Sunday, December 31, 2006

2007 Wish List

Maybe I pushed my luck a year ago when I wished for such things like peace on earth. Serves me right to wish for a cliché. My wish for success (and, might I add, my efforts) went nowhere. Boo hoo hoo. This year, I'll wish for more plausible, realistic things:

  • Great Britain* needs to be hooked up to a tug boat and hauled over to offshore California for my convenience. I like England (and Scotland, and Wales), but it's so damn far. I want it to be a 20 minute ferry trip. I don't think the residents would mind. Less rain. Further away from France too. Ireland can be shipped over too for a trial run- I've never been there. If I like it, it can stay. If not, back it goes.
  • I don't see why I have to go all the way over to Switzerland to see the Matterhorn. Chop it up, ship it to Los Angeles, and reassemble it on top of the Santa Monica Mountains. And put a tram or funicular so I can get to the top of it without having to climb it.
  • If we can move the Matterhorn to Los Angeles, we can move the Sphinx and Gaza pyramids to California too. Put them in the San Fernando Valley to liven things up
  • Angkor Watt, the Taj Mahal, Palace Alhambra, and the Neuschwanstein Castle need to be shipped my way too. I demand outright ownership or, at the very least, a rent controlled lease.
  • The grand canyon needs to be closer to Los Angeles for my convenience too, but I haven't figured out how to move it yet.

*By "Great Britain" I'm referring to the island. I'd move the whole U.K. over but I'd have to saw off part of Northern Ireland too and that's too complicated

Friday, December 29, 2006

Creepy Childhood Icons

Everyone remembers characters who scared them when they were kids. They come in two categories. We have the outright terrifying: Clowns. Flying "Wizard of Oz" Monkeys. The mall Easter Bunny with his evil grin. Then there's the vaguely disturbing ones. The crude puppets. The local kiddie show hosts. Frankenberry. They didn't give you nightmares, but as an adult you looked back and wondered- Who thought that would appeal to kids!?
Here's my personal list:
1.The Hamburgler
Someone McDonald's ad man had to be freebasing special sauce to come up this one. A rat nosed runt with a bad tie who says "robble robble". Robble Robble!? What's wrong with him? His shtick is his burger fetish- he steals them. Then Ronald McDonald makes him give them back. Like anyone wants a hamburger after this freak handled it...

2. Lady Elaine Fairchilde

Remember her? She was the hag that from Mister Roger's Neighborhood who lived in the Land of Make Believe. Not to be snotty, but since this is the Land of Make Believe, couldn't someone have make believed something less hideous? What's the black stuff on her nose and cheeks? Frostbite? Leprosy? Oh well, her nose is too big anyway...

Click here for another blogger's detailed take on this disturbing character.

3 Anthropomorphic Trees
The Wizard of Oz had them. McDonaldland commercials had them. Bark encrusted giants with gnarled features and twiggy arms. When I was three I didn't care how many McDonald's Hot Apple Pies were on them. They scared the sap out of me. My dad tried to calm me by claiming that the trees were really bunny rabbits dressed up as trees. This too was disturbing. What kind of twisted bunny rabbit dresses up like a tree and scares little kids? I wondered.

4. Roy "Mooskateer" Williams
I couldn't figure him out. The original Mickey Mouse Club had singing and dancing kids... and this old guy, Roy. He looked mean. Like a cranky neighbor who'd bark at you when you chased a ball onto his lawn. He claimed Walt Disney put him on the show because he was "fat and funny looking". Fat and scary looking is more like it. I sincerely believe the Mousekateer role call bit was, in fact, a head count to make sure he hadn't bitten off any heads.

5. The School House Rock Adjective Slayer

This crude Peppermint Patty knock off had a backpack of adjectives... and murderous streak. "Girls who are tall get taller! Boys who are small, get smaller", she sings, growing tall while a nearby boy shrinks to mouse proportions, "Till one is the tallest, and one is the smallest off all," she adds. Then she steps on him. With forethought and malice, she crushes the kid with her 1970's sandled foot. The animator thoughtfully has the word "STOMP!" pop up in sync with the evil deed in to clarify the boy's fate.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Birthday Fix (The stroke, Part 10)

"Let's go to Lucky's Drugs," my mom suggested.
I looked up from my sudoku puzzle. "We just went there yesterday. You want to go again? What for?"
"Well, you have a birthday coming, don't you?" she smiled.
She remembered! This was good. Since her stroke a month earlier her speech and thinking had been convoluted. Her doctor said it would improve with time, but for now we had to watch her. The fact she remembered I had a birthday coming was impressive, considering she didn't know what year it was a few weeks earlier. It's like old times! I thought. She remembers my birthday! She wants to get me a card!
At the drug store she insisted I stand back and let her get my birthday surprise. I waited, wondering what it would be. Cards, gift books, stuffed toys and corny "To my dearest daughter" trinkets lined the shelves. What did she have in mind? I wondered.
Ten minutes later she hadn't returned. Was she still picking out the perfect card? Maybe there were two she liked and she was still deciding which one would be the best?
I checked on her. She wasn't in the card isle. She wasn't in the gift isle. Where was she? I searched further. Had she wandered out of the store? Was she lost?
I found her at the pharmacy, paying for a box of Nicorette Gum. She caught my eye a minute later and said, "Let's go."
I'd been had! Birthday card my butt- it was all a ruse to get her nicotine fix. She'd quit smoking years ago but we never knew about her gum stash until after her stroke. She got careless about her hiding places. I tried to take her gum away from her once and damn near got my arm dislocated. I think if she had to chose between rescuing me or the last box of Nicorette gum from an oncoming train, the gum had a good chance.
Not to be too hard on her- many (current or former) smokers I know say that nicotine craving is an insidious thing that hangs on like a turbocharged robo-tick. It nags, prods, harasses, calls way past midnight etc..
I checked with my mom's doctor about the gum. He said that while it wasn't exactly healthy, it was better than smoking, so she could chew it in moderation if she chose. Oh well. At least you can't burn the house down with gum.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Catalog Fun: PenguinDunk-o-matic

Not enough cluttter on the counter? Egg timer too boring? Making tea to complicated for you?
You need the Penguin Dunk-o-matic. For a mere 29.99, your problems are solved.
As they put it:

Tea too strong? Too weak? Problem solved. Our nattily attired tea penguin always brews the perfect cup.

Set the timer for your ideal brew time (from 1 minute up to 20) and he lowers the teabag into the water. When the time is up, he lifts it out. Couldn't be simpler or more fun.

How did anyone ever make a cup of tea before this thing was invented? Note the top hat and the bow tie. Are you supposed to pretend you're High Society? Check me out! I'm drinking tea! Served by a butler. But I'm Sophisticated High Society so I have a robot butler.
Here's the part i don't get: If you realy need this to make your tea, how on earth did you get the water boiling?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Meet Mr. Happy Brick

Ouch. Got a stab in the back today. One of those stabs where they put the dagger in the fridge so it'd be extra cold. An easy grip handle for twisting ease.
No use going into the petty details or pages of self-absorbed whining about how I was wronged and boo hoo hoo. Like I'm the only person in the world who gets screwed.
A photoshop self-portrait will do. *
*It's a tad mechanical since I don't have my Wacom tablet on me and had to do it with bezier splines.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holiday Wishes (the stroke, 9)

My mom has an interesting way of coping with her stroke recovery: It never happened.
Or more precisely, remind her that it did happen at your own peril.
The other day we walked past a neighbor* whom we hadn't seen in awhile.
"Hi there," she called from her doorway, "It's nice to see you up and around again."
Mom waved, but said "Shut the fuck up." under her breath.
Except she forgot that remarks under one's breath should be out of earshot of the target. She was pretty loud. Had the neighbor heard? What was I to do? If I knew for sure she had heard the insult, I could explain that the stroke had impaired both her manners and her choice of words. But what if she hadn't heard? Was I supposed to go up to her and say "Listen, I don't know if you heard my mom throw the Big F at you, but if you did, she didn't mean it...?" Yeah. That'd be a new way to get a door slammed in my face.

*They now live in a much friendlier neighborhood than the one from the "Fear thy Neighbor posts"

Friday, December 15, 2006

Catalog fun: Chimp-O-Matic

I think I have the Skymall catalog figured out. They put their catalog on airplanes because the air is thinner. Minds get addled. People think think buying bizarre crap is a good idea. My proof?
For 99.95 bucks, you can have your very own Chimp-0-Matic.
It seems to be a Furby encased in a plastic ape head. Touch it and it shrieks. When you get bored touching it you can make it scream by remote control. I suppose this could be fun if you're into chimp torture: "Still won't talk, Bonzo? Maybe 1000 volts will loosen your tongue"
The pitch mentions "state-of-the-art robotic technology". I wouldn't be so smug. Even Big Mouth Billy Bass knows a few songs. All Chimp-0-Matic can do is screech.
His eyes follow you. That's not cool, that's scary. A shreiking, hairy, wrinkled, yellow-toothed doll that keeps looking at me? I'd pay 99.95 for someone to haul it away.

Chimp-0-matic is described like so:

"So real, it's unreal! The amazing "Alive" Chimpanzee is a life-size, lifelike product..."

Lifelike? Does it smell like a chimp? Attract ticks? Does it fling manure? Will it bite off half my face when the battery gets low?
Maybe they should change the marketing angle.

Parents: Are YOUR children "out of control?" Are they driving you "crazy?" Now you can get them to "behave." Just put Chimp-0-Matic on the table and tell them he's "watching" them. Say he'll go for the "throat" and rip their "jugular" should they act up. A handy remote control is "included" to "promote" "his" "lifelike" "appearance"...

Fear thy Neighbor (Part 2)

I had scary neighbors whe I was a kid.
To our left we had Mr & Mrs. Wagner, a cranky, dried up couple who told children racist jokes. Usually the subject was dead and dismembered. It freaked me out. I'd never heard another kid talk like that, let alone an adult. Was he capable of violence? I wondered. My dad told him to knock off the jokes . I feared retribution. Would he put a brick through our window?
Melba Smith lived to our right and was capable of violence. She was an ill-tempered clot of celluite, forever screaming at her sons. People who think the "No wire hangers!" scene in Mommie Dearest was overdone have never lived next to Melba. Closed windows couldn't muffle her outbursts. Her antics set a poor example to her sons, who slapped and shoved their way into being disliked by every kid on the block.
Melba couldn't figure it out. Why were her kids shunned? Her conclusion? My family had conspired against her kids. She told people this! We were out to get them. Any injury inflicted on her kids were no doubt the handiwork of me and my brother.
"George broke his glasses at school," we overheard her tell someone. "I'm sure Namowal or her brother had something to do with it!"
She wouldn't speak to us. She stopped all gardening where our yard met. Soon a fence of dead weeds seperated us. She forbade her boys to play with anyone who played with us. Typically this resulted in kids playing at our house and her boys a few feet away doing a cheerleader squad routine: "Gimmie a B! Gimmie an A! Gimmie a D! That spells BAD! [insert name of kid playing with us] is BAD!"
Melba saved some wrath for me. Often I'd be doodling on the driveway with my colored chalk when she'd pass me and blow me a raspberry. If her maid was with her, she'd try to insult me with crude Spanish. No doubt her heart warmed when her three-year-old pointed at me and said "You sneaky creep!"
It gets weirder: the Racist Wagners and Crazy Melba got along. Sort of. Maybe because nobody else put up with their crap. The Wagners had a snotty nickname for Melba's husband (who was "only" part white) but Melba was unaware. They stopped the racist jokes around her, yet only granted her limited access to their property. Visits were restricted to the Wagner's driveway, where the three of them smoked and Melba complained. She didn't know that as soon as she left the Wagners would turn around and tell anyone who listened about what a loon she was, about what "animals" her kids were and blah blah blah. Real maturity. You're never to old to be a sixth grader.
I suppose I'm doing the same thing here, but at least I changed the names.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fear thy Neighbor Part One

When I was a kid, my mom worried about our neighbors.
"The chirldren need to know that these aren't like regular people," she'd tell my dad.
She had a point. We lived in the lunatic section of town.
There was Tod, the boy down the street who blew up small animals with firecrackers and kept digging up his deceased guinea pig to look at it. He also got a kick out of breaking into homes under construction and crapping in the toilets. He'd actually boast about this. Like he deserved a trophy. I don't know where he is today, but there's probably bodies hidden nearby.
Next door to Tod was Ernie. In contrast to Tod he liked to pee anywhere that wasn't a toilet. He marked a lot of territory at his peak. This little charmer had a grandmother who didn't speak English, so he taught her that "Fuck You" was how you said "hello" in English. His parents found out. He complained that he'd been horribly punished: "I don't get no new toys for a month! "
Dick and Jane across the street had stricter parents. Infractions (like getting a B on the report card instead of an A) meant getting beat with a bamboo cane. Their mom was crackers. One time she burned up half the kitchen. Pets were short lived under that roof. When I pointed out that their new parakeet was not only dead but covered with ants. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "Food! I forgot the food!"
The scariest neighbors lived next door. Both sides. More about them later...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Catalog Fun: Breakfast for Idiots

Do YOU have any trouble with the cereal box? Is it hard to open? Is the cereal-to-bowl process a daunting one? If so, for eighty bucks you can get a "Breakfix" cereal dispenser that will fill your bowl for you.
Yes, it's a complex concept, so the website has a video showing the Breakfix in action, filling bowl after bowl to the amazement of "the whole family".
Check out the teenage oaf who tells us "I really want some cereal but I only have one hand!" Don't look for a very special hook. He means he has books in his other hand and doesn't know how to put them down. Then he does an Archimedes gesture and uses the Breakfix.
I'm confused. Now that he has his cereal, both hands are full. How's he gonna eat it? Someone get this kid a feedbag.
Note- Since this first was posted Consumer Reports featured this sucker (or something similar) in their magazine under the "selling it" section. They pointed out that if portion control is important, one could use a small bowl...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Capri or Not Capri, that is the Donredo

Near my parnents' house is The Capri Apartments.

But the sign on the building says it's actually the Onred Apartments.

Closer inspection suggests it's the Donred. Or the Donredo. The Doicredo?
You have to love the nerve of whoever's running the property.
Don't bother to fix or remove the crumbling signage. Just plop sign in front saying it's The Capri. Problem solved.
Do they solve interior problems the same way?
Are rooms adorned with signs or plaques like:
"The furnace that works". "The toilet that flushes".

If the sign gimmick works on humans, perhaps we should put it to use in the animal kingdom.
I'm thinking of upgrading my roach motels:

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tis the Season to be Nasty (The Stroke, part 8)

My mom is still recovering from her stroke & seizure package. The speech therapist says she has Anomic Aphasia: trouble with talking and understanding people. From her point of view, she's fine and it's me and my dad have gone batty.
She was outraged when we insisted she go to speech thereby this morning.
"How put the belt in the stupid belt when like an animal when she didn't animal need" she said, which translates to "How dare you make me go to some stupid thereby that I don't need?"
I thought she was done sulking by the time we arrived.
Namowal: You still need to tell me what you want for Christmas
Namowal's Mom: Don't you ever speak to me again!
Whoops. Still sulking. Nice to hear a coherent sentence from her.

Open Fire, Hold the Chestnuts

About 30 years ago this house caught on fire. Someone left a smoldering cigarette on the couch. The flames could be seen for blocks. Nobody was killed, but the place was a mess. I remember passing it the next day and being creeped out by the blackened beams and holes chopped into the wall.
Long since repaired and remodled, this house "burns" nightly each December. I bet the electric bill is a burn too.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's War! (The stroke, part seven)

Here's the nutshell. Last month my mom had a stroke but had recovered remarkably well. Her attention span needed work, otherwise she was fine. Then a few days ago she had what we thought was another stroke but turned out to be a seizure from the first one. The good news, the doctor said, was that he expected a full recovery. The problem was that said recovery would take days, and my dad and I had to deal with her in the meantime.
Her strength hand coordination were fine, but her thinking and speech were a disaster. She'd think she was talking to us when in fact she was babbling nonsense. When we told her we didn't understand she got incensed and repeated the same nonsense more slowly.
Typical conversation:
Namowal's Mom: Freshious, freshious, freshious, in the freshious freshious?
Namowal: I'm sorry, I don't understand
Namowal's Mom:
Freshious, freshious, freshious, in the freshious freshious!?
Namowal: Can you show me what you mean?
Namowal's Mom: (glaring at me and gesturing angrily)
Freshious, freshious, freshious, in the freshious freshious!!?

War was declared when more words came back. We'd thought her anger was frustration at not being able to talk. As she regained more speech, we found that she viewed me and my dad as the problem. We'd committed some heinous deeds including:
  • taking a paper towel away from her (she was eating it)
  • not letting her take some cold medicine (she didn't have a cold)
  • wiping cream of mushroom soup off her hand after she plunged her fist into the bowl
  • taking away the jar of pistachios because she was eating them with the shells and wouldn't let us unshell them for her
  • generally keeping an eye one her so she wouldn't burn down the house
Well! Did she have some things to say. She couldn't say much, but she made it clear that
  • She wanted me to leave her house and never come back
  • She wanted to spank me for being so horrid
  • My dad and I were "rude" and made her "mad"
  • This was all our fault
  • I was a terrible daughter and he was a terrible husband
  • We were both "stupid"
  • We could go fuck ourselves
I couldn't believe it. All the trouble we'd gone through, the sleepless nights, the worries, helping her stay clean and safe and my only feedback was what a shit I was. Normally she's very sweet and loving, so it was trippy as well as hurtful. So out of place. Like Santa Claus cooking and eating little kids or something.
D-day of the war occurred this morning. She was in the middle of a temper tantrum and we had to get her to her physical thereby appointment. She wouldn't budge and told us to scram. We insisted. I took her by the hand. She started hitting me.
My dad lost his temper.
"You knock that crap off and get in the car, now!" he told her.
She eyed him as if he'd slapped her- a mix of fear and disbelief that he'd dare raise his voice to her.
It worked. She cooperated, sort of, grumbling insults under her breath and giving us dirty looks as we took her to her appointment.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Surprise! (The Stroke, part six)

Tuesday got off to a bad start. Had to report to jury duty in Beverly Hills. This would ge great if I was commuting from my West Los Angeles apartment, but I was currently staying with my folks to help look after my mom, who had a stroke recently. They lived twenty miles away. Twenty traffic-clogged miles. I gave myself almost two hours to get there and was still running late.
As I seethed in gridlock on Santa Monica Blvd, watching a distant light cycle through red, green and yellow, my cell rang. It was my dad.
"We're at the emergancy room," he said. "Your mom had another stroke. I'll call you back when I know more."
Another one? So soon? She'd come so far from the first one.
I told him I'd explain the situation to the jury dudes and get over to the hospital. I couldn't find the damn courthouse. My map was terrible. I considered just ditching the whole thing and turning around, but thanks to a mail screw up my jury summons was the "get your butt over to the courthouse or you're in big trouble" variety.
Fifteen minutes later I found it. I was sure having your mom in the emergancy room was grounds for postponement.... but there was no one to grant it. It was the 3d version of trying to speak to real person on the phone and getting voice mail. I couldn't find anyone running the place. The halls were empty and the only people in the waiting room were fellow would-be jurors and a video telling us how swell jury duty was. Then a flesh and blood robot lady waddled in, avoided eye contact, and read from a script that there would be absolutly no questions until she said so. And to turn off our cellphones.
I left my phone on. Fuck, I wanted to know what was going on with Mom. It rang a minute later, making me the insensitive ass who couldn't follow simple instructions. I walked out on the lecture to take the call in the hall. It was my dad again, reporting that she seemed to be having seizures too. Seizures!? That did it. I wasn't waiting any longer. I scrounged up a postponement form and put my name and number on it, with a note that I had an emergancy.
I rushed back to the hospital. Wait. I couldn't rush because the roads were jammed.
After some tests the doctor determined that this wasn't a second stroke. It was "only" a seizure related to the first stroke, which produced temporary strokelike symtoms. By the next day she was recovered enough to go home. Trouble was, the "temporary strokelike symptoms", while fading, were still there to keep us busy...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Coupon Caper (The stroke, part 5)

Mom's mostly recovered from her stroke, but is a bit absent minded and tires easily. She was determined to walk to the local drugstore to get her meds. She hadn't excercised much in the hospital and wanted to get back in shape. My dad and I came along. On the way back she spotted a flyer to Rudy's Rack Shack* on the ground. It had some half off deal.
"Keep your eyes out for more of these," she ordered
We couldn't find more in the street, so they schemed to detour down Dardut St, the local apartment strip. Why? Because they wanted to go to the outdoor mailbox clusters and snatch all the Rudy flyers they could find.
I couldn't believe it. "You're serious? Isn't that stealing?"
"Lighten up," said Mom. "It's just junk mail to most of them. Who cares?"
"What if someone else besides you guys wants to eat at Rudys?"
"They should check their mail earlier" Dad added, dodging into the next pack of mailboxes.
About half way down the block my folks had a stack of fliers, but Mom was leaning slightly to her right. Ever since the stroke she starts to lean a bit when she's tired. Dad was alarmed. Had their wild spree put her in danger? Had they risked her life for a few racks of discount ribs?
The bandits couldn't agree on how to get home. Mom wanted to walk back, Dad wanted to run home, get the car and drive over to pick her up. They argued about this all the way home. I tried to stay out of it, but was dragged in.
"Namowal" Dad ordered. "Run down the street and get your car. I'll wait here."
"Don't you dare!" Mom countered. "You stay with us!"
Which parent should I piss off? I wondered. On one hand, my mom was known to downplay any problems. She could be on fire and not complain because she "didn't want anyone to worry". On the other hand, she'd learned the hard way about how dangerous it was to ignore stroke symptoms. Plus she seemed plenty strong and articulate in her defense.
We were home within minutes. To be safe I ran her through my hack stroke symptom drill ("any weakness? Can you wave both arms over your head? Any headache? Can you tell me where we are? Etc..") She did fine.
To celebrate, we went out for cheap ribs.
*Name changed

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Chicken Soup for Everyone but the Chicken Lover

Sentimental stuff annoys me. It sends me running from the room screaming. Lifetime original movies, the Hallmark Channel and sensitive piano music makes my skin crawl as if someone dumped a bucket of cold butterscotch on my head.
Yet, I kinda like the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. O.K., a few of the stories read more like Internet glurge than anything credible. Otherwise, the books are fun. Each story has the protagonist being dealt an atrocious hand, yet they pull through. I'm a sucker for an underdog story if the underdog wins.
I went to the book store yesterday.
I couldn't believe how many niches have a Chicken Soup book aimed at them. Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul, the Scrapbooker's Soul, the African American Woman's Soul, the Fisherman's Soul, the Country Soul, the Single Parent's Soul, The Ocean Lover's Soul, the Christian Teenager's Soul, and yes, there's Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul, the Shopper's Soul, even the NASCAR soul. Chicken Soup for everyone but the Chicken Lover.
They know how to market their stuff.

Not only that, on their website they even sell Chicken Soup for the Soul nutritional supplements and diet shakes (none of which are chicken flavored). Do the For Dummies and Complete Idiot's Guide series sell vitamins and meal replacement drinks?
How many more niches will they target? I have three suggestions:

Don't expect to see these ones at the local Barnes & Noble anytime soon.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ted Bundy Lives?

Lock your doors! The psychopath lives!
Sure they said Ted Bundy got his evil ass fried in an electric chair 17 years ago, but I have startling proof that, like Elvis, Jim Morrison, Bruce Lee and John Wilkes Booth , this rascal faked his own death and is still with us.
My proof? Compare this famous photo of Crazy Ted with the pic of the man on the Flowbee haircut gizmo package:

It's him, I tell you. Same "I'm better than you" smirk and everything. He's probably contemplating some diabolical scheme as he trims his own hair "at a fraction of the cost" of a professional cut. Probably just as well he cuts his hair this way- would you trust him with scissors?
The FBI won't return my calls. Maybe they're still annoyed at me over my persistant "Don't believe the hype: The 1970s never happened" emails.

The Far-Out Painter of Groovy Light

Thomas "Painter of Light" Kinkcade is a genius. Not like Da Vinci or Michelangelo. More like Disney or the Ray "McDonald's" Kroc. He found something he was good at and made a pile of dough mass producing them. If art were a bakery his work would be the pop tarts. Glazed, toasty, sparkly, a bit too sweet, and a big seller.
The vivid lights and colors in his work remind me of mild hallucinogen. You expect the pics to leave trails when you move your eyes. In another era he could have billed himself as "The Far-out painter of Groovy Light"
His Groovy Light is everywhere. Every magazine I open throws a new one at me. Prints, plaques, calendars, cards, mugs, puzzles, clocks, teddy bears, assorted "decor" that actually lights up. All of this is peddled with schlocky copy like "a brilliant full moon dances on the wispy clouds."
Maybe someday they'll do a "Thomas Kinkade Paints the Great Disasters" series. "The Painter of Light" could really go to town on the Chicago Fire. Or the Titanic. Here's how the add might look:

For Your Collection: A Piece of Art. A Piece of History.

A spark A flash of light. A glowing fireball. The magnificent zepplin Hindenburg bursts into flames. Lakehurst, New Jersey is set aglow in delicate shades of yellow and orange as frantic passengers and crew scramble for their lives. It's not a total loss. Some of the people killed could have been Nazis. This lavish, historical, educational piece can be yours for a limited time. It's sure to be a "Hot Seller", so reserve your copy today.

p.s. My dad looked over my shoulder at this and deemed it "too subtle".

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holiday Songs that Annoy Me

It's not even December yet but the holiday songs are back. I welcomed them as a kid, when they signaled egg nog, presents and (best of all) two weeks away from school. As an adult, after hearing them 12 million times, I have determined that some of them have to go. Here's my top five over-rated, over-played and over-annoying Christmas songs:

1. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Every one snubs poor Rudolph until they can cash in his nasal highbeam. What if his snout burns out? I'll bet they'll drop him like a fruitcake brick. What the hell is wrong with his nose anyway? Nothing that antibiotics couldn't clear up, I bet.
Bonus points for the "like a light bulb" version.

2. The Little Drummer Boy
Slow, and boring, Rum pa pum pum
Sounds like Tourette's syndrome Pa rum pa pum
Talks like yoda he Pa rum pa pum pum
Drives crazy me Pa rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum

3. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (any version not by Nat "King" Cole)
Actually titled "The Christmas Song", it's the Star Spangled Banner of Christmas songs: each performer tries to add their own special "look at me!" touch. Like raising "know" an octave so the line becomes "If reindeer really KNOOOOOOOOW how to fly" Each new version of this makes me appreciate earwax build up as never before.
Special bonus points to versions where "Merry Kwanza" is added to the "Merry Christmas to you".
4. Twelve Days of Christmas
Not sure why this bugs me, but it does. Maybe because it's overplayed. Or because it's repetitious. Or because the presents suck. Good luck regifting those Six Geese a-laying. Note some gifts (eight maids a-milking, for example) are human beings. What's going on here? Slavery!? Are they being shipped in from the third world? Or is this just some temp thing to support them through college? I don't get it.

5. Silent Night
I feel a little guilty about picking on this one, as it's an old classic without Red-Nosed-Reindeers, Partridges in Pear trees or "aw, isn't that cute! The little boy is playing his drum for baby Jesus" issues. Here's the problems:
  1. It's played over and over and over and over-
  2. -usually in loud bustling retail outlets that are anything but silent, calm or holy
  3. It's played over and over and over
  4. Artists like to do a Chestnut Job on this one too
  5. It's played over and over
  6. The English lyrics are sappy. "Holy Infant so tender and mild". Tender? Mild? Huh? That's how you describe a Christmas Turkey, not a baby. Maybe it makes more sense in German.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Bounce House (the stroke, part 4)

Last week the hospital deemed my mom recovered enough from her stroke to be shipped to rehab. Word must have gotten out about her penchant for sneaking out of bed, as her new bed was in a mesh cage.
It looked like a bounce house. Or one of those playpens at Chuck-E-Cheese minus the plastic balls. My mom had regained enough verbal and cognitive skills to object to being "zipped up in there all night," waiting for a nurse to spring her whwn she needed to use the bathroom.
So we struck up a deal with the staff. My dad and I would alternate staying over with her if they moved her to a normal room. The nurses agreed. They needed the cage bed for a new patient who was worse off anyway.
My mom recovered so quickly that she was mistaken for a visitor. I, on the other hand, was actually mistaken for a patient . I'm lucky I wasn't zipped up.
After a week in rehab they sent my mom home. She walked and talked fine, but the rehab crew warned that her attention span needed work. This probably explained what happened when she wanted her favorite snack- a slice of cheese. Except instead she grabbed an open can of coke, tipped it on its side and tried to slice it. It wasn't until it spilled on the counter that she noticed it wasn't cheese. Whoops.
Then came the shoe incident. As she put her sneakers on my dad suggested we water the plants before we went outside. After a dispute about which watering kettle to use she took a shoe to the sink and began to fill it with water.
I braced myself for similar incidents but in the last 48 hours she's been doing well. She's back to brushing her teeth (instead of her paperback books). She's back to using eating utensils properly (and, might I add, using the correct end of each) A bit careless, perhaps, but if you met her on the street you wouldn't think anything was wrong. Not bad, considering two weeks ago she didn't know who I was.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hospital Food (the stroke, part 3)

Hospital food scares me. I was eating some the other day, marveling at how it looked like dog food. I thought: Why am I eating this? It makes roadkill look like potpourri. If food was a circus, this would be the sideshow blowoff that bit off chicken heads.
Look at that stuff. A vulture wouldn't touch this. The Donnor party wouldn't touch this. It belonged in a biohazard bag, not a food tray.
Even my mom, who was recovering from a stroke (and had a better meal) was goofing on it. I was forbidden to dispose of it in her hospital room and had to dump it down the hall. Probably not a bad idea, since it looked capable of crawling away and attacking someone.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

@#!#$%^^&!! (the stroke, part 2)

It's been a week since my mom had a stroke. The day after she was wide eyed and bewildered, couldn't talk, sit up, or follow basic commands. As the days passed, ability trickled back, but not in its most useful order.
Strenth came first. She still wanted out of her hospital bed and was soon strong enough to fight anyone who dared to hold her back. She fought dirty, and wasn't above belting me or scratching my throat to show her displeasure. Then there was the stealth approach. She'd close her eyes and act like she was sleeping, but as soon as you looked away she'd be out of her bed and/or tugging at her I.V. and feeding tube. My dad said he'd stepped away for one minute and she yanked everything out.
Her speach returned before her judgement did, but she was capable of negotiations. One night she turned to me and suggested we "go downstairs to the casino and get some drinks." When I told her there wasn't a casino, she suggested a bar. Another time she said the building was on fire and we should get out. I brought some magazines from home to help jog her memory, but she just gathered them up, tucked them under her arms and said "Let's go." The worst incident was when I ignored her request that she "just get up to have a look around" (remember she was a high fall risk and was ordered to stay in bed by the doctors). I said no. She started to get up anyway. I tried to push her back but she was as strong as I was. A nurse jumped in to help and sent me down the hall for backup.
I returned with extra nurses and it took three of them to keep her in place, all while she thrashed in bed, enraged, babling "C'mon just a look around I wanna look around just a look around O.K. etc..?" Another nurse looked at me and said "Is that your mom?" in a gee, you're fucked tone. Yep. That's my mom. Hell, that's probably me in a few decades.
By day six she was calmer and more coherent, but still didn't exactly know what was going on.
Since this started I spent most of the day at her side and we had this conversation 100 times:

Namowal: Do you know where you are?
Namowal's Mom: [looks around, shrugs]
Namowal: We're at the hospital.
Namowa's Mom: The hospital?
Namowal: You had a stroke
Namowal's Mom: [incredulous] a stroke?

It was also on day six that they discharged her from the regular hospital and sent her to a rehab joint. She gets several hours of speech and physical therepy to bring her up to speed. Now way more lucid, she occasionally still lapsed into dreamland. One minute it was a normal conversation, the next minute she was a college student trying smoke a stump of tubing like it was a cigarette. It's unnerving, but each day it gets better.
One more thing. She doesn't surf the internet or use a computer, but if she finds out about this blog, she might get pissed off about the last two entries, perhaps misinterpreting them as having fun at her expense. I hope it's clear that the tone of these posts is more "This Sucks!" than "Ha ha ha". With my luck there's probably internet access at the rehab place and internet access is part of the program and she's probably typing "stroke" into the Blogger search engine and my blog just came up. Whoops.
If this is my last post, be assured that she recovered fully, got wind of my blog, and strangled me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

@#!#$%^^&!! (the stroke)

Seconds after I hit the post button for my Sea Monkey entry, my Dad called and dropped a bomb: my mom, a healthy fit woman, had a stroke and was in the hospital. Apparently she'd experienced weakness on one side and had speech problems earlier in the afternoon, but insisted nothing was wrong. By the time my dad convinced her to go to the hospital, she could barely talk.
By the time I got there, she could answer questions with "Well," like she was going to keep talking, except that she couldn't find the words.
The next morning the speech therapist showed up. "Do you know where you are?" she asked? No answer. My mom sat there looking agitated and confused. The therapist pointed my way. "Who's this? Is this your daughter?" She looked at me like I was a space alien. Ouch. My cynical side chipped in. I risk my life speeding in rush hour traffic to be at your side and you don't know who I am!?
This wasn't good. I loved my parents and tried to visit them as much as possible. My mom was very supportive and always listened to me, no matter how much I rambled on. Now she was a stranger.
As I paced in the hall like a frustrated zoo animal my dad filled me in on some things I wasn't aware of:
  1. A few years back she'd had strokelike symptoms (one sided weakness and slurred speech) but refused to see a doctor, insisting it was no big deal. Huh!?
  2. Her doctor had prescribed high blood pressure medicine but she stopped taking it because it "made her dizzy".
The whole disaster could have been prevented! Fuck me and the horse I rode in on.
Yesterday she started talking again, but it didn't make much sense. The stroke must have hit the left side of her brain (speech and logic). She seemed to have a vague idea where she was but didn't get the entire picture. She did know that, where ever she was, she wanted out.
The doctors ordered her to stay in bed for safety- her coordination was poor, but not poor enough to try to sneak out of the bed repeatedly. Either she didn't get that she had to stay put or knew that she was supposed to stay in bed but the emotional "I want outta here" impulse overtook the logical "I'm s'posed to stay here" impulse. She was sneaky. She'd weasel one leg over the side and then the other. We'd put the legs back and tell her no. This pissed her off but elicited a coherent sentence. "Don't say no to me!"
Later she decided the oxygen nose tube had to go. She couldn't comb her hair or brush her teeth but she know how to unhook that tube. I put it back on. She took it off. I put it back on. She took it off. As I struggled to put it back on the zillionth time she called my name in an exasperated tone I hadn't heard since I was a teenager.
That was ok by me: she knew who I was!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Amazing Sea-Honkeys!

I had a jar of Sea-Monkeys when I was a kid. I went all out, buying them a Banana Flavored dessert (we all know how aquatic animals dig bananas) and a bag of plastic "diamonds" for them to play with.
I'm probably the only person in the world who thinks the little google eyed guys are way cuter in real life than the cartoon sea martians used to promote them.
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Look at them. What's on their chests? Scales? Hair? Multiple Breasts?
I looked up their history and learned some dirt the guy who invented them.

In the late 1950s Harold Nathan Braunhut came up with the idea of selling brine shrimp kits marketed to kids. He played up on the "instant pets" angle since their eggs can be dried for years yet still hatch when returned to water. A few years later he renamed them Sea-Monkeys and the 2oth century had a new icon.

Here's where it gets weird. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Braunhut was a member of the Aryan Nations and the Ku Klux Klan. Holy makeral! The man who spawned Sea Monkeys was some racist loon in a sheet? Another childhood icon tarnished!

I don't know how involved Braunhut was involved with the adds and packaging, but it is interesting that both the human family and the Sea-Monkey family are white.
The only Sea-Monkey with hair is a blonde. Hmmm.
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The cartoon made me wonder: Were all Sea-Monkeys white? Or was this a segregated bowl? Who the hell did these Sea-Monkeys think they were, anyway!?
What if the Sea-Monkey charecters were in fact the secret racial ideal of a kook caucasian breeding plan? Tall, slender, blonde, with a modest pink blush, these creatures also have super powers, like coming to life instantly and breathing underwater. Plus according to the picture they can build a mean castle.
With that in mind, I reworked the add into a mock propaganda piece.
The multi-breasted caucasian of tomorrow:
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There's more dirt. According to Wikipedia (and assuming nobody is screwing with me), Harold "KKK" Braunhutwas born and raised Jewish. Huh? Now I'm really confused.

Crime and Scary Water

A friend and I went hiking (sorta) at a Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. It was spookier than a ghost town graveyard. Local signage depicted happy families frolicking in the grass, but no one was there. The birds (if there were any) were silent. No sound except the ambient clank of the oil pumps on a distant hill.
We finally found others at the lake (which stood behind a sign saying it was "closed"). Maybe the odor had something to do with the closure. I'll bet there's more dead things in there than in the La Brea Tar Pits.

The lake isn't the first scary body of water in the area. In the fifties a large reservoir stood just to the east. Nobody concluded that building a reservoir on an earthquake fault might be a bad idea. Nearby oil drilling made the land even more unstable. In 1963 the reservoir cracked open, pouring a 50 foot wave into the neighborhood below. Five people were killed and 277 houses were destroyed.
Here's a pic:
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The former reservoir is now part of the empty, creepy park. You can still see a slight depression at where it was. Also note that most of the "spill area" was never rebuilt.
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Back at my end of the park, I saw this sign:
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Does anyone really think some would-be criminal sees it and thinks, Hey, it's an anti-crime zone! I guess I'll have to do my dirtywork somewhere else.

I feel so much safer with that sign. Was it erected by a descendant of the dopes who built the reservoir? Will they "protect" the area from future calamity with a sign like this?
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lobster Infestation

Lobster. The most expensive thing on the menu.
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And thing it is. People look at a lobster and think mmm, fine dining.
I look at one and think, geez, it's a good thing they don't come out of the water.
They don't fool me. They're giant pincherbugs. Beady eyed giant pincherbugs.
To confirm my theory I (crudely) photoshoped some into a bathroom pic.
Imagine pulling back the shower curtian and seing this:
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Can't you see them, antanae quivering, ready to sink their pinchers into your delicate flesh? Or perhaps sneaking into your bedroom at night to pinch your toes?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Breakfast for Bowser

I did a double take at the supermarket. Was this a dream? A joke?
No, it was true.
In the 21st century we haven't figured out the flying car but we have invented breakfast cereal for your dog.
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You don't want Astro to have ordinary dog food for breakfast.
Note that these come in cereal boxes and are flavored.
"Chompions" is (with the bulldog) is bacon and eggs.
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"Chewa-Bunga" is mixed berry flavor. What kind of dog eats mixed berries? When I see wild dogs hunting on T.V. they're eating mixed mammals. Did they expect Spot's owner might pour a bowl for himself and flavored it accordingly? Will adding milk or water yield a hearty fruity gravy? I don't get it.
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If Fido (or you) don't like Mixed Berry, the "Breakfast Squares" variety is peanut butter flavor. We all know how wolves and coyotes raid the peanut patch to unearth, shell and process peanuts.
If Spot doesn't like peanut butter and berries, there are other varieties including Multi Grain and Apple Granola. Apple Granola? What kind of sissy dog eats Granola? You start feeding Lassie this and she'll demand sparkling water with a garnish.
I suppose the people flavor thing has something to do with the fact that it's people who buy the food. Doggie friendly flavors like "Smelly Old Shoe", "Look what I found in the Trash" and "Cat" probably wouldn't sell.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Evil Tiki!

When I was a little girl, this picture hung on my bedroom wall.
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Based on an Edward Lear cartoon, it looks cute and innocent.
Than one night, when I couldn't sleep, I gazed at it and saw...
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Terrified, I flipped the other way and squeezed my eyes shut. Could there really be a demonic tiki hiding in the grass? I wondered. Maybe I just imagined it. Please be gone in the morning, Evil Tiki. Please be gone...

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A crude enhanced version is provided to the right of the original in case you still can't discern what the hell I'm talking about.
Next morning, I timidly peaked at the picture. He was still there!
And he looked mean. Was that blood on his cheek? Did he eat kids? (When you're six you have to ask the important questions.)
I complained to my folks but got little sympathy. My dad had painted the picture and probably wasn't flattered that his little kid was afraid to look at it.
They couldn't even see Evil Tiki.
"There's just grass there," my Dad assured. "I painted it myself. There's no tiki."
Grown ups! I thought Didn't they know that evil could lurk in pictures, disguised to adult eyes? They'd be sorry when Evil Tiki came out of the wall and ate my brain!
I begged them to paint over Evil Tiki, or paint something new (I suggested an octopus), or move the picture to another room. No luck. They knew I was forever finding scary faces in woodgrain, ceiling curds, peeling bark and the like. Had they replaced it, I'd find some new thing that spooked me. The painting stayed put.
Days afterwards I slept facing the opposite direction and got a sore neck. I piled an army of stuffed toys between me and Evil Tiki for extra protection. It worked. Evil Tiki stayed in the painting, glaring at me in contempt.
The painting still hangs at my parents house. It's been over thirty years, but each time I look, there's that green bastard staring back at me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tail o' The Jetsons.

Hanna Barbera's The Jetsons is like Brad Pitt or Paris Hilton. Nice to look at, but annoying to listen to and dumb as a vacuum tube. OK, the "Eep Op Orp Ah-ah" song was kinda catchy. Astro is cute, but everything else blows plastic.
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Maybe I'm bitter that it's the 21st century and there's no flying cars. My car doesn't fold up into a little suitcase either. I know George Jetson's car can. I've seen the opening credits.
Here's what I want to know. In the Jetson universe, what happens if the car malfunctions and collapses with George still inside? Does he yell "Jane! Stop this crazy- aaaaaah!" Is he crunched into a pulp? If someone finds it on the street and hits the resize button? Is cartoon blood dripping inside the windshield? Do his bones clatter out onto the moving sidewalk? Does Daughter Judy and Jane, His Wife dig through the carnage for Daddy's wallet so they can go shopping? Does Astro say "Ruh Roh, Rorge!" and do his trademark giggle?
There's an episode I'd like to see.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tail o' the Dead Guys at Amusement Parks (a.k.a. that's Not Chicken Wire!)

When I was a little girl a friend told me someone got killed at Disneyland*. That was blasphemy. Dead People? At Disneyland?
I ran home and asked my Mom if it was true. No, she told me, then she added that recently a dead body was found in a nearby funhouse. It wasn't hidden or anything- it was part of the display. That made me feel much better. Stuff in a funhouse could be real? Even the paper- mache stuff was freaky... and now I had to be on the alert for dead bodies!?
What freaked me out as a kid intrigued me as an adult. How does a dead guy get himself into a funhouse?
Here's the story.
There used to be an amusement park Long Beach called Nu-Pike. Their spookhouse ride, Laff in the Dark, was where the body was discovered.
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People were shooting an episode of a T.V. show there. One of the workers noticed something weird about a cowboy prop hanging on a noose. Image Hosted by
Namowal's hacky rendition
Naked except for a thick coat of orange paint, it had autopsy stitches. And it was anatomically correct. Its hands modestly hid most of its private parts, so someone moved them aside to see if it really had what seemed to have. The arm broke loose and guess what? It was anatomically correct on the inside too. Ya know, bones...
They shipped him off to the coroner. Authorities concluded he was Elmer McCurdy. In life he'd been a blundering outlaw who was shot dead in Oklahoma in 1910. He was embalmed and went on a carnival peep show tour. Before the internet blew in you had to pay money if you wanted to see an infamous dead guy.
As decades rolled by he changed owners a few times. By the seventies he was so shrunken and paint-glazed that he could pass for a paper mache... if you didn't look closely. His Nu-Pike owners thought he was a dummy when they strung him up. After he went to the coroner they hinted that they'd like him back, but didn't get their wish. Elmer was shipped back to Oklahoma and buried. **

Last week I found about the history of my favorite ride at Disneyland, Pirates of the Caribbean. It included this bit of trivia: in the early days, the skeletons were real.
No funny mix ups here- they wanted realistic props. Pretend skeletons looked fake. So they snagged some medical specimens and put them to work. In other words, dead people. On a ride. At Disneyland. As a little kid I floated by them each year, oblivious to their true nature.
The book added that the real bones were replaced long ago and given the obligatory "proper burial". That's no fun. I'd rather have my bones dressed up in pirate garb in a ride as opposed to being thrown in a hole. But that's me.

*yes, this happens, but it's rare

**(Elmer's story is chronicled in depth in this book: Elmer McCurdy: The Misadventures in Life and Afterlife of an American Outlaw by mark Svenvold)