Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Three years later, his photographic foot fetish is still in evidence, but in this shot he goes with the other foot, probably to change things up a bit and keep the critics guessing, plus he adds a sandal into the mix, I assume, to mock society's addiction to bourgeois materialism. Also seen are his sister's shoes, tucked under the coffee table, unused and half-hidden, as if to say who needs shoes? My big sister doesn't! Power to the proletariat!
Imagine what he will be capable of saying about society and feet when he is 10.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Being a freelance writer, I am always researching potential writing venues, but you probably have no idea of the sheer variety of mags in circulation, because they target such a niche market ("niche" is a French word meaning "low paying"). Take, for example, "Miniature Donkey Talk." This makes me think: a) I didn't know there was such an animal, and b) I didn't know they could. It is a real publication, though. Here are some other actual titles I found which amazingly somebody, somewhere out there, is reading:
"The Atlantic Salmon Journal." Sure, fish have every right. I just want to know how they hold the pages open.
"Big Reel," in contrast, is not a fishing magazine at all. It is for movie collectible enthusiasts, and isn't that just like a movie collectible enthusiast to brag about the size of his reel?
"Coonhound Bloodlines" caters to "a wonderful segment of the American population, many of whom still live by honest, friendly values." Like blasting the innards out of a fluffy critter. At least you can tell what the magazine is about right off, unlike:
"Catholic Forester." This has nothing to do with the outdoors.
"Wake Living" not only sounds like good advice, it sounds like some kind of ultra-inspirational, possibly religious publication, but just covers, in fact, people living in Wake County, N.C.
"The Roanoker" sounds dirtier than it is. "Jewish Action" does too. And "Rack." (It's for deer hunters). Not to mention "Friction Zone," which is merely a motorcycle mag.
"Toy Farmer" sounds intriguing. I was just wondering the other day how this year's crop of Barbies is coming along.
"Musky Hunter" is not, contrary to what you might think, a hygiene magazine for outdoorsmen.
"Silent Sports" covers activities like running, cross-country skiing and cycling. I think I could break in there with a first-person essay on passive-aggressive channel-flipping.
"African American Golfer's Digest" has a circulation of 20,000 copies, exactly the same quantity as "Muzzle Blasts" magazine. The fact that there are as many people interested in antique, muzzle-loading rifles as there are African Americans interested in golf is disturbing to me in a way I cannot exactly define.
"Fur-Fish-Game." I played this in college, and let me just say that rug burns take longer to heal than you would think.
At least "I Love Cats" magazine wears its tiny, inscrutable heart on its sleeve. You either buy it or you don't. But what am I to make of a magazine called "Frank"? Does it contain brash, undiluted opinion, or a discussion of meat by-products?
There is a magazine called "Combat Handguns," and another called "Numismatist" (for coin collectors), which makes me wonder what would happen if readers of the former got hold of the subscription list of readers of the latter. Would burglary rates go up? These are the things a writer ponders when he really should be busy writing. Yes, O.K., I'm going, but first there is a copy of "Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot" I have been meaning to get to.
Friday, June 27, 2008
The boy with the ball stopped and looked up. Looked me over. Looked us over.
He was playing in the front yard with two or three buddies when we rolled up, all diesel and air brakes, in a tour bus. My fellow columnists and I were having a look at the post-Hurricane-Katrina-flooded parish called St. Bernard, where maybe one out of 20 houses is occupied, even now. The boy's house was one, and he was doing what boys do, tossing the ball around on a sticky June Saturday between thunderstorms, except he was doing it in a ghost town.
I recently joined the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for its annual conference in New Orleans, in an effort to give support to a city which still needs it badly. Nearly three years after "the storm," as locals call it, downtown and the French Quarter look normal, and tourists like us have come back in force, but get out of town a couple of miles and the storybook ending has waterlogged pages. Where one house still stands, 10 others are just cement slabs. Where one house is occupied, 10 more squat abandoned, untended weeds and bushes leaning to the windows like nosy neighbors.
The weekend was an exercise in jarring contrasts. We began it in style, dining at Brennan's in the French Quarter, the kind of place where they give you six utensils. (I have never been able to find a use for two spoons except to play them on my thighs). The meal was capped by their famous, flaming Bananas Foster. Suddenly cameras were everywhere. You would have thought that a bunch of jaded columnists would have seen fruit on fire before.
It did not appear so.
Local journalists who covered the hurricane told us their stories, and we were rendered speechless by a montage of Times-Picayune photographer Ted Jackson's pictures of that day. But our visit was not all grim remembrance. Later we were also led through the streets by a jazz band while playing our own kazoos, after which, returning to solemnity, a man from the city's aquarium told us how 5000 of their animals died after Katrina when the power failed and employees had to evacuate. That's the kind of weekend we had. Tragedy, comedy, repeat. (Probably not a bad description of New Orleans history itself).
But he also let us pet a penguin. Rubbing the penguin was even more popular than the flaming bananas, and led to many "penguin rubber" jokes, the best of which ended with the punch line, "But I couldn't convince it to wear one."
We toured the devastated areas, which are still only sparsely populated. Each place we visited, we heard how the government had failed to respond to the disaster adequately, is still failing, but how people from all over the world, volunteers, have come in droves to lend a hand in rebuilding, how total strangers have restored Louisianans' faith in people.
My mind kept going back to the boy with the ball, though. What intrigued me most was his lack of surprise, like a tour bus coming past his house was nothing big. He just watched us like I would watch a blue jay. Like he had seen it all. Hurricanes, evacuations, floods, abandonment. Like nothing could surprise him any more. Like whatever came, he would take it. Like he was lucky, even.
Then I realized why. Unlike so many others, so many tens of thousands of others, he was home.
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See Ted Jackson's hurricane photos from the Times-Picayune (click the "next" arrow after each one).
Read my fellow columnists' many different perspectives on the New Orleans trip. (On the home page, scroll down to "Blogs and news articles about New Orleans").
For more stories from my trip I could not fit in this column, and my own pictures, click here. (After you click "here," you will need to scroll down past this column).
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Stand on any corner in the French Quarter, look up, and this picture is the kind of thing you see. (Click it to enlarge it).
Even though, in June, Mardi Gras seems like ancient history, there are reminders everywhere. Beads hang year-round from trees like some kind of gleaming, local fruit; on balconies, from street signs. The party is never quite gone from view.
I thought this balcony was unusually pretty, be-ferned and whimsical. Notice the cutout of the cat in the center. In L.A., we would probably expect that some graphic artist or hipster lives here, but I bet this is the home of a banker or insurance salesman. In the French Quarter, the scene above is just baseline, run of the mill ornamentation.
"Segway Tours!" the poster on Decatur St. cries. "Ride the future in America's most historic city!" And a few blocks away, there they were, right in front of St. Louis Cathedral. Two tourists dutifully listening to their tour guide, who had a tattoo of something huge, maybe a Segway, on her shoulder. I didn't hear much of her tour guiding, and I'm not sure how lengthy her training period was, but I definitely heard the guide pronounce the name of the famous local 19th Century pirate Jean Lafitte as "Gene" Lafitte. Like he was from Jersey or something.
But who cares? You're on a freakin' SEGWAY!
Having sampled the beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde, having eaten at famous local restaurants like Brennan's and Dooky Chase, and having strolled about 30 blocks of the French Quarter, many of them on purpose, the last item on my New Orleans checklist was to eat a genuine po'boy.
So on my last day in town, after sampling the 1000% humidity of the French Market to see if my pores could be more open (no), I stopped at a corner restaurant on Decatur St. and ordered one up. I didn't want a seafood one, and I fought back the urge to get a sausage po'boy, because, well, I had eaten pretty richly for four days and, well, I had to get on a plane soon. You-know-what-I'm-saying? So I ordered a roast beef po'boy.
My waitress, who was about 25, looked like some slim kind of mildly exotic racial blend, and kept calling me "babe," shot this blurry picture of me with my bounty. Well, she was busy. I don't know what expression I was going for, probably food lust, but it came out as...what? Indigestion? Oh well, it's my po'boy on the official record, anyway. On the plate you can see the open-faced pile of beef on that sucker. I ate it all. The beef was fine, but the French bread it came on was poetry. Light, chewy and crunchy at the same time. Po'etry.
Before checking out of my hotel, I wandered in and out of the tourist lairs looking for souvenirs for my family. I passed on buying one of the seemingly thousands of actual little alligator heads that every shop sells, their jaws frozen open in a menacing snarl. Clearly they are not endangered, although I began to think that New Orleans' charm was.
New Orleans, if it has anything, or will ever have anything, it is charm. There hasn't been a hurricane made that could wipe that off the map for long. And it's not just the French Quarter, with its wrought iron balconies, horse-drawn carriages, and antique buildings. It's the feel of the place, this intangible thing, like something that has survived 200 years and will survive whatever comes, with style.
After taking my picture, my waitress asked where I was from, and I told her L.A. She looked unimpressed, and said she had never been there, said she had lived all her life in New Orleans, and she loved it. I told her that even visiting for one weekend I could tell the place had soul. Not something you get a lot of in L.A., except in flashes. She nodded like I turned out to be smarter than I looked. "I wouldn't live anywhere else," she smiled, and then she turned and left me to my po'boy. I left her a nice tip. Call it Hurricane Relief.
It was time to head home and write up my trip column for the newspaper. I'm also going to go add "The Big Easy" to my Netflix queue, so I can mock it like a local.
Some things rub off, cher.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
We feasted on crawfish etouffee over rice, greens, barbecue chicken, and the best taste I had all weekend—gumbo. Shrimp and sausage in a dark, spicy roux. My wife will laugh at this, because I am not even remotely an adventurous eater, nor much of a seafood fan, but this had about as much to do with seafood as the Lakers have to do with the ability to close. This was culinary witchcraft. My only complaint was the conservative size of the bowl.
With my belly full of Creole inspiration, and the rain past, I set out in the French Quarter with my camera to capture some of New Orleans' unsung beauties.
These hitching posts still adorn many sidewalks in New Orleans, although whether they truly go back to when horses and carriages ruled the streets, or are just for show, I don't know. Most of them are black, but a few had a nice, historied patina like this. Click to enlarge the picture.
The poster below was one of hundreds stuck to a bulletin board on Decatur St., the touristy strip along the riverfront. I like the way the yellow and black contrasts with the green of the wood, and I love the generations of rusted staples from concerts long ago forgotten.
I like to picture a guy hitting on a girl somewhere on Bourbon St.: "Ooh," the girl says. "You're in a band? Which one?" "I play bass for 'Frightened Rabbit,'" the guy says, followed by the girl's raucous laughter and a hair-flip dismissal.
We visited Chalmette High School, where the principal talked about the Monday almost three years ago when the floodwaters came, and filled the school's main hallway you see below to the ceiling within 20 minutes.
You know those outdoor walkways high schools have? The ones with roofs over them to keep the rain off you between classes? The day Katrina hit, the tops of those were used as docks here. Principal Warner took us up the stairs to a set of second-floor windows through which they pulled people that day, off those walkway roofs after they arrived in boats from being rescued around the neighborhood. Hundreds of people survived on the second floor of the school on half a cup of water twice a day and a bowl of Fruit Loops for almost a week before they could be rescued from the flood zone.
I will go into more detail in my regular column next week, but suffice to say our visit was a study in contrasts. A half-hour drive away, back in New Orleans proper, with thousands of tourists enjoying the mostly-sunny summer day, there was little evidence that the town had ever known anything but bliss. I thought this sculpture and mural were particularly pretty. Click to enlarge it.
As befitted the dignity of our particular group of journalists, Friday night, a band paraded our group down Bienville Avenue as we played along with kazoos and waxpaper-covered combs. We stopped traffic. The saints totally marched in. We ended up at the Aquarium of the Americas, where the band continued to play us right inside and through all the exhibits to our dinner destination. I wondered what the sharks thought of the blazing jazz. The otters seemed to love it. They dived and twirled. The penguins looked a little confused. In fact, a curator brought out a penguin for us to pet before dinner. So my weekend varied wildly from seeing acres of empty, sagging homes to rubbing penguins. (This last inspired all manner of "penguin rubber" jokes which I can't repeat here).
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
So I did the touristy thing. Those little powdered-sugary pillows below are beignets, a French word inexplicably pronounced "Ben Gays." History tends to savage language as much as anything else, I guess. Although after eating, I did notice a certain warming sensation in my shoulders and a loosening of those tight muscles. The cafe au lait ("coffee for tourists") was great, I think. I don't even drink coffee, so it was kind of wasted on me, but then again, so is "American Idol." But I drank some on behalf of my wife, who loves coffee, who would marry coffee if California had not passed a Constitutional amendment banning it. Then I got her a "Cafe Du Monde" t-shirt, so that when she wears it in the future, and people ask with conspiratorial, coffee-worshiping lust, "OH, did you go to New Orleans?" she can reply "No."
Cafe Du Monde ("Cafe of the 'please watch your valuables' signs") is in the touristy part of New Orleans. Ha ha! That's my joke for today, because, you see, New Orleans is in the touristy part of New Orleans. But the waterfront, especially, is pretty much all trinket shops and mimes. One guy, his head and body all in silver like a robot, did a routine where someone, usually a child, would put a dollar in the cup he was holding, and he would release the bottom, so the buck would fall out on the ground, and they would have to put it back in the cup, and the gathered crowd would laugh. It never got old.
I have respect for the guy, though. He was in the sun, in body makeup, in 1000% humidity. Dude was working. At least that was the impression I got, watching through the window of a restaurant where the air conditioning was blasting a new part into my hair, and I had a headache from sucking down my iced tea too fast. That guy was working.
This is what you look like when you have seen too many mimes. When you have seen one too many tourists sporting a "You look like I need another beer" t-shirts. When you have, in fact, seen it all. That is not actually a leash. That is a failed noose.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Yes, I'm back from my four-day weekend in New Orleans for a writers conference with the NSNC, and I will be posting more pictures soon, but right now I am trying to write next week's column and convince my colon I am back in Southern California. Since Thursday I have abused the poor fella with shrimp and sausage gumbo, French bread, crawfish etouffee, and peppery roast beef po'boys. Everything in New Orleans seems to have a cream sauce. Even the cream sauce comes with a side of cream sauce.
I had amazing food, heartbreaking views of the crumbling lower ninth ward, and a really extensive walking tour of the French Quarter in 1000% humidity because I didn't bother to consult my pocket map for directions. But wrong turns often bring scenes like the picture above. And ones like this:
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Of course, it's Memorial Day weekend, so this week may be a bit light on content. But I'll see what I can do.
What does "Wa" mean? Visit "About" and find out.
I've got one or two hopefully-funny features planned for each day, so I recommend you subscribe to the blog using one of the methods to the right of the screen. By email is the fastest, easiest way, and, if you find you don't want my funny musings each day, very easy to unsubscribe from. But if you are familiar with blogs, you can click on the "RSS" method too.
You'll notice I set up a "Help Subscribing" tab at the top of the page to help those of you new to reading blogs. You can also contact me to ask me how it all works or click on "Comments" at the bottom of this post to let me know what you think of the new blog.
A few of my past humor columns are archived in the "Humor Columns" section above, to get you started until I begin posting new ones. If you have never heard of me, and are here by accident, that is a good place to start.
And here we go.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
a) The food wasn't as good as the French one
b) Say what you want, they had great hats
c) The book was better than the movie
d) Every time Paul Revere yelled "The British are coming!" everyone had to drink a shot
a) things I used to know
b) what am I, Stephen Hawking?
c) I was never very good at geometry
d) I missed that lesson because my piercing totally got infected
a) The transplant did not go exactly as planned
b) His feelings are always easy to figure out, since he is screaming in agony
c) He has absolutely no fashion sense when it comes to organs
d) You should see what he wears on his tie
a) owning a cat might be fun
b) cats never attack large rodents
c) cats think your feet are their master
d) a Broadway show is no place for cat-themed entertainment
a) plowed through a heck of a lot of pork rinds
b) could never, no matter how hard he tried, get past 93 bottles of beer on the wall
c) gained new human insight into nature as a way of picking up babes
d) invented the "I spent two years staring at a pond and all I got was this lousy" t-shirt
a) Nowhere near what it was back in '99
b) What is the value of a what?
c) "Value" is the bourgeois conceit of capitalist running dogs
d) I was never very good at geography
The Wa Blog
Every great country has a motto, like the United States ("Now with 40% more swing states!").
Thursday, January 10, 2008
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Below is for people who are brand new to reading blogs or subscribing to them. If you are going to read blogs, and I personally think it is a great way to waste valuable time you will never get back, you can get the blog to come to you.
On my home page you will notice the little button which looks like this:
Clicking on it will open a page of choices for you. These are called RSS Readers. You don't need anything special to activate one. Just pick one from a site with which you are familiar. Because I use Google to search a lot, I chose the Google Reader. But most of the others work the same way. You can pick Yahoo or AOL or whatever.
Let's say you click the little Google icon. It takes you to a new page where it asks you if you want my new blog posts to appear on your Google home page or in Google Reader. I don't use a Google home page or Yahoo home page. If you already do, you can pick that, and add my blog so that the headlines from my new posts appear on your home page just like a news headline. Easy.
If you choose to use a Reader, a Reader is just a special Web page where you can start collecting blogs in one place. So once you have clicked on the "Subscribe" button up above, and clicked on your choice of Reader, you create a free account. Write your login and pw somewhere. You will then be taken to the new Reader page. Add the Reader page to your Favorites or Bookmarks. Although my blog will come to you, using a Reader page means you still have to go and open the page to check for updates.
If this is too confusing, you can also subscribe to The Wa Blog by email. On my home page you will see this box to do that.
Signing up this way will send you my blog entries in an email format rather than you reading them on a Web page.
Once you enter your email address in the box, and click "Subscribe," Feedburner will pop up with a message asking you to type in a few letters in order to fight spam. You do that, then click to complete the sign-up. A confirmation message will be sent to your email. The email will contain a link which you must click to activate your email subscription to The Wa Blog. Also, if the time ever comes when you want to stop receiving the emails, it is easy to unsubscribe. A link to do that is always at the bottom of each email.
Any other questions about this stuff? Contact me. And thanks for your interest.
At Wry Tees, lots of the shirts have slogans which are writing-oriented, like "Ask me about gerunds!" and "Don't make me get out the red pencil." There are also "Gatsby" references, and "Moby Dick" quotes and a pic of Shakespeare in blue eye shadow which, if you are a theater geek like I am, you must go and snag right now. Or if you are like me, and putting things off is what makes you you, "Procrastinato, ergo sum" is the design for you.
For some reason, I also started coming up with a lot of funny designs for pregnant women and parents which sell really well. I guess women who are expecting develop a great sense of humor. So if you are pregnant or need a baby shower gift, you just found it. If the expectant mom you know has a sense of humor, you are all set. If she does not, get her a copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting," so she can scare the cr*p out of herself.
At DNF Hound, it's all about geocaching t-shirts and gifts. Like to be first-to-find a clever geocache cap? DNF Hound's the place. Don't know what geocaching is? Visit Geocaching.com to learn all about the hobby. Then you will understand why my geocaching hazards design is funny. And my Star Wars/Altoids riff. And the one describing the top five warning signs you are obsessed with geocaching.
I am not going to say there is something for everybody at my shop. I hate that. But there is something for you. So go already, and help the world dress a little more amusingly.
Feel free to link to these from your own blog. If you want to post the actual text, though, please contact me first for permission, and please maintain the copyright notice, my name, and the URL of www.TheWaBlog.com.
Sick of standardized testing? Bubble this in
Country Mottos Which Need A Makeover
Thanksgiving Tips For the Clueless
More humor columns on this blog may always be found here.
Feel free to contact me, especially if you are an editor who wants me to write for you or somebody who can get me a bit part in the next "Hunger Games" movie.
I'm what they call an "award winning" humor writer. I write a weekly humor column for newspapers, as well as funny freelance essays for other publications and Web sites.
I live in Southern California in a flat, baking valley named for San Gabriel who, by all appearances at least, was a saint.
I am married, with kids and a dog. As I am sure Dave Barry would attest, a humorist without a dog is like a plumber who doesn't own a wrench.
This blog exists for one reason: I could no longer hold back the urge to inject the world's English lexicon with the phrase "Wa Blog."
I recommend subscribing to The Wa Blog. It's free. That way, my stuff comes right to you. Which is the same line I used to woo my wife.
My blog posts automatically go to Twitter, so you can follow me @TheGeorgeWaters if you prefer that to email.
If you would like to know where "Wa" (pronounced like "saw") comes from, here is a brief explanation...
The Origin of "Wa"
What is the origin of "Wa," you ask, because you are sitting in your cubicle pretending to work? It's funny the things that stick. In college, my friends, like all college students overburdened by the requirements of studies and hoisting multiple cases of beer, wanted to lighten their load in every way they could.
So to make their lives that much easier, to reduce the burden of pronouncing both syllables in my last name, my friends took to simply calling me "Wa." I don't remember exactly which friend coined it, but chances are it was Ted.
Coincidentally, the word "Wa," in Japanese, means harmony and balance. In fact, "Wa" even refers to specific things which are Japanese. For example, "Wafuku" means Japanese-style clothes. Ironically, in college, even though my friends did not know anything about Japanese-style clothes, they shouted "Wafuku!" at me a lot.
So it is that I name my blog "The Wa Blog." You may not know that "Wa Blog" is also part of the lyrics to the five-note musical theme which the alien spacecraft in "Close Encounters" plays to communicate with earthlings. The full five notes go like this: "La la loo WA BLOGGG!"
"Wa Blog!" is also a great thing to blurt out loudly in a meeting if anyone asks your opinion of the sales projections. Or randomly on a first date. Seriously. I could use the exposure.