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.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Six flags over California? That's too scary a ride

The idea was floated last year to split California into six separate states, but it failed to make the ballot because, I think, the sponsor didn't give each state a cool enough name. This same issue probably also explains the short life of the Internet-enhancement device, "iSmell." What I'm saying here is—names matter.

Venture capitalist Tim Draper spearheaded the campaign, saying California is too large to manage effectively (subtext: since it's always Democrats doing the managing.) He spent millions of his own fortune on what detractors called "a solution...that didn't address any of our state's challenges."

Plus, who wants to live in the state of "Jefferson"? That is what Draper wanted to call the northernmost portion of California bordering Oregon. It's a reference to Jefferson sending Lewis and Clark to discover Oregon. Either that or Draper is just one huge fan of "All In The Family" spinoffs.

His other bizarre choice was to call the entire wealthy central coast region "Silicon Valley." This would allow San Francisco to be in Silicon Valley even without the assistance of an astounding earthquake. This would create perhaps the wealthiest state in the country. But the name's not cool. Me, I would just call it "Baywatch." Tourism would soar.

Draper divided the rest of the state into generic North, Central, West and South California. How could he not notice that North California has the greatest county in the entire U.S.? Yolo. There's your state, dude. "YOLO." You Only Live Once. Think of the zip-line franchises. Think of the t-shirt sales.

Central California, the food basket of the nation, has Kings County. Boom, the state of "Kings." That's how you name a state, my brother. The flag could be a head of garlic with a crown on it.

West California does not have any good county names to use, but since it includes L.A., let's just call the whole state "Kanye." The state song could be "Gold Digger."

South California we should just call "Julian." Give out an apple pie with each marriage license and be done with it.

Under Draper's plan, the U.S. would end up with 55 states. The cost of changing flags and maps would bankrupt every school district and state capitol. Worst of all, this would completely blow up Schoolhouse Rock's "Fifty Nifty United States" song.

Mr. Draper, have you no decency, sir?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - The varied meanings of words

Toilet supply store? Brothel? I didn't ask.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hitchbot, we hardly knew ye

Canada has a long history of trying social experiments out on the U.S. For example, Celine Dion. But its latest one feels like a setup.

A handful of Canadian professors created a festive-looking robot and sent it out into the world to "hitchhike." The question they wanted answered was, "Can robots trust humans?"

Well, it turns out that Hitchbot can trust Canadian humans and Dutch humans and German humans, but not the denizens of Philadelphia. After just two weeks in the states, Hitchbot's head and arms were torn off and its body discarded roadside like a bad Kardashian spinoff. Well, like a Kardashian spinoff.

With arms and legs made of blue foam "pool noodles," whimsical yellow rain boots and a large bucket-like head, Hitchbot was bound to get a beatdown in the U.S. Our tolerance for bucket-heads generally only extends to presidential hopefuls. We may be on the road to "post-racial" but I don't think Americans will ever be "post-robot." And certainly not "post-blue legs/yellow boots." Hitchbot could have been assaulted on grounds of fashion alone.

He was supposed to be picked up by altruistic motorists and driven around the country like a real hitchhiker, except without getting slain. Somebody in Philly jumped straight to the slaying part, which is just un-American. We are a car culture after all.

Hitchbot's never-completed "bucket" list included tanning at Myrtle Beach, seeing Yellowstone geysers and posing with the Hollywood sign. One could also add to his list, I suppose, the return of his own bucket at this point.

I might be tempted to think this whole thing was a setup to make Americans look bad compared to Canadians, except:

a) Canadians are too nice to even think of that, and
b) We don't need any outside help to pull that off

Hitchbot was powered by an iPhone in its head, evidently, which is reason enough for the decapitation and theft, and it's too bad the Canadians did not have the suspicious forethought to set up its "find my phone" function. Even if they had, I doubt that Canadians would go after the thieves. They would probably consider that too rude.

I like Canada. It gave us William Shatner and maple syrup. But it embraced its British forebears while we threw ours out and invented freedom. And, unfortunately for them, we eat social experiments for breakfast.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I hear that leprosy cases are way up in Florida this year, and it is not even an election year. (That is a dig at somebody. I haven't figured out who yet.) Local scientists suspect that rising contact with armadillos is causing the uptick.

(Side note: I saw Leprosy Uptick at the Troubadour in '79, back when punk was still punk.)

"What's new in your state?" "Oh, we're having a leprosy uptick"...said no governor, ever.

Imagine if the entire U.S. itself were undergoing a leprosy uptick. The president would be blamed immediately for being "soft on armadillos."

They are adorable. Have you seen the babies? Like little grenades with faces.

Did you know that armadillos are the only other animal known to carry leprosy? I decided to compile a list of other traits which only humans and armadillos share:
  • Indifference to U2
  • Thick armor which even Oprah combining forces with Deepak Chopra cannot often pierce
  • The enjoyment which only comes from spitting
All right, "enjoyment" is perhaps a strong word, but yeah. Armadillos spit when riled. Their spit contains the bacteria which causes leprosy. As armadillo habitat is destroyed for subdivisions, more armadillos are coming into contact with humans, and humans do not always use the greatest judgment, especially if they are Floridian humans.

The incubation period for leprosy can be between five and twenty years! Suddenly you are experiencing odd symptoms—skin lesions, claw-like hands, collapsed facial features—and you go, "Oh yeah, back in '95 you dared me to kiss that armadillo outside Hooters. What are the odds that would come back to bite me?"

The Center for Disease Control admits you are unlikely to contract leprosy from an armadillo, but recommends you avoid contact with them "when possible," which is always. It is always possible. Even after Jello shots, people. As the saying goes, if it's close enough to spit on you, it's probably already got a boyfriend anyway.

Luckily, in the U.S., leprosy cases are mostly found in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, states which can be easily avoided if you have a smart phone. I only know one person in those states, and she is unlikely to rile armadillos. Unless the armadillo is a Democrat.

Anyway, antibiotics can take care of it nowadays. Leprosy, I mean, not liberals. Donald Trump has been working on a cure for liberals for years. Trouble is, nobody wants to kiss him.