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)