Saturday, December 31, 2005

Scenes from the 7-11: New Year's Eve Edition

...or, no good deed goes unpunished.

I really need to find a new place to get an icy cold Diet A&W. I have to stop going to that freaking 7-11 on Rockville Pike. Tonight was a doozy. I'm not easily rattled, but this time, I was rattled enough for my hands to shake as I handed over my $1.69.

As I approached the counter, there was a 60-ish woman in a pricey mink coat up front. She had hair that was teased to kingdom come and rocks on her fingers that had to weigh a couple of pounds. She was Dame Edna, but without any sense of humor. She kept changing her mind on which scratcher lottery tickets she wanted and was causing the poor clerk (an Indian woman - I say this because it comes into play here momentarily) to have kittens. She'd have a ticket pulled for her, examine in, and then change her mind. "No, I don't want this one," she'd announce and shove the ticket back across the counter. I could see her husband/chauffeur in the Jaguar outside, watching her.

"Ma'am," the clerk finally pleaded, "I cannot keep pulling these tickets off the roll if you change your mind. It causes problems for us with the lottery agency. If you have me pull the ticket, you must buy it."

Meanwhile, a 60-ish looking man with a French accent was waiting to buy tickets, too. He had a card filled out, waiting patiently. At last he said, "Can you just run my card while she's looking?"

That's all the Dowager Wuss needed to go ballistic. "Oh, you foreigners all stick together, don't you? What? You think you can get ahead of an American in line?" It was unpleasant.


Unfortunately for me, I had decided to sneak a peek at the scratcher tickets. Foolish girl - I thought it might be fun to scratch off a dollar ticket at midnight. I was right next to the nasty old bat when she hissed, "You should learn how to do business the American way, you foreign animals!" At which point, my jaw dropped and I said, "Wow. Lady, that was amazingly rude." And she looked right at me and said, "But it's true. These filthy foreigners think they're better than we are."

"Uhhh, I'd be willing to bet most of the people here are Americans, ma'am," I answered very calmly.

The old bigot pulled herself up and headed for the door. She took one last look at me and laughed, saying, "If you believe that, you're a fool. And clearly, you are no American. TRAITOR!"

I just shook my head and said, "Yeahhhh, have a good night." (I was thinking "witch" but didn't say it.) I returned to my bottle of A&W and decided to skip the scratcher. I could use that buck for a better purpose, like a cup of coffee at work next week.

But then, something happened.

Apparently, the old French gentleman thought that I was in cahoots with Dowager Bigot. After all, I had said (with all due sarcasm) "Have a good night."

Old French Dude went apeshit on me. He started screaming at me from the end of the counter. "YOU ARE MOCKING ME! YOU ARE MOCKING MY ACCENT, AREN'T YOU! I KNOW MORE ABOUT 'THE AMERICAN WAY' THAN YOU EVER WILL! I SPEAK SEVEN LANGUAGES! YOU ONLY SPEAK ONE, YOU IGNORANT DIRTY FAT WOMAN!"

He then switched in French. Although I understand a little French, it's not one of the three languages I speak, so I have no real idea what abuse he was hurling at me, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't nice.

At that point, as I'm trying to retrieve my jaw from the floor again, the clerk joins in. "AH! YOU WERE MAKING FUN OF US WITH HER, HUH? SO, YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY DO YOU? YOU MAKE FUN OF PEOPLE WITH ACCENTS?"

I attempted to respond, saying that I had taken the old bigot to task, but they were having none of it. Old French Dude actually came right up to me and started screaming in my face, and I mean, right in my face - close enough for me to see that he could benefit from some dental work. In fact, as he was screaming at me and I could feel his breath on my face and my hands were starting to shake, part of my brain drifted and thought, "I should give him the number for Dr. Hackley. She does good cosmetic work..." But then I snapped back. "Look, sir, maybe you need to get your hearing checked because I was defending you."

"NO YOU WERE NOT! YOU CAN COME UP WITH ALL THE LIES YOU WANT BUT I KNOW YOU WERE MAKING FUN OF ME! I SPEAK SEVEN LANGUAGES! YOU ARE IGNORANT! ISN'T SHE IGNORANT FOR MAKING FUN OF ME?" He started to assail the two young women in line behind me, switching into French. Why he assumed they might speak French, I have no idea. I do understand enough French to know he suggested to them that I was a "crazy bitch" before returning to his end of the counter. All the while the clerk is still railing at me.

I look at the shocked women behind me. "All I did was try to defend him and the clerk." The women, eyes saucer-wide, nodded. "I know," the one said. "I don't get it."

Hands still rattling, I paid the other clerk for my drink and then started to leave.

And then, I stopped.

I approached Old French Dude and the angry clerk.

"Excuse me," I said. "But I will defend myself. I have no idea what it is you imagined you heard, but I was defending you against that rude old biddy. I told her she was rude and said that, likely, everyone here was an American citizen, not that that matters one bit. She then suggested that I, myself, was not an American, which I'm sure would have come as a big surprise to both of my parents, who were American veterans of the Second World War. We are an immigrant country and even Madame Mink's family came off a boat from somewhere.Oh, and for the record, I may be fat, but I am far from ignorant, and, having just showered, I'm not dirty, either. I speak three languages and I'm damn well-traveled."

The clerk said, "Oh, I am sorry. I heard him say you were making fun of us, and I just assumed... I am sorry. Happy New Year."

(Nice. Thanks for assuming, lady.)

Old French Dude blinked and said, "Oh, well, in that case, thank you." And returned to his business, as if he hadn't just scared the living crap out of me.

I went one step further. I extended my hand for him to shake. At first he ignored me, but the clerk said, "I think you should shake her hand." And, reluctantly, he extended his right hand, well-manicured, with a gold and lapis pinkie rink, for mine, still bruised from my blood tests the week before.

"Bonne année," I said to him, shaking his hand as firmly as I could, trying not to show how much he'd freaked me out. "Et bonne nuit."

I wanted to add, "And don't ever call me ignorant again." But I didn't. I took my A&W and left, with the clerk still saying, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Happy New Year!"

I sat in my car feeling slightly ill for a few minutes. I've been called a lot of things in my life, but no one's ever suggested that I'm a xenophobic loser before. Ugh. It's time to start buying my diet rootbeer by the 12-pack at Safeway, I do believe. That 7-11 may just be a Hellmouth.

Figure A. 7-11 on Rockville Pike. North Bethesda, Maryland.

I think I'm glad I threw caution to the wind and bought a split of champagne at the Montgomery County booze store this evening. The turning of this year deserves more than a glass of wine. A couple of glasses of champagne is more appropriate.

Happy New Year to you all!

C'mon, 2006! Hurry the hell up!!


Friday, December 30, 2005

I'll have a piece of cheesecake...

...and my companion will have a small rat or mouse, please.

this is an audio post - click to play

Welcome to Montgomery County: as messed up as PG County,
but just in a different, more affluent way...

Ring in the Brand Spankin' New (please)

So, 2005 comes to its miserable end tomorrow. I cannot say I will miss it.

Other than 2001, which saw my mother's death and the nightmare of September 11th, I haven't experienced a more foul year in my 40 years on this planet.

Let's catalog the joy:

I left my last job under the most disgraceful of circumstances, thanks to the extremely poor judgment of some federal workers. Somewhere in their small, dark hearts, I hope the people who wrongfully accused me feel shame for what they did. They should be embarrassed, frankly. It was pretty despicable behavior and only served to further reduce any faith I have in our federal government. It took ages to clear my good name and took a tremendous toll on my psyche and my physical health. (Bastards.) For 2006, I wish these cretins better judgment, a measure of (sadly lacking) ethics, a greater sense of human decency, and a big enema. They need it. Especially the enema.

(Actually, I'd like to order a truckload of suppositories for the White House, too. Maybe CVS is having an after-Christmas enema sale...)

I was out of work for 8 months. I think that says it all, right there. There were a lot of tears, a good measure of insomnia, and so much leaning on friends, I will never be able to repay them for their kindness. I have a wonderful circle of friends who have helped me, supported me, and just listened when I needed to talk out my fears and hopes. I am so grateful. I owe each of you such a great hug. My respect, love and admiration for each of you grows daily.

I went through all my moolah and credit being unemployed for 8 months. Being out of work and theoretically "self-employed" blows. It. Really. Blows. And being completely broke - well, that's a laugh riot, especially for a single woman turning 40. Yeehaw.

Job hunting wake up call: no one really wants to hire seasoned professionals in international development to: brew coffee, sell clothes, or answer phones - they know you will flee when a better job opens up. This is most certainly true, and I don't hold that judgment against any of the retail folks who wouldn't take a chance on me.

I have had mice playing their jug band jamboree in my kitchen all frigging year. I hate rodents. Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes I do.

Yes, 2005 - you mutherf'er of a year - good riddance to bad garbage.

But, in the midst of this stinkfest, there have been some gems:

I started blogging again after a year's break, and the blogging not only kept me sane, but has introduced me to some wonderful people, some of whom I've had the great chance to meet, and some I hope to meet soon. Blogging also got me a chance to do commentary on public radio, which is a wonderful little dream come true. Yeah, I'm not exactly Sarah Vowell telling engaging stories on "This American Life," but I'd like to think I could do that someday. Maybe you have to have been a Midwestern kid, growing up listening to NPR, to appreciate the "wow, cool!" factor of being on public radio for 4 minutes each month. Call me a cheap date, but I love the little wonder of it. And I hope those who listen enjoy what they hear.

And then, as this dark, sickly year began to spiral down to its bitter end, I found a new job at one of the most remarkable places on the face of the earth. I work with a team of funny, smart, and dedicated people, and I feel very much at home with them. I look forward to each and every workday. I learn about something new and fascinating every time I hit the office. I meet archaeologists and oceanographers, filmmakers and photographers, and I get to appreciatively grill them on the work they pursue. "Oh cool!" has become the phrase most often heard coming from my mouth. I hope that never changes.

I saw my doctor today. She told me she was proud of me for keeping my head above water this year and for having come out of it with a measure of hope and optimism. (Plus she told me my cholesterol was 141 and my blood pressure was on the low side of normal - Jesus, I never figured that would be the case after Hell Year '05.)

So, what will next year bring? I'm not sure, but I'm just glad to still be around, kicking and laughing. I'd like to get a book written. It's time to catalog the stories of Mutha Russia. I'm looking forward to hearing my friend Thomas Dolby perform in January. I'm an 80s girl, and finally getting to hear Dolby play- surrounded by dear, wonderful friends - will be a real kick. I hope to meet more of you fine folks in person. (You know you have a willing tour guide if you swing through DC!) And I hope to keep blogging fairly regularly - as long as the stories and the random thoughts keep coming to me.

Thanks for being along on the ride this year. May 2006 be a very good year for us all.

Now, I need to go to Safeway. Knowing that my cholesterol is in check, I think a nice steak and a couple glasses of Yellow Tail cabernet will be a fine way to welcome the New Year.

God bless us, everyone.

I've already paved a pretty good path...

...shouldn't I just go ahead and get the t-shirt?


Or should I just buy a couple for the people I used to work for??? Heh heh heh...

Actually, I want to market a do-it-yourself t-shirt. It would just be a blank white t-shirt that comes in a ziploc with a black marker and directions to write "MY PARENTS ARE LUDDITES AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY WHITE T-SHIRT AND A SHARPIE!" across the chest.

Hmmm. I think that was funnier in my head.

Back to the drawing board, Chumley...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

For those who cook and kvetch...

The door is open at Merujo's Kitchen! I have started up a second blog - a community blog - for the sharing of recipes, stories, and Things Domestic. Drop by and if you're interested in participating, let me know. I've started with a welcome post, explaining the concept, and a super simple family recipe I love. All are welcome - drop on by!

As for this blog, don't worry. Nothing will change here. It will still be random ramblings and the bizarre stories of My Weird LifeTM. (More weirdness coming soon!)




Wednesday, December 28, 2005

How cool is this?

My awesome coworkers just presented me a new watch to replace the one that was, uh, "liberated" from me last Friday.

To my colleagues: you totally rock. May the good karma come back to each and every one of you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Okay, who wants to go see the Gaithersburg holiday lights?

I'm thinkin' Thursday. Maybe go for a coffee at Mayorga in King Farm afterwards? (That's near the Shady Grove Metro.)

C'mon, somebody else has to be a sucker for holiday light displays!! It's $10 for a carload of people - a bargain for 3.5 miles of festive fun! Whoo-hoo!

So... any takers?

Monday, December 26, 2005

RIP, Vincent Schiavelli

We all knew his face. Those long features, the hangdog expression and eyes that weary the viewer with their dramatic droopy bags. He was a great character actor, with a tremendous number of credits to his name.

Geek Girl here will remember him as the creepy spirit in the subway in "Ghost" and, god help me, as John O'Connor in "Buckaroo Banzai." But his pedigree was much more significant than that. And now he's gone. Vincent Schiavelli died of lung cancer today at his home in Sicily. He was only 57.


Back in June 1994, I was working for Goodwill Industries (managing international programs for their corporate office in DC.) That year, Goodwill's annual international conference was being held in Beverly Hills. I will never forget it because the night before my flight to L.A. was the infamous and idiotic O.J. Bronco chase. I was supposed to be at a Penn & Teller gig at Wolf Trap that night, with the Sasquatch. But he had been dispatched to Tanzania for work and I was trapped at my office so late, I could not make it to the show. Instead, I packed my bags for Los Angeles, watching half that city lining the freeway to cheer and jeer a murderer. Surreal.

The next morning, on the bus that connects the main terminal at Dulles to the mid-field gates, I met Penn Jillette, in all his enormous black leather-clad glory. He was gracious and polite, even shaking the hand of My Crazy-Ass BossTM with his giant hand, completely ringed with silver skulls on each finger. I told him I was disappointed I had missed the show. He promised that they'd be back at Wolf Trap - they enjoyed the venue. And I told him about the weirdness of watching OJ Simpson's slow drive to nowhere. Our conversation ended when we hit the mid-field terminal. I still marvel at just how tall and big that guy was - and so very kind to a total stranger.

Arriving in Los Angeles (after a flight, where, blissfully, I was several rows away from My Crazy-Ass BossTM), I ended up in a cab with our lawyer and Goodwill's vice president. Our cabbie kept turning around to look at me, which freaked me out, until I learned the cause. He was an Armenian emigre, and I had handed him his immigration paperwork in Moscow a couple of years before. He remembered my name and reached back, grabbing and kissing my hand - all while driving at an excessive rate of speed on a busy freeway. This served to freak out my colleagues, who could not believe that, of all the cabs at LAX, we'd get into one driven by a guy I'd met in Russia. ("Welcome to the weirdness that is my life" is all I could say.) The cabbie offered to drive us past the "OJ Murder House", but we passed.

We checked in at the Beverly Hilton, the site of our conference, and I ditched the rest of the staff as quickly as possible. I had that day to just chill before the work started, and I'd never been to Los Angeles - let alone Beverly Hills - before. I stopped to get a cup of coffee in the hotel's lobby bar and plot out my free day. Nursing my overpriced coffee, I saw a tall man in a fedora and tan linen suit sit down at the next table. When he tipped his head back, I saw it was Vincent Schiavelli. But, damned if I couldn't recall his name just then. The wheels kept spinning in my head, but I was lost. His characters reeled around in my brain, but I simply couldn't dredge up the name. Blast!

In my ridiculous effort to remember, I must have been staring at him. He smiled and tipped his hat to me. "Beautiful day, isn't it?" he said.

"Absolutely gorgeous," I replied. "I feel a little bad, sitting inside, drinking coffee on a day like today."

He laughed and said, "You should never feel bad about stopping for coffee. As long as it's good coffee. And you still have plenty of time to go out and enjoy the day."

I smiled, and with that, our conversation ended. A woman arrived and greeted him, and I could not help but overhear their words. He'd written a cookbook - a Sicilian cookbook - and she was interviewing him for a cooking magazine. He would speak quietly one minute and then raise his large hands and widen his eyes, talking animatedly the next. Interviewing a good character actor must be a helluva lot of fun, I thought.

I finished my coffee - I'd nursed that cup as much as I could. Considering the price, I felt that lingering over it was almost a necessity. I signed off on my room charge and stood up to go. In the middle of his interview, Schiavelli stopped to tip his hat to me again and say, "Now, go out and enjoy that day!"

How sweet was that? He could have asked me why the hell I was staring at him. He could have just ignored me, but he didn't. It's in the little details, in the tiny, insignificant encounters where character shines through.

Why should it surprise me, though, that a great character actor had great character himself?

John O'Connor has returned to Planet 10. And this Monkey Girl says farewell.

Rest well, Vincent. Hope it's pretty cool where you are.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

A call from Jerusalem

My day was brightened considerably by friends calling me for Christmas/first day of Hanukkah from Jerusalem. Never been called from Israel before. That kinda rocks. :-)

I'm kinda hoping my friends encounter one of those delusional people suffering from "Jerusalem Syndrome." That would make for a helluva good holiday story. I saw a news report on these folks once - there was an American tourist who, upon reaching Jerusalem, suddenly believed he was Joshua. He got himself a horn and has been trying to blow down the walls of Jericho (probably actually just some mini-mart or an apartment building in Jerusalem) ever since.

Of course, I felt the same way when I reached Wall Drug in South Dakota on a family pilgrimage many years ago. I suddenly thought I was a jackalope.

Wall Drug jackalope.


Also at Wall Drug. I don't know what the hell it is.
(Other than scary.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

In case you're up and lonely and surfing the 'Net...

...you can always track Santa along with the fine people of NORAD.

Strange. I wasn't feeling lonely or bummed about being alone this Christmas until a few minutes ago. I think I'm going to go listen to Joe Jackson's Big World and watch the twinkle lights on my balcony.

(And waste a little of my precious time.)

Happy, happy, merry, merry!

Dear Friends,

On the occasion of Christmas Eve,
I have taken 12.3 seconds to write
this inclusive holiday song for all of us
.

Enjoy.

(to the tune of "Happy Birthday")


Merry Christmas to you!


Happy Hanukkah, too!

Let me throw in some Kwanzaa...


And a big solstice do!


(For that matter, Happy Festivus, too, y'all!)

And now, for the airing of the grievances!


Have a good one, folks!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Must... banish... humbugs...

I have had a less than festive December 23rd.

Woke up with such severe back pain, I thought death would be an exceptional option. This after waking up each hour on the hour having dreams about really intensely scary flying saucers, people drowning while snorkling, and me having to climb along catwalks and other unguarded heights.

Yay! Hooray! Pass me some damn cranberry sauce!

Bah.

Went to have some blood work done at a lab in Gaithersburg. I was fasting and had slugged down two 24-ounce bottles of Dasani en route to make sure I could pee in a cup on command. (Sorry, too much information.) Had an ungodly wait while three elderly Soviet Jews who barely spoke English tried to fill out the lab paperwork. I couldn't stand it after a while, so I went up to help them, as I am, on a good day, fluent in Russian. What I got instead of a big old "spasibo" was scorn and irritation from the old woman, who loudly bitched to the two men (her husband and her cousin) that they now wouldn't be able to gossip in the waiting area because "this girl will hear everything."

So much for good deeds. I silently watched them struggle and wondered just what the hell is wrong with people and did a little dance as my bladder throttled my brain. I enjoy speaking Russian. I'm comfortable in Russian, and it's my nature to want to help people who are having problems, especially when I can expedite them out of their misery. However, this morning left me with a real "fine, screw you, then" kind of emotion.

Take my bodily fluids and let me go, please.

Usually, labs want you to pee in a cup and then vampire you. This time, it was the reverse. Phlebotomists always have problems getting the veins in my arms, so, invariably, I get blood drawn from the tops of my hands. Newsflash: if you've never had this done - it hurts like hell. Fortunately, it's over pretty quickly (except for one time, where the dude had to have been an utter sadist and the draw took a hellish five minutes with him wiggling the needle all over creation.) This time, the vampire had a very delicate touch, for which I was tremendously grateful, but after having a needle in my left hand for a couple of minutes, I apparently ceased to bleed for her. Dammit. This meant another stick, in the top of my right hand, which gladly bled all over the place for her.

Mind you, though, throughout all this, I had 48 ounces of spring water yearning to be free. (Yes, I am an idiot.) Now, I have big piles of bandage and tape on either hand and I have to pee in a cup, which requires Miss Short Arms to do some sort of bizarre and obscene ballet move, all while nursing a screaming, burning lower back.

And that damn rude old babuskha was in the john. For ages.

Death, come take me now.

Long story short - sample delivered. I just wanted to leave. En route to my car, I dropped my Timex sports watch out of my hand. It's just a blue plastic watch ($20 at Sports Authority years ago), but I love it. I turned to fetch it (slowly, mind you, since Mr. Back is still torturing me) and a little boy raced over and grabbed it from the ground just as I was leaning down. I saw his mom and said, "Oh thank you - your son rescued my watch." To which Mother of the Year replied, "Ain't yo watch now. He found it. He keeps it." And the little boy smiled and FLIPPED ME THE BIRD.

And the mother just laughed and laughed.

Holy shit, Batman!

I was so shocked, I didn't know what to say. Finally, I started to laugh. "Niiiice. You're kidding, right?"

And Mommy Dearest folded her arms, tilted her head and answered, "I ain't kiddin'. You should have been more careful. You drop it. You lose it."

I considered the capabilities of my fold-up cane, and realized it was just not an option. "Lady, get real. We're outside a medical office. I just had blood drawn from both of my hands." I held up my hands, still bandaged and taped. "I took the watch off because my hand hurt. I dropped it because my hand hurt and I wasn't gripping it tight. I'm not some human Christmas pinata. Give it back to me."

To which Momster simply said, "Too bad, bitch." And she grabbed her still-smiling mini-thug child and steered him to her car. I yelled after her, "You have got to be kidding. This is pathetic. It's not new. It's scuffed up. It's crappy. And you're getting into a Lexus!! Oh my god! How fucked up is this?!?"

I stopped at that point. Could I have called the police? Yeah, I suppose so. But the watch is probably worth a whole $2 now. There was no way I was going to call the Montgomery County Police to report the kiddie theft of a $2 plastic watch - they've got better things to do. It's just that I liked it and it will be hard for me to find another one like it again. Timex stopped making that guy a few years ago, and it was nice to have a royal blue watch I could wear all the time without fear of banging up something nice.

I would like to say something Christian like "Well, I'm sure he needed it more than I did." But that's a load of horse shit at this point. Mom was dressed better than I was. So was the kid - he was wearing a child-size leather flight jacket that the Flying Tigers would have envied. They drove off in a luxury sedan I will never be able to afford. I'm just fairly ill at whatever whackjob lesson that kid learned today about decency and morality and ethics.

Hey, Mom of the Year - I thought I would be at the head table in Hell, but I think I was just warming the seat for you. Come on down, hon!

If anybody sees an inexpensive blue plastic Timex for sale somewhere, let me know. It was a guy's watch - I have big wrists.

DAMMIT!

After that, I made the poor choice of stopping by Costco. It was an error in judgment. I had a $10 cash card to use, and I thought they might have a nice cheap watch for me. Oh, I was wrong, in so many ways. I did not buy anything. I think I was muttering "get me out of here, get me out of here, getmeouttahere" audibly.

Handy hint - don't ever use the bathroom at Costco. (I was still suffering from Dasani-a-thon 2005.) Unless you like the sights, sounds, and odors of the developing world, pass on that experience. I hadn't been in a bathroom that dirty and stinky since Central Asia. I wanted to bathe in Purell. Buckets and buckets of Purell.

Just not good.

But wait - today gets even better! Yesterday, I ordered some photos online from Kodak/CVS. Just a picture of me at my new office, so I could stick them in my already delayed holiday cards. They were to be ready at CVS at 2 p.m. today. However, the truck driver apparently misplaced my photos and, in fact, may have accidentally dumped them in a parking lot at another Maryland CVS location when making his deliveries. Maybe I'll have the pictures on Monday. Maybe not.

Wait. There's more!

When I got home, I finally had a box from A Major Publisher (who will remain nameless, since I work for them) with half the books I'd ordered as Christmas gifts for my siblings. Where the other half of the order is, no one knows. I ripped the box open, only to discover that the warehouse hadn't bothered to pack the box with any paper to keep the books from shifting, and all the dust jackets are torn and one of the books is badly damaged.

The warehouse isn't open again until next Tuesday.

And the tops of both of my hands are bruised now.

Man, I could use a drink. Will y'all have a big ol' holiday drink on my behalf?



I think I need a nap. And an attitude adjustment.

And a new damn watch.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Newsflash: The Giant Tacky Angel Gets a New Home

Much to my amazement, the Giant Tacky Angel was adopted by one of the caterers from my office's holiday party last night. The caterer was quite smitten with the angel's rickety, misshapen form and partially burned out lights. And so, gleefully, I gave him away. I hope that guy had a car because that damn thing is ginormous.

I wasn't kidding, was I?

Very sincerely, this gent was tickled pink with the angel. He said his grandkids would love it. And I hope they do. He thanked me repeatedly as we dismantled and packed the monster up. It made me feel good to make someone else so happy.

When Holiday Dork met Giant Tacky Angel

It also made me feel good to know I wouldn't have to drag that friggin' thing down M Street to my car. Of course, it would have made for a helluva story at the DC Blogger Meet-up last night.

Hello, my name is Merujo, and this is my six-foot illuminated angel. How ya doin'?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Oh my god

A Sam's Club rep was in our cafeteria today at work. I decided to renew my membership (if just for cheap eyewear) and entered a raffle they were having. They had a lovely, lovely gift basket, full of goodies. Aaaaand, they also had an enormous cardboard box that looked scary.

I won.

The big cardboard box.

(Hey, Merujo, what's in the big scary box?)

A six-foot tall white metal angel, partially assembled and fully illuminated with 450 clear twinkle lights.

Did I mention the angel weights a ton and is blowing a horn?

It's currently set up in our office hallway, as decoration for our holiday party this afternoon.

I live in a small apartment. I have no idea what the hell I'm going to do with a six-foot tall, fully illuminated metal angel.

Maybe I can drive around with him in the front seat of my car and use the HOV lanes on 270.

Photos to come...

Not a Morning Person

7:45 a.m.

Gravelly Point, on the Potomac, immediately next to National Airport.

You can do your "Wayne's World" bit and watch planes coming in right over your head. Neat, yet terrifiying.

It was cold. (That's less a smile than it is simply clenched teeth.)


8 a.m.

Downtown DC, all cherry blossoms and monuments, right?

Yeah, right. All I saw this morning were jaywalkers and dirty cars.

8:05 a.m.

Me, at work. Still cold.

Still with fake I-am-freezing smile.

I'll take a picture after I've had a cup of coffee. The world will be a better place.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

I am SO for this

Theater owners want to block cell phone signals in movie theaters. Bring it on, I say! The cellular telephone lobbying association here in DC, CTIA, says it will fight this tooth and nail, claiming people need their phones in theaters in case of emergency.

Bullshit, I say.

We've been going out to the movies for decades without cell phones, and we've done just fine, thank you. The world has continued to turn. I have a cell phone, but the thought of using it in a theater has never crossed my mind. If I have some Major Life Event going on that requires me to be available by phone 24/7 without a two-hour break, you're not going to find me at the movies, harrassing other people with my oh-so-amusing ringtones and chatter.

And let's face it - when's the last time you were in a theater and heard this:

"Hello? A heart is available for transplant right now?!? Assemble the team! I'll be right there!"

NEVER.

This is what you usually hear:

"Hey. What's up? No, I can talk. Doin' nuthin'. Just watchin' this movie..."

And if these weasels can be stopped from getting a signal, I am so very, very, very for it. So, good luck, theater owners. But beware, CTIA has a shiteload of moolah behind them. I know, I used to go to their annual international conferences for my last job. (They had Gorbachev speak at the last one I went to in Florida.) But if every irritated moviegoer in America would speak up, maybe CTIA and congress would have to listen.

Before I smack someone in a darkened theater.

Honestly.

Spelling is your friend

Seen on a big flashing sign over the Beltway tonight:

CHECKPOI AHEAD!

U DRINK
U DRIVE
U LOOSE


Now, it is certainly possible that if you drink and drive, you may also be loose. But I don't think this was the intent of the message. Perhaps Martin Lawrence now has a job programming traffic emergency signs at MDOT. Maybe I missed the line reading U SO CRAZY.

Also, I want to know what a "checkpoi" is. Will Maryland State Troopers actually verify if I am carrying pounded taro root in my car? What if I don't have any poi to check? How many points off my license? May I substitute yams or other tubers?

Went to my office Christmas party tonight at a lovely 18th century home in Georgetown. Spent time with really neat people, ate well, listened to good music, sang, and laughed harder than I have in a year. It was a good night. I finally feel like it's the holidays. Yay!

I am a Holiday Dork. Film at 11!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Goodbye, Leo McGarry

The talented actor John Spencer died today of a heart attack. Spencer played Leo McGarry, President Bartlett's Chief of Staff (prior to C.J. Cregg taking on that position) on "The West Wing." Leo McGarry was one of the most significant, well-written, and deeply layered characters ever on "The West Wing." And last season, Leo suffered a massive heart attack in the woods at Camp David. The incredible pain on John Spencer's face as he fell in the silent trees, the rest of the White House staff departing, oblivious to Leo's desperate state... well, it was really brilliantly done.

And now, sadly, I will see that scene again and know how prophetic it was.

John Spencer was a pretty young man of 58, despite looking years older. He was a talented, scrappy actor - I never cared for Tommy Mullaney, the character he played on "L.A. Law" years ago but I appreciated his skill in bringing such life to Tommy. I just looked at the IMDB, and Spencer got his start on the Patty Duke Show when he was only 17. Wow. A minuet, the Ballet Russes, and crêpes suzette... (And if you get that reference, I'll buy ya a Coke.)

Clearly, Spencer's death is going to throw "The West Wing" into a measure of chaos. Leo McGarry had been chosen as the running mate for Jimmy Smits' Congressman Santos. He was expected to be around for a long time yet.

According to E! Online, an upcoming episode scheduled for January features a debate between McGarry and his Republican opponent. Dialog culled from a West Wing spoiler blog, The West Wing Continuity Guide, notes McGarry's comments after a question on health care: "By an overwhelming percentage, the first warning symptom of a heart attack is death. I'm fortunate to be here." Indeed.

Goodbye, Leo. Goodbye, John. Rest well.

Alas, I have been downgraded and unlinked!

Up until recently - until today, in fact, I think - I had been listed as a "favorite link" on April Winchell's popular webpage. Earlier today I was still getting a few hits from her page. But, it appears I'm no longer a favorite. I have been removed from the links. Ah well! I think I should have anticipated this when she stopped responding to my occasional friendly e-mails.

My shelf life is up. I am a dusty dented can of Flava of the Month.

C'est la vie, eh?

Still cool and hip in my own mind,

Merujo Dynamite

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Narnia Schmarnia

Saw it this evening. (Another Potbelly Sandwich 'n' Movie for $10 deal, which rocks.) Bummer, though. I didn't really enjoy it. I think if I'd had kids with me, maybe. But you know, I just didn't get into the groove of it. (Although I did dig the opening sequence from inside a German bomber.) I was a pretty naive kid, and I didn't notice the overt Christian message (Messianic lion back from the dead, yadda yadda) back in the day. This time, I got it. Big time.

Ah well. I can't like every movie, eh? And I have no interest in "King Kong." Hell, I should just watch "Lord of the Rings" again on DVD. Tonight, I should have gone to see "Capote."

Of course, having Indulgent Central American Dad carry on a lively "outdoor voice" conversation with his daughter throughout the film tonight didn't help. Kids are cool, and this was a kids' movie, but c'mon papá - that little girl is learning her manners from you, dude! Cómo se dice "shut the hell up" en español?

The most exciting part of the evening was me slipping and sliding in terror on the icy bricks between the theater and my car. I'm a massive ice chicken since breaking my leg a couple of years ago. I get absolutely paralyzed with fear on ice. I think my days of hoofing it in Moscow winters is waaay over.

Insane day at work. Tomorrow will be nuts, too. I am wiped out.

Hulk tired. Sleep now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gratulerer med dagen!

I almost blew this one (and if you're in Norway, I already did blow this one.) But here, in Maryland, I've still got two hours to not be late.

So, before the 13th runs out... Happy Birthday to the Scandahoovian!

May you have a very happy birthday, indeed, and a life filled with with good health, prosperity, love and contentment. I feel lucky to count you among my friends. (And one of my friends is very lucky to have you as his girlfriend!!)

Cheers! Come back soon - the lumbering arboreal creature misses you!!


Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år!
Ja, deg vil vi gratulere.
Alle i ring omkring deg vi står
og se, nå vil vi masjere,
bukke, nikke, neie, snu oss omkring,
danse for deg med hopp og sprett og spring,
Ønske deg av hjertet alle gode ting!
Og si meg så hva vil du mere - Gratulerer!

Høyt våre flagg vi svinger, Hurra!
Ja nå vil vi riktig feste!
Dagen er din, og dagen er bra,
men du er den aller beste!
Se deg om i ringen hvem du vil ta,
dans en liten dans med den du helst vil ha!
Vi vil alle sammen svinge oss så glad
og en av oss skal bli den neste - til å feste...

20,000 Hits

I would like to thank the charming and handsome Gonzomantis for being customer #20,000 here at the Church of the Big Sky. (Well, okay, it's an illusion, since I only added StatCounter a few months in, but I'm willing to go with the illusion.)

Gonzo, I will buy you the beverage of your choice out at House of Blues in L.A. next month!! (We're gonna see Thomas Dolby! Yee-haw!!!)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Random Crapola

I found a t-shirt I want to buy and wear to the gym. I go to a very laid-back women-only gym, where I get no crap for being fat (as opposed to the Bethesda Y, where old women would come up to me and pat me while I was treadmilling and say stuff like, "Oh, isn't that nice, dear. You're trying to be like a normal person." Thus endeth my time at the Y.) Here's the shirt:

There is some truth there, no?

I'm finally playing around with the Special Ed version of Photoshop that the Sasquatch gave me. It's limited in scope, but I'm enjoying playing with the different effects, including this one, the actual name of which escapes me, but I'm calling the "Andy Warhol":

When CafePress starts offering black t-shirts in January, I may slap this on a shirt with a logo for the Church of the Big Sky. There's something nice about devil horns and a church reference. Let people wonder...

I'm considering re-opening a Yahoo! group I had a few years ago. I called it Merujo's Kitchen (or Lisseroo's Kitchen? I can't remember.) It was just a place where hip, smart women I knew could exchange recipes and just yammer about mundane life stuff (the stuff that's too boring to blog about, but it's nice to know about among friends.) It was a "creative geeks in the kitchen" kinda thing. I really dug getting cool recipes from some of the inhabitants of the group and it was nice to be in a no-pressure, conversational atmosphere were I knew everyone (and I knew there would be no freak-outs or flaming.) I disbanded it after some boneheaded loser co-opted my Yahoo address and started spamming half of the known universe. I had an "I Hate Yahoo!" moment. Lasted a few months.

The thought to revive Merujo's Kitchen came to me tonight. I have to make a cake for the office holiday party next Saturday, and the recipe for the killer chocolate chip sour cream coffee cake I'm making (bundt shape - great for the holidays - dress it up to look like a wreath) was one of the ones I shared with the Yahoo group. It was a nice group. An online kaffee klatsch.

Well, time to see if there's any interest. Maybe I'll get the band back together...


Probably not big fans of coffee cake, but I reckon they'd take a rubber biscuit.

Murphy's Law Dictates...

I haven't posted any fun-a-riffic photos of late. That's because one of the teeny little prongs on the Compact Flash reader on my computer broke off. Just plain broke off in the CF card when I pulled it out. Wham bang. That's the end of that drive.

So, I went forth to procure a USB CF card reader (god, this is compelling reading, isn't it?) Out on a foraging trip with the Sasquatch (who was preparing for his Turkey Day photo safari in New Mexico), I bought a SanDisk CF reader. $23.09 of joy, joy, joy.

Except for one thing. My computer refused to recognize the software. I reloaded that bastard 8 separate times. Every damn time, the computer claimed that the software was running. Alas, it was nowhere to be seen, and I finally gave up. Mr. SanDisk is sitting by the door, waiting to be returned to BestBuy (that wretched hive of scum and villany.)

Today, I intended to return Mr. SanDisk and try the $20 DigitalSomethingOrOther CF reader they sell at Ritz Camera. En route to Ritz, I realized I'd forgotten to bring the SanDisk one with me, so that will require yet another trek up the Pike later in the week (oh so much fun in the middle of Xmas shopping mania.) I get the one from Ritz and then hit Staples to get boxes to ship the incredibly minimal Xmas gifts I've gotten for my family. (No insult intended to my family - it's just that moolah is waaay tight. Sorry, everyone - well, sorry, Stacy, since you're the only member of the family who reads this blog!!) What do I find at Staples, but a CF card reader, dusty and unloved, on the clearance shelf. $11. I bought it. It works. Screw the SanDisk and its complicated software. Screw the one from Ritz that will just go back, unopened. This cheapo clearance card reader did not require any software. I plugged it in, and it worked.

Let's hear it for generic crap! Whoo-hoo!

And now, let the painful parade of photographs begin anew!!

Squeezy laptop-usin' Buddha sez: "We're back, bay-bee! Whoo-hoo!"
He also suggests I comb my hair and put on some makeup...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Lesson Learned

Apparently, I am allergic to the Body Shop's satsuma lotion. At least that's what I assume from the sudden swelling, burning, and itching of my hands and feet after application of the sherbet-y colored substance.

Upside: I smell all orange-y. Maybe that will take my mind off the pain...

Nope. No, it won't.

Bad

Hint to gift buyers and well-wishers: get Merujo some Aveda Foot Relief. This does not make her extremities swell and burn.

Good

Clue to Merujo: stick with the Aveda stuff. It does not make your extremities swell and burn.

Off to fill a ziploc bag with ice...

U R the Best Evah!

I'm discovering that having a full-time job means a lot less time to write out here. I'm clam-happy to be gainfully employed, but I do miss having time to post decent stuff. I've been trying to get more people to interview for "One Dozen Questions," but I've actually been turned down and/or blown off by a couple of celebrity-type people I actually know. (Maybe they read my blog and have come to the conclusion it would Not Be A Good Career Move. Who knows?)

In other news...

I've been thinking alot lately about what I call the "Cult of Blogger-ality" where well known bloggers get heaps of praise and slavish comments even for the crappiest posts. You know the type:

"Awesome! You rule!"

"You totally rock, dude!"

"YEAH! WOO-HOO!"

Yeesh. These folks don't really seem to care if their icons just type "blah blah blah bleh bleh bleh" for a whole page or offer a videoblog of them just making weird sounds for a minute. (Unless you're Laurie Anderson or David Byrne or somesuch, it's not art - you've just hit a creative wall.) No matter what the post, these guys will still fight to be first in line to say that it's the Best. Post. Ever. I think a lot of the commenters do it in the hopes of getting recognized and somehow feeling connected to the blogger in question. (Uncharitably, I think of it as the "Rosie O'Donnell Syndrome." "Please, Rosie! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!") Oy vey. It makes me sad for some of these folks.


I've actually culled the herd on the high-volume blogs I read because I can't stand the cult of bloggerality that has grown around some of them and the wild acclaim that follows each random fart into the wind. Look, for most bloggers who post every day, not every post is Hemingway or Faulkner. Don't b-s the writer into thinking that his every word is a golden gift! Fawning over each post does the writer no favor (unless said writer is just a raving egomaniac) and makes the reader look desperate and sad. It also makes me wonder if the superfan has even bothered to READ the post.

Feh.

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed this, too? Maybe I'm just getting really crotchety with the cold weather.

I've read a number of contemplative posts in recent weeks about "why we blog." (I've said before, for me, it's fun and cathartic, and I like to write. I have a lot of silly stories to tell, and I'd like to build my skills to the point where I write a book eventually. Blogging is never going to make me famous and no one is going to pay me $3K a pop to put ads up here, but it's nice to know that a handful of people enjoy the words I churn out.)

A good deal of the recent navel-gazing comes from folks with high-traffic blogs, and I cannot help but wonder if the introspection comes from the unending praise lavished on them for even the lamest content. I think it has to ring very hollow after a while for any normal person and must be disconcerting. Frankly it would creep me out if people heaped accolades on the crummier stuff I produce. It would start to disturb me - especially if it was the same person or persons doing this time and time again. As a writer, I simply wouldn't trust - or want - feedback and comments from the blown-pupil crowd. Hell, I'd turn the comments off, like Dooce did. (Not a big Dooce fan, by the way - I understand why she became popular, and I visit every once in a while. Friends tell me she is a consistently good writer, but I'm just not that into reading about the growth of her toddler. So, sue me.)

I'd love to know what some of the popular bloggers think about this - there are a number of people who seem to be able to ignore and filter the drooling fan comments and continue to write solid content - they're not just playing to the lowest common denominator, in some "bread and circuses" move. Interestingly, many of these bloggers are folks who don't post every single day - there are pauses between their well-considered writing. And I'll continue to visit their sites again and again. I may not comment very often, but I always appreciate Good Writing.

So, is it just me? Anyone else feel this way?

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'll be ho' for Christmas...

'Tis the season for people to see just what their neighbors will tolerate!

Like Joe Moretti of Cranston, Rhode Island, who, for some odd reason, thinks that people will enjoy large pictures of Paris Hilton rather than traditional holiday fare. Moretti says he's just being creative, and he wants his neighbors to "see a little bit of Hollywood or New York -- bring it to Cranston." Ooookay, Joe. Not to be an ass, but you know, you could do that with big pictures from "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Miracle on 34th Street" and no one would have to associate Christmas with a pathetic rich chick we've all seen give Shannen Doherty's ex a blow job. But, thanks for playin', Joe!

Putting the "ho" in "holidays"...

And now, let's pay a visit to Ron Stroia of Miami Beach, Florida, who's sharing his holiday cheer by stringing up a life-size Santa figure in a tree. With a noose. Did I mention that Santa is blindfolded and bound, too? I'm not sure what the message is, Ron, but I have a funny feeling it's not "be of good cheer!"

Ho ho noooo! What fresh hell is this?


A "better" view of Saint Nick, well hung.

I dig the holiday season - be it Christmas, Hanukkah (spelling of your choice), Kwanzaa, or the Winter Solstice you celebrate. I like evergreen and twinkle lights and Johnny Mathis and Barbara Streisand singing holiday tunes on those old Texaco buy-em-when-you-fill-up Christmas LPs of long ago. I like the National Christmas Tree (although I hate the traffic on the night of the lighting), and I love the big menorah out across from White Flint Mall. I don't like shopping, although I love giving gifts. I enjoy sitting at home, alone, with only candles and the lights of my little apartment-sized fake tree (made in Thailand) illuminating the room. I like Christmas cookies (even though they're very, very bad for me) and old movies and musicals on TV. (TBS or TNT - please stop playing that stupid 24-hour marathon of "A Christmas Story", okay? Too much of a good this is really, really awful.) I like making my own Christmas and Hanukkah cards (I even got a rockin' "Happy Hanukkah" rubber stamp for this year, if I can find the dang thing.)

And honestly - and this may sound naive, particularly since I can be such an incredibly jaded and snarky grinch at times - I don't get trying to screw with your neighbors for the holidays. It just seems pointless. If you feel the need to hang Santa from a tree or display Paris Hilton as your way of saying "Here's yer holiday, buddy!" consider, instead, spending your decorating budget next year on something like Heifer International or buying some Toys for Tots.

And then, just maybe, your neighbors might go in on a gift card for therapy for you. Don't they sell those in grocery stores, up at the check-out next to the the $25 Red Lobster/HomeDepot/iTunes gift cards? If not, here's a golden opportunity for someone! Lord knows, I could use one, and I'm not even hanging and blindfolding Santa...

Happy Chrismukwanzikah, y'all!


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Is it just me...

I saw the new Harry Potter movie on Monday night. I just had this hankering at work that afternoon, so I headed up the Pike to the Rockville Regal 13, wisely avoiding the Hell Traffic on 270. The parking lot was a wasteland thanks to the dusting of snow that freaked most people into Donner Party mode, which made me very happy - I love going to movies in nearly empty theaters. No cell phones, no yapping VCR-at-home-raised fools. It's marvelous. I stopped at the Potbelly Sandwich place next door - they do a deal - dinner and a movie for $11 ($3.99 for the sandwich and $6 for the movie ticket, which is a screaming deal in the evening.) The sign in the window said that the movie ticket was seven bucks, but, for sure, they only charged me six. I'm not complaining.

I ate my "Wreck" (damn tasty sandwich, but the Sasquatch is right - Potbelly is stingy with their pickles) and headed next door to Regal. It truly was like a ghost town. Excellent! Downstairs, five bored teens stood like zombies behind the refreshment counter. There was no one to serve and nothing to do. One girl told me she was really sick and wanted to go home. I asked someone else to pour my drink. (Yum! Nothing says tasty and wholesome like a sick kid handing out your snacks!)

I got pissed off though when I got to Theater 7, as there was a sign on the door saying that the heat was broken - if I wanted my money back, I could return to the box office.

Okay, this is simply UNCOOL. If you have a movie running in a theater with no heat and it's 25 degrees outside, you have a responsibility to let people know BEFORE they buy their tickets. This is not the first time this has happened at the Rockville Regal. I sat through one of the Lord of the Rings movies with mittens on my hands and a scarf wrapped around my head. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that this is simply Regal's way of saving money on their heating bills. Whatever the reason, it stinks. Hey, Regal peeps! Fix your friggin' heat!!

Still, I stayed. I wanted to see Harry Potter. Fortunately, I only started to feel the cold in the last half hour, so it wasn't a horrible experience. There were only five other people in the theater, and I think they were: 1)as appreciative as I was of a quiet, nearly empty theater, and 2)pissed off about the heat thing.

All in all, the movie wasn't bad. It wasn't great, either. It was a wee bit too long, and it didn't have the character of the previous film. (If you want to read a good post that takes on Irritating Things About This Movie, visit Javier's LiveJournal. Fan of Harry Potter though I am, I agree with him on the stuff that drives him crazy.)

So, where does all this lead? To this one thing, my friends. When Ralph Fiennes finally appears on the scene as Voldemort, I felt like I'd seen him done up like this before.

And I had.

For the Voldemort makeup job reminded me oh so much of the English Patient, post-burns. Shame on me, but that's what I kept thinking. "Oh, Ralph Fiennes is in his burn patient gear again..." Well, in truth, I guess it's more like "the English Patient meets Nosferatu." But close enough. I have to wonder if Fiennes or the makeup artist thought about that...

The original Death Eaters

"Narnia" is out this weekend. I so hope it rocks. I'm hearing mixed reviews of "King Kong." I've never been a fan of Kong, so I'm not particularly excited about that one. "Narnia" rings my bells, though, as I read the books again and again as a kid. Anyone else remember the BBC TV version a million years ago?

Here's hoping for something good!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Return of the Unicorn Tattoo!

I wish I could find a screen capture of this tattoo. Garish, awful, and yet, I could not turn away...

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quick Question

If I were to actually sit down and write a book about my crazy travel experiences, would any of you folks read it?

I'm at the "just curious" stage right now...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Those unfortunate life lessons

Tonight I found out that liquid dishwasher detergent can go bad if left in the cupboard long enough. Let's just say that the chemicals in an economy-size bottle of lemon-y fresh Sunlight automatic dishwasher detergent break down after a while. Things happen. Clumps and lumps occur. Sedimentary layers are created. And, if you decide to empty out the jumbo plastic container for recycling, odors eminate.

Bad odors.

I had no idea that lemon-y soap could turn into a sludge that smells just like fresh dog turds.

Oh god, I didn't.

And now, with the temperatures hovering in the 30s, I have every apartment window open, in the hopes of ridding my home of parfum du doggie poop. And I need a shower because the stink is on my hands.

Two things to remember: 1)don't buy extra detergent just because it's on sale, and 2) if you do, don't forget about it long enough for it to mutate.

Guess I'll be piling on the extra blankets for sleeping tonight. There's no way the windows are getting closed yet.

Holding my nose, shivering, and hoping I won't still have stinky hands in the a.m.,

Merujo

Go visit the Sasquatch!

The elusive Mr. Squatch has posted a three-part Turkey Day adventure in New Mexico on his blog.

See him on a horse! See pretty desert skies! Read his rarely seen words! Encourage him to write more stuff!

You can find the Sasquatch at The Patterson Film. Do not laugh at his horseriding helmet (which makes him look a little... special...)

What if... Volume III

Stick. A. Fork. In. Me.

I am soooo done.

My third foray into time travel cinema turned out to be a Christian family film. At the heart of the movie was the belief that the teaching of morals "without the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ" was useless, and, without Jesus at the heart of everything, the whole world was headed for Hell in a handbasket. A bible scholar from 1890 is sent to the year 2000-ish to see that America is now crap because you can't teach Bible studies in public schools, people at church seem bored, and clothing stores sell dresses that incite lustful feelings in young men. Sigh. I did a lot of fastforwarding, but, after 1 hour of pontificating and posturing and hearing how everyone - regardless of the religion of their birth - needed Jesus, I was feeling a little freaked out. The lack of Jesus in everyone's life, by the way, is blamed for the high divorce rate in America. I guess this means that, if you have Jesus in your life, you might just be willing to ignore domestic violence or cheating or any of that other good stuff, huh?

I should have stopped before the movie started. It had an announcement about contacting the filmmakers if you wanted to show the movie to your church group. It also offered up a website where you could find out about more Jesus-centric movies and noted that this was a "Rich Christiano Film." Rich Christiano. Rich Christian. Get it?

I think this would make a nice Bible Camp movie. But since I'm not a nice Bible Camp girl, it's going back to Netflix. My great time travel extravaganza is over. I'm gonna take a hot shower and read a book.

My brain hurts.

What if... Volume II

...or, You Lost Me at Eating While Peeing.

Time travel movie #2, Freedom Deep, has been deep sixed. I made it through 43 minutes of this crap, but only by fast forwarding through large chunks. There's no dialogue and the film is clearly the creation of a frustrated music video director. (Either that, or he really wanted to make "The Wall.") It's Australian, and usually I'm a big fan of Australian indie film. This, however, blows.

Freedom Creep? Freedom Bleak? Oh, forget it.
This movie's too dismal to try to be funny.


It's the story of a neglected kid who finds inspiration in the music of Kurt Cobain, and, after a journey where he runs away from home and is adopted by a fringey gay couple, he eventually becomes a prophet after some apocalyptic war in the early 21st century. (All I know is, the world is one big desert by 2018.) Kurt Cobain's ghost plays a role in the film, but I couldn't be bothered to watch that far in. I was too grossed out by the kid's hideous, drooling father who pees into a bedpan under the dining room table while eating Mum's nasty-looking stew.

I'm off to try Movie #3, which, god help me, features Gavin McLeod and Hal Linden. No, it's not old. It's from 2002. A time travel movie from 2002 with Cap't Steubing and Barney Miller. This will be quite something...

What if... Volume I

I rented a pile of time travel movies from Netflix, and last night I watched the first of the bunch: TimeQuest. This one I rented at the recommendation of my brother Ed. And I am going to have to assume that Ed was: 1)heavily medicated, 2)temporarily insane, or 3)just pulling my leg when he told me to watch this piece of dreck.

The premise is interesting: what if someone was to travel back in time and not only stop the Kennedy assassination, but also convince JFK to stop screwing around behind his wife's back, stop Vietnam from happening, show RFK how to bring down J. Edgar Hoover (played by the ever-odd Larry Drake), and make the space race with the Soviets into a space partnership. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, perhaps in the hands of competent filmmakers, yes. But the folks who made this movie didn't have a lot of talent or vision, and they clearly didn't have a lot of money either. (And what they had appears to have been completely blown on a useless, phoned-in 2-scene cameo by Bruce Campbell playing some low-rent Oliver Stone-type. But Bruce did bring the film it's only humor, so he gets points for that.)

TimeWaste

I'm not sure what bothered me more about the film - the horribly weak script (with no ending at all) or the awful acting from most of the cast (oh lord, the woman playing Jackie was dreadful!) I give a pass to the following people: Victor Slezak as JFK, who did the most he could with the crap he was given, Barry Corbin in a 5-second cameo as Lyndon Johnson, and Ralph "The Waltons" Waite as the Time Traveler, who was actually touching, despite having little of depth to say to move the film forward.

I think one of the things I found most annoying was the central premise that the Time Traveler really only came back to change things because he had a childhood crush on Jackie, not because he wanted to save JFK. All he wants from the Kennedys for saving their collective asses is to dance with Jackie. Which he does, in this Texas hotel room, at 12:30 on November 22, 1963, with JFK and RFK sitting on the sofa two feet away. Dancing in his space/time travel suit, with Jackie in her pink one. I found it creepy.

I dunno. I think this film's concept had promise, but it needed a script doctor (and more cash) in a big, ugly way - the cuts between the past and the future were awkward and hard to follow. The actual lines spoken? Oh man, I might as well be honest here. The whole damn thing sounded like it was written by someone who's usual genre is soft core porn for Showtime or Skinamax. (Especially when we needlessly see Marilyn Monroe's funbags for a few seconds. Poor Norma Jean...)

The weird thing is that there was no crisis of any sort in the new future - the Kennedys had brought about a colony on the moon, there was no Vietnam, and everything was hunky dory. Maybe that's because, in this vision of the world, there was no Teddy. (I'm just guessin' there...) But, seriously - just keeping JFK alive makes the world a beautiful tomorrow? New Frontier, sure. Shangri-la? Awww, c'mon people, get real!

Next up from Netflix: a poet/philosopher goes back in time to remember his youth inspired by Kurt Cobain. Let the sucking commence!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Wintry Mix Man Cometh...

Temperatures here in the DC area have finally plummeted to what I describe as "Chilly Willy Weather." (I'm referring to the cartoon penguin, by the way, so keep that mind above the belt there, mister!) I have hauled out the winter coats and $1 stretchy gloves (never buy me nice ones - I will lose them), and I have my slip-on shoe spikes, de-icer, and the cool ice scraper (with built-in mitten cover!) by the door.


For, you see, tonight comes our first round of "wintry mix." Wintry mix is something that, if it happened back in the Midwest, would be greeted with barely a shrug. Feh, cold is cold. And snow, ice, sludge, angel snot, whatever - it's all just to be expected. People still go to work and school. Commerce and government do not grind to a halt. The world continues on it's petty pace.

This image reminds me of a particularly tasteless joke about a penguin, car repair, and the gluttonous consumption of ice cream. I'll spare you the joke, but the punchline is: Mechanic: Looks like you've blown a seal. Penguin: Oh, no, no! It's just vanilla ice cream!

Here, however, in "We Can't Handle Weather Central," chaos reigns supreme when wintry mix comes to town. I didn't go to the grocery store today, but I'm sure there were people stocking up as if they were expecting to be the next Donner Party. Bread, milk, and toilet paper flies off the shelves anytime snow is predicted here. It's so legendary that the Maryland Lottery actually came up with a snarky scratch-off ticket where you had match milk, bread, and toilet paper for a cash win. I think it may have been called the "Christ, We're A Bunch of Panicky Pansy-Ass Weather Wimps!" scratcher.

Then again, I may be wrong on that one...

This actually came from a "Chilly Willy" tattoo website. I shit you not. I'm not even going to guess what Chilly Willy might represent in prison tattoos...

According to Weather.com, we'll have snow and sleet tonight, turning to rain by Sunday morning. Fine and dandy except for the fact that the temps are in the low 30s, which means icy crap all over and motorists who don't know how to drive in winter conditions. I was going to go see Harry Potter tomorrow morning, but I think I'll be sleeping in and watching one of the 4 time travel movies I got from Netflix instead. Ah well.

But here's the kicker from the National Weather Service: "A more significant snow event is possible Monday into early Tuesday... there is potential for significant snowfall that would be capable of causing major travel delays and school cancellations." Again, "significant snowfall" is a relative concept. A significant snowfall in my hometown in Illinois is when you are waistdeep in white stuff and can't get to the car. A significant snowfall in DC is when you have to dust flakes off your Washington Post when you reach for it on the porch in the a.m.

Two inches of snow can utterly debilitate the federal government. Not that I'm opposed to a day off or a morning to snooze and watch all the "Judge shows," but the closures are sometimes laughable. My employers follow the federal guidelines, so I have to watch the news carefully to see if we have: 1)outright closures, 2)delayed openings, 3)unscheduled or liberal leave, or 4)we're open regular hours - good luck fighting with the other commuters in getting here on time! Yeehaw!

Local school systems seem to close here now if one flake hits the ground and sticks. It's fairly ridiculous most times, and I feel for the kids who have the most screwed up learning atmospheres anyway, between spilled mercury, football game shootings/stabbings/beatings, and the occasional teacher with a bad, bad secret or administrator snarfing all the petty - and not-so-petty - cash. Parents must want to pull their hair out - sometimes the DC schools don't decide to close until after many parents have dropped kids off. It's a mess.

So, here we are, Snow Miser. Bring it on. It's time for another dysfunctional winter in Our Nation's Capital.

(He's Mister White Christmas. He's Mister Ten Below...)

Dammit. I'm out of bread and toilet paper.

Friday, December 02, 2005

One Dozen Questions with Frank Warren of PostSecret.com

As promised yesterday, I'm delighted to present one dozen questions with Frank Warren, creator of PostSecret.com and author of PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives, freshly released and currently #24 on Amazon.com's list of most popular books.

In NPR's "All Things Considered" feature about PostSecret, you mentioned that some of your own secrets have become part of the project. Are there any secrets of Frank Warren in the book? Yes, My secret is in the book. I think if you read the introduction it is not too difficult to figure out which one is mine.

How many postcards are featured in the book? Is it a mix of never before seen images and cards that have been featured on the web and in other forms of your project? Three pounds worth of secrets, I have not counted but I would guess between 300 an 400. There some cards that have never been seen before in the book and some that people have really responded to from the web. It is a mix.

Do you find that there are a handful of prevailing themes in the cards you receive, or are people's secrets really as diverse as the variety you share with us? The details of the secrets tend to change but the emotions and themes of cards are something we can all relate to: loneliness, remorse, humiliation, humor, anxiety about relationships and our relationship to food, secret acts of kindness to name a few.

Do you have an all-time favorite among the secrets you've posted - or one that has affected you more than any other? I do not have favorites but one card does stay with me. One side is a picture of a bedroom mirror with some items tucked in the frame. The other side reads, “I steal small things from my friends to keep reminders of how much I love them.” I don’t know if that is tragic or funny but to me it is poetry.

How many postcards have you received to date? Do you get a steady flow of submissions daily? I get about 350 a week and have over 10,000.

From how many countries have you received cards? I have received secrets from many countries and in different languages.

Some cards clearly arrive damaged in transit, but you still post them, even if the message is lost or indecipherable. It can be very poignant to view these. What do you see in these damaged, transformed items? I think the damage that can affect the meaning of the card can add to the beauty and meaning. I also think that it says something about the nature of secrets. They can never be fully understood.

Do you find when you have an exhibition or go to an event where people know you are Mr. PostSecret that people share secrets with you on the spot? Yes. I tend to attract secrets now.

I'm fascinated with the reader e-mails - good and bad - you share on PostSecret.com. Do you respond to these messages, or do you simply post them as part of the project? I try to respond to most of the positive messages. I do get some negative ones too. I usually take more time to craft a response to the negative message but then I delete them rather then sending them.

You started PostSecret as a project for Artomatic here in DC. Are you still involved in Artomatic? Yes. I fully support Artomatic. For me it was a wonderful gateway. I like to think of it as the equivalent of punk rock for art.

I love the cover of the book - just a plain postcard addressed to you and mailed from Olympia, Washington. Is that graphic design magic, or is it the back of an actual submission? That comes from the art director at Harper Collins.

Will the PostSecret book make a wonderful holiday gift? Should we buy more than one copy and help you continue this project? Thanks for the softball question. I would appreciate it if people would buy multiple copies, it might allow me to convince my wife to let me to keep the site up for another year.


One Dozen Questions is a new feature here at the Church of the Big Sky. Look for dozens more questions put to intriguing bloggers and other folks soon!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

PostSecret: the Book - have you bought your copy yet?

Most visitors to the Church of the Big Sky know that my Sunday night addiction is PostSecret.com, the art project where people anonymously share their secrets on the backs of postcards. Each PostSecret postcard tells someone's story – a hope, a dream, a fear, a sin – and is art and confession and catharsis, all at once. Start reading, and you'll get hooked, I guarantee.


A sample of what you find at PostSecret.com.
This was my favorite card in the most recent update on Sunday.


The creation of Frank Warren of Germantown, Maryland, PostSecret has become a global Internet phenomenon, fascinating, touching and amusing people around the world with each week's fresh thoughts. Time.com named PostSecret one of it's 50 Coolest Websites of 2005 and Technorati lists PostSecret.com as the second most popular blog in the entire blogosphere (exceeded in popularity only by Boing Boing.) And, this week saw the release of PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives, a hardcover collection of hundreds of the thousands of cards Frank has received since he started the project in the autumn of 2004 as his contribution to DC's acclaimed Artomatic event.


The cover of the book. Very cool in its simplicity.


Frank has kindly offered to answer some questions for me about the PostSecret book and the PostSecret phenomenon. He is one busy guy though - along with the book (and his day job and his family and general Life Stuff), Frank is busy preparing for his next PostSecret exhibition in Georgetown (sponsored by the Washington Program for the Arts/Corcoran, December 15 – January 6), so we may have a wee wait for those answers. In the meantime, I asked Frank if he had any favorite websites or blogs to recommend to folks and he says he likes these guys: FOUND and the Wooster Collective.

Enjoy

PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives is available now. First week sales are very, very important, so, if you love PostSecret and want to help Frank keep the project going, hie thee to Amazon.com or one of these fine purveyors of the written word (and altered postcards) and buy a copy for yourself and one for a friend. You never know – you may find yourself somewhere in those pages.