Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Dark Water (Iong ramble)

I grew up just a couple of miles from the Mississippi River. I remember taking paddlewheeler cruises with my mother and watching barges pass through Lock and Dam No. 15 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' visitors center. It was a huge deal when the Delta Queen would stop and dock in the Quad Cities. And the day that Jacques Cousteau came through on his boat, the Alcyone, in 1986, it was like a rock star had come to town. My parents' gravesites (along with those of some of my mother's confederate prisoner relatives) sit on an island in the Mississippi.

My family's little ranch-style house was on the high ground between the Mississippi and the Rock River in Moline, Illinois. Every year, without fail, the Rock River would flood out the houses along its banks, along with the oddball restaurant, Harold's on the Rock, which could serve you exotic African game, if you so desired. Harold's is gone now. I understand the location is being developed into a boat launch. I have to wonder what happened to their freezers full of lion and zebra meat. It must have been one hell of a weird going-out-of-business barbecue.

The Mississippi didn't flood our area every year, but the spring thaw and accompanying rains always bloated the river and weighed it down with tons of silt and refuse and carcasses. I always found it a little evil and I had no problem staying away from downtown Moline when the river did overflow its banks.

Periodically, the river ate up the shoreline in Davenport, Iowa, breeching the leaky levees and turning downtown into a lake. The image that sticks in my mind most is of a wall mural of Davenport native and jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke. Bix was painted in a classic pose with his horn. When the water overtook Brady Street, Bix was left in water up to his nose. His horn was completely under water.

Charlie don't surf and Bix don't swim.
The Beiderbecke mural in its unflooded state.


Even in the years when Moline was spared any major flooding, Davenport would get slammed on the opposite shore. The Triple A baseball stadium, next to the park where the annual BixFest jazz festival takes place, was sometimes deeply submerged in bad flood years.

That's the baseball stadium above. If that date FEMA notes is correct, that flooding took place the week my mother died. It's weird, as I was so dazed, I don't even remember anything being flooded then. I do remember flooding later that year, when the Sasquatch flew out from Washington with me to sort through things at my mother's house. I took the Sasquatch to downtown Moline, which was sandbagged and awash in dirty Mississippi muck for a few blocks inland.

We didn't stop to take pictures. Sandbags and sloshing brown water is enough to stop me from being Madame Adventure. But we did stop at Lagomarcino's, a tiny old ice cream parlor and sweets shop that produces marvelous handmade chocolates and still serves phosphates at its old soda fountain. (And if anyone reading this blog actually remembers what a phosphate is, I'll be amazed!) Lago's was lucky to be two blocks up from the edge of the flooding. We got some chocolate, and I bought the Sasquatch a funky yellow Lago's t-shirt to commemorate his visit to my hometown, which I wish had happened under happier circumstances.

That was a rough weekend, going through family photos in our dank basement. I'm glad the Sasquatch was with me, and I'm glad I have such a fine circle of friends out in Moline, including HoyaMEB and the rest of the usual suspects. I think my head would have exploded without their support. (I feel the same way now, deep in Month Five of unemployment...)

But, I digress... back to the river...

The Mississippi is wide, deep, and murky at the curve it cuts through the Quad Cities, dividing Iowa from Illinois. Before I was born, the sand bars there were much more prominent, and the girl scouts had an annual walk across the Mississippi. Imagine a troop leader trying that one today, taking safety laws (and the level of contamination) into account! Some of my sisters remember crossing the big river in their socks. This was in the days before swim shoes, mind you. It sounded incredibly cool when I was a kid. Now, it just makes me shudder.

All throughout junior high and high school, I rode my bike along the Mississippi River. I used to ride out onto the Arsenal Island (the territory of the Rock Island Arsenal, where my father and part of my mother's ashes are now buried) and circle the grounds with a friend. She and I would have contests, pitching rocks at dead fish, to see who had the more accurate aim. Small town kids. Cheap entertainment. What can I say?

I miss that friend, by the way. I was really surprised when she got married. Not that she got married, but that I wasn't invited or at least informed of the nuptials. I sometimes wonder what I did to get persona non grata'ed. I'm still not sure. I'd love to know. I'm still good friends with her sister. We e-mail back and forth. I saw her the last time I was in the Twin Cities on a quickie work trip. We arranged to meet up for dinner by my hotel, but her sister didn't show. It was her birthday, so I can dig that she might not want to hang with someone she hasn't seen in years. But, still, it was disappointing. She's a screenwriter now. I try to follow her career by watching a Minnesota artists' website. She's extremely talented, has won a few awards, and I hope someone buys her screenplays. I don't ask her sister for updates. I'm just not comfortable going down that path.

And hey, I digressed again. Seriously, I have the attention span of a gnat.

The river, the river...

Even though I spent a lot of time by the river, I still found it creepy. I have a problem with water I can't see through. If it's opaque, I generally don't want to put my feet in it.

Andaman Sea? The waters off the Florida Keys? Fine by me. But dark, muddy rivers or lakes or oceans? They give me the willies. I remember swimming in the Black Sea near Sochi on a weekend trip out of Moscow. I am an avid swimmer, and I will work very hard to overcome my issues with dark water if it's my only option for swimming. But god forbid anything brush against my leg. I will start to panic. Quietly. The waves were high on this particular Black Sea visit. I started out and got caught in a fairly strong current. I knew not to fight it, and let myself drift out to get out of the heavy pull. But then I felt it - something weird and inorganic tugging at my swimsuit. I caught my breath and choked on a mouthful of water. I didn't want to, but I felt around with my hands. It was huge piece of ragged rusty wire that had gotten tangled in with the end of a nearby pier.

I quickly swam away, still in panicky mode, and got out, all noodle-legged, with huge scrapes on my hands and legs. Never again. That was my last trip to the Black Sea.

I have to admit that I did have one good Black Sea experience, but it was nowhere near the Sochi shoreline and I never actually got into the water. It was on a special trip to the closed city of Sevastopol in Ukraine. The Soviet Ministry of Defense flew a group of embassy folks down to the port city to greet two U.S. navy ships. Interesting side note - if a U.S. Navy ship is in port for fewer than a certain number of hours, the normal restrictions don't apply. This meant that Navy guys were streaming off the ships and hooking up with Ukrainian woman right and left. And I'm serious when I say that women were grabbing these guys, and they doin' it in alleyways in broad daylight. It was freaky and embarrassing. (And I wonder how many Ukrainian-American friendship babies were born nine months later...)

After a massive banquet with lots of Soviet naval brass, a group of Ukrainian sailors took a few of us for a short drive outside of Sevastopol. I'm sure we were breaking a ton of laws at this point in a closed military zone, but it was worth it. If you don't know this part of the Crimea, this is just about 20 km from the hillsides where the Charge of the Light Brigade took place. It's also the site of the ancient city of Khersones, the northernmost outpost of the empire of Alexander the Great. And, sunken in shallow water just off the shore, are Greek ruins - temple pillars and statuary. The Ukrainian guys took us to where the ruins are. They had bottles and bottles of wine and waterproof flashlights.

My drunken embassy friends shucked off all their clothes, grabbed flashlights, and plunged into the icy water with the Ukrainian guys. They'd tried to convince me to join them, but, I'm a really fat chick who doesn't like nekkid moonlight dips in alien water right outside Soviet seaports. I passed on the offer. I wanted to see the ruins, but I couldn't imagine that you could see jack shit in the middle of the night, and I didn't want to know what lived in that cold part of the Black Sea.

I stayed on the shore with one sober sailor who just shook his head. "They're going to freeze and they're not going to see a thing," he said. "Glupost'!" Stupidity!

They were all back out in a few seconds, shrieking, gasping for breath and with some major shrinkage going on. They hadn't seen a damn thing, but I got a helluva show. You could hear their teeth chattering all the way back to our hotel. Fast way to sober up, kids.

The next morning, I bought my colleagues postcards of the ruins. They were not amused. (I was.)

Back in 1983, when I was a junior in high school, an angry chiropractor, Jim Klindt, took a chain saw to his unhappy wife Joyce and unloaded her parts into the Mississippi. A month later, she started to drift into the shore. After that, I always wondered just how many "people parts" were floating along with the rest of the spring flood detritus headed for the delta.

Once, taking a long walk along the beautiful path that was built along the Illinois side, I found what I thought was a kitty cat that had fallen into the Mississippi. Walking without my eyeglasses, I saw this poor thing trying to shake off the stinky river water, and I went over to it, saying, "Oooh, poor kitty!"

It was a goddamned river rat. Large as a full grown house cat.

Lesson learned. Wear your glasses. Don't try to rescue large vermin.

A few years back, I started writing a story about the Mississippi and the unpleasant secrets held in its dark spring water. I connected it to a murder and that the same dark flood water you'd see in Moscow in the spring. (A co-worker at the embassy once saw a bound and gagged body bobbing along in the Moskva. He came back to the office pretty freaked out. And, after that, I had the same unpleasant creepy feeling about that river, too.) I never finished that story. But now, I think I might.

Watching the flooding and the chaos and the death and the coming pestilence in New Orleans, I think I'm ready to finish that story. It might be a good way for me to channel the frustration I'm feeling watching the news. I have no money to donate, and all I feel is irritation that I can't do anything to help these people. And, considering my feelings toward dark water, I wonder how I would survive this, were I trapped in the city. I'm pretty sure I'd be dead or badly ailing by now, between the heat and the foul water, and the lack of access to medication.

I think about things like this when I watch a show like "Lost." How would the people who needed critical medication to live survive? I mean people who take daily "maintenance" medication to live. How long would they survive? What would you do when you knew that, unless a miracle occurred, you were going to die? Would you do something heroic? Would there be something valuable you could offer? Some sort of sacrifice or gesture you could make that would at least bring meaning to your death?

I'm watching too much TV news.

I'm going to finish that story tomorrow. I need to exorcise the dark water from my brain.

Nerd, Geek, or Dork?

I am, apparently, an "Outcast Genius." This quiz courtesy of Suze's blog. Visit Suze for your fabulous Canadian content today!

So, which one are you? Nerd, geek, or dork?


This test tracked 3 variables. Here's how I compared to other people my age and gender:
Outcast Genius
78 % Nerd, 60% Geek, 60% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.


You scored better than half in all three, earning you the title of: Outcast Genius.


Outcast geniuses usually are bright enough to understand what society wants of them, and they just don't care! They are highly intelligent and passionate about the things they know are *truly* important in the world. Typically, this does not include sports, cars or make-up, but it can on occasion (and if it does then they know more than all of their friends combined in that subject).

Outcast geniuses can be very lonely, due to their being outcast from most normal groups and too smart for the room among many other types of dorks and geeks, but they can also be the types to eventually rule the world, ala Bill Gates, the prototypical Outcast Genius.

Congratulations!
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 82% on nerdiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 82% on geekosity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 97% on dork points


Now, here's the weird thing - I took a different "nerd test" today off a link on AJ Gentile's blog, and, oddly enough, I scored a nerd rating of 83. That's means I'm 2 for 2 on the "above 82% nerd" ratings. Scary.

Media Crassness

FYI - apparently, CNN has been calling itself "Your Hurricane Headquarters" for some time now... Ugh.


this is an audio post - click to play


The Weather Channel's ticky-tacky sponsor on Sunday night.
Who was smoking crack there on the weekend shift?!?


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

How low can you go?

A new low today:

A major nonprofit called to ask if I'd be willing to work for them at a wage that would guarantee my move to a closet bedroom in a Mount Pleasant group house. Or a cardboard box. No thanks. I'm getting too old to do the "hey, which one of you guys stole my Ramen noodles?" thing.

Plus, a magazine to which I'd pitched some story ideas managed to lose my submissions. Errrrg. So, I've sent them again today. Maybe they "lost" them on purpose.

To celebrate my lack of worth on the Washington job market, I sent in a bunch of greeting card text submissions to Blue Mountain Cards. You know the company - e-cards for every occasion. I'm sure you've all received more than one Blue Mountain card in your life. Apparently, it's a pretty good business. Would you believe they pay $300 a card to their freelancers? That's not bad for a few minutes' work.

Of course, I have no idea if any of my 15 ideas will pass muster. I wanted to send some really tasteless items, but I thought better of it. Maybe I should start my own line of e-cards. Evil Thoughts and Unpleasant Wishes by Merujo.

Evil thoughts are always floating around my skull...
And I've had little luck using my powers for good...
So, why not?

I could cover all those difficult issues from which Hallmark tends to shy away:

On the accidental transmission of a venereal disease:
Sorry I gave you herpes

I only meant to please
You can tell everyone it's my fault
So they won't think that you are a skeez

On hating your SO's beloved pet:
Dearest love, I hate your dog
To the pound I'd like to send Rex
I hate his drool and him humping my leg
And then watching us when we have sex

Okay, so they need work. It's the thought that counts, right?

I'll keep working on those...

Why do people stay???

I've never been able to fathom it (no pun intended.) When word comes that a major storm is about to strike and terrible flooding will result, why do people stay?? I understand the draw of your home. I understand wanting to stand your ground.

But Mother Nature has the upper hand. She always will. You cannot beat her when she's blowing you away at 160 mph.

And now, the military is left plucking survivors off of rooftops, and bodies are floating down flooded streets. When your mayor and your governor say "Get the hell out!" GO!!!!

Sigh.

If someone said to me, "Hey, God is swinging his hammer of wrath upon your town. You have 24 hours to evacuate," well, hell. I'm outta here! Throw a cooler and some clothes in the back of the crapmobile and hit the road.

I completely understand that there are some people who, through ignorance or lack of understanding, stayed behind. They may not comprehend the situation. But the ones who say, "Oh hell, my house withstood Camille, I ain't leavin'..." They're the ones being airlifted out by the National Guard now.

And then, there are the looters...

This from MSNBC.com:

"Around the corner on Canal Street, the main thoroughfare in the central business district, people sloshed headlong through hip-deep water as looters ripped open the steel gates on the front of several clothing and jewelry stores.

One man, who had about 10 pairs of jeans draped over his left arm, was asked if he was salvaging things from his store.

“No,” the man shouted, “that’s everybody’s store.”

Looters filled industrial-sized garbage cans with clothing and jewelry and floated them down the street on bits of plywood and insulation as National Guard lumbered by.

Some in the crowd splashed into the waist-deep water like giddy children at the beach."

These are not people grabbing food and water for survival. These people are vermin. They're turning a disaster zone into their own Home Shopping extravaganza. Sick.

I've never understood looting in the wake of a major tragedy. If you're looting stores in New Orleans right now and you get swept up in floodwater or end up with some horrible septic ailment from running around knee-depth in filthy water, dragging a trashcan full of stolen jewelry and jeans, then you get what you deserve. Instant karma, baby. Instant smack-you-in-the-head karma.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Came up with a question...

I called in and asked Javi about how difficult it was to adapt his television writing style to script a comic book. He gave his answer (very interesting) and before I hung up, he yelled "DON'T SELL THE CARPET!"

I promise, I won't. :-)

That was a fun hour of radio listening. Good interview. Lots of laughter. Watch out for the tentacle monsters, y'all...

Remains of the (Sun)day

Just some observations as the sun sets in the West and the rugrats of Montgomery County return to school on the morrow:

1. "The Brothers Grimm": wow, that movie blew, and it blew hard. The film was made even worse by a horrible stuttering problem that caused characters to repeat themselves over and over again. I have no idea if the problem was with the actual print or the theater's projector. Either way, it didn't help an already painfully bad film. Ugh. Went with the Sasquatch to Dave and Buster's midway after the showing this morning, in the hopes that air hockey and a few games of Pod Racer might wash away the pain of the Worst. Terry. Gilliam. Movie. Ever. (Note to self: Pod Racer not as much fun as I'd remembered. The silly snowmobile game was, however, a blast. And the Sasquatch is an amazingly aggressive air hockey player. Scary even. Am now glad I'm too uncoordinated to ever play paintball with him...)

2. The guys at the Weather Channel have just earned the title of Really Sick MF'ers. Their commercial sponsor for tonight's coverage of the impending Category 5 doom in the Big Easy was Six Flags' Hurricane Harbor, "bigger, better, wetter summer fun!" Sick. Really sick.

3. Chris Farley has a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Very nice. He was a good physical comedian, although his act was pretty limited. As the star thingies are basically marketing devices for the recipient, it's no surprise Farley's is timed to match the DVD re-release of "Tommy Boy." Why we needed a second release of "Tommy Boy", I will never know. It's a cute movie - there are bits that make me laugh more than I should, but... why, oh why do we need a 2-disk special "Holy Schnike" DVD edition of this film??? The world may never know.

4. I'm listening to Javi on Fanboy Radio right now. I wish I had a decent question. I'd call in. I'm awful at coming up with good questions. Mr. Grillo-Marxuach, if given the chance, would you put facial hair on Shannen Doherty again? Javier has just mentioned a bear on a motorcycle, wearing a helmet with a hammer & sickle on it. Little does he know that I saw such a creature performing more than once on the Old Arbat in Moscow.

About halfway down the Arbat, there was a restaurant called Traktir, located in the basement of a creepy decayed building. The place was painted a really vile shade of turquoise - whenever the facade started to crumble, they'd just come by and slap another coat over the holes. The aforementioned bear was the dinner entertainment at Traktir. Yeah, I know, nothing better than being in an enclosed basement - with one staircase and no emergency exit, a kitchen full of meat and a large, stinky, angry, hungry bear. (Guess who never ate there??) However, every once in a while, they'd let the bear come out into the sunshine and have him ride around on this tiny motorcycle. While he motored around in little circles, he wore a little yellow helmet emblazoned with a Soviet flag. (He was not wearing a muzzle or a leash.) Somewhere, I have photos of this. Taken from across the street. Because I like having all my limbs intact. "Safety first" is not exactly a Russian cultural concept.

I think I'm in need of an iced coffee or a Coke Zero before it gets too late to drink anything heavily caffeinated...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Evidence of the Crime

Just remember, some of you asked for these. I was able to retrieve these from my old Diaryland blog. God forgive me. Feel free to click on them if you really want to see them as larger images. I take no responsibility if your head explodes, though.

Welcome to my nightmare...


Ladies and gentlemen, the hideous carpet. And George Bush.


It's even scarier in a close-up, isn't it?
(I wasn't lyin'...)


See? They really did knot my frizzies into my hair. And an Uzbek flag.


A very fuzzy picture of yours truly and the hideous carpet.
I'm not as scary as carpet. I swear.


The genuine article, frizzy hair and all.
Still not pretty, but at least 35% less scary than the woolen version.



And now, the nightmare is yours. I bequeath it to you. Enjoy.

Sleep well, li'l buckaroos!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Selling the Hideous Carpet

I think the time has come for me to part ways with the Hideous Carpet.

A couple of years ago, there was a gentleman from Uzbekistan, Dr. Safaev, who participated in one of the training programs I coordinated. He was a chemistry professor and a member of the Uzbek government. He was very sweet and very desperate to have his son do his graduate work in the United States. Every chance he got, he cornered me and very humbly asked for my help in finding a good chemistry PhD program for his kid - I think he just wanted his son out of Uzbekistan and out from under the thumb of the increasingly fascist government (of which he was a reluctant representative.)

This sort of thing happened to me a whole lot when I had this job. Lots of desperation. Lots of requests for money. Most of it out of genuine need - like the endocrinologist from Tajikistan who begged me to find a source of donations for insulin for her diabetic patients back in Dushanbe, many of whom had not had access to insulin for months or years. (That freaked me out massively. How terrifying.) She told me her patients simply suffered and died as their complications mounted from lack of available medication.

I sat in the ladies room at the hotel that day, crying over that one. I gave her all sorts of information for hooking up with nonprofits, government agencies, and pharmaceutical companies to ask for help. She was so grateful, you would have thought I'd handed her a case of insulin directly.

My Uzbek chemist - I sent him home with all sorts of information on grants and scholarships in chemistry. He was very happy and gave me a big hug before he got on the bus for the airport.

A year later, one of his colleagues came on another program. After the arrival evening "meet and greet", he cornered me and said, "Dr. Safaev sends his regards and these photos." How nice, I thought, looking at the pictures of the good doctor and me, standing on the front steps at National Institute of Standards and Technology. And, wow, could I have looked any worse that day? My hair was frizzy, my linen blouse was wrinkled and askew, I was wearing a big, ugly multi-colored beaded necklace (another intern gift) and I was a red-cheeked sweatball in DC summer heat. Ugh. The photos were not exactly keepers.

My new Uzbek intern continued: "Safaev has sent you gift. Please wait here." As I waited in the hotel breakfast room, I pondered what it might be. Probably a ceramic Uzbek person - that was an incredibly popular gift - a painted ceramic figure, about 4" high, usually an old man with a watermelon or a round of non, Uzbek bread. Sometimes the telecom guys would bring a novelty version, where the old Uzbek guy was holding a cell phone. Cute. They were easy to transport and cheap. I have a pile of them in my kitchen. When I put new batteries in my camera, I'll snap a picture.

The traveler returned to the coffee room with a large black plastic bag tucked under his arm. This was no little ceramic figure. He put the bag on the table and pulled out a large, rolled textile. Oh dear god, I thought. It's one of those carpets with the face of the local imam on it. This had become another gift item - a higher tag gift, but one with limited utility - a carpet featuring the portrait of a well-known religious leader. This was the result of Soviet culture meeting up with Central Asian carpetmaking traditions. Islam isn't keen on decorative art featuring living things. (Hence all that fabulous Middle Eastern geometric design. Love that stuff.)

"Oh gosh," I said, trying to sound excited.

But then, he unrolled the monstrosity. It wasn't the head of an imam. It wasn't a pretty geometric design.

It was my head.

My enormous, bulbous, fugly head.

Knotted into a great big carpet.

And the image of my enormous, bulbous, fugly head was taken from one of those horrid, sweaty, frizzy-haired photos.

The carpetmaker had woven the hair frizz into the pattern. The off-kilter beaded necklace was around my neck. And there was my double chin. And my sweaty red cheeks.

Holy mother of god, I'd been turned into a big woven monster.

The courier was so proud of this woolen evil, he just beamed. I didn't know what to say. I, Miss Bigmouth, was reduced to silence.

Finally, I dredged up the only words I politely and honestly could say under the circumstances: "Wow, eto prosto samyy unikal'niy podarok v mirye..." (Wow, that's simply the most unique gift in the world...)

And it was. It was also the goddamn ugliest gift, too. I drove it to the Sasquatch's apartment, so he could see it. I rolled it out from the back hatch of my car. I thought Mr. Squatch was going to pee himself he was laughing so hard. I wanted to be irritated by his amusement, but it was well-deserved. The thing was vile. Still is vile, as a matter of fact.

I ended up taking the creature to my office and throwing it on my office floor. Since management enjoyed walking all over me anyway, I figured it was appropriate. One of my sisters did kindly suggest that I could take it home and hide my face with a strategically placed coffee table - then people would only see the patterned edge. But I'd still know my face was there, leering at me like some puffy, collective farm bride of Frankenstein.

The carpet came home with me the day of The Incident, and it's been rolled up in the entry hall ever since. I don't want it, but it is one hell of a bizarre folk art conversation piece. As I am badly in need of money and don't want it around any longer, I've been considering putting it up on eBay. Either that or buying the domain "MyHideousCarpet.com" and selling it there. If I managed to raise enough interest in the creature to get someone to buy it, I'd even split the profits between me and the WASP Museum (in my mom's name.)

Now, I have to decide if it's all worth the humiliation of having a picture of that awful, awful thing out on the Internet.

Somewhere, there's probably a collector of Weird Crap who would love to give this a home...

National Zoo Announces Panda-Naming Contest

The National Zoo here in Washington, DC is having a nationwide contest to name the baby panda recently born at the scandal-ridden animal park. It's not a creative contest. The zoo has five names that voters may choose from, and one of the voters will be randomly selected for a trip for two to DC to visit the (usually) sexually repressed bamboo munchers. Since a visit to the National Zoo only requires a 15-minute Metro trip (or gas money and the patience to find available parking in Woodley Park), I'll pass on entering.

The possible names available for voting are:

  • Hua Sheng, which means "China Washington" and "magnificent."
  • Sheng Hua, which means "Washington China" and "magnificent."
  • Tai Shan, which means "peaceful mountain."
  • Long Shan, which means "dragon mountain."
  • Qiang Qiang, which means "strong, powerful."

  • Were I running the contest, I would add the following possibility:

    Ah Krap, which means "Dear god, please don't kill me with the same incompetence, mishandling, and leaving around of rat poison that's killed a bunch of other National Zoo animals!"

    But, I'm not running the contest, so I guess I'll just fold my hands in my lap and sit quietly.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List

    I'm enjoying Kathy Griffin's reality show on Bravo. Unlike the "cast" of "Being Bobby Brown", I like seeing Griffin, her husband Matt, her "gays", and the rest of her circle navigate fame. Kathy's husband is a real guy (and a nice, quiet overweight computer guy, at that - he's utterly un-Hollywood) and seeing how Kathy is received (or not received) by other L.A. people is fascinating.

    Last week featured her going on a tour shilling her new DVD. I could feel myself cringing on her behalf when she only sells 10 DVDs at a signing event in a New York mall or when Starr Jones (one of the biggest media whores on the planet) actually physically distanced herself from Kathy during a taping of "The View." Perhaps worst was Jay Leno making an "ugly girl" joke at Kathy's expense at the end of a "Tonight Show" appearance, leaving Griffin in tears.

    Tangent alert!

    I think I may have mentioned my Jay Leno dislike before. If not, let me just say, I think Leno has evolved into the worst form of lowest common denominator comedian, kissing trashy American ass and embracing ignorance on the sad mess "The Tonight Show" now is. Johnny and Steve and Jack all sadly roll in their graves each time Leno tells a stupid fat joke in his monologue or does his pathetic "Jaywalking" bits that show us (yuk yuk yuk) how funny it is that Americans R dumb! Quick, Jay - give us some oh-so-hilarious comment that will lead us all to believe that Kevin Eubanks is a pot-smokin' loser, rather than an accomplished jazz guitarist!

    Yeehaw!

    Ugh. Go back to shilling Doritos, Jay. Let Conan have the desk a few years early. Thanks.

    Tangential rant over.

    Of course, even as a self-proclaimed "D Lister", Kathy Griffin has a house to die for, two publicists, a couple of agents, a make-up artist and stylist who make housecalls, and takes a limo everywhere. We should all be so lucky. But the woman seems to really work hard for it, so I don't begrudge her a thing. I have a feeling I couldn't hang out with her for very long, but then again, most people can't stand me for more than a few minutes at a time. I think some of my friends have earned merit badges for sticking with me.

    Really.

    Oh, and, thank you, Jesus - "Being Bobby Brown" ends this week. Hallelujah. The sooner Whitney is off screen the better.

    Pat Robertson Thinks We're All Stupid

    Someone needs to kick this guy's ass really, really hard. I assume that, in the end, God will give him the ultimate steel cage death match ass-kicking, but for now - somebody pleeeeease wrap his enormous mouth in duct tape and nail his butt to a big ol' permanent seat in the shame train.

    Robertson's saying today that the AP "misinterpreted" him saying we should "take him (Chavez) out." He didn't mean kill him. Riiiight.

    See, Jimmy Joe Bob Patty Boy seems to have forgotten that, in the same dumbass 700 Club ramble he also said:

    ""If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it..."

    Well, holy shite, bubba. If you think people believed you were suggesting a trip to a Dodgers game with your "take him out" comment, I think your desire to see Hugo Chavez's death is pretty damn clear there.

    God, this man is such a freaking moron. Hugo Chavez may be the biggest a-hole on the planet - frankly, I don't know. My knowledge of South American politics is nil. But Pat Robertson is right up there in the Giant Anus category, too.

    So-called Christians who use their insta-tan TV pulpits to encourage the worst in Americans (xenophobia, homophobia, decency-phobia) are vile creatures. Whatever higher power there is, he/she/it is gonna have a field day when Pat Robertson - and a variety of other creatures including Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, and co. - show up at the Pearly Gates. How about a little fire, scarecrow?

    BTW, I would have included Benny Hinn in that group of scumsuckers, but Benny Hinn is almost funny in his ultimate moneygrubbing lameness. If you can't figure out that Mr. Nehru Jacket is a joke, you deserve to have him hoovering cash out of your pockets. He's the Yanni of televangelists. The John Tesh. The Kenny G.

    Wow. I think I'd better stop and have lunch. I'm cranky. Pat Robertson will do that to me.

    Katrina and the Waves to tour South Florida

    Katrina. New storm. Headed toward the Keys.

    Get it?

    Oh, never mind.

    Well, that's grotesque.

    Mr. Frank Ames of Saranac, New York is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest eyebrow hair in the world. It's more than three inches long.

    Yuck.

    Figure 1:
    Sam the American Eagle - acceptable enormous eyebrows.

    The article doesn't note whether or not Frankie's married. I have a funny feeling he's not. Most women would probably whack those suckers off in the middle of the night. When your eyebrow hair is 3+ inches, doesn't it hang in your eyes? Is there some sort of "eyebrow wax" to hold them back? (uck.) I'm sure that Wahl makes some sort of trimmer appropriate for this type of affliction.

    Figure 2 (or, Figure Ewwww):
    Leonid Brezhnev - massively unacceptable enormous eyebrows.


    If not, I invite Mr. Ames to lovely Rockville, Maryland, where I know some very nice ladies at the Elaj Aveda Day Spa who would be happy to wax those suckers into decent submission. Really. Dude, I'm broke, but I will still pay for it.

    For the good of all.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    A New Low

    I had a revelation a few minutes ago. Standing in the kitchen, looking at all my plates and cups that are never used for company, looking at all the appliances that are never used to produce any food.

    All the things that make up a normal suburban life.

    All the things that make little difference and add no value when your life is on an edge. I have come to the conclusion that I may be fast approaching the end of any semblance of a normal life. Actually, I think that I passed that point a long time ago. The money is gone, my self-confidence has pretty much imploded, I look like a hideously bloated sea lion with fading highlights and grey roots, and, frankly, nothing seems quite real.

    I get up each day, I look for work, I stay at home to save money (which is all theoretical credit card money anyway), and I wonder what point there is to all the crap. Friends are planning trips and vacations and futures, and I am digging dimes and pennies out of my purse to get a baked potato at Wendy's.

    I worry that my friends are tired of hearing that I can't find a job. I harbor uncharitable thoughts that most of them would rather poke their eyes out than listen to me harp about my problems anymore. I avoid calling most people because I don't want to answer any questions about my "situation."

    Not sure why it all smacked me in the face just now, but it did. Hopefully it will pass in a while. It's like depression and an anxiety attack, tied neatly with a thick ribbon of financial terror.

    I would give just about anything to be able to pack up the car and drive to Key West again, like I did in 2001. Just vanish for a week. Go somewhere with crystal clear warm water and a coral reef. Just vanish.

    Sometimes, the thought of just vanishing is very appealing.

    Ashlee Simpson cancels Ashgabat gig

    President for Life/Father of the People/Wayne Newton of Central Asia, the right fucking insane Saparmurat Niyazov (aka "Turkmenbashi") has added a new wacky law to the books in Turkmenistan: no lip synching.

    Now, I wasn't with him on his whole deal changing the days of the week and the months of the year to his and his mom's names, or that whole banning all textbooks except that piece of craptastic "literature" he wrote, but... god, help me... I think I'm with him on this one. Lip synching does suck.

    The Rukhnama - the craptastic ramblefest on All Things Turkmen that Turkmenbashi wrote, basically banning everything else from school rooms across the country.

    Our current ambassador to Turkmenistan is a friend of mine. When she's no longer the ambassador there, I look forward to asking her just how utterly weird face to face meetings are with him. See, were I in her shoes, I'd be waiting for him to whip out a hand puppet and start taking whispered advice from him. "Theese eez my leetle friend Aibek. Khee helps mee make vital state deeceezhons..."

    Freak. Show.

    Danke schoen, baby. Danke schoen.
    Love that Grecian Formula hair,
    Turkmenbashi, hon!

    But, seriously, I'm totally with him on stopping Turkmenistan from becoming a "Puttin' on the Hits" empire. It's assinine to codify it, but still, not a bad idea. Don't worry, though. Give Turkmenwacky a couple of days, and he'll come up with something new and totally objectionable, and balance will be restored to the universe.

    L.A. angel wings follow-up

    Celia, Laura's sister, left this comment re: the upcoming blood drive. I wanted to make sure the info got to any of you reading from L.A.:

    "Thank you for posting this information and spreading the word. If you want to donate blood but can't make the date, you can still donate blood another day/place and come to the after-party.

    If you need a ride, we provide shuttle service to downtown and back for donors, free of charge.

    If you can't donate blood, please ask a friend to donate for you - Laura really needs our help.

    For appointments on other days/locations, please call:

    Mariliz B. Triggs
    Blood and Platelet Program Coordinator
    Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center
    Blood Donor Center
    Tie Line 363-7069 or (323) 783-7069
    Cell (323) 868-1870
    Pager (323) 341-1799
    (Please make sure to mention Laura Esguerra and Ali Mazarei Blood Drive so that Laura gets credit)

    Thank you all for your help, support and kind words. "

    Thinking every good thought from here on the DC swamp...

    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Are you in Los Angeles? Want to win your angel wings?

    Hello, kids.

    I'm reaching out to you Los Angeles folks here. I know you're out there. You come via the link on April Winchell's blog and then you stay here for all of zero seconds. Please stay for a couple seconds more this time. Read on...

    A few months back, when I was first joined Blogspot, I came across a blog by chance, using the "next blog" feature: Kevin's Dead Cat. I have no idea what the meaning of that title is, but I found the blog to be very compelling. The author is a young, newlywed Los Angeles woman named Laura, and she developed advanced throat cancer, from which she lost 1/3 of her tongue. She blogs because it's difficult for her to speak.


    The cancer went away, but is now back with a vengence. Laura is very honest about what's she going through (feeding tubes, clinical trials, missing eating food, considering her possible death). Sometimes, it's tough to visit her blog, but it's impossible to read it and not want to cheer her on and hope for the absolute best.

    Right now, she's in the hospital, fighting a lung infection. Her friends and her sister Celia, another L.A. blogger, have organized a blood drive for her in Los Angeles on August 26th. With the blessing of Kaiser Medical, the blood drive is being held at a friend's apartment -the same place where she and her husband James were married just a couple of months ago. They are hoping for 200 to sign up to give blood. Her friends have even arranged goodie bags for the blood donors - a lottery ticket and a free beer. (And lord knows, nothing's better than a pint of beer to replace a pint of blood!)


    The details of the blood drive are noted in this entry on Celia's blog.

    For the record, I don't know these folks at all. I've just been reading Laura's story and have been drawn in. It resonates with me in a very personal way. My mother was a three-time cancer survivor. My father died of cancer. One of my sisters just had her cancerous thyroid taken out two months ago - she's absolutely fine, thank god. And one of my brothers is suffering greatly from a combination of cancer and heart disease. (Is it any wonder I actually have a cancer-specific insurance policy?)

    I just wanted to pass word about this along to the L.A. folks, in case you might, in turn, be able to share the info with your other friends in L.A. Were I not 3,000 miles away, I'd be there with bells on.


    My very best to you all. May you be blessed with good health, happiness, and contentment.

    -- Merujo

    Separated at Birth: "Hollywood Actors Who Should Play Siblings" Edition

    I saw "A River Runs Through It" on basic cable a couple of years ago. Very pretty movie. I'm a big fan of Montana (that whole "Big Sky" thing), so I'll sit through two hours of fly fishing and family angst to see some majestic vistas. But watching the movie, I kept thinking, "Wow, David Boreanaz must have been very young when he was in this." I was utterly convinced, after years of watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" that I was seeing Angel, the vampire with a soul, trying to reel in some big fishies out there in the wilderness.

    My bad.

    Sorry, Craig Sheffer. It's just that you really, really remind me of David Boreanaz. And, can anyone blame me? See evidence below:


    (Love that distinctive "Buffy" font, there, Davey.)











    The aforementioned Mr. Sheffer.












    Hot vampire action.


















    Guy with career that's pretty much tanked. (Of course, post-Angel, other than PETA campaigns and something that's probably going to suck on Fox, Boreanaz hasn't had much luck, either.)




    Still, I think they should be cast as brothers in something. If just for my sanity.

    Better than that set is this set:


    Star of "Law & Order: SVU" (and frequently nekkid on "OZ"), Christopher Meloni
















    Guy who was in the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie, Elias Koteas.










    Network deal. Lots of pay cable nudity.















    Not quite so lucky.






    So, am I nuts, or should these guys be pitching some sort of "intense sibling shows" to someone? FX? WB? Oxygen? How about Bravo? Another reality show? "Being Someone Who Kinda Looks Like a Bigger Celebrity". It would beat Bobby Brown and Whitney to hell and gone. (Please god, let that show end soon...)

    Kaja-goo-goo-googly eyes

    After two weeks of staring at an eeny-weeny laptop screen, my eyes are having a hard time adjusting to the relative enormity of my big ol' flat panel monitor. I feel like I'm trying to take in a huge cinemascopic monster, despite the fact that it's just 19 inches of power, power, power.

    Figure 1138: How my eyeballs feel right now.
    Incidentally, I once won a Lucasfilm/Star Wars fan club art contest
    redrawing the above space slug as "Ollie" (from Kukla, Fran, and Ollie)
    attempting to consume the Millennium Falcon. I was on Cloud Nine.


    Figure 2187: Oliver "Ollie" Dragon.
    Oh, c'mon. Puh-leeze tell me there's somebody out here
    old enough to remember Kukla, Fran, and Ollie!!!


    Figure "Crap, I'm older than I thought":
    Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.
    (BTW, "kukol'" is the Russian word for puppet.)


    You know, maybe it's not the big screen freaking my eyes out of my head. Maybe it's just the Starbucks coffee... or the fact that I am rapidly turning into a huge old dinosaur!!

    Whatever the reason, I think I need some Tylenol. Or a shot of tequila.

    Back in Business

    The new hard drive is installed in Old Paint. Seems to working just fine. For now. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed. If this one fails, you will see me on Fox News, up in bell tower, shooting at random.

    I've had some craptacular Starbucks coffee, finally got around to having lunch, and now I'm reviewing my list of 15 things I really thought I would achieve today. I had no idea it would take so long for me to deal with the computer crap. I think I'll be downsizing that list...

    The Sasquatch just called me and entertained me greatly by reading Russian to me from a design project he's working on. He doesn't speak Russian. I love hearing him do the Hooked on Phonics reading of Cyrillic characters. Cracks me up. It's only fair, though, as he enjoys listening to me torture his "got a degree and everything" language, Spanish. He says I sound like a Cuban military advisor. I have to admit, Spanish with a Russian accent is pretty damn hilarious.

    But Russian with a Nebraskan accent - even funnier.

    Enough of this frivolity. iTunes is back up and running, I'm caffeinated, and I now have no excuse to not find the world's most brilliant job ever. Wish me luck. :-)

    Measured Procrastination and Other Random Stuff

    I need to install the new hard drive in Old Paint. I have to do this today, so I can get the old hard drive returned to Gateway before they charge me for the new one (you have a 7 day window to return the defunct stuff before they charge you.) I just don't want to do it. It's a matter of me not wanting to have open up the carcass of the desktop. I've never opened this one, and its shell doesn't have the obvious markings of my old desktop, where I could easily see how/where to pop the case for installation.

    In a money saving venture, Gateway has ceased to send user's manuals with their new computers. The old ones had these awesome guides with step-by-step photos of how to open the case, remove components, the whole nine yards. It was very user friendly. But not this one.

    I guess I'm so tired of having problems with my Gateway products, it's simply depressing to have to go through this again. Plus, removing the old hard drive is the final act of acknowledgement that all the writing I'd done and saved there is really gone. Even if the information was retrievable, I do not have the money to have it retrieved. It would be a minimum of $350 to have someone try, and that's simply money I don't have now. I am being philosophical about it - most of that writing wasn't that great anyway - just first drafts that can be improved upon in new writing.

    Right? C'mon - help me rationalize this!

    Ugh.

    I'm going to shut up about that now. Water under the bridge, spilled milk, etc., etc., etc.

    Instead, here are some random thoughts for the day:

    1. If you like a good family-friendly story and you haven't seen it yet, rent "Secondhand Lions" with Michael Caine and Robert Duvall. Watched it last night. Loved it. Very sweet and kid friendly. Made me cry at one point.

    2. A bag of cherries that gets lodged at the back of your fridge will turn unattractive shades of green, blue, grey, and black if forgotten long enough.

    3. I am drinking too much Coke Zero. It's like crack. Seriously. So much better than the diet Coke with Splenda that I raved about months ago. Coke Zero tastes like The Real Thing. I theorize that there is human blood or some other sort of ritually sacrificed material included in the "natural flavorings" listed on the label. Just a theory, mind you.

    4. Am I the only person in America who finds Ellen DeGeneres annoying? It's the staccato rhythm of her speech that makes me nuts, I think. I know her show gets raves, but I can't watch it. I'd like to lower her caffeine intake or up her dosage of Ritalin. Dramatically. But, then again, I guess watching her for an hour is more tolerable that an hour of Tyra. Does America really need a supermodel talk show host? Someone shoot me. Now.

    5. After a couple of years of drinking fresh, locally-roasted coffee at Mayorga, Starbucks coffee tastes vaguely like sewer water. It's strange, as I'd been perfectly happy with Starbucks before discovering Mayorga. My niece Heather gave me a five pound bag of Starbucks beans when I was up in New Jersey for the wedding - broke coffee drinkers never pass up free beans. (To screw with a cliche - beggars can't have a... taster's choice. Har har. Yeah, I'm a laugh riot.) I ground up some of the beans this morning and made a small pot - and it's just not that tasty to me anymore. I've become so spoiled on Mayorga beans (which also have a distinctive "smoky" roast), this really does taste crappy. But, it's saving me moolah, so I'll stop bitching now.

    6. P.G. County cops have been repeatedly caught on tape coercing suspect statements and ignoring requests for lawyers. Nice. God save me from ever having to live or work in P.G. County. I know a woman who has become a cop there. It's sad because her life prior to this assignment says a lot about how P.G. County recruits and background checks their police force: trashy, ignorant, and deeply troubled young woman who took pride in knocking boots with married security guards at our federal workplace and doing the skanky IT support guy on the conference room table in her office. Knocked up by one of her myriad boyfriends, and she vanished from work for days and weeks on end, calling in only to announce some mystery ailment. She has "will be looking for a DNA test on the Maury Show" tattoo'ed on her forehead, I swear. I wish her well, but I fear for the public she has sworn to protect. Go with god, P.G. County. Go with god.

    Sweet jesus, I need a full-time job. Now.

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    Pervy Searches, the Sequel

    (Oh, I do love StatCounter.)

    I'd like to thank the horny guy in Amman, Jordan who dropped by today after his Yahoo! search for "women naked in Jordan" led him (poor bastard) to my posts about: 1)Nukehavistan, 2)Wigstock and Robot Chicken, and 3)my nephew's wedding.

    After that particular tour through my mind, I figure there's now a seriously sexually frustrated dude in Amman who not only still needs some nekkid pictures of women, but also is very, very confused about American culture...

    So, al salaam a'alaykum, babycakes. Welcome to my nightmare. I doubt it was the content you were expecting.

    Gay Batman art gallery updates? Sure thing!

    Naked Middle Eastern chicks? Sorry, bub.

    I'm sure that's a huge disappointment...

    Saturday, August 20, 2005

    Cervidae Follies

    Or, the Bambi Bumblers visit my lawn.

    My neighborhood is loaded with wildlife - deer, foxes, owls, woodpeckers, the occasional coyote. I get a kick out of seeing and listening to them. The deer are omnipresent, and sometimes they scare the crap out of me just because they are damn quiet and appear out of nowhere. More than once, I've walked out of my building smack dab into a deer standing on the front steps. There's usually a shared deer-in-headlights moment as we stare at each other as if to say, "Damn! Don't sneak up on me like that!"

    One evening, a few years back, a big buck jumped over the front end of my car as I drove up my block. That was thrilling and terrifying, all at once. I do get a little stressed when I find big bucks outside the apartment during mating season. They are easily annoyed when in rut, and I tend to let them wander away before I make any moves. (I was late to work twice one week because a big, multi-pointed buck had decided he really liked my car.)

    Today, coming home from the grocery store, there was a small herd of young deer at my doorstep - two male yearlings with short horns and four fawns. No mothers anywhere in sight. It's odd to see so many young ones with no adult supervision.

    Just as I pulled up, an elderly couple taking an afternoon stroll approached from the other direction. The deer panicked and started bolting in all directions. It was as if they'd lost all control - two fawns flew across the street in huge graceful leaps and vanished into the woods. The remaining two fawns and the yearlings, however, proceeded to engage in a completely graceless Keystone Kops routine, smacking into each other, leaving one yearling on his back, flailing on the sidewalk and one fawn in kicking distance. That fawn ended up getting smacked in the head and knocked off his feet, on top of the yearling.

    Cute, but not always as graceful as they'd like you to believe...

    This lead to much rolling, kicking, and general angst, as the other two just watched, as if amazed by their compadres utter lack of coordination. The yearling finally did an exaggerated head shake, got to his feet and bolted into the woods, the other fawn and yearling in tow. The remaining fawn just lay on the lawn like an enormous furry slug until his senses returned to him. (Meanwhile, the elderly couple is frozen in their tracks, and I'm just standing at the back of my car, waiting for DeerFest '05 to end, so I can unload my groceries without getting kicked in the head by a stressed out woodland creature.) At last, the little guy got up, swayed on his feet for a few seconds, and then headed for the trees at a drunken trot.

    Interestingly, none of them made a single sound throughout this whole event. Not a snort. Not a shriek. Nada. In fact, it was all so silent, had I not seen it, I wouldn't have known it happened.

    If only the human neighbors could be so quiet...

    DC Comics to NYC Gallery: Pull out of gay Batman!

    DC Comics is not happy that a New York art gallery is featuring a series of homoerotic watercolors of Batman and Robin. The semi-nude superhero portraits by artist Mark Chamberlain have also made it to the Artnet website, and DC wants those babies pulled immediately.

    Batman and Robin, currently vacationing with Bert and Ernie, were unavailable for comment.

    Now, that's something you don't see every day.

    Since I don't want a smackdown from DC Comics myself, I'm not about to provide any links here, but I will tell you this: if you search for Mark Chamberlain on Google Images, you might just see "the softer side" (and, uh, the harder side, too, come to think of it) of Batman and Robin.

    Watercolors. So tasteful.

    Pervy Searches

    Through the wonders of StatCounter, I know what Google and Yahoo searches people use when they stray across my site. Usually, it's fairly mundane stuff, but every once in a while, a search term pops up that gives me pause.

    There are some I simply won't describe to you. They're just a wee bit too disturbing.

    Just a few minutes ago, someone was searching for "handcuffed children." Aaaaand, that led them to my blog. (I'd written a "Yo, Florida! WTF?" kind of post a while back, wondering what the deal was with all the weird stories of cops (and parents and teachers) tasering and handcuffing kids under ten.) You have to wonder what leads someone to search for the words "handcuffed children" on a bright, sunny, summer Saturday morning.

    Then again, I don't want to know...

    They'll Need a Crane (or 4)

    So, your massive crane tips over. How do you move a crane that's overextended and falls into a shopping center?

    Ya get four cranes!

    That's what happened in Bethesda yesterday morning. A crane fell into a small strip small on Hampden Lane and crunched the roof of the complex (and an adjoining office building.) Apparently, the sound of the fall was so astounding people thought it was a bomb or a gas main exploding.

    Nope. It was just some idiot overextending a crane.

    Oops.

    Four cranes later, the deceased was removed from the scene of the crime, but the businesses remain closed until inspectors can verify the extent of the structural damage. One block to the south, and this event would have shut down the Yuppie Nexus of Bethesda life, the Bethesda Avenue/Woodmont Avenue "Clump o' Affluence." The Cool 'n' Beautiful People (and their nannies) would have been utterly traumatized and left to aimlessly wander the streets, like designer-clad zombies, in search of a place to be seen and eat overpriced food.

    Oh, wait. They kinda do that anyway. Never mind.

    Nnnnnnmmmmmgaaaaaaaah!!!
    Must... have... triple... caramel... latte...
    some... tapas... oh, and brains!!!!


    Sometimes, when I'm writing this stuff, I have no idea where it's going to go. Like this one. Had no idea it was going to develop into a zombie indictment of wealth in Bethesda. Go figure.


    Friday, August 19, 2005

    Did you know that Gateway spelled backwards is "Evil Dead"?

    Oh, it's true. I'm sure if you reversed those smarmy "Gateway Radio" recordings you're forced to listen to when you call Technical Support, you'd hear "I AM THE DARK PRINCE, LORD LUCIFER, AND I COMMAND YOU TO BUY MORE GATEWAY PRODUCTS!! BOW DOWN BEFORE ME, FOOLS!!!"

    Sigh. This a long story of frustration and more frustration. It has sucked up more of my time than I ever imagined it would.

    Really, it was nice at the beginning. Those cute cow boxes. The nice friendly Gateway stores. But that was in The Before Time. Before I had to ever call Technical Support. Before one of the technicians called me a "stupid bitch." Yes, it was quite fine back then.

    But then, it happened. August 2004. My Gateway desktop, still under warranty, ceased to function. I called Technical Support and began an odyssey that would last three months. 17 different techs diagnosed 17 different problems. I got so many new parts sent out to me that I was basically building myself a new computer. But, in the end, none of it worked. The last straw was the guy who said, "Oh, you need a new motherboard!" (This is in October, mind you.) "Why didn't they figure that out at the beginning! We'll order you a new one, and you'll have it in 3-5 days!"

    Five days passed. No motherboard. I call Gateway. "Uhhhh... that's backordered for 30-90 days." After I stop myself from having a stroke, I ask, "Can't you send me a different motherboard? You guys make computers! You cannot seriously tell me you don't have other motherboards?!?!" That was when the tech called me a "stupid bitch."

    And that's when my adventures in corporate America got revved up. Having spent years recruiting the CEOs and CIOs of lots o' companies to host international delegations, I am savvier than the average bear when it comes to sussing out the contact information for corporate leaders. I determined what the e-mail addies would be for the Prez, board of directors, and numerous vice-presidents of Gateway and sent them my whole saga, incluing not only the three months of mounting BS from their employees, but the "stupid bitch" comment, and the fact that I'd recommended Gateway to several of my eight siblings.

    Gateway straight to Hell. Oh yeah!

    Next morning, I get a call from some "executive response" wonk named Marvin. Marvin tells me I'm getting a new computer and $75 in Gateway credit. I'm told when to expect it, the whole nine yards. I tell my office I'll need a day off so that I can be home to accept the shipment, which is supposed to come via UPS.

    Hardee-har-har.

    I come home from work one afternoon to discover a (theoretically)$2K computer sitting outside my door in my unsecure apartment building. Anyone could have just strolled off with it. After I start breathing again, I open up the box. Turns out, Gateway has replaced my top-of-the-line desktop with a crappy eMachines number with a pretty facade. Not happy. No sir. Not one bit. This damn thing won't even turn off on its own. It's been a manual shutdown since last November. I called Gateway a zillion times about this, saying, "You know, this can't be good for the machine. It's not healthy." Each call was received with a puzzled, "Gosh, I don't know what the deal is" type of response. Five times I was told someone would be returning my call to determine the problem. No one ever called back.

    I tried to reach Marvin, my "executive response" wonk. He never replied to me.

    I gave up.

    Oh - and that $75 credit? Wanting my business with Gateway over and done, I ordered a Creative Labs MP3 player. (If they'd sold iPods, I would have snarfed one of those babies.) My order failed 5 times over a month period because no one from Gateway ever entered my credit code into their system, so it kept getting tossed as bogus. I was marked in the system as someone who was trying to rip them off. I had to call and get very angry with Marvin to make that purchase happen.

    Fast forward to three weeks ago. The Ethernet card dies in my desktop. I decide (with the help of the Comcast folks) that it would be a whole lot easier to take my modem in to Comcast to trade up for one with a USB connection (wise move - my modem was so old, it made the Comcast guy laugh out loud when I handed it over) than it would be to deal with the a-holes at Gateway.

    Problem solved.

    Until the hard drive died.

    After several hours on the phone with Gateway, finally a smart person who let me hold the phone up to the chassis of the machine said, "Yep. Dead hard drive."

    I got a confirmation e-mail that the hard drive was en route. It gave me a tracking code, but no identifier for the shipping company. The e-mail noted that "if this message does not contain the name of one of our premiere shippers (UPS or FedEx), your product will be shipped by another premiere shipper."

    I tried to get information online and over the phone, but Gateway couldn't identify the shipper for me. Lovely. Helps one plan. Especially when one is concerned about possible theft.

    Today, I heard the FedEx truck roll up to the building. (It has a distinctive sound, just like the UPS truck does. BTW, the UPS guy in my neighborhood is kinda hot in a Bruce Campbell/early Evil Dead way.) I hear a quick knock on my door and a thump. I go over and, lo and behold, there is a box from Gateway dropped outside my apartment. Again, a valuable item just tossed at the door.

    Only this time, the "pilfer-proof" tape on the box has been ripped off and replaced. The address label is torn up, and, when I opened the box, I discovered that the packaging for the hard drive has been raggedly cut open. Clearly, someone in the FedEx system thought I was gettin' an iPod, and boy, that jerk must have been disappointed.

    I called Gateway and asked what the hell I should do. Long story short - if I wanted to return it, they would have to take 72 hours to investigate and determine whether or not the item really did arrive "damaged" or I was just lying about it. I said to the guy, "Uh, why would I want to waste my time sending this back to get another one? It's not like I'm coming out ahead in this arrangement. I've already lost all my files. I just want my desktop back." He responded that, frankly, Gateway figured I was trying to pull one over on them. Nice.

    I also asked why they used a carrier that didn't require a signature when dropping off valuable equipment. The guy swore that they didn't, and that they never used FedEx to drop off computer stuff. Riiiiight. He told me I must be mistaken. I pointed out that I saw the FedEx truck drive away, and that the box had a FedEx tag on it. He still didn't believe me. I told him my computer had been dropped off by FedEx the same way in November. Again, he told me I must be mistaken. At this point, unable to crawl through the phone and strangle him, I gave up. Serenity now, George. Serenity now!

    I then asked if putting in a knowingly manhandled hard drive would void my warranty. The guy didn't really want to go and ask. I used my Dark Side Jedi Mind Trick voice and told him I needed him to do that. NOW. I got 15 more minutes on hold (during which I got to hear that goddamned Norah Jones cover of "More Than This" and Chris Martin warbling "Yellow". Twice. It's the same "Gateway Radio" tape they were playing last August, September, October, and November. Man, do I ever hate the sound of the Gateway girl's voice.) Then, Mr. Tech came back and swore that this whole mess wouldn't void my warranty. I asked for that in writing. He didn't want to give it. I told him he should probably review the file on me, and that I had no problem e-mailing Wayne Inouye again and shaming the Gateway president into giving me decent service.

    I must have sounded pretty pissed off by then, for, within five minutes, I had an e-mail saying that putting the potentially damaged hard drive in my computer would not void the warranty.

    I still haven't put it in. I just don't want to have to call Gateway tech support again. Evil bastards.

    My next computer? Who only knows. My siblings have had problems with Dell. I'll sort it out. But, for now...

    Here's some advice for Gateway, if they intend to stay in business:

    1. Get competent tech people.
    2. Don't treat your customers like morons
    3. Don't call your customers nice things like "stupid bitch" - it will come back to haunt you
    4. Don't pawn off crappy equipment from your low-cost subsidiary to replace a top-of-the-line machine. Your customer may call in a voodoo priestess to curse you. (Or at least consider it. A lot.)
    5. Don't send expensive stuff out for delivery with folks who don't require signatures and who enjoy dropping boxes of sensitive equipment against your door. Seriously. Don't.
    6. Don't piss off Merujo. She will find your boss and make y'all very sorry.

    Grrrrr.

    Courtney Loves Her Rehab (and her drugs)

    Unless you are a howler monkey or tree-dwelling Madagascarian lemur, you know Courtney Love is out of her mind hooked on drugs. No matter how many times she says she's clean, people - she SO isn't.

    For some insane reason, I watched the Pam Anderson roast on Comedy Central the other night. It was quite possibly the dirtiest thing I've seen on basic cable. Sarah Silverman - duuuude, that girl has got a mouth on her... Most of what she said was bleeped out. (The roast will be re-broadcast uncut, unbleeped, untasteful this weekend as part of Comedy Central's "Secret Stash" programming.) Why Courtney Love was there, I have no idea, but between her flashing her crotch, her boobs, her middle finger, you name it - plus her constant screaming of "CLEAN AND SOBER FOR OVER A YEAR NOW!" It was pretty damn obvious that the woman was massively f'ed up. I was embarrassed for her, with her bloated antics and tiny, glassy-pupil'ed eyes.

    And everyone on stage basically acknowledged that she was high as a kite. It was the worst kept secret in the room that she was out of her gourd. I can go along with the joke for a little while, but then the squirm factor becomes too big. You wish someone on stage had enough courage and common sense to usher her backstage and out of the Humiliation Zone and send her off in a cab. And it bothered me that no one did it. Maybe they were afraid they'd end up in the ER with something fractured if they tried to shift the immoveable object. Maybe they actually found her drugged out antics funny.

    But it wasn't.

    It was sad and pathetic, and it lead to Courtney making an appearance in court today where she admitted to violating her probation (she's on the hook on three separate sentences) and screwing around with drugs yet again. She's been admitted to rehab. Again. The judge said he wanted to send her to jail. Why didn't he, then? Was it compassion? I think it was a wee bit of L.A. celebri-felon wussiness. Screw rehab. Love needed to go directly to jail. Rehab ain't workin' for this girl, and she has enough buckage to keep herself high for some time to come.

    A wimpy judicial system isn't doing any favors for Love's daughter. I hope that kid has a trust fund set up just to cover her future therapy needs. Poor thing.

    I'm sure another 28 days of throwing pots (and withdrawl hissy fits) is not going to do a damn thing for this wretched creature.

    And Comedy Central, shame on you for not knowing when to say when. We all slow down for a big accident, but dignity and common sense tell us not to dawdle over the gruesome remains.

    Anonymous comments are back on (for a trial run)

    It would appear that I'm not the only Blogspot person who is getting spanked hard with blogspam. I have a funny feeling the Blogger folks have gotten a pile of cranky e-mails from users weary of getting random junk comments.

    As of today, Blogger had introduced a "word verification" option on comments to stymie those crafty spam devils, and I've just activated it. I have no idea how well this will work, but I'm willing to give it a try. If I get slammed with spam again, the anonymous comments are gone immediamente.

    Let the not-so-great experiment begin!

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    That's hot (in a purely academic way)

    The Sasquatch tells me that Newsweek has declared our alma mater, Macalester College, to be the hottest thang around in liberal arts colleges today. Wow. I had no idea we were so cool.

    I hope Mr. Squatch blogs a bit about this phenomenon. His college recollections are more clear, more interesting, and more sunny than mine. (Of course, he never tried to fly down a flight of stairs or had to live with Worm Girl, the scary freshman roommate, but still...)

    I actually considered transferring to another school during my sophomore year after I was declared by a whole classroom to be a "racist, sexist, bigot woman" after asking just what "womyn's music" really was. (The daily campus event sheet had noted a "womyn's music" gathering that night. Men were only allowed in if brought as a guest by womyn. I wanted to know if womyn's music used different notes or some other system to differentiate it from "regular music." My bad, apparently.)

    In the end, I stayed, but I was out of the country, on off-campus programs, for the next year and a half. I came back and felt so out of the loop for my last semester, it was freaky. My friends were all hooked up in relationships and I had missed out on a whole lot of stuff, so I basically stayed at the Russian House most of the time, writing my honors thesis and keeping the resident house stoner from eating everyone's food and burning the place down.

    Several years ago, I went on an AIDS Walk here in DC with a friend of the Sasquatch. I'd heard that Macalester alumni had a group going on the walk. When we found them, I discovered there were several people in the group who graduated the same time I did. None of them remembered me, but all of them were like, "Oh, you know the Sasquatch?!? Oh, what a great guy!"

    These alums all knew each other and showed absolutely no interest in me joining their merry band. One of them said, "Oh, you're walking today? Well, have a good time!" Yikes. Suffice it to say, I did not walk with the warm 'n' fuzzy MacPeople.

    I get flyers every couple of months for alumni events, but I never go. I feel that, even as an alumnae, I never quite fit in.

    Then again, I was the same with the Girl Scouts. I ended up as a Lone Scout and got my badges on an "independent study" basis.

    I'm a curmudgeon, I guess. Is that so bad?

    Macalester did give me good overseas adventures and some really great friends, though. I met the Atomic Editor on my first day of classes. And next month marks 20 years since I met the Sasquatch on a trek across campus to see another friend (and I ended up meeting his very cool roommate, Gonzomantis, who is a very cool person still.)

    So, I guess I have to keep everything in perspective, balancing good and bad. Macalester ain't everybody's cup of joe, but then again, I'm a pretty odd person. It's unlikely I was ever going to find a place that was perfect for someone like me. In fact, I'm still in those boots today. I really do think there isn't a place that's "just right" for me. These days, I'm not sure about anything being right for me.

    In the news...

    I went to the CNN.com website earlier today, and one of their freshly posted headline links was "Investigators: BTK Killer Took Corpse To Lunch." Appalled - and trying to figure out the mechanics of this - I clicked on the link. The story was horrible, and it focused on BTK taking one of his victims, post-strangulation, to his church where he posed her and took his own brand of boudoir shots. However, there was no mention of any lunch date. I even used the search feature on Firefox for "lunch." No go.

    I went back out to the CNN.com main page and scratched my head. Then, I hit refresh. The page reloaded, and the headline changed to: "Investigators: BTK Killer Took Corpse To Church." Ahhhhh. Nice going, blockheads. Now, why don't you go post some living person's obit and really make my day!

    So going to Hell, I'm amazed the earth hasn't opened up
    beneath the courthouse and swallowed this bastard whole.
    It would save the taxpayers of Kansas a whole lotta money...



    Speaking of lunch...

    Have you seen the Burger King ads for their horrid "Chicken Fries"??? These look like the most disgusting food product ever created. I guess it's just a marketing variation on the McNugget, but even the ad campaign is creepy, with the heavy metal band dressed up in chicken masks. Turns out the name of the band is "Coq Roq." Oooookay. They even have a website with videos for such songs as "Bob Your Head", "Cross The Road", and, ummm, "Nice Box." There are fake photos from the road, and, apparently, the site generated some early controversy when one of the pictures of the requisite Hot Chicks featured the title "Groupies love the Coq." Nice.

    I like how some sensitive individual spared us that
    painful "q" with a red digital thumbprint...


    That one isn't up there anymore. Apparently, Burger King has a standard to uphold in selling deep fried chicken blobs.

    Of course, Burger King had already crossed into the realm of creepy, but fascinating marketing with the whole "Subservient Chicken" thing. I admit, I still go there sometimes and try to make the chicken do unnatural stuff... then again, it's a 6-foot-tall chicken in a garter belt and it takes commands via the Internet, so, what can actually be considered unnatural in that particular big picture???

    And now for the horrible mental connection I have between the first and second halves of this post: don't ask me why, but every single time I hear "BTK" I don't think "bind, torture, kill" - for some strange reason, "BK Broiler" goes through my head. There is no logical reason for this. I guess some short circuit in my head just sends it there.

    Well, that's some small insight into me that you really probably didn't want.

    Sorry.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    A better quality of post

    If you've been here for a while, you know I'm currently unemployed and, as a result, I have more time than most to post all sorts of random crap. I imagine my blogvomiting will be dramatically cut back when I am gainfully employed again. Right now, if I'm lucky, there's one good post for every four or five I slap up here.

    On the other hand, my friends the Sasquatch and the Atomic Editor are holding down jobs and actually doing things beneficial to mankind. (More or less.) This means that they have to be more efficient and thoughtful about what they post, so the wheat-to-chaff ratio is nearly nonexistent. Unlike me, they proofread, plus, they are literate, funny, and just write good stuff.


    So, may I recommend a stop to visit the Sasquatch and the Atomic Editor? You won't be disappointed. They are Smart Guys. Or, in Indiana Jones Speak: Top Men.