Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Michael And The Magic Foob Closet

Updated 2/1/07

I have a theory that the comic strip For Better Or For Worse is about a family where no matter how idiotically they behave, everything turns out for the best. I even think the characters have secret companions called Bad Idea Foobs that actually convince them to do the stupidest thing possible. I wrote that Liz is determined to sabotage all her normal relationships so that she can get back with the most dweebish jerk ever to disgrace the comics page. And that is a page with both Ralph Drabble and Dagwood Bumstead on it.

But nowhere is the Bad Idea Foobs principle more evident than in the perplexing life of closeted self-loathing Mike Patterson, a man so troubled with his sexuality that he can’t reveal himself to his deluded beard of a wife. Deanna is one of the original members of the supporting cast. She was the foil to all of Mike’s adolescent pig-tail pulling pranks, completely unaware of his true feelings for fellow Friend of Dorothy, Lawrence.

One of the much vaunted triumphs of the glory days of For Better Or For Worse was the sensitive handling of the Lawrence storyline where he finally came out of the closet to his parents. This would have been the ideal time for Michael to break the news to his folks as well. But the Bad Idea Foobs whispered into his ear that he should endure the love that dare not speak its name in silent suffering. Lawrence, tired of the games and lies, eventually moved on to become a successful gardener in a stable monogamous relationship.

In college, Mike met yet another soulmate, the aptly named stoner dude, Weed. Two guys living together and playing with naked dolls all the time can pass as stoned buddies for awhile, but again, Mike couldn’t commit. Rather than confess to his true feelings, he decided it was time to settle down.

This is where the Bad Idea Foobs really got busy. The two partners, artistic and otherwise, come across a car wreck. Rather than try to assist in any way, they decide to kick start their reporting careers by taking pictures. In a coincidence that only happens in bad telenovelas and the Foobiverse, the crash victim turned out to be Deanna Sobinski, now engaged to some never seen cannon fodder. After months of the patented Foob Central magic, Deanna dumps her decent career guy for the most conflicted gay adult since Col. Frank Fitts in American Beauty.

Unfortunately for closet cases in the Great White North, they can’t claim to have an imaginary girlfriend in Canada, they have to dupe a fake one. Since no Patterson can actually be in the wrong in a romantic relationship, no matter how big a sham, Rhetta has the grace to dump Mike for a real man. The plot is immediately placed in the recycling bin to be redeployed several more times in service of the Pattersons’ love lives.

Deanna, mistaks Mikes total lack of romantic ardor for chivalry and coaxes him into a secret marriage that is a sham on levels she can’t imagine. Wanting a normal happy family, Deanna tricks Mike into fathering children he knows will never love him. He uses passive aggressive tactics to avoid any intimate contact with Deanna. He rents an old apartment over grouchy neighbors so that any mattress dancing must be done quickly, furitively, and quietly. He constantly works late in hopes that she will be asleep when he gets home.

Mike avoids Deanna’s emotional needs every chance he gets, particularly if it he means he can spend more time with Weed. When Deanna has a nervous breakdown from her two kids, Mike and Weed fly to Japan to “out” a crooked fashion designer. Weed gives Mike an attic office/darkroom so they can meet in isolation. Mike exiles himself up there and like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, he just descend deeper and deeper into psychosis and delusion. He begins to fantasize that he is an abused farmer’s wife, writing endlessly detailed clinical descriptions of miscarriages and revenge fantasies. He plagiarizes every bad Nora Roberts story and hopes that somehow nobody will know what he really does in his sanctuary of denial.

When his house begins burning, he lets his wife lead the kids he only plays with on Sundays to safety while he runs back into a smoke-filled firetrap. His manuscript was backed up and a recent draft was stored off-site. What could be worth risking his life for? Obviously, a part of his life that he can’t let slip out is encoded on that hard drive. Is it late night gay chatroom logs? A trove of slash fiction? Pictures of Mewidith and Wobin in the bathtub that he trades with other collectors of innocent images? We will never know. Let it suffice to say that he values it more than his wife and her treasured memories.

And now his years of torment living a lie have been rewarded with a book contract. His manuscript has been pulled still steaming from the slush pile and awarded a huge advance. Conveniently, it is sufficient to cover a down payment on Casa Patterson that he has been longing for for years. It has memories. It has family connections. And mostly, it has plenty of closets.

Update (2/1/06): Mike’s charade at family life remains as thin as the characters in his CDN$25,000 paperback original. In his February letter he admits to his tactics:
She's put up with nights alone as I've worked on whatever "has to be done while I'm in the mood". In the mood meant something else when we were dating.

While they were dating, she was a good girl saving herself for marriage. Once they were married, he had to come up with a new ruse. Hence his escape to the closet-sized attic.

Easter Egg Hunt: Click on each fair-use parody picture that I am using under US copyright law for review and comment.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Let me hear your alternate theories.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Brandy Britton, RIP

According to the Baltimore Sun, former University of Maryland Baltimore County professor and alleged prostitute Brandy Britton died over the weekend, apparently of suicide. A relative, presumably one of her daughters, found the body.

Since her arrest for soliciting a little over a year ago, the HoCo Hooker, as I have called Brandy on this blog, was the subject of intermittent press attention, much of it generated by her. The novelty of her situation, a middle-aged PhD turning tricks out of a quiet suburban neighborhood, made her an enigmatic case study in the sex trade. Every time a court date loomed close, a newspaper article with a few new slivers of information about her past appeared.

I chronicled these media mini-circuses with an ironic and sarcastic tone. My three posts about her case over the last year have made me the “I feel lucky” hit for “Brandy Britton”. When I read the preliminary online article about her death this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had played some minor role in the misery that made her decide life was no longer worth living. I hope not. I have never met Brandy Britton or Alexis Angel, her hooker alterego, in person or online. We have no connection except as a topic on my blog.

To the best of my knowledge, Brandy never knew of my blog, but people that knew Brandy did. Many of them posted anonymous comments revealing details about the scandal at her last day job and about her troubled past. From context it was even possible to figure out who a few of them were. In the eight months since my Brandy’s Back post, over 250 comments turned the article into a virtual chatroom about her past, present, and future.

My blog never got any mainstream press attention, but within a day of me posting a link to a site rumored to be Brandy working under a new name, the site vanished from redirected traffic. That is more power than I ever imagined my blog to have. I don’t want that responsibility.

Suicide has always struck me as a particularly drastic option. Brandy was looking at misdemeanor charges with little chance of jail time. Her constant legal maneuvering seemed to be excessive in light of the pettiness of the charges. In some ways her arrest seemed the least of her troubles. Her second marriage was abusive and her scandal-tinged tenure at UMBC made her a pariah in her field. Without a steady income, legal or otherwise, the residence which served as her suburban bordello was foreclosed on. It was in this house that she ended her pain.

She had been scheduled for a new court date in February. She won’t ever face trial, but that doesn’t mean the ordeal is over. Death is never closure because it leaves behind all the other lives that have intersected with the deceased. Those demanding justice for Brandy having ruined their life or marriage will have to settle for this.

Prurient Google® searches for Brandy are a staple of my blog traffic. This latest development is bound to only make it worse. What started as a tawdry story with a local twist is no longer funny. I had no way of knowing that a year ago. I wish I had.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Perfect Score

Desmond Rhodes: [trying to explain why SAT is racist] Who created the test? Rich white guys. Who scores the highest on the test?

Roy: Asian chicks. Middle class Asian chicks that watch less than one hour of television a day. They can't drive, but they can take the shit out of the SATs.

My son is taking the SAT today. He should do well because he is pretty good at taking tests. That is why we were surprised when he got his PSAT scores earlier this month. While I thought the scores were okay, they were actually lower than what he scored his sophomore year.

PSAT results are much more open than when I was in school. They actually tell you which answers you miss and which topics you need to study more. I looked a little deeper into the points to figure out where he had stumbled. Here is the breakdown on the math portion, which should be his strong suit:

8 of 11 easy questions
15 of 16 medium questions
11 of 11 hard questions

That’s right, he got all the hard questions right, but flubbed several easy questions. That shows he was careless and not stupid. I don’t mind him getting the score that reflects his ability. I just don’t want him to leave any points on the table.

I went into Parental Pep Talk #12: “These are high stakes tests and you should take them seriously. Check your answers. Don’t make foolish mistakes. Blah, blah, blah…” I watched his eyes roll back a full 180 degrees like only a teenager can do.

So I fell back on the one parental method I knew worked: Bribery. We use it a lot. For a perfect report card, we buy him a steak dinner at the restaurant of his choice. I’ve eaten at Frankie and Johnnies so much, I’m sick of the place. Time to move on to Peter Luger’s.

I made him a little offer. I would pay him one dollar for every point over 2000. For those of you that haven’t been writing checks to College Board in the past year or two, the SATs now include a writing section which is a combination of multiple choice questions and an essay. This section is worth another 800 points, bringing the top SAT score up to 2400.

Since my son, like his dad, is a math-wired person, this stacks the SAT deck against him a little more. I’m not worried about losing four benjamins. I tried to talk him into a penalty if he tanked, but he wasn’t buying. I’m just glad he is motivated, no matter how superficial the reason. If it works, it will have been a good investment.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Am I a bad parent for paying for performance? Do you pay for grades? If so, what is the going rate?

Update (2/15/07): I owe him $80, and he didn't leave any money on the table in the math section.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Weird Meme Deja Vu

Over a year ago, I did a meme about Five Weird Habits. Just recently I noticed a very similar meme circulating. I’ve been trying to avoid it, but 2fs tagged me.

Each player of this game starts with “6 weird things about you”. Each person who gets tagged needs to write a blog post of their own 6 weird things as well as clearly state this rule. After you state your 6 weird things, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says “you’re tagged” in their comments and tell them to read your blog for information as to what it means.

The difference between the old one is this one is that it is SIX weird THINGS about me. I dislike the word weird, since it does get used in association with me a fair amount of the time. I would prefer to think of them as things that make me unique. Here goes:

  1. I have a Barbie Doll in my office. It is a mint-in-the-box Georgia Tech Cheerleader Barbie. Like that makes it any less creepy.
  2. I once slept on the back cargo ramp on a C-130. It was the only place I could get comfortable and I can sleep anywhere.
  3. In college, when I was too lazy to cook my Dorm Room Spaghetti, I would just steam broccoli for dinner and then have a bowl of ice cream for dessert. It had to be both broccoli and ice cream.
  4. I eat raw elbow macaroni as a snack. I have done this since at least fourth grade. This is making my hungry, I’m going to have some now.
  5. In my iTunes, I have a playlist called “Wimmin” with 687 songs on it including my Lesbian Favorites album. 29 of them are by Ani DiFranco. 53 are by Melissa Etheridge.
  6. I have a physical condition in common with former Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins. That is all you need to know.

There. Those aren’t so weird, are they?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dorm Cooking 101

The starving college student subsisting on a diet of ramen noodles and powdered macaroni and cheese is a cliché strongly based in reality, but it doesn’t have to be. When I started college nearly 25 years ago, microwaves were rare in a dorm setting and few students had access to real kitchens. I refused to subject myself to dining hall food, so I came up with a plan where I could cook for myself and save all that meal plan money.

Since space in a dorm room is at a premium, simplicity is the key. I ate well my freshman year in college while cooking on just a hot plate. Here is my spaghetti and meat sauce recipe for dorm cooking.

Dorm Room Spaghetti

Required tools:
Medium skillet (10”).
4 quart sauce pan
Electric hot plate
Plastic plate

½ box dry spaghetti
4 oz ground beef
¼ jar spaghetti sauce

Note: If you have a weekly shopping list of 1 pound of hamburger, two boxes of spaghetti and one jar of sauce, this recipe will last for four days.

Fill sauce pan half full of water out of gang bathroom sink. Set aside. Turn on hot plate, place skillet on hot plate and fry hamburger in skillet. Use spatula to chop ground beef to desired fineness. Once beef is done, remove skillet from hot plate. Place pan of water on hot plate. Take skillet of ground beef and spatula to bathroom and drain grease in the shower. Do not spill ground beef. Return to dorm room.

Once water is boiling, place spaghetti in pot and cook for 8-10 minutes. Once spaghetti is al dente (sticks to wall), remove pot from hot plate and place skillet back on. Add spaghetti sauce and reduce heat.

Take pot of spaghetti and colander to bathroom. Drain noodles into colander over sink. Pick a sink not clogged with hair. Return to dorm room. Transfer noodles to plate, pour meat and sauce over noodles. Enjoy jealous stares from roommate returning from dining hall.

Repeat four days a week for the entire ten week quarter. Refuse to eat spaghetti again for ten years.

The downside of this meal plan is that in only takes you through four days. For the weekends, you need a little variety. If you pocket the savings from the full meal plan, you can afford to buy the ingredients for my other college recipe:

Hunch Punch

1 fifth grain alcohol
2 quarts fruit punch (Hi-C or equal)

Combine ingredients in an empty rinsed milk jug. Start drinking Friday afternoon and continue until milk jug is empty, you pass out, or Monday arrives.

Bon Appétit!

Blatant Comment Whoring™: What is your economy meal?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lunch With Giada

We watch a lot of the Food Network in our house. In particular, we like the food/travel porn shows like The Hungry Detective and Road Tasted where the hosts go to a city and pimp restaurants or other food related places. The prototype for this type of show is $40 A Day featuring the omnipresent preternaturally perky Rachel Ray.

Doing one of these shows would be my wife's dream job, because we like to travel and to eat, and particularly like to eat when we travel. Either we have been to the cities they visit and want to know what we missed or we use the show as a guide in case we ever get to that locale. On rare occasions, they hit a particular place that we have actually been to.

That happened on the Los Angeles episode of the new show Giada’s Weekend Getaway featuring, duh, De Laurentiis. Where Rachel Ray goes for bubbly and girl-next-door, Giada goes for sultry sexiness. Her picks tend to trend upscale, so I was delighted to find her at The Sidewalk Café in Venice Beach. I practically cackled in delight at spotting a place where I had dined.

Back in 2003, we spent one morning on our San Diego/Los Angeles vacation (the same where I spotted Angelina Jolie) hanging around Venice Beach. We rented bicycles and rode up to the Santa Monica Pier and back. This worked up an appetite, so we set off in search of lunch. The Sidewalk Café is right on the beach, so it has a great view of the floating freak show that is Venice Beach.

I do have to confess that half the attraction of The Sidewalk Café is that it is right next to Small World Books and I love to visit bookstores while on vacation. I don't remember what I ate, but all the hamburgers there are named after famous authors like Kurt Vonnegut and Sue Grafton. That is a pretty cool concept. We need more literate beachfront bar and grilles. Especially when they serve very tasty pub grub. Don't take my word or even Giada's on it. Check it out for yourself.

Blatant Cross-Site Plugging: I got inspired to add some pictures from the LA leg of that trip to my Flick site. I have to warn the faint hearted that they run the risk of seeing my pasty-white legs.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bawlmer: Better Than Baghdad!

I normally give editorialist cartoonists a lot of leeway in their hyperbole, particularly Ted Rall who has done more for the “George Bush as a simian tin-pot dictator” meme than anyone else, but today he went over the line. He insinuated that being on a military patrol in Iraq is safer than walking the streets of Baltimore.

I’m sure we can find statistics to support his thesis since Baltimore leads the nation in heroin addiction, prostitution, and STDs, but that is not the point. Every big city has drug crime, failing schools and corrupt politicians. Baltimore is the only one making coin off of its bad rep by parleying its gritty side into five seasons as the host dystopia for The Wire. I’d rather Baltimore be the setting of something more glamorous, but you play with the cards you are dealt.

Baltimore has a lot of great points. For one thing, it is the home of the Rockingest Governor in America. While Martin O’Malley’s Irish folk-rock band, O’Malley’s March, is officially on hiatus while he holds public office, the group has had more farewell/reunion performances that Kiss and The Who combined. And there is more to music in Charm City than muscle-shirted mayors. The Peabody may be not as famous as Julliard, but no place else can claim both Tupak Shakur and Tori Amos as alumni. And John Water’s cultural contributions to cinema can only be hinted at in such a short time.

Baltimore even leads the country in lame civic slogans. We were once “The City That Reads” until all the bookstores closed and everybody kept mispronouncing “reads” as “bleeds”. Then we were America’s Greatest City, which was such a ridiculous claim, nobody even bothered to dispute it. Our latest slogan is:

Which just reeks of desperately cynical optimism. That is why in support of my adopted hometown I humbly submit to the city this new claim to fame:

Baltimore: Better Than Baghdad

Take that Ted Rall. I hereby donate my royalties to the public and I want O’Malley’s March to reunite for the parade in my honor.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Battle Of The Lame Memes

My position on memes is pretty clear. I hate them unless I can twist them into some sort of meta deconstruction on the lameness of memes. Fortunately, just such an occasion has arisen. By some karmic coincidence, two bloggers I otherwise respect greatly recently did different variations on a “20 Questions” meme. This type of meme is the internet version of junior high slam books where you just answer random questions.

Some have better questions than others, but more importantly, the answers can often relate to stuff I have already blogged about. So here, side by side, are two memes where my only goal is to link to as many previous posts as possible. Here goes:

From Harmonica Man

1. When you buy a greetings card are the words or the picture more important to you?
The price on the back.

2. What's your favorite kind of cake?
We had amaretto cake for our wedding. I’ve never had cake that good since.

3. Do you ever make gifts for people, if so what, or do you buy them?
I made a mix CD for my parents’ anniversary several years ago. That’s been about it.

4. What's your favorite holiday - i.e. Christmas?

Thanksgiving because it is a family holiday that doesn’t require buying a gift.

5. Are you going on holiday this year? If so, where?
My wife want to goes to China to see our exchange student. We’ll see if that pans out.

6. What was the best party you've ever been to?
Not a party person. Mardi Gras in 1988 was pretty wild.

7. If you are married, describe your wedding. If not, what would your ideal wedding be like?
That takes a long time to describe. You better just read about it. Read about it again if you already clicked on the link for question 2.

8. What's the most romantic thing that's ever happened to you?
I did manage to surprise my wife with an engagement ring. She was not expecting it and I proposed at a very nice restaurant.

9. What's your favorite romantic song?
Billy Joel – She’s Always A Woman To Me, which is not very romantic if you listen closely. But I like Billy Joel's sappy music.

10. Favorite heartbreak song?
Meatloaf – Paradise By the Dashboard Light. There is a great story here involving my son, but I don't have the nerve to tell it.

11. Which celebrity would you like a dream date with?
If Cindy Crawford had gone to my high school, I like to think I’d have a shot at her. Leave me to my delusions.

12. Which female celebrity do you find beautiful?
Angelina Jolie is the Hottest. Woman. Ever.

13. Which male celebrity do you think is attractive?
I have to defer to my wife who thinks George Clooney just gets better with age. Harmonica Man is pretty much in the same boat.

14. Describe the kind of underwear you normally wear.
Damn. I can’t stop talking about my underwear on the internet.

15. If you could be in a television sit-com, which would you choose?
I would love to be on 30 Rock just to meet Tina Fey and Golden Globe Winner Alec Baldwin.

16. Which character would you like to be?
I like the over-educated black guy, but I am obviously the wrong skin tone for the part.

17. What are your favorite boy and girl names?
Boy: Hunter
Girl: Gatherer
I have been dying to use that joke somewhere.

18. What's your supermarket of choice?
Tie between Trader Joes and Wegmans. Neither of which are less than 10 miles from my house.

19. What is your best character trait?
Easy going.

20. What is your worst habit?
Secret nose picker.
From Blogography

1. Elaborate on your default icon.

Did this come from LiveJournal? I haven’t updated my blogger profile, but lately I have been using my Wii Mii.

2. What’s your current relationship status?
It’s in the sidebar. Married with a teenager.

3. Ever have a near-death experience?
I’ve never even had a near-life experience.

4. Name an obvious quality you have.
I’m a natural redhead but you’re gonna have to take my word for it.

5. What’s the name of the song that’s stuck in your head right now?
Still that damn VD song.

6. Name a celebrity you would marry.

Marry is a big issue. Cindy Crawford has the same birthday as me and she is two years younger, so I’d try to make a go of it.

7. Who will cut and paste this meme first?
I would put money on either Mooselet or Impetua. They are good sports and usually game for anything.

8. Has anyone ever said you look like a celebrity?
I say I look like Ron Howard. Unfortunately, our hairlines are beginning to match as well.

9. Do you wear a watch? What kind?
A Seiko Kinetic with the parts visible from the back.

10. Do you have anything pierced?

11. Do you have any tattoos?

12. Do you like pain?
Should I? Tearing my ACL was no picnic. Why should I hurt myself for fun.

13. Do you like to shop?
Depends on what for.

14. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
Some sausages for breakfast.

15. What was the last thing you paid for with your credit card?
A new digital camera to replace the really cheap one I bought three years ago. I paid with one of the too many credit cards in my wallet.

16. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
The dad of the girl I tutor in geometry.

17. What is on your desktop background?
A picture of a penguin that a friend of my wife took.

18. What is the background on your cell phone?
A picture of my wife. There is a connection between the two, but it is an inside joke.

19. What was the last movie you watched?
Dreamgirls. Very good, but I am such a Broadway geek.

20. What was the last book you read?
You can find out every the first of every month.

The final score is H-man 11 (I'm not counting the double on the wedding post) versus 8 for Dave2. Your mileage may vary. Do not try this at home. Trained driver on a closed course.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Beta Blogger Blues

I have a confession to make. I use Blogger. In some quarters, having “blogspot” in your url is as big a faux pas as having “aol” in your e-mail address. Blogger screams training wheels and evokes thoughts about people with endless dreary posts about their cats. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I breathed a sigh of relief when Neil Gaiman on a Cranky Geeks vidcast proudly admitted to using Blogger as well. If Blogger is good enough for the author of American Gods, it’s good enough for me.

I own, but I’m too cheap to actually pay for any hosting. As bad as it is, I’ve never run across any bandwidth problems or had any serious crashes while on Blogger. I like letting someone else worry about back-ups and server capacity. Not that I flatter myself into thinking that I would ever get a Exceeded Bandwidth Allowance in even my wildest dreams.

For months, Blogger has been using some of that Google buy-out money to upgrade the software and enhance the feature set. They even claim to be out of beta, but every time I try to upgrade, I get this insulting message:

They claim my blog is too big to upgrade. My blogs have a grand total of 346 posts. Through the power of BlatantCommentWhoring™, I have bullied my way to over 2000 comments, of which no more 1500 are my responses to real comments and most of the rest are spam I keep around to look impressive. If this qualifies as a big blog by Blogger standards, perhaps I need to rethink my loyalty.

I am hesitant to move to WordPress or MovableType or something “real” bloggers use out of sheer laziness. Those types of blogs look like they take much more care and feeding, and I would rather spend my time putting words on the screen even if the blog itself keeps looking like its shabby self. Besides I kind of like the low-footprint of a web-based interface when I am blogging from places perhaps I shouldn’t be (not that this is an admission that I ever do).

One feature of the more robust blogging software packages I have always been envious of is tags or labels or whatever you want to call them. My blog is so random, I would like to be able to categorize posts so that readers can find just the stuff that interests them without wading through all my other brain farts. I am so covetous of the labels feature, I have even been fantasizing about the ones I would use. So far I have:

Sex and smut
Embarrassing my family
Lame quizzes and memes
General blather

Until Blogger deems me worthy, I will have to keep my nose pressed to the window looking at the greener grass and mixing my metaphors like a Waring® Blender.

Ultra-Mega-Comment Whoring™: What other silly labels should I use? Are Blogger bloggers as lame as their reputation? Have you transitioned to New And Improved Blogger? Did it hurt? Was it worth it? Did it call the next day?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bad Idea Foobs

This week, Liz Patterson discovered that her "Mr. Right" was fooling around on her. This did not come as a surprise to anyone. I called it back in September. Rather than being infuriated with the slow motion denouement of this fait accompli, I am delighted, because I finally understand how stories from Foob Central unfold.

Last month while I was pounding my head against the kitchen table as Michael Patterson ran into a burning house to rescue a laptop that held the draft of an incredibly cheesy sub-Silhouette romance novel, I came upon an epiphany.

In the R-rated Tony® Award-winning Broadway puppet show Avenue Q there are some characters call the Bad Idea Bears. These cute snuggly Care Bearish tempters give the other characters really awful advice, like to drink five Long Island Iced Teas on a work night or to hook up with the neighborhood slut to get back at your girlfriend. The Bad Idea Bears create all sorts of plot twists when their absurd advice backfires.

In the Foobiverse, there are Bad Idea Foobs that are always whispering atrocious suggestions to the Pattersons. The only problem is that when a foob follows the most ludicrous course of action imaginable, everything comes up roses. Let’s look at Liz as a case study:

Last Summer

Liz: I wish I knew what to do next year.
Bad Idea Foob 1: You got a job at a school where the kids adore you.
Bad Idea Foob 2: Yeah, you let them watch TV and they never complain to their parents.
BIF1: And that cop guy is crazy for you.
BIF2: He would do anything for you.
BIF1: The only thing that makes sense is to move a thousand miles away and hope you can find a new job.
BIF2: Maybe you can even move back in with your folks. April will be glad to give up her room.
Liz: Thank, Bad Idea Foobs. If I were back home, I would have more time to spend with that divorced loser that keeps stalking me.

Six Months Later

Liz: My ex-boyfriend that never got over me has just offered me a ride to see my current sweetheart. There is no way he could have an ulterior motive. What should I do?
BIF1: Take the ride. You’ll get there a day early.
BIF2: Just make sure you don’t bother to tell anyone. It’s better as a surprise.
BIF1: That way if your lonely boyfriend is shacking up with your replacement, you can catch them in the act.
BIF2: Yeah, that would make her your replacement in more ways than one. Tee hee.
Liz: Then I would have to take the bus alone all the home from Mtigittinlucky to Milborough. The only person I can confide in is Anthony.
Bad Idea Foobs (in unison): We’ve always told you he was the right one for you!

Once I recognized the paradigm of the Pattersons, I can now read For Better Or For Worse in it’s proper context. Stupid people do the worst thing possible and it all turns out for the best. It all makes sense. In a disturbing Bad Idea Foob sort of way.

Update (1/31/07): See this entry for my Michael Patterson revelations.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Which stupid Patterson will do something idiotic next?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Heroes and Villains

It's filler quiz time!

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...

The Flash was my favorite superhero because he had such a dweebish personal life. He was married way back in the Barry Allen days. He had a real job which would be called CSI nowadays. Plus he had very cool villains. And speaking of villains.

Your results:
You are Dr. Doom

Dr. Doom
Lex Luthor
Mr. Freeze
The Joker
Green Goblin
Poison Ivy
Dark Phoenix
Blessed with smarts and power but burdened by vanity.

Click here to take the Supervillain Personality Quiz

From this list it seems that DC has better heroes, but Marvel's villains are more iconic. I only read DC comics as a kid because they had simple stories that I could follow with having ever read every issue ever. I hated all those Stan-isms where he reminded you about events that happened way back in SuperGiantCrossover #32.

SuperCommentWhoring™: Feel free to geek-out in any way imaginable. Give your quiz results. Talk about your favorite hero or villain. Explain how your comic collection kept you from getting a prom date.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ear Worms Are For Everybody

The other night, as my family enjoyed an after-dinner conversation, the subject of failed vasectomies came up for some reason or another. My teenage son had no idea what “being snipped” meant and we had to explain the procedure to him. I was aghast at his ignorance. I didn’t sign four years worth of Family Life permission slips to have him not know all the ways of avoiding families. It seems the public schools in my areas focus largely on the methods most likely to actually be used by high school students: condoms, birth control pills, and joining the math club.

My son at least had taken away the message that condoms are the best choice since they prevent STDs. I then started waxing nostalgic that back in my day, it was called VD or venereal disease. VD back then was also easily treatable, so the emphasis was on prompt detection and treatment instead of prevention. I started humming the jingle to a very popular public service announcement that played continuously on the base AFRTS station:

VD -- is for everybody
Not just for the few
Anyone can share VD
With someone nice as you.

VD -- is for everybody
Darlin' have no doubt
That anyone can get VD
That's what it's all about

For those of you not old enough to remember Laverne and Shirley as first run television, the accompanying video was a soft focus montage of a wide cross section of the general public that could get VD including a little baby, a grandmother, and a token minority. In all, it’s a good message that anybody can get VD, but I am a little skeeved about the transmission vector for the horse.

My son then went over to his girlfriend’s house for the evening to “watch a movie” or “study accounting” or whatever the kids are calling it these days. When he came home, I had the YouTube video cued up on his computer just to drive the message home. The downside of this Teachable Moment is that I have had that damn jingle stuck in my head as a tune cootie for three days now. Everybody sing along:

VD is for everybody
Not just for the few…

Friday, January 05, 2007

Condi and The Brain

CNN Headline:
Intelligence Chief to Move to State Department

"What are we going to do tonight, John?"

"Same thing we do every night, Condi.
Try to take over the world."

I know. I've done this joke before. Sue me. Narf!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

BooksFirst - December 2006

Books Bought

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
The Executioners by John D. MacDonald

Books Read

Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
Why Things Are, Volume II: The Big Picture by Joel Achenbach


The Grafton and MacDonald books were bought at Ace Books in Culpeper, Virginia. Culpeper is an exurban town near Washington, DC that has become a trendy pastoral refuge. The town has a genteel country manor feel and the main street is lined with gourmet restaurants. Lodged over a bicycle shop, Ace Books is a sprawling chaotic used book store of the type that are increasingly hard to find. I collect first editions of both Grafton and MacDonald and while neither book was high on my must-have list, I love browsing and rarely leave a used bookstore empty handed.

I have read about every word of fiction written by Carl Hiaasen and nobody is better at bitterly showcasing the absurdity of Floridian culture and politics. For Nature Girl he has dialed back the sarcastic commentary and focused on his trademarked oddball characters. The titular nature girl is a divorced mom living in a trailer park that executes a revenge fantasy on a sleazy telemarketer. Most of the action takes place on Dismal Key, the most heavily trafficked deserted island in the Everglades. The whacky characters that make landfall include a culturally confused half-breed Seminole, a ditzy FSU co-ed, a crazed stalker, an over-sexed amazon, and the ghost of a drunken tourist.

The book disappointed me because my hopes are always so high for Hiaasen and he seems to have taken the low road. Telemarketers and Indian casinos are fodder for bad stand-up comics, not someone of Hiaasen’s caliber. I expect a deeper cut at the dysfunctional culture that is slowly choking south Florida. Still, mediocre Hiaasen is better than most everything else.

Normally, I don’t buy short story collections, but when I was at Balticon last year, Neil Gaiman read a couple of selections from this as then unpublished book. True to it's title, Fragile Things comes in a thin translucent onion skin book jacket. Gaiman has made his reputation as a dark macabre comics writer, novelist, and blogger. The stories in this book have a lighter more contemplative touch. Frequent themes include melancholic childhood memories and perplexing encounters with strangers. A Sherlock Holmes-H.P. Lovecraft mash-up deserves to be an entire novel. The last story is an American Gods follow-up that is worth the entire book by itself. I ran across a podcast interview where Gaiman talks about this book and other topics as well. His preternatural mastery of words in any medium makes me think he has powers beyond mere mortals.

The last book I read before having to give up non-fiction for NaJuReMoNo Month was a freebie from a Boodle Porching Hour meet-up of Achenblog groupies in early December. Master satirist and unofficial Achenbach liaison, bc, had scared up a case of remainders from Joel’s basement to distribute as door prizes. In his more loquacious days, Joel wrote a column called “Why Things Are”. In typical journalistic repurposing, these columns had been collected into books as a secondary revenue stream. Why Things Are, Volume II is obviously the second of these.

I love light science oriented trivia books. I cut my teeth on everything Asimov I could put my hands on and still have a hard time passing up a Stephen Jay Gould collection. In tone, Why Things Are II (and I assume Volume I as well) most closely resembles the Imponderables series (Do Penguins Have Knees?, et. al.) but has a wider ranging choice of topics. The answers are well-researched and clearly tax the Rolodex of Achenbach. Unfortunately, many answers seem to reduce down to “Because I said so.” Even better than the short answer sections are his longer “special reports” that cover interesting topics like serial killers and the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. Now I need to hunt down Volume I. Maybe next time I’m in Culpeper I can spend more time treasure hunting at Ace Books.

I can’t promise you a free book if you show up at a Boodle Porching Hour, but the great conversation and cheap happy hour eats can’t be beat.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Second Annual NaJuReMoNo

Last year I started a partially tongue in cheek response to National Novel Writing Month that I called National Just Read More Novels Month or NaJuReMoNoMo. Last year I was new to the blogosphere and a little taken aback by the NaNoWriMo phenomenon. The goal of NaNoWriMo participants is to “write” a 50,000 word “novel” within 30 days. Tod Goldberg is one of many who have written very lucid deconstructions of the silliness of the effort.

Fortunately, I think most of the participants don’t take it very seriously. At Balticon this year I met a woman who had “won” three times. She seemed otherwise sane except for being at science fiction convention. Geekwif, one of my blogfriends, ran the gauntlet this year. All in all it seems to be a harmless diversion.

My complaints with NaNoWriMo are few and petty:

  • If you are going to have a month long competition, you should pick a longer month, especially one without a major family holiday near the end of it.
  • Writing is hard and should be left to the professionals. This of course does not apply to blogging.
  • Finishing quickly is not a virtue. I think the ladies out there will vouch for me here. A good novel is going to take more than a month. Obviously NaNoWriMo ignores the requirement for good.

I think the good writers that have spent a lot of time writing something worth reading deserve some recognition. January is a cold long useless month and perfect for reading. That is why I encourage people to spend the next 31 days reading novels.

My silly web-meme is much easier thab NaNoWriMo and better for the economy. Use those holiday gift cards from BigBoxOfBooks™ or OtherBigBoxOfBooks™ or even OnlineSiteWithEveryBookEverWritten™ and load up the nightstand with novels, not dietbooks or memoirs or Gooey Plus Plus Programming Manuals. Spend a month wallowing in the fictitious worlds of your favorite writers. It is a great excuse to polish off all the books you have been meaning to get to.

Sorry, Crock. Self-help books don't
count for NaJuReMoNoMo
The rules are the same as last year. No memoirs, no matter how fictitious. Books must be started from the beginning and you can't have read them before.

Once you have completed even one novel, you have earned the right to post one of these crudely drawn icons on your website. Pick the icon that matches the number of novels you finish by the end of January. If you want to, update your running count throughout the month. You can either use the Copy_Image right-click to save the icon to your own computer or copy and paste the text into your own post or template. If you copy the text, you may have to remove some linebreaks to make the image work.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting<a href=""><img style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" width="100" src="" border="0" alt="NaJuReMoNoMo" /></a>
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting<a href=""><img style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" width="100" src="" border="0" alt="NaJuReMoNoMo" /></a>
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting<a href=""><img style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" width="100" src="" border="0" alt="NaJuReMoNoMo" /></a>
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting<a href=""><img style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" width="100" src="" border="0" alt="NaJuReMoNoMo" /></a>
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting<a href=""><img style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" width="100" src="" border="0" alt="NaJuReMoNoMo" /></a>
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting<a href=""><img style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" width="100" src="" border="0" alt="NaJuReMoNoMo" /></a>

If you go past ten, you are either cheating or have enough time on you hands to make me highly envious. Feel free to create your own icon, banner, or blinking Flash animation. Just spread the word.

Happy reading.