Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sweetie is apparently anti-duck. (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 18)

Sweetie's Hunk of the Week is... Tarzan!

You/Sweetie Know Him As: A cartoon. But you probably don't know him as well as Sweetie, who watched Tarzan about 53 times a week in an effort to keep Mr F and Mr Bunches distracted, at least momentarily, from taking off their pants and/or throwing stuff at the cats.

I Know Him As: The guy I see briefly in the beginning of Tarzan when I try to show it to the Babies!, only to get distracted by playing Cloverfield or letting them take off their pants and/or throw stuff at the cats. (I call that "Daddy Time.")(Sweetie calls it "directly intefering with her ability to raise the children.")(Mine is catchier.)

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm About Him: He's two-dimensional.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: I thought she picked him because about two weeks ago I said "You should pick a cartoon Hunk of the Week," and then she picked Brison Stewart or whoever from last week, and then she finally came around to pick Tarzan this week, at which point I said "I thought you'd pick, like, Donald Duck or something."

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

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: He's two-dimensional. Also, I can't find Mr F's pants.

Just hear me out, here.

Haven't finalized your plans for this summer yet? Might I suggest a
Jersey Shore beach Vacation?

No-- don't turn away and say "No, I'd rather not..." I'm not one of those people handling out pamphlets on the street... I've got actual good points to make.

Good points like the fact that on the Jersey Shore, there's an amusement park where you can take your kids to see the Radio Disney Summer Concert Series. It's in Wildwood, New Jersey, at Morey's Piers. And it's FREE.

You love your kids, don't you? Do you love them enough to do something FREE for them? Of course you do - -and that FREE thing is taking them to Morey's Piers in June and July and August to see their favorite Radio Disney stars.

Remember, it's free. And the songs are pretty good, you know.

Plus, you don't have to just sit and listen to Radio Disney concerts; you can take your kids to one of Morey's fabulous New Jersey water parks or amusement parks in between all the singing and dancing. So you'll have even more fun -- splashing around and sliding down and swimming and wave pooling, and then you can go see another (FREE!) concert.

See? I told you not to turn away. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Free, waterparky, Radio Disney-y sense.

Friday, June 05, 2009

People who read this blog include me, you, and Joe Biden (The Mourning Gnus for 6/5/09)

I tried to fake my own death once, but Sweetie caught on. She said she was tipped off when I snuck downstairs for leftover pizza. Here's the Gnus!

I'm gonna give all of you some advice: Don't Do That, It's Stupid: Time for the first-ever round-up of stupid schemes to get out of relationships. First up: Marcus Schenker. Just saying his name alone won't tell you why he's in this story, but if I say it this way: "Marcus Schenker, the guy who crashed his plane to fake his own death" you'll probably nod and say "Oh, yeah, that doofus." Schenker -- who called the allegations that he was stupid... I mean allegations that he had faked his own death "absurd" will plead guilty to those "absurd" allegations.

Marcus might -- when he gets out of prison-- want to ask out Bonnie Sweeten. Again, you're saying "Who?" so I'll give you her full media name: "Bonnie Sweeten, the woman who said black guys kidnapped her but was actually just taking
her daughter to Disney World using stolen money."

My favorite part of the Bonnie Sweeten story is her coworker, a woman named "Jillian." Jillian loaned her ID to Bonnie after Bonnie said she needed it to fix a discrepancy in Bonnie's 401(k). Got that? Bonnie needed Jillian's ID to fix Bonnie's 401(k) plan. Jillian described that request as "innocent."

In reviewing these stories, ask yourself this: Were these people living in a John Grisham novel? Because even in those, these types of schemes are always just one step away from being foiled by an ambitious young lawyer (Matt Damon.)

This is either the worst job or the best job ever: When did humans first start laughing? 10 million to 16 million years ago, according to "scientists" (i.e., "people with nothing better to do.") British scientists -- who obviously don't understand that real scientists spend their time eating at Applebee's, not doing stuff like this -- have been studying the origins of laughter by tickling apes.

And not just apes, either: To quote from the article, "The researchers painstakingly tickled young orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos, as well as human infants, and Joe Biden.

Okay, I threw that last part in there, but that was to test my own scientific research, which is to prove this hypothesis: "Saying Joe Biden at the end of any list automatically makes it funny." Other recent studies I've done include:

Four Members of Janis Joplin's "Holding Company: " Chet Helms, Steven Ryder, Dave Getz, and Joe Biden.

Things You Wouldn't Want To See Jennifer Aniston kiss: John Mayer, an iguana, the sky, Joe Biden.

Anyway, the results of the Ape-Tickling Study were inconclusive, with the "scientists" finishing by asking
this question: "What kind of parents give their baby to a scientist so that it can be tickled next to a baboon?"

Where I'm Getting My Gossip Today: You, like me, should click over to "CelebSlam" about every twenty minutes. Otherwise you'll be way behind on important news like Jessica Simpson buying Tony Romo a boat.


Sweetie uses logic in her arguments, which I do not like.

I found out that Sweetie's been throwing out my t-shirts, a practice she defends by saying "They were old and ripped and stinky," and by also saying "Plus, you wouldn't have even known if I hadn't told you. You can't even say what t-shirts I've thrown out."

Both of which, while true, are not good reasons for getting rid of my t-shirts. I love my t-shirts. I'd wear them every day, except that federal judges do not appreciate it when you show up wearing a Gaius Baltar For President shirt at a jury trial. ( What is their DEAL? Man, they're uptight.)

I've begun to strike back against Sweetie, though, because I found a place where I can Buy $10 T-Shirts. COOL t-shirts, like this:"Bigfoot vs. Bunyan," -- a shirt that might pass muster with those federal judges (I could say it's a precedent!) but which definitely passes muster with me. High quality screen print, bargain price, and a couple of colors to choose from.

PLUS, they've got a new t-shirt every Monday, so there's always a reason to go back. And they've offer 7-7-7 deals-- 7 shirts, $7 each, for 7 days only. Right now, they've got (for a few more days) a half-off sale, too.

All of which adds up to more t-shirts for me to offset Sweetie's hobby. I'm gonna go order some now, since she's got some extra time today and I don't want to end up t-shirt-less.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dweezil Zappa Once Did A Duet With Bobcat Goldthwait. (Mourning Gnus, 6/4/09)

He Finally Took That Fifth Step: I only know David Carradine from Kill Bill, but I don't have to have seen all his films to know that he was a phenomenal actor, and the world is a less cool place without him in it today. Rest in Peace, David Carradine.

What would happen if you typed "Find Me A Search Engine" Into a Search Engine? (I'm afraid to find out.) Apparently, the next wave of "search" is "Searches That Are Useless." Hot on the heels of Bing -- the MSN search engine you won't use -- comes "Google Squared," a search engine that... well, that has no apparent point to it. I tried searching for "Sticky Waffle Sandwiches" and got nothing; Google said it couldn't build a square, and suggested I try something like "Planets." So I did that, and got a grid filled with pictures and names of planets. But the pictures of the actual planets are paired with things like shopping for a Saturn. That raises concerns that kids using Google Squared to cheat on finals would tell science teachers that Saturn's atmosphere gets 35 miles to the gallon and has the best crash test ratings of any spheroid.

I tried, then, in order, "Ashton Kutcher is a meathead," (nothing) "David Carradine" (a grid that linked to "Camille" for some reason) and "What Good Is Google Squared?" That latter got no answer, either.

Today's Song You May Have Never Heard But I Did Because I Bought The Album On Cassette From Tape World:
"Let's Talk About It," by Dweezil Zappa -- with his sister Moon Unit!

You know, I'd like a big blank room in my house like they have in all these videos. And not to quibble, Moon, but there really are "right ways" to use words like capitalism, communism, and freedom.

Also, the song is based on a Mozart piece. (What's That Song About, 8)

Today's song:M 79, from "Vampire Weekend."

What I Thought It Was About: At first impression, you'd think a group called "Vampire Weekend" would be making grimly gothic music over an industrial beat, or maybe something campy and Pink Floydish like The Dresden Dolls used to.

You'd be wrong, at least when it comes to M79, a song that was one of the rare songs to make it onto my "upbeat" playlist, mostly because of the quirky violin and tripping-up beat. (A tripping-up beat is one that is even more elusive to arhythmic people like me. The beat in M79 jumps and skips and stops and goes and eludes capture like a ferret in a meadow.)

One day, I was listening to "M79" on the way home from work and thinking about my Three Good Things and suddenly I realized Hey, I have no idea what this song is about. I'd thought initially that it was about going to see a girl, with "M79" being a bus in New York city. But then there's the part about charming one's way across the Khyber Pass... or that's what it sounds like to me, plus there's something about "Jackson Pollock."

So here's the song:

What It's Actually About: God, I have no idea. Why does everyone look to me for answers, just because I posted the song?

According to Song Meanings, the "M79" is either a bus in New York, or a gun. And, also according to that site, Jackie is a "hobo."

If you Google the phrase "Is M79 A Gun," you'll find out that, no, it's a grenade launcher, which makes no sense in the context of the song, unless it does, because while you can't be "Back seat on the 79" if that's a grenade launcher, an "M79" would be very helpful on the Khyber Pass, which is either part of an important trade route in Asia, or a restaurant in Oak Park, Illinois.

Then, looking up the lyrics, I found out, it's not "Jackson Pollock." It's "Jackson Crowther." Google him and you'll either link to a guy's Facebook page...or find out he's a minor league ballplayer. Or both. I've asked Facebook-Crowther to friend me and if he approves it, I'm gonna ask him if he's the guy in the M79 song.

And, finally, "Arch of glass?" Watch your step along the arch of glass? There's an "Arch of Glass" at The Museum of Glass... but that's in Tacoma, Washington. Where you can learn about the art of glass blowing and where, now, I'm sure someday to take the kids on vacation and bore them and while we do that, I'll be humming the song and telling my kids to watch their steps along the arch of glass.

But I've put that all together and solved the song. Here's what it is: A guy is riding across town on the bus to visit his girlfriend, who lives in a building that's got a variety of strange and/or ethnic tenants; she may be a different ethnicity, too. When he finally arrives, it's as though he's traveled through several different worlds and the experience has enriched him and he feels as though he's accomplished something akin to sneaking through the Khyber Pass. (Although there's also the possibility that charm your way across the Khyber Pass refers to ... getting busy, as the kids would say.)

This post is a parable called "The friendly rabbit and the guy whose pants were soon to be too big."

If you're planning on getting me any pants for gifts in the future, better get 'em a size smaller.

You are planning on getting me gifts, right? Remember the old saying: Every day is Love Your Blogger day, and the best way to love a blogger is to send gifts.

And, if you're getting me pants ('cause, why wouldn't you?) you'll have to get them a size smaller, or maybe two sizes smaller. Or, heck, maybe three.

You'll have to do that because I'm planning on logging a lot of BeeWell Miles to shrink myself for charity.

"BeeWell Miles" aren't like ordinary miles. No, they're not metric, or anything weird like that. They're miles, but they're miles that not only can help shrink your waistline, but can help charitable efforts and also get you prizes.

Here's how it works: Click that link and sign up to log miles you walk or run each day. Then, walk or run miles each day, and log them.

From now until October 31, 2009, Bumble Bee Foods will, for each logged mile, donate fifteen cents to the BreastCancer Network of Strength.

And, not only that, but if you do all this, while you're getting healthy and helping fight breast cancer and provide support to sufferers, you'll also be eligible for up to 15,000 prizes they're giving away.

The site will help you do more than fight cancer, too. You can interact with experts, calculate the route of your miles, get health tips, and more.

Let's face it: Everyone wants to work out and get in shape. Just like everyone wants to send me pants in the mail. But we make excuses not to do that; we say we're tired or busy or our legs hurt or the last time we went jogging we got lost in the woods and would never have gotten back but for that friendly rabbit...

... so what we need is a motivation. Beyond friendly rabbits and pants, that is. And BeeWell Miles is that motivation. If getting in shape and getting prizes isn't enough to get my butt off the couch, then helping people fight cancer is.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ninety-Four, Part Fifteen: Wherein (SPOILER ALERT!) I Never Actually Tell You About The Day I Went Rollerblading (Although I Mention Other Days...)

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. Once a week, I'll recap that year. This is part 15; click here for a table of contents.

I wanted to do this in chronological order. That seemed to me to be the way to do a memoir – in the order in which things happened.

But my memory doesn’t work that way. My memory does not bother to remember things by when they happened, or at least I can’t recall them that way.

So let me tell you instead about a time I went rollerblading in Washington, D.C.

I’d been there about two or three months at that point, and the weather was getting nice – although not as nice as I’d like. Washington in the spring is not very warm, not by my standards. My standards of warmth are very high. You’d expect that someone born and raised in Wisconsin would be used to the cold and used to snow and would maybe even enjoy the snow and the cold, but I am not used to the cold and I don’t enjoy it.

I did once enjoy winter, as a kid, I guess. At least, I don’t recall hating winter as a kid. As a kid, I was outside during the winter quite a bit, it seems in my memory. I can remember hockey games on the frozen swamp, and snowball fights, and sledding, and ice skating, and more sledding, and building snowmen and snowforts, and lots and lots of snow shoveling (which wouldn’t qualify as “fun” or “enjoying” winter, but I do have recollections of them, so I’ll throw them in here.)

One problem with those recollections is, again, they’re not in chronological order. In my memory, almost every one of the winter memories I have seems to take place during the same calendar year. It’s almost as though in my childhood I was subject to the cartoon laws of time, not the real laws of time.

By that I mean that in cartoons, people never age. If you watch The Simpsons or King of the Hill or any of those shows, then you know that time seems to continuously loop back on itself in an ouroborian manner: people keep moving forward in time but never get anywhere. The school year progresses, the seasons progress, Christmas occurs every year over and over – but the people stay in the same grade and at the same job and at the same age. Homer Simpson should be about 60 by now, but he’s still in his late 30s or early 40s. Bobby Hill should have graduated high school, but hasn’t.

So kids in cartoons live in a world that has time, but the time they experience doesn’t march straight forward; it loops back on itself in a Modest-Mousian manner: If you go straight long enough you end up where you were, and so cartoons do. Every single thing that’s ever happened to Bart Simpson has happened, more or less, in the same year of his life. So it is with my life, too: I recall a great many things from my childhood and they all seemed to happen in the same year.

I remember, for example, breaking my wrist sledding. I know intellectually that I broke my wrist when sledding in either the 7th or 8th grade (and it bothers me a little that I no longer can decide whether that happened in the 7th, or the 8th, grade. I don’t like to think of my memory as being vague and shifty. I would like to be certain about what happened to me, even if I’m wrong in my certainty, I suppose.)

I also remember a year when the snowdrifts were very large; we’d gotten a lot of snow and the drifts at the end of the driveways were immense, even more so because that was where all the snow we were always shoveling off the drive was piled. That year, we dug into the snowbanks and made snowforts, one on each side of the driveway. From those snowforts, we would throw snowballs at each other, and at cars that drove by. On one occasion, we hit a car—hard—and the driver stopped and got out and tried to figure out where the snowball had come from.

I also remember a snowball fight with my cousin, Joey (who, grown-up now and living in Arizona, is called just “Joe.”) I hit Joey with an iceball. I hadn’t intended to; I’d just had the snowball in my hand long enough for it to turn to ice. The iceball had cut Joey’s cheek and we had to end the snowball fight.

And I remember cross-country skiing in the field behind my house, with my walkman on, listening to “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds. That song, according to Google, was released in 1985, when I was 16 and would have been a sophomore or junior in high school.

All of those things, though, took place, in my mind, in the same year, when I was the same, indeterminate, age. In my memory, I am the same age when I’m hitting my cousin with an iceball, when I’m cross-country skiing, when I’m sledding, when I’m doing all of the outdoor things I did as a child. I had a vibrant, active life in my childhood, but it was all at one time.

None of those outdoor activities resulted in an adult that liked being outdoors in the winter, or enjoyed the cold weather, and by the time I went to Washington, I loathed the cold. That year in Wisconsin we had temperatures that had gone down to 80 degrees below zero, but even that did not inure me to cold weather, and so I found the cold spring in Washington in 1994 to be insufferable and was relieved when the days finally grew warm enough that I could go outside wearing just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. On one fo the first of those days, I decided I would go rollerblading.

I used to rollerblade, as unlikely as that seems to people who know me. I took it up as an alternative to jogging, doing so years before I would really need an alternative to jogging. At the time, I was just looking for an exercise to do that was like jogging but wasn’t quite jogging, so that on those days I didn’t go for a run, I could exercise and feel like I’d gone for a run. I began rollerblading around the same time I began trying to get into shape, in 1993, before going to Washington. I bought a pair of rollerblades, somehow; I must have saved money for quite some time to do that because rollerblades then were expensive.

I don’t know what they cost now because I no longer rollerblade; I gave it up shortly after going to law school. I stopped rollerblading for the same reason that I had begun rollerblading less and less frequently, and that reason was: because rollerblading is scary.

It is for me, at least. I never felt in control when I was rolling along on those wheels. I never felt balanced, I never felt at ease, and mostly I never felt as though I could stop.

Stopping is a skill that is absolutely necessary to master if you want to engage in any sport that involves a wheel. Biking, skating, skateboarding: to do those, most people focus on the part that involved moving. They should focus on the part that involves stopping.

Stopping is something that’s always been on my mind when I engage in a rolling activity, mostly because for some reason, I’ve almost never had a bike that had a working set of brakes. When I was a kid and had the kind of bike that kids have – a pseudo-dirt-bike with only one speed and a banana seat – I could stop my bike because I just had to pedal backwards to put on the “brakes.” But when I graduated to more complicated bikes like 10-speeds, the brakes got more complicated and had cables and pads and grips and things, and I became unable to use them. My brakes never worked, on any bike I’ve ever owned, ever. I have a bike at home, right now, a very expensive bike given to me by Sweetie and the kids about 8 years ago, and the brakes don’t work on it. They never have.

With every bike I’ve owned that had the kind of brakes on which you squeeze a lever and the brakes tighten or loosen, the brakes inevitably haven’t gripped well enough to actually stop (or even slow) the bike, or, they’ve gripped too well, braking the bike when I’m trying to ride, slowing me down. With the former, I simply had no brakes. With the latter, I’ve had to go loosen the brakes to get the tires to be able to roll, resulting in my having no brakes again.

I even took my bike to a bike shop once for a tune-up, and, when I got it back, the brakes gripped too tightly and slowed me down, so I had to loosen them up and had no brakes again.

That lifetime of non-braking bikes didn’t give me any real skill in stopping; it gave me a lot of skill in judging how long before inertia would slow me down, or in dragging my feet, and it taught me to watch the road ahead very closely, but it didn’t teach me how to stop.

Skateboarding taught me how not to stop. I only really tried skateboarding once – it was during the year I recall of my childhood, that indeterminate year when I was about 12, and I was at my cousin Joey’s house. We decided to skateboard down the steep hill in front of his house, and I went first. I made it about halfway down the road before losing control and hitting a rock and flying headlong off the board, rolling head-over-heels into the gravel and scraping myself up. I assumed I would die of injuries; my aunt determined they were just scratches and sent us back out to play.

Rollerblades, I thought, might be different because unlike the bikes I’d owned and the skateboard I’d owned, rollerblades appeared to have brakes that simply couldn’t malfunction – that little rubber stopper at the back of one boot. It’s a great, simple idea that would be the height of genius if it actually did anything, but it doesn’t. Dragging that little rubber stopper didn’t ever help slow me down when I rollerbladed, and I was continuously rolling into people, or the grass, or the gravel, to stop. I think the problem was that the brake only worked if you could find a way to stay upright on the rollerblades while also leaning back enough to tilt your heel into the ground, and that was too tricky for me. I had all I could do to stand up.

In fact, the only effective way I ever found to really stop rollerblading, and quickly, was hit hot tar on a road. I found that out the hard way, as you’d expect: I was rollerblading on summer day in Milwaukee, (this would have been in 1995), not for exercise so much as to just kill time and alleviate some nervousness I had. I was nervous because that night was opening night in a play that I had a role in – an actual play being actually put on in a theater on a stage before actual audiences.

I’d gotten a role in that play more or less by chance. I had extra time that summer, being kind of underemployed and waiting to move to Madison to go to law school, and one morning I’d woken up and thought “I should try out for a play. My acting experience up to that time had been to play “Lord Growlie” in The Wizard of Oz in 6th grade (and also be a backup Munckin in the Lollipop Guild—the largest, fattest Munchkin ever) and to play the Innkeeper in Annie Get Your Gun in 8th grade. But I decided, that summer (of 1995, remember) to try to get a role in a play, for no particular reason other than I didn’t have a television and I needed something to do.

So I memorized a Shakespearean monologue—you never know when that will come in handy—and began going to auditions. Like my original trip to Washington and then Morocco, this was dealt with by my family and friends with some skepticism; there were lots of comments like “Why are you doing that?” and “Uh-huh. Whatever.” And the like. I think, much like my actual trips the year before, my family was stunned when I announced that I’d gotten a part, that I was going to be in a play and they were expected to attend.

The part I got was a dual role in a play called “Brother Truckers,” a spoof play about some murderous garbage men. The director made it a gender-bending kind of play in which the male parts were played by women and the female parts by men, mostly. My roles were a nonspeaking role as “The Maid” (for which I had to ham it up a bit in a French maid costume) and a speaking role in the final Act as “The Prosecutor.” Neither was a lead role, but they were pretty big roles anyway.

On the day of Opening Night, I was nervous and so to burn off some nervous energy I went rollerblading, cruising around the rich folks’ neighborhood near where I lived because the streets were wide and smooth and tree-lined and rarely-trafficked during the day.

I was about a mile from my house and heading down a long, gentle slope when it happened: I was getting some speed up and starting to get concerned because I didn’t like to go fast, and starting to try to figure out what grassy area I should roll into when suddenly my right leg stopped dead as though grabbed by a hand. I flung forward then and hit the ground on my right side and skidded a considerable distance before stopping.

Dazed, I tried to figure out what was injured and what had happened. I had deep scrapes on my face, all down my right arm from the shoulder to the wrist, and on my side and then down my right thigh and calf, scrapes that were bleeding profusely and which had little stones and black junk embedded in them and which already hurt; it was like someone had peeled my right side.

On my right rollerblade, each of the wheels had a gob of black tar on them and looking back along my route, I saw a freshly-laid patch of asphalt in the middle of the road, sealing a crack or something, with a rut down the middle where my right wheels had gone and dug in and then thrown me.

I had to walk home – in my socks, carrying my rollerblades, bleeding—almost a mile, where I cleaned up and rested before Opening Night – and then I had to act on stage in my first play as an adult, dramatically feather-dusting things and pointing my finger and accusing garbagemen of murder, all while wincing in pain as the scabs that lined my right side hurt and hurt and hurt.

We got good reviews for that play. And none of them said anything like “The Prosecutor appeared to be very uncoordinated and also to have sustained some injuries from rollerblading.”

That wipeout, and the play I was in, were more than a year in the future on the day I set out to rollerblade around Washington, D.C., and so I wasn’t yet unduly scared of hurting myself by rolling, uncontrollably, around the nation’s capital. Nor was I concerned, when I set out, that I didn’t really know my way around, and I didn’t pay any attention to the fact that I had no idea whether Washington would be a good, or bad, place to roller blade. I just knew that the weather, finally, was kind of warm, and that I wanted to rollerblade that day, and I wanted to see some sights.

So I strapped on the skates and set off.

They don't even need to include a card.

Father's Day is coming up and yesterday, Sweetie asked me "What do you want the kids to get you for Father's Day?"

I'm not one of those people who says something dumb like "Oh, you know, it's enough that they love me." Instead, I answered instantly: A new watch.

I want another watch. I need another watch. I've got a great one now, mind you - -a Buffalo Bills' watch that's really nice looking and fancy and which I wear to work all the time.

But I need a sports watch, one I can wear when I go jogging or biking or otherwise working out. I like to see how I'm doing: time my jogs and rides and keep up my pace, and I don't want to wear a fancy watch for that.

That's why I pointed Sweetie to something like the Seiko Diver shown here. Watches make great presents anyway, and this watch would make a great present for me. It's scratch-resistant with a timer function around the edges that can be rotated to set it so that I can keep track of elapsed time without having to click a bunch of tiny buttons. It's sporty and yet professional looking, so I don't have to be one of those dorks with a velcro-strapped watch clinging to me as I jog around the nature trail.

I didn't, in fact, just point Sweetie to it. I bookmarked the page on our computer (at, then I put the credit card next to the computer, then I sat her down and said Maybe you should just order this. Then I typed in an ordered it anyway.

Some things you can't leave to chance.

If "science" says I can't deep-fry things, then let's bring back the Inquisition (Mourning Gnus, 6/3/09)

It's still the morning where I am for 17 minutes more, so it's still the Mourning Gnus...

I wonder how they'll cover this in the school's newsletter: You try, as parents, to prepare your kids for all the ne'er-do-wells they'll meet in school, ranging from bullies to drug dealers to sex predators...

... wait a minute. Now that I look at that, just what the heck is going on in our schools?...

... that's for another day, I guess. The point is, when you send your little toddlers out the door alle excited to learn (or push your sullen teenagers towards the bus stop and remind them that in 372 days they're 18 and on their own), you hope that you've covered in your advice every possible situation they might face.

And then you learn that there's a black bear outside the school -- like the one that crawled into a tree outside a Wausau, Wisconsin school and stayed there all day, forcing recess to be indoors and requiring that the kids leave at the end of the day from an alternate exit.

The bear ultimately left without incident, but experts report that it had a pretty solid grasp of phonics by the time it moved on.

I've cut-and-pasted their report into my "To Do" List for this weekend: The Center for "Science" in the Public Interest continues to put the emphasis on "science" as most people use that word today -- that is, "science" meaning "things we already know but paid a lot of money to hear again." The latest study... excuse me, "study"... reports that we eat a lot of unhealthy stuff that can make us fat.

In their "Xtreme Eating Awards 2009" (nothing says "science" like lame words like Xtreme), The Center for "Science" calls out restaurants for serving large portions and not labeling their menus with a calorie count.

I'm not sure where the "science" part of all this is-- unless "science" now means "stating the obvious," in which case let me just say The sun comes up in the East and collect my Nobel prize money... but I agree with them that there's simply no way we could ever know this food is unhealthy without a calorie count. Take, for example, the "Fried Macaroni & Cheese" appetizer at "The Cheesecake Factory." Without a menu label showing that it has 1,570 calories, how would you or I know that a cheesy dish dipped in batter and deepfried, and served by a restaurant called "The Cheesecake Factory" was unhealthy?

Website of the Day: I'm going to promote, again, the Pepins' new effort, Memoir of the French Resistance, and heartily recommend that you read about Marco Pepin's life during WWII... and that you do so while eating some Fried Macaroni & Cheese. Everything goes better with a deep-fried snack, don't you think?


A rogue gang of scooter enthusiasts? I thought we'd wiped out that scourge.

Teeth can only take so much abuse -- as I've learned. Spend your whole life mistreating them and eventually, all the "Crest" in the world isn't going to put them back the way they belong.

And it's not just smoking (like I used to) or drinking coffee (like I do continuously) or soda (ditto) or eating foods that stain them (any food that turns your mouth purple is high on my list of comestibles) that can wreck teeth. You could have been born with a crooked tooth, or taken a punch to the face while trying to rescue some adorable kittens from a rogue gang of scooter enthusiasts (you maybe live an exciting life?) or perhaps you wrecked up your mouth trying to teach yourself to bungee jump via a mail order course (who am I to judge?)

However your mouth got messed up, it can be fixed up, too. All you have to do is go see a dentist. They're the professionals, after all. They can clean your teeth, fill your cavities, bridge your...whatever it is dentists bridge... and maybe even adopt one of those kittens. At the very least, they can tell you "Mail Order is no way to learn to bungee jump. You should use Youtube for that."

Finding the right dentist is easy, too. Say you want a to find a Dentist Katy Texas; all you have to do is click that link and you're there -- the Welch Dental Group, which promises you a beautiful smile regardless of your insurance coverage. They can handle cosmetic dentistry, tooth whitening, and more, and they have the right attitude: You DESERVE proper dental care.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

No clients were billed in the making of this argument... (I Get Paid For Doing This, 5)

The other day, I took some stuff out to a staff member to be mailed. That staff guy, named Eddie, is from New Orleans.

Not being what you would call "sociable," (or "even remotely friendly,") I'm always on the lookout for some way to actually appear to relate to other human beings (without actually having to do so), so I gather tidbits of information that will let me make small talk with people when the need arises.

On this particular day (last Friday) I had heard a commercial for a new restaurant which featured "New Orleans cuisine."

Here is everything I know about "New Orleans" cuisine, as of the moment I heard that commercial:

1. It exists.
2. It can be sold at restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin.
3. And it maybe includes rats called "Nutria," but that's probably just for tourists. (I saw that on a Discovery channel special one night.)

But I didn't need to know anything about New Orleans cuisine to mention to Eddie that there was a new restaurant selling New Orleans' cuisine, and ask if he'd tried it. All I needed was some small talk to make for a minute or two so that people wouldn't catch on that I'm about one day away from becoming a hermit living on a mountain somewhere.

In response to my question, Eddie said that he had heard of and eaten at the restaurant. Having fulfilled my quota for socializing that day, I was going to leave, but I couldn't, because Eddie was still talking to me.

He asked if I would eat there and I tried to dodge the question and say I wasn't sure because I didn't know what "New Orleans cuisine" was. That didn't work to get me out of the conversation, because Eddie handed me a menu that he had from the restaurant and showed it to me.

So, I'd gone from "small talk that should end quickly" to "having to read a menu when I'd really rather not." I skimmed it through and said:

"It doesn't look like my kind of food. A lot of seafood and shrimp and stuff."

To which Eddie said:

"You don't like shrimp?"

"No," I said. "I don't like to eat anything that's related to arachnids."

Which I thought would end the conversation, because where do you go from there? Saying something like I don't like to eat anything that's related to arachnids SHOULD end any conversation, shouldn't it?

Only it didn't end there, because by that time one of the partners in the firm had walked up, and overheard that conversation, and he said:

"I don't think shrimp are related to arachnids."

So now I had to defend my comment, a defense I mounted by claiming that shrimp were related to crabs and lobsters, and that crabs, lobsters, and shrimp were all members of the arachnid family and I wasn't going to eat a spider no matter how deep fried it might be.

But the Partner didn't want to let it go at that. He was certain that shrimp weren't spiders, and so we went back to my office and looked up on the Internet whether "shrimp" are "arachnids." That's when we learned that shrimp are in the "Arthropoda" phylum and the "Crustacea" class --

-- but first, we had to look something up to recall what "Phyla" and "Orders" and the like were --

-- whereas spiders, while are members of the "Arthropoda" phylum, are in the "Arachnid" class.

All of which took about 35 minutes to do, and left the Partner claiming that he was right because shrimp are not technically, arachnids, but left me feeling I was right because shrimp are, technically, gross.

It's not often I say something nice about France, so this really means something.

I like to support fellow writers, especially fellow writers who are (a) supportive of me, and (b) better writers than me. Which is why I am today heartily recommending that you go read

"Memoir Of The French Resistance," a memoir-blog written by Johann Pepin (and, I believe, his wife, Lisa Westoby-Pepin), detailing the real experiences of Marco Pepin (the guy in the picture) as French resistance fighter in World War II.

In the very first installment, Marco's story pulled me right in. I'm not big on either World War II or biographies, but this one's different. The writing is excellent. Here's a sample line I liked: "One thing had changed since Marco last set foot in Paris, though. He was now an outlaw." It's that type of turn of phrase -- calling Marco an outlaw because communism is illegal when he returns to Paris -- that provides color and life to what otherwise could be dry history.

Then there's the detail, too; reminiscences of how Marco's mother told him stories of making bandages for German soldiers out of stolen bedsheets in World War I, the descriptions of the row housing Marco first lived in, all help paint a real picture in my mind.

I've already bookmarked the blog, and I hope you will, too.

Some people think clowns are scary. Me, I like to use them to "set the mood.'

Lots of guys wouldn't even think of taking their wife for a romantic interlude that involves learning how to be a clown. But I, as you may have surmised by now, am not "lots of guys." As Jerry Seinfeld might say, I'm just the one guy.

And I'm just the one guy who might surprise his wife with a quick trip to the "10th Annual Clown Jam" in Branson, Missouri. Branson, of course, is that city in Missouri that's known for being all things to all people: shows, shopping, museums, amusement parks, fancy hotels, and more, all packed into one city and awaiting your attention.

So it wouldn't be hard to convince Sweetie to go down there, I expect -- all I'd have to do is run her through step by step. I'd say "Sweetie, we could go away for the weekend, and stay in a fancy hotel like the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing:"

And then, when I've got her hooked, say "And there's tons of places to shop there, as well as all kinds of shows to see, too."

And she'd be all like "Yeah, well, that sounds okay but knowing you there's some catch, so what's going on?"

And I'd say "No catch at all. Just, you know, awesome hotels like that one and maybe take in the Liverpool Legends show with Beatles imitators and all. And then we could try one of the dozens of shops that offer high-end quality shopping for you. And then, when that's done, we could check out the Titanic Museum touring exhibition."

And then Sweetie would cave and say "Okay, that sounds excellent and romantic! Let's go!" and then I'd wait until we checked into the
Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel and only then spring on her that, oh, by the way, we'll also be signing up for classes to learn how to be a clown and magician! Yay for romance!


Question of the Day 61

How old were you when you began actively comparing your age to other people's?

By that, I mean looking at someone famous and thinking that person is younger than me? Or looking at someone famous-and-old and thinking that person isn't that much older than me.

I never did that much before, but since I turned 40, I've caught myself more and more making those comparisons. I read in an article the other day that Portia de Rossi is 36, and I almost choked on my oatmeal...

... and you'll say that maybe part of the problem is that I'm eating oatmeal, but my oatmeal isn't "Old Man Oatmeal." I mix in peanut butter and cereal and maple syrup, so that the oatmeal (much like lettuce in a salad) is merely a conveyance for the stuff I really want to eat...

... because I couldn't believe that Portia de Rossi was younger than me. But then, I heard an interview with Jesse Ventura yesterday (remember him?) and he said he's 58, and all I thought was: Boy, Jesse Ventura isn't really that much older than me.

And that depressed me, for some reason. Then I tried to cheer myself up by thinking but, then again, he is 18 years older. It didn't work, though, because I realized that I'd mentally lumped Everyone 40 and older into one category, which meant that probably everyone was doing that, so that no matter what I thought, the entire world would be putting me and Jesse Ventura into the same "Old" category.

Truth be told, the Haunted Mansion STILL scares me a little.

When we were kids, our parents took us to a bunch of places for vacation -- Mount Rushmore, Virginia, the Wisconsin Dells, things like that. And as an adult, I've taken our kids to a bunch of places for vacation -- California, Las Vegas, and more -- but there's one vacation site that all parents eventually take all kids to:

Walt Disney World -- the Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney World has become de rigeur for parents to take their kids to for vacation, and, since my parents took me there, I know why that is. There really is no place like it, anywhere else. We went when I was 12, twenty-eight years ago, and I still recall almost every detail of that day. I remember the Jungle Safari boat ride, with the talking toucan dolls. I remember It's A Small World. I can still feel the excitement of the Haunted Mansion and the Thunder Mountain Railroad.

And, nearly three decades on, I can recall every single twist and turn of the Space Mountain ride -- sitting in that little car with my brother Matt, the spaceship whipping us through the dome filled with stars as we yelled and howled and hoped we would make it through without hurling.

Walt Disney World has been around for decades and has been the vacation stop of choice for decades because it is magic -- the excitement isn't feigned, the rides aren't lame, the fun is real. If it wasn't, it wouldn't stick in my memory so well, so many years later.

So, like I said, I've been there, and I'll take my kids there, because they deserve -- all kids deserve-- to have those memories in their mind forever, to remember that perfect day filled with rides and songs and castles and Mickey Mouse -- and it's easier than ever to take the kids, because I can get the best prices on Disney Tickets from -- and not just for Disney World in Orlando, but for all the Orlando Disney Parks. With the savings on those tickets, I can get more than one day at Walt Disney World -- I can get a whole week at all the Disney Theme Parks, so that Mr F and Mr Bunches can ride the Mad Hatter Tea Party, the Dumbos, and more, and The Boy and I can roam through Epcot, while Sweetie and the girls take in the palaces...

I can't wait!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Now you can Kindle Me!

Hey, if you like Thinking The Lions but were wishing you could read it on the bus, or at the beach, or even over the shoulder of someone reading it on the bus or at the beach... well, your wish is my command... provided that you wished you could get this blog on the Kindle!

All you have to do is click here and you'll be magically whisked away to the page on where you can arrange to have Thinking The Lions delivered to your Kindle on command. Just think: No more rushing home to make sure you're the first to see Sweetie's Hunk Of The Week!

There's a recommended daily allowance of snarkiness? Who knew? (Mourning Gnus for 6/1/09)

I hurt my back this morning doing sit-ups. It's God's way of telling me never to exercise again. Now, here's your Gnus...

Will It Have A Virtual-Page-Folding Feature So I Can Continue To Mark My Place That Way? Are book publishers too big to fail in ObamAmerica? They'd better hope so, because it looks as though books are going to join buggy whips and CDs as obsolete artifacts from the olden days (2002).

Google has announced that in its march to universal domination, it's going to crush Amazon next, doing so by introducing its own e-book "ecosystem" later this year.

And, for those who doubt that Google intends to control the universe, pay close attention to the wording it used in announcing the e-book challenge. Google used the phrase "ecosystem." You know who creates "ecosystems?" Gods. I'm just saying.

I told you it was coming! In other e-book news, Kindle is now accepting advertising -- beginning with the lamest promotion ever: Showtime is offering free downloads of the script for Nurse Jackie, apparently hoping that reading the script will prompt you to then watch the now-devoid-of-any-entertainment-or-suspense television show.

If you were interested enough in the show to download the script, wouldn't you have watched it, anyway?

In any event, it proves that I was prescient when I last week unveiled my plan to include advertising in books. (You can still get in on the ground floor of that; click here for details.)

Shaw Twins Update: I'm bored with sticky waffle sandwiches, so let's check in on Mateo and McHale Shaw, the twins who were given only a 5% chance of survival at birth. The twins have recently celebrated their 3rd birthday, defying medical odds. Mom Angie Shaw reports that the efforts to create a fully-accessible playground are going well, too. Want to know more about the family? Click here to go to Caring Bridge, then type mateoandmchale into the box marked "Visit a Caring Bridge Website," and watch for more updates in the Gnus.

Website Of The Day: I have to keep up with Sweetie and The Boy, who love show biz -- but I don't like show biz sites. So I go to Film Drunk instead. That way, I get my recommended daily allowance of show biz news and snarkiness.

Five Pages publishes a novel as I write it: Five pages at a time, each week day. Right now:

Up So Floating Many Bells Down:
Sarah's fiance has drowned, and while she struggles to convince the world, and herself, that he was killed, her brother Dylan up and moves to Las Vegas to pursue a career as a photographer.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

He has quite a following in my family. Just ask my uncle Bill. (Take a Book For Charity, 12)

As we await the return of the signed copy of Eclipse from "Murder Mystery" (a/k/a, The Greatest Rock Band In The History of Ever), I've continued trying to find others to help raise money to assist Mateo and McHale Shaw with their medical bills.

Today's contact: Danny Gokey, the Milwaukeean who finished third (but should've finished first) on this year's American Idol. Danny's a great singer, and a greater guy, and would've made a great American Idol. I've contacted him today on his Myspace page, to see if in between helping his own charity (Sophia's Heart, which you can find out more about here), he'll help this one, too.

Take a Book For Charity is my program in which I am asking that various organizations do something neat with my book, Eclipse, and then send it to me to auction off, with all the proceeds of that auction going to McHale and Mateo Shaw.

Want to take part? If you've got an idea for something interesting to take my book to, and want a donated copy for charity, email me at thetroublewithroy[at] Put "I'd like to take a book for charity" in the subject line.

And, the promotion I was offering if you just want to buy my book is still open: the first 50 people to send me a picture of them holding Eclipse get an awesome t-shirt, free!

For more information about the Shaw Twins, go here

To read up on the blog their parents keep and find out how to help more directly, go to "Caring Bridge" and type "Mateoandmchaleshaw" into the "Visit a Caring Bridge Site.'

And, as always, send your contributions to the Shaws to:

Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable SNT
C/O Kohler Credit Union
850 Woodlake Road

Kohler, WI 53044

Also: If you are a library, community organization, or other charitable group and want a free copy of my book, email me at that address and I'll send you one. Put "Free Copy of Book" in the subject line.

That's all any child wants: to count. (Sunday's Poem, 19)

by Douglas Goetsch

I'd walk close to buildings counting
bricks, run my finger in the grout
till it grew hot and numb. Bricks
in a row, rows on a floor, multiply
floors, buildings, blocks in the city.
I knew there were numbers for everything--
tires piled in mountains at the dump,
cars on the interstate to Maine,
pine needles blanketing the shoulder of the road,
bubbles in my white summer spit.
I dreamed of counting the galaxies
of freckles on Laura MacNally,
touching each one--she loves me,
she loves me not--right on up her leg,
my pulse beating away at the sea
wall of my skin, my breath
inhaling odd, exhaling even.

To know certain numbers
would be like standing next to God,
a counting God, too busy
to stop for war or famine.
I'd go out under the night sky
to search for Him up there:
God counting, next to Orion
drawing his bow. I'd seen
an orthodox Jew on the subway,
bobbing into the black volume
in his palms, mouthing words
with fury and precision, a single
drop of spittle at the center
of his lip catching the other lip
and stretching like silk thread.
At night I dreamed a constant stream
of numbers shooting past my eyes so fast
all I could do was whisper as they
came. I'd wake up reading the red
flesh of my lids, my tongue
flapping like ticker tape.
I come from a family of counters;
my brother had 41 cavities in 20 teeth
and he told everyone he met;
Grandpa figured his compound
daily interest in the den, at dusk,
the lights turned off, the ice
crackling in his bourbon; my father
hunched over his desk working
overtime for the insurance company,
using numbers to predict
when men were going to die.

When I saw the tenth digit added
to the giant odometer in Times Square
tracking world population, I wondered
what it would take for those wheels
to stop and reverse. What monsoon
or earthquake could fill graves faster
than babies wriggled out of wombs?
Those vast cemeteries in Queens--
white tablets lined up like dominoes
running over hills in perfect rows--
which was higher, the number
of the living or the dead? Was it
true, what a teacher had said:
get everyone in China to stand on a bucket,
jump at exactly the same time
and it'd knock us out of orbit?
You wouldn't need everyone,
just enough, the right number,
and if you knew that number
you could point to a skinny
copper-colored kid and say
You're the one, you can send us flying.
That's all any child wants: to count.
That's all I wanted to be, the millionth
customer, the billionth burger sold, the one
with the foul ball, waving for TV.
This week was a week for mixing up my emotions. On Tuesday, I took the Babies! grocery shopping, which is usually a fun time. But it got wrecked for me because my Crocs kept making static electricity build up, so I got a shock everytime I picked something off the shelf.

Then yesterday, I tried to go for a jog and after 15 minutes or so, gave up jogging and just walked back home through the woods listening to
Iron and Wine on my iPod. Ordinarily, that would bring me down, thinking that I wasn't in good shape or couldn't run as far as I used to. But the day was sunny, the music upbeat and fun, and I counted the number of steps it took me to get home (1,742), coming home in a good mood after all.

And now you know why I chose "
Counting" as today's poem.

Stuffed animals are the next generation of marketing.

Are you still promoting your business the (yawn, stretch, blink...) old fashioned way, through print ads and television ads and (ho-hum. Click through TV channels, settle on "Reba" re-run) radio spots?

Boooooooooooring. What you need is something new and fun and catchy and clever, a way to get the word out among the people that your business thinks creatively, that it's on the cutting edge, that it can do stuff that people want, as opposed to stuff people don't want.

What you need, in short, is a clever marketing promotion like the kind that Brava gets you. Brava Marketing Promotions is the way for your business to really stand out- -no TV ads that people fast-forward through, no radio ads for them to ignore while they fight traffic.

Instead, Brava Marketing Promotions has cool, inexpensive stuff that you can put your logo on and hand out. People love free stuff, and your business will be giving away free stuff... so... you can do the math, right?

Here's one I really like: Promotional stuffed animals. I do family law, which means I'm very frequently called on to help people decide how custody should be arranged, or work on child support, or otherwise help people ... who have kids. So I can have a bunch of these:
In my office to hand to Moms and Dads to take home to their kids, or to hand out at seminars and meetings -- and they've got then a little stuffed animal with my company's name and logo on it, one they see all the time. So when they think What lawyer can help me with my child related questions? my name and phone number are sitting right there in front of them -- clutched in their kids' hands.

Clever, right? Brava has other stuff, ranging from hand gel to frisbees to tote bags, so you can find one that fits in with your company, and start getting people excited about your ads. And you can use them for more than that: give them as employee recognition awards, or hand them out as souveniers at company picnics -- use your imagination, and people will use your business.