Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Niche of One


Some years ago, I was sitting at my computer one evening when I suddenly got up and stomped off in a huff.

“What’s the matter?” asked my niece Amy, a college professor who happened to be visiting.

“I was just mocked in an online discussion for using a so-called fancy word!” I fumed.

She was indignant on my behalf. “Hrmph! Just because these people have a second grade vocabulary,” she commiserated. “What was the word?”


She gave me a long look. Then: “I would have mocked you for that.”

I was reminded of this exchange yesterday when someone suggested my blog is a bit esoteric2. I suppose it’s possible that few others share my passion for annihilating pooping cartoon bears or the innovative ways people find to die in national parks. And given the response to my post on the joys of cyst-draining videos, that particular predilection is rare indeed (Dr. Pimple Popper’s 1 million followers notwithstanding).

14th century fun!

14th century fun!

But really, what can be expected from someone whose special area of interest in college was medieval cycle plays? (Oh, “Second Shepherd’s Play.” You so crazy!) And yes, I’m interested in language and words – especially ones that are hard to work into everyday conversation: “You know what this country needs? More concubinage3!” “Well, that’s strange; I seem to be experiencing a tintinnabulation4 in my ears.”

(I had a German professor who shared my delight in the sound of words and the feel of them on the tongue. I can still see his beady little eyes light up as he gleefully recited that famous example of that language’s propensity for compound-iness: Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän5!)

I have the impression that most other people do not wile away happy hours reading about neurological disorders – Alien Hand Syndrome, yo – or maintain a YouTube playlist of “Creepiest Sounds Ever Recorded Underwater.”


The Bruce-a-Day Calendar: Like Word-a-Day, only Brucier!

Maybe it’s not entirely common to collect wigs and cat-shaped teapots. And according to my mother, at least, spending one’s leisure hours creating a Bruce-a-Day calendar is not as productive as, say, cleaning out the basement.

For these reasons and many others, this blog will never enjoy the readership of The Pioneer Woman or the Huffington Post or Listverse (although Listverse, featuring topics like “10 Animal Trainers Viciously Killed on the Job” and “10 Historic Paintings That Clearly Show UFOs” would seem like a direct competitor for my demographic).

But that’s okay. I write mainly to amuse myself anyway. So I’ll continue musing about the things that interest only me and a half-dozen 13th century monks. Watch for my next thrilling post, when I definitively answer the burning question, “Just how many angels CAN dance on the head of a pin?”6


1 Verisimilitude: “the appearance or semblance of truth.” I used it in the course of a discussion of the character of Jack Deveraux on Days of Our Lives; in retrospect, this might not have been the best venue for a scholarly discussion.

2 Esoteric: “understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest.” Hey! I resemble that remark!

3Concubinage: “the state or practice of being a concubine.”

4Tintinnabulation: “the ringing or sound of bells.”

5 Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän: Literally, Danube steamship company captain. Not to be confused with Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft, “an association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danute steamboat electrical services.”

6How many angels can dance on the head of a pin is a derisive critique of scholasticism, a medieval school of thought that emphasized dialectical reasoning. Famous Scholastics include Peter Abelard (1079-1142), William of Ockham (1287-1347) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).


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The Sound and the Fury

makeitstopA while back, the Heavy Thinkers at my workplace decided everyone needed to listen to the same music. So they tuned the intercom to one of those insipid Sirius “contemporary pop” channels and started blasting crap out of the speakers over our heads.

This is a problem.

Now, I’m not a music hater. In fact, I tend to think of my tastes as eclectic and fairly comprehensive. A small sampling of my iPod music library:

  • The Greatest Western Themes (provides the pleasant diversion of gently swaying and bouncing in one’s desk chair while listening to the theme from Wagon Train)
  • The Essential Paul Simon (Okay, I really only bought it for “Call Me Al.”)
  • The Very Best of Fogelberg (Hey! Don’t judge me. If you don’t like songs about baby horses, you’re a MONSTER.)
  • Mungo Jerry’s Greatest Hits (All two of ‘em!)
  • “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton (Oh, that rockin’ drumline drill!)
  • “Lawyers in Love” by Jackson Brown (Because it’s snarky.)
  • The Carpenters Essential Collection (What did I say about judging me?)
  • Alan Jackson’s Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2 (Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee, yo!)
  • Alone Again by Gilbert O’Sullivan (Story of my life.)
  • Irish Pirate Ballads and Sea Shantys (Aaargh, with a side of Lucky Charms)
  • Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (“Ghost Riders in the Sky!”)
  • The Vengaboys’ “We Like to Party” (Except I don’t.)
  • World’s Most Relaxing Classical Music (Zzzzzzzzz)
  • Weird Al: Dare to Be Stupid (Oh, I do, Al. I do indeed.)

cathaterSo really, I’m pretty tolerant of musical styles and genres. I even like medieval chant and Renaissance madrigals. Sadly, the rotation of about half a dozen songs that the intercom pumps out continuously just happens to be the half a dozen songs I CAN’T STAND. You know it’s going to be a rough day at work when they’re already playing “Let It Go!” as you walk into the building. (You’ll hear it at least three more times before the end of the day.)

I suppose my betters have considered the impact of enforced melody on the workforce; they’ve probably even read that scientific study that suggests people who listen to music complete tasks more quickly and come up with better ideas than those who don’t. It must certainly cut down on the overtime, as staff seem eager to race for the exits at the stroke of 4:30 just to get away from the din.

One part of the research the company seems to have glossed over is this important finding: “Dr. Lesiuk found that personal choice in music is very important.”

torturingCIAUm, yeah. There’s a reason the CIA uses music to torture people. Sgt. Mark Hadsell, member of the U.S. Psychological Operations team explained the technique: “If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken.”

Hm. Maybe the bosses *have* read the research.

According to Music.Mic, the list of songs most commonly used by the CIA to “create fear, disorient and prolong capture shock” include the theme from Barney (legit; that would drive me mad), “We Are the Champions” by Queen (What, no “Bohemian Rhapsody”?) and the singing cats from the Meow Mix commercial (Aw. I could listen to that all day.)

I don’t approve of the use of any kind of torture. But if the government plans to continue this tactic, I have a few suggestions for additions to their hit parade:

“Human” by Christina Perri

This is on heavy rotation here at work. After listening to her bleat the refrain again and again, my mind wanders toward revenge:



And I bleed when I fall down …”


Good to know. Then you’ll leave a nice puddle of gore when I hit you with my car.


“Your words in my head, knives in my heart.”


Don’t I know it, babe. Also, knives in my ears.


“Try” by Colbie Caillat


Okay, I gather this is supposed to be some kind of feminist anthem, and I’m a bad person to hate hate hate every measure of this tune, especially the “inspirational” refrain:


“You don’t have to try-try-try-i-i-i

You don’t have to try-try-try-i-i-i

You don’t have to try-try-try-i-i-i

You don’t have to try

Yooooooo don’t have to try.”


Okay, I believe we’ve firmly established that I don’t have to try … to stand this music. And you, Colbie, don’t have to try so hard to make me want to tear my own head off.


“Let Her Go,” by Surrender

Yes, this was cute when it accompanied that Super Bowl ad about the puppy and the horses. The cute has worn off.


“Well, you only need the light when it’s burning low;

Only miss the sun when it starts to snow.”


That’s Cole Porter-calibre stuff right there. My biggest beef with this one, after a thousand hearings, is the kind of “aw, shucks” quality of the lead singer’s voice. It reminds me vaguely of Leon Redbone … but not enough to like it. (It also has a James Blunt vibe. No wonder I hate it.)


“I Lived,” by One Republic


Okay, I feel a little guilty hating on this one, because apparently it’s about a diseased youngster. Honestly, most of the song is okay. It’s just that wordless bridge, like George of the Jungle :







Ohhhhhhhhhhh, I want you to STOP, One Republic singer. This song was played in some commercial, too. For car insurance? Coca-Cola? Viagra? I don’t remember. The CEO of our company used this one in her motivational appearances, though. It certainly motivates me … to update my resume.


And finally, the song that is – ironically – like icepicks to the ears:

“Let it Go” from Disney’s “Frozen,” sung by Idina Menzel.

The lyrics to this one aren’t bad; it’s got that kind of “power of nature” vibe that Disney milked so effectively in the “Pocohontas” soundtrack. The tune is pretty, and the singer is gifted. So why the hate? I suppose it’s just the ubiquity of the tune that’s so galling.

There is nowhere in the world you can go that you won’t eventually hear this song playing. It seems appear from thin air, like those creepy HAARP sounds the YouTube nuts are hysterical about.

Also, every toddler in the world knows this thing by heart and is compelled, via Disney’s cunning mind control program, to SING IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER …

After listening to these songs for several weeks, I broke down and bought some high-tech, noise-cancelling headphones. Now I can listen to Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, Bobby Darin and ABBA all damned day if I want.

Frankly, I think it would only be fair to allow all employees one day to pick the intercom music they like. Barry Manilow, anyone? It’s CIA-approved!






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It’s Unbearable (This pun, I mean. Also, the topic of this post.)


Take heed! The life you save may be your own!

They say everyone has a nemesis. I have four: the family of pooping bears from the Charmin toilet paper commercials. Man, I HATE those guys. I’m a big animal lover and wildlife advocate, but I’d happily hunt that damned species to extinction. In case you live in a happy world where the Charmin bears don’t flaunt their most intimate personal habits, these bears are cartoon characters who have represented the Charmin toilet paper company since the beginning of time 1980s. They even have names.  (Based on this, I begin to wonder if these are even real bears. Everyone knows bears have names like Yogi and Boo-Boo and Smokey and Tim.)toiletpaperbears

I’m hardly the first to issue a complaint against these ursine exhibitionists who insist on over-sharing how proud they are of their tidy, furry asses. Google “Charmin Bears” and you will generate about 121,000 results – none of which are, “I LOVE the pooping bears!” Among my favorite online rants are:

This last item recounts an ad watchdog group’s contention that the cartoon bears exaggerate how much is left behind when they use the product in the woods. I assume they took a survey?

We do learn some interesting wildlife trivia in the commercials, such as the fact that mother bears (at least the animated variety) carefully inspect their offspring’s nether regions for the controversial “pieces left behind.” Also, this particular bear couple uses the toilet paper for unauthorized and perverse purposes, rubbing the tissue all over themselves and their partners sensuously. And yet they have only two cubs. Go figure.

In 2012, Proctor & Gamble added insult to injury by giving us an inspired tagline: “Everyone goes. Why not enjoy the go?”

Why not, P&G? Because whether man or beast (i.e., bear), “enjoying” the go is classified as a psychological disorder. It’s called Coprophilia, and it’s not something you want to go around advocating in commercials. (See also Cleveland Steamer. Actually, don’t. You don’t want to know.)

There are even some pseudo-scholarly discussions of the Charmin Bear phenomenon, such as Daniel Engber’s Slate article, “What Do Bears Have to Do With Toilet Paper: A Short History of Bathroom Tissue Marketing.” As a side note, Engber points out that bears really aren’t even that soft. I eagerly await the stinging rebuttal from Leonard EngBEAR, Charmin’s official representative.

Humiliating! And painful!

Humiliating! And painful!

Engber’s essay includes an image of a 1930 Scott Tissues ad that boldly declares, “Humliating and Extremely Painful.” No, they weren’t prescient enough to predict their competitor’s future ad campaign. They were referring to “the troubles that comes from harsh, non-absorbent toilet tissue.”

Yes. YES. That is the proper way to discuss the human excretory process. My own mother has keen memories of using a decidedly off-brand of tissue (i.e., pages from the Sears Roebuck catalog) as a child, and her lingering resentment of the city kin who always brought their own, store-bought toilet paper to visit – and wouldn’t share a square with their country cousin.

Make it stop. Please.

Recently, the Cottonelle toilet paper company decided to fight bear caca with BARE caca, exhorting strangers on the street to use their brand – featuring the high-tech “clean ripple texture” – and then “go commando” – the premise apparently being that underwear exists for the purpose of protecting your jeans from skid marks. Sounds legit.

Sorry, Cottonnelle lady. Even though we know you’re smart, because you have a British accent, you’ll never gain the trust of the American people until you march right out into the woods (I recommend Glacier National Park) and hand a roll of your stuff to the first grizzly you come across. Because if it doesn’t meet the meticulous standards of brown bear hygiene, it’s not touching MY bare bottom.


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It’s a Doggy-Dog World*


I’m one of those people who reads something like, “Searchers were alerted to the man’s location by the barking of his Labrador, who was found sitting next to the body” and think, “Thank God the dog is all right!”

Though I’m technically a cat lady (and have a dresser full of t-shirts to prove it), I also love dogs and other furry creatures. Mammals only, please. For several years I had a thriving pet-sitting business on the side. I was in high demand for three reasons:

  1. The aforementioned love for animals, which guaranteed my clients that I would protect their furbabies with my life;
  2. My availability to stay overnights at the pet’s home, reducing the stress on the little guys; and
  3. I worked cheap ($10/day).

The advantage of pet sitting is that you get to know and love a lot of wonderful animals. The drawback is that, while one’s attachment to them is strong, their lifespans are short. Most of the dogs (and a few cats) I buddysat have crossed the proverbial Rainbow Bridge.

I remember all of them and the important life lessons they taught me:

  1. The least delightful part of dog-sitting.

    The least delightful part of dog-sitting.

    Live life to the fullest! One of my first clients was Rudy, a gentle giant of a dog. Elderly and arthritic, Rudy was nevertheless always game for a walk – even in the middle of a blizzard. Rudy also indirectly taught me the painful cost of suburban sprawl: I used to walk him about two blocks to a weedy and isolated empty lot where he could do his business without it having to be disposed of by me (a gal earns her $10 a day picking up after a big dog). One day on our jaunt, I discovered to my horror that a new home was being built on the potty lot. Poopy.

  2. Piper and Sassy

    Piper and Sassy

    Practice patience – but don’t be a pushover. Piper was a white Shih-Tzu, equal parts Wise Old Soul and Grumpy Old Man. After the trauma of losing his long-time owner, he’d been adopted along with his sister?friend?life partner?Sassy, a black Shih-Tzu a few years younger than him. Sassy has a great deal of what might be termed ENTHUSIASM, which often manifested itself in jumping on and generally harassing Piper. The old man was remarkably tolerant of her antics up to a point. Then he would lay down the law with an emphatic growl and warning nip: Settle down, Sassy!

  3. Demand your rights. Brady is a beagle on a special diet. His food is carefully rationed, but he does get a very special treat with his meals: frozen green beans. Woe to the distracted pet-sitter who forgets this most important side dish. He will wolf down his kibble, then stare up at you with a look of increasing malevolence, finally barking sternly, until the absent-minded biped remembers to give him his due.

    A beagle wants his greens, yo.

    A beagle wants his greens, yo.

  4. Demonstrate your authority. The aforementioned Sassy weighs about five pounds – and every ounce of it is composed of iron. She will make her demands known in no uncertain terms (with a yip high-pitched enough to shatter glass). If you fail to obey, she will stamp her tiny, tiny foot. Then she will start kicking pieces of furniture. And if the pet-sitter is REALLY obtuse, she will kick YOU. Pony up the pupperoni, stupid human.
  5. Comfort is critical. Jenny, another beagle (an enormous one) knew how to relax. At night she would jump up onto the bed and want to spoon. If the pet-sitter happened to take up more than her fair share of the bed (the preferred ratio was 75% dog/25% human), she would nudge closer and closer and closer, her body radiating a temperature of about 200 degrees that was guaranteed to force her bedmate to retreat. Jenny also snored like a diesel engine and passed foul flatulence all night, which taught me one more important thing: I don’t need a husband.
  6. MyDarlingPolly

    My darling diva, Polly

    Humans are ridiculously easy to manipulate. One of my dearest clients was Polly, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She was a princess, entitled to all the rights and privileges of that elevated station. When she wished to go outside she would ring a little bell affixed to the door, and the staff (me) would hasten to accommodate her. She was groomed frequently and always came home from the spa wearing a smart, little neckerchief. Polly would often lay on her belly in the living room, rest her chin on her paws and gaze up at you with a coy expression that clearly communicated, “I am ADORABLE!”

Polly could have had a grand career on the stage, as she did a Lassie imitation that was beyond compare. Apparently dozing on the couch, she would suddenly lift her head and perk up her ears. Then she’d leap off her perch, race to the adjoining room and start barking frantically. If the pet-sitter didn’t immediately come to investigate, she would run back, pausing in the doorway with her tail wagging frantically and a wild, desperate look in her eyes. She would stare intensely at the pet-sitter and woof out a string of spanielese that translated clearly into the following vital communique: “Babysitter! There is a lost child locked in the treat cupboard! You must come with me at once to save her!” Then Polly would run back to the site of the emergency, sparing a glance or two over her shoulder to make sure her message was understood. I’d follow and open the treat cupboard only to discover – surprise! – the lost child had somehow escaped on its own. Polly would feign astonishment, then give the doggy equivalent of a shrug: “Huh. That’s weird. Well, as long as you have the treat cupboard open …”

  1. Keep hangin’ in there. Two small dogs I buddysat, Tupper and Lacey, were 18 and 22 years old, according to their owners. (Nothing stresses a pet sitter like being responsible for animals who should have shrugged off their mortal coil long ago. Fortunately, I’ve never had a pet die on me, though my dear Piper gave up the ghost a day after I finished sitting for him. He was fine when I left, I swear!) Anyway, despite Lacey having been terribly abused as a puppy, and Tupper being stone blind and incontinent, these two little ones could still enjoy life. They liked sniffing the fresh air, and laying on their soft blankets, and indulging in Busy Bones, and being with each other. Isn’t that about as good as it gets?

These days I only pet-sit very occasionally for my “special needs” clients who don’t do well in kennels and others in special circumstances. I have to say, I miss spending quality time with all my furry pals – well, except for the poop-scooping part.

That’s just the shits.


animalsIHavelovedDedicated to (top row): Archie, Charlie, Chester, Fred and Mitzie; (bottom row): Sasha, Wicket, Cody, Sophie and Sam. Not pictured, but still beloved: Maggie, Rudy, Sneaky, Jenny, NBA, Sunny, Dakota, Tupper, Lacey, and Emma


*Yes, I know the correct idiom is dog-eat-dog. But my niece has always said doggy-dog, and it amuses me.


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1,000 Ways to Die (If You’re Stupid)

Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber

Note: Comments and sharing welcome (unless you have nothing good to say, in which case, keep your mouth shut.)

I’ve been reading about our national parks, otherwise known as “Scenic Places Where Idiots Go to Die.” I should provide a little context here by conceding that I am not a thrill seeker or a death defy-er. I am a rule follower and a safe-and-sounder. I view guard rails and bright yellow signs not as a challenge but as a helpful reminder: Here there be dragons. Because of my risk aversion, I will never be rich and famous. I will also never be a crumpled heap at the bottom of a 3,000 foot cliff.


Like the Little House books, only deathier!


Yes, he’s furry and adorable. But he is not your friend.

Weighty tomes like Death in Yellowstone, Death in the Grand Canyon and Death in Yosemite enumerate the many and sundry ways it’s possible to get yourself killed in these natural wonders. I bought Death in Yellowstone at gift shop at the entrance of the park and spent the rest of the trip afraid to leave the car. Yet avoiding grisly death would seem baby simple: don’t stick your face into the hole from whence comes the boiling-hot geyser. Don’t offer a grizzly bear a Hershey bar. Don’t back the DeSoto over the edge of the cliff when trying to get out of the parking lot. (All of these are real instances of death in Yellowstone.)


What part of this is hard to understand?

Stories of fragile mortality tend to begin something like these:

“The current was running fast the day the young man stepped into the river a dozen yards from the highest waterfall in the continental U.S. …”

“No trace was found of the missing hiker, other than his pup tent pitched next to a 900’ cliff …”

“He set off into the trackless wilderness wearing flip-flops and carrying a can of Diet Pepsi …”

“When the roll of film in the camera found with the mauled corpse was developed, it revealed he was shooting photos of the grizzly’s cubs from a distance of 10 yards …”

Dude! There's a bathroom in the visitor center!

Dude! There’s a bathroom in the visitor center!

It’s not really surprising that an absurd number of young males die by falling off the precipice they were urinating off of, because … men. (Insert eyeroll emoticon.) How about the guy who thought he’d give his toddler a good scare by pretending to fall over the guardrail at the Grand Canyon. I’m pretty sure she was indeed scared – and scarred – by the sight of him toppling a mile into the abyss. Also, stylish sandals are not appropriate gear for climbing Half-Dome in Yosemite (unless your aim is to leave a smartly dressed corpse).


This looks like fun. Let’s bring the kids!

Bizarrely, people seem to feel a need to come up with irrational explanations for such incidents. There’s a guy who has made a career out of postulating that the many dozens of missing persons in national parks and forests were kidnapped and enslaved by Bigfoot. The comment section of YouTube videos like “Top 10 Strangest National Park Disappearances” offer many additional possibilities: UFO abductions, government conspiracies, gateways to alternate dimensions.

Here’s another possibility: people are stupid and reckless.

In obituaries, the line “She died doing what she loved” is never followed by “crocheting an afghan.” In our culture, ‘tis deemed nobler to die young with the twisted remains of your wingsuit around you than to expire in your own bed at an advanced age.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I was very nearly one of the statistics so meticulously catalogued in Death in Yellowstone. In my defense, I had, as they say, fallen in with bad companions. My traveling buddy is an inveterate wildlife junkie who will go to any lengths for her fix.

(No trip to the Black Hills with her could be complete without the following conversation:

“Let’s do the Wildlife Loop one more time.”

“It’s 11:30 at night.”

“A lot of the animals are nocturnal.”

“Yeah. The ones that eat you.”


I was with her on the aforementioned trip to Yellowstone National Park. One afternoon, after a torrential rainstorm, my animal-loving friend decided we should take a side trip on the Old Gardiner Road, hereafter referred to as the “Yellowstone Death Trail.” Formerly a stagecoach route, it’s a narrow, one-way dirt ribbon of road that runs five miles from the Albright Visitor Center to the Roosevelt Arch at the original entrance to the park. Guidebooks helpfully inform you that, “Park managers typically close the road to autos during and just after wet weather.”

Yeah, unless you get to them before the park rangers do.

The draw for my driver was the promise of elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bison and pronghorn antelope as well as scenic vistas of the Yellowstone River as you climb the rugged hillsides and twist around hairpin curves. It must be beautiful, if you traverse it with your eyes open. I did not.

The thing is, this trail tends to get very, very muddy when wet. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with mud (city slickers), it tends to be very, very slippery. So as my friend white-knuckled the steering wheel, guiding us ever so slowly up the slick inclines and around the skiddy curves, and as the van’s wheels sashayed alarmingly close to the edge of the cliff edge with every turn, I placed my hands over my eyes and said Hail Marys. I swear to God it’s true. By the time we reached the end of the road (where a “trail closed due to wet conditions” sign was helpfully posted), I’d made my peace with my Maker – including asking forgiveness for the Very Bad Thoughts I had about the person who decided going this route was a good idea. Here’s what I DIDN’T see on the Old Gardiner Road. Pretty!

And the wildlife we risked life and limb to see? Obviously I didn’t see any with my eyes closed. But my traveling partner reported not so much as a chipmunk along the trail. Because even rodents are smart enough to stay off the Old Gardiner Road after a rainstorm.

There’s a big family reunion this summer in some place called Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the cabin crocheting an afghan.



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The Evil Dead

Even Hasidic Jewish mimes suffer Samsung rage. Where will the madness end?

Even Hasidic Jewish mimes suffer Samsung rage. Where will the madness end?

My mother’s Samsung tablet is dead. Well, not entirely dead. More like in a chronic vegetative state. Push the Home button and it will light up and cheerfully inform you it’s 100% charged … then go black and silent. More than just inert, it seems positively dour, almost aggressively nonfunctional. I’m a little scared of it, to be honest. I suspect at night it turns itself on and giggles maniacally, plotting our demise.

I’ve Googled the issue and find it astonishingly widespread. To the tune of 407,000 results for “Samsung tablet will not turn on.” Given its pervasiveness, you’d think this might be a problem SAMSUNG WOULD JUST FLIPPIN’ FIX. But then I suppose they wouldn’t sell as many replacement tablets.


Can you see my despair in the reflection of this blank screen?

Can you see my despair in the reflection of this blank screen?

The Internet offers much advice for addressing this, as we say at my workplace, “challenge.”

  1. Hold down the Home button for 10 seconds. Or 60 seconds. Or until you die. FAIL.
  2. Hold down the decrease volume button. FAIL.
  3. Hold down the Home button and the decrease volume button. FAIL.
  4. Hold down the Home button and the decrease volume button, then release the decrease volume button and keep holding the Home button down (again, until something happens or until you die). FAIL.
  5. Plus the USB into a computer, then try all of the above. FAIL.
  6. Remove the back of the unit and unplug the battery for 30 seconds. (This, by the way, is the biggest hassle ever.) FAIL.
  7. Throw tablet onto a hard surface and stomp on it. Also FAIL, but offers some satisfaction.

I gather the root cause of this is letting the tablet’s battery run down to empty (or almost empty). My mother, being of the Greatest Generation who lived through the Great Depression and therefore understands that being poor is NOT Great, is disinclined to leave gadgets plugged in to suck up precious electricity. Therefore, she uses her tablet and phone until it informs her that it’s about to die, then plugs it in for an hour or so.

This is why my mother has money and I don’t. This is also why I have a functioning tablet and she doesn’t.

tron energy pool

Bruce suckin’ up the juice.

I feel a little bit of sympathy for the tablet, living on the edge of starvation all the time. I picture a tiny Bruce Boxleitner inside the flat screen, frantically gulping up the energy on those rare occasions when he finds a source. Then I picture tiny Bruce Boxleitner in those neon tights and get distracted.

Nice ... helmet, Tron

Nice … helmet, Tron

Tonight after work I’ll spend a little more time surfing the Internet (on my always-fully-charged machine). If I don’t find a solution, I’ll implement my own fix:

  1. Throw the Samsung tablet in the back of the closet.
  2. Buy an iPad.

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Tales from the Dark Side

12802924_sAt a recent check-up, I was discussing my insomnia with my doctor. “You should try doing something relaxing before bed,” she counseled.

“Does watching YouTube videos of people draining purulent cysts count?” I inquired.

Her response was equal parts disgust and astonishment: “You are the third person this week to tell me you watch those things!”

Our name is Legion, for we are many.

drpimplepopperAs anybody who spends even a minute online knows, gross-out videos are a thing, the dark underbelly of YouTube that counterbalances all those adorable kitten vids. The undisputed queen of the genre, dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee, boasts more than 1 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, Dr. Pimple Popper. Her vids of excising cysts, popping boils, squeezing blackheads and burning off people’s unsightly growths regularly rack up views in the tens of millions. She’s creating quite a little empire built on pus.

Probably the most renowned – dare I say revered? – video is the classic “Operation Kill George,” which takes the viewer on a magic journey of discovery, from horror to triumph, from the profane to the sublime. More prosaically, it shows about a gallon of yellow-green goo being squeezed out of some kid’s back. To date, the video has racked up nearly 22 million views.

By contrast, my own most popular video, an homage to Bruce Boxleitner’s performance as Bob Beldon in “Cedar Cove,” has garnered a paltry 1,184 views. But then, Bruce does not extrude any bodily fluids in my vid.


Milking Marco: A Love Story

Also legendary is the saga of an older, shirtless gentleman named Marco at what appears to be a backyard family picnic. A woman – his daughter, perhaps; half the fun of these videos is creating a backstory for them – spends the better part of 10 minutes essentially milking the old guy’s ginormous back cyst. A crowd of children stands nearby, offering breathless commentary like a Greek chorus while the cameraman dramatically gags and retches in the background. A note of poignancy is introduced as the camera pans to a wooden cut-out of Bambi leaning against the back fence.


The popping video world is a fiercely competitive one, and its loyal viewers are discriminating and vocal critics. In the voluminous comment sections of these videos, I have seen zit pops dissected frame-by-frame like the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination, with fierce arguments about whether the cyst sac was fully removed or left behind to rise again.

Armchair poppers offer advice and pass judgment on everything from the lighting to the quality of the camera work to the audio (usually people screaming, cursing and vomiting). They wax lyrical on the breathtaking drama unfolding before their eyes: “Just when you think it’s done, the evil maw spews more gunk!”

The experienced popper watcher will know the lingo, can discuss with confidence the difference between sebaceous cyst, pilar cyst, pilonidal cyst, boil, furuncle, carbuncle, dilated pore of Winer, or a plain, old zit (We call them comedones, yo). Outrage is expressed at the absence of sanitary conditions (“Where are the gloves? Can you say GANGRENE?”) but it’s all for show; everyone knows that the drunken-frat-boy-with-a-pocketknife-on-the-tailgate-of-a-pickup-truck popping video is the very BEST kind, as it’s sure to be messy. (Sandra Lee often disappoints by excising an entire cyst intact, demonstrating that her skill as a physician is not matched by cinematography acumen; we’re here for the money shot: the eruption of goo.)

So what, exactly, is the appeal of these horror films*? Daniel Kelly, author of Yuck: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust (note to self; check Amazon for Kindle version), postulates that although modern humans have insulated ourselves from the sources of disgust that our primitive ancestors encountered frequently – e.g., rotting corpses, piles of excrement – we are still programmed to respond to them. Why so many of us respond with delight is not clear.

Another researcher, Nina Strohminger (author of The Hedonics of Disgust; who knew there was a whole branch of scholarship devoted to this?), suggests that “negative sensations are interesting, particularly when you’re in a context where they can’t hurt you. You’re probably not going to step in dog shit just for the experience, but maybe you’d click on a link to watch someone else doing it.”

Um. No. Actually, I wouldn’t.

The most persuasive, and simultaneously appalling, explanation comes from our old friend Dr. Pimple Popper herself, Sandra Lee. She notes that her viewers have reported experiencing an “autonomous meridian sensory response,” described as a “pleasurable tingling sensation experienced by some in response to certain sights, sounds, and smells — or put more bluntly, an ‘orgasm of the brain.'”

Wow. I knew I was a lonely spinster, but I didn’t realize I was THAT lonely.

Dr. Lee says a lot of her viewers find the experience of watching her videos relaxing, and often enjoy them before bed to help them get to sleep.

Ha! You see, I AM normal. Perfectly, entirely normal and not at all ghoulish or depraved. I’ve got a doctor’s note to prove it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch “Herman the Cyst Won’t Be Missed” for the 100th time. (The lighting is terrible, but the spew  is CHOICE.)

Read an article on this phenomenon here.







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Filed under Humor, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

When the Moon Hits Your Eye*

* (the world may be coming to an end)


J. Alfred Prufrock measured his life in coffee spoons; I measure mine in pizza slices.

As an American of the Boomer generation, many of the important milestones of my maturation have been accompanied by junk food, of which pizza has been the most prominent player. Much like an alcoholic turns to drink in times of celebration and sorrow, I tend to seek the companionship and comfort of pepperoni.

tombstone logoWe didn’t eat much pizza when I was a kid (this is perhaps why my memories of childhood are so sketchy; I had no melty mozzarella to attach them to) – pizza was not the sort of thing my meat-and-potatoes papa would identify as “food.” Occasionally, when Dad was out of the house, we’d be treated to this exotic wonder. As far as I knew at the time, pizza came in only one form – frozen and wrapped in cellophane – and was available in only one brand: Tombstone.

(All my life I’ve rather bizarrely associated pizza with the Wild West because of this brand name. While doing research for this post, I discovered that the familiar cactus-festooned logo of my youth was the cruelest sort of misdirection; Tombstone pizza was not named for the famously lawless town that hosted the shoot-out at the OK Corral. Nope, it commemorates the cemetery across from the pizza joint in Wisconsin where the brand originated in 1962. And now I am left to question everything I thought I knew about the world.)

It really wasn’t until I reached high school that I realized pizza was something that could be ordered at a restaurant; that, indeed, there were restaurants DEDICATED to the making and serving of pizza (I was a sheltered child). It was a big deal in the early 80s when nearby Alexandria got a Godfather’s Pizza. To be honest, I was never crazy about their style of pizza; the sausage pellets reminded me uncomfortably of dog kibble. But the place had one big draw: Bart Hoffman, perhaps the cutest boy in school, worked there. I can still visualize the night he gallantly delivered a pitcher of Diet Pepsi to our table, in exactly the same way Prince Charming would have, if he had worked in a pizza franchise.

Chaucer_ellesmereCollege was really more about pizza than anything else. If Bemidji State University had offered a degree in pizza studies, I would have summa cum lauded it. It would have been at least as useful as my actual bachelor’s degree in English, medieval literature field of emphasis. As it was, since pizza wasn’t even invented until the 17th century, I was denied the opportunity to contribute to pizza scholarship through my  proposed senior thesis, “Than Longen Folk to Go to Pizza Hut: Canadian Bacon as Metaphor in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.”

Did I say pizza was invented in the 1600s? That seems rather late. Surely the first thing Kubrick’s 2001 Odyssey hominids would have done, after beating bones against stones – and subsequently against each other – was create a tasty melted cheese and processed meat dish to celebrate. And since pizzas are round, it would have led by extension to the invention of the wheel. Instead, homo sapiens had to wait another two million years to develop a way to get pizza delivered.

According to the always infallible Wikipedia, pizza originated as a way to feed the starving rabble of Naples, Italy. True, some would argue that the ancient Greeks ate pizza, subscribing to the woefully misguided notion that any flat piece of bread with something on top of it constitutes “pizza.” (Some cultures are still struggling to grasp the nuances of true pizzadom; in Germany I was presented with something called pizza that comprised a square of crust with anchovies on it. No tomato sauce. No cheese. Cooked bait instead of Canadian bacon. Not pizza. And this, children, is why they lost the war.)anchovies

The Italians may have discovered proto-pizza, but it was up to us plucky, industrious Americans to import it, and subsequently export it to the world. It seems the 19th century Neopolitan contingent of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free brought their ‘po folk staple with them, and the rest of the huddled masses didn’t know enough to be ashamed to eat it. And so pizza began to make its way into the national psyche. The first printed reference to pizza on these shores was in 1905. However, it really took off when American G.I.s occupying vanquished Italy decided pizza was the ultimate spoil of war.  Pizza became a thing in the U.S., and its popularity rapidly spread around the world – which must have irked the people of Naples, introduced to this “new” dish from America that THEY invented.

But hey. Capitalizing on other people’s good ideas is what we’re all about. It’s as American as … pizza pie.

To celebrate American ingenuity and pizzan awesomeness, I present a dish that unnecessarily innovates on an already perfect food by making pizza, already a hand-held food, even more hand held. You’re welcome.

Tuscan Tomato Flatbread Pizza Turnovers (Okay. These are really just little calzones. Sue me.)




Tastefully Simple Sun-Dried Tomato Flatbread Mix
Tastefully Simple Garlic Infused Oil
Tastefully Simple Mama Mia Marinara Sauce
8 oz. can tomato sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Mini or regular-size pepperoni
Sliced black olives or other pizza toppings of your choice
Grated Parmesan cheese



Mama Mia Marinara Sauce Mix

Mix together tomato sauce and 1 Tbsp. Mama Mia Marinara Sauce

Preheat oven to 375° F.



Use a biscuit cutter to make the circles.

Use a biscuit cutter to make the circles.

Prepare flatbread dough as directed on package, using Garlic Infused Oil. After allowing dough to rest for 30 minutes, roll it out with a rolling pin. Use a 4” circle cutter to cut out circles of the dough.



teeny little pizza

teeny little pizza

In the center of each dough circle, place a tablespoon of tomato sauce. Then add a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, one or two pepperonis and a few black olives.

Fold one side of the dough circle over the other half, forming a “turnover.” Seal edges with a fork.

Brush tops of turnovers with Garlic Infused Oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Place turnovers on a greased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 7-10 minutes, or until bread is golden brown; you may wish to broil them for the last minute or so to increase the golden-browniness.

Remove from oven and eat, using any remaining tomato sauce for dipping if desired.

Melts in your hand, AND in your mouth!

Melts in your hand, AND in your mouth!



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