March 30, 2012

More Fun With Traffic Sources

A selection of recent search terms that have landed unsuspecting persons in the snarky blue waters of SMLTS...

"public domain silver tabby cat"
Because The Man weighs down mass market tabby cats with DRM and rootkits. (I will leave it to you to develop a terrible "Here, rootkittykittykitty!" pun, because I am obviously above that.)

"best sweet corn steamer in the market"
See, you make one throwaway joke about the lone Iowan stereotype (HAHAHA corn, amirite?), and all of a sudden you're a consumer authority on an obscure small kitchen appliance. Or perhaps you simply benefit from the probability that nobody else blogged the term "corn steamer" over the winter.

"male chastity tattoo"
If you are fortunate enough to have no idea what that's about, for the love of all that is holy don't Google it.

"mustard color paint"/ "mustard color living room" / assorted variants
I get a steady trickle of hits from people who evidently dream wistfully of having the kind of paint job that I eradicated with extreme prejudice upon buying my house.  Free advice?  Your living room walls shouldn't spark a deep-seated craving for hot dogs.

He Who Steals My Purse Steals Trash

Kicking and screaming, I was dragged a little further into spring today. Time for the dreaded seasonal purse switch.

This, of course, entailed emptying out the contents of my wintertime workhorse. A generous rip in the lining, just perfectly placed between pockets, threw junk into a maze that would have confounded Theseus.  But I recovered all the paper and loose change. I think.  Out came the brush, the cosmetics, the wallet, the tiny umbrella... out came the crumpled receipts, the escaped Tic-Tacs, the old grocery lists.

(And don't dare get all superior about this clutter, guys, unless you have never pulled the ol' "Honey, would you put this in your purse for me?" I'm still finding the ex's lactose intolerance pills everywhere. I think they bred uncontrollably, like over-the-counter Tribbles.  Or I guess they could have been hiding under torn lining. Sigh.)

There are some rather clever purses on the market that are designed to be used with changeable exterior panels.  But without a little forced defragmentation, I would find myself hopelessly drowning in a sea of fuzzy cough drops and discarded Post-Its.  It is best to embrace life's small passages.  For this...  this is fuzzy Benadryl season.

March 29, 2012

Thursday Linkdump

Community tonight: The return of the blanket fort.  We must indeed live in the best of all possible worlds.  

Further evidence:


Related...  Great piece on Wrecking Ball from Leonard Pitts, Jr. : "That is what America is — hope and defiance in the face of challenge — and there is something oddly patriotic in Springsteen’s evocation of that in these hard times. Not the easy patriotism of Lee Greenwood’s song and children waving sparklers on July 4th, but the hard and determined patriotism of those who will be down, but never stay down, never accept the gap between the America that is and the one that ought to be."

And in the Other America, there's this...  It's a submarine!  It's a killer whale!  Doesn't this seem like the kind of thing that would crop up in the old Batman TV series?

....speaking of which, this clip is everywhere online this week, so why not on SMLTS?  Enjoy all of the window cameos from said teevee masterpiece, Citizen:


Here's something for the ol' LinkedIn profile...  I got 100% on this quiz on 60s and 70s food fads.  And I would love some Jello 1-2-3 right now.

The Week We All Ran Around With "Zou Bisou, Bisou" Stuck In Our Heads

I actually was planning to do a nice, prompt recap of the Mad Men premiere, but I didn't get to start watching until 11:00 Sunday, which meant I was up until 1 AM, which would normally be prime writing time, except I felt uncharacteristically zonked by then.  Huh, I thought, didn't think much about it...

Monday midmorning, I became barely aware that something had been deposited on my bedside table.  Here is something you should know about my mother: She firmly believes that Coca-Cola can heal the sick and quite possibly raise the dead.  It was probably uncertain at this point which of those two camps could claim me; that the Holy Waters had come, unbidden, was not an encouraging sign.  Yes, friends, I was quite ill.  Not in the fun, cheery, hip hop sense.  No, more like the kinda scary "Hey, water, could you possibly consider staying down there after I drink you, kthxbye?" sense.

No fears, folks, I'll spare you the gory details except to confirm that food poisoning totally sucks and tends to really muck with your firm intention to write something coherent.

Well, at this point in the week, there's not any point in doing a straight recap... so here's a collection of extremely random thoughts.  Spoilers after the jump. You have been warned.

March 28, 2012

Yes, I Almost Did It Just To Entertain You People...

As anyone who knows me knows, I love puttering around in the kitchen.

I also have a somewhat unholy love of cereal marshmallows.

I know, it's weird.  I have a strong streak of food snobbery running through my being, like a delightful ribbon of beef fat marbling a good steak.  I rail mercilessly against the abomination that is margarine, against scary meat slime, against the whole Sandra Lee school of ranch-dressing-and-Cool-Whip cookery.

But I cannot get enough of those crunchy little morsels of magical deliciousness. They're sweet and cheery and uncomplicated; they make no pretense of being anything other than what they are.  In a world full of acquired tastes and excessively character-building experiences, cereal marshmallows say "You know what? Just settle down and have some pink sugar.  See?  All better now?" And it is.

So, it was with great moral confusion that I regarded this post about making your own cereal marshmallows.

My first reaction was "I am about to become one of those people who gets too big to leave their own home."

My second reaction was relief, as I read the recipe and realized that even I wasn't going to mess around with this kind of fiddliness. Yeesh. Cutting out each individual morsel with aspic cutters?  Maybe.  Homemade corn syrup? Leaving the marshmallows to dry uncovered, for days on end, in a house containing one (1) recreationally destructive Viking cat? Wait, back up, homemade corn syrup?

It's kind of cool that someone hacked the recipe...  I mean, you know, Maker pride and all that.  But the Zen of the cereal marshmallow lies in mindless enjoyment.  I shall wave a white flag with dignity and, um, order a bag of cereal marshmallows online.

March 25, 2012

I Am Not Too Hip To Do An Endzone Dance, Right Here, Right Now.

Indeed it is.
While there is an undeniable extra level of awesome with the whole iPad factor, the real takeaway from this article is that you can download the entire run of Spy magazine.  This is one of the top reasons for the internet to exist, aside from clothed cats and naked people.

Spy was sort of an long-form, analog Gawker.  Sort of.  The publication that fed my budding snark and gave me an everlasting affection for the word "preternatural," it was one of the cultural lifelines that kept me sane growing up in Somerset.

And it's now happily nesting on my hard drive.  The future: I (heart) it.

BONUS POINTS: Spy was in fact named in tribute to the magazine in The Philadelphia Story.  This and similar tidbits are to be found in Spy: The Funny Years, used copies of which are now really really really cheap, because Fate likes to point and giggle when I pay full price for something.

March 24, 2012

Randomness

This is a fascinating reminder of how nothing, even the past, is free of surprise... While scanning glass-plate negatives, an archivist stumbled upon a picture of FDR (then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy) attending a keel-laying ceremony for Battleship 39.  In and of itself, the long-forgotten photograph is an interesting glimpse at the future President as he was in 1914, vigorous and still untouched by polio.  But in one of those novelistic touches Fate enjoys throwing in to reality just to keep things interesting, Battleship 39 would later be known as the USS Arizona.  Primary sources FTW.

*-*-*-*
MOM: Pretty nice article.
ME: Yeah.
MOM: Lousy picture of you.
ME: Yeah.
*-*-*-*

Pigeons love the roof on the house across the street.  It appears to be something of a singles hangout, the Chauncey's of the wild bird set.  (Yes, I am admitting that my demo is such that I am unaware of what the successor to Chauncey's is.  Probably something like "Madison's House of Alcopop, Disproportionately Loud Bass, and While-U-Wait Body Modification.")  Anyway, point is, pigeons probably don't sound any goofier when trying to pull off a pickup line than humans do.  But the cat only finds one of them amusing.

*-*-*-*

ACTUAL (ANNOTATED) EXCERPT FROM GIANT EAGLE'S PINK SLIME PRESS RELEASE:
 "While Boneless Lean Beef Trim [BLBT]* is USDA- and FDA-approved** and has been*** considered safe and nutritious for more than 20 years, recent media attention on BLBT has prompted questions, confusion and a decline in consumer confidence in the product****. After careful review of feedback from our customers*****, Giant Eagle has decided that, effective immediately, the company will no longer source fresh ground beef containing BLBT.******"


*It is uncalled-for to refer to this product as "pink slime" merely because it is slime that is pink.
**NEYPA, the National Ewww Yuck Patooie Administration, registers a dissenting opinion. 
***Odd choice of tense there, no?
****This is not the beef you are looking for.
*****Crap, nobody wants to buy our $3/lb. adulterated meat anymore!  I mean, our extremely appealing Boneless Lean Beef Trim [BLBT]!
******HINT: If it has been processed with ammonia and is easily confused with a vat of strawberry-flavored canned icing, it is not "fresh" anything, and only arguably "beef."

March 23, 2012

Something More Than A Seasonal Thing

Flowering trees are among my very favorite things in the world, and the world has been jam-packed with 'em this week. Daffodils... freshly-budded shrubs... soft, warm breezes under perfectly blue skies. It's really lovely. It's just that it's... you know... barely Spring. I'm torn between being swept up in the unspeakable beauty of the awakening landscape and being unnerved at the very core of my soul.

We've been talking about setting up the air conditioner in the finished attic.  I've been frantically sticking moleskin strips to sandals in an effort to avoid getting sliced up my new shoes. Ice cream sandwiches have reappeared in the freezer. The nightly ritual of closing and locking the windows is back in full swing. It is March. March has been doing a remarkable impression of May.

It's pleasant, now, if you can avoid thinking of what this summer--and future summers--might bring.

March 20, 2012

So, This Guy Walks Into A Media Firestorm...

I don't know how you feel.

There it is. That's the big problem. That's the thing that got a number of people in trouble in the last week or so.

We humans love talking about ourselves. We love talking about others. We love finding out what happens next.

And that is how empathy finds the sustenance it needs. I don't know how you feel, but you can tell me.

Storytelling is one of the very most basic human impulses; embellishment is not far behind. A factually good story doesn't always mean a narratively good story, and the temptation arises to fudge the facts to conform to emotion. (Witness Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert's groundbreaking work re: Truthiness.)

Narrative passes an account of experience from person to person; as in many methods of reproduction, accuracy is lost from transfer to transfer. Throw in some geographical distance, some time, a language barrier, and the layers between one human mind and another are as many-layered and fragile as phyllo.

Add a self-aggrandizing personality and a gift for drama into the mix, and... well. Hello, Mike Daisey. Greetings, Jason Russell.

Neither of these guys would have caused so much tsuris had they not been great storytellers. People make stuff up on the internet all the time. People manipulate facts all the time. But when actual events and satisfying fabrications are crafted together into compelling pieces of storytelling, it is a profound abuse of the power of narrative. The opportunity to convey real experience--the stuff true empathy is made of--is collateral damage.

At best, the Mike Daisey debacle might spark a renaissance in fact-checking; the Kony 2012 mess might remind citizens of the profound value of established international development organizations. The genuinely troubling fallout of these narrative efforts--neither completely false, neither truly honest--is the battering of a great many kind people's sense of trust.

Empathy asks us, first, to trust. It relies upon secondhand knowledge. It is at once vital and fragile, easily corrupted, easily abused, but the font of all that is deep and worthy about human contact.

An honorable storyteller is a vessel of trust.

March 19, 2012

Giving In To The Inevitable

Cleaning and I don't get along very well.  I, like Nature, abhor a vacuum.

But I absolutely can't put it off any longer.  This is the big day.  This is the day I switch over the bedlinens to their summer* configuration.

Into the wash with everything--everything!  Even the mattress pad and the dumb little pillowcase things under the pillowcases.  (WHY THE HELL DOES A PILLOW NEED UNDERWEAR?  Isn't this the kind of thing they should explain in home ec, rather than attempting to simulate teen parenthood by making you carry around a potted plant for a week**?)  It's hard to describe how much I hate doing this.  The only chore I despise more than doing laundry*** is making the bed, and this is a steroidal double feature.

At least I have bunches of fiddly stuff to do today--odds and ends of correspondence and such--that will dovetail nicely with having to run up and down the stairs every 45 minutes or so.

Whee.

*I remembered today that I have an Easter sweater.  Ha!  Related: There is no climate change.
**If your plant cries, you're doing it wrong.  Also, you may want to check to see exactly which species of plant they gave you.
***Harry Truman said that nobody should ever have to wash someone else's socks or underwear.  Even in the White House, he did his own, much to the consternation of the White House domestic staff.  Stubborn Taurus, Represent!

March 14, 2012

Because Of Course I Did

Yes, yes, PIE ARE SQUARE!
(Granted, key lime with a crumb crust is a bit of a cop out.)

March 13, 2012

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be A Linkdump

  • CVS is deploying detergent lojacks (link via Jason Togyer).  (They aren't saying in how many markets, but I saw 'em in Oakland around Christmas.  Haven't seen such a high concentration of mag tags since the last time I went to Payless.)  Don't know if I buy the proffered "lucrative black market" explanation for the rampant shoplifting--sheesh, surely there are easier things to pilfer in volume than 96-ounce plastic jugs?  Me and my homes Occam are going with "detergent that actually gets things clean is insanely expensive and lots of people are broke right now."  


  • If you haven't seen it yet--and if you are NOT ON YOUR WORK COMPUTER--you should check out Heavy Browsing.  It's a sort of fashion-forward (?) Regretsy, pulling a selection of hilariously awful clothing together for our amusement.  And it makes me laugh until I start snorting.


  • Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has some very smart things to say about his own work and influences, the jazz/BAM controversy, and the evolving ways we listen to music.  Also, if I may employ some technical musical terminology, he kicks ass.



  • From the Museum of Things That Would Be Hilarious Except They Really Happened And Thus Chip Away At My Faith In Human Nature: Nazi regulations for dance orchestras.  The brownshirts were not down with pretty much anything interesting, including but by no means limited to "Jewishly gloomy lyrics," "Freemasonic yowls," and "the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs)."


I think we need a moment of catharsis.



Ahh.  Now, just imagine that he died with oompah music stuck in his head.  Even better, right?

I Can't Be The Only One

While I myself am not a comic book geek, a whole bunch of my friends are. This means I have spent a lot of time killing time at comic book stores, finding myself perilously close to purchasing the lone interesting-to-me object in the vicinity, an action figure of Mohinder from Heroes.  (It pleaded to me, in a small plastic voice, not to hold it responsible for the final two seasons.)

You would think, after hearing my guys prattle on about the upcoming Avengers movie since approximately the dawn of Time, that I would stop having the following thought process:

1). Oh boy!


2). Oh, wait.


3). Oh.

To Every Thing There Is A Season

It is now time to face the great dilemma, the question that faces us all, the question we can only hope to be able to answer honestly and fully and wisely when the time comes:

Is it time to take the flannel sheets off the bed?

(Sophie votes "no," but then any given cat is never in favor of being moved off the bed, where OF COURSE the cat is sleeping when you need to change the bedlinens.)

Sure, it's supposed to get up to almost 70 degrees today (!), but between rain and overnight temperature drops, these wonderful spring days still have an edge to them.

And yet, yesterday morning, I went very quickly from the snug comfort of well-swaddled unconsciousness to (metabolism roused) the unpleasant sensation of being roasted alive in a tartan papillote.

Until the furnace stops kicking on, I think I'll spare myself the sting of cold percale.

Anyway, the cat really doesn't want to move right now.

March 6, 2012

A Public Service Announcement (No, Really.)

The Toonseum folks?  Good people.  And you know I feel for anyone who has gone through the unmitigated Hell that is water damage.  They lost a bunch of stuff that was in an offsite storage facility (NO ORIGINAL ARTWORK, so you can breathe now)...  and, sadly, the damage wasn't covered by insurance.  
I don't make it a practice to do this sort of thing, but here's the unedited message from the Toonseum Facebook page.  They could use some help, you guys...
Dear friends of the ToonSeum,

I am writing to you today in a personal plea. Over the past five years the ToonSeum has had a great many successes with your help and support. We have grown from a tiny space inside of another museum to a unique independent attraction in downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. We have brought in some of the top cartoonist in the nation and exhibited over 40 exhibits! This New Year brings exciting new exhibits and opportunities including our newly opened Will Eisner’s New York exhibit on loan from Denis Kitchen and our friends at MOCCA. I know as members and fans you will enjoy our summer exhibitions, which include Care Bears 30 Years of Caring, and Pittsburgh is Gotham! We also have a great line up of programming and workshops.

As we enter another phase of our growth we have hit a small setback. Last week during the heavy rains, our warehouse began to leak and flood. While no original artwork was stored at this site we did lose a great number of books, comics, exhibition reproductions and equipment. Much of these items were awaiting transfer to our new ToonSeum library on site. This was a temporary offsite holding storage where we kept books and equipment awaiting cataloging and transfer. We also used this space to store event and workshop supplies and equipment.

The damage and clean up will be extensive. During this time the ToonSeum’s day-to-day operations will remain unaffected however the cost of replacing what was lost and the clean up will be difficult.
We are reaching out to you, our fans, for your help.
.
Your tax-deductible donation will help support the ToonSeum is this tough time. Any amount is deeply appreciated and will help greatly.
There are several ways to give and links are provided below.
You can donate via Razoo at http://toonseum.org/waystogive.html
Paypal to donate@toonseum.org
Or by sending a check to:
The ToonSeum
945 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

On behalf of the ToonSeum, our board, volunteers, staff and myself,
Thank you.
We exist because of fans like you.

Thanks,
Joe Wos
Executive Director
The ToonSeum

Unpacking My Baggage Library

One of the big life lessons I've learned in recent years is that there's a place for compromise, but you have to protect that which keeps you sane.

For one thing, I learned that when house hunting, he who throws into the pot gets a vote on the house specs.

My mother, who gave me the down payment on Castle Secondmost, had no firm dealbreakers.  Though as cat owners, we both had a preference for a vestibule so that we could follow the wise example of the zoo and implement a two-door system.

All I wanted--really wanted--was a small yard and a full-size bathtub.  After a decade using my old apartment's cramped facilities, I found myself anticipating conferences and vacations largely because I would get to take a bath instead of a shower for a few days.  Bliss.  Worth even an airplane ride.

My ex, whose financial contribution to the purchase of the house came in the form of vaguely talking about selling some of his rarer Magic cards, absolutely insisted upon two bathrooms.  (He's a very nice man, really, just not what you might call a "planner.")

Now, as I have written before, finding a house with conventional bathroom facilities in the affordable parts of the East End is somewhat like finding a moderate Republican in office.  It happens, just very rarely.

So I passed up every single-john real estate listing.  Some of them were suitable in every way, other than having one bathroom, and gosh knows I couldn't afford a major construction project like installing a brand-new one.  One completely rebuilt roof later--rebuilt after a leak that sprung first in the second floor bathroom, natch--I shake my head at the memory of that naive, solvent young woman.  I do that a lot as I'm standing in my shower, which is attached to an even more ludicrously tiny tub than resided in the apartment.  I would do it while standing in my yard, except I have a small concrete pad just about big enough for a Weber grill and a picnic table, if you aren't too picky about having chairs around it.

Yes, thirtyish Me, I wish I could warn you.  Paneling covers many sins.  All that glitters is sometimes duct tape.  Honey, on so many levels....  you should have followed your gut and your heart, and sooner.

Well, to be fair, there was one more thing I wanted in a house.  A library.  That, I got.

Oh, it took absolutely forever to unpack.  You can imagine.  After a nonstop crush of home repairs and the small matter of my career going in wildly unanticipated directions, not to mention cleaning up the detritus of said obviously doomed relationship...  well.  Can't honestly say I've been in a big personal organizational mode.

Mom rode to the rescue.  She wrangled with what had become the de facto storage room; she liberated our beloved bound friends.  (Books, I mean.  Don't get the wrong idea.  Though I looked at one Bloomfield house with mirrored walls that I still have to wonder about.)

The shelves are arranged and leveled; the books are organized according to category.  And when I look at those shelves, packed with memories--good Lord I don't even buy everything I read, how can there possibly be this many?; when I think of something I would like to read and can find it rather than realize it's hopelessly buried in one of dozens of cardboard boxes, it all seems pretty bearable.  I am not home unless I have my books.  They made me, in many ways.

There's a marvelous and famousish Walter Benjamin essay called "Unpacking My Library."  If you're a reader at all, do yourself a favor and track it down; you'll recognize a brother.  I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with the dust of wood, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after two years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood--it is certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation...  really, go find it.  I'll wait.

I look at this house as a monument to some of my worst choices; I see it through because that's what you do with life's wrong turns.  Correct as you can and persevere.  My library is a monument, too; a monument to the clear and pressing need to take time to read, to think, to listen to yourself.  The finest instruments of measurement and navigation need regular calibration; such flighty and complicated bits of equipment as human beings just haven't a chance to land safely without it.

March 5, 2012

ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!

I finally caught up with my DVR'd Jimmy Fallon episodes--last week was Springsteen Week, in honor of the impending release of Wrecking Ball...  lots of tribute performances...  John Legend was fan-effing-tastic.  The Roots driving "The E Street Shuffle," with a full horn section, complete with the discordant bit at the beginning?  Putting the awe in awesome.  We will pretend that Elvis Costello sat this one out. (Seriously, who would have thought having Elvis Costello sing "Brilliant Disguise" could go wrong?  It did.  Trust.)  (Ha.)

And the Comedy Gods did smile upon us, and did bring us another rendition of a pop hit as rendered by '70s Neil Young, and yea! Verily! '80s Bruuuce.  LMFAO, indeed.

March 4, 2012

Be The Ball

Here is what is on TV on most evenings:
1). Terrible network sitcom, indistinguishable from terrible 1980s network sitcom save for the hair (better) and the dialogue ("edgier," if "edgy" is understood to mean "what cable could get away with in the 80s.").
2). Nancy Grace's star turn on Dancing With The Missing White Girls.
3). News coverage of a weather disaster, breathlessly detailing unheard-of levels of destruction while in no way acknowledging climate change.
4). Some flavor or knockoff of CSI, begging the question...  Why haven't any of these guys hired Cyril Wecht to do a reality show?  I mean, come on, he gives good punchline. Remember the old joke?  Q: How do you make Cyril Wecht crazy?  A: Put him in a round room and tell him there's a camera in the corner. I kid because I love.  But really.  Dude loves a camera.
5). Terrible network sitcom, indistinguishable from terrible 1960s network sitcom save for the hair (marginally smaller) and the dialogue ("quirky," if "quirky" is understood to mean "what cable could get away with in the 80s.").

Here is what is on TV tonight:
1). News coverage of a weather disaster, breathlessly detailing unheard-of levels of destruction while in no way acknowledging climate change.
2). Basketball.

See, I'd forgotten about March Madness.  No office pool to remind me this year --not that I ever did well in the pool.  I traditionally picked Gonzaga, in solidarity with my former officemate, and (equally traditionally) lost badly, always.  And if you don't have $5 riding on it, it's just basketball, which is what we in the social sciences like to call "boring as all get-out."  Hell, nobody ever gets tackled! What kind of competition is that?  If it's possible for one team to score in excess of 68 points in a game, they'd better be playing Scrabble.  (Someday I might even share my Scrabble tournament war stories.  Strong men have cried at less.   But we shall save that for another day.)

N.B.: I hasten to add that I in no way mean to say that I have ever bet money in a sports pool, or been aware of such a thing going on.  We used Monopoly money.  Also, the tags are still on my mattress, I have never traveled in a car going in excess of 65 miles per hour, and I never played with lawn darts.

Anyway.  I am convinced that the secret to immortality lies in bearing witness to the last "two minutes" of a basketball game.  It puts one in mind of the descriptions of what it would be like to be pulled in by a black hole, slowly, inexorably drawn toward nothingness; doomed and yet never by one's own perception ended.