Thursday, June 30, 2005

I'm on the radio on Friday!


Thanks to a neat opportunity offered to me by an incredibly nice human being, you have the chance to cringe in horror at the sound of my voice coming through your speakers! No, it's not another one of my rambling audioblog entries.

I'm gonna be on the radio, ma!

This Friday, I have a short (as in 3 1/2 minutes) commentary on the show Metro Connection on WAMU 88.5 FM, American University's exceptional public radio station here in DC. Metro Connection runs 1-2 p.m. EST on Friday (it will be replayed a couple of times over the weekend.) My short summer rant will be at the end of the show. If you live in the DC area, you can hear me growling from your radio dial. If you're out of town (or just love your computer speakers), you can hear me on WAMU's live Internet broadcast at

About an hour after the show airs, it will be up on the WAMU website, so you can access my little rant-let at your leisure. Just follow the links here. That way, if you live someplace like Coolum Beach, Australia, you don't have to listen to me in the middle of the night.

I know this is just something little, but for me, it's very exciting. This is my first time doing radio. And, more importantly for me, this is the first time I've been paid to be a writer. Small moment though it may be, it still tickles me pink.


Me, plus

A little radio signal, plus

A handful of sparklers, and

A little of this...

Makes for three minutes of rant.


Mexico: WTF?

I recognize that Mexico is not the only country that has problems with obvious signs of racism (my first trip to Germany comes to mind, when I found out that the local equivalent of Hostess-style cupcakes had little white smiles on them and the lovely brand name of "N Kisses" - if you get my fairly freaked out drift)...

But, man, you'd think that so soon after Vincente Fox's recent questionable comments, these deplorable things would have been deep six'ed.

Again - Mexico: WTF???

Xenu and the Incident

A few folks have dropped by here via a link from a comment I left on Rosie's blog re: Tom Cruise. For their benefit - and yours, I offer you two links:

1. Wikipedia entry on "Xenu" - the big baddie of Scientology. You know how Cruise has been talking to German media outlets about believing in aliens? Here you go.

2. Operation Clambake - a clearinghouse for information on Scientology as a cult.


Theater of the Mind

I had an audioblog entry up here about tonight, and I took it down. Hated the way it sounded. Lord, could I have been more wussy-sounding?!?

Tonight in a nutshell:

1. Tried to go to a meditation class (never been before) - I wanted to learn about relaxation and breathing techniques. Didn't make it. The parking lot was overflowing and parking around the venue was totally prohibited.

2. Then tried to go the gym. Enormous storm from hell whips up and the gym has no power.

3. Ordered semi-healthy dinner from Wendy's drive-thru - grilled chicken, side salad, fruit cup, etc.

4. Tried to go home. Fire truck and tree struck by lightening blocked off entrance to street. Sat outside for a while.

5. Noticed that my entire neighborhood was pitch black.

6. Rain stopped. Fire truck left. Finally got home.

7. Watched two transformers blow up in a spectacular fashion directly in front of me.

8. Lit candles all over the place, turned on AM/FM/TV radio to NBC and listened to Law & Order.

9. Opened bag from Wendy's. Discovered I was given wrong order. Chicken sandwich was now a triple bacon cheeseburger. Side salad and fruit replaced by two huge orders of fries, an overly sugary bowl of mandarin oranges, with a Jr. cheeseburger thrown in for good measure.

10. Give up on dinner. Decide karma is bad. Take shower. Try to sleep in slowly heating oven of an apartment.

11. Spend two hours listening to more transformers blow.

12. Finally get power back. Check e-mail. Eat melting sugar-free popcicles for dinner.

Yes, it's been a lovely evening. In between transformer explosions, I did turn the radio off and just enjoyed the silence. A wonderful, palpable silence. But the heat and mugginess made it less enjoyable as the evening went on.

A highlight tonight was listening to "Lost" on ABC, by candlelight. "Lost" makes for an interesting radio drama. This was a great dialogue episode, with Locke telling Jack about the specialness of the island. Locke's always got some of the finest lines on the show.

So, now, everything's back to normal-ish. It'll take a while for the place to cool down, and I hope the transformers don't blow again. For being so close to the Pentagon and the White House, the area has the weakest power grid I've ever seen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Rush, dude, I thought you were off the Oxycontin...

This got an evil, evil chuckle from me. From DC media website

"Rant - 6/29 - Heard on WMAL. Where is Rush Limbaugh's mind these days? In describing President Bush's Tuesday speech on his Wednesday show, Rush blurted out that it was a 'gang bang.' He immediately cleared his throat and corrected himself, re-branding it a 'barn burner'."

Oh, that's lovely.

How Stella got her pre-nup enforced...

Turns out, Stella apparently never got her groove back. Her groove was actually gay and just shaking her down for U.S. citizenship. Oopsie.

And, so dies another dream of hope for the single and 40-something woman...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Join Me on the 5th Level of Hell

Do you know the surface temperature of the sun? I do.

It's the exact same temperature it was in Washington today.

How hot was it?

Oh, it was "melt your sunglasses to your face" hot. It was "watch the tourists spontaneously combust" hot. It was "don't even try to get to work without becoming a hideous, stinky liquid sweatball" hot.

I had errands to run and places to go, but frankly, all I wanted to do was sit in my air conditioned car with every vent directed at me, full blast. I actually considered gassing up at a full-serve station, just so I wouldn't have to experience the direct rays of the sun.

Today's heat index was 105 F.

Yeah, it was freaking hot.

Downtown DC. June 28, 2005.

So, thinking about the Hades-ness of DC today reminded me of a fun little quizlet I took about a year ago. The Dante's Inferno Test: To Which Level Are You Condemned? I recalled last time, I was consigned to the 5th Level, Land of the Wrathful and Gloomy. My friend MEB tested out at the same level. So good to have company in the afterlife! I just took the test again, and, lo! I'm still holding on the 5th Level. Bring on the wrath and gloom!

Of the 5th Level, the test says:

The river Styx runs through this level of Hell, and in it are punished the wrathful and the gloomy. The former are forever lashing out at each other in anger, furious and naked, tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth. The latter are gurgling in the black mud, slothful and sullen, withdrawn from the world. Their lamentations bubble to the surface as they try to repeat a doleful hymn, though with unbroken words they cannot say it. Because you lived a cruel, vindictive and hateful life, you meet your fate in the Styx.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Fifth Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Moderate
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Hemadrone, Shmemadrone!

Hemadrones, my ass! This man was being chased by C.H.U.D.!!!

Watch out, California! Here they come!!!

You should click on the picture. Check out the spelling of "cannibalistic". Classic. And they wonder why it wasn't a huge hit??? (Those damn canniblals.)

On the radio... whoo-hoo!

I'm off shortly to the studios of WAMU, the truly excellent public radio station in DC. I hope to not make a fool of myself in the studio, and, if all goes well, you will be able to hear me ramble and rant for approximately 3 minutes, 33 seconds this coming Friday.

Not actual size. Or actual technology.

More on all this when I get back today. Until then, wish me luck.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Something Cool - The Human Clock

Just found this on the Linkapalooza page - the Human Clock. It's a fun idea.

Sasquatch - up for taking some local time shots? I think one with the bear at Ranger Surplus would be nice. Maybe one with F. Scott Fitzgerald's headstone. And, of course, the f'ing Washington Monument. (Of course, we could get cute and take one in front of the White House just reading "Time's up!" but I reckon that's a little cliche, huh?)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

e-Sympathy e-vil

This has been a helluva weekend for some folks.

I've been puzzling over what kind of sympathy card you send to someone that adequately, tastefully, and kindly says, "So sorry your publicly beloved, but mentally unstable estranged father passed away." I just don't think there's a card for that kind of occasion. Even the dignified e-cards I found just seemed wrong. If you've had a death in the family, do you really want to get an announcement reading "You have a card waiting for you at!" Ugh. e-Sympathy really is kind of tacky anyway, isn't it?

I guess it's time for me to get out the rubber stamps and the embossing powder. I don't bake cookies anymore, so creating a handmade card is how I show a little more appreciation.

I feel bad complaining even a bit about my weekend, in light of the events in the lives of some of my friends and acquaintances. And I feel for each and every one of them, although I'm not in a position to offer more than words of support.

But I've had a real lack of faith-type crisis in my creativity and skill. That may not seem like anything major, but it's pretty big for me. I found myself sitting in my car tonight, weeping buckets over being a flop and being annoying to at least one of my friends, with my need for creative approval. I guess it's the stress of the unemployment thing, combined with my lack of progress with my health/weight, a horrible hair day (considered going 80's ultra short), and me churning out totally boring crap for a project that's meaningful for me. And probably too much caffeine. Yeah. I imagine the caffeine just isn't helping matters.

Dang it.

Here's hoping Monday is a new-and-improved kind of world for us all.

Hope, hope, hope...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Herding words

Today, I'm re-arranging words I put together for a project. It's more challenging that pulling awful pictures of Britney Spears off Google images and making smartass comments about sheepish ringtones.

I think I suck at this. I think my efforts are stymied by the crappy silicone keyboard I bought yesterday and the fact that the coffee shop is currently playing some awful 20 minute dance track based on the theme to The Price is Right. The keyboard is going back to CompUSA tomorrow. The music I can't do jack shit about. Ugh.

I also think I'm rationalizing my inability to be even vaguely amusing today. Maybe it's the weather. A lot of people I know seem to be cranky or out of sorts or just unhappy with the planet this weekend.

Crap tapping away.

I know I can write better than this. Why is it so hard right now? Grrr.

To all my friends who have had a crappy weekend for one reason or another - things will improve, eventually. Big virtual hug, all 'round.

Good music, streaming to you...

You're planted at the computer. While you take root, listen to some very good new music. (And cleanse your brain of that awful sheep ringtone.) Michael Penn's new cd, "Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947" will be released on August 2nd. Hear it now, streaming in QuickTime, courtesy of Spin Art Records.

Then, come August 2nd, buy it. You will not regret it.

Eventually, I will convince you all to go buy Michael Penn's music.

Go now and listen. Enjoy.

I weep for Britain (once more, with feeling!)

I have a friend in the north of England. He's a fairly quirky individual, and back in 1986, he introduced me to The Smiths and taught me to appreciate vegetarian Indian cuisine. (He's also the only person with whom I've ever gotten into a political "debate" that got physical. I threw a large bottle of laundry detergent at him. As I recall, he deserved it. Colorful days in Thatcher's Britain...) He grew up in Cumbria - the lovely Lake District, where tourists go to look at the pretty sheep and slip, fall, and die trying to walk the Fells.

Today, he called and we had one of our fine "is your country entirely mental?!?" discussions. One of my harping points this afternoon was the recent UK chart climb of the dumbass Crazy Frog ringtone. Said my friend, "Ooooh, no! It's gotten much worse!" And it's his own part of England that's to blame for this latest bit of awfulness.

In an effort to boost tourism in the Lake District, the Cumbria Tourist Board has built a lovely little website. A fine thing to do, indeed. But you see, the crafy Cumbrians have not stopped there. Creative geniuses they are, they have decided to climb on board the hot ticket express by expanding into the ringtone business. By combining Cumbria's local sheepage with a classic piece of England's musical heritage, the Tourist Board hopes to inspire vacation-seekers to come frolic in their green and pleasant land.

Behold! Sheep "sing" Jerusalem!

Cumbrian Friendship Ambassador and Recording Artiste

It's really awful. I mean, the stupid Crazy Frog/Axel F thing was just stupid. But to reduce the poetry of William Blake to sheep backed up with a Casio keyboard... to play on your cell phone...

Wow, that's really, really awful.

About the ringtone, the Tourist Board site reads in part:

"It is set to become the must-have accessory for hill walkers, shepherds and farmers everywhere – a sheep ringtone! Just as the Crazy Frog craze appealed to the young and urban, it is hoped the reworking of Jerusalem by The Baarmy Sheep of The Lake District, will appeal to those with a love of the countryside and outdoors..."

But of course. Because nothing says "Smell the fresh country air!" like sheep and keyboards and mutated culture pouring out of your LG flip phone...

Just in case you're too young to remember "Chariots of Fire", here's the distinctly, truly English poetry of Blake:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

And another poet spins in his grave like an overheated Chernobyl turbine...

Midnight Musical Confession...

I love "Oops!...I Did It Again" by Britney Spears.

I'm sorry. It's fun. It's got an awesome pop hook, the Skankette's processed vocals really work, and it reminds me of something ABBA would have done.

So sue me. It's only one Britney song. If I have to give up my musical hipster charter membership card for this, I will hand it over.

The radiant Mrs. Federline, aka La Skankstressa.

We all have dark musical secrets.

You know it's true.

Fess up.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Chicken Nuggets of the Gods

Had a mall food court dinner with the Sasquatch this evening. Montgomery Mall (home of recent multiple stabbings and an attempted child molestation) has an Apple store, and, as the Sasquatch periodically must go to worship and tithe to Steve Jobs, I hopped along for a look-see. (Kinda like a Catholic attending a Lutheran Christmas service.)

I have nothing against Apple. Were I not all PC'ed up already, I would easily turn to the Other Side. But now, it would be too much of a financial issue. Plus, then I wouldn't be able to amuse myself by teasing my bigfoot buddy with gems like:

"Oh, that's right. You don't have a computer. You have an 'Apple product'."
"Oh, look. They didn't even put the word 'Apple' on the storefront. Just a big, pretty symbol. It's nice that they cater to you illiterate folks."
"It would be great if you could use this software/game, but they don't make it for the Mac."
"That's a pretty paperweight!"

Heh heh heh.

I kid. Honest! I've mentioned before, I've had a helluva time visiting Apple on business trips. Really excellent fun and very cool people. And they let me play with the toys, which was fun. And I got to call the Sasquatch long distance and taunt him with the fact that I had achieved his Mecca. Bwah hah hah!

Sadly, tonight, the Apple store could not satisfy the Sasquatch's shopping needs, but the trip to the mall (aka "America's Lowest Social Common Denominator") was not a total loss. For, you see, the food court has a Chick-fil-A.

The Chick-fil-A Cows. My mom loved these guys. When she passed away, the Sasquatch inherited my mom's treasured Chick-fil-A Cow t-shirt.

If you have not had the Chick-fil-A experience, dude, you are so missing out. I have no idea what sort of addictive narcotic substance is crushed into their chicken nugget coating, but it's like crack. (Wow. Two references to crack in one day. My my my.) It's the damn tastiest chicken in the world. Chick-fil-A also makes the best lemonade ever. I drink their diet lemonade, which is tart enough to make my head partially implode, but incredibly refreshing.

Then there are the waffle fries. I no longer partake of the waffle fries, as I'm trying to be a good doobie - I take the tasty fruit cup instead. (Hey, guys - could you be a little less stingy with the pineapple and orange? I mean seriously - it's all apples and grapes. More citrus, dammit!) But there are people who worship at the altar of the waffle fries, giant soft puffs of lightly fried potato goodness. Others do a better job of waxing rhapsodic about the tuberifficness of these babies, and I'll let them pay tribute. For me, it's all about the chicken nuggets. Holy crap, they're good.

Chick-fil-A is run by a very steadfastly Christian family, so all the outlets are closed on Sunday. And yea, the lord god did say, on the seventh day, the nuggets shall rest. And they did. And it was good. But the pagan mallgoers did weep. Oh yea, they did. For they were consigned to the misery and punishment of Panda Express, Everything Turkey, that scary-looking deli, and Cinnabun.

But on a Saturday night, for a quickie dinner at the freaky mall with my best bud, the Chick-fil-A, well, she doth rock.

Separated at Birth: the TV Trifecta Edition!

I just saw Karl Rove's bulbous and terrifying noggin on CNN. What a scary, scary critter he is. The puppet master with his hand up the president's patoot. Waylon Flowers and Madame on a bad dime bag of crack.

But seeing his oversized melon made me realize something - I'd just seen that face just yesterday, but with a different name attached...


It was a ad in Thursday's Washington Post touting everyone's favorite TV critic... Tom Shales.

Much sadness here. I like Tom Shales, and I don't want to mentally shelve him with that awful Macy's parade balloon secretly running our country. So, I had to expand the spectrum to make myself feel better, on Tom Shales' behalf. And I believe I've found the missing link. Tell me I'm wrong:

The White House equivalent of a possessed Bob's Big Boy statue (minus overalls)

Most excellent TV critic (I really, really miss his reviews of the Kathy Lee Gifford Christmas specials)


The Simpsons' own... Martin Prince!

I'd take Tom Shales or Martin in the White House over the Rove-let any old day... Really, really, I would.


I am having a creatively unproductive day. I blame yesterday.

I ended up at my gym, treadmilling away at 8:30 p.m. This is a weird time to be working out, and I think my body rebelled. When I left the gym, I walked over to the auto supply store across the parking lot to buy new windshield wipers. Being on the broke side, I decided to get just the refill blades for $3.99 a piece rather than the whole assembly for $7.99 a piece.

Bad idea.

I cannot be trusted around mechnical devices, sharp objects, and my own feet. I am dangerously clumsy and have the healed bagel knife wounds, bruises, and x-rays of my broken leg and foot to prove it. I should have known that inserting the blade refills would end up in blood and swearing. Amazingly, I waited until the very last second of the refilling process to slice my palm open, but, true to form, I still managed a last minute injury. I drove home with one hand, the other one dripping more blood than I felt was necessary.

Then, after fixing the hand, showering, yakking with two friends and having a tiny dinner at 11-something (bad idea #12), I slept horribly (and only for about 4 hours). I dreamed first that I was in a Russian sports stadium with my mother, standing in line at the snack bar. I was speaking Russian, but it was the linguistic dream equivalent of running slow motion in mud. I was speaking at such a glacial pace, it drove me batty. To quote a friend, "It made my ass chew gum." Ugh.

The dream switched to downtown Bethesda, where, apparently, after an apocalyptic event, pig-stealing, angry mutant zombies were on the prowl. (Don't even ask where you get pigs in suburban DC.) In order to ward off the zombies, you had to raise your hand in a protective gesture and say "Life for your pig." Uhmmmm... yeah. Okay.

It was all very odd. Made getting up this morning fairly easy.

My brain. June 24, 2005.

I ended up catnapping on the sofa this afternoon, trying to get caught up from last night. Woke up to hear Judge Judy harping at someone on my TV. "Listen to me, madame! Blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah don't pee on my leg blah blah bah..." Ugh.

So, no gymming at 8:30 tonight. No home car repairs in a dark parking lot. And no dinner at 11-something. I sincerely hope to feel more creative tomorrow morning. I have words to put to paper, with an actual purpose. (More on that later.)

Today would have been my parents' 61st wedding anniversary. I just realized that. I hope one of my sisters went out to lay some flowers in the cemetery...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Outstanding, and yet... not so outstanding...

I have just received a deeeelightful e-mail of rejection for a really good job:

"Dear Ms. X:

It was great to have a chance to review your resume. You were clearly one of the most outstanding candidates to apply. You have a tremendously impressive background in Eurasian issues. However, your educational credentials aren't the right match for us, and we have chosen to interview other candidates."

Outstanding and impressive. But, apparently, not outstanding and impressive enough.

15 years of field experience. Fluent Russian. Attended the London School of Economics. But I don't have that goddamned M.A. that is so important here in DC. Makes one want to buy one from an Internet diploma mill...

"Ooooh! 15 years experience and an M.A. from the Shady Hill Puppy Farm School of Business! You're hired!"

I guess I should have gotten one, a credit at a time, over the past few years. My bad.

Me. June 23, 2005.

Is Borders hiring? I can stock books. I know how to alphabetize. I can learn to make a latte.


Separated at Birth: the Scary-Ass Old Guy Edition

Not that I find anything even vaguely amusing about either of these guys and I hope you won't find me too crass in saying this, but...

Am I the only person who's noticed an uncanny resemblance between the scary-ass fake old guy in the Six Flags commercials:

Fake scary...

And gen-u-ine scary-ass convicted murderer and racist Edgar Ray Killen?

Real scary.

Let's review:

Guaranteed to give you nightmares...

Ditto on the nightmares thing.

Just curious. Perhaps it's only me... Maybe this will encourage Six Flags to get rid of that incredibly creepy ad campaign.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Two Legs Good, Talking Heads Bad

Or, a culinary cautionary tale...

If you ever find yourself in Gaithersburg, Maryland, tooling up and down Shady Grove Road and you discover you are hungry, here are four words to remember: Bugaboo Creek Steak House. As in – do not go there! Avoid at all costs!

It’s not that the food is bad. For a chain steakhouse, it’s perfectly fine. The problem is the disturbing décor.

You see, Bugaboo Creek is what I like to call the “NAFTA Friendship Steakhouse”. It’s the Canadian equivalent of Outback Steakhouse. The Bugaboo slogan is: “The Flavor of the Canadian Rockies”. What Outback has done to ingrain all sorts of silly Australian stereotypes in the minds of American diners, Bugaboo Creek hopes to do for silly Canadian stereotypes. Although, all things – including lingering thoughts of mad cow disease – taken into account, I think that Outback is winning here.

When you walk into Bugaboo Creek, the first thing that greets you is the lifesize Mountie statue that lets you know you’ll have a bit of a wait before you’re seated. The mountie stands next to a 8 or 9 foot tall pine tree. A talking pine tree. With a mouth set into the middle of its bushy branches.

It has lips. And teeth.

Hey, now that’s disturbing!

By now, as you wait in a line of loud suburban families, you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore. Frankly, I don’t think you’re in Canada, either. As far as I know, Canada is not home to talking evergreens. But I could be wrong.

In the bar area, a large owl hovers on the wall above you. Every once in a while, the owl moves. It flaps its wings and hoots. Loudly. The first time this happens, you are forgiven if you pee yourself. After all, restaurant décor is not supposed to move and hoot. But get over it. The owl, you see, is merely a harbinger of what is to come… in The Dining Room of Horror!

Designed to look like a north country lodge, the dining room has a hearty, manly look to it. Lots of dark woods, beer signs, lumberjack-ish print tablecloths… and animal heads everywhere. Buffalo. Deer. Moose. Huge honkin’ fish. It’s Sizzler, a la Norman Bates. Seated, looking over the hearty, manly menu (featuring their signature boozy drink, the “Legendary Moose Juice” - I kept calling it "moose piss"), we became aware of a flapping sound. Scanning the room, my friends and I became aware of the fact that the flapping was coming from the wall.

“Duuuude. That fish is moving.”

Sure enough, a huge bass on the wall flapped its head and tail wildly, its mouth gaping open, as if gasping for air.

Suddenly, fish did not seem like a good meal option.

We started looking at all the animals on the wall, fearing what was coming next. As if on cue, the enormous buffalo head cranked up a few feet away. You could hear the gears, in need of a good oiling, as the head bobbed and the eyes blinked at us. The hinged jaw began to flap open and shut and the buffalo, in a deep rumbling bass began to speak: “You may ask yourself how Bugaboo Creek got its name…” and the buffalo continued to share its tale of the mighty Canadian wilderness. (I started imagining the buffalo switching into a more appropriate Talking Heads mode: “And you may ask yourself – how did I get here???”)

But it didn’t stop there. Oh no, no, no. For, you see, the buffalo then led all the rest of the dearly departed creatures of the forest and the river in a rousing old timey mountain man-type song. God, was it Old Susannah? My Darlin’ Clementine? I think I’ve blocked it out. The Sasquatch might remember, if he didn’t undergo some sort of shock therapy to erase it all.

We ate quickly, in the hopes of missing the next show. We fled as the buffalo cranked into gear for another round. (The fish is apparently your 2-minute warning. Remember this!)

Like I said, the food wasn’t bad, really, as far as chains go. I might go back someday to horrify visiting friends or relatives. A menu point, though. I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen to eat something called “Crater Lake Seafood Dip”. I’ve been to Crater Lake. It’s awfully far inland. I don’t want to know what kind of “seafood” would come from said lake. Perhaps that’s the origin of “krab” with a “k”.

So, there is my cautionary dining tale. If you decide to visit Bugaboo – if only to take pictures or tape the talking buffalo, be sure to bring a foreign visitor. Really. Take a Norwegian. We did. We discovered that Northern European adults, not raised in a Chuck E. Cheese culture, don’t really like to eat in a room full of talking, singing, flapping dead animals. They find it unsettling and more than a little creepy. Buy your foreign visitor lots of “Moose Juice”. It may be the only way she’ll be able to eat dinner without screaming and bolting from the room.

If you’re hungry and you’re in Gaithersburg, just go to Ricky’s Rice Bowl. You can’t go wrong with rice, meat, veggies, and sauce. They have cheesy décor, too, but it doesn’t sing. Oh thank you god, it doesn’t sing.

That's what you get when you buy particle board and plastic...

The runners for the pull-out mouse tray on my IKEA computer table just broke off. Instead of metal runners, IKEA used really lightweight plastic ones - they've been cracking since Day 1. Apparently, I will now have to duct tape the mouse tray into place.



1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7... Seven hookers!

Got this off Wil Wheaton dot Net - a straight-to-DVD "Family Guy" movie is in the works. This will, indeed, be freakin' sweet!

Oh, and Season 5 of OZ is out on DVD today!! Hello, Netflix! (Sasquatch, I assume you have those discs queued up already, no?)

All things serve the beam

It's funny. Just about everywhere I turn lately, I'm encountering folks who are "Dark Tower People". This is a Good Thing. Haven't read the books? Go do it. Take the journey. You won't regret it. Dang good books.

Roland on the edge of the Western Sea... A painting by Michael Whelan. Whelan gets it right.

A little bit of envy

I'm at a point in my life where I don't have any roots and I don't have a real home. Most of my friends are married (or seriously involved with someone) and have a household or at least A Plan. They have a pretty good idea where they're headed. I'm not even sure where the hell I'm really from. And I have no Plan. If I don't have a job by the end of next month, I will likely have to move into one of my sisters' homes back in the Midwest, which kinda feels like emotional suicide at this point. It would never be my home. It would just be another transit point in a rootless existence.

My family moved around a great deal, so most of my brothers and sisters were born in different states, and they dropped off to build their own families along the way, some in the Midwest, some on the East Coast. My parents both came from Depression-era broken homes, and there was no steady base to turn to. When I was little, there were no visits to hometowns for us. No trips to Grandma and Grandpa's place for me. (My maternal grandmother was institutionalized in the 1920's and my grandfather got married to my mom's evil stepmother. My paternal grandfather died of pneumonia in 1929, and my grandmother got married to my father's evil stepfather. Not a lot of warm fuzzy memories there.) Sure, there's a scattering of relatives on my father's side up in Minnesota, and some across the West Coast for my mom's family, but no place that has a solid base and sense of family history for us.

A friend of mine just spent a wonderful weekend in a town rich with his family history. I'm sure he'll be blogging about it. It grabbed at my heart. It just seems so neat to be so connected to your own history and to be able to touch it and see all the people who know your family's history and value. My valued history only goes down one generation, to my parents, and, more specifically, to my mother. And she's gone. And so is my father. Other than their headstones, there just isn't anything tangible for me to go see and witness and feel connected to.

Is it stupid to feel envy over something like that? It's not a bad sort of envy, just a wistful sort. I wish I had that kind of connection to something like that, a thread that's woven from a clear past into your present.

I'm afraid my threads are all frayed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Now, back to the usual drivel

As you can see, there are reasons why I avoid trying to write about anything political: I suck at it. I am not a big brain. No more political bs from me. (But thank you to the person who liked my nickname for Ann Coulter. You actually have Stephen King to thank for that. "He Who Walks Behind The Rows" was an awesome concept to terrify young people growing up in the cornfield-filled Midwest, trust me. Children of the Corn made for a bunch of lousy movies, but it was a helluva short story.)

So, it's back to my random life and observations. I found out today that my health insurance company hasn't received my renewal paperwork yet, despite me having dropped the envelope at the post office two weeks ago. I got a bill for next month's premium and a letter of intent to cancel together today. I just had to spend $9 to fax all the stuff I already mailed and hope that arrives. We shall see. Not having insurance would just be the capper on a stellar month.

In other news, April Winchell has written up a small bit on her blog about how she spent Fathers Day. Her description of her biological father (Paul "voice of Tigger and the Scrubbing Bubbles and certified nut" Winchell) made me snort iced coffee up my nose. What a lovely feeling. Thanks, April, for sharing the love, as always. (And BIG thanks, April, for your recent professional advice. MUCHO appreciated!)

And, finally, to the asshole running the mobile Volvo chop shop in the street outside my building: dismantle another Swedish crapmobile under my bedroom window at 2 a.m. again, and I will personally smack you silly with a big stick.

That is all.

Ramble, rinse, repeat

This is an entry in desperate need of an editor. Apologies all around. I don’t usually write anything political, and you’ll now see why. My thinking is simplistic, and my writing is not particularly sophisticated. You want sophistication? There are a gazillion talking heads with Ivy League degrees out there. Seek and ye shall find. These are just my opinions. Your mileage may, indeed, vary.

Yesterday, over on Nickerblog, Shane Nickerson wrote an entry about complacency in the United States, and how our government is getting away with some unpleasant and nefarious things, domestic and international, as much of America sits back and watches. It’s a nice, short cautionary message. Shane writes in part: “Do not feel removed or separated from the actions of your government. They are representing you, and by not protesting and not standing up to vocalize your discontent, you are, in effect, condoning these actions. You know, they're counting on our complacency.”

Quite right, Shane. They are. They expect us to sit back and just watch the fun, fun, fun. And that’s not a good thing. I live in the suburbs of DC. Up until three months ago, I worked in a federal office a couple of blocks from the White House. And there is a kinda smirky, smarmy smugness to the White House today. You could feel it radiating out through the overconfident Republicans who ran the office where I worked.

Whether we like it or not – whether we support it or not – our government is the face of our people worldwide. And, frankly, I don’t want people 10,000 miles from here thinking that I’m some paranoid invader with blood on my hands and my neighbor’s stolen personal information in my pocket. (I also don’t want them to think I watch “American Idol” and “Big Brother”, but that’s another post altogether.)

First off, let me say this: in some major areas, I definitely fall in line with Democratic thinking; in others, Republican. I believe in strong borders. (And, thanks, customs and immigration guys for letting the crazy killer with the bag o’ bloody weapons over the border from Canada the other day. Jeeeezus.) After two years working the visa line at the American Embassy in Moscow, I believe in strong immigration policy. I do not find Republicans inherently evil. (Except for Ann Coulter. She may actually be the anti-Christ. I really think it’s a possibility.) I do not find Democrats inherently stupid and un-American. I was raised by one liberal Democrat and one conservative Republican. (My mother had a bumper sticker supporting gays in the military on her car. My father debated nuns on nuclear readiness. Go figure.)

I do not believe you can gauge patriotism and faith in your country by how many magnetized ribbons and flags with which you festoon your SUV. And, sometimes, folks, pride is a misplaced thing. Be proud of our traditions of tolerance and openness – go find a yellow ribbon that prays for those noble ideas to not totally vanish. They’re endangered species now, kids. Don’t be proud of us smacking the living shit out of another country. What we’re doing in Iraq is not World War II. This is not a noble quest. No way. No how. Pray for the youth of America sent to die. And pray for the people of Iraq, dying by virtue of location.

I appreciate conservatives in some ways - but don’t even get me started on pro-life issues. (Want more kids in the world? Make enough money to support ‘em and have ‘em yourself! I’m the 9th child of a pro-choice mom who actively supported Planned Parenthood.) I’m not keen on liberals who call themselves Starr*Fire, stop washing their hair and only come out to make puppets and get arrested at anti-World Bank rallies. That’s not putting your money where your mouth is. That’s just fucking up downtown traffic for the working-class people who have to clean those damn buildings you’ve just barricaded, and they’re gonna get docked a day of pay while you’re Flikr’ing your arrest by the DC police.

A friend says she thinks I’m a Libertarian, but I don’t know about that. I’m just who I am. I never vote party lines, but I do tend to stand to the left. I do not support what we are doing in Iraq. I believe it was done for the wrong reasons and under false pretenses. The Downing Street Memo makes me feel even more nauseated over the whole situation. I personally think it all boils down to one of my “favorite” Bush quotes: “After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.”

Finishing Pop’s unfinished business. Yessiree, bub.

And now we’re in there, and the whole place had turned to shit. We have to have an orderly departure from that place, but anytime I think about how the hell that can be achieved, my head nearly explodes. It’s going to take a whole lotta lives and money and months and years to make that happen. And our goodwill is spent. (While we continue to kiss Saudi ass, mwah!) Saddam Hussein was a horrible, horrible violent autocrat who treated his people like garbage. I really don’t give a shit if he’s stuck in a jail forever in his big, droopy manties, smearing his chest with nacho cheese Doritos dust. He’s an animal. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in the end, the Iraqi justice system decided to hang him upside in a shredder. That’s their business.

As for our business? We weren’t invaded by Iraq. We weren’t attacked by Iraq. North Korea and China scare the shit out of me more than Iraq ever could, frankly.) And we’ve come in and created a whole new level of chaos and turned the streets red with our blood and theirs. This isn’t like the Stones trashing a hotel room. We can’t just throw a pile of USAID money at this in a couple of years and assume everything’s hunkey dorey again. Ain’t gonna happen. No frigging way.

But the problem isn’t just our foreign policy and our current who-the-fuck-cares attitude toward other nations. (Oh – quick point – Dick Cheney, you humiliated us by showing up at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by looking like a snowplow driver in your green parka, hiking boots, and fucking Spock-on-Earth ski cap. No class whatsoever. Shame on you.)

The government is not so quietly killing our citizen freedoms, and many people don’t ever seem to notice. Patriot Act, my ass. Wrap up some Big Brother scariness in something with the word “patriot” slapped on it and hope no one notices it’s actually the Fascist Act. How ugly and evil and wrong is that? The party of less government is creating a soul-sucking, dark side bureaucracy that sometimes makes the Soviets look like pikers. (Ask me sometime about my federal office-to-federal office call to Homeland Security once. The one where I was told to “go to hell” and that if I showed up at their office down the street to try get assistance, I’d be thrown out.) All in the name of security, these bastards can look up my library records?

I’ve given up worrying about my travel records. I know that’s a lost cause, unless I just drive my crappy car everywhere. My air travel has been carefully recorded by the USG since the days immediately following 9/11 – and I was traveling on behalf of the USG back then. I herded a group of Central Asians out to a trade show in Vegas just weeks after 9/11 happened. You can image the super fun I had going through airports getting on board with 20 swarthy guys named Hassan and Akbar and Islamov, especially when, despite my best advice, they would clump together near airplane restrooms, chatting in guttural Uzbek. (Great way to get a whole planeload of people silent, nervous, and shitting a brick sideways.)

I’m not going to get into how some of our ally nation guests – including folks from visa waiver countries – are treated like crap when they try to enter our country and put through a hell that would keep me from coming back. It borders on thug culture and police state terror in some cases. All those cases should be very widely publicized. Everyone needs to know about that shit. I’m not kidding.

I myself been pulled aside for so many extra checks, screenings – in some cases, harassment – I can’t begin to tell you. And all on official federal travel. Guv’ment ID and ticket, the whole nine yards. Once I got so frustrated, I said, “I’m flying on a federally-purchased plane ticket. I’m on official travel with a federally-background-checked high-level international delegation. There’s probably a file on me a mile high in DC. Why is it that I get pulled aside for extra checks all the time?” While I was quietly and indignantly getting very upset, someone was stealing money, my federal agency ID, and my Amex Card from my carry-on bag. (I was kept out of visual range of my bag while I was aggressively patted down after asking my question, which clearly pissed off the screener.)

Oh and let me tell you what a fantastic job those screeners do. One year, late making the last in a series of transfers from Almaty to Chicago, I had to carry my luggage to the gate. My suitcase, still packed with crap from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, had to go through the carry-on x-ray machine. The screeners were chatting amongst themselves. I panicked as my bag went through the machine – it was chockablock with Uzbek daggers, gifts from my host. I had to have a dozen really sharp knives right there, clearly visible on screen.

The screeners didn’t even look up. They just smiled and wished me a merry Christmas. Holy shit, dudes and dudettes. Holy shit. I wish I could have shared that episode with the Fox News audience. That there’s yer taxpayer money at work!

So, here we are. Big Brother hovers at our shoulder, our soldiers and Iraqi civilians are being blown to hell and gone every day, most of the planet hates our collective guts, and yet most of America is fixated on Michael Fucking Jackson and Tom Cruise getting squirted with water. Where the hell is the outrage? Are we just being complacent, lulled into a permanent Big Gulp sugar high, or do most Americans not even know how to make a difference? (See, I got around to Shane’s post. It just took me a while.)

I think there are a great many average Americans who are not complacent, but don’t know how to - or have the resources to - contribute to change in a meaningful way. There are millions who do not agree with what is going on in Washington, DC right now, but, other than adding their names to petitions, writing letters, and showing up at rallies when work and funds allow, they’re stymied. Most Americans are just concerned with working, getting home, sleeping, and making sure there's enough money for food and insurance before getting up the next day and starting the process over again. It’s hard to be politically motivated when you’re doing well enough to get by, but not well enough to have time to contemplate the big picture.

One of my sisters lives in rural Illinois. She is a nurse and her husband is a pit boss on a riverboat casino. He works a night shift and she juggles shifts at a hospital an hour away. The majority of their time away from work is spent trying to help their kids with homework, keep them healthy, help my ailing brother, feed their chickens, do battle with their plumbing, and keep the mortgage paid. For people with no time to watch TV or read a newspaper and a dodgy dial-up Internet account, they’re pretty well-informed. But they can barely find time to get in enough sleep, let alone be an active voice in the political process of our republic. And I imagine that their days and nights are repeated all over America by overworked, underpaid, and struggling people who hate what’s happening in Washington, but haven’t got the resources – or energy to pursue much more than the basics of life. (My sister’s pretty excited when she gets home with enough time to get the kids and the chickens fed before she crashes on the sofa.)

Let’s face it, most of the more active voices in politics are people with greater income and available time than the average American. Some of them are on the left, some on the right, but they’ve got more moolah than most of us, for sure. On the right, there are a handful of Hollywood celebrities, but for the most part, they represent the corporate sector. Wealthy, less flashy. (Lots of real estate mogul/political appointees out there. And they suck to work with, I can tell you from sad experience. Having donated $1M to a political party doesn’t mean you know jack shit about Central Asia.) On the left, you have a lot of Hollywood folk. And they know how to get press and they have the time and money to invest in putting their message out there. Folks on the right can bitch about lefty Hollywood, but the wealthy voices on the right are powerfully annoying, too. The left rambles on CNN and the right pontificates on Fox News.

Frankly, I haven’t liked CNN since they went through their retooling a few years back. Much of it seems flashy and cheap and crappy, like a Wal-Mart prom dress. Just the other day, I flipped on Headline News only to find the news was being interrupted to present a birthday cake to a staffer. Oy vey. Is it any wonder I get my TV news from The Daily Show? (I do read the Washington Post and a bunch of news sites online.)

Fox News? Not a great thing in my mind. Some scary-ass stuff wrapped up in a lot of red, white, and blue. Sean Hannity? Ucky. Bill O’Reilly? Very ucky. How can anyone take a network seriously when one of their voices of moral outrage is a guy who wants to phone-fuck his staff members and can’t keep a loofah and falafel straight in his shower fantasy? I wonder if the people who think of O'Reilly as a moral compass have ever read any of his sleazy fiction. Al Franken played a snippet of O'Reilly reading one of his own sex scenes from a book on tape the other day – almost drove off the road laughing. Maybe that can be a gift set with his "Kid's Who's Looking Out For You." He bitches about rappers, but writes bad porn. Nice.

Fox News! You decide! I did. And I passed.

I have a lot of issues with many of the dominant media voices of the right. Ann Coulter? She’s the epitome of the lowest common denominator. A long-leggedly troll doll who doesn’t deserve the acclaim she gets. I look forward to the day when her succubus powers fail and she is rapidly turned to a desiccated husk – She Who Walks Behind the Rove.

It troubles me greatly that so many Americans are getting their news from largely partisan sources that do not offer a full picture of the day’s events. With Ann Coulter, it’s particularly disturbing because much of what she says should carry a disclaimer like “for entertainment purposes only” – like Miss Cleo. But it doesn’t have a disclaimer, and people, hungry for news and truth, find her yapping and they believe her.

I worry about my friends and family members that rely on outlets like Fox News to help them form their world view. Some of my older siblings will send me bits and pieces from Fox News that curl my toes and it’s a struggle to not call them and try to engage in “healthy debate”. Of course, these particular siblings also enjoy forwarding ridiculous urban legend-filled chain e-mails as “true news”. So, to my oldest sister and her husband, may I just say, if you’re planning on sending me an e-mail that claims Hillary Clinton eats babies for dinner up at the house in Chappaqua, you’d best have run that sucker through Snopes first, okay?


If the dominant voices of conservatism were all like Andrew Sullivan, there’d be a helluva change in our political discourse. More Andrew Sullivan please, and fewer scare tactics! I only wish that most of America knew who Andrew Sullivan is. If you walked down a street or went to a shopping mall in my hometown in Illinois, most people would assume he runs a funeral home or a rental place for prom tuxes. I’m not belittling my hometown, by the way. Most of my dearest friends are there – smart, savvy, worldly people – and I reckon they’d agree with me.

I sincerely think that most Americans who blindly support the “my country, right or wrong” philosophy have a limited world view and little experience beyond our borders. I genuinely believe that time spent outside our country (outside of combat and bus tour groups, thanks) can be life – and opinion – altering. I've lost friends over this. For me, my time as a student overseas was unfreakingbelievable (and not entirely positive – I still remember the guy running the gift shop in a National Trust site in Wales who told me “we hate you fucking Americans.”) For the record, I’m not some elitist bonehead who thinks that the only way to be open-minded and aware is to have had a college education. (And, hey, all I have is a liberal arts B.A., which is the equivalent of toilet paper here in DC.) But regardless of your education, you have to be able to see beyond your borders and your immediate situation to understand that the world does not revolve around America.

Up until recently, I’ve had advantages that many Americans will never have. I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life living, working, and traveling overseas, mostly in socialist and developing country situations. I’ve seen firsthand how our foreign policy has affected the rest of the world – and I’ve also seen some pretty fucked up perceptions of America, too. (We haven’t completely cornered the market on ignorance and xenophobia, I will guarantee you, although we certainly are stocked up on it.) I've watched millions of our taxpayer dollars go into the hands of corrupt people and smiling jackasses who take our cash and then give us the finger as soon as our backs are turned. And I've also seen lots of decent and disadvantaged people around the world who need a hand, shake ours in gratitude and pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

In many places, there are pretty twisted opinions of the United States thanks to not only our foreign policy, but our exported pop culture, and I used to spend a lot of time trying to untwist them. But now how the hell can I show my face overseas with what this White House has done and continues to do?

There are some great things about America. We can have a political discussion. (Unless you’re attending a Bush campaign stop and thugs throw you out for wearing the wrong t-shirt.) I can throw this post up on the Internet without fear of arrest (at least for now.) In China, Microsoft has had to filter the word “freedom” out of the titles of posts on its online forum. I can title this post “Monkey Spankin’ Freedom Boobies” and no one will blink an eye.

Heck, we even allow people who enjoy the music of Celine Dion to live among us. The American dream still exists in some form in some places. Especially if you’re a Canadian comic actor. We love our Canadian comic actors. (But we’re ready to give you back Celine, mes amis!)

But we have a truckload of problems and it’s up to us to find the ways to solve them. Shane’s post made me think about this. I genuinely don’t think most people are complacent, but they don’t know what to do in a meaningful way. Let me tell you – most of Washington just ignores rallies and marches. Rallies and marches may make the participants feel all warm and fuzzy, but they achieve very little. The president will plan to be out of town, it drains the already awfully limited DC budget, and the majority of Washingtonians will stay at home, after looking at the traffic info on the local news.

So, how do you motivate people who have limited time and income? And when you motivate them, what do you actually do? What do you ask them to do? And can any action make a difference if at least half our nation actually believes the White House is right? How do you change minds when most people only see what's on Fox News? These people aren't complacent - they're searching for answers. But how do you let them know there are other options, when they think they've already found a good one that swears it's giving you the whole picture?!?

Our nation is based on rule of law, but when law can be tossed around like a cheap bagged salad to showboat over one woman in a persistive vegetative state, how seriously can we take our system? Short of armed uprising, what the hell do we do to make meaningful change happen?

Bueller? Bueller?

Lots of questions. What are the answers?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Coming to this space soon...

...something of a political nature. I generally avoid political discussion because I can't hold my own with my friends (who are rather smart and in the know) and I get utterly frustrated. My arguments usually end in tears (mine), silence, and the grinding of teeth - and this is with the friends I agree with! But as I need to take a break from scrubbing down the bathroom (note to self: clean out the fan vent in ceiling more often - wow, that was gross) and someone has forced me to think (damn them - don't they know I'm saving my brain for that new job!), I'll ponder this some more and post something...

If you haven't sussed it yet, I'm left of center (off of the strip).

TV Recommendation for Tonight

9 p.m. EST on the Travel Channel: Michael Palin's Himalaya.

I love this guy. I have a big-time older man crush on him. And I would travel with him anywhere. He's the kind of traveler I aspire to be. Palin is someone who gets into the cultures and the experiences - with decency and respect and humor. It's great stuff, people. If you're going to watch TV tonight, turn off the network re-runs and see something really cool.

9 p.m.

Travel Channel.

Two episodes back-to-back.

Learn something.

See something pretty and cool and different.

Enjoy the charming traveler.

See the Himalayas without food poisoning or altitude sickness.

Can't beat that with a stick.

The Death of the Mix CD

"The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules..." Rob (John Cusack) in "High Fidelity"

Thanks to anti-piracy software, the death knell tolls for the mix cd. The most effective form of emotional communication for musically-hip but verbally inadequate humans fades. I myself have long relied on the mix cd (and its much beloved predecessor, the mix tape) to speak for me in awkward situations. Christ, does this mean I actually have to tell people I love them???

Read all about the sadness here.

I think I'm gonna go burn me one right now...

Expanding the job search...

I'm so desperate, I've reached the point of applying for jobs for which I'm not particularly well-qualified. Okay. Not at all qualified, actually. It's a matter of taking "fudging it" to a whole new level. I've been looking into temp agencies and discovering that they're not really all that thrilled by the possibility of an overqualified, almost-40-year-old to send out to clients. They haven't even seen me yet. The fat thing will simply send them over the moon.


Sometimes, I think that just driving to the shore and sitting in the sun until I melt into the sand is a better option than fruitlessly begging for work. Sometimes, I really do.

On a totally different topic, why is it so difficult for people at drive-thrus to actually give you a goddamn diet soda when you order one? If I say "diet root beer", I'm not saying it just to be amusing. I want the goddamn diet root beer.

Sorry. Feeling a little non sequitur (and cranky) today.

Back to the drawing board...

So, other than the lovely Suze in Canada, no one seems all that keen on my Celebrity Adopt-a-Regular-Joe Program. Brad Pitt has not called. I am crushed. Really.

I guess I'll just have to turn some "specialty tricks" to cover the cost of my reflexology foot massages. That park at 14th & K seems a likely location for business...

Maybe I have to change my angle on celebrity sponsorships. Instead of going the beauty route, perhaps I can appeal to their sense of creativity. I really want to go to the Mid-Atlantic Summer Writers' Conference up at Goucher College in suburban Baltimore. (Goucher, interestingly, recruited me really hard in high school, touting the value of a "women's college education". For all the attention I got from men in college, I might as well have gone to a women's college - or a convent.) I considered going to this conference several years ago, but I couldn't get the time off from my then-employer, warm and fuzzy nonprofit Ill Will. It would have been laughable to ask for the time off from The Evil Dead over the past six years. And now, of course, I'm counting sofa pennies to get the groceries.

But, hey, maybe between now and the conference dates in August I'll get a job, win the lottery, and actually have stories together to be critiqued.

And monkeys will fly out of my ass.

I think it's time to scale back those goals a wee bit. Let's just go with "get a job" and the rest is gravy...

But, if you are a celebrity (or the little guy from the Monopoly set) with $775 just burning a hole in your pocket, there's a wannabe writer here who would make excellent educational use of it...

(If that were to happen, I think I would pass a monkey. Hell, I'd even take pictures and post them...)

Finally found a bumper sticker for my car...

Unlike with my last car, a crappy 1988 Ford Escort station wagon, I decided to be more restrained with my bumper stickerage with the current vehicle. That last car - damn, I had enough things on the back of that car to make people assume I lived with 40 cats and newspapers stacked to the ceilings. But, with the new-ish car, a crappy 1999 Ford Escort station wagon, I've really been more low-key and classy. Currently, I only have a small, tasteful sticker that reads WASP WWII with silver pilot wings below. (Each car I own has to have some WASP designator on it in honor of my mom. That's just a personal rule.)

But I finally found a bumper sticker cool enough to share space with the WASP stuff and slap on the Crapmobile:

If you get it, you get it. If you don't, you have some readin' to do...

I'll order one of these babies as soon as a new job is in place. This is great. I've found a way to be a geek in such a subtle manner, most people won't have any idea what the deal is. A secret handshake. Heh heh heh. Brilliant.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

eBay Shopping Tip #1

No matter how marvelous the bargain seems, don't buy jack shit from anyone who's received 80+ negative and 90+ neutral feedback comments in one month. I'm usually very careful about this stuff, but I screwed up this time. And I'm pissed at myself for being so inattentive. But I'm more pissed at this creep. How he hasn't been kicked off eBay yet is beyond me.

So, to the freak in Netcong, New Jersey who still hasn't mailed me my damn Dark Tower Concordance nearly a month after I paid for it: I want my bloody book. Now.

I hope Ka kicks your ass, you schmuck.

Oh so bewitching audioblog...

I hope the "Bewitched" movie sucks less than I fear it will...

this is an audio post - click to play

The real deal. (With the real Darren.)

I must be the lucky one...

The luckiest in Luckydom.

Got back from the Mountain Stage workshop afternoon a while ago. In all honesty, I only went for the Q&A with Michael Penn, but, were I a working/aspiring songwriter, I would have gladly stayed all afternoon.

I paid my $5 and went up to to classroom where the Q&A was to be held. There were a couple of technicians at the back, fiddling with recording equipment and an elderly couple already seated in the front row. By the time Michael and Eric Brace (of Last Train Home) arrived, it was 2:15, and we had achieved 5 audience members. (We had 10 or 12 by the time all was said and done.) I was bummed at the low turnout, but also glad for the handful of musicians present who got to ask questions about the songwriting process and musicial influences. I was happy to sit and listen and learn. I felt bad that I couldn't afford a ticket for tonight's show, especially after hearing the evening's host and another of the musicians speak. I think the audience is going to have a great time.

MP. Buy his music. Start with Resigned. I think that's a good introduction, and it's my favorite. If you live in L.A., go see him play at Largo!! What a treat, you lucky SoCal bastards!!

At the end of the session, I met up with Michael in the hallway. He was standing by himself, so I called his name and put my hand out to shake his (I tend to be very guy-ish about introducing myself to people. It's effective and gives people the perception that I'm not just some random nut.) I explained that I was one of the "PennListers" and he smiled, saying, "Oh cool! Thanks for coming!" He was very charming and friendly. For some reason, I was expecting him to be more tentative, but that wasn't the case at all. I reminded him of a silly story I shared with Spencer (the prince of the PennList) about how my copy of "March" was stolen - repeatedly - from my apartment in Moscow. His face lit up. He remembered the story and laughed, saying, "Oh, yeah, cool! So, you really lived in Russia?" He loved the fact that the KGB was stealing my copies of his CDs. He joked about his subtle hand in the downfall of the Soviet Union. It was then that I realized that I'd forgotten the totally tacky piece of Soviet crap I'd set aside to give him, in honor of his work to bring down the Soviets, one stolen CD at a time. Eventually, I'll get that ugly, but heartfelt gift to him!

We talked about his new CD, due out August 2nd. He mentioned that he hoped to have some more stuff from the upcoming disc, Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947, out on his MySpace page before the release date. I told him I'd opened a myspace account and promptly cancelled it after receiving some pretty freaky e-mail. Said Michael with a laugh, "Ooooh yeah, it's a pretty freaky place."

It was just really cool to talk to him - about his music, about the concert hall (I told him what the Mingus Big Band director had said about the outstanding acoutics and he said he popped his head in and was really impressed by the sound.) After having a nice chat, I felt foolish about the CD I had tucked in my bag, in the hopes of an autograph. He had a sound check to do, and there was a funky-lookin' young local musician who wanted to pick his brain about crediting songwriting collaborators. It just didn't seem like the right time to whip out a CD and a Sharpie and go all fangirl on him. So, the CD stayed in the bag, I waved goodbye, and headed for home.

Thanks, Michael. Nice to meet you. Hope I didn't look too scary when I approached you!


I'm not going to post the piece I wrote about my father. It was enough to just write it for myself. Maybe I'll share it with one or two friends, just so they understand how frustrating it was to grow up with the father I had. It was important to write it all down, but I'm left with a lot of questions for him that will remain unanswered. I just wish he'd liked me a little bit more than he did. That would have been cool. Really, really cool.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads I know. Remember your kids love you, and they look to you for guidance and approval and a return of that love.

MJ goes to Q&A with MP

Michael Penn, that is. I love this man's music. He's a tremendous (and tremendously underrated) musician, and, as I've said before, y'all should go buy one - or more - of his CDs. I'll even make recommendations for you!

Tonight, MP is on the bill for Mountain Stage, a venerable, twenty-year musical event. Mountain Stage is two-hour public radio music show, usually performed/taped on a stage in West Virginia, bringing together a wide variety of outstanding music and musicians. Tonight, though, Mountain Stage is taping its 600th show in Bethesda, Maryland, at the brand spankin' new Strathmore Music Center. (It's very nice - the Sasquatch took me to hear the Mingus Big Band there - it still had that "new concert hall" smell.)

This is Michael Penn. Go buy his music, please. You will not regret it.

While I'd normally be planted in a seat for this gig, I can't afford it right now. Hmmm... rent, groceries, or concert??? However, Mountain Stage is holding a number of workshops and seminars this afternoon, in advance of the concert. If you have a ticket to the gig, it's free, but if you're not going to the gig, it's $5 to attend the workshops. One is a Q&A with Larry Groce, the Host of Mountain Stage, Eric Brace of Last Train Home (very good stuff -heard them on the radio on Friday), and the mighty talented Michael Penn. So, I'm layin' down five bucks and hopefully will have some decent questions to toss to the man. Just in case he's available (and indulgent) I'm taking a CD for him to sign, along with my digital camera, if I can remember where I set it down on Friday...

Looking forward to this...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Well, hey, that's disturbing!

There's an animated film on the Planned Parenthood website titled "How Pregnancy Happens". It's in the form of a TV show called "The G-Spot" hosted by talking genitals. Now, I sincerely appreciate the mission of Planned Parenthood, and it's great that they're making sure folks have the right information. But the talking penis... duuuuude... he has a tan line and chest hair. I was not aware that penii had chests. Unless this is just a really hairy penis aaaaaandnevermindIjustdon'twanttogothere.

Obviously, I'm not the intended audience for this "how it works" cartoon. (Got the memo already, thanks!) I had a brief dry heave moment when "Peter" (who looks like someone I used to work with, I'm sad to say) gets excited and, uh... leaky...

I don't know if "enjoy" is the right word, but hope you learn something, kids!


Tomorrow is Father's Day. I've written something about my father, but I don't know if I should post it or not. It's difficult for me to write about him, as he wasn't particularly fond of me. I just don't know if I should slap this up on the blog and share. Maybe it's enough just to have written it for myself.

I don't know...

I guess I'll sleep on it.

K-chitsa! Or, My Canadian Content for Saturday

I know y'all must have at least one friend like the K-chitsa. It may be months in between our phone calls, but within five seconds of the phone being answered, we're completely in sync and laughing ourselves silly. The K-chitsa and I both did Russian Area Studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. We made it through Russian classes with the Kinky Finn and Maria-Migraine and George the Scary Guy Who Hit on the Undergrads, and we lived in the lovely, decaying Russian House, on the other side of campus from the dorms. (Once, we annexed the eastern half of the German House, across the alley. The German House people were not amused.)

K. graduated the year before I did. She went off to do the grad school thing, and I eventually went off to work in Moscow, at the American Embassy. I envy her advanced education, but I know I wouldn't trade my time in Moscow for the world.

K-chitsa is one of those damn lefty Canadian types up in Toronto. I haven't seen her for ages now, but that really doesn't seem to have any effect on our friendship. I think the last time we saw each other was at the nuptials of our friend Randi. (That was a trippy weekend and requires its own entry, for sure.) And that was a zillion years ago now. Before that, we saw each other a couple of times when she was the PhD research goddess in Moscow and I was swinging through on business trips. She and Randi (who was also doing her PhD stuff) would come over to my hotel room, we'd get plastered on cheap Russian champagne, order room service on my generous per diem, and watch bad pay-per-view all night. Good times, good times...

K-chitsa, Randi, and the other usual suspects at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. I was not there. I think I was living in London then...

It bums me out that I haven't seen the K-chitsa for so long. I hem and haw over flying up to Toronto (which is currently a financial impossibility). When I finally get a new job, I will commit to getting my ass up there. This will require me finding my passport, though, and that could be quite the task. I have no idea where I last saw it...

The point of all this? Today is the K-chitsa's birthday! Whoo-hoo! Many happy returns of the day, chiquita! If I understand correctly, Canadians celebrate with human sacrifice, no? Choose wisely! May I recommend Celine Dion? She would certainly count as "Canadian content" and we'd be very thankful down here, for sure.

But really:

Поздравляю с днем рождения, моя дорогая подруга! (И не забудь... Ударники живут очень хорошо!)

If you can read that, thank a Russian teacher. If you can't, I just said "The dog barks at midnight..."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Jeepers Creepy!

Just wanted to share this with y'all. This is potentially the scariest place in Rockville, Maryland:


I've never been inside (and I'm not going in, thanks), but I believe this is some Chuck E. Cheese rip-off. It's their tagline that disturbs me...

Food, fun, and a monkey!

It's the monkey part that bothers me. I'm praying, for the benefit of all, that it's actually a bored teenager in a monkey suit and NOT a real monkey, ready to bite you and pee all over your pizza. Nuthin' says, "Happy Birthday, Li'l Jimmy!" like a trip to the ER to start that agonizing series of rabies shots!


At the front of this large, prison-like structure, there is a glassed in area with a spinning, "Scrambler" type ride. I can only imagine all the heaving going on after a bunch of 10-year-olds, gorged to the gills on pizza and buckets of Pepsi, are set in a rapid spin cycle, complete with blinking lights and loud music. (If you're stuck at the stoplight, you get to hear the thumping Britney Spears. Yippee.)

Pity the poor teenager in the monkey suit. You know he's there with the mop and bucket once the kids are out the door.

Interestingly, the Sasquatch and I saw a man urinating in front of Jeepers one evening. This, in of itself, is not that remarkable in the city suburbs on a weekend night. It's the fact that he was walking and urinating at the same time that stuck in our minds. His forward motion meant that he kept walking into his own urine stream. We considered stopping and suggesting he consider walking backwards, but thought better of it.

When in Rockville, do not disturb the urinating men or the monkeys at Jeepers. A mantra to live by.

A little love from the spa ladies

Welcome to...

Scenic Rockville, Maryland...

I'm up at Mayorga Coffee in Rockville today. Got the wifi card cruisin' again (courtesy of Microsoft, something I am loathe to say). Got me a sugar-free iced vanilla latte. Found a GREAT job to apply for (fingers, toes, and eyes crossed, please-oh-please-oh-please). And the "spa ladies" from the Aveda day spa next door have been dropping by to check in on me.

The friendly coffee shop (with free wi-fi) in the overly planned community...

Now, even when I had a job, I wasn't living high on the hog. But, I have learned that an eyebrow wax, the occasional facial, and a fabulous foot massage can go a hell of a long way to making you feel much better about the world. (And lord knows, not looking like Leonid Brezhnev helps on so many different levels.) And, being a member of the Aveda cult from my college days back in Minnesota, I'm totally into the Aveda spa experience. (If you're in San Francisco, visit the Aveda spa in the theater district - that place is awesome.) It's worth a few bucks to feel better about yourself and the world.

Leonid Ilyich: One properly executed brow wax, and he could have brought down Communism by himself!

The Elaj Aveda Day Spa up here in Rockville (in the cookie cutter Stepford Wives neighborhood of King Farm) is all about respect and wellness. I feel like a princess when I go there. One friend told me I glow after I leave the spa. That's entirely possible, I swear. I have decided that, if I ever won the lottery, one of the first things I'd do (after paying all my bills, those of my siblings and my bestest friends) is set up a weekly foot massage and facial regime there.

But with the moolah gone, the happy feet and face sessions are over. When I got my rebate checks from my wireless junk recently, I did go in for a foot massage. It was like Christmas, honest to god. But no more until I get a new paycheck, and even then, I'm so deep in debt from not having a job, those trips will be few and far between. This really bums me out. I like the folks who work there - they are always so totally sweet to me.

The really nice day spa in the overly planned community...

Just now, one dropped by say hello and give me a big hug. She told me they really miss me over there. I send them Christmas cards and give them rave reviews on my little customer service forms. I've seen how some of the snooty, snotty customers treat them - like friggin' servants. I think of the spa ladies as just wonderful people who make me feel better. And, life can really bite at times, so I'm grateful for that temporary escape.

I can't tell you how much I want to go over and get a facial right now. Is that lame? Maybe so. Perhaps I should sell a handful of Russian tchotchkes on eBay and fund one for myself.

Actually, what I'd really like to do is institute a Hollywood Star/Regular Joe adoption program. A Hollywood celebrity applies to "adopt" a regular American - they can request a male or female sponsoree and designate a specific region of the country for the "adoption". The celebrity gets a photo of his/her regular joe/joanne and a monthly letter (or personalized blog entry). The regular dude/ette agrees to watch the celeb's show/movies and make glowing comments about his/her sponsor.

In exchange, the celebrity covers the cost of a haircut/color touch-up every six weeks, a facial and waxing once a month, and sends a "You are super, thanx 4 your support!" note (prepared by an assistant, of course). The celebrity is not required to make any direct contact with the sponsoree, unless a shooting location or press junket brings them within 10 miles of the sponsoree's home. It could be totally tax-deductible for the celebrities, and they get the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that they're doing their part to beautify America, one two-process color and depilated chin at a time.

I'm ready. Who wants to adopt me?

Customized Terror Levels (Geek Style)

This is something very silly I found via Wil Wheaton's blog today. I may have to install one of these, but I'm not sure which way to go.

One for the Atomic Editor and one for the Sasquatch.

Although, this one is pretty good, too.

I'll consider my options while treadmilling...

Finding Free Wi-Fi

Just a couple of resources for those who seek free wi-fi and don't want to put more money in the pockets of Starbucks and Michael Douglas' wife (in the guise of T-Mobile):

The Wi-Fi Freespot Directory

Of course, y'all probably already knew about these things. For a relative wifi newbie (and a broke one, at that), it's a revelation...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I bet my mom's smilin' tonight

Captain Nicole Malachowski has been named as the very first female aviator to join the Air Force's elite Thunderbirds precision flight team. Says Cap't Malachowski: "The women of yesterday and today's Air Force maintain a tradition of excellence, and it is that heritage that has given me this exciting responsibility of being the first female Thunderbird pilot." You better believe it!

One of my favorite mom stories is about her flying into a coastal base in 1944 with a group of other WASPs. They were ferrying in some new SNJs from a factory for the Navy. Coming in toward the landing strip, the ladies were in really tight formation. Serious precision stuff. Apparently, a Navy officer on the ground watched them approach, boasting to everyone about how he could tell naval aviators from a mile off by their precision and discipline. He went on and on about how good these guys looked on approach, etc., etc. When women hopped out of all the aircraft, this guy turned 50 shades of purple and the ground crew just about died laughing. He was furious that women could possibly fly well enough to be mistaken for naval aviators!

Boy, what a difference sixty years makes, huh?

Into the wild blue yonder, Captain M.

You have a lot of angels on your shoulder. You'll do brilliantly.

Wang Clunk

Reflections on tonight's musical trainwreck on NBC, Smack Me Hard Repeatedly and Make Me Forget This Nightmare (aka, Hit Me Baby One More Time)...

Oh my. I love Wang Chung, but why did they have to cover that gawdawful Nelly song... ugh. That was just wrong. Mr. Wang (or Chung) - you are better than that! You should not be stuck sing-talking "Uhn... It's gettin' hot in here (so hot)... So take off all your clothes..." Christ, that was just so wrong.

And Sophie B. Hawkins - what did you do to Five For Fighting's "100 Years"? It was unrecognizable. In a bad way. ((((shudder)))

On the other hand, Howard Jones was really, really good. I think he was too low key to win, considering that the combined IQ of the audience was probably 5. Irene Cara took the victory - and I think that was thanks to costuming and the fact that she went last. She was really shaky trying to stay in tune. Again, for my money, HoJo was the best out there.

Although, I give Cameo credit - they came out lookin' funky, and the lead singer (Word up!) was even wearing his big red leather codpiece. That takes guts when you're pushin' 50.

May we all be confident enough to wear a big red leather codpiece when we're pushin' 50.