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.