in and move to the farthest back even with two car seats set up in the middle row, and the back seat was wide enough that Middle and The Boy didn't fight (much).

What really surprised me, though, was that the minivan didn't feel like I was driving a minivan. When I drive our SUV, I feel like I'm running a semi-rig. It's all wide turns and long stopping distances and I'm about a zillion feet off the ground. In the minivan, though, I felt like I was driving a regular car -- although one with a better view of the road.

Plus, it was spacious and roomy for the driver, too -- lots of leg room, lots of little cubicles for coffee cups and iPods and things.

I've been working on trying to convince Sweetie, since then, that we should just trade in the old SUV and get one of the Ford Vans that we liked so much in Florida -- she liked it, too -- and I even went so far as to start sending her links in emails to things like Ford Transit, just to whet her appetite for one.

I think she might be starting to bite on it, too, because she sent me a link back for a Ford Ranger and asked what I thought about that.

To which I said, it's not the minivan, but it is neat.

If we get the minivan, it'll mark the first time I've ever convinced Sweetie of anything.

The Rum Punch Review ("The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox," Part 1)

Here are some things I've recommended to people this week:

1. I recommended to a client that we make a settlement offer.
2. I recommended that The Boy read Soon I Will Be Invincible.
3. I recommended that Sweetie and I see Watchmen tonight on an Imax screen, because I've never seen an Imax movie, and
4. I recommended that a co-worker put some "cheese sauce" on her breakfast sandwich, which was toast and cream cheese and alfalfa sprouts.

To that, I will now add:

5. I recommend people read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, but
6. I recommend they not think it's gothic at all, or not much.

One of the things that lured me into reading The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O'Farrell, was that either the back cover, or maybe a review of the book, said something about it being gothic. Being a literary guy and all, I didn't take that to mean gothic the way Twilight fans think of it; instead, I took it to mean gothic in the Disquiet, Edgar-Allen-Poe-y manner.


At least not so far.

But it's not bad, even though I was bait-and-switched.

The other thing that lured me into reading The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox was that I had heard of the book, vaguely, when I saw it on the used books rack at the library. That's sort of proof of the power of advertising and word of mouth and the old platitude that it doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they spell your name right. I read lots of book reviews -- in Entertainment Weekly, mostly (where I generally read any review for any book other than those labeled memoir because I'm sick of memoirs [except for this one] and I even sometimes read the memoir reviews, too) but I read them everywhere else, too, and I read blogs and articles by writers and aspiring writers and editors and agents, and so I hear about a lot of books. I hear about way more books than I actually put onto my list to buy, and all those book titles and reviews are lodged somewhere in my memory, waiting to be pulled out at random moments, like when I'm standing in front of a used-book rack at the library while Mr Bunches throws my keys at me and Mr F keeps demanding more Cinnamon Toast Crunches.

Did you ever stop to think about this: Why do we bother wondering what the meaning of dreams are, but ignore the meaning of the things we remember and the things we forget?

By which I mean this: Dreams probably don't mean much of anything, in the long run. Dreams are, in my opinion, just your brain doing its filing at the end of the day, sorting through the junk mail and bills and phone messages before heading out on the drive home. But people obsess over them in a way that they never would if they thought of dreams as a filing system; who obsesses over the way files are kept?

Besides my boss?

What people should be obsessing over is what they remember and what they forget -- what sticks in their mind and is recallable years, decades, later, and what is instantly forgotten and slips away, and then the middle category: things you didn't remember you remembered until you remembered them.

I like that sentence and I'm going to say it again: Think about the things you didn't remember you remembered until you remembered them.

things, the not-remembered-until-suddenly-they-are things, are, to me, way more meaningful than some dumb dream. The things I remember perfectly, and the things I forgot, are also more meaningful than dreams, as is the fact that I can remember that I forgot something.

Think about that for a moment, too, as a sidetrack to this sidetrack: your mind is capable of remembering that you forgot something, but not capable of actually remembering that thing itself.

Like when you're driving to work, say, on Friday, and you blithely turn left while listening to "M79" by "Vampire Weekend,"

And you think to yourself "Wasn't I supposed to not be turning left, right now, even though I ordinarily do turn left here?" and you try to remember why it is that you aren't supposed to be turning left that day, and you know that you're not supposed to turn left and you know that there's something you've forgotten, but you just don't know what it is that you've forgotten?

How can your brain know it's forgotten something but not remember the thing it's forgotten? Not remember it, that is, until you suddenly remember Oh, yeah, Sweetie wanted me to go to the bank! The bank that was straight ahead of me instead of a left turn! and so you turn around and go back to the Bank and are later for work than usual.

That's how I began today -- that, and recommending cheese sauce -- and it's why I'm thinking about memory and things that I didn't remember I remembered until I remembered them. Because that's how I picked out The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. And, like I said, if I could get a handle on why it is my brain remembers some things, and not others, and then why my brain sets up a third category of things that I will remember only belatedly, I'd probably find more meaning in that than in any 10,000 dreams I've ever had.

For instance, why does my brain not only remember the fact that "The Great Brain's" older brother's name was Sweyn, not only remember that but keep it so handy that I can recall it at a moment's notice, while at the same time making no effort whatsoever to hang onto the title of a song I loved?

For that matter, why would my brain also remember that Tom D., the "Great Brain" himself, came up with a strategy to have his basketball team not lose a game by very much in order to win a bet, that strategy being to just pass the ball a lot and not ever take a shot, running down the clock?

Man, those were good books.

For whatever reasons, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox was not stored in the ready-to-go bin in my mind, but it wasn't discarded, either. It was set off to the side, ready to be picked up and dusted off when I came across the book at the library, which puts me back to the original point I was making, which is word of mouth. At some point, I had heard of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox because I will pick up a book to check it out for two reasons: 1. If I've heard of it and thought I might like it, or 2. If I like the cover or title.

That's right: I judge many a book by its cover, and that's perfectly okay. Judging
a book by its cover or title is okay because if I like the title or cover, that means that I think similarly to the author, cover artist, design team, editor, or all of them, all of the people who put the book together. They liked the title, or cover, and I like the title or cover, so we like at least one thing in common. Since we have that one thing in common, we might have other things in common, too, like maybe we'll like the same kind of story. So liking a cover, or title, means that I'll pick up the book and see what it's all about.

For example, I picked up, in a bookstore once, The Secret Life of Bees. Then I put it back down when I saw what it was about. The title drew me in -- but that was it.

A good title, or cover, then, is necessary, or I need to have read a review that made me have some kind of positive association with it. In the case of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, it had both. I saw the title, and it was the kind of title that will make me pick up a book: vanishing? Esme? Act? It makes me think of a mysterious stage magician at the turn of the century.

On that subject, there are, I see, two covers to Esme Lennox. Of those two, I have the one with the girl in the dress. Had I picked up the one with the woman with her eyes closed, I doubt I'd have kept going, even -- it's not compelling, and it makes it look like the book is some kind of autobiography of a little-known contemporary of Virginia Woolf's.

Was Virginia Woolf a real person? I don't know. But I don't want to read a biography of some little-known contemporary of hers.

When I saw Esme Lennox on the used books rack, then, I also remembered reading about it and thinking that might be kind of good-- not so good that I'd put it on my to-buy list, but good enough that I stored it away in my mind, obviously, and so I picked it up and read the back cover blurb (which I don't have with me but which I am positive said something about gothic this-or-that) and decided, yeah, I'll risk a buck on this book.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is, at about the halfway point, a good read. It flips back and forth between the story of Euphemia "Esme" Lennox's childhood and the story of Esme's grand-niece Iris. Iris lives in present-day something or other -- I've been thinking it's France but it may not be, after all; it may be Ireland or Scotland. I'm not very clear on that. I actually didn't like Iris at first -- not the character, not her storyline, not the setting. But at the halfway-point, almost, I'm warming up to her.

I liked Esme's story, almost from the outset: The very beginning shows Esme at a dance, looking at the grates on the windows and musing about dresses and thinking about how it all began, and where, and is mysterious enough and old-timey enough to draw me into the book right away, get me wanting to know what is going on here and find out more about Esme. Then, it almost jarringly switches over to Iris' story, and the switch is what initially made me dislike Iris' end of the story.

From there, the book skips back and forth as [SPOILER ALERT!] Esme recalls growing up in India and then (I think) Scotland while Iris learns that she is Esme's grand-niece, something that comes as a surprise to her, given that she never knew Esme existed.

And that, I surmise, is the "vanishing act" Esme has performed -- she has vanished from the family, from history, from memory, all the while keeping her own memories strong, so strong that she can recall a promise made to her early on, a promise that she learns decades later has been broken, it seems.

Esme is, we find out, in an institution, and it's not clear why. There's a terrible and frightening and, yes, sort of gothic scene that is apparently a breaking point for Esme, or maybe it's not, because Esme was a little off, before, too. The reader gets that scene early on, getting Esme's memories of her girlhood, and then the story flips back and forth to present day France/Scotland (?) to show Esme meeting Iris and going through her belongings at the institution, getting to open up a box of her things. She roots through it and complains that a piece of cloth is gone, or not there -- but notes that they promised it would be there.

No explanation is given for the cloth, or what it means (at least, not yet; I'm only halfway through it) but the search for the cloth and the meaning of it slowly becomes clearer, because at first I'd assumed that Esme, being in an institution and all, was crazy and maybe made up whatever it was about the cloth. But then Iris takes Esme at first to a hostel, and Esme, outside the hostel, remembers the city around her and is able to point out where landmarks are, or were, and she's right. Then, later, Iris takes Esme to her apartment, and Esme recalls that a room Iris shows her was a maid's room when she was growing up. Iris lets Esme know that she's right, again -- the apartment is part of the house where Esme was raised, for a while, a house since divided into flats.

Esme, it seems, remembers things -- and tries to remember them, as when she's walking out from the institution and trying to feel the gravel under her feet, to cement the sensations into her so that she can recall how it feels to walk across the gravel. (I liked that part, especially.)

And that remembering things is another reason why I'm thinking, as I write about reading The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. I don't know if O'Farrell meant it to be a book about how and why we remember things, and how and why we are remembered, but that's part of the meaning of this book to me (and remember, everything is symbolic of everything, so I'm certainly correct).

But let's don't get bogged down in meaning just yet, when there's so much other good stuff going on: The descriptions of Esme's childhood -- full of real and imagined frights, from a bug in her ear to the terrible horrible scene that maybe sent her on a spiral, to the grandmother sighing her way to town and frustrated because Esme's not wearing a hat -- and the emotions that are conveyed when Iris, who becomes more likeable as the book comes on, recalls her growing up with her "brother" Alex -- I especially liked the flashback to when Iris and Alex met, and she [SPOILER ALERT ABOUT A PART OF THE BOOK THAT'S GOING TO SOUND CUTESY BUT IT'S NOT] thought that he was an angel... but still didn't give him one of her cookies. It's especially hard to write believably from a young child's perspective, and O' Farrell just absolutely gets that perfect.

There's not much of a story yet, or I should say, there's not much plot yet, because there's a lot of story, but the story is all the start of tendrils of ivy just beginning to climb up the wall that is this book. The only action, so far, really, is Iris going to pick up Esme and then bringing her home, and, of course, that terrible scene from Esme's past, a scene that keeps getting fleshed out more and more as the book progresses... but that limited action has introduced Esme's vanishing act, and introduced Iris' life, and introduced Iris' history with Alex, and set the stage for what I assume will be a phenomenal second half of the book...

... one I hope I remember.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

This was the problem with mix-tapes: (A Great Ranking Of Problems Addition!)

Years ago, my sister Katie and I used to occasionally trade mix tapes. On one mixtape, Katie put a couple of jazzy, big-band-y kind of songs. One I recall distinctly: It was "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck.

This is not about that song.

This is about the other song Katie put on that tape, a big-band kind of song that starts with a great drumbeat, then moves on into horns, or maybe clarinets, or maybe both. There is definitely a horn or clarinet solo in there, somewhere.

And it's an awesome song. But I can't remember the name, and I lost the little cardboard liner that had the name of the song on it, and I can't get in touch with her, and I am desperate to hear that song again...

... hear it outside of my head, that is, because I can remember the entire song in my mind. If I could play drums, clarinet, several trombones, and possibly a xylophone all at once (and at a high level of skill) I could actually play the song.

And now, I'm sitting here trying to find that song on the Internet, but how can I find a song without lyrics? I've tried checking for top blues songs, top big band songs, top swing songs, I've even tried -- I'm not joking -- googling this phrase:

big band song starts with lots of drums and then trumpet kicks in

Which led me to look at Tommy Dorsey, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, and Glenn Miller youtube videos.

It's been a fascinating walk down musical eras, but that's not what I want. What I want is to hear that song, which means I'm going to have to go home, find the tape in my garage, find a way to get that onto the Internet, and hope someone out there knows what it is and tells me.

Or hope Katie gets back to me, and she remembers.

Until then, I will set this on the Great Ranking Of Problems at:

2,624: Unidentifiable Mystery Song Stuck In Head.

By the way, this isn't the first time that happened. Once, for two weeks, I was humming a song to myself and couldn't get it out of my head. I finally in frustration asked my Mom if she recognized the song and hummed it for her. She said: "That's Red River Valley. I used to sing that to you when you were a baby."

I was 25.

Prior entries:

99: Spousal PB&J Incompatibility.

173: Preshoveling & reshoveling snow.
502: Having to wait forever, seemingly, for Italian food to cool down.
. . .
721: Printer not holding a lot of paper at once.
5,000: Lopsided Nail Clipping.
7,399: Potato(E?)s?
. . .
15,451: Almost napping.
14,452: Worrying that there's too much peanut brittle leftover to eat before it goes bad.
22,372: Having hair which isn't quite a definable color.
22,373: Having too many songs on an iPod

Zammo! I like that word.

The only way shopping on the Internet could get any easier, I thought, was if the products used themselves after you bought them. I mean, it's already ridiculously easy to shop online -- browse through dozens of sites in the time it used to take just to get into the car...

(well, if you walk slowly, at least)

... and then click and type a little and zammo, the product is shipping to you and in your hands and you didn't even have pants on.

(don't ask.)

And yet, the innovative minds out there found a way to make Internet shopping still easier, and it doesn't involve the products using themselves. ('Cause, why would I want to buy an iPod that would listen to itself?)

This new innovation is Price Drop Alert, and it's keen. Price Drop Alert lets you keep tabs on the stuff you want to buy and notifies you when the price has fallen to where you want it. Just go to their site, add a product to your "alert list" (I made one for an iPod voice recorder, so that I can record myself singing in the car and then share it with you, my adoring public) and they'll email you whenever the product you want is available at a lower price.

It's not even hard to find the stuff. You can search by name or category, then just click on "Price Drop Alert" and enter your name and email address. Like I said, zammo! You'll get your Price Alert.

Then, while you're there, you can check out their online coupons, codes, and deals from online stores, saving you money before you get your first alert.

Quote of the Day, 16

"Like cognac."

-- Sweetie, backing me up when I told Mr Bunches to take his medicine because it would go down smooth. Then she asked me whether that was right, and I had to admit that I had no idea what cognac was other than (probably) alcohol.

Still, it seems perfectly appropriate to encourage kids to take medicine by comparing it to a fancy alcoholic beverage, doesn't it? That's parenting.

dolphin bubbles

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I have the greatest job in the world, sometimes.

I've been called as a witness in a case involving a former client of mine. My testimony is going to be brief and easy, but it's also going to be fit into the court's schedule wherever they can. So today, at 1 p.m., I got a call asking if I could come to the Courthouse to be ready. I did, packing up some reading I'd been meaning to get to (treatises, court cases, and the like.) I then spent the afternoon reading that stuff while waiting to be called as a witness, and then, when I ran out of reading materials, I spent the rest of the time watching Pineapple Express on my iPod.

Sometimes, I can't believe I get paid to do this.

The best part?

They didn't call me yet, so I've got to go back tomorrow morning at 8:15.

I also look kind of like "Bluto."

I was pointing out to Sweetie the other day that I'm built sort of like "Mr. Incredible" from "The Incredibles."

Sweetie thought I was being vain and said "Well, doesn't someone have a high impression of himself?"

To which I pointed out that I meant "Mr. Incredible" after he'd stopped being incredible and started being an insurance claims adjuster and sort of gone to pot, with a big belly and tiny legs and overall just looking sort of... pleh.

When Mr. Incredible wanted to get in shape, he went through a whole regimen of fighting robots and bench-pressing railroad trains and stuff. I'd like to do that, too -- but I'm (a) not a superhero, and (b) 40. At 40, it's harder and harder to do the things I want to do, and next to impossible to do the things I'm not so crazy about doing, like exercising.

Still, I try. I went jogging last night, and I swim, and do yoga, and play "Rrowr" monster, and even with all that, I'm still left with my belly-- and the feeling that it's just never going to go away.

So when we were talking one day and someone asked if I'd ever get plastic surgery, I immediately said No, but secretly I was thinking unless they could maybe just suck my stomach away.

And then I found out that there's Cosmetic Surgery Help available from Mya, a site that does all kinds of cosmetic surgery and has FAQ boards and discussion boards and information about the procedures and what they cost and what it's like to go through them and how to choose the right surgeon for you. And suddenly, I'm thinking hey, you know, maybe it's not such a bad thing after all.

Not that I've totally made up my mind or anything. But if I were... were to get some lipsuction done, would it be all bad? I don't know -- but at least I can find out what others went through and what it was like, and I can find out whether it'd be better to travel to get it done right rather than stick around here and have someone screw it up and, I don't know, put more fat in, or something.

Because I'd really rather look like the first version of Mr. Incredible.

Mixtape 4: Galileo Was Cool In His Own Way.

Galileo Galilei! Inventor of the telescope, discoverer of the heliocentric solar system, challenger of the Catholic Church right up to the very end...

...and guy that gets a lot of credit for stuff that he didn't actually do. Today, for no particular reason, I'm going to celebrate Galileo in song, while explaining what he really should be celebrated for.

Galileo bravely stood up to the Catholic church, right? First, by publishing a book that argued that the solar system revolved around the sun instead of Paris Hilton (as was more commonly believed, at the time), and second, by appearing at trial and appearing to renounce his theories, only to tell the church, about the Earth: but still, it moves.

“Someone Keeps Moving My Chair,” They Might Be Giants:

Or did he? According to histories, Galileo never said but still it moves as he left the room, and why would he? Having narrowly avoided further punishment, would an old, sick man then bring it all down on his head again?

“Platform Moon,” Jupiter One:

And if Galileo was the type to throw a parting shot over his shoulder as he left, why, then, would he have lied about the circumstances of the publication of his book in the first place? His sentence, after all, was in part to never discuss the subject again in his life. Would he have so quickly broken that order, having just been convicted of violating another church order?

I think not.

“London’s Mine” (White Rose Movement)

But Galileo at least created the theory that the solar system revolved around the sun, right?

“White Moon,” White Stripes:

Actually, no. Nicolaus Copernicus -- a Polish astronomer -- did that. Copernicus was the kind of guy who would relax by translating Greek poetry into Latin; one gets the feeling that if Playstation had been around back then, we'd still be talking about retrograde motion.

“She Moves In Her Own Way,” The Kooks:

What Galileo did was look through a telescope and find Jupiter's moons, and observe the phases of Venus. That served as empirical proof that the old view of the universe was wrong in two respects. First, if moons revolved around Jupiter, then the old belief that everything revolved around the Earth was obviously wrong.

Second, if Venus had phases, then that meant that centuries later, I could look up at the sky and correctly tell Sweetie that the bright star underneath the moon was not a star at all, but was instead Venus. And Sweetie could likely think to herself one of two things: I am lucky I married him, or Does he ever shut up?

“Interplanet Janet,” Schoolhouse Rock:

Galileo, by the way, was nicknamed "The Wrangler." Wouldn't it be cool if instead of Wrangler jeans, we had Galileo jeans?

“I Move On,” Catherine Zeta- Jones:

Galileo also didn't invent the telescope. He improved on it. Imagine being known for centuries as a genius simply because you improved something someone else invented. Nowadays, if we invented something and then someone else improved on it, it's likely that we would file suit against Bill Gates and then in turn have a suit filed against us by Xerox and end up arguing whether a "trash can" symbol is copyrightable. (Answer: Yes.)

“3rd Planet,” Modest Mouse:

Things were more loosey-goosey in the olden days. Why, back then, someone could quickly publish a book about, say, evolutionary theory, rushing to do so after receiving a letter from someone else describing the exact same theory -- and become eternally famous. Ask yourself why we have "The Darwin Awards" and not the "Alfred Russell Wallace Awards."

“Moving on Up,” Primal Scream:

Bonus Track: “Love The One You’re With,” By Stephen Stills because Primal Scream seems to have entirely lifted the acoustic guitar from this song. Which, of course, would have been fine in the olden days, but these days will likely end up with Xerox suing Primal Scream:

Are you Afraid of Public Speaking?

Pallin' with Al. And pie. Pallin' with Al and Pie.

If there's one thing that can make a vacation better, it's pie.

If there are TWO things that could make a vacation better, it's pie, and Al Roker.

The Hilton now has combined those three fabulous things -- vacations, pie, and Al Roker -- into one phenomenal vacation package and contest. They're having the First Annual "Great American Pie Show" -- a contest sponsored by Branson and Taste of Home magazine. Your pie recipe could get $2500 cash and a trip for two for 4 days to Branson, Missouri.

Great American Pie Contest is on April 24 and 25, and is right next to the Hiltons in Branson, so you could attend the contest, meet Al Roker, and stay at excellent hotels while taking advantage of the special rate that the Hiltons are offering for that contest (there's a special block of rooms reserved just for the contest!)

In between pie-eating and pie-competing, you'll be able to watch college basketball championships or Bass fishing tournaments, and take in all the shows and family entertainment Branson is increasingly known for. Branson is fast becoming the vacation destination of choice -- lakes, museums, and even theme parks, making the city like Florida only without alligators eating your children.

Your perfect Branson vacation, then, would be something like this: Book into the Hilton. Go visit a phenomenal golf course in the morning, then see a live show that night at one of their 49 theaters. The next day, theme park it up with the kids. Day three: Pie & Al Roker, all day long. Day four, have someone wheel you to the airport.

Wait, that's MY perfect Branson vacation. Get your own.


Application Implications: Question of the Day: 49

Do they mean all the time?

Our health club's entrance has a counter area where, on entering, you scan your membership card and move in. The counter has two sides to walk on, with the scanner only on one side. There's a sign on the door that says Exit To The Right. Exiting to the right means walking out of my way around the far side of the counter.

I say that sign only applies when there are people entering -- because it would keep me from bumping into them or having to squeeze past them. Sweetie says it applies all the time, even at 10 p.m. when there's nobody around.

I think that some signs imply that they only apply at certain times. Like the stoplight near our house that used to have "No right turn on red between 3-6," which I said meant only during rush hour, and not on Sunday afternoons. I won that battle -- they eventually took the sign down.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What's that song about? (3)

Today's song:"The Beast And Dragon, Adored." By Spoon.

What I Thought It Was About: From the title, I assumed it would be one of those Led Zeppelin-y songs about the middle ages and/or swords and sorcery. Why is it that heavy metal adopted all the Tolkien/D&D references, when clearly the nerds like me who were into that stuff were not into heavy metal in high school? Heavy metal fans were in shop class and smoked outside the commons and had names like "Troy." D&D fans like me brought lunch in brown bags and listened to Duran Duran and The Cure and tried. Shouldn't emo bands be the ones with all the mythological references, while metal bands sing about cars?

Then I listened to the song and thought, no, wait, it's about Rock & Roll. There's a line, the only line I picked up real clearly: I got to believe it come from rock & roll.

So: The Beast & Dragon, Adored, is about how cool rock & roll is. Here's the song:

What it's actually about: The lyrics are no help at all. Here's some excerpts:

The beast and dragon, adored/You been gone so long/Where you been for so long/I went to places unknown/Rented a room/And I forgot my pen/Shook my twin/And I had to find the feelin again

So it's about love, or loss, right? Well, then, what's this mean?

I'm going back to the water/Been landlocked too long.

And then this:

And I went down by the seawall/That's when I knew, knew They Never Got You/Great dominions they don't come cheap/Great dominions they just want you to leave

And then this?

I got a feelin it didn't come free/I got a feelin and then it got to me When you don't feel it it shows they tear out your soul And when you believe they call it rock and roll/And when you believe they call it rock and roll

No help whatsoever. So I went to Song Meanings, and found that most people think it's about songwriting. But one person mentioned a tapestry called "'Apocalypse: The Beast and Dragon Adored."

So I googled Tapestry The Beast And Dragon Adored and found an interview with Spoon's lead singer, Britt Hume, who said this about the song:

I think that was the last song that I wrote for Gimme Fiction. I was just looking through this art book that my grandmother had from the ‘50s and there were these museum displays of French tapestries and one of them was called Apocalypse: The Beast and Dragon Are Adored. At that time, that was when the Iraq war was starting, and I was watching way too much (CNN) Headline News. It was basically on all the time in my shitty little apartment, and the world was feeling a little bit apocalyptic. This is a very interesting way to go about it because it’s very colorful language – The Beast and Dragon Are Adored.

Which doesn't, at all, explain what the song is about. It's about a tapestry and the Iraq war?

Okay. I guess we'll go with that. Officially, The Beast and Dragon, adored, is about a tapestry depicting CNNHLNAFSCME's coverage of the Iraq war.

(But secretly, I think it's about a woman who remembers when she was young and had an affair with the Loch Ness monster and now wants to write a book about it but doesn't know how to begin.)

All the wisdom in the world comes from comedians.

Demetri Martin had a joke the other night. He said (more or less):

"A friend asked me if I ever swam with dolphins. I said, sure. What distance are we talking about? Because I'm pretty sure that the last time I swam in the ocean, the dolphins were there, too."

Which is hilarious, right? And also it got me thinking about swimming with dolphins.

I'm thinking about swimming with the dolphins because of that joke, and because of the news that they saw a pink dolphin off the coast this week, and that while pink dolphins are common in the Amazon, they're not so common in the Atlantic, and now I've got dolphins on the brain and all I can think of is man, I'd like to swim with the dolphins, but not in the distant-Demetri Martin kind of way.

So I looked it up, and it turns out that swimming with the dolphins is something that can be done on these Grand Cayman Island cruise tours and excursions. The website that promotes them says this is one of the premiere Dolphin discovery locations, and they've got a "Dolphin Lover Swim" program, one for all ages that lets you get in with the dolphins and swim around with them.

Just looking at it makes me envy the people who've done it: Blue skies, blue water, clear beaches, and the chance to get in and swim around with some of the most beautiful creatures around... that beats looking out my window at the parking lot covered with slush, any day. It'd be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, something that's more fun that simply taking a Caribbean vacation (as fun as that would be, alone).

I Read The News Today Oh Boy: (For Sunday, March 1, 2009)

Sunday! March 1! The first day of spring! (Yes, it was!) Let's see how I spent the day:

8:00 a.m.: We go to church every Sunday, except when we don't. This was one of those Sundays where we don't, so instead, I'm heading off to the office. This is the car we let Middle use; it was parked behind mine, so I gave her the choice of moving her car, or letting me take her car. She opted to sleep in, and because of that I'm not going to reimburse her gas money.

It's only a 15-mile round trip to my office anyway, but Middle complains that I "use up all her gas." Sweetie then usually gives her $5 or $10 to reimburse her, at which point I usually comment that she's making a profit off of us. They all go back to ignoring me right after that.

8:15 a.m.: Middle has this peace symbol hanging from her rearview mirror. I was stopped at a stop light when I took this. Hippie Thought of the Morning: Wouldn't life be better if we saw everything through a peace symbol?

Nostalgic thought of the morning: Off to the right is the dorm I stayed in my first semester of college, way back in 1987. If I squint right, I can almost see me walking out of there at 7 a.m. on one of my rare trips to chemistry class before I stopped going to chemistry class.

8:25 a.m.: The printer in my office. The office manager got each lawyer personalized letterhead, which required that each lawyer have a personal printer. My printer was "down" for the past few days, forcing me to share with the staff. Shortly after I took this picture, I realized the problem was I was out of ink.

While you might think it strange that it took me two days to realize that I was out of ink, know this: There are three lights on the printer: Toner, Drum, and Error. The "toner" light was on. When I ran the "troubleshooter" program, it told me to take the toner cartridge out and move this little slidey thing, so I did that. Several times.

It never told me You're out of ink. Even my printer at home does that. Calculators do that.

11:50 a.m.: Getting ready to leave. This is my boss, Dave. We'd just finished going over all of our mutual cases and updating each other. In those meetings, he tells me what new cases we'll be working on and gives me business advice. I assure him that for another week, I've still not been disbarred.

11:57 a.m.: After taking his picture, Dave for some reason says "Do you want me to take a picture of you and your thermos?" I have to explain to him again that it's a "travel mug," not a thermos. Thermoses -- thermi? -- are reserved for construction workers in the 1970s.

I am carrying my travel mug, a short story I'm mailing to a potential publisher, my "idea notebook," and my Ramen noodle container from Friday's lunch. You can't see it, but my iPod is cued up to "After The Fall" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Here's that song, for some reason paired with anime:

But the person who posted this to Youtube took pains to explain that they are "in NO way associated with the anime or the orchestra." Only that person is wrong; he or she is associated with both, now, by virture of posting that song.

1:30 p.m.: My new thing that I try to do is the "Sunday job." I have this theory that motion begets motion -- the more you do, the more you'll have energy to do stuff. To put that into practice, I try to do one job around the house on Sundays. (One reason I set them aside for Sundays? Then I don't have to feel guilty during the week about not doing the jobs; I can say well, that's one I'll do Sunday and buy myself some guilt-free free time.)

Another purpose of the job is to make me feel as though I pitch in, since "recapping during dinner all the comics I read during the day" doesn't seem to count as a chore according to my family.

Today's "Sunday job" is cleaning the two closets on our middle level. The one shown here is the closet where we keep cleaning supplies and where Mr Bunches likes to go to get the dust mop to play with.

I threw away six phone books, dating back to 2003. I don't know why we had a 2003 phone book in there. Or any phone book. Who uses phone books, anymore? Not me. And not the kids; I once gave a phone book to Oldest and told her to look up a number she needed, and she responded "How?"

2:00 p.m.: I'm going to do a little 'puting, but before I do, I scratch my knee, which hurts, and it feels a little bony and edgy, and then I wonder if I didn't do something to it to injure it (forgetting that it takes physical activity to cause an injury), so I check it out. It seems to be nothing. But I decide to take it easy, just in case, and go upstairs to watch an episode of Lost from season 3. Eko died!

4:30 p.m.: People always think I'm kidding about how often we go to Wal-Mart. I'm not. Why would I kid about that? This is the second trip to Wal-Mart this weekend; this time it's to get a new vacuum cleaner, which by my count is the 175th vacuum cleaner we've had to buy during our marriage.

I don't recall my parents ever replacing our vacuum. I think we had the exact same vacuum my entire childhood. I'm positive, in fact, because we had the old-fashioned kind that had a long hose attaching the brush to the base of it. We never got an upright vacuum cleaner when I was a kid. I think upright vacuums were looked down on in our house; I'm pretty sure they were considered lower-class.

That's Mr Bunches in the picture. He'd gone on strike again, because we walked through the snack aisle and he saw Sweetie grab some of the kind of cookies he liked. So we had to bribe him with those to get him out of the store.

4:40 p.m.: Checking out. Ever since I heard Ellen DeGeneres say it, I, too, like to see what needs brought other people to Wal-Mart and imagine what was going on when they decided to go to the store.

Our cart had cookies and a vacuum cleaner -- obviously, there was a cookie explosion at our house, one that left a mess beyond the capabilities of our old vacuum to clean up.

These people, right in front of us, had anti-freeze, tissues, sandwich cheese, and jerky spice. I'm picturing them making homemade jerky, but needing the tissues because it makes them sad since that's what great-grandpa used to do with them. The cheese and anti-freeze were supplies for the long trip back to the Yukon.

If you don't live in the Yukon, then what are you doing making your own jerky?

6:15 p.m.: I'm in charge of making dinner, but I've opted to make cookies before I start dinner, and that's slowing things down. Mr Bunches got hungry, so he gets a glass of milk and a banana to tide him over.

6:30 p.m.: Still working on the cookies, which take longer than I remembered, but they're for Sweetie. So Mr F gets his dinner -- macaroni and cheese, and Cocoa Puffs.

Mr F and Mr Bunches are the world's pickiest eaters. Just prior to this shot, I tried to give Mr F some peanut butter to see if he'd like it. I put a little on his lips and he licked it off and then shuddered, and when I tried to give him some more, he stiff-armed me and ran upstairs.

6:55 p.m.: The cookies -- oatmeal scotchies -- are done. Time to make the BLTs and french fries. The Boy has been nosing through and complaining.

7:30 p.m.: Okay, you can't tell at all what this is. It's a picture of a large orange cylindrical pillow which The Boy had in his room for a while. I made him clean his room today, and he wanted me to take the pillow downstairs, but I repeatedly refused. Then, everytime he moved it out of his room, I snuck it back in. First, I put it in his blanket. Then, on top of his door (which is what is shown, or not shown, here.) After he found this, I stuffed it behind the headboard of his bed. When he found that, I managed to cram it into the drawer where he keeps his blue jeans.

8:30 p.m.: Winding down. This is Mr F, jumping on the trampoline and watching "Little Einsteins." Note the protective fence around the television. Mr F can get over that in 0.01 seconds. From here, I'll put the boys to bed in a few minutes, then try to jump on the trampoline while watching Demetri Martin, then it's yoga and bedtime myself.

Then again, if they say it's good I might get my hopes up and have them dashed, cruelly, on the rocks of disappointment.

I invited Sweetie to go see "Watchmen" this morning because I wanted to be romantic -- and while asking my wife to go see a movie based on a weird and overrated comic book may not seem romantic, it is, because I don't want to see the movie, she does. So I'm being romantic by caving in and taking her to see it. (She hasn't accepted yet; somehow, I thought that those tense moments where you wait to see if she'll go out with you would end when I got married.)

Sweetie wants to see "Watchmen," I expect, because of all the hype -- ads are touting it, people are talking it up on the Internet, comic book geeks are marching across the country by candelight to pay homage to the visionary director who... blah blah blah.

I hope it's good. I hope it lives up to all the hype. I won't know until I see it, because it hasn't been released yet and so the usual site where I go to find out about Movies and other pop culture things hasn't yet talked about it.

I've learned that I can't trust the ads and the reviews that I see in TV and magazines and sometimes the newspaper. I can't trust ads because they pick out only the best parts and show them to you; judging by the ads, "Throw Momma From The Train" was a hilarious movie -- but if you WATCHED it, you realized it wasn't so much a "movie" as it was a filmed humorectomy.

And reviews are always suspect. I don't know what kind of music or movies the reviewer likes, so if they pan a band I might like, or praise a movie I might hate, I've got no reference point. What if the reviewer wants to be a hipster and so automatically says that anything out of New York is awesome? I'd end up getting sucked into listening to TV On The Radio again -- and no thanks, man. No, thanks.

So I've turned for my music reviews and movie talk and other references to a site where people can read what real people say about movies. Not critics talking about "cinematography" but people talking about whether Andy Samberg's movies are any good -- and who'll note that watching the movie "Hot Rod" is like watching the Napoleon Dynamite bike-jump 30 times.

That's the kind of review I can use. I'm hoping that they'll put up something about Watchmen, too, before I go, so I can maybe get my hopes up that the movie will be better than the comic. And they should -- if you go see a sneak preview, or if you were IN the movie, go over to that site and put up a review, quick. You'll probably like the site anyway, what with its Mystery Movie Reviews and reviews of games, and listings of "most hated" stuff -- and it's pretty easy to sign up and start reviewing things yourself.