Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Don't start counting yet... there's 16020 seconds left to go in 2011, or thereabouts. But we here at Laughing at the Pieces (well, me here at Laughing at the Pieces) wishes you a 2012 with all the promise that a smoking baby in a top hat implies.

See you... in the future!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Soap Opera I've Always Wanted

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim is currently airing the soap opera I've always dreamed of: The Heart, She Holler. The premise is fairly conventional: a family squabbles over the control of their dead father's estate... which is left to a son none of them knew he had until his death.

Of course, the son (Patton Oswalt) has been hidden in a windowless room for decades, never seeing light or hearing language. And his sisters are a scheming, hilariously (and hideously) oversexed moron (Kristen Schaal) and a crazed telekinetic who listens to the voices in her head (Heather Lawless). And the entire holler (The Heartshe Holler, of course) is populated with the finest assortment of mouthbreathers and knuckledraggers to ever escape from a Jeff Foxworthy routine.

There's freaks, and mayhem, and more Just Plain Wrong than you could bury in a steel drum in the backyard.  The entire miniseries airs its six 15-minute episodes all this week, and then repeats them next week. (Or, you can catch up on the Adult Swim website.) I hope you enjoy it as much as I do... because otherwise, you'll never forgive me for asking you to watch.

Here's a taste. A sick, crude, ridiculously gory taste.

I can guarantee you never saw that on Days of Our Lives.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I Write These Down So I Can Read Them Years Later and Blow My Mind

A brief description of a dream that I had the other night. I was down in Delaware, for a combination book fair and theater festival. Friends of mine from my college theater group were there -- Sharon, Bill, Karen, and Sharon's husband, Drew -- and we were all staying in various dorms. I was in a room with a cot squeezed between two twin beds, but I don't know who my roommates were.

Anyway, because this was Delaware, everyone spoke French. And I kept on having to go to the Delaware embassy to get my passport, because I had forgotten it, and just had an old, photocopied ID. I wouldn't be able to get back into New Jersey with that! So every day, I would float down to the embassy and ask if my passport had arrived.

That's right: because I didn't have my passport, I could fly. My understanding is, once I got my passport, I'd have to walk around like everyone else. But as it was, I was learning to fly, more of a floaty bobbing in air than anything directed, often overshooting the balcony I was trying to land on and setting down on the one above or below. And then having to use the stairs.

So I get back from my trip to the embassy, and float into my room, and everyone is there, having beers because it's 11am and I just missed the last performance of their play. So we had a little cast party in my borrowed dorm.

I don't have the slightest idea what any of this means, particularly since we were speaking French. When in Delaware, after all...

ETA: Photo copyright John Neel.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bet You Can't Digest 'Em All!

Artist Sarah Becan is serving up some good eating at Know Your Pokécuts of Meat.


Friday, November 04, 2011

Lady Sabre: Ineffin' Good.

I don't read a lot of webcomics. Which is odd, because if I ever manage to break into comics myself, it'll most likely be by writing one on the web, so I owe it to myself to become more familiar with the form and format. I've read a few off and on -- The Foglios' Girl Genius, Rich Burlew's Order of the Stick -- but haven't looked at either for a while.

But I've just read the first two chapters of Greg Rucka & Rich Burchett's Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, and it's firing on all cylinders for me. I like the creators, and was looking forward to it when it was announced, but I wanted to let it get some story underway before I jumped on. Well, things are moving. The first two chapters are complete, and now... well, I don't think the two-pages-a-week pace will be fast enough for me. (Here's a link to the archive, which will start you out at the first page of Chapter 1.)

It's great stuff... somehow mixing steampunk sky pirates and the Old West. I'm in.

And that reminds me: I'm WAY behind on Mike Norton's BattlePug.


Thursday, November 03, 2011

Nickel-Plated Retirement Plan

So the Washington Post reported today that 40 House Republicans signed a letter telling the Supercomittee that it might be okay to raise taxes just a teensy bit. Which is interesting news, in that it might signal the first cracks in Grover Norquist's anti-tax stranglehold on the GOP. But what I found most entertaining was this quote, from Republican congressman Steven C. LaTourette, who claimed that it was fear of Norquistian repercussions that prevented a considerable number of other House Republicans from signing up, too:

Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio) said if he had a nickel for every one of the Republicans who said they supported the letter’s goal but feared how Norquist would react, “I’d be rich and retired, and we’d have 200 signatures on the letter.”

See, this is why we can't let Republicans control the economy. 200 signatures minus the 40 already there is 160. In nickles, that's 8 bucks. Which is enough for a rich, happy retirement, apparently. Or coffee and a muffin.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Know your Skookum from your Yayaya-ash

For your amazement and edification, a list of the many different Native American names for Sasquatch.

There will be a quiz.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Signal From Space

I noticed that Forbidden Planet was on TCM today, and remembered that it was Steve Friedman's favorite movie. I used to listen to Friedman's Mr. Movie radio show on 1210AM late at nights, driving home after a weekend with Kathy. The long gaps for commercials would drive me crazy, but in the days before podcasts, it was a radio talk show I found interesting and engaging, and it kept me awake and on the road when I needed it. Steve was an old-time movie fan, and I'd be lying if I said I always agreed with his opinions, particularly about newer films. But he kept me listening, and kept me interested, and I always learned something about some older movie or star that I hadn't known before.

So when I saw the listing for Forbidden Planet, I looked him up, to see if he was still doing his late-night program. Sadly, he passed away in 2009, shortly after recording a show. Though I'm out of broadcast range, Philadelphia radio (not to mention the many stations he was syndicated on) is a little less colorful without him, I'm sure.

Anyway, the news, old though it was, and his love for the film, finally inspired me to watch Forbidden Planet today. And it's a fine movie, full of mystery, adventure, and grand, bold ideas. (Plus, it has an awesome robot in Robbie and a gorgeous actress in Anne Francis, both of whom I'm sure Steve appreciated.) I'm glad I finally saw it; I can't believe it took me so long.

Thanks, Steve.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Herman Cain: The Truth Is, Out There

In his latest (and to my eyes, hilarious) ad, Herman Cain seems to be targeting the X-Files audience.

Check it out. Make sure you go all the way to the end.

Seriously, how often do we see cigarettes on TV these days? Sinister cigarette-smoking man hearts Herman Cain while leading Scully and Mulder on a wild goose chase for evidence of aliens and government involvement in otherworldly whatnot.  A bold choice, which by the end, even Cain finds funny. He just stares and stares at the camera, daring you to call his bluff, until he cracks a smile.

The best part is, whenever Mark Block (cigarette-smoking man, but not this one) makes an assertion about Herman Cain, he shakes his head "no." Even he doesn't believe it, it seems, but hey, he needs the paycheck. Have you seen what a carton of Luckies goes for these days?


Friday, October 07, 2011

Water Weasel

This blog isn't going to turn into all ferrets, all the time, but I wanted to get this down. I had a dream about Gus last night. He was swimming, in a big pool where people were gathering to see some sort of music festival. I swam over to Kathy and asked where he was, and she pointed at a white streak under the water, some distance away. "There he is," she said. "He's fine."

I swam over, and he was playing under the water, doing flips and curling around like a miniature otter. He looked so much bigger under the water. And having the time of his life.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Mister Gus

Our good buddy—Gus, Mister Gus, Guster, the Bumble, Sweet Kisses—is gone.

This little white ferret lived a good life with us, entering our house with his three pals, Blink, the Dude, and She-Devil, eventually outlasting them all. For the last year or so of his life, he was a solo ferret, and a very good one. Being a ferret was what he loved, and he did it with pride.

Of course, he was a little OCD. That comes from being a ferret, I think. (I was going to say "anal," but that just brought memories of this.) There were a number of items that he obsessed about. He had a toy shaped like a jack that he tried to pull into a hanging hammock tube. He’d carry it in his teeth from the bottom of the cage to the top, rest it on the platform, climb into the tube and pull it. It was too big to get in, but he spent a lot of time trying. (And at one point, he even succeeded, bringing the jack through a slit at the top! A proud day.)

Then there were the jingle balls. They needed to go in the corner, in a little nook between the CD racks. We could shake the little balls and send them rolling around the room, and he’d unfailingly bring them to where he could keep an eye on them.

But his greatest accomplishment was Sweet Kisses. For Valentine’s Day, Kathy gave me a blue heart-shaped pillow that said “Sweet Kisses” on it, like one of those conversation hearts. Gus took a liking to it. (Or maybe it was hate. Who can tell?) Every day, he’d climb up onto the sofa, find the Sweet Kisses pillow and grab it in his teeth, and then jump down to the floor. Now, while it doesn’t weigh as much, the pillow is about his size. So when he would leap into the air, it was always a surprise how he’d land. Sometimes he’d land like he intended, four feet on the ground and Sweet Kisses in front of him. Other times he’d land directly on the pillow and bounce off. More often, his momentum would take him over Sweet Kisses, flipping him upside down onto the floor once the pillow hit the ground. Regardless, he’d still have that pillow in his teeth. He’d give it a shake or two, then let it go. Once it was on the floor, he could ignore it. (He did try to drag it into a corner once or twice, but the geography was a little too tight for success, and he gave up. Maybe he’d learned his lesson from the jack toy.)

These things could give us endless entertainment. He wasn’t much of a snuggler, but every now and then, if we were lucky, he would give us little kisses—particularly if Kathy had just eaten chocolate or if I’d just had a beer. And then he’d run off to fall asleep in a fleece in the corner, or behind the TV, or pretty much anywhere. He’d mastered sleep.

We miss him something terrible. There hasn’t been a day I’ve woken up since he died that I hadn’t had to work to pull myself out of bed, aware that I wouldn’t be able to get a hug from Gus once I made it downstairs. Just the same, I’m glad we had so much time with him… most likely, extra time. Last year he was pretty sick. He’d lost all the hair on his body (only his head was spared), due to symptoms from insulinoma. I worried about him every day. But our vet gave him an experimental treatment, an implant that would treat the disease. Soon, Gus was starting to grow hair again, and was certainly feeling better, too.

He had a theme song, of course:

Mister Gus! Mister Gus!
I don’t wanna cause a fuss!
But you’re so cute! You’re so cute!
In your little ferret suit!
You’re so nice! You’re so nice!
I’ll freeze you in a block of ice!
And thaw you out when it’s time!
You’ll see the future, blow your mind!
Mister GUUUUS!

(This was usually sung in several verses, some in Spanglish--“en tu pequeno ferret suit”--some with a Transylvanian accent, and so on. I’m not sure if he ever got the Captain America allusion.)

This last month or so, he started to lose strength in his hind legs. It went from a little wobble now and then to him not being able to count on them at all in a matter of weeks. We were giving him medicine to deal with the problem, but it wasn’t helping. And eventually, Gus decided he’d had enough. He started refusing all food, like it was medicine. We used a syringe to get some food into him for a little while, but eventually decided that he knew his body best, and was making a deliberate decision.

Oh, hell. All pet stories end the same, if you go on long enough. You don’t need to hear this, and I don’t want to tell anymore. What matters is this little fuzzy, fussy white guy brought a lot of love into our life, and I still can’t believe he’s gone.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bicycle! Bicycle! Bicycle!

Thought I’d take a moment to write about the Twin LightsRide, the 30-mile bike ride I did on Sunday. It was in three 10-mile stretches, broken up by two rest stops. (There’s also a 55- and a 100-mile ride; Kathy – Superwoman – did the 55-mile trip, splitting off from my route after the first rest stop and rejoining it before the second (or fifth, from her point of view), about an hour and change after me.

It was a great, exhilarating feeling. I’d done some riding around town – usually 2.5-mile jaunts to the coffee shop, followed by a similar ride back to the house, but I’d lately been doing a 10-mile loop. Which is great – it gave me the confidence to know I could do each individual leg of the ride. Plus, I went to Montreal with Kathy and rode in the Tour du Nuit, a 20-km night ride around the city. It’s approximately 13 miles, but with the ride to and from our hotel, it was closer to 18.

Kathy told me to ride at my own pace, or a little slower than my own pace. But to be honest, I don’t do this enough to know what my own comfortable pace is. I know that I’m more comfortable with someone either far in front of me or no one in front of me at all… but that’s about it. I don’t want to have to brake for people, so I’ll pass them if I can. But I’m not very fast, and there aren’t a whole lot of people I need to pass. I mostly want to do it at the beginning of the uphills. I’m a big guy, and momentum is all I’ve got going for me, so I hate to slow down more than gravity makes me when I’m climbing.

On the second leg, I passed what seemed to be a squirrel-car-bike collision. A cyclist was lying down, catching his breath in the road, in front of a stopped car. A crowd was already gathered around him, so there wasn’t anything I could do to help. But as I rode past, I noticed a (newly?) dead squirrel right in my path. I wonder if the cyclist tried to avoid it, or collided with it, and swerved into the road. I hope the rider is okay.

There was also a woman in green I thought might be gaslighting me. The first time I passed her by the side of the road, she just nodded and said, “Good job.” But then I saw her – or her twin sister – cheering riders on later on along the route. I thought, “I’m going crazy,” and then I thought: “No… she wants me to think I’m going crazy.” Then I saw her again at the second rest stop, and then she walked up again and stood under a tree I’d decided to rest under after (well, almost after) a long climb. She mentioned the she had a car, which gave her an unfair advantage in the mobility department.

One other notable & surprising experience: I think I’m my own worst wingman. At the second rest stop, I wound up chatting with a woman about my age, maybe a couple years younger. She mentions that she’s planning to tack another 7 miles to her ride and head up to Sandy Hook, where the nude beach is, and maybe go for a swim. She brings this up several times. I bring my wife up a couple times, too, but the beach conversation continues. (We talked about other things, too, though, and enjoyed dipping marshmallows & bananas into the chocolate fountain at the rest stop. Word has it that the fountain was purchased by a local guy for his son’s bar mitzvah, and since he has it, he trots it out for every occasion he can.)

Anyway, nude beach. (It’s perfectly acceptable etiquette to picture someone nude once they start mentioning going to a nude beach that afternoon, by the way. It’s also perfectly acceptable not to, if you’d really rather not. But I was happy to.) I have mentioned Kathy a couple of times, and I’m wearing my ring, but at one point I mention that she’s actually doing the ride, but the 55-mile version. And suddenly, we’re a lot less chummy. There’s apparently a difference between a wife at home somewhere and a wife elsewhere on the ride. Oh, well.

Regardless of the lack of nude beach activity, it was a great day. The weather held out (weather reports the night before called for a 60% chance of rain). There were two, maybe three, big uphills on the final leg, and one exhilarating downhill where I rode faster than I ever have before. On the last uphill, I found myself musing on the importance of punctuation. For a while, I was panting to myself, “Climb this fucker,” over and over again… until it slowly transformed into more explicit personal instructions: “Climb this, fucker.” Commas are powerful things. In the end, though, I climbed every hill on the bike. Didn’t walk an inch.

I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Okay, now I'm really nervous.

Here's a fly-over video of last year's 30-mile Twin Lights ride. I'll be pedaling this route (or something similar) on Sunday.



P.S. Kathy, incidentally, will be doing a route almost twice as long. Because she's Superwoman, is why.

Edited to add: Holy crap, I did it!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Stopped Clock Alert

Can't say I'm a fan of our governor, and I honestly don't know anything about the record of his judicial nominee Sohail Mohammed, but there's nothing I can do but applaud Gov. Christie's defense of the man against attacks based on his religion. Check out this video, as Christie restrains himself from straight-out saying, "Seriously? Why are you wasting my time with this bullshit?":

(Via Talking Points Memo)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Safe Space Project

A friend of mine is starting a project, one worth spreading the word about. Ami Angelwings is a friend I met through comics blogging, and she's a consultant to various social services organizations in order to help them create more trans-positive and intersectional policies. She works with rape crisis centers, addiction services, shelters, etc. And it's become apparent that even though there are services out there that are safe spaces for trans people, people don't necessarily know about them. They haven't heard anything about them firsthand, which means that if they ever really need their services, they might have trepidation about going there, for fear that they'll be discriminated against.

In light of this, Ami's decided to start The Safe Space Project: a list of agencies that offer safe spaces for cis and trans men, trans women, and genderqueer people. Here's her describing it:

I'm starting with cis and trans men, trans women and genderqueer ppl, for now because those are the groups that typically worry about how agencies will treat them, and the general stereotype is that there AREN'T agencies, esp related to abuse and rape that will help them. And I want to create a (hopefully comprehensive) list of agencies (wherever in the world you live that you know of some) that are supportive of these groups, regardless of if they have "woman" or "man" in the title. :] Because I want a resource where ppl can look at it and know that there IS support in their area and that they CAN go to these places. So I want ppl to submit agencies that they KNOW (whether thru working w/ them, working FOR them, going to them, having friends go to them, calling them up and asking comprehensively, etc) are supportive and accepting of trans women, trans men, genderqueer individuals and cis men.
Also, on a more pragmatic view. The more such an agency is known as a supportive one for trans ppl or cis men, the more they will have incentive to change their policies or tailor more specific support. :]

She's planning on listing agencies that are available for just men, as well, because the assumption (at least with rape crisis centers) is that there are none, which isn't true. She also wants to know if these agencies are trans men friendly or not, and what sort of accommodations they have for them.

And she needs help. She'd like this to grow into a comprehensive list, a resource that people could turn to when they're in need, wherever they are, and know if they go to one of the places on it, they'll be accepted.

Here's a link to Ami's post on the subject, and what you can do to help. If you know of a crisis center or shelter that's a safe space, please comment on her post, or send her an e-mail (her address is on her site). And if you don't know the status of the shelters in your area, consider linking to her post and boosting her signal a little further.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And so the sad farce continues

This was the funniest thing I saw on TV last week; if you don't watch Colbert, or you missed it, give it a look. But frankly, I'm just posting it so I can watch it again whenever I want to.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

I am so, so sorry.

I just don't post enough on this blog. But I assure you, I had no intention of keeping the picture of Michele Bachmann painted up like a clown at the top of the page for as long as I did. I have too many friends who are repelled by clowns, and so, so many more friends who are repelled by Michele Bachmann.

I feel horrible. I probably should have installed a bucket on the side of your monitor, for anyone with a weak stomach to vomit nervously into.

Something like this:

Hopefully, the Colonel doesn't look too much like a clown in that lipstick.

(Image shamelessly boosted from here, by the way.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happiness Is...

...when Michele Bachmann compares herself to serial killer John Wayne Gacy. By accident, true, but I'm glad for anything that exposes her for the moron she is.

The best comment I've read so far comes from Infra-Man on the Gail Simone message board: "To be fair, she is a dangerous fucking clown."


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dear Photograph

My pal Jodi alerted me on Facebook to this site, Dear Photograph, where...

Oh, it's pretty self-explanatory. Go give it a look, because it's wonderful.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Attention Artists: Stop Trying

Art has already reached its pinnacle.

That is all.

("black shirt boogie" by The Razzah. Via.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Now He Only Eats Guitars

So it turns out that rob got raptured after all and was replaced by a robot assassin. WARNING: If you see "rob" you should know that it is really a robot assassin and you should do what it says or it will robot assassin your ass. Also this is rob's last post and it is not the robot assassin saying this, it is your friend rob. He also says that robot assassins drink beer and eat cake so you should have plenty on hand.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Which My Behavior Is Used as an Object Lesson

...and for once, in a good way.

What's more, pal Beth even draws what could be a very illuminating thought experiment from the incident, whereas the whole of my lesson would be:

a) Go to Cafe du Monde at approximately 4:20 am on a weeknight.
b) Wait as long as you have to.

Which is why she's a professional counselor, and why I'm overweight.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wesley Stace, Considered as a Novelist

A couple days ago, I finished Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer -- an excellent novel set in England largely in the 1920s, in which on the first page we learn that an up-and-coming composer killed his wife, her lover and himself the night before his opera was set to open -- and then we look back as to why it happened. It's written by Wesley Stace, who is better known as the singer John Wesley Harding, and it's very assured and well-written: We keep returning to certain events with new knowledge, learning more and more of what actually happened. 

It's his third novel, and I'll be seeking out his others. Stace gave a reading at our local bookstore a couple months ago, and he performed the folk song, "Little Musgrave," that's at the heart of the novel (and the opera) -- it was really a magic moment. I found the song later on iTunes, on one of his live albums, and have been listening to it a lot.

Both the song and the novel are worth seeking out. In fact, here's Stace singing "Little Musgrave" on Sound Check.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Navy Pier

Monologues are difficult to pull off. In most respects, they’re the most intimate form of theater: The character is directly addressing the audience, positioning each audience member as confidante. And yet so much of acting is reacting, and monologues deny actors access to that essential tool—or at least, they don’t necessarily make the audience privy to what’s being reacted to.

InProximity Theatre Company’s production of John Corwin’s Navy Pier takes a different approach, and the results are incredibly engaging.

There’s Martin and Kurt, two friends at the University of Chicago who as undergrads dream of being writers, and Iris and Liv, the women in their lives. Director Bryn Boice’s staging keeps the four actors in four nondescript chairs, seated right next to each other. Yet James J. Fenton’s set separates them from each other, visually framing them with poles between each chair. Each addresses the audience only, but the characters interrupt each other, providing their own dialogue when called for in each other’s stories. The effect is such that the audience is occasionally pulled out of its role of witness to serve as participant — or rather, both participants at once. It’s the intimacy of monologue without the loss of information.

Best to not spoil too much. The story begins casually, allowing us to get a sense of each character. It’s at once clear that red-eyed Martin is barely keeping it together, while Iris seems to be putting on a brave face: about what, we’re not quite sure. Liv has a melancholy determination about her, and Kurt is….well, curt. This is a story he clearly doesn’t want to be telling.

L to R: Jolie Curtsinger as Iris, Laurie Schafer as Liv, Josh
Clayton as Martin, and Michael Poignand as Kurt.
Photo by Lisa Soverino.
Josh Clayton brings a tender fragility to the role of Martin; he’s so insecure in his talent as a writer that he can only bring himself to defend it by proxy, insisting he’s as good at air-hockey as his more successful friend Kurt. Michael Poignand’s smug Kurt needs no such bank-shots, we think – and even when he momentarily removes his assured façade, he offers no apologies for his actions. (In what might be some sort of record, Poignand deftly establishes Kurt as a jackass in a single word.) Jolie Curtsinger and Laurie Schaefer bring artist Iris and historian Liv admirably to life as they react differently to the emotional abandonment by the men. (Indeed, many of the characters face or create parallel situations throughout the play; the different ways each reacts is revelatory.)

Each of the four creates a well-realized character in the vacuum of their own space, but it’s in context of their interactions that the ensemble truly shines. Lisa Soverino’s lighting and Amy Altadonna’s sound adds to the effect, subtly showing the passage of time and lending further weight to the tale.

There’s none of the stop-start rhythm of a classic series of monologues here. Instead, as betrayal is layered onto betrayal, the 90-minute one-act blazes along, and by the climax is paced like a thriller, with simultaneous action taking place in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Compelling throughout, by the end Navy Pier barrels toward its conclusion, sweeping the audience along in its wake.

Navy Pier continues through May 22, 2011, at Theatre Row’s Studio Theatre in New York, with performances Wed – Sat at 8pm and Sat and Sun at 2pm. Tickets are $18; visit or call the box office at 800-432-7250.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


‎246 pages. Nearly 113,000 words.

My first draft didn't go where I was expecting... but it certainly got somewhere. And for a book about the unusual things one might write when asleep, it's only appropriate that I approached this last chapter in a dreamlike state of near-exhaustion, the warmth of my laptop bringing me in and out of consciousness.

Next step: Now that I know what it is, I have to make what it is better.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I bribed them to sing a song that would drive us insane and make our hearts swell and burst.

Eight years ago, in a little room behind where our friends and family were assembled to watch Kathy and I get married, I was doing what I always do: joking with my friends and quoting my favorite movies. Difference was, this time I was doing it in a tux.

But when the word came that it was time to take the stage, there was only one thing I could say. My last words as a single man.

“Take me to… the volcano!”

Not an actual wedding photo.
Eight years in, it’s easy to see that jumping in was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thanks, honey.


Friday, April 15, 2011

The Horse Horseman of the Asmackolypse

I dreamed I was arrested for selling heroin last night.

Now, I don’t sell heroin; I’ve never even seen it in person. And even in the dream I actually wasn’t selling H either. I was trying to, but never actually had a supplier. The whole dream was set up like the first fifteen minutes of a cop show, where they shake down a really stupid lowlife in order to get him to turn on someone higher up in the organization. Only: a) I hadn’t yet gotten into the organization yet, so I couldn’t tell them anything even if I wanted to, and b) I was extra, extra stupid.

I’m not sure how or where the dream started, since there were a variety of flashbacks, but let’s say it started outside of some fast food restaurant. There was a crowd outside, and I offered to buy a couple of likely customers a fish sandwich. (This was code for getting some heroin for them, dealt back by the service entrance, I assume.) They gave me 55 cents, but they were undercover cops. So they arrested me, cuffing me and putting me in the back of their patrol car. (Why UCs had a black-and-white, I dunno. It’s a dream.)

Apparently by my accepting the 55 cents, I had somehow agreed to sell them heroin, which is against the law. From the back of the patrol car, I explained that 55 cents wouldn’t buy them an actual fish sandwich, let alone smack, but they didn’t care. They wanted me to roll on my friends, and find out who my supplier was.

I told them I didn’t have a supplier -- they would have been my first customers, but 55 cents wouldn’t have bought them anything. Then they charged me with stealing their 55 cents, and that's when I knew they had me with their clever legal maneuvering.

So I gave them some of the details on how I intended to sell heroin (but actually never had!). These details – I don’t think you can call it anything other than a master plan – involved having painted/dyed the back end of a horse green (accomplished!), hot-gluing a diorama of some sort to the hood of a car (a work-in-progress), and contacting the city’s major supplier of heroin (wouldn’t know where to begin). I told them I would show them the horse, but I would not tell them who painted it. Or half-painted it, I guess. The horse was owned by the guy who plays Agent Burke on White Collar.

(I think the idea behind this would be to make someone think we had twice as many horses as we did. So someone would see the front end of the horse and think: “They’ve got a brown horse.” But then they’d see the back end and think, “Oh, they also have a green horse.” So: Advantage, ours! Hoodwink’d!)

We were walking down a forest trail, the two cops and I, as my dream ended. The last impression I have is that I was very nervous that we would get to the end of the trail and they would catch my accomplice touching up the paint job. I was seriously thinking about making a break for it.

So remember, kids: Crime doesn’t pay!*


*Unless you count the 55 cents.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You Might Wanna Read...

...a lengthy interview with national treasure Fred Willard.

I sure did.

And here's a little extra Fred, since you're so nice.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

It Finally Happened: When Harry Met Sally 2

Seriously. Watch.


And Now, A Message from My Sponsor

As you might know, my cool-as-hell wife has taken up cycling as a hobby. And in the beginning of May, she's going to be going on the longest ride she's ever attempted, a 42-mile ride around the boroughs of New York City. She's doing this to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association, and, well, I'll let her explain:

Hey, all.
As most of you know, I’ve started bike riding. Partly for exercise, partly to reduce my gas usage, but mostly for fun. Last fall I joined a group ride to bike 30 miles around Monmouth County just for the challenge of it. This spring I’ve decided to take it up a couple of notches. On May 1st, I’m going to be riding in the 5 Boro Tour, a 42-mile ride through all five boroughs of New York City. I’m not just doing this to challenge myself; I’m making this ride as part of Team Bike to End Alzheimer’s. In doing so, I hope to help raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as, with your help, raise funds for research to fight this disease and support those coping with Alzheimer’s and dementia, either as patients or caregivers of those afflicted.
My grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, and while dementia can be the result of various diseases and conditions, in my grandmother’s case, the symptoms were very similar to Alzheimer’s disease. She was often confused about where she was. She couldn’t recognize family members. She couldn’t maintain a daily routine or handle many of the activities of daily living.
These changes in Gram took a large toll on my mom and her siblings. While dementia afflicts an individual, everyone around that person is deeply affected. The uncle living with Gram when she was diagnosed put his life largely on hold to take care of her. Another uncle handled many of the legal and financial matters. My mom dealt with a lot of the health insurance bureaucracy. All of the siblings agreed when it was time to move Gram to a nursing home. See, one of the worst things about Alzheimer’s and dementia is that the person with the illness looses the ability to make good decisions, so those around them must make the decisions for them. I’m riding so that families don’t need to make these hard decision for each other, or feel like they’re sitting idly by while a love one fades away.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Approximately 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s, and there are 14.9 million unpaid caregivers, such as family, friends and volunteers. The Alzheimer’s Association offers patients and caregivers support through programs such as a 24-hour helpline, education and referral programs and caregiver support groups. 44 percent of the funds raised by the Alzheimer’s Association goes to researching Alzheimer’s and other dementias in hopes of finding a cure, a cause, and ways to improve the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s.
Please support my efforts and the efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association by making a generous contribution. It just takes a few minutes to make an online donation. Simply click on the link at the bottom of this message, which will bring you right to my personal page. Feel free to forward this message to anyone else who you think may also wish to contribute.
Thank you for your support.
Kathy Staeger
My personal page:
For more information about Alzheimer’s

If you're able to give a little, please do. I'm proud as hell that she's doing this... and in awe that she's in the kind of shape that can make this happen.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Actions speak louder than wombats.

Been laughing for an hour at this site. Trying not to make noise -- Kathy's asleep -- so I now have a splitting headache. Damn You, Damn You Autocorrect!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti

Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) has some reservations about the administration's intervention in Libya. Fair enough; so do I.

"Where does it stop?" he asks. "Do we go into Africa next?"

It should be noted that Marino is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House subcommittee on issues related to U.S. policy in Africa.

So in light of his position, let's ponder those words again, shall we?

"Where does it stop??

Do we go into Africa next?"

Bless the rains, Congressman. Bless the rains.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The cubes are up!







Plotting Against Myself

I've always had a problem with plots. Or specifically, when I start writing, I have an awfully hard time getting things moving from the exact moment I'm writing about. I always think of a little more to say about a situation, or an odd thought that enters a character's head that I want to capture, and...just wind up stuck. Sometimes I just can't get out of my own way. Especially since I like to play fast and loose with ideas, always willing to shove one out the door in case a better one comes along -- leading me to not quite commit to any of them at times.

It ain't great, believe me.

So today, nearing the end of my first draft (I'm this close to the 100K mark, and estimate only 3 or 4 chapters to go), I took a break from putting one foot in front of the other and instead opened up a separate file and wrote about the end of the book as if I'd just read it. Since I couldn't quite put my finger on what should happen in it, I just decided, why not think about it as if it'd already happened? And lo and behold, I've discovered some elements to the ending that should give it a few more wrinkles, and (ta-dah!) actually make it satisfying. Which was a big worry, believe me.

One big help: On the way to the coffee shop, I heard an episode of Radiolab in which Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) was talking about a conversation she had about the creative process with Tom Waits. And Waits would sometimes treat his songs that weren't quite coming together like recalcitrant kids. He'd walk around the studio, talking to the songs, threatening and cajoling, saying "All the rest of us are in the car, we're all going on vacation, and if you're not ready in ten minutes we're leaving without you." Love that guy!

Anyway, that helped me put things in a little perspective for me. Just gotta attack things from a different angle every now and then. Get out of my own way, and treat the plot as a fait accompli.

Still need to figure out a title, but one thing at a time, I guess.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Today's Slice of Awesome

Glass artist Mike Kelley has, for the last decade or so, been creating duplicates of  the Bottle City of Kandor from Superman comics.

As every schoolchild knows, Kandor was a Krypton city shrunk by Brainiac before the planet exploded. It's full of miniature Kryptonians, who lack superpowers because of the artificial red sun and gravity in the bottle.

And the idea that there's a fifty-dollar art book full of photos of these amazing recreations of the tiniest awesome city ever -- and that book is featured in The New York Times -- is blowing my mind.We live in an age of wonders.

(More context here and here.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Best Thing About Alzheimers Is You're Always Meeting New People

So the other day I started listening to Pandora. I hadn't done that for a while, but I've started to build a station that I really like. I centered it on Tom Waits, and after about a day, I added Ray Charles as a second seed, to give the station a little more melody and swing. A few days later, I added Taj Mahal and Greg Brown, enriching the station's blues and singer-songwriter content. I need to add a female artist or two, just to broaden the scope of vocalists, but I haven't decided who'd fit in yet. I'm currently leaning toward Rickie Lee Jones.

Anyway, one thing I noticed is that whenever a Greg Brown would start to play, the screen would give me a biography of Bill Morrissey.* Who is awesome, but nonetheless is not Greg Brown. This happened a few times, and when I mentioned it to Kathy, she said that she'd noticed it, too, when she listened at work.

So I wrote the Pandora people, mentioning the problem. And one of them wrote back the very next day, saying he'd pass the problem along to one of their content guys. But the e-mail came back to me with the exact subject heading I'd used: "Greg Brown/Bill Morrissey." So I opened the e-mail eagerly, thinking "Hell yes, I'll go to that! When are they playing?"

It took one day for me to forget all about my own e-mail... and now all I can think about is how much I'd like to see a concert that never existed.


*Incidentally, Greg Brown's "The Poet Game" just popped up on Pandora, so I was able to spell-check Morrissey's name. The wheels of progress move slow sometimes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Marvel Declares War on...30 Rock?

Say what you want about Marvel, but they have a great nose for publicity.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Third Branch, Once Removed

I was reading an article about the Supreme Court (or SCOTUS, for Supreme Court of the United States), and realized that we really need a second, slightly lesser court to pitch in when there's a pressing issue and the Supremes are out of session. Like the Legion of Substitute Heroes. It could be called the Supreme Court Reserve. Or SCROTUS, for short.

Yes, it's pathetic that I've come back from hiatus just to share that with you. You should have a long, hard think about raising your standards.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Quitters, Inc.

"I am still thinking of leading this country," [Sarah] Palin said in front of a group of business leaders in New York, according to CNN. "I am still thinking about it. I haven't made up my mind."  
It could take her a while. It wasn't until halfway through her term that she decided she didn't want to be governor of Alaska, after all.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Welcome to the Chrome Dome

Shaved my head by accident today.

I've just gotten over a head cold. I'd been planning to shave my mustache off -- I only had it in the first place because I just got bored of shaving one day, halfway through my beard, and it was the first decent place to stop. Now that my nose wasn't producing snot like a Mister Softee machine, I finally had the confidence that I'd be able to take a blade to my upper lip without cutting off my nose to spite my face. (Whatever they say, I can't think of any better way to spite your face than cutting off your nose. Don't knock it.)

So, shaved off the mustache, then put the attachment on the clippers and trim my hair. It'd been getting long lately -- not college-long, not gonna-braid-it long, but a little scruffy -- and I wanted to trim it down into a nice Mel Cooley.

Alas, twas not to be. The attachment for the clippers was jittery. It seemed to have trouble staying put, but it calmed down when I touched it to my head, so I crossed my fingers and clipped. But three-quarters -- hell, maybe seven-eighths -- of the way through trimming my head, the attachment shook itself apart, flying off the clippers. Problem was, I couldn't go to a tighter attachment -- this was the closest cut beyond the blades themselves.

So that's what I did. Pulled that clipper across my head, every which way, and then followed it up with my razor. Middle of February, the first time I feel good in days, and suddenly I go for the full Uncle Fester .

Gonna be chilly tonight.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Reading about Scientology Messed My Brain Up

Okay, so last night I dug deep into the Lawrence Wright's excellent article in the New Yorker about Paul Haggis and the Church of Scientology, and I got so wrapped up with the accusations of cults and brainwashing that by the time I got to bed, it mixed with my head cold and the premiere of The Chicago Code to mix into a dream where I had to escape from a cult led by Delroy Lindo.*

The thing I remember most about the dream was that Lindo had imposed some sort of fee for just walking around the compound, and the would go to our bamboo hits with two enforcers dressed up like Walk/Don'tWalk signs, and extort a dollar from us. I hid on my porch, but they saw me there and got my dollar. I knew it was going to keep happening, so I staged a breakout.

I don't remember the details of the breakout, but I do remember that part of it went wrong, and some of my friends and other innocent cult members were trapped in a fenced area, where someone was coming along with weed clippers to snip off their ring fingers or pinkies. It hadn't happened yet... but my fellow escapees and I somehow managed to find a helicopter and fly out of there. But as we lifted off, with armed guards chasing us, we were worried about those left behind.

I probably should have taken some knockout cold medicine before going to sleep.


*I don't know what Mr. Lindo's religious affiliation is, but I'm reasonably certain he is neither a cult leader nor a Scientologist. Though if Mr. Lindo wanted to start a cult, he's charismatic enough that you can bet we'd all know someone in it by now.

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Nephew Alert

Last night marked the arrival of a new nephew, Andrew Robert. Mom & child are doing well, recovering nicely from his long-awaited debut.

He's named after my brother and me, by the way. Not that that's going to give me a swelled head or anything. But really, that knocked me flat.

Welcome, little tough guy!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Uncle Ed

My Uncle Ed passed away recently.

I can't write about him without writing about New Year's Day. For years, my mom and dad threw the best New Year's party I'd ever been to, and it started up hours after the ball dropped in Times Square. It started out, I believe, as simply the day we'd invite my dad's cousins over to the house, and we'd have hors d'oeuvres and dinner and watch the parades and bowl games. I was a little kid at the start of these. I have a distinct memory of making designs with my Spirograph with my cousin Wendy, in the house we lived in up until I was in second grade. Anyhow, I saw my mom's side of the family all the time, but this was really the one day of the year I could count on seeing my dad's side.

As we got older, the party changed a bit. My cousins started bringing their kids, and the party grew. Other family friends would come over, and the party grew. My brothers, my sister and I would invite a couple friends, and the party grew. People would be happily jammed into the kitchen, dining room and family room, talking and watching the game and digging into the buffalo chicken dip and eating delicious little jellied hot dogs on toothpicks. Man, I loved those things.

But in the living room, my Uncle Ed and Aunt Florence would be holding court. He'd have his harmonica out, telling jokes and stories, reciting poems, and playing songs with his sons and daughters and daughters-in-law and grandkids. And us. Singing old songs: folk music like "Mountain Dew," or pieces of Americana like "Daisy," written before most of us were born. The crowd gathered, the crowd stayed, the crowd piped up. There was no fire in the fireplace. We didn't need one. Uncle Ed and his harmonica were the spark, and Jim and his guitar and Brian with his concertina fanned the flame. And New Year's Day was my favorite day of the year.

Uncle Ed was 52 when I was born; he was 93 when he passed away. I realize now that I have no earthly idea what he did as an occupation between coming home as a veteran of World War II and taking up coaching tennis in his retirement. I'm okay with having that gap in my knowledge. I don't need to think of him at a desk, getting the bills paid. To me, he'll always be on my mom's sofa, playing that harp. The happiest man I know.

Play us out, Uncle Ed.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Two Hours from Now

Parks and Recreation comes back on the air. It's been too long.

Watch, why don't you? It's much better than you remember from Season 1.

(One more thing: Jabba the Hutt! Jabba the Hutt! Jabba the Hutt!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cooling the Tea

Sorry for all the linkblogging lately, but I figure it's better than absolutely nothing, which is what I'd been delivering before. Here's a smart article from David Frum, the Conservative out in the Cold.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Reflex is a Lonely Child Whose Parents Were Murdered in Front of Him So He Devoted His Life to Fighting Crime

I just found a new reflex I didn't know I had. I saw a link for "Hot Chicks in Batman Shirts" and I clicked it automatically. Didn't even think for even a nanosecond. No consideration, no mental process whatsoever -- I just clicked it. And then it's loading up on the screen and I'm thinking, "What did I just do? Did I really just do that?"

And no, I'm not adding the link. If you want to find them, you'll have to do a little detective work to show you're worthy.


Lather, Rinse, Repeat

For someone with no blood on her hands, Lady MacBeth is sure doing a lot of scrubbing.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Some Things Can't Be Unseen

But because I am a kind soul, even after clicking this link you will have one more chance to back away.

I suggest you take it.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Nice Art!

Check this out: Fashion from Old People. Cartoonists Emily Carroll and Vera Brosgol bring find photos of cool old dresses, and draw vibrant, expressive women in 'em. It's really great art, and puts new meaning in "it looks better on."


Friday, January 07, 2011

Tweets from the O-Zone

The Television Critics Association press tour is going on this week and next, and one of the events was a presentation by Oprah Winfrey about her OWN network. During her press conference, a reporter asked her a question about her dreams as a child, and she used it as a launching point for what is apparently an unprecedented filibuster in TCA history.

Critic Alan Sepinwall provides some background on the event (and a complete transcript of the filibuster), but the real gold is this snarky collection of tweets from the assembled critics. Start at the bottom and read up to the top. As critic Alexa Planje put it: "Adult class clowns vs. the world's richest 'teacher.'" Good stuff.