Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two Funnies

I wonder if this is the actual astronaut who dropped the bag.

Super Stupor
I would love to see this premise explored in a comic book series - secret powers they're ashamed of.
Recent Viewings, 11/26/2008

A/K/A Tommy Chong
From the description:
a/k/a Tommy Chong chronicles the entrapment and incarceration of comedy icon Tommy Chong of the legendary comedy duo, Cheech and Chong. Josh Gilbert takes on the event in his documentary, and offers a sometimes frightening, often hilarious account of Operation Pipe Dreams, a nationwide drug paraphernalia sting spearheaded by a federal prosecutor named Mary Beth Buchanan, appointed by George Bush three short days after the attacks of 9/11. After fully armed SWAT teams raided the comedian's home and his business, Chong Glass, Chong was sentenced to 9 months in federal prison for "conspiracy to manufacture and distribute drug paraphernalia through his family business, specializing in handmade glass water pipes, or "bongs".

And that says it all; everything you find out in the movie. Except for: the 9/11 plane that went down in Pennsylvania went down in Buchanan's county, and so her appointment was partially for show, as usual. The wiki article has a lot of other wonderful shenanigans of hers. I am so not gonna miss these ass-clowns.

There, now you don't have to spend any time watching that rather tepid documentary.

This is a "classic" Japanese horror film that landed on Bravo's "Scariest Movie Moments". It was one of the few I hadn't seen (that I hadn't already decided NOT to see, such as The Hills Have Eyes), so the library found a copy for me.

This movie belongs to the sub-genre of horror that does not frighten me in the least: cuttin' folks up. I think you have to have some root fear that is exploitable (something you can empathize with) for something to be frightening to you. I've never had surgery or been stabbed, so I really don't have any frame of reference to viscerally fear being hacked to pieces. I know intellectually that it would be unpleasant, but I don't fear it. Now, you talk demonic possession, I'm your fraidy cat. I still can't bring myself to watch The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

I suspect Audition is the movie that started the modern trend of torture porn, as it came out in 1999, and Saw came out in 2004. True, The Last House on the Left from 1972 predates them all - even The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from 1974. But those older hack 'n' slashers had a different tone. The best way I can think to put it is the earlier flicks had more of an Ed Gein vibe and modern torture porn has more of a Lorena Bobbitt skank to it.

So, if you dig that sorta thing, you should hunt this one down. If you don't, again, I've saved you nearly two hours of your life.

MPC1 is a fan of musicals. She gets that from her mom. Save for a couple specific versions of a couple specific shows, most musicals - especially the Rogers and Hammerstein kind - are excruciating to me.

However, I've always been a film buff and geeked out on the various technologies. When I saw that the Todd-AO version of the flick was included in the set, I steeled myself and sat down to watch.

I couldn't get through the whole thing, even though one of the great MILFs of all time - Momma Partridge, aka Shirley Jones - is the female lead.

I could be imagining things, but I thought I could see a difference in the visual; it seemed more fluid. I still have yet to determine if the Todd-AO version was playing at 30fps, but this review seems to say it was.

I liked the effect, and it's too bad that Todd-AO didn't catch on as a format. All of our movies would look that much better.

And, finally, one of the two shows I watch anymore, "Pushing Daisies", has been canceled. Here's a lament or two. (The other one I watch is "Chuck".)

Catch "Daisies" while you can. Or, wait for the DVDs, which I'm sure will be loaded with fun stuff.

Have YOU seen anything good, lately?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

How to be Ugly

I was checking out at the grocery store the other day and the kid who rang me up said, "Got any fun plans today?" (I think he'll go far.)

This was the last stop on had been quite a few that day - we'd been out for about four hours - and I said, "Yes, I'm planning to go home and sit down. That's my kind of fun right now."

The 50-ish woman behind me grinned, so I said to her, "Right?"

She cocked one eyebrow and said with not just a little venom, "If you want to live longer you'd better do something other than go home and sit."

I'm visibly overweight, but still, da fok?

Of course, all the snappy retorts that I wouldn't have said had they occured to me buzzed around my head like flies all the way back to the car.

Like a lot of folks, I've wished on occasion that I were good-looking. But then, a lot of people I know who are don't necessarily think that of themselves, so I don't know if many people actually get the supposed benefit of self-esteem that way.

However, it sure seems you pay the price if you don't live up to someone else's beauty standards.

This brings me to two events of serendipity I've experienced recently (though those of faith like me like to believe there's Something Larger behind it.

Pretty much the day after being dissed at the supermarket, I decided it'd been a while since I'd visited Roger Ebert's blog (which is amazing, btw), and there waiting was this article on what is was like to be ugly and/or fat. What a wunnerful read.

The other serendipitous event I'll cover in a later post.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The self-appointed expert on everything

Serendipitously, Alias Clio posted a great summation of something I have had to live in spades:

Of course, no one can be an expert in every field, but the trouble is that many highly intelligent people lack humility and think they can be. And thus is born a powerful mixture of brains, ignorance, and folly, leading to much greater stupidities than those of the merely dull-witted. - Alias Clio

In my profession, I just naturally encounter a LOT of these. This past couple years have been the worst in that regard.

TLD: My favorite episode involved a piece of code that was supposed to move information from one system to another. It was released and it never once worked. We spent 4 months saying that very thing in the status meetings. Finally, when it was generally accepted that it didn't work, someone actually asked me why we hadn't told anyone that it didn't work. To this day, the lead on the project maintains that it really did work, but then adds that it extracted the information from the source system perfectly, but the target system was a moving target - which is an admission that it didn't work, but laying the blame on the target system. For the record, the target system wasn't really an issue either. This lead is the poster child for Clio's coinage.

One particularly tragic aspect of this personality type is they think they understand people. They feel they've got every one sussed out. In my experience, they are the most clueless about human nature, but think their brilliance in one area (and I will allow that they do have one area in which they are gifted) extends to their people skills.

Almost to a person, these folks almost completely mitigate their contribution - the one related to their actual talent - with the nearly constant demonstration of how much of an asshole they are.

There's even a book about these creeps and how to deal with them. (Short version: don't. Fire their asses.)

I've discovered (this year) there's another personality type I abhor, but it's probably more just something that bugs me and not so much a universally hated type.

For lack of a better coinage, it's the "utterly lacking in cultural references clod" (or - to be more precise - the inability to "get" cultural references).

This is the person (say over 30 for this example) who would be puzzled if you asked them "Mary Ann or Ginger?" They'd have to go look it up on wikipedia.

I just wanna smack these people.

What's odd, is I haven't encountered many of them until the last couple years.

Yeah, like everyone, I had a few of those kids I graduated with whose parents didn't let them watch TV, or if they did it was only news or PBS. But, I'm not talking about those poor souls.

For example, this year for Halloween, I went as "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski. As the holiday approached, folks who'd seen the flick would comment on my hair and beard saying I looked like The Dude. But not ONE person who saw me that night (either handing out candy or out trick-or-treating with the kids) was able to guess who I was. Eventually it dawned on me that many adults were just assuming I was a very lazy dad who didn't shave and wore a bathrobe rather than a costume, so I ditched the robe. But before I did, I would tell folks who I was - especially if they looked at me in that worried manner that implied they were bugged that I was near their little sweethearts - and even then, all I got was, "Oh. Is that a movie?" or "I've never seen that." Maybe the election year brought these goons out. Who knows.

I also work with an inordinately large number of people who fit this profile. They would cause Dennis Miller to dive down a stairwell with their blank looks in response to, say, a Poseidon Adventure reference.

Gad, has anyone else run across this lately?

If so, we might have the premise for M. Night Shyamalan's next movie.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

They're Playing Our Song

Here's a fun post on songs that were plagiarized (accidentally or not) and the results thereof. The full version of each song is included so you can compare them for yourself. Note there's a page two; I almost missed it.

I think it's pretty obvious that Cobain lifted the notes from the chorus of the Pixies tune.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Never grow old

I was tooling around the other day with the top down, wind whipping and the stereo blasting away, when one of my indelible songs came on. The endorphins were rockin' along and suddenly I found myself listing (I still think of Whisky's "I'm Listing!" category when I find myself mentally composing a listing post).

My indelible songs are the ones that when they cycle up in a playlist or on the radio, I never turn them off. Even if I'm not in the mood, they get me in the mood - and the sad ones like "Most of the Time" don't bring me down. This list skews to older songs because only after time do you find out if a song "wears out" or is mood dependent.

What about my beloved U2 (which only got one song on the list), or Yoshimi, or Dwight Yoakam? And, gosh, there's not one Paul Simon song on here, even though the whole of Hearts and Bones is one of my all-time faves. Those are usually ones I have to be in the mood to listen to. Or, I still think they're great, and will even listen to them on occasion, but I may not play them for well over a year or more.

In compiling this, I decided to go with full versions of the song when I could (and was able to, for most of them), so I went with videos where I could. My bias was to always go with the better audio, no matter how goofy the video is (a lot of them are home-made), except where I point out a better audio version. I also went for the exact mix or version that I like, and have indicated when my favored version wasn't available. I didn't embed them because you'd have to scroll for minutes to get to the bottom of the post, and I thought that'd be outrageous. I have made them so they'll pop in a new tab/window, though, so you don't have to keep surfing back to hear the next one.

Finally, just a reminder that if you like some of these, and need a copy before you can buy one, this old post explains how to do that.

In alphabetical order:
Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Quantum of Solace

Saw "Zack and Miri" when it came out, because I loves myself some Kevin Smith. And, I didn't think he'd be able to pull this one off without a huge "ick" factor. Especially if the lead characters did in fact have sex on camera.

Well, they do have sex on camera, and it allllllllllmost works. As a matter of fact, it's so close, we'll go with horseshoe rules and just say it does work.

But I can quantify exactly how it doesn't work. Did you ever have the experience as a kid where you already had some legos, and one of the grandparents bought you some more, but bought an off-brand that didn't fit actual legos? So, there you were, with two sets of construction blocks that worked amongst themselves, but you couldn't make one big thing out of them. In "Zack and Miri," Smith has hot-glued those two sets together so if you don't take a close look, you've got one big lego thang.

The fact of the matter is, this is a concept that would only work in the movie world, because in the real world, people like Zack and Miri wouldn't get past the drunk epiphany stage. They wouldn't be caught dead actually filming sex in order to sell it to people they know.

So, now that we have THAT out of the way, I must say that I enjoyed the hell out of this flick. I liked the jokes. I liked the language - Smith is one of those who can take profanity to a near high art form. And since the movie is completely impervious to editing for broadcast TV, why not have the characters carpet f-bomb the place?

Even with the provisos and quid-pro-quos above, the actual sex scene between Zack and Miri is honestly touching. Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen - particularly Banks - completely sell the scene, and give perhaps one of the best demonstrations ever on how acting can totally make a moment in a flick. It's one of my favorite love scenes of all time, and I'm surprised I actually mean that.

TLD: Apologies for the adverb abuse in this post, btw. I'm bad about using them in the first place, but here I have so many words that end in "ly" I'm totally feeling like a Valley Girl, for sure.

It's been a while since I crushed on an actress, but Elizabeth Banks just had me all moony. My God, she's a babe here. Never has an actress looked so radiant since Grace Kelley illuminated Hitchcock's Rear Window, or Meg Ryan sparkled in When Harry Met Sally.

Brandon Routh (he of Superman Returns fame) as Justin Long's (he of "the mac" in the PC vs. mac commercials) gay lover is a snort. Playing off of Superman's hyper-macho image and looking mortified as Long has yet another nellie snit fit is great squirmy fun.

Kevin Smith has always said he's not good at directing, but since Jersey Girl he's steadily improved, and since he's mentioned it himself, I tend to have my radar up during his movies for that very thing. And I'll tell you what, I went "wow" a couple times. Mr. Smith has graduated. One of the more enjoyable subtexts of "Zack and Miri" is a lot of the show is commentary on guerrilla film making and stuff I bet Kevin Smith went through making Clerks.

Jeff Anderson, who plays the guy who knows how to use a camera, played the infamous Randal in Clerks. Every time I've seen him I've been amazed at how good an actor he is, and wonder why other directors don't use him more. He's that perfect everyman. Kinda the niche that Jeff Daniels has managed to mine quite a bit. Casting directors, take note.

Finally, it's eerie to me how much my music tastes align with Smith's. I thrilled every time another song came up thinking that's the exact song I would've picked, too. Though, I wouldn't have had the balls to use Climax Blues Band's "I Love You" as the penultimate song. It's perfect, but boy it's gooey. And it works.

Quantum of Solace

This is sorta giving it away, but the plot is essentially Chinatown without the incest angle.

The action is filmed in the same style the The Bourne Ultimatum was - all swiveling cameras and two-second long cuts. It's hard to follow and it gets you kinda sea sick.

The only thing that stood out was the clarity of the picture. I don't know if I was sitting the perfect distance from the screen, or if they've gotten a new method of filming movies, but when Bond was out in a desert, I could pick out individual rocks across the entire screen. It almost looked 3-D. But, as with big-deal CGFX, it needs to serve the story and not be a thing unto itself.

It was a fun two hours, but I can't really recommend it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Save Lots of Money

Donald Blowhard has a post up soliciting money-saving advice. I intended to put this in the comments, but it ballooned so much I thought I'd save them the space. (They pay for their service, I don't.)

For the record, I have done all of these, so I know they work.

We had to tighten our belts during the first Bush depression, so here's what we did, and it saved hundreds a month:

- Go down to basic cable. If you live where you can get TV over the air, get one of those new digital antennas. TV can be free or close to it. If you like those HBO or Showtime series, see the next bullet.
- Use the library as your source of movies, music, and books. You have to have a little patience, but you eventually get to read, see and hear what you'd like. A lot of libraries now have a netflix-like list where you can put holds on things you want. Only buy the "I will listen/read/watch this over 4 times" items. And even then, buy them used or on sale. (And for aspiring writers who are worried about income, libraries buy books.)
- Check your phone bill. There's a lot of fat on there.
- If you have kids, introduce them to the classics. Most libraries have Star Trek, Bewitched, M*A*S*H, Hill Street Blues, and even Gilligan's Island on DVD. You, yourself, will be surprised at how good they still are. Your kids will now have a new cultural touchstone (besides all things Disney) and will get the jokes of their older co-workers when they go to work.
- Oh, and a lot of networks are now streaming whole TV shows online.
- Share. Movies, books, music, videotapes, etc. Most folks have gotten out of this habit because we've all encountered the twit who returned our Barry Manilow Live CD scratched beyond repair. Just note the abusers and don't share with them. Most folks are conscientious.
- On that same note, start up a book/DVD/whatever swap at work (for things you can give away). The rule is take a book, leave a book. Or DVD. Or tape. Etc.
- If you are having anything delivered, stop it. Even if it was a deal at first, do the math and compare to the grocery store.
- If you get a newspaper delivered, call them and ask for a better deal. They always have them ready for folks like you.
- Call your credit card and ask for a better rate. Half the time, you'll get one. (Of course, don't use credit cards at all if you can. But these days, that's like saying "don't drive.")
- Use the dry cleaner for dry clean things only. Don't buy dry clean things in the first place. (We always have done this, but some of our friends didn't. They were shocked at the savings. Btw, half our culdesac lost their jobs in the first Bush bust.)
- Generics/store brands. You prolly know this, but most store brands are made by the exact same folks who make the branded stuff on the shelf right next to them. Frinstance, at my store, there's the store brand of canned dinner rolls for 59 cents right next to the Pillsbury version which is $1.49. (When you consider flour, yeast, and effort, 59 cents is cheaper than you can make them from scratch.) Our generic soda pop is made by RC cola, for another example. The one generic thing I've discovered that's never quite right is - of all things - corn chips. Buy the brand you like for those.
- Potatoes and rice are great meal fillers. Try Basmati rice; it's awesome. Potatoes are so malleable, you literally could not make every potato dish there is inside of a year if you tried. And, it worked for the Irish.
- A crock pot can save or upgrade nearly any piece of meat.
- There's another wonder pot out there, too. Check out Ebert's complete guide. If you've never had rice prepared in a vessel that's designed to cook it, prepare to be amazed. Btw, this pot cooks everything, not just rice.
- Got veggies in the crisper that are near their stale date, or some meat that's still OK, but won't be in a couple days? It's time to make soup! When we bake a chicken, we save all the pan drippings as stock. If you haven't done that, two bullion cubes, or one can of store-bought stock will do. (But don't skip the stock, it makes or breaks soup.) You take two carrots, two stalks of celery, half a cabbage (or a whole small one), onion (to taste) and sauté them in virgin olive oil (or butter, or mixture of the two), and throw them in the stock. Add 2 tbls. salt (or less, if you're one of those - but at least 1 tbls.), a pinch of thyme, a bay leaf, and from there add whatever else you like: chicken, pork, corn, tomatoes, etc. Be cautious with beef, though. Sometimes you've got to do a beef stock instead, particularly if the beef was cooked for another meal. 1 heaping teaspoon of beef "Better than Bullion" will do the trick (instead of chicken stock). Also, avoid putting in rice unless you know how; it can just blitzkrieg a soup. Bring to a boil for a good 20 minutes, then reduce to simmer, and simmer 2 to 4 hours. Freeze leftovers in lunch-sized containers.
- Other way cheap meals you've forgotten about: tuna casserole, meatloaf, and spaghetti with meatballs (hamburger, basil, oregano, a couple crackers, roll into balls and fry; then drop into sauce).
- Accelerate gently, leadfoot. (I still fail at this one, but am working on it.)
- And never buy a new car. Ever. That's the ONE place where trickle-down works. Let the wealthy status hogs lower the price of a car for you.
- If you're gonna do fast food, go with the dollar menu. Hint, anything you add outside of condiments, they're gonna charge you for, so only subtract (no pickles!), don't add cheese and such. We were able to literally halve our outlay on fast food. (And be honest, who doesn't get it at least once a week?)
- If any meat is 1/2 off or BOGO, binge and freeze. (But, freeze it correctly. The extra pennies on freezer storage stuff will pay itself back.)
- Compare "organic" to the other produce. Sometimes one is cheaper than the other, and unless you've got some sort of chemical sensitivity, there really isn't much difference in taste and quality, save for the tomatoes.
- Rethink what you typically order at restaurants, or for home delivery. Look over the menu for the ala carte stuff and the appetizers. Often, when you get a "meal" you're only getting a scoop of rice or a limp veggie for the bump. If you ala carte it, or get an appetizer and share, you can cut a few bucks. (And, of course, the caveat is don't go out to eat so much.)
- If you do go out to eat, avoid the chains like Chilis, Applebees, Fridays, Black-eyed Pea, etc. Really have a look at what they're charging you $12 a plate for. Usually local mom and pop eateries are better deals. With better food.
- Split entrees. Those $12 plates are usually more than you should eat, anyway. Who cares if the waiter/waitress sneers at you? They're only thinking of their tip, and they'll have a different job in a year or so anyway. You're merely helping them along on their journey.
- If you have kids, go to consignment/second-hand stores. That's another amount you'll half. (Wash them well, first, of course.)
- Also, if you have kids, unless you're afraid of being called a commie or socialist, if you have friends and neighbors with kids, arrange trades with them when junior outgrows a set of clothes. You may not always like their taste, but more often than not you'll get stuff that's fine. Make sure you give back what you don't use. Don't bother with any reasons "why" when you give them back, just say (sincerely), "Thanks." Any "reasons", like "They don't fit", will immediately smell like BS. Even if they ask things like, "Oh, are they OK?" (or anything that indicates they're prepping to be insulted), just pipe, "Of course not! And thanks again!"
- Buy clothes off-season. When winter hits, go check the leftover shorts and swimsuits. (Or fall wear, depending on the store's lag time.) That's why you have drawers and closets.
- Though it's the only way they make money, don't buy popcorn, candy or a drink at the movie theatre. Sneak it in if you have to have something. During winter, you can get 4 beers in your jacket sleeves. (Cans, folks. If you shred your forearms and leak beer, glass and blood all over the theatre floor, you'll just be part of someone's Christmas stories.)
- Turn lights off. 3/4 of the houses around us look like they're signaling the mother ship every night. Conversely, we've had neighbors wonder if we're ever home at night, because we only have on one or two lights at any given time, and always in the room we're in.
- Hunt for household energy vampires and pull the plug (or flip the switch if they truly turn off). Yes, those few seconds of warm-up time are lost forever, but it may mean $10 to $20 more a month.
- DON'T live with a house temperature you don't like. Life is too short. If you like the house at 70 degrees, please, do so. The money you save for living at 68 degrees doesn't not begin to equate with the discomfort you'll have every day.
- However, if everyone is gone during the day, have one of those programmable thermostats installed. ($100 - $200 last I checked.) Dropping the house to 65 degrees from 9 to 4 can really save a dime or two. (And even midnight to 4 am, if you don't mind a cold house whilst you're asleep.)
- Shower/bathe every other day. Yes, like most, you'll still have to wash your hair, but that's a lot less water and heat than a whole cleanse. You won't be stinky, I promise. And it's better for your skin. Keep in mind that back during WWII, it was typical for folks to bathe once a week. (Colorado sells most of its water to California, so Coloradoans pay for water like it was bottled water. Our monthly water bill is never less than $100. This trick alone saved a Benjamin.)
- If you have an indulgence you don't want to live without, just budget for it. You find room to pay for a phone and such. You'll find room for your morning latte. The trick is to give up something else that's not all that much to you anymore. Say the bran muffin. Oatmeal is better for you anyway.
- When you encounter a deal on something (nonperishable) you WILL use, but have enough for the moment, buy anyway. I'm always burning CDs of music, so when I find a stack of 100 for $12, I snag it.
- Don't pay for software. Once you have the box, you can now literally get ALL the software you might need for free. If you don't want to venture into Linux (and I don't recommend it for the easily frustrated, and those who don't have a buddy to help), most boxes come with the OS anyway. So, search for what you need. Open Office really is as good as MS Office anymore. The only software that you might have to pop for is CD/DVD burning software (Nero is the best), but only if it didn't come with the PC in the first place. Most freeware burners make too many Christmas ornaments (failed burns) to make them worth it.

Any other caveats and thoughts are welcome.

Update: The Opinionated Homeschooler has offered some more great tips (and some adjustments to mine). The only one that wouldn't work for me is "not driving." Our city is NOT laid out for cyclists even a little bit. Someone from LA must've designed our city, methinks.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why the Mormons had a woody for prop 8.

(Apparently Lucy has some 'splainin to do.)

Everyone's wondering what the Mormon church was up to when it got members to pony up huge wads of holy cash to get prop. 8 approved in CA, which bans gay marriage.

I think it's pretty obvious, myself. It's about polygamy.

The mainstream Mormon church does not allow polygamy, but most of the splinter Mormon sects do. Mormons want more than anything to be perceived as just another Christian denomination, even though their actual theology has more in common with Scientology and Islam than it does with historical, mainline Christianity (as does their origin).

The splinter Mormons who do practice polygamy (illegally) have been waiting for gay marriage to become widely legal so they could then begin the drive to make polygamy legal. The mainline Mormons know this, and fear that if the splinters made polygamy legal, then everyone would assume that all Mormons would practice polygamy, therefore endangering their desired perception of being just another Christian denomination.

Now, they also consider homosexuality to be a sin, but it's not enough of an issue to them where it would've resulted in all the monies and effort that went into getting prop. 8 passed. (They think anyone not Mormon is going to hell anyway, particularly gays.) It's just not that important.

But, public perception is. So they didn't care if they took a national hit on being "bigoted" since it aligns with their view of homosexuality anyway. However, they don't want to look odd and be "those folks who have a bunch of teen-age brides lined up." That would cause a direct hit on their missionary work, possibly their jobs and their pocket books if they were viewed to be as loony or dangerous like Scientologists or Islamic Extremists (who also practice polygamy outside of the US). (And of course we must genuflect here to the atheist fundies who consider ANYONE religious to be loony and dangerous. Yes. We know. Leave the comments alone. Go hang with your buddies on Digg.)

Btw, the Mormons may have broken the law related to the tax exempt status of churches where they are not supposed to use the pulpit as a political soapbox, but I don't know if they crossed that line or not.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And now ... a cat playing a Theremin

Monday, November 10, 2008

And, dammit, the man just looks cool...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day Funnies

Finally, here we are.

Whatever happens, we can at last escape from those cursed political commercials with the worried-voice narrators. Is it me, or does it seem there are approximately only 3 voice-over talents used for all political commercials. Those three folks must make enough money during election years to coast for the remaining three.

Anyway, this made me laugh. Hard. (I'm still chuckling as I type this.)

In retrospect, the one element of the election that really left me wondering about my fellow man is how many folks bought the whole "socialism" charge of the McCain campaign.

Do that many people really not know what socialism actually is? Do any of the dolts who bought the McCain newspeak definition of "socialist" (or its phrase-cousin "redistribution of wealth") realize that it also applies to the way our entire police force and military are funded? And do any of these folks have any idea that their beloved "trickle-down" economics (assuming, here) fits the bill, too?

That little oddity left me awash with the same kind of weltschmerz that reading any comment thread on a Digg post that deals with religion or atheism does.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Goodnight Moon

... and Opus. And hopefully, Bush (no third term!).

But, first, about Goodnight Moon.

Back when I worked at a bookstore, after I had adapted as much as I could to working in a mall and existing under a daily blazing bath of fluorescent lights, I started paying attention to what people bought outside of the current bestsellers. Then, during down time, I would peruse them.

TLD:One of the great finds I made this way was the best cookbook EVER. I noticed who bought the most cookbooks, and then asked those ladies (it was always just women) which was the best all-around cookbook I could own (particularly as a young bachelor). Every single one marched over to the same rack without hesitation and plopped this one in my mitts: The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Here's the version I have, which you can get for cents and shipping (wow, because back in the day it was $35 with my employee discount) and the new one. If you need to know how to cook anything from a basic hamburger all the way up to an umpteen course meal, including lobster, this book shows you how. My wife considers me an accomplished cook (and she was raised by gourmands), and everything I know about cooking comes from this book, or some tip from Alton Brown (though I would never go to the screwing-while-standing-up-in-a-hammock gyrations he goes through to make just one dish).

The vast majority of high volume sales kid's lit is deservedly so. The author and illustrator have hit the elusive sweet spot/magic formula that makes a children's book amazing, which is the equivalent in terms of talent or luck of making a good movie comedy (as actors often say that acting is a drama is easy, and comedy is the hardest thing to do). For example, nearly anything by Robert Munsch is awesome. If you don't have kids and you need to buy a gift for a little one, you can't go wrong with Munsch. (If you have kids and haven't heard of Munsch, come back into the light and forsake the underside of the rock for a while.)

One of the most popular children's books was/is Goodnight Moon, and since I'm not a snob, and since children's books are perfect for reading during the lag at work, I read all those I wasn't familiar with, including "moon."

Goodnight Moon was just horrible (to me)! Insipid. Weird, even.

The manager of the store had kids, so I asked her about it. She raved. It truly was one of the best, according to her.

And here, dear readers, is one of the demarcations between those with children and those without. Some things you just don't get until you have one of the little dears. It's just impenetrable. I've always been queasy with this analogy, but it's like trying to imagine what actual sex is like before you've had it. Even further, it's like being prepubescent and not having a realization that sex even exists.

So, when my first arrived, sure enough, one of the gifts was Goodnight Moon.

I sayeth to mine wife, "Verily, this book doth suck." She respondeth, "Hast though readst it?" "Alas, I have," I replyeth. "Hast though read it to yonder child?" she doth inquire. "Non," sayeth I. "Well, give it a try. You'll see," she said, abandoning warmed-over King James verbiage.

Still not convinced, I read a "better" book first, hoping that would be consolation enough when we attempted the dreaded "moon." Then we dove in.

Here it is: the secret of Goodnight Moon is reading the book out loud to a tot.

The revelation was what I'd imagine the revelation would be like for someone who'd seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show cold, at home on DVD, thinking it was a serious film classic, then seeing it with an audience, with the toilet paper, squirt guns, cards, etc. It's all about context.

The rhythms and cadence of the book is nothing short of perfect when read out loud. It also has a unique view into/understanding of the mind of a child who's old enough to start following stories. Most bizarre of all, it's hypnotic and acts as a powerful sedative. You can feel your child relax, and by the time you read "goodnight noises everywhere" (which you should whisper, and I've noticed most parents do), it's all over but the goodnight kiss.

I'm tempted to make the claim that it's high poetry, with the qualification that it's high poetry for that age group, given it's so powerful and yet simple.

It looms large in your life as a parent. So much so that when you (or at least I) read the ending to the Opus comic, part one here, part two here, I actually welled up.

Update: Nearly forgot to mention that though Berkeley Breathed is retiring Opus (again, but he says for the last time), he is going to keep writing children's books. All the ones he's written so far are wonderful, including his latest, Pete & Pickles.

Then, of course, there's the new parody of Bush baby, whom we fire tomorrow (my glee is barely containable). The laughs are larger when you see how perfectly it follows all the detail (of which there is an amazing amount, you realize after a few readings) of the original Goodnight Moon.

Tellingly, the author, Margaret Wise Brown, never really came up with another wonder like Goodnight Moon. She even produced a book so bad, my family still mocks it: The Important Book. Here's an excerpt: "The important thing about snow is that it is white. It is cold, and light, it falls softly out of the sky, it is bright, [blah blah]. But the important thing about snow is that it is white." Reading this book out loud doesn't save it. It's as clunky as rubber galoshes on a hot sandy beach. To this day, when we encounter something irrelevant about something, we say, "The important thing about shopping carts is that they have wheels. They're germy, they rattle [blah blah]. But the important thing..." and so on.

To be fair, Ms. Brown is not a one hit wonder, because The Runaway Bunny, isn't bad. It's not a gem, like Goodnight Moon, though.

And goodnight to the old lady whispering "hush".
Wanted: Advice Columnist. Common sense a must.

A while ago I came across the list below - "9 Mind Tricks to Get What You Want" - and haven't had time to eviscerate it until now.

There's a subtle tactic to make things go your way in your career, love life, and social world —one that has nothing to do with effort or luck. It's called priming. Research shows that by exposing people to specific words, body language and symbols, they can be affected in a way that benefits you without their even realizing what's going on. Here's how to use subliminal moves to get an edge.

1. To seem like a team player at work ...
Put up a picture of your dog (or even a friend's pup) in your workspace. When people look at shots of a pet dog, they not only tend to presume you're loyal, but they may also act more loyal toward you. But don't paper your cube with canines. Research shows that too many personal shots make others perceive you as a less professional worker.

Actually, when I see a picture of someone's pet, I assume two things: 1) no kids (which is cool if you are single and want to announce that), or 2) you're one of THOSE PEOPLE. The "animals are babies, too" people. You know who you are. The rest of us are nice to your face, because you are typically nice people, but if the revolution occurs and there's only so much room on the lifeboat, your fucking dog is shit out of luck.

2. To appear more powerful in the office hierarchy ...
Wear a chic all-black outfit to work, and don't smile as often as you're inclined. You'll be seen as assertive and directed. Studies have found that people in black uniforms (like sports teams) are viewed as more dominant figures, while the act of keeping a neutral face is associated with higher status and power in a work environment.

I assume they're just someone who can't let go of being Goth, or they truly love their daily dandruff production to be perfectly evident to everyone.

A completely neutral face only raises questions regarding botox or constipation. Or the fact that a good shagging is overdue.

And really, being "seen as assertive and directed" usually means everyone thinks you're an asshole. The best bosses and upper management folks I've worked with (and who ran the best/most successful organizations) had the air of actually being decent and nice.

Maybe this stuff floats on the East Coast, but out here in flyover country, it's a red flag. You'll soon notice that watercooler/hallway conversations breakup as you approach.

3. To bond with the boss ...
Offer to get her a hot cup of coffee — even if you're not her assistant — and chat her up as she's drinking it. A recent study showed that just by holding the high-temp liquid, she'll implicitly assume you're an emotionally warm person — someone very likable. Just don't hand her an iced latte or you could trigger a frosty reception.

And she'll assume you're her bitch forever after. Next it'll be a trip to the dry cleaners.

Here's another bright idea: bring her a cherry popsicle. Once she starts eating it, pull out a video camera and ask if you can tape it to put it on youtube.

4. To have "the talk" without making your partner flip out ...
Take him to a restaurant that has soft feminine colors and furniture with few angular lines. Researchers think that simply being in this kind of an environment can influence a person to behave in a more feminine way in terms of communicating. That means that he'll be more likely to be open and disclose his true feelings to you.

Apparently, "the talk" is female code for something. To me, it could either be the breakup talk, or the "let's take this to the next level" talk.

If it's the breakup talk, just do it over the phone. It works for everyone. You don't have to be around him afterwards. He can cry, or yell, or smash shit, or pump the fist in the air (presuming you dropped him before he could drop you), or continue to screw tonight's conquest, or drink himself silly, and not have to wait until the public agony is over.

If it's the "next level" thingy:

Most guys don't wanna have that conversation in public, either. If they don't want "the next level," then they're not about to drop that bomb in front of anyone else (see above). He will not be honest with you - until the phone rings later (see above). We also avoid farting in an elevator. They're kinda in the same courtesy grouping.

If he DOES want to go to the next level, again, he definitely doesn't want to be in public. He will probably want to be able to get affectionate, get all puppy-dog faced without witnesses, and so on. A private walk in the park, a night in watching a DVD, or just after or before the goodnight kiss is a good time for this "talk."

However, any stage of coital activity (pre, present, post) is best avoided for this talk. Before ... uh, consummation ... a guy is kinda distracted. You might as well ask what is favorite color is while he's skydiving. Afterwards, the theta waves for sleep are already coursing through his brain, and he'll agree to about anything. This is when to get him to commit to going to a chick flick, or to request the purchase of a nice, inexpensive gift - and NOT for anything like "could you clear out a drawer for me?"

5. To make your crush fall for you on a dinner date ...
Subtly touch the back of his hand as you're reaching across the table for bread. It's a proven way to win someone's affection: Libraries and car dealerships have higher customer-satisfaction ratings when workers imperceptibly touch their clients. Touch activates the human desire to bond.

Hand contact is nice, but to guys it's just that: nice. We've had plenty of girls who later popped "I just like you for a friend" on us touch our hands. It means nothing to us. Until you've gotten close enough that we can smell you, we make no large assumptions about your intentions.

When a salesperson touches me, however, it's just creepy. Don't do it.

6. To seem more alluring when you meet a guy ...
Talk about a beach vacation you took using sensual terms (e.g., “The sun felt so fabulously warm against my skin”) to paint a mental picture about the climate. According to psychologists, this seductive I-feel-like-I'm-there speech will make him associate your personality with the lush sensations you're describing.

Meanwhile, in his brain, he'll be wondering things like:
- Is the Packer's game on tonight?
- I wonder what her boobs look like...
- The shrimp? No. Fish breath. Spaghetti? No. I can never eat that gracefully in public. A steak, I guess.
- Was it a nude beach? Call me next time you go!
- What the hell is that floating in my water glass?
- Etc.

Be yourself and talk about yourself the way you would normally do. If you talk like this, he might think you're a loon.

7. To impress a guy's parents the first time you meet them ...
Casually praise someone whom you're certain his mom or dad holds in high esteem, such as a political figure, author, or celebrity. Experts say that as you talk about their hero in a positive light, your targets start to think about all the qualities they admire in that person. And because they're looking at you, they'll subconsciously link you with that person's positive traits.

When they talk to him later, they'll say, "She's kind of a suck-up, isn't she?"

Parents have all their radar out when meeting the SO of their child. Every little gram of evidence is examined for any possible interpretation or clues. You might as well be yourself, because the odds are against you at first, anyway. That way, if it works out, you don't have to remember any BS that you laid out in the beginning.

8. To make a friend out of an acquaintance ...
Start mirroring her behavioral tics, like touching your hair when she touches hers. We like to see ourselves in other people. Researchers at New York University found that when you're sitting across from someone who's unconsciously shaking his foot, if you start moving yours in a similar but unobtrusive way, then the person feels more positive toward you.

This one's proven, sadly.

However, whenever I notice someone's doing it, I start scratching my nose in that way that makes it unclear if it's a pick or a scratch. I grimace. I gesture wildly, etc., just to see how far they'll go.

9. Your slob roomie to clean up after herself more often ...
Spray a bit of liquid all-purpose cleaner in the air right before she enters the skanky spot in question. A Dutch study recently proved that the faint smell of a cleaning product will spur people to start picking up the area around them. You can also prime her by squirting a little fluid in the bathroom sink before she goes in to use it.

Sure. More likely she'll say, "Have you cleaned up? Cool. I hate cleaning." And now you've fallen into the trap of being the primary cleaner.

The best way to win this war is to put a lock on your bedroom door (to keep it clean), and out-slob her in the rest of the place. Most everyone has a threshold, and once you cross it, they'll usually start cleaning and keep it up. Pubes in the sink are a good tactic. If you can manage to take a really smelly dump right before they come home, that's more of a trigger than a spritz of Mr. Clean.

If they are of that small percent that never gets grossed out, you've discovered you need a new roommate.

I hope that I've spread a little sunshine for ya'll, here.