Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - When farming becomes a wee bit too specialized

Sure, it's lucrative. But getting it to climb those bean poles is a real mother.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I can't remember the title for this column

Like many men my age, or my sex, frankly, I have memory problems. I don't remember this happening as often when I was young, except on days when I was supposed to help friends move. Now, though, I will think of an actor, and I can see his face, and I am sure I know his name, but the neural pathway to it has been blocked by, I don't know, "Brady Bunch" lyrics or something.

The next day it will come to me, maybe as I'm walking across the street to work. "Kevin Spacey!" I will shout out, then look left and right to see if I am now a kook to somebody. One bonus is that now that particular brain circuit to Kevin is fresh, to the point where I will see Kevin Bacon on TV and shout "Kevin Spacey!"

In middle age, close enough should count for something.

Last month we went out for my wife's birthday and had an amazing mushroom appetizer. The next day, I could not remember what the cornmeal the mushrooms were served with was called. I had to Google it.

Polenta. How could I forget polenta?! Now polenta and Kevin Spacey stand shoulder to shoulder with Marsha, Jan and Cindy in my head. Let's just call that a win, shall we?

Experts suggest saying things aloud while you are doing them in order to cement the memory, like "I am taking my vitamin," "I am coveting my neighbor's wife," "I am making polenta for Kevin Spacey."

Anxiety over your failure to remember things can actually make it worse. Chronic elevated cortisol levels can reduce the size of your hippocampus, eventually rendering it just a small, out-of-state hippo party school.

Certain foods are supposed to help restore neural pathways lost in aging, and I wish I could remember what they are.

I am joking. You can find them online, of course, if you do a search for "foods I don't like." Fish. Broccoli. Flax seed. Winter squash.

I am not sure that being able to recall the cutie in the bathtub from "Moscow On The Hudson" is worth it. (Maria Conchita Alonso.) HOW CAN MARIA STILL BE IN MY GOURD FROM 1984?!

Well, it could be worse. It could have been Phyllis Diller in that bathtub. Plus, I've never had polenta come up in conversation. I'll be fine. Some day Kevin Bacon will play me in the movie.

. . .

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Existential directions

Finally, someone points me the way! Thank you.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas carols form a bridge to the past, and dad

I went to a caroling party last week and learned it is much easier to fake harmony than it is to sing on key.

I was also humbled to realize that I only know the first line of any carol you can name. For example, I know perfectly well it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but I couldn't tell you where.

It was a festive evening, with food and drink and the predictable seasonal conversations about kids' exorbitant tuition costs. Somewhere between "Silent Night" and "The Little Drummer Boy," though, I began to feel the melancholies. It might have been the Old Fashioned I was drinking, which had four fingers of whiskey in it. That is, for me, three and three-quarters too many fingers. I am a basically antisocial person, but a social drinker. Meaning I don't get much practice.

So it might have been that, or maybe just the memory of Christmases past, which brought my dad to mind. He was a singer, a some-time professional, but best loved being part of a chorus. He once visited a prison with a choir to bring a little holiday cheer. They filled the place with song, and then as they departed, called out "Merry Christmas! See you next year!" From a far corner of the cell block came a doleful reply: "I'll be here."

There are a lot of carols I have never heard of. They, like all things unnecessary but good, can be found online. "Bethlehem Down" sounds like a Michael Bay action movie starring Liam Neeson. (Slogan: "They told Mary and Joseph there was no room at the inn. They were wrong. Dead wrong.")

I can't imagine "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" ever moved a lot of sheet music. "Rocking Carol" sounds hopeful, especially if you picture it sung by shepherds with ZZ Top beards and Stratocasters, until you find out it's a Czech lullaby to put babies to sleep.

Dad probably knew all of these. He would sing anything, any time. He felt like it made the world better.

The fire crackled at my back, and I set down my cocktail for good as we launched into "Jingle Bells." In this version, Batman didn't smell, and Robin didn't lay an egg. It wasn't that kind of crowd. It was cheery, though.

Songs are like a ribbon strung across time. Dad's got one end and I've got the other. Joy to the world? Yeah. I'm in.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - From the annals of obscure rappers

No, his rap career was not long, but it was delicious.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dog's shopping skills need to be more fully developed

There are only 12 days until Christmas and yet, as usual, the dog hasn't even done any shopping. It's all "me, me, me" with Skipper.

Terriers. Sheesh. You say "Target" or "mall" to them, they just look at you. You say "cookie," they are all ears.

I long for the day when I can rent one of those driverless cars, stick my dog in it, having pre-trained him to fight the Christmas shopping crowds, snag everything on my list, and bring me home a boba.

I live many male stereotypes, but the one I live most fully is a dislike of shopping. Oh, I can buy milk, but ask me to use my taste and discernment to pick out a birthday present and I get the eye twitch.

Do you know how many options there are out there for birthday presents? Dozens! Dozens of options. I want two. Give me two choices, I can flip a coin. Like a man.

Options are every man's downfall. I shopped for my wife's birthday recently. Here's how it went:

(Inner dialogue is not to scale)

Me: That necklace is pretty.

Me: Wait. She already has one just like that. Doesn't she?

Me: I don't know. I don't pay attention.

Me: What about this scarf? She likes purple and green.

Me: We live in L.A. She could wear it, like, three days a year.

Me: I don't care if she wears it. Just that she likes it.

Me: Good point. Get this painted pebble too.

Me: What's it for?

Me: I don't know! To show that you remember she likes little painted things. Isn't that enough?

Me: Yes. No. Yes. Probably. Yes. I'm pretty sure.

Skipper needs to start pulling his weight, I am telling you. There was a time when being adorable was enough, but that was the '90's. Yes, I'm writing about you, dog. (He's lying in a patch of sun checking my hands for treats.) You need to learn how to shop, boyo. Google's almost got the driverless car thing down. We need to get you fitted for little shopping basket saddlebags.

Dude, my hands are empty, look in my eyes, buddy. Up here. Look up here. Read my lips: Mommy likes purple and green. She likes little painted things.

Crap, you're color blind, aren't you?

You know what? Lie there. Fine! Pretend it's the 20th Century!

Ohhh, come here. I can't stay mad at you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Technology and fashion seamlessly merged

 Finally! An automated way to make sure I haven't hiked my pants up too far.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Smart phone not yet advanced enough to conquer

Some people fear that machines will one day rise and outstrip human intelligence, but those people have never used a smart phone.

I shot a four minute video which then apparently went to the "cloud" for ease of accessibility. It was about as easy to snag as brunch with Kim Jong Un. I desperately needed to transfer it to my computer for editing, and luckily it said a copy was still on the phone.

I connected the phone to the computer.


These two future humanity-crushers could not even see each other. I tried to share it wirelessly.

"Error," the phone's screen said. "Unable to upload. Try again later." Evidently the phone, like me, has a hard time uploading under pressure.

Then a new message popped up. "Storage almost full." I thought for a moment the phone was so advanced it was capable of measuring the post-Thanksgiving pressure of my jeans.

Almost full?! The settings said I still had six gigs free. (For the non-tech-savvy, a gig is like an invisible Tupperware container in which you keep videos of total strangers' dogs playing in snow.)

Judging by my Internet search results, a lot of people have the same problem. One guy said he fixed his storage anomaly by setting his phone's clock back two years, then forward again. Rather than figure out where the clock was, I just threw a pinch of salt over my left shoulder.

I tried again later. "Unable to upload." "Storage almost full."

My eyes saw those words on the screen, but by the time they reached my brain they had been translated into "I wonder how far you can throw me through that window if you really do a full wind-up."

The video was of my son delivering food to a charity. He did this because is an upright guy, and also because his English teacher said those three little words which no teenage boy in history has ever been able to resist—"extra credit points."

My son was quickly consumed by charity towards the needy. But now the evidence of his altruism was stuck in the unreachable cloud and the deranged phone.

After about eight hours of this, the phone finally decided, for no discernible reason, to upload. One problem down. It still thinks it has absolutely no room left for new input, but I don't blame it. I know the feeling well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - When Teletubbies go bad

Typical. Tinky-Winky, Dipsy and Laa-Laa are too savvy to ever use their real names.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A rare and candid interview with El Niño

GW:  So Mr. Niño…

El Niño: Please. Call me "L."

GW: All right, L. We haven't met formally, but in 1998 you did ruin my best dress shoes.

L: Sorry, man. Nature of the beast.

GW: Weather forecasters insist you will be paying L.A. another visit this winter big-time. But they said that last year too.

L: Last year I got a last-minute freebie to Orlando. You got lucky. But I'm already ramping up for this year's gig.

GW: Do you intend to cause widespread flooding and mudslides?

L: "Widespread" is a such a loaded term.

GW: But you expect to live up to the hype?

L: Hey, does Noah sleep in hip-waders?

GW: Um, yes?

L: It's not like I can control it. I'm like the Hulk.

GW: Anger is a factor?

L: How would you feel if you had a giant plastic-particle trash island for a belly button?

GW: I see your point.

L: Look, you've had a four-year drought. I'm about to do you a favor.

GW: Scientists say it won't be enough to end our shortage.

L: Scientists can kiss my sweet Kiribati.

GW: They have dubbed you "El Niño," which implies a selfish, spoiled and impulsive nature. How do you feel about that?

L: I'm good.

GW: You'd say that's accurate?

L: Well, I'd prefer "random periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific," but you pick your battles.

GW: What would you like people to know about you that maybe they don't already?

L: I'm single and looking. I like smooth jazz, although whalesong makes me nuts. Doesn't it make you crazed?

GW: It does.

L: Right?

GW: It sounds like cats bungie-jumping.

L: What are cats?

GW: fish, only more aloof.

L: Like clams?

GW: Yes, like furry clams. Listen, I know you can't help yourself. I know you're just a weather effect, and you do what you do. But people are worried you're going to rip out piers and docks and wreak havoc this winter.

L: You want your lakes refilled, don't you? Your trout streams?

GW: Yes, but...

L: Your farmers want to grow those thirsty almonds?

GW: Yes.

L: You got to take the bad with the good. Buy a new umbrella. Get your roof replaced.

GW: Every roofer is booked until next summer.

L: I am good for business. You know what they say—every random periodic warming has a silver lining.

. . .

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Niche market edition

 I've seen restaurant supply stores before, but this is a new one on me.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving advice

I originally published this column in November, 2008. But botulism humor never goes out of style. Enjoy and share—GW

My Thanksgiving advice column was so popular last year (judging by only one cancelled subscription, and you know who you are…mom), I felt no harm could be done by another one this year, unless you count the botulism. Below are a few of the most common questions people ask about Thanksgiving preparation, as far as I know, not having asked anybody.

Q: Which is more traditional—cornbread stuffing or giblet stuffing?

A: Traditionally, giblet, but seeing as how the dictionary defines giblets as "the edible offal of a fowl," I say we break with tradition this year before I hurl a few edibles of my own.

Q: What is offal?

A: I'll tell you what's offal. The Titans playing the Lions while people are trying to eat.

Q: Why do some people say "stuffing" while some people say "dressing"?

A: Some people are "idiots." No, really, stuffing gets its name because it is stuffed into the cavity of the bird for cooking, while dressing is something you put on a wound at a field hospital. So the latter is not as appetizing.

Q: You call this "advice"?

A: Oh no. Gosh, no.

Q: How can I accommodate my vegetarian relatives?

A: I don't believe in doing so. Look where that got us with Hitler.

Q: Are there any new trends this year, like that "tur-duck-en," where they stick the chicken inside the duck inside the turkey?

A: Yes, in order to be "cutting edge" in the arena of nested meats, this year some of the more fashionable tables will play host to the "squir-munk-oon," a squirrel stuck in a chipmunk stuck in a raccoon.

Q: Are you making that up?

A: If you have to ask, I can tell there is a career waiting for you in the manly and lucrative world of snipe hunting.

Q: Is the watching of football on Thanksgiving, with its emphasis on the symbolic conquest of terrain, kind of ironic, considering what early European settlers eventually did to the Native Americans?

A: No. The Redskins actually have a good shot this year.

Q: Where did the tradition of serving cranberry sauce come from? That stuff is foul.

A: Foul things becoming traditions are actually very common in U.S. history. Just look at war.

Q: Should I be worried about food-borne disease?

A: Yes.

Q: How worried?

A: Let me put it this way. Don't eat the dressing. It used to be on a wound.

Q: What is the secret to hosting a successful Thanksgiving party?

A: Remembering the best part of what the day truly represents, and honoring it with at least two television sets in each room.

Q: Even the bathroom?

A: Ha ha, don't get nuts on me here! One is fine.

Q: What is the best beverage to serve on this festive occasion?

A: A lot of people like that non-alcoholic sparkling cider, and I call these people "Seahawks fans." Wine is better, or, if the Cowboys are losing, beer in your lucky stein. The one with the spurs.

Q: How do they get the squirrel into the chipmunk? Isn't a chipmunk smaller?

A: You don't want to know.

In just a few days, one of our nation's oldest celebrations will be upon us. Our forefathers, who overcame great hardship, could not possibly have imagined our own travails in the 21st Century, like covering the point spread, but if they were here now, and able to speak, I know they would agree with us on one thing: those Dallas cheerleaders just never get old.

. . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Billy Joel was right

 Some are satin, some are steel, some are silk and some are leather,

 They're the faces of the stranger, and the lamest one is Sport

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ancient furnace finally gives up the (smoky) ghost

There is a lot of charm in an old house, unless you own it.

We bought ours years ago "as is." "As is" is a real estate term meaning you are aware it is an old house, with the eventual costs that will come with that, and you hold harmless anyone involved in selling you the beast.

You get a cheaper house up front that way, but you pay on the "back end," which is a nicer way of saying "out the wazoo."

We have a vintage 1960s gas furnace in our basement, a relic which began its service back when I was still planting seeds in paper cups in kindergarten. It has heated our house reliably, if noisily, for 20 years.

Until last week.

I turned it on for the usual first-of-the-season dust-burning session where I open up all the doors and windows and hasten climate change.

The old girl heated for awhile, but when the blower should have kicked in, there was a "pop." A pop is not good. Outside a Dr. Seuss book, a pop is bad.

Even the dog turned toward the sound, as if to say, "My ancient wolf survival instincts tell me that pop right there is going to run you fifteen grand."

I called a furnace guy, who looked at the random wires running here and there from the unit and practically ran up the stairs, unwilling to touch the thing for fear of liability.

A friend recommended another guy, who was unfazed, even reattaching a loose wire and installing a new fan belt.

"The blower switch is shot," he said, "but you can hand-start it by turning the wheel, see?"

And the furnace began to blow.

"I wouldn't recommend it, though," he said. "You could lose a finger."

The next morning the house was cold. I turned on the heat. I figured I would go get a hammer and turn the wheel using its claw. I need my fingers. I like to give people the thumbs up in traffic, to congratulate their excellent driving.

Then I saw the smoke. The kitchen, which is right above the furnace, was rapidly filling with it.

I ran down to the basement and shut off the pilot light. Ran back up and opened windows and doors. Started fans.

Saving your house from a conflagration is even better than saving your fingers. And it looks like I'll be needing them to write a big check.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - I'd a named it something nicer myself

Reverse psychology? Or is there a stinky subculture I know nothing about?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

When it comes to installing rain barrels, I am all wet

I bought two rain barrels recently, so that I could snag me some of that sweet state rebate money. I bought them online, so I did not have a receipt, only a "thanks for your order" email, which is—let me stress this here—not a receipt.

I know this because when I mailed a copy of my email into the state, they replied, in words more polite than these but with the same gist, "We think you are trying to rip us off. We think the closest you have gotten to a rain barrel is seeing one being worn as clothes in a Yosemite Sam cartoon. Send us a receipt."

So I mailed them a copy of my credit card bill, photos of the barrel crates with my name on them in my back yard, and a letter written in a tone you used to see in colonial days, where they guy totally rips the other guy a new flintlock, but then signs it ever so politely, "your humble servant."

A week went by. Two weeks. Finally I got a terse email admitting I had probably bought rain barrels and would soon have the heck rebated out of me.

I even paid extra for two sets of downspout-to-barrel converters, not noticing, because of what these days I jokingly call my "attention to detail," that the converters were for rectangular downspouts. My downspouts are round.

I added the converters to the ceiling-high pile of similar mistakes in my garage which conveniently camouflage the Ark of the Covenant.

I was going to have to cut a hole directly into the side of my downspouts and insert a rubber rain collector piping the water to my barrels. As can be said of so many aspects of my life, I did not have the tools.

At the hardware store (where, on Halloween, it was full-on Christmas) I bought a hole dozer and, to attach it to my drill, an arbor. Got them home. Naturally, they did not fit my drill.

Truth. I had to buy an entirely new drill to water my roses. Finally, suitably armed, I showed those downspouts who was boss. I hooked up the barrels. Done.

I figure that after buying the drill stuff, the rain barrels, and the cinder blocks upon which to set them, even factoring in the rebate I still ended up in the red. But come next summer, my lawn will be sooo green.
. . .



Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Ominous Random Signs edition

There were no buckets. I guess they had all been kicked.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A little Halloween history as Daylight Saving Time ends

Another Halloween has passed and still no kids have soaped my windows. Slackers! It's not like I'M going to do it. I would rinse them, though, certainly. Squeegee them too. Kids these days couldn't find a bar of soap with a supermarket and a flashlight.

Daylight Saving Time ended this morning, which just means your kids were throwing up candy at 3 a.m. instead of 4. Your body clock is now shot for about a week, so don't fight it. Administer leftover candy corn every four hours until it's gone or it's Christmas, the latter being more likely. 

My children are older now, so the time I would have spent shining a flashlight on curbs last night trick-or-treating I spent instead watching a 20 year old video on the history of Halloween. It wasn't pretty. The 1990s production values, I mean, not the history.

It seems 3000 years ago in Ireland, the locals decided that this period of the year, transitioning from the light to the dark, meant those who had died in the past year might walk the Earth again. In order to appease them, they set out treats on the edge of town, hoping to keep them a respectable distance from the nicer retail areas. Or, as my wife said, "Stay in your grave—here's a Snickers."

To give thanks for nature's bounty, they sacrificed cattle and other animals, burned them on bonfires, and then the Druid in charge interpreted the charred entrails to predict the coming year's prospects for various individuals. Pronouncements like "Sorry, Siobhan, but this smoking cow liver says you should probably not be around knives this year" were common.

Christians, since they could not convince the pagans to give up their autumnal worship of dozens of nature gods, chose the same date to celebrate All Hallows Day. But people, as people will do, kept riffing on the holiday, so that over the centuries we ended up with British children burning effigies of a famous would-be Parliament bomber, and in the American south on Halloween, women began looking for omens of the faces of their future husbands in baked goods. 

Recently some Christians have created "Jesusween," and give out Bibles to children instead of candy. This probably does not go over big at first, but as I recall, back when I was a kid in the bathroom at 3 a.m. repenting my overindulgence, I would have been surprisingly open to salvation.

. . .

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - These days they sell EVERYthing

Back in in the '70's, we just wore our birthday suit and sneakers, and safety be damned! 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tropical snake makes waves in a nervous pre-election year

A venomous sea snake, normally found in Central American waters, washed ashore this week in Oxnard, sparking jubilation among people who had been lamenting the end of the ebola scare last year. The yellow-bellied menace was quickly denounced as an illegal immigrant by Donald Trump, but died on the beach before it could be used in campaign ads.

"Yellow-bellied is right," Trump crowed, noting that the sea-faring serpent had not even had the "guts" to risk its life crossing the desert into Texas like any other self-respecting Central American.

The other 87 Republican candidates for president belatedly chimed in, criticizing the snake's clear lack of "gumption," "patriotism" and "legs."

Scientists blamed the growing El Niño weather pattern, which is shifting warmer ocean currents farther north than normal, resulting in "unusual occurrences of political opportunism."

Hillary Clinton, at an "It's Two L's, Not One, You Idiot" rally in Daytona, Florida, denied that the snake was a clever plot to draw attention away from her Private Email Server-gate. Bill Clinton quickly added, "No comment."

The black and yellow snake (whose Latin name, Pelamis platurus, literally means "undecided voter") was spotted on the beach by a surfer. Experts say the last time this species came to Southern Californian shores was three decades ago during a similar El Niño season.

"Clear proof of global warming," said Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley, while handing out "Martin WHO?" buttons outside a Wawa mini-mart in Huntsville.

Highly venomous and deadly, Pelamis platurus is known as non-aggressive, and will only attack if threatened or forced to choose sides, politically. "El Niño is wreaking havoc not just on nature but on liberal fundraising," said Rip Emoff, a fictitious political strategist.

"Stripey killer snakes are a sign of the End Times, and whenever people think the world is just about over, they tend to donate less to Democrats," he said. "Republicans see a nice bump, though."

By spring, when the expected heavy rains come to Los Angeles, voters' attentions will likely shift from snakes to mudslides, floods and Academy Awards fashions. But the venomous harbinger which appeared this week, foretold in legend ("And lo, a surfer will sight the beast") must not be far from the candidates' thoughts. It will be an election year, and the one who rises to lead us will be the one who remembers that Pelamis platurus is best known for biting you in the butt.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - fancy soap edition

For those times when you want to give off that "ready-mixed" aroma.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pomegranate products breaking new ground in multi-syllables

If ever a trend arises and takes the country by storm, you can be sure I will be right on top of it...just as it fades. So it is with the pomegranate health fad. While I wasn't looking, pomegranates moved from something you put in your mouth to something you rub on yourself faster than you can say "voodoo marketing."

I rub a lot of things on myself; don't get me wrong. I am not a snob. But never smooshed fruit. Mostly, it seems, they market "pom" to moms. Moms will pay a lot to exfoliate. (I have always thought it would be cheaper just to not foliate in the first place, but I am no expert.)

They sell something called "pomegranate cleansing milk." Three great words by themselves, yes, but together they just sound like something the ad department made up. I am also unclear how they came up with pomegranate "body butter." Or "firming cream." It seems as if the dairy industrial complex has been infiltrated.

Pomegranate frozen yogurt, on the other hand, sounds good because you put it in your mouth. Pomegranate lip balm, too, because it's close to your mouth, like nature intended. I do not think nature intended "hand-harvested pomegranate-infused sea salt." Nature is not fancy. Nature came up with the manatee.

But fancy sells. I found one company which sells "100% organic ultra premium and extra-virgin cold-pressed pomegranate seed oil." God forbid they should press it hot. What madman would press it hot, I ask you?!

The company touts that it is rich in Omega-5 "conjugated" fatty acids. I think in marketing class they learn to just plug four-syllable words into random products. I would not be surprised to see pomegranate juice touting its "hydroelectric" properties and silky-smooth "orthography."

This country is so great, we even have anti-oxidant pomegranate dog biscuits. Dogs love the taste of pomegranate, in the sense that dogs like the taste of everything small enough to fit in their mouths. They even sell "washer whiffs"; pomegranate drops you can add to your laundry to make your whole load smell, I don't know, like it just reduced its cholesterol?

The fad is waning, but not nearly fast enough. I fear one morning I will wake up to find they have created a strain of pomegranate-infused kale. My friends, no society can recover from that.

. . .

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - What will they blow out next?

I do not know what keratin does, but this doesn't sound pretty.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Two animals icons of viral video fame have a chat

If you use the Internet, you probably saw the now-famous video of a rat intently dragging a slice of pizza down the stairs of a New York subway. The slice is twice as long as he is. The guy who shot the video, admiring the rat's determination, called the rat "the new Statue of Liberty." 

All but forgotten is last summer's viral sensation, Tara, the Hero Cat, who chased away a dog that was attacking a boy. I put Tara and Pizza Rat together via conference call recently to discuss the nature of fame.

Cat: I saved a kid. You dragged a slice across the ground, and yet we are in the same pantheon now.

Rat: Pantheon, huh? That like a sewer or something?

Cat: No, YouTube fame. Public renown. An anecdote for the ages.

Rat: Whatever. Seven million people have watched me drop my dinner. I will never understand humans.

Cat: I think they just thought it was funny to see a rat carrying food larger than himself.

Rat: Hey, I've got big bones.

Cat: I don't doubt it.

Rat: They thought I was funny! They should come back in three weeks and behold the freak show that is the New York City subway at Halloween.

Cat: Actually, people are already selling Pizza Rat costumes. Grey fur and plastic pizza. And for ladies, Sexy Pizza Rat.

Rat: I'm a meme. I have become a freakin' meme. Somewhere I am probably even an animated gif.

Cat: Trust me, it will blow over. I was huge a year ago. Now I can't even get a retweet from Oprah.

Rat: What a thing to get famous for. You wouldn't know it to look at me, but when I was young I wanted to be a busker.

Cat: A street performer? Doing what?

Rat: Three card Monte, but set to hip-hop music.

Cat: Take the pizza fame. Just...take the pizza fame.

Rat: It IS a little embarrassing, though.

Cat: Look, are you getting girls?

Rat: Sure! But the wrong kind. They're all looking for a Pizza Daddy.

Cat: Ah.

Rat: Just once I'd like to meet a girl who isn't hungry.

Cat: This is your 15 minutes of fame. I say you go big. Drag a leg of lamb down the stairs. Drag a Peking duck.

Rat: I'm done dragging. Besides, Scorcese wants to do a biopic on me.

Cat: Dream big, my friend. Dream big.

. . .

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Signage fail by a special contributor

Premium. Because you're worth boneless.

. . .

Special thank you to Heather L. for sending this in.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A science quiz for the rest of us

I took one of those online science quizzes recently, the kind which make you feel about as smart as peat moss. I missed the question on whether water boils at a lower temperature in Denver compared to L.A. I thought it boils faster. No, it boils lower, which means, in effect, it cooks slower. I will remember that next time I am whipping out my spaghetti while camping in the Rockies. I will bring a good book, I guess. Thanks, science.

So you won't miss out on the fun, here is a short science quiz I wrote just for you.

1. Peat moss is:

a) moss which got trapped in a bog, decomposed, and now all you can see is its tusks sticking out
b) not as prolific as repeat moss
c) about as smart as you
d) a linebacker for the Colts

2. Photosynthesis is:

a) sold in a bundle with Microsoft Office
b) not as "green" as its proponents would have you believe
c) a way for plants to convert sunlight into a viable Ebay business
d) not what it was back before deregulation

3. Vulcanism is:

a) quips which Mr. spock lets fly after a few too many Romulan ales
b) a curable form of circus fandom
c) just to the right of the Tea Party
d) when you've totally had it and you lose your Vulcan temper

4. Electricity is created by:

a) God, while walking briskly in corduroy pants
b) harnessing the power of robo-squirrels
c) any two Judd Apatow characters
d) magnets, a plate of cronuts, and a dream

5. Californium is:

a) an element of the periodic table famous for saying "No waaaaay"
b) the place you wanta be, so they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly
c) Hills, that is
d) the only ion stable in aqueous solutions, which, while impressive, doesn't exactly pay the rent

6. A vaquita is:

a) a small endangered porpoise
b) Esperanto for "undeclared voter"
c) not the kind of word I would translate in a family paper
d) like a chalupa, but more classy

6. It is important to know science in today's world because:

a) it is an easy word
b) without science, science-deniers would have a whole lot of time on their hands
c) two words: Dippin' Dots
d) otherwise, scientists would just be tists, and hard to employ

The important thing is not whether you can pass a random quiz. It is that you remember science is all around you, so you must be vigilant, and try not to get any on you.

.  .  .

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - A few words you can never un-see

 "Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Everything you always wanted to know about Canadian politics

While relief from our current political unpleasantries is still 14 months away, Canada is having its big election in about three weeks. (Fun fact: "Canada" is a French word meaning "dirty fries.")

Canada's 2015 campaign cycle was the lengthiest in its history: 11 weeks! This is in stark contrast to the U.S. election model, whose length is determined by capitalist television criteria, and can be summed up by the phrase, "As long as it sells frozen pizza rolls."

The Conservative Party is currently in power in Canada, followed by the New Democratic Party (actual slogan: "Ready for change." They have evidently been ready for change for a long time. The NDP was established in 1961.)

The third major party, and the one which was in power for fully two-thirds of the 20th Century, is called the Liberal Party (actual slogan: "Real change." I am fairly sure that, by law, a political party's slogan must contain at least one of the words "ready," "real" or "change.")

And sure, you've got your Independent Party ("Real independent") and your Green Party ("Real green"), but every country's got those. Canada, however, has the only Rhinoceros Party ("Real horny," I'm guessing.) It was established in 2006, and in only nine years has managed to not win any seats anywhere. It has promised not to keep any of its promises if elected, which nobody has to worry about them not keeping. If only we could get those kinds of assurances from American politicians.

If elected, the Rhino Party promises to:
  • Give lottery winners a Senate seat
  • Promote "higher education" by building taller schools
  • Nationalize Tim Hortons (a kind of Canadian Dunkin' Donuts)
  • Repeal the law of gravity
Canada has an Animal Alliance Party (hopefully they are allied with some meat eaters, which would certainly spice up the door-to-door campaigning), a Marijuana Party, and a Pirate Party. Yarr, dude, these do not appear to have slogans. Or voters.

Canadians have the reputation for getting along, and yet Canada not only has a Communist Party but a Marxist-Leninist Party as well. They could not agree on enough to merge the two! This is the political equivalent of building a combo Denny's/Coco's. Oh, Canada.

Best of all, in Canada, political parties get reimbursed by the government for 50% of their election expenses! I had always suspected Canadians had a sense of humor because of their flag, but that cements it.

. . .

Then again, some parties are really out there... 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Vanity plate mystery

Is it possible Aunt Jemima is still driving at her age? Or is this referencing an obscure superhero I just never heard about?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

To sleep or capture rain for later—that is the question

When the rain began to fall before dawn last Tuesday, I apparently incorporated it into my dream, because I was suddenly surfing with Kim Basinger. It did not strike me as weird at all, even though nobody has seen her since 1992. 

The waves roared and carried us to shore, where Billy Crystal stood holding out a Mai Tai for each of us. He was in a lime green tux, and as the dream fizzled, he morphed into a frog which croaked, "I'll have what she's having." 

When I woke up, I realized the weirdest part of the whole thing was that it was raining in September. Hard. Oh, we got some drizzle in July, which was also strange, but not satisfyingly so; a lot like the last five or six Johnny Depp movies. 

Tuesday morning it was pouring, just gloriously pummeling my roof, as if, like they say in Greece, it was raining chair legs.

It being 3 a.m., I knew if I got up to set out buckets it would take another hour to get back to sleep, so I let it go. I felt guilty, but there is nothing more soothing than a shear of thunderless rain, so I melted back into slumber like a pat of sleepy butter. Unfortunately, I didn't dream up a better metaphor.

Different cultures around the world use different colorful phrases to describe when it's really coming down. In the Czech Republic, they evidently say "Tractors are falling." In Denmark the phrase is, it's "raining cobbler boys." In South Africa they say "It's raining old women with clubs." In the Netherlands, they are so cultured it rains "pipe stems."

In Portugal it rains "pocket knives," in Germany, "puppies," and in Norway, "troll women." My favorite, though, is Argentina, where they say "it's raining dung head-first." I think we should borrow that one and use it when Congress is in session.

Once up, I put on my raincoat and went about capturing as much water as I could. I felt like one of the brooms carrying buckets in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." I got completely soaked, but next month my thirsty lawn and flowers will get some relief. 

I may have to stick to the back yard, though. If things look too green in the front, the neighbors will assume I'm a water waster, and these days that's even worse than being a climatologist.

. . .

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Cultural misunderstanding, part MMXXXXXXVVVVVIIII

 I do not know what "it" is, but I saw "Silence of the Lambs," so I'll pass.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

An interview with Queen Elizabeth, in my dreams

This week, Queen Elizabeth II became England’s longest-reigning monarch, surpassing her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, who remained unimpressed at the time of this writing. Queen Victoria reigned for 23,226 days, a record thought unbreakable in the era before dietary fiber. In honor of this milestone, I sat down with Queen Elizabeth for a casual and largely fictitious chat.

GW: Your Majesty, thank you for taking time out from being feted by admirers for breaking this monarchy-record thingy.

Queen: It's a relief, to be honest. You'd think people had never seen a lady reign her butt off before.

GW: Did you just say 'butt'?

Queen: Blame it on the champagne. I've spent the last week being feted till my feter is all feted out. Butt butt butt.

GW: (to the waiter) Bring some coffee, please.

Queen: I have reigned over Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada...

GW: Sierra Leone.

Queen: Not any more, dear.

GW: Uganda?

Queen: We lost Uganda in '63. A shame. The hats were marvelous.

GW: You've still got Tuvalu.

Queen: I AM still the queen of Tuvalu, and Papua New Guinea.

GW: You are the queen of Barbados.

Queen: Yes, and the Bahamas. I like to say they love me anywhere it's breezy. (Laughs.)

GW: (Laughs.) There is something I promised myself I would ask you if I ever met you. Does it feel funny to use money with your own picture on it?

Queen: Use money?

GW: Yes, use money. Oh. Right.

Queen: I have seen it used, of course.

GW: Of course. You have people for that.

Queen: So many people, yes. And cars. And buildings. I count them sometimes when I can't sleep.

GW: So. Sixty-three years on the throne. What are you proudest of?

Queen: I came up with the whole "keep calm and carry on" bit.

GW: No!

Queen: It was just something offhand I said to one of my corgi dogs when he was startled by a colorful ottoman. The next thing I knew, it was on buses.

GW: They are good words to live by.

Queen: Indeed. It's gotten out of hand, though. "Keep calm and smoke weed"? I mean, really. With my crown logo and everything.

GW: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Queen: Perhaps I should receive royalties. Get it? Royalties.

GW: Ha! Nice, but don't quit your day job...Oh. Right.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Public art, private fantasy

 In my dreams, he takes off the hard hat and strikes the same pose. 

Please make the dreams stop.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A wacky riff on this day in history, September 6

Exactly a century ago on this day, September 6, the first-ever tank, nicknamed "Little Willie," was tested for war. Little Willie did not live up to expectations. (They can put that on my tombstone too.)

So they built Big Willie, who did a very efficient job of removing souls from bodies long before Fox News was invented.

Tanks are supposedly called "tanks" because, for secrecy, the military told tank factory workers that tanks were to transport water on the battlefield. I do not think that fooled anybody. Even factory rubes would have known you don't deliver water through a 50 mm gun.

On this day in 1522, the one surviving ship of explorer Ferdinand Magellan's arrived in Spain after completing the first ever circumnavigation of the earth.

"How was it?" the king asked in Spanish.

"We lost the other four ships and Magellan got killed in the Philippines, but on the bright side, we found what you sent us around the world for."

"The Starbucks?"

"Yes, your highness. I'll draw you a map."

It is ironic that Magellan is the brand name of a major GPS manufacturer, considering he never made it home. The symbolism is not great. "Your car will make it back, at least" is not a slogan I see selling a lot of units.

On this day in 1628, the Puritans settled Salem, Massachusetts, so that one day there would be no shortage of clothing stating "My parents drowned a witch and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

On this day in 1847, Henry David Thoreau left Walden and moved in with Ralph Waldo Emerson. They soon made a pact that nobody could join their club unless he had a middle name that everybody had to say whenever they said his name. Sadly, Francis Scott Key had died four years earlier.

On this day in 1901, Leon Czolgosz, whom history inevitably reports to us was unemployed, shot President McKinley, who had a job. Czolgosz, who was found to be suffering from too many consonants, was electrocuted by the state.

This is still not the worst thing that has ever happened in Buffalo.

In 1930, game designer Charles Foley was born. He would go on to invent the game "Twister." Before Foley, the phrase "right foot green" had a decidedly more dire connotation.

History has a lot to teach us, you see, none of which you just read.

. . .

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - A bad case of roof pandas

 On paper, the eucalyptus shingles did seem suspiciously cheaper than the alternatives.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dropping daughter off at college brings bittersweet feel-splosion

Last week I helped move my daughter into the dorms better than any of the other parents. You might not think it is possible for this to be competitive, and then again, you might not be American.

Some parents required multiple trips back and forth to the car, but I pulled off the elusive and coveted "one-tripper." Set my hand truck horizontal like a flatbed and Tom-Joaded the sucker. Stacked it like a Vegas deck. On the half-mile trek from the car to the dorms, nothing budged. Steinbeck would have penned a sonnet on sight.

Sending your firstborn out from under your roof for the first time is emotional, and in the absence of alcohol, requires a good stacking and hauling task to pull off. Dropping a kid off at college tends to induce flashbacks from her childhood; pincurls bouncing to her shoulders, daddy horseyback rides around the living room, squealing retreats from ocean waves, choir concerts in long black dress and faux pearls.

The elevator up to her floor was a rickety incitement to use the stairs, but necessary for our load. It is no accident that on the campus tour they only show you the ground floor.

We met her roommate, who is also a SoCal homegirl, and who has a car, a freshman luxury, considering the parking permit for a school year could fund a nice laptop.

The girls made forced small talk as I rolled around under the desk connecting the power strip to a half dozen miscellaneous chargers. My freshman year, the only phone I had access to was mounted on the dorm lobby wall. The only charging I did was the cafeteria line at dinner time.

Right after 9/11 I read about a little girl who died on the second plane to hit the World Trade Center. She was four. Turns out she'd been born only one day before my own daughter. She would have been heading to college this fall too. Maybe her mom would have helped her settle in, except her mom was on the same plane.

When the bed was made and the clothes put in drawers and the Wi-fi connected, I gave my girl a hug and I left. It was a long, hot walk back to the car. Lou Gehrig aside, I felt like the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

. . .

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Who stands between YOU and follicular disaster?

 Some of the lesser superheroes have to stoop to marketing to make ends meet.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Horror convention gives father and son a ghoul time

Recently I went to a horror convention, which I want to assure my male readers is not, in fact, shorthand for a baby shower.

Baby showers are certainly horror enough for a man, even it it's your baby. If it's not yours, and the hosts are teetotalers, this veers beyond horror into cruelty. All those tiny, asexual yellow onesies are enough to make a man eat a fireplace poker.

But this was an actual horror expo at the Pasadena Convention Center. The only babies in evidence were props being dragged behind a woman dressed as La Llorona, the famously sad ghost mom.

There were quite a few attendees in costume, although less cleavage on display than your average Renaissance Fair. More giant, bloody mutant rabbits walking upright, though. I don't know what movie/comic book they were from. I don't really keep up with horror, unless you count politics.

I was there because my son is a fan of those horror mazes that amusement parks build in October, and there were discussion panels headed by the creative directors behind them. They were sharing spoilers about this Halloween's plans and getting cheers like the Dodgers used to get.

Who knew there were superfans of horror mazes, who follow news tidbits about upcoming designs the way baseball fans peruse disabled lists? There is a subculture for everything, it appears.

The convention was called "Scare L.A." and this was its third year. Aside from the panels, it consisted of 150 or so vendor booths (typical name: "Dapper Cadaver") selling stuff to scare trick-or-treaters off your lawn. Or spice up your love life. Depends on how you roll.

I enjoyed the exhibit hall the most, with vendors competing to emit the spookiest fog and sell the latexiest ghoul mask. (Horror knows no adjectival limits.)

You could buy a huge, four-foot wide clown face complete with light-up nose. Forget the lawn; that would clear your entire block.

They had severed limbs. Bloody axes. Not those cheap ones you see in the temporary Halloween stores. The good stuff, which appeared as if it had been used on actual screenwriters.

There were booths like "BoogerVampire" and "Brainfarto" and "Toxic Toons." My son is 14. He had the glazed-over look I get when an old Adrienne Barbeau movie comes on. Undiluted bliss.

It was a bonding thing too. You never forget looking at rubber torn-out throats with your old dad. Ah, they grow up so fast.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Grammar rule's are their for a raisin

 Apostrophe misplacement is one sign democracy has begun to falter.