Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweetie’s Hunk/ Dispute of The Week, 9:

Sweetie’s Hunk Dispute of The Week Is Robert Pattinson/William Fichter:


Is Robert Pattinson, specifically Robert Pattinson in "Twilight." Sweetie saw "Twilight" this week, after eagerly awaiting it for some time. Sweetie then told me a little about the movie, including that the vampires [SPOILER ALERT?] don't die when they see the sun, their skin gets all diamond-y. Which I would show you a picture of, but there's none on the Internet that I can find, so it's some kind of big secret or something. Let's just assume it's superdumb/superromantic, depending on whether you are male or female.

Anyway, when I asked "So, did Robert Pattinson's skin get all diamond-y?" Sweetie responded by sighing "Yes." She actually sighed.

Sweetie then later in the week searched the Internet and put a picture of Robert Pattinson on the desktop of our computer.

But when I teased Sweetie about thinking Robert Pattinson was cute, she then secretly one night switched the desktop picture to this guy:

Who is "William Fichter" and who some of our friends once said I resemble.

So when I asked Sweetie who the Hunk of the Week was last night, Sweetie said "William Fichter," and I vetoed her choice, telling her that it was obviously Robert Pattinson. She then claimed it wasn't and that he was too young, but quickly added that it would be "Robert Pattinson" in "Twilight," if it was Robert Pattinson at all, which it wasn't, and that I should add that it's under protest.


Sweetie’s Hunk Dispute of The Week:

Robert Pattinson:

You/Sweetie Know Him As: The guy who causes 12-year-old girls (and wives although they won't really admit it) to swoon.

I Know Him As: The guy who, apparently, comes in second to William Fichter in our house, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: Apparently, he can sing, too, as I know from being informed that we have purchased two Twilight albums off of iTunes, albums that include several songs by Robert Pattinson.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "You can only list him if you tell everyone I picked William Fichter." Also: "I got the albums mostly for the score, which has a lot of piano in it." So, officially, Sweetie doesn't like Robert Pattinson. She likes William Fichter and the piano.

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: Look, It's no big deal, really. I am in no way jealous of some twenty-something guy who happened to become a hearthrob totally out of nowhere and who doesn't even appear to have the ability to comb his hair. It's not like he's going to have a career, anyway. He's the Chachi of the 2000s. So what do I care?

Hey, look what's posted here for no reason whatsoever...

Which, I will admit, was not bad. So, ummm, big movie star, amazingly handsome, heartthrob to women everywhere, and can play guitar and sing. CURSE YOU, ROBERT PATTINSON!

I'll be singing "And no one heard at all, not even the chair."

Maybe you're the kind of person who enjoys fixing up your cars, the kind of person who has a hot rod sitting around that he's (or she's) always tinkering with, working on during the weekends, getting it out on nice days to go cruising around.

I'm not. I'm the kind of person who occasionally pauses to get the empty Red Pop cans out of his back seat and duct-tapes his glove compartment shut.

If you ARE the kind of person who fixes up cars and likes working on muscle cars and all that, then you should be getting the things you need from Mustang Performance Parts. Low price, fitness, and satisfaction are all guaranteed, and you can shop online for the parts, leaving you more time to fix up your car and drive it around. Just don't rev the engine too loud next to me; it'll drown out my Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits CD.

The Rum Punch Review ("The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox,", Part 2).

Read Part 1 of this Review Here.

I finished The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox over a week ago, but am only now just getting around to posting the second half of the Rum Punch Review. I could say that I deliberately took the time to think about it, let it settle in, let the book digest a little, like I do now with dinner (Burritos) instead of just going straight to the dessert (2 cheeseburgers.)

Or I could say that I was distracted by coming up with the 5 Traits Most Commonly Seen In Waukesha County, Wisconsin, which is what I did this morning while waiting for a court hearing to begin. I was standing by the Courthouse entrance, waiting for my client, and had plenty of time to observe people and determine the 5 Traits, and also to determine that one sheriff's deputy was having a really bad day and also that he lied to the maintenance guy.

The deputy came in, hurriedly, and then knocked the top of a little pole that had an "Exit" sign on, and then swore (under his breath) and then shook his head and made the same exact little disgusted gestures that I make when someone in my lane stops traffic to turn left, then asked for maintenance to be called because, and I quote, "This [the sign coming off] shouldn't be that way."

Just to finish that part of the story: About 15 minutes later, a maintenance guy did come, and he showed the deputy how the sign wasn't broken and couldn't be fixed and added something to the effect that he shouldn't have been called, and the deputy said "Well, you were just in the area, so I thought I'd check." And I was the only non-deputy around, and I knew that to be a lie. But I kept quiet because they have guns and arrest powers. The hangover of the Worst Presidency Ever has not yet worn off and I'm still leery about antagonizing government officials.

The 5 Traits that I observed were these:

1. Too-blonde hair.
2. Weirdly tanned.
3. Windbreaker featuring a league or a bar.
4. Inappropriate jeans.
5. Scent.

"Scent" needs some explanation -- it's not that they smelled bad, it's that many of the women were overpoweringly scented with a mixture of shampoo and cremes and bath oils and lotions and whatnot, so that their scent lingered a while after they left.

So I amused myself, as I waited, by awarding points to each woman who came through the Courthouse door, one point per "5 Trait" demonstrated. There were only two who got no points. One woman got a 5, and in retrospect I awarded her a bonus half-point because when I left, an hour later, I could still smell her Scent.

That, the "5 Traits" factoring, could also be an excuse for why I didn't post the second half of the Rum Punch Review of Esme Lennox but it's not; the truth is that I've just been busy and I have a schedule of when I post certain things and when I don't. It's an amazingly complex schedule that, if you can figure it out, I will award you the t-shirt or book of your choice. Remember that scene in "The Dark Crystal" where Jen The Gelfling went into the observatory and all the planets and stars and everything were whirling around?

That mechanism is more or less what my writing schedule is based on, and so I had to wait for The Rum Punch Review to roll around again in its slot, and here it is: the second half 0f the Rum Punch Review of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.

It's not necessarily a bad thing, either, to wait so long to finish up the review. I don't know how long most reviewers wait to write their reviews, but taking a little time to think about things might settle your emotions down and allow for a more accurate estimation of what you've just read/seen/heard.

Like, say, you're listening to the new U2 album a co-worker brought into work and you're very excited because you kind of liked "Get On Your Boots" and you really want to hear the album, and so you do, and your first thought is... well, this sort of sucks.

You'd probably want to wait a few weeks, then, and listen to it a little more, before making a final decision, then, wouldn't you? Out of fairness to the crew of ultrabillionaires who make up u2 and who don't really seem to care, anymore, if you actually like what they do? Then, a few weeks and a few listens later, you could say... well, this sort of sucks, and then you'll go buy the new Decemberists' album, instead.

Or, maybe, you would walk out of a theater and think That was a very good movie! I especially enjoyed the way it challenged my sensibilities and expectations while remaining quirky and offbeat, and featured interesting dialogue, but if you didn't say that right away, and instead waited a few weeks, you'd realize oh, hey, you know I was just in a good mood 'cause it was Friday, and it turns out the only thing I really liked about that movie was the soundtrack; the rest just really kind of sucked.

The same thing, really, happend with "Esme Lennox." When I first finished it, a few weeks ago, I put it down and I said to Sweetie: "That was a very good book." And I sat there a while and just thought about it -- about the twist that, really, I should have seen coming all along, but it's pretty well done and I didn't see it, until there it was and I should have seen it all along, and about the interacting storylines and the characters that kind of grew on me over time and also demonstrated complex motivations and backgrounds.

Then, just a couple of weeks later, I lost that glow and instead, I'm thinking, now, this [INCLUDES SPOILERS!]

One character, Alex's wife, what's her name, is introduced early on, and then really never heard from again. That seems sort of glaring, in the end, and detracts from Alex's part of the story, which actually is a very intriguing part and should have been given more time -- because even though the book has Esme's name in the title, it's not totally about Esme. But dropping out the wife leaves a big chunk of Alex's story untold. And maybe that's the point, but if that is the point, then I didn't like that it was not told. It kind of detracted from me.

And then I'm thinking, too, that Iris' story builds up and builds up and hits a crescendo, and then... stops. It peaks right near the end and then bam. Over.

Is it right for an author to do that? Not "right" like fair or decent, but "right" in terms of storytelling. Forget about the Sopranos stupid ending -- stupid endings being more and more a hallmark of television, apparently kick-started by Seinfeld's ultra-lame last episode -- television and movies are by definition a limited art form: they have a clock running and when that clock expires, it's over. Just like football sometimes ends in a tie, movies and television shows sometimes have to, as well. That time limit forces some storylines to be cut short. (In some cases, time limits seem to require that no storyline really be developed, explained, acted out, or resolved.)

But books are different. Books don't have to end at all, if you don't want them to. That's a conclusion I came to, recently, when I was working on Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World! I hit 340 pages and I thought to myself I am not really very close to ending this at all, am I? And I pondered that, then, as I went about the rest of my business, and then, while I was eating my Pocket Breakfast on the way to work, it suddenly occurred to me Why does it have to end?

Answer: It doesn't. A book doesn't have to end. Publishing decisions aside, there's no limit to what can be put into a story, and sometimes the longest stories are the most satisfying. If you've read The Stand, you know what I mean -- that story could have been even longer and I would have loved it. The Harry Potter series could have gone on, too.

That's not to say that stories shouldn't resolve themselves. They should. At some point, Harry Potter is going to graduate. At some point, he'll have a showdown with Voldemort. At some point, the next phase begins, and that next phase may not be a very interesting phase and may not warrant telling the story, at all. After Luke, et al, blew up the Second Death Star, their stories would have become less interesting, less compelling -- but they didn't end. They just didn't need to be told.

Esme Lennox should not have ended where it did; it's almost as though I was missing a chapter. Esme's story came to an end -- I'll get back to that in a minute -- but Iris' didn't, and, like I said, if that was the point of it, then I didn't like the point of it. It was as though Dumbledore had a talk with Harry and said Harry, you're going to have to face down Voldemort, and Harry said I know, and looked out the window and saw the clouds roiling through the sky... and then the book ended.

That's a cop-out, isn't it? That's the dumb Sopranos cut-to-black -- that's we don't know how to end this story, so stop! And I didn't like it, in this book, and I didn't like it especially because I had grown to like Iris and become interested in her story, every bit as much as I was interested in Esme's own story, and then both stories came to a dramatic head right at the end, both Esme's and Iris' story hit emotional peaks, and Esme's story was resolved, while Iris' wasn't. The reader was left hanging, and not cliffhanging like there's going to be a second installment, but hanging as in what just happened there?

Maybe the idea was to contrast Iris' own unsettled emotional state and up-in-the-air future with Esme's own resolution, which I will not spoil but which I will say I also found unsatisfying, in that it seemed both too pat, and also too out-of-character for the Esme that was shown to the reader throughout the book.

And before I go on, let me say this: don't get the idea that this book isn't worth reading; it is. The writing is wonderful, the story is a very good one, the characters are interesting, the ideas are fun to ponder. I still recommend it as a book worth reading. But I had some things that after reading the book and thinking about them, I didn't like, and the ending to Esme's story is one of those things.

Maggie O'Farrell throughout the book does an excellent job of creating a sympathetic, but only barely so, character in Esme Lennox. The Esme that's presented is compelling -- she's crazy, but maybe with reason to be. She's spent virtually her entire life in an asylum, and we're given a lot of hints, as readers, that perhaps she wasn't supposed to have been locked up forever. Then, we're given an equal number of hints that maybe she maybe was supposed to be locked up all that time. Another consideration: Maybe she wasn't supposed to be locked up at first but then the locking up created the conditions that make you think she should have been locked up.

Throughout the book, that kind of sympathy developed, as Esme's story jumped back and forth from the vibrant, maybe-crazy, interesting young Esme to the subdued, maybe-crazy, elderly Esme, tracing how one became the other, and buildilng up a well of sorrow in reserve. Seriously, even now, weeks later, when I think of Esme sitting in the car with her father and the doctor, crying and begging not to be taken away, I get a little choked up.

That scene demonstrates one of the ongoing themes of the book, I think: that sometimes actions can be irrevocable. In this case, it's the sum and substance of all of Esme's actions before that day that lead them to want to take her away -- but it's her being especially upset about what happened to her at a dance that makes the doctor be called in, and throughout the book I had that terrible feeling that I could imagine Esme having, too, thinking: if I had only kept it to myself, things wouldn't have gotten this bad. Anyone who's ever had a bad day and snapped at a spouse knows that feeling; multiply it by a million and you'll imagine what Esme felt every day for the rest of her life.

But having built up all of that sympathy and emotion and feeling -- and wariness is one of those feelings -- O' Farrell then discharges it all, right at the end, in an ending that's not a twist at all (I kind of figured it would happen before any real clues were given) but doesn't fit, at all, either, at least not with the book I was reading.

Like I said -- nothing in this part of the review keeps me from recommending the book. It's not the U2 album or Juno; it's not something that on reflection I regret wasting time on. It was a very good book and one I'll remember for a long time. But it could have been a classic. It wasn't, in the end, and I suppose that like its protagonist, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox will occasionally pop into thought, will occasionally impact me in some way, and ultimately will leave not much of an impression behind.

Do you have a family? Do you spend money? Then you'll be interested in
Family and Consumer Law-- The Blog:
It's written by a practicing lawyer (me!) and it's a funny, interesting way to find outabout all the ways that you can be ripped off, all the ways that you can avoid being ripped off, all the ways that you need to hire a lawyer, and more. Here's what people are saying about "Family And Consumer Law-- The Blog:"

"You have another blog?" -- my wife.

"Do you ever do any actual work?"-- my boss.

Mr F, meanwhile, mostly minded his own business.

Last night, we made an emergency trip to the store to get The Boy sweatshirts; he announced that none of his sweatshirts fit him anymore and he needed new ones and Sweetie confirmed that to be the case.

So while Sweetie and Mr F got some suitable sweatshirts (they alone know the 475 different factors that go into whether a sweatshirt is acceptable, ranging from size and particular shade of gray to the number of tings on the zippers) Mr Bunches and I roamed to the furniture department so I could check on the latest sales on big-boy beds, since both the Misters will need one soon.

Once in furniture, though, I couldn't shop because Mr Bunches decided that the best way to locate the furniture we want is to climb onto it and jump on it -- whether that be the futons they're selling, the beds Daddy is trying to look at, or, in one near-miss, the glass-topped desk.

That's another of the many reasons why I much prefer shopping for furniture on the Internet; I can go online and get some wooden beds via pointing and clicking, and Mr Bunches can't jump on them.

True, he jumps on the COMPUTER, but that I can live with that, especially because the beds (like my latest favorites, the one shown here) are so much less expensive, too. This Time4Sleep place has it all-- great beds, free delivery, and a jump-free virtual showroom.

Plus, look at that bed. Our local stores had nothing like that. Get each of the Misters a couple of those and their room will be excellent-- built in desks in case they decide (unlike the older kids) that they'd like to ever actually do homework, plus a classic, clean, friendly look that'll age well, so they could sleep in it clear up until their teen years and still be happy. (In the teen years, I know, everything's off-- nothing's cool, then, even things that are actually cool. That's the mystery of teenagedom.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Question of The Day, 53:

Do you think that God has a sense of humor?

Is he, do you think, like the cool guy in school, the really cool guy? Not the guy everyone thought was cool but who was really a jerk to everyone and ended up living in an apartment over the dry cleaner's where he worked as an assistant manager, but the guy that really was cool, the guy who not only wore cool clothes and drove a cool car and listened to cool music but who also was genuinely nice to the geeky people in school, and who also could laugh at himself in a self-deprecating sort of way, whereas the guy who everyone thought was cool but who really wasn't, would, when you joked about him, push you down the stairs?

This may need further thought...

Like Like:

SPOILER ALERT: Anna Karenina Plot Points Revealed In This Post!

I was getting ready for work this morning and saw the bit of the end of a segment on "Good Morning America." The segment was apparently designed to show people how to "Tweet" their way into a new job, and there was the kind of earnest-looking woman who generally populates those kind of stories -- some HR person or other who figured out that "Tweeting" and "Jobs" are the "peanut butter" and "chocolate" of the news industry right now, so she simply made up a story and went with it, the story being that you can "Tweet" your way to a job.

Now, I think "Twitter" is stupid, and I'm dismayed at the love people have for shorter and shorter text-based entertainment. If "Anna Karenina" were written today, publishers would demand it be "flash fiction" and limited to this:

All unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. Anna Karenina's family's own way of being unhappy was shown by her love for that other guy. Then they got unhappier in a different way when she threw herself in front of a train. And Russia is scenic.

Which, now that I look at it, is not bad. Not bad at all. Better that than the original.

I'm getting sidetracked, here. Twitter may be around to stay... but you cannot Tweet your way to a job. That's not how it works. Employers are not sitting around trying to find employees who are capable of typing with their thumbs to generate "spontaneous" "thoughts" like Mmm. Potato chips. Yum. (<<That Tweet Courtesy of Ashton Kutcher. Are we over with him yet?)

What employers want -- and take it from me, because I periodically help hire people -- is to know what you can do and how you can do it and that you are the right person for the job. That's hard to express in 140 characters or less.

It is easy to express, though, in an online resume, such as the type you can set up at VisualCV -- a site that'll let you sign up (For FREE!) and post your resume online -- an online resume that can include charts, work samples, audio, video and images. You can then email it to people, or give them the URL (it can even feature your own URL with your own name in it.)

Plus -- and this is a bonus if you're SECRETLY searching for a new job -- you can control who sees it.

So let's compare these two methods:

Job Seeker A:
[tweets] need job. Have mucho skills. wife bugging me. Lost pants today.

Job Seeker B: Dear Employer, I am interested in that multimillion dollar position with your global company; specifically, the one that requires only three hours of work per week but includes as a benefit full-body massages by B-movie starlets. Here is a link to my OnlineCV: You'll see, when you go there, full-text samples of the last two reports I wrote for my current company, along with a graph demonstrating just how much money I earned them. Note in the accompanying picture that I am fully clothed in attractive business attire?

Job Seeker A: [tweets] Missed nother job. Have time now to read Anna K.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Videos up the Wazoo: (What's That Song About, 5)

The song today is Tesla Girls, by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Before I get into the song itself, here is a fascinating excerpt from the person who posted this on Youtube:

*Note: If you are a Record Company employee or artist(s) themselves who object(s) to this commercially unavailable video footage being promoted on YouTube (albeit in a lossy mono audio format) then please contact us to have it removed before flagging it. At the same time you may also like to explain to the fans why they cannot access this classic material in a decent quality digital format anywhere else?

"You won't make a profit on something that cannot be purchased but enough exposure may well help sell what you actually do have for sale. Meanwhile to share ones talents is the greatest of gifts!"

I... love... that statement. I would adopt it as my motto, but it's a bit long to put on a t-shirt or tattoo. In any event, though, they're right: why isn't more stuff available for free on the Internet, especially when that stuff is not available anywhere else in the world? If I had been a part of OMD, I would make dang sure that every song I'd ever released had videos up the wazoo on Youtube, each linking to that spot on iTunes where they could buy the song.

So anyway, on to the song, Tesla Girls.

What I Thought It Was About: I am not completely unfamiliar with Nikola Tesla, a not-complete-unfamiliarity I had even before watching "The Prestige," a movie Sweetie figured out before I did. (Excellent movie, by the way.) So I guessed this song is about girls who are so awesomely perfect that they are like electricity, only a romantical sort of electricity -- that is, they will (love-wise) charge you up and leave you burnt to a crisp.

Let's listen:

What The Song Is Actually About: Sample lyrics:

Tesla girls tesla girls/ Testing out theories/Electric chairs and dynamos/Dressed to kill, they're killing me. So I seem to be right, so far, don't I? (Keep in mind that I've listened to this song perhaps 10,000 times in the 25 years since it was released.)

But going just on that seems unrigorous and unscientific, especially when I could go right to the source and check out the OMD Q+A at their site, where this exchange appears:

In Tesla Girls you sing of "electric chairs and dynamos", what does this mean in the context of the song? I have always wondered, as I use an electric chair because of my disability and would love to know. Thanks for the immense listening pleasure that you have given us over the years and long may it continue.
Glenn Evans

Answer: "The title was lifted from Martha Ladly who used to be in Martha And The Muffins who was at the time the girlfriend of Peter Saville. Nikola Tesla was basically the father of modern electricity/alternating current. The references to electric chairs and dynamos is actually a reference to dynamos which was essential for the use of the alternating current and anything electrical basically and electric chairs is actually a reference to the fact that his main competitor for the development of modern electricity was Thomas Edison who, to discredit Tesla's alternating current, suggested to the US authorities that a nice new way of killing people might be the electric chair using Tesla's new AC. So it was actually Edison who invented the electric chair using Tesla's AC as a way to discredit AC - Look it kills people! So it's not a reference to an electric chair that would be useful for a disabled person, quite the opposite in fact! But thanks for a very interesting question."

Martha Ladly, as we all know, once won the "Juno Award" for best single, the single being "Echo Beach." She also is an expert in "interaction design.' Peter Savile, meanwhile, is a graphic designer who designed, among other things, New Order record covers.

Anyway, back to the point -- Nikola Tesla competed with Thomas Edison to establish the type of current that we would use for electricity, with Edison being an advocate of "direct current," and Tesla preferring his "alternating current," which apparently can be used not only to safely and efficiently power household appliances, but also to clone hats and cats and more. So I think it's entirely possible that Tesla Girls are girls who are not only electrifyingly awesome, but also who play games with your feelings -- liking you one day, then not the next, toying with you... alternating: "Now and then they'll watch TV/now and then they'll speak to me."

To wrap up, then:

1. Despite how often I've listened to this song, I never looked up the lyrics before and so for 25 years I've been singing heaven knows they arrested me, but it's actually heaven knows their recipe.

2. If your kids want to be Canadian new wave singers, let them because they will probably go on to have distinguished careers on top of making a pretty-catchy song:

and 3. If Sweetie figures out a movie before you do, she's kind of cocky about it.

Bonus: OMD seemed to really have an electric-thing going. Here's their song "Electricity," which has a contagiously catchy keyboard part that I defy not to get stuck in your head:

Bonus Bonus: If you're wondering how I got started on all this, this was my exact chain of thought: I heard the news reports about the guy who survived two atomic blasts back in 1945, and those news reports mentioned the bomber the "Enola Gay," which made me think of the OMD song by that name, which then led me to remember the song "Tesla Girls" and listen to that, and then while searching for that video I came across "Electricity." So here's "Enola Gay," while I'm at it:

And, to come full circle, I will note that there are other versions of "Enola Gay" on Youtube, but apparently OMD has complained about them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Most Romantic Date Ever? Or The Most-Est Romantic Date Ever? You decide.

Sweetie had this crazy idea that the passion in our marriage was gone because I called her by her actual name the other day. She was wrong about the passion, but I don't blame her for being wrong because we rarely use each other's actual names, so calling her by her real name was a slip-up on my part. A slip-up that she read too much into, but a slip-up nonetheless.

I think that the slip-up was excusable, in that at the time of the accidental-real-name-calling, I was cooking dinner and trying to resist being pulled to help out with Superjumping and trying to defend the refrigerator from Mr F's depredations, while also arguing with The Boy about whether the english muffins were properly toasted or not.

So let me break that down for you: It was Sunday night, and I was cooking dinner, which that night was cheesy hash browns and home-made Egg McMuffins. I cook fried eggs thusly: Put a pan on the stove, spray it with some pan-stuff, break six or seven eggs into it, and let it sit until the eggs are fully cooked.

That's how I cook almost everything, except for Ramen Noodles, which I microwave on high for four minutes, then wait 23 minutes until they cool down. I've also begun mixing into my Ramen Noodles the Chip Dregs, those end-of-the-bag snack chips that are too small to eat properly but too big to throw away without feeling guilty about not ending world hunger or something.

Chip Dregs (TM 2009, Me) will likely eventually be available as a topping for a variety of meals, probably in the same aisle as you'll be able to buy Cereal Powder. Eventually the world will recognize the contributions I've made to society -- recognition that will come when everyone's spice rack contains not just parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, but also "Chip Dregs" and Cereal Powder. I prefer my "recognition" in 20s and 50s, please. Or Paypal.

And you're probably skeptical, but I'll tell you this: Save those Chip Dregs you've got (crackers work equally well) and sprinkle them on the next pizza you make. Then thank me. (I prefer my "thanks," too, in 20s and 50s.)

So I was busy watching the eggs to make sure that they didn't burn but didn't undercook, and also toasting the English muffins, which in our house is trickier than you might guess because our toaster has only two settings: Raw, and Nuclear. It's next to impossible to adjust the toaster to anything but those two settings, and I always get it wrong, primarily because I tend to use the toaster after Middle, who seems to be mostly eating charcoal for breakfast these days, judging by the setting she leaves the toaster on when she's done with it.

That's how I nearly, on Saturday, burnt the house down and wasted a Cinnabagel The Boy brought home for me. I was getting around to making my breakfast, and Sweetie and Middle had already made theirs. I sliced the Cinnabagel in half and put it in the toaster and put the lever down and then went to find Mr Bunches and Mr F to make sure they weren't accidentally wrecking the TV. When I came back, about ten minutes later, the bagel hadn't popped up, so I continued on with other business (downloading my music for the week) and checked in a few minutes, which is when I discovered that the toaster wasn't plugged in. So I plugged it in and then tried to repeatedly press down the plunger, but it wouldn't stay down.

At first, I assumed this was some federally-mandated safety measure, requiring that toasters not be activated while they are plugged in. But Sweetie heard my struggles and came and showed me the "bagel" button that I had to press to get it to work because it was a bagel, and not bread, in it.

So we've come to this: The toaster won't work unless I tell it specifically what it is toasting. Of all the ways ever imagined in which the machines would rise up against humans, that's the least likely/most annoying Robot Rebellion ever.

Having gotten the toaster down, and toasting, I again wandered away to retrieve Mr Bunches and his pants, placing one on the other and returning to the kitchen to see the toaster emitting plumes of smoke that were filling up the kitchen and dining room. I quickly and heroically popped the toaster up, pulling the Cinnabagel out and learning the Lesson of the Day, which is this:

Cinnamon gets REALLY hot when you toast it.

I (heroically) flung the blackened-and-smoking crispy bagels into the sink, then heroically also ran my fingertips under cold water until I couldn't feel them anymore, and then lectured Middle about how she should never, and I quote, "set the toaster to 'Surface of the Sun' and leave it there."

I then re-set it down to almost nothing, which resulted in Sunday night's mcmuffins being toasted to the level of, as The Boy put it "about as toasty as if you'd just looked at them." But I wasn't about to waste time trying to adjust the toaster, or risk Flaming English Muffins, so we lived with that, because I had to continuously guard the refrigerator against Mr F, who has discovered the thrills of opening and closing the refrigerator, and the related thrills of "grabbing stuff from the refrigerator and running," so that we can expect, on a regular basis, to hear the refrigerator door closing and then see a 2 year old come running through the room carrying one of the 3 different kinds of Ranch dressing we have in the refrigerator. (We have that many because I'm preparing for The Great Ranch Challenge, but that hasn't happened yet because The Boy and I can't decide on the stakes.)

While I was doing that, I had to keep fending off Mr Bunches, who wanted me to help him Superjump. Superjumping is the latest in a series of dangerous games I play with them, and it works like this: Mr Bunches climbs onto the couch, and I stand there and hold his hands. For some reason, I must always be facing the same direction -- west -- when we do this. He then begins bouncing, and I slowly bounce him higher and higher, holding his hands, until he is bouncing above my head and laughing.

I love playing Superjump (it works the shoulders and is a critical part of the Baby Workout Program) but it's tiring and it's impossible to monitor the eggs properly when I'm Superjumping, so I had to keep fending off Mr Bunches, who took that hard, dropping into a puddle of goo on the kitchen floor before going off to see if he could manage to climb up the cat tree without Daddy noticing (Answer: Yes.)

In the midst of all that, then, I was setting the table and needed to ask Sweetie what part of dinner she wanted. Sweetie's eating is confusing to me, because she doesn't eat carbs, and I'm not sure what qualifies as a "carb" or not. I've sort of gathered that there are "carbs" in anything in the "Bread" or "Noodle" food groups, but she eats breadsticks, and I always lumped breadsticks into the "Bread" food group, mostly because I never created a separate "Stick" food group, although I probably should, given how many things would fit into that category.

Sweetie was somewhere nearby amidst the swirl of pantsless two-year-olds, cats, loud music, sarcastic 16-year-olds, and the flurry that accompanies all of those, and so I didn't look around for her, I just cut through the clutter by calling out her name and asking what she wanted for dinner, and she asked why I'd used her actual name and then said the passion was dead in our marriage.

Which is, as I said, an over-reaction, but a forgiveable one also because Sweetie is basing most of her comparisons of passion in our marriage right now on the movie Twilight, which she was planning on watching this week and which she was eagerly anticipating because... something about the guy and how he looks at the girl. I don't know. So Sweetie has a misconception about what passion in a relationship is: She thinks, I gather, that it's all smoldering looks and the Pacific Northwest and people's skin looking like diamonds at certain times.

To show her what true passion is, then, I proposed to Sweetie that we have a romantic interlude, which we did, last night, when I took Sweetie out for what will, in history, go down as "The Most Romantic Night Ever Involving Cheeseburgers and A Stunned Deer."

The plan was that we would either go walking, or go for a drive, just the two of us, when I got home from work. We'd eat dinner and then leave all the kids behind and spend some time just hanging out and talking and being in love and, possibly, giving each other smoldering looks and having diamond-based skin, if I could work that. (Answer: I couldn't.)

We began "The Most Romantic Night Ever Involving Cheeseburgers and A Stunned Deer" the way most truly romantic events begin, with me getting home late because I'd had to give a presentation to a bunch of lawyers. That left me eating my dinner while the rest of them cleaned up and hung out and did their own thing, because they'd already eaten. So Sweetie and I sat and were romantic and passionate while The Boy and Middle cleaned up and squabbled over whatever it is they were squabbling about, and in the background, Mr F tried to get into the toilet while Mr Bunches threw things into my milk glass -- things including "bits of cookies," some crackers, and two separate Mr. Potato Head tongues.

With that amazingly passionate start, things were clearly on a high note and we left for the equally-romantic drive we'd decided to go on, just driving around and chatting and eating dessert, which we got at that most romantic of places, the McDonald's drive-in. Sweetie got a "McFlurry," while I got the less-traditional-dessert of "2 Cheeseburgers."

Ready with our snacks, and our passion, we then began to drive around, more or less aimlessly. Ordinarily, these Alone-Time drives take us through the two subdivisions we refer to as "Richville," where the houses are three times the size of ours and have fancy cars locked into their giant garages. We drive through those, stalk some of the houses, and alternate between being envious of the luxury and telling ourselves that they are not truly happy in their giant, fancy houses -- true happiness requires, in my mind, a shower head that needs fixing and carpeting that is 97% ground up Froot Loops, and if you're missing those, then I feel sorry for you.

But last night, we didn't do that. Instead, I struck out for parts unknown, heading down Highway 14 to check out some newer areas. I had in my mind possibly showing Sweetie a house that had a phenomenal amount of Easter decorations, a house I'd driven by on my way home from the presentation, a house that had, by my count, about 20 different inflatable Easter decorations in the yard, but I couldn't remembe where that was, so instead, I began turning left and right here and there, until Sweetie suddenly said:

"This is that scary place we ended up that one time," and she was right. The Scary Place is not far from our house, but it is as though turning right onto the Scary Place road transports one from Middleton, Wisconsin, to the setting of every scary psycho movie ever. The road narrows, is gravelly, is lined by trees that never have a full set of leaves, even in the summer. There are too many mailboxes -- we can only see about three houses, but there are, like, fourteen mailboxes. There are broken down trucks and cars, and some of them are parked on the lawns, and some appear to be of foreign make (foreign things always = scary) and-- I swear I'm not in any way over-dramatizing this -- the light is dimmer. We went there last night about 7, and when I turned onto Scary Place Road, it was dark. When I turned back out -- looking in my rearview mirror to make sure there weren't a bunch of Sharpened-Banjo-Wielding Nuclear Mutants chasing us -- it grew light again.

So we got out of there, and continued driving around other random neighborhoods in the next city down the road from us, looking at houses here and there and discussing relationships and things, and eventually decided that it was time to head back home.

And that doesn't sound very romantic or passionate, but it was because at no point during our talk did anyone accuse anyone else of getting favored because they always got easier jobs, nobody claimed that their teachers hated them, and nobody secretly slipped off their pants and diapers and started jumping, naked, on the trampoline. Romance and passion are a relative thing.

Things got even more romantic, then, when we got hit by a deer on the way home.

Yes, I said that right: We got hit by a deer. As I was driving along, minding my own romantic and passionate business, a deer leaped out of the side of the road and rammed smack into the side of our car, just ahead of my door. It then flipped up and over the car and lay in the road, looking stunned.

I pulled over immediately, and, acting in my usual calm and cool manner that I have in a crisis, said to Sweetie: "Am I supposed to call someone, do you think?"

She got out her cell phone, and I took it and got out of the car and began to examine the damage but as I did so, I realized that I didn't know where the deer was, and, more scary, I didn't know if there were other deer around.

So I took defensive action, turning around and spotting our deer in the middle of the road, lying there, and also scanning the immediate surroundings for other deer. In my mind, I could see a herd of crazed deer charging me, trying to get revenge on me for something that was clearly not my fault. Deer look all nice and cute and friendly... until they viciously ram into your car and you realize this: Deer are big and strong and have hooves. And maybe fangs, for all I know.

While I looked out for Meat-Eating Deer, I also called "911," because I don't know who else to call and report that there's a maybe-injured, maybe-suicidal, maybe homicidal deer laying in the middle of a country highway.

The 911 operator asked where I was, and I said "Highway 12." Then I realized that was wrong, and I said "Highway 14." Then, unsure, I said "Highway 12, 14, maybe."

She asked where on Highway 12 or 14, and I said "Between Cross Plains and Middleton." That, too, was wrong, as I realized when I walked to the nearest sign and saw that it said I was just entering Cross Plains, which meant I was about 5 miles further west than I'd just told her. So I corrected that, too, and said I was calling because I'd been hit by a deer.

"You hit a deer?" she asked.

"No, I got hit by a deer," I clarified. I'm not taking the blame for this. That confused the operator, though, so we went back to trying to figure out where I was. I continued to try to describe it, but remember, I was standing on a country highway, in the dark, between two cities. Eventually, I said I was just outside of Cross Plains, and she said:

"Which bar did you last leave?"

I tried to clarify that I wasn't coming from a bar -- a point that was hard to support, given my confusion -- while also trying not to say that what I'd been doing was driving around aimlessly eating cheeseburgers on a date with my wife, but that was made more difficult because another driver stopped to say that she had called 911, too, and that they'd dispatched a police officer to the scene.

My 911 operator overheard that and took offense. She said to me: "I don't have a record of another call."

I didn't respond, but kept talking to the other driver, who said again that she'd called and a cop was on the way.

"I don't have a record of another call," my 911 operator insisted, and so I relayed that to the other driver, who said that she had called and that a different 911 person had, in fact, said a cop was on the way.

"She said she did call," I reported to my 911 operator, who was still miffed-sounding and who then told me that someone would be there soon -- even though I hadn't yet clarified where I was, exactly. The 911 operator then asked me my phone number, which confused me because I thought it showed up on 911. I began wondering if I had called 911 after all; maybe I had someone whose number is close to "911," and they were just going along with the gag? But then my deer stopped laying in the road, and got up and began sort of staggering around, at the same time as some cars came down the highway towards us.

"Flag them down! They'll hit the deer!" the other driver shouted at me, so while I gave the maybe-911 operator my phone number and name, I also began waving my free hand in the universal sign language for "Slow Down, There's A Stunned, Possibly Crazy Deer In The Road."

It worked, because the deer was free to get up and stagger and limp around while the cars inched past, and then I got nervous all over again because I worried that the deer might charge or something, and even a stunned, injured deer is probably a match for me, but it didn't charge, it just wandered off into the woods as the three cops showed up to deal with the situation -- a situation that no longer existed.

Two local police officers and a sheriff's deputy got out of their cars and questioned me and shined high-beam spotlights around and took a statement and got my driver's license and did all the things that cops do. One of them came walking up and said "Hit a deer, huh?" to which I said, again, "No, a deer hit me." He didn't believe me until I showed him where the deer had cracked the car, on the side, a spot that made it impossible for me to have hit the deer unless I was traveling sideways on the road.

With all that finally sorted out, Sweetie and I were free to head back home from our romantic, passionate date, where, having restored the passion to our marriage successfully, I took a break from giving her smoldering looks to bathe Mr F and Mr Bunches, while she retired to our room to read a romance novel.

I don't know why she bothered -- I've clearly set the bar superhigh for all romance in the future. The rest of you, just try to keep up with me.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Says You! (And Thank God You Did!)

UPDATE: It's Steve. See the comments for explanation.

So I was a little wrong the other day: Someone had told me what the Mystery Song is, and I just didn't realize it. That someone is "Lost in Provence" Lisa, who began her blogging career, it seems, when she was overwhelmed by the need to discuss naked newscasters.

Lisa didn't name the song; that honor goes to her friend "Scott," who ID'd the mystery song as "Hawaiian War Chant," and gave a link to this:

Just for good measure, here's some more Muppets to start your week: "Huga Wuga:"

You know, I've said it before but I'll say it again. The Muppets are sometimes kinda creepy.

Here's the original "Hawaiian War Chant" by Tommy Dorsey, paired, for no good reason, with pictures of Hugh Laurie. But, then, I told everyone to put good sound-quality videos on the Internet, and you did it, so if I've got to live with Hugh Laurie acting out my songs to get that good quality sound, then, by Gum, I'll do it:

And the original:

What's the only website that Big Yam tried to shut down? The Best of Everything: The site that tells you what to like, and why. Hilarious, thoughtful essays on what's The Best in any category you can imagine: Best Movie Quote, Best Scientifically Accurate Modest Mouse Song, Best Simpson Sister... and more. If you read only one thing each day... why do you do that? But if you do, then read The Best of Everything. Our Opinions Are Righter Than Yours!

Reader submissions welcomed!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

That dog was really fast. (The Found Alphabet, C)

This is the "C" on the sign on the fence outside the watertower that is the current object of fascination for Mr Bunches and Mr F. We went for our "Sunday Night Give Mommy A Break" walk tonight, and headed straight for the watertower, where we spent a glorious 15 minutes basking in the presence of that immortal structure.

Then it was a vain attempt to catch a dog to pet it, then Daddy carried them back... nearly a mile... uphill... to the house for bathtime.

See B here.

It'll be so cool, MIddle and her friends will probably wait at least 30 seconds before kicking me back out.

In about 60 days, Middle is going to graduate high school, which means in about 60 days, we have to have a graduation party for her, and I've been struggling to come up with a theme. So far, Sweetie has shot down all these ideas:

1. Time to start paying your own car insurance.

2. If you're not out in 30 days, we charge rent.

And my personal favorite:

3. Hallelujah, no helping with calculus homework anymore.

So I was stumped, and turned my attention to the Graduation Songs I thought I might play at her party, which posed a whole new problem, that being that Middle and her friends don't like anything that I would consider "cool" music, and I don't like anything Middle and her friends consider "cool" music (not that what they listen to is music...)

I finally went to this "Celebrations" website to get some ideas for what playlists to set up and it was actually pretty helpful -- it had the top 10 most popular songs for high school graduates, things like Breakaway from Kelly Clarksonand "Highschool Never Ends" by Bowling for Soup (thank God that one's not true!)

They had some party theme ideas and party favor ideas -- like photo frames with college trivia and college pennant and mascot decorations, plus some tips on throwing together a "Gossip Girl" themed party, so in the end, I could have saved a lot of time if I'd just gone there.

I still like that No-Calculus-theme, though.

Adjustable Love At The Zoo Times Two: (Sunday's Poem #10)

At the Zoo
by William Makepeace Thackeray

First I saw the white bear, then I saw the black;
Then I saw the camel with a hump upon his back;
Then I saw the grey wolf, with mutton in his maw;
Then I saw the wombat waddle in the straw;
Then I saw the elephant a-waving of his trunk;
Then I saw the monkeys—mercy, how unpleasantly they smelt!


It is a little-known fact about me that I know all the words to "At The Zoo" by Paul Simon. Here are the lyrics, and that song:

Someone told me
Its all happening at the zoo.

I do believe it,
I do believe its true.

Its a light and tumble journey
From the east side to the park;
Just a fine and fancy ramble
To the zoo.

But you can take the crosstown bus
If its raining or its cold,
And the animals will love it
If you do.

Somethin tells me
Its all happening at the zoo.

The monkeys stand for honesty,
Giraffes are insincere,
And the elephants are kindly but
Theyre dumb.
Orangutans are skeptical
Of changes in their cages,
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.

Zebras are reactionaries,
Antelopes are missionaries,
Pigeons plot in secrecy,
And hamsters turn on frequently.
What a gas! you gotta come and see
At the zoo.

Another little-known fact about me is that I had the song "At The Zoo" on a mixtape, right after a Tommy James & The Shondells' song. I had that mixtape for about 7 years, and on the label it read:

3. At The Zoo
4. Adjustable Love.

Then, one day, listening to the tape, I suddenly realized:
They're not saying "adjustable love," they're saying "Yo'ure just A mirage!"

And that song made more sense. A lot more sense. Here's a live version of that song. It was the best I could find. Is it too much to ask that everyone in the world anticipate which songs I will want to hear on a Sunday morning, and make decent-quality videos of them and post them on Youtube? Of course it's not. Now go get to work.

I also walk around the firm singing the "Name Game" song about Wilmington: Wilmington Bington Bo-mington, Banana fana fo-ilmington.

My dad is thinking about relocating -- he's been thinking about it for a long time but now that he's getting to the point where he can retire, he's talking about it more and more. Who wants to retire in Wisconsin? There's snow on the ground 14 months out of the year, and even in the summer you can feel the chill of winter just lurking around the corner. That, and our baseball team has Prince Fielder on it.

I've been pointing him in the direction of North Carolina. I have a client that lives in North Carolina, and she's said the weather is great and that it's a very friendly, nice place to live. I even went so far as to find a city for him: Wilmington, North Carolina.

Wilmington is in the southeast part of North Carolina (did you follow all that?) and it's got long summers, short winters, and is right on the coast-- a coast with water temperatures in the 70s for up to 7 monhths a year. There's a historic downtown located on the Cape Fear river. And wilmington nc real estate is both easy to find and a great value.

There are those who may feel that I'm primarily interested in getting Dad to move there so that I can go visit him for lengthy stretches in the winter, and to those people I say: "If that was the case, would I be also looking into wilmington nc commercial real estate, if my only goal was to get Dad to move there? And would I be dropping hints at Firm meetings about the great commercial prospects in Wilmington, North Carolina? And would I have that tie specially made up, the one with the printing on it that says Hey, why not open a branch office in North Carolina and send your young, amazingly handsome lawyer there to staff it?

I think not. So you can see, I'm motivated by simple altruistic motives.