Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All Apologies

So I'd like to kick off my Back to School Blog with a sincere apology to my 3 readers for neglecting them over the summer because, well, I just had better things to do. But what with the economy, the health care debate, and Paula Abdul getting fired from Idol, I cannot keep this observation to myself any longer. Has anyone noticed coverage of actual news has been replaced with rounds of celebrities apologizing for heinous career-stunting acts while simultaneously promoting their next project?

Each morning as the IV drips coffee directly into my bloodstream, I'm captive audience to Dianne Sawyer, flipping to Matt Lauer, and back again while saying to myself a profound little phrase I picked up from my teenage relatives' Facebook walls:


Let's start with the big kahuna, the white whale of national controversy. Health care? Dependence on foreign oil? Nuclear disarmament? Well, its up there. Kayne West dissin' Taylor Swift at the Video Music Awards! Oh Hell to the No He Ditn't!! He snatched the spotlight from America's Sweetheart and tried to redirect the award to an artist of his choosing.

Note to readers: Just because Tony and I host our own Retro Oscars every year, also known as "Who Really Shoulda Won,"or subtitled "That Performance Totally Sucked," in no way, shape or form do I sympathize with West.

West's assault on all that is good in holy in the world of music videos award shows somehow got the attention of the esteemed leader of the free world, Barack Obama, who invoked one of my favorite adjectives when someone asked him "why, oh great and powerful leader, would Kayne do that to sweet little Taylor?" Obama replied with these profound words: "because he's a Jackass."

At this point, Joe Wilson, (R) from Outta Left Field, screamed "Liar" into a microphone that he had surgically attached to his fist 'cause no one would ever pay attention to him if he was just talking like normal people.

This simple pronouncement uttered under his breath marked the first time that Americans across party lines agreed on anything since we all agreed that yes, Kenny Roger's eye lift was a national disaster and should be covered up. Not since Reagan ordered Gorbachev to "Take Down this Wall," has this country been able to stand together regardless of political beliefs and look to our leader and say "Mos' def!"

Note to readers: No one uses the word "Jackass" more than yours truly, but when kids are in the room, or if you're speaking into a hot microphone on national TV, I recommend the tamed down hybrid "Jackhole." Either way, the meaning is clear. Call them like you see them.

At some point after donning the suit of the Jackass, celebrities realize they've jeopardized the money maker and make a desperate plea through the media for forgiveness. Here's where I come in. I'd like to be the Paula Abdul judge of Jackass Apology Sincerity. Here are a few situations that caught my attention:

Kayne West on Leno

Grade: "F"

We were supposed to feel sorry for West when a day after his debacle, and to the delight of Hugh Grant, West appeared on Jay Leno's new talk show. Leno almost brought him to tears by asking West what his dead mother would have said about his behavior. Cue the audience to forgive and forget, but most importantly, download his new CD on Itunes.

My favorite part of this interview is this line: "I'd like to be able to apologize to Taylor in person." Yeah, like that restraining order is going to be lifted any time soon. Kayne is sorry he underestimated the number of decent people who watch the VMA's. He regrets the number of people who are able to catch the highlights of the VMA's on youtube. I'm sure today he's wrapping his giant cranium around the concept that THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TOOK A BREAK FROM THE HEALTHCARE DEBATE TO SLAP KAYNE UPSIDE THE HEAD!! But I suspect Kayne regrets the fall out more than the offending act. Points off for not learning from past award shows where his earned the title my nephew succinctly bestowed upon him on his Facebook wall: "a giant tool."

Serena Wiliams on GMA

Grade: "D+"

Williams spent the weekend threatening a line judge to the caught on video to the tune of "I'm going to shove this F---ing ball down your F---ing throat!" Lots of tears to Dianne Sawyer for all the bad things that have happened to her that caused her to act up in such a fashion. Sympathy for the loss of her murdered sister, but I'm not sure the line judge was convicted, or even tried for that crime. But here's where she loses points: "Read all about my pain in this brand new book I wrote about my favorite topic, ME. Available in stores today."

Side note about Williams and her rockin' arms: My son caught a moment of this interview on GMA and nodded sympathetically at me asking "Is that the girl runner that everyone thinks is a boy?" No joke. When Williams threatens you, its scary.

Jon and Kate Gosselin. Jon to Chris Cuomo of GMA, Kate Gosselin to anyone who makes actual eye contact with her.


Jon, "D" for "Dumba**"

Kate, "D" for "Disturbed. Really Really Disturbed!"

Jon and Kate, or as I call them Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber, have worn out their welcome with fans faster than a flatulent St. Bernard.

Jon whines to Chris over the way he has been portrayed by the media. Remember this is the same media that Jon invited into his home in exchange for cash and flashy prizes like hair plugs and snowboards. Then, Jon proceeds to portray himself as a spineless immature spoiled child. He tells Cuomo and the world that he loves his new girlfriend "way better than he ever loved Kate," and a nanny nanny boo boo to you too! The girlfriend is cool--she lets him go on a yacht without a lifejacket, drink and drive, smoke like a chimney. She "gets" him in a way Kate never could. Adding the cherry to the Trauma Sundae, our hero tops the interview by telling the world, the place where his 8 children currently reside, that he "despises Kate." Then he wraps up by claiming everything he does is for the kids.

Kate, not to be outdone, has provoked this lovefest from Jon by continually releasing statements to the effect that she won't talk about the father of her children publicly other than to say he has been abducted by space aliens and that's why he's such a Jackhole. She appeared on the morning news shows the day after announcing her separation begging for privacy while simultaneously waving her new book in the camera. Dabbing at tears while flipping Jon the bird, Kate is one Media-Savvy Mama. The Paris Hilton of Parenting, we know she's famous for no good reason. We know she's not worthy of our time and $3.59 that we plunked down for People magazine, but gosh darn it, its why we tune into Dancing with the Stars to see Pricilla Presley's face: we know its wrong, but we can't look away.

Kate and Jon continue to offend the 12 people left watching their show by taking their children on extravagant vacations that they would have never been able to afford if they hadn't exploited those same children their entire lives. They whine about the relentless paparazzi all while making sure they are photographed cheating and smoking, which as any parent knows, really does make you look cool. Then, when it became clear to the Gosselins that they were losing their audiences, the take the half hour of prime time to promote other crappy TLC shows. Cake Boss? Emeril? In the words of SNL's recently dumped Michaela Watkins, "B***h Pleeze!!"

Jon and Kate have little or no remorse for the pain they have just begun to inflict on their children although Kate reluctantly and tearfully proclaims she is not "perfect," as previously reported by, well, pretty much just Kate telling everyone how perfect she was.

Side not to fans of Watkins, formerly of SNL: Lorne Michaels offered no apology for cutting her from the show. He did offer the opinion that she "needs her own show." I know of a half hour of prime time on TLC that could use a jolt of talent.

Ryan O'Neal to Barbara Walters and Vanity Fair in reaction to getting caught hitting on his daughter, Tatum, at Farrah Fawcett's funeral:

Grade: F as in WTF???????? or "C" as in Come Again? or even "G" as in Gargantuan A**hole

So Ryan propositions Tatum at the funeral of Farrah Fawcett. Ryan defends his actions with something along these lines: "Hey, with the exception of Farrah herself, I groped everyone at that funeral including the pastor and my own mother---no one was excluded. A smokin' blond 30 years my junior is off limits in what universe?? I am particularly charming after downing a bottle of Jameson and she should be flattered I noticed her!! Groping Schmoping?? I shot her brother at Thanksgiving, knocked out his teeth on the Fourth of July and you don't hear him whining about it to the press! I've hit on Tatum since she was a child. Its our thing ok? Get over it already!"

In Ryan's defense, Tatum is very good looking.

No where in Ryan's media rantings does he come close to sincerely regretting the damage, public and private, that he's inflicted on his family, but he did release this statement from the O'Neal family Christmas letter:

"I don't think I was supposed to be a father. Just look at my work--they're either in jail or they should be...."

With people like Ryan O'Neal willing to talk to anyone, I can't say I miss coverage of relevant news. Even Obama has to take a break from politics to comment on celebrity antics.

So there it is, Jenny. My blog is back. Fewer words, more pictures. Less filling at only 90 calories and 2 grams of fat. Help me round it out by weighing in with your most treasured famous person screw ups. Yeah, just like old times, sign in first, then post your rant.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bad Timing on my Pig-Parakeet Hybrid

As I prepare to write my germaphobia blog, I realized my hand was stuck to my mouse. Now, if I had been reaching down to grab the bleach under the sink, this would be the mouse of the critter variety and I would be dead of a heart attack and not sharing with you today. But this, dear readers, was a computer mouse variety and I expect the source of the stickiness was the child who shares half my DNA and is of the male species, my eight year old son.

Since my progeny started developing interests similar to mine, the piano, the computer, my camera, the stereo, I have noticed random surfaces in my house have the veneer of honey with a jelly undercoat with top notes of rubber cement in the drying process. Even after a winter storm, the door handle of our van was sticky enough to rip my woolly mitten right off in the worst deep freeze of February, and probably a swab to that door handle would have produced more bacteria than say, the UW Madison surface borne virus lab.

During a recent family game night, my son drew the question "On What Occasion do People Frequently Lie?" Without missing a beat, he answered "When someone asks you if you washed your hands." Which, though scoring a win for the round as the best answer, got him dipped in bleach for his trouble.

I started to think we missed some crucial lesson in the Purrel Parenting Generation handbook. Where did we go wrong? How did two germaphobes raise a boy so careless with the cleanliness of his hands?

Sidebar alert: Dental Hygiene

After child number three, I experienced a lovely side effect that they don't tell you about in the Miracle of Birth myth, bleeding gums. I was pretty sure I was dying of scurvy--3, maybe 6 months to live at best. I forced myself to see a dentist for the cruel diagnosis, the harsh news. Bracing myself, crossing the t's and dotting the i's on my last Will and Testament, the dentist looked me straight in the eye and said, "You are brushing your teeth way too hard. I'm going to give you a toddler brush and ask that you start brushing lefty so you can let your gums recover. Drawing blood while brushing is bad."

I didn't know it was possible to brush your teeth too hard. I was quite sure we have all been taught, as children, to dip your 60 bristle "hard" brush in a solution of bleach, ammonia and lye, and pressure scrub each and every tooth at the gum line until the bristles turn pink. Then, rinse and spit. Pink was good, gushing red, was the death knell.

Realizing that germaphobe roots are properly and most effectively, taught in childhood. I'm pinpointing this quality again, with my Grandma Gukich, who never ever stopped moving: cleaning, wiping, sanitizing, recycling, all with her coat on in case there was a fire. When we would stay at her house for two weeks in the summer she would start her day at 5 vacuuming...around the kids sleeping on the floor. Then, she'd feign surprise that she woke us.

Steve and I both have a healthy dose of deep rooted germaphobia. Back in our a courtin' days, I came home one night to find him removing that stubborn cooking grease by scrubbing the kitchen with lighter fluid. As I gazed through his safety goggles into his misty, blood-shot eyes, I knew I had found my soul mate. As I held his heavy duty Gortex gloved hand in mine, I lost the top layer of epidermis on my palm, but happily, accepted his proposal. Greenability be damned, this is grease and dirt removal at its most effective. My special nickname for my beloved, Agent Orange, was bestowed with admiration 'cause sometimes you just need a a little Dow Chemical in your life. But just a little, 'cause a lot is flammable and irritates your eyes.

Ironically, we've chosen to feather our nest in Shorewood, the epicenter of all that is green and natural in the modern world. Where you can get your house egged, although with free-range vegan brown eggs, if you happen to drive an SUV. You can get picketed if you are ballsy enough to have ChemLawn come spray your lawn. Fortunately, Steve designs hybrid car batteries so that passes the muster with the green people and cancels out my stocking up on the Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner, assuring a healthy stock report at Dow chemical as long as I'm the decision maker. We still sanitize with lighter fluid, but only after Asian cooking and under the cover of night. His Greenable Career Choice serves a perfect Beard for my soft spot for germ killing chemical cleaners.

In the Shorewood public schools, always at the forefront in educating children on things they really should be learning at home, children are repeatedly squirted with antibacterial alcohol-laden waterless goo throughout the day. Before snack, after craft, after recess, after potty, heck, if they just piss you off! You don't need a good reason to squirt a kid with Purrel in the public schools. My son repeatedly told me of a classmate who, unfamiliar with the Super Goo, would take the dollop in his hands and rub it vigorously into face jamming it into his eyes and mouth. Now, legally blind, the kids remind that clueless boy to just rub his hands together, but he has served as an example of a cautionary tale to all the children--Vision? Schmision! Don't leave your fecal matter on my juicebox!!

But yet, my son has chosen to ignore all the clues and parental guidance that tells him germs, plus hands, sprinkled with boogers and poop with a smack of grape jelly is a social taboo at best, at worst, a pubic health risk. Then, I saw this recent article in the Milwaukee Journal that led me to believe that most of the gen pop is clueless when it comes to the Venn diagram of social graces and germs:

From the Milwaukee Journal Cue Section, February 7, 2009

Exercise Etiquette:

"Don't Behave like a Dumbbell at the Gym"

In addition to sparkling gems like: "Grunting is fine, screaming is not," the author of the article felt it necessary to include this "reminder" about social graces:

"Pubic nudity is a fact of life in a locker room or open shower, but few people will want to have a deep conversation with you standing there in your birthday suit. Also if you must sit down on a bench while in the buff, put a towel down first."

Ok, I haven't been to a "gym" since about 1995 when I went to meet friends at Bucca's on Van Buren and accidentally entered Bally's next door. The pungent odor, the grunting, the screaming, the attire, the sweating guests, the flossing, the lack of carbs, I thought, what mad scientist thinks this is a good atmosphere for family style Italian dining, then realized I had miscalculated the entrance. After realizing I was in a gym, I thought it ironic that these places tout themselves as "Health clubs," when something like "Petri Dishes," might be more accurate. I understand from the article that a gym is a place where nudity is unavoidable and sitting your nude business on a wooden bench is common enough that the JOURNAL SENTINEL needs to tell you that's a social no no.

The thought that right next to fine Italian dining, where Dino Martin croons from the speakers as you enjoy garlic-laden lasagna family style, people were casually sitting naked on wooden benches, flossing their teeth and trying to strike up conversations with strangers was so shocking to me, it made me wonder what other abhorrent behavior was going on next door? I could feel the germs pouring in through the ventilation system. What could be worse? Then the article continued:

"Finally, in the men's locker room, there is the phenomenon of naked shaving in which the only thing that needs to be exposed is the face, yet there is so much more exposed...No one wants you to be leaning up against the sink with your stuff out."

Shaving without even your gutchies?? The article didn't say outright these offenses were almost 99% of the time perpetrated by Men who were presumed once to be eight year old Boys, but I think its clear that for the most part, women are just not this groady. I think the article held back a bit so I'm taking up the torch here to encourage sponsorship of a bill allowing witnesses to such atrocities to randomly douse "their stuff" in Purrell, or even lighter fluid, if you are in violation of germ spreading rule of etiquette. Emily Post never addressed this, thank God the Journal has.

Pandemic, get your Pandemic!!

Enter stage right, Swine Flu

The latest virus sweeping the nation at alarming rates, the serious flu with the goofy name, the Swine Flu. Now, swine flu is no laughing matter despite its name. The media, in its zeal to induce panic and fear, wants to stomp out any jokes that make note of the reference to Swines and demanded people call it by its scientific name H1N1, immediately nicknamed "Heiney flu." if you are unfortunate enough to contract the Swine Heiney flu, you risk people emailing you with get well wishes sprinkled with the emoctation " :@0 "

Trust me, the media is very hacked off about people making light of the Pandemic, get your Pandemic, and continues to broadcast warnings from illustrious leaders in the health community, like Oprah and Kirstie Alley, that bring us the following steps to save ourselves from certain death:

Don't sneeze on people
Don't spit on people
Don't fart at people
Wash your hands
With Soap
Long enough to get them wet

I see why these experts rate the big bucks. Also agree we should be afraid--very very afraid. The only way to fight the pandemic is to get the gen pop to wash their hands. People, we are doomed. This is the Seventh Sign. Clearly, we cannot rely on people to wash their hands. We must take the next step and empower mothers everywhere to shoot lemon scented Scrubbing Bubbles on anyone who leans their bare business on a public sink. I predict it will only take one such public shaming before germs everywhere give up the fight.

I'd like to get my own spot on the Today Show and add these little Germ Fighting Tips:

Don't go in Public, but if it can't be avoided, When you are in Public, Don't appear there Naked. For any reason. Or talk to people. Or floss or shave. Or put lipstick on at the table. Or put lipstick on a pig at the table. Ever.

Go nuts using copious amounts of cushioned toilet paper; ignore the Greenies temporarily on this one

Don't sit on anything naked, not even the toilet--Hey, even Great Danes should wear gutchies

Seal your windows and doors by having 8 year old boys run their grimy hands along the ledges. Enlist your local Cub Scouts to do this as a service project for seniors get some good press out of it.

Use your recently-won-on-Ebay Dyson DC18 to suction the noses dry on all of your kids before appearing fully clothed in public. The clear view receptacle will show you what you caught, kinda cool.

Everything 80s is relevant again so dust off your blacklight from your college Pink Flloyd-Jimmi Hendrix haze days, carry it with you. Make a swath over random strangers and if they show a high concentration of "glowing fluids" slap a quarantine sign on them and deputize yourself in the fight against germs.

And most importantly:

Carry some antibacterial product with you at all times, I recommend, bleach, Purrell, lighter fluid, Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom cleaner-- feel free to randomly squirt little boys and grown men who spit in public, touch your computer mouse after eating a jelly sandwich, pick their nose. As a reminder, Oink! loudly and clearly so the offending party knows you're acting in the interest of the Public Health. Not just for the swine flu, but for shits and giggles everywhere, squirt them, squirt them all!!

Up Next: Grassroots movement for a "Sin tax" on Chewing Gum and you all know why.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

If an Auto harp is dropped in the woods, you'll hear it in Times Square

If you attended public grade school in the 70s, you had the unique opportunity to experience this country's public education system at a brief moment in time when the schools didn't care about being secular, peanut free, caffeine free, paddling free, shock therapy free. Back when the teacher's lounge was smokier than the Landmark Lanes on Tuesday night Import night. Ahh yes, the good old days of sink or swim, there are some memories from the days of Herbert Hoover Elementary that I think both of my readers will enjoy.

Note to both of my readers: I'm not saying the 70's approach to education was better than today's public education. I'm all for a peanut free, pan-religious, all inclusive, paddling free, smoke free drug free zone of public education. Just a little nostalgic. Just 'cause Yogi bear smoked, doesn't mean he was a bad bear or that our memories of him are any less sweet, Dig??

Things we learned in Miss Haller's Music class

Miss Haller was a rockin' rollin' Age of Aquarius kick butt music teacher. She played the guitar, was into disco, encouraged copious use of the Glockenspiel. Opened the piano up to impromptu solos any time, just ask. Bring in your favorite Styx LP, Donna Summer, Neil Diamond, or in my case, HeeHaw's Greatest Hits Vol. 2, and request a ditty and she'd let it roll. Also, she rocked the auto harp so hard my mom actually purchased one.

Thoughts on that Auto harp Purchase: As a side note, my siblings and I, though musically inclined, couldn't hold a candle to the Mandrell sisters or June Carter Cash when it comes to the auto harp. I was always freaked out about playing it "arms crossed." Yes, you can look ridiculous playing the auto harp, but even more ridiculous playing it "arms straight," which requires you set it on the floor and criss cross applesauce legs in front of it. Assuming your accompanying banjo picker and harmonica blower are standing, you look like a dope no matter how musically talented you are. Here is a link to see an consummate auto harp pro, Mother Maybelle Carter, rock the house and not look like a dope playing it as God intended. Note that Mother Maybelle didn't drop it.

Sadly, but inevitably, the family auto harp did not become our pass to the Grand Ole Opry as my parents had hoped, but rather, something we had to dust, carefully, or you could hurt yourself. There is no way of minimizing the sound of an auto harp being dropped because it was slick with Lemon Pledge. Also, mine toes! mine toes! Sucker is heavy. But still hoping for a virtuoso in the family, Anja has lovingly preserved it if not tuned it. Maybe the White Stripes will do for the auto harp what Blue Oyster Cult did for the cowbell: bring it back to the vernacular baby!!

Failing Disco, or How Disco Failed Me:

I recall one uncomfortable music class when Miss Haller pulled out her Andy Gibb record and ordered us to "Shadow Dance," the dance craze sweeping the nation, a sub category of the prevailing wind of the 1970's Disco.

Now, in order to properly teach children to disco, the instructions go something like this:

1. Crouch before a fresh line of cocaine
2. Snort Deeply
3. Point up, or, North Northeast
4. Point down and across, or South Southwest
5. Rinse and repeat foxy ladies!

This being an elementary class, we left steps one and two in the teacher's lounge with the cigarettes. (Juj doesn't encourage drug use of any kind with the exception of NyQuill, but not socially, only for the flu and not for nursing moms 'cause it dries up your milk. Yeah, I'm saving you a life experience here ya don't need. Of course all the instructional staff at Herbert Hoover Elementary were clean and sober. Lighten up readers, you know this is a PG-13 blog 'cause its about the 70s.)

Also, if you do a line in an A.M. music class, it makes it harder for your teacher to get you to observe nap time after lunch. However, all the erasers will be vacuumed in record time.

Miss Haller partnered me up with Brad Runkel. She didn't tell us that Shadow Dancing as dictated by Andy Gibb requires one person to lead in the various pointing exercises, one to follow. Brad and I couldn't work this out on our own and he spent the lesson yelling at me to do something with me yelling back to him to do something.

Brad and I failed Shadow Dancing. When I confronted him about this childhood hurt at our class reunion, he of course denied it ever happened, but I'm still smarting over this misfire. Here is a photo of Brad and I healing our rift over the Shadow Dancing debacle. I'm on the right. Brad seemed to have carried on with his life unaffected by this "U" in Elementary Shadow Dancing.

As a side note, for my third grade birthday, my sister Paula purchased the Andy Gibb record for me. My mom immediately forced me to return it because of the racy album cover photo. We outsmarted her by purchasing the "cassette tape" and smearing up her glasses. Treasure Island, 1978, still have the sales receipt.

Miss Haller threw a Rockin' Christmas Concert back in the day when Public Schools Assumed everyone celebrated Christmas:

Annie Sullivan couldn't hold a candle to Miss Haller when it came to workin' Miracles with rowdy elementary age children. Particularly skilled in getting us to stop hissing the lyric:

"We Wisssssssshhhhhh you a Merry Chrisssssstmasssssss."

I'd like to think that if Miss Haller had seen the "Happy Birthday to you.... CHA CHA CHA" trend coming, she would have nipped this in bud with a stern warning, implied threat, a dose of public humiliation, and positive reinforcement and we'd all be better off at our children's birthday parties.

Shock Therapy as the precursor to Love and Logic:

There was a 5th grade teacher who was so beloved, that no one seemed to mind that he'd shock unruly kids with his Vietnam era field phone. This teacher was so beloved, that more than 25 years after not getting him for 5th grade, I still grieve. The Vietnam phone shock was "fun," and a "privilege" and "educational" as far as keeping students in line. Also more efficient that getting them to copy pages out of the dictionary. Sometimes you need to discipline in a pinch and time doesn't permit for Love and Logic. Could you get away with this circa 2009??? I think not, and public education would have suffered immeasurably without Mr. B. and the way he got us to think outside the box when it came to shock therapy.

The Wrath of Mrs. K:

Juj was kind of a quiet little angel in elementary. Remember, I didn't decompose until high school. My report cards were riddled with teacher comments like "wish she would talk more in class," and "she's a little too quiet," and "have you tested this kid's hearing???" My parents would fill the "reply" section on the report card with the standard response of "we wish she would shut up at home."

Quiet angel days noted, one issue cracked my composed shell. I had completed a spelling test where "god" was lower case, as it should be in a context where there is an understood separation of church and state, and my fourth grade teacher flipped her wig. Ordered me to rewrite my misspelled word 10 times and turn it in.

Juj refused on principle. Mrs. K didn't use the word in a sentence, therefore, it wasn't clear if it was God that we sang about in Music class, or the Egyptian sun god Ra.

My refusal forced Mrs. K to call my dad into school. Note that my dad only missed three days of work in his 67 years: one was a heart attack, one was a stroke, one was the lower case god incident of fall of '79.

She spat, she sputtered, she harrumphed. Father daughter stood their ground. We may have won the battle, but it was only October, and Mrs. K spent the rest of fourth grade kickin' my butt every chance she got. Today, this incident would have gone to the Supreme Court and I probably would have had a parade and product endorsements and a spot on Letterman's couch, but in the 70's, it just means your teacher has 7 months to take it out on you.

Hank the Janitor and his Miraculous Sack of Puke Dust

As a parent looking back on her childhood, who hasn't pined for a 50 pound bag of puke dust the first time your child gets the stomach flu?

I remember Hank appearing on the spot anytime someone lost his lunch with his "Settle Down, Settle Down," and with a sweep of his arm, the puke was contained, dried, odor neutralized, and swept away as if it never happened.

Third grade art class, a classmate took out 32 kids with a very runny five star breakfast gone astray. 32 kids standing on chairs, shrieking, crying as we watched the toxic yellow runny substance spread across the floor at record speed. (don't know what the actual record of puke spread is, but this has to be in the top 10 international performances) Along comes Hank and saves the day with his Magic Dust!! I ask you readers, was this a figment of my imagination? Taken off the market for some toxic content?? Cut from the budget in these tough economic times??Where does one purchase magic puke dust today??

Please chime in with your happy 70's public school memories, and let me know where you can trade in puke dust.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Picks and Pans, Part I

After a recent discussion with a friend over whether a recommended movie was worth seeing, I reflected upon the hours and hours I've wasted on movies that friends and movie critics recommended.

A movie can be "good" or "memorable" or "worthwhile" or "a piece of rotting fish flesh" depending on your point of view, of course. Movies are the cosmic crap shoot. We've all sat through movies that a friend loved only to go "huh????" Here are a few clunkers that someone thought I should see that haunt me to this day.

Top pick in this category would have to be Midnight Express.

After the birth of my third child, my spouse and I were in that awake at weird hours, tied-to-the-house phase where you watch virtually every movie you can. Sending Steve out to get a movie for what turned out to be the last time he ever had that job, I asked for something "light," a comedy perhaps? This is the verbatim direction I gave my beloved:

"How about the Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin comedy where Robert is a bail bondsman and Grodin is being transported across the country, Midnight something or other??? Can't remember the name, ask someone?"

Instead of Midnight Run, a light buddy comedy with two well known actors, my beloved came home with Midnight Express, a horrific Turkish prison torture film. After watching roughly 8 seconds of Midnight Express, I said, I don't think I see Robert De Niro or Charles Grodin.

He: Just wait and see.

Me: Did you ask someone for the funny one???

He: No, this was all they had.

Me: Oh my God Steve, I think I know what happens here and I'm not up for this kind of mental torture. Plus, this soundtrack really sucks.

He: Let's just watch it 'cause its on everyone's best list, kind of a classic. Besides, I'm not running out again. Give it a chance.

Official Synopsis: A roughly a four hour film of a young man getting raped and tortured every 12 minutes in a Turkish prison where he received a life sentence for the despicable offense of popping an Advil in public to the creative score of a sitar plucking one note over and over and over.

Midnight Express was horrendous and awful. And to this day, when I hear a sitar, I have PTSD over this horrible movie. Yes, it is on a lot of people's classic list and maybe there was Oscar talk at the time. But I must be the opEd from the masses and advise you to avoid this like the head lice. Hands Down this is The Worst Movie I Ever Saw that Other People Thought Was Brilliant. The only redeeming thing about this movie is I finally got the Airplane joke: Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

Closely followed by my number 2 pick of movies resembling number a "number 2" or "Big Job,"

Another suggestion by my husband because of all of the "Cultural references" that came from that film. You can see why I pulled his Blockbuster card?

Official Synopsis: Burt Reynolds wears a weird pleather vest with a bunch of friends on a fishing trip in a river in a foreign country when the buddies get separated and assaulted by.......oh well, let's just say I've never been able to look at Ned Beatty again after this horrific film.

In Steve's defense, we were entertained by a lively round of Dueling Banjos, a song that when I hear it now, I develop and uncontrollable twitch in my left eye. Spoiler alert: That song is the single "cultural reference." Nothing else redeeming about this film. Horrific, terrifying Second Place Worst Film I've Ever Seen that Other People Thought was Great.

In a sad case of Mistaken Identity, my friend Tony, a Sandra Bullock Fan, recommended 28 Days. I'm not a big fan of Sandra, but in my days of newborn baby, I craved light, funny, forgettable entertainment with attractive lead actors that would not have subtitles and Sandra always delivers on those fronts. What Tony didn't mention is that there is a Zombie Virus Feel Bad flick with a very similar name that would confuse Steve at Blockbuster yet again. Forget pulling his rental card, I'm moving towards restricting his driver's license. And that brings us to number 3 on the list: 28 Days Later:

Official Synopsis: British Zombies bleed from their eyes as they troll the Earth looking for other Zombies to rumble with. That's pretty much it. Oh yeah, it is also 13 hours long.

After intense treatment at a Sleep Disorder Clinic, I was able to put this movie behind me, until my sister Anja recommended I am Legend, a Will Smith remake of the earlier British Film. I'm going to group this one with another well respected zombie virus Armageddon tale, Children of Men, where the civilization is ending as no one can have a baby. Horrific, depressing , dark and sad, and other people thought they were good.

An Oscar Winner that made me cry, not in a good way, is The English Patient.

Synopsis: This is also a British Zombie film, but set in the desert. The duration of this film is about 7 hours. I should have known when they handed out hemorrhoid cream with my ticket stub that this was a time investment above and beyond. Worse yet, we arrived kind of late and had to sit in the front row at the Downer before they fixed the chairs. For non-Eastsiders, the Downer Theater's old chairs use to pitch you forward at a 79 degree angle. The only way to hold yourself in your seat was to anchor your shoes in the official Theater Floor Goo and brace your knees on the seat in front of you. Not so easy in the front row. Also, this film was set alternately in a cave and in the desert giving you the full 3-D Imax effects if you were lucky enough to be glued to a front row seat. I have never been so cold and thirsty in my life. I hated this movie, thought Ralph Fiennes was a Zombie and had I not been cemented to the floor, would have walked out.

Honorable Mention for Bad Film Made Worse by Viewing in the Old Downer Theater: Hoffa

Synopsis: This is also a Zombie movie where the Zombies are Teamsters. Jack Nicholson sticks cotton balls under his top lip and alternately mumbles and shouts incoherently for four hours. Then gets murdered. Understandably. Also, I saw this one in the Downer Theater in January before they had heat. And to be fair to Jack, I did nod off.

This is an ongoing list and I invite you to post your Movie that Other People Thought was Brilliant that I think was a Horrible Piece of Elephant Poo Infected with a Zombie Virus. The only rule is this: don't post movies that you knew were Elephant Poo Infected with a Zombie Virus when you rented them like the third Indiana Jones and Godfather III, Oliver Stone's JFK or basically anything else by Oliver Stone (Oliver Stone was the Screenwriter for Midnight Express). Some food for thought would be: Trainspotting, As Good as it Gets, No Country for Old Men, Lord of the Rings, There Will be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (spoiler alert in the flippin' title Hollywood???), Requiem for a Dream, and I think Jenny has already dissected Rachel Getting Married so let's leave that one alone.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Using a Hummer for a Golf Cart...

I recently had the great privilege of being invited to experience a technological miracle. No, my invention for a disposable head toilet plunger is still in the crapper. I'm referring to my household's recent conversion to AT&T Uverse, or as I like to think of it, I Can Now Launch a Missile through My TV Remote If Only I Could Remember My 11 Character PIN Including Four Symbols, Numbers, and a Mixture Of Capital Letters.

This is a big change for someone who gets misty over the rotary dial phone at my sister's house. I feel like Marty McFly in one of the crappier Back to the Future Sequels that I never bothered to rent, but through my conversion, is now available to me 24 hours a day on one of the 400 channels I now receive.

All About the Bottom Line:

The selling feature for this household was that "everything would be the same except cost me $70 less per month." That was the hook line and sinker I swallowed when the sales rep stopped by. Also, she told me that four of my neighbors (she mentioned them by first name and Master Card numbers as proof) had already committed to switch from Time Warner and I'm nothing if I'm not a trend follower. Finally, I think its kind of sweet how AT&T pronounced "Universe" exactly like my three year old, "U-verse," so I decided to give them a try.

What the sales rep didn't mention is that converting from TW to AT&T is only slightly less complicated than converting to Scientology without the blood sacrifice. Also, that $70 a month savings in actual numbers and American currency really comes down to about $6.47. Still, being an "el Cheapo," a phrase favored by my mother during my formative years in a bilingual home, we repeatedly told ourselves that we are doing this to save money on our communication/entertainment bill. I think its great that I have all this technology available to me, my biggest question is why do I need this?

Work that Hamster:

Residing in a predominantly English speaking home, I can now access about 150 Spanish Language Channels. I can watch the Jetsons in both my native tongue, and Portugese. The first day I was channel surfing looking for, you guessed it, the Wonder Pets for my little one. Not only can I find the Wonder Pets on four channels in four languages, but it is broadcast at least 70 times a day. That is a lot of ringing phones for that little hamster to answer. Even for the bundle of energy that is a hamster, someone will need to find a tiny little defibrillator and clean cape for this little guy. Don't tell PETA how hard he's working for AT&T. I'm grateful to know that Spanish speaking folk enjoy more than racy poorly acted soap operas and Dora the Explorer--a demographic I've always suspected Time Warner was underestimating.

Things we Lost in the Fire:

Speaking of ringing phones, the single most important phone feature to Juj was the greatest invention since the Thermal Coffee Pot, Caller ID. I'm completely lost without it. I was assured that this would be "exactly the same." Guess what was the first thing to go?? If you called me recently and I sound confused and disoriented its because I have completely lost my ability to identify friends and family based on their voice alone. As a society that has become completely dependant on foreign oil and caller ID, everyone greets you with a quick "It's me..." (Except for Jenny M****., thanks for the first and last name, but that also makes me think you're confirming my dental appointment) I assume you are calling to get me to refinance my home or order the Dish Satellite network so I'm automatically suspicious. It can be noted here that if my family was willing to replace the perfectly working 4 phone bases in my house and purchase a better, pricier, fancier brand, I don't know, let's take a stab in the dark here, but maybe an "AT&T" model, my caller ID would be fully restored to its original magnificence.

How's that Digital Phone Technology Working out for y'all?:

I recently had a phone conversation that was interrupted by what sounded like the Wright Brothers taking off at Kittyhawk while the Beatles played the Hollywood Bowl in the background. Don't wanna play "Can you hear me now??" on a land line in my home. Having a strong capacity for denial, I'm telling myself that she was on a cellphone and calling me from the Batcave.

Features and Benefits to AT&T Uverse where the threat level is always RED:

AT&T Uverse is nothing if not security conscious. I now have to enter a pin number followed by the pound sign to exit my house or exhale or go potty. After a few days of this, I realized I could shut off this feature if I was patient enough to sit through an intense scolding by the disembodied lady voice about national security and such. I can now pick up my voice mail in my own house, but I sit through a "Welcome to AT&T" followed by a long moment of silence where I am to reflect on how I am leaving my messages vulnerable to Osama Bin Laden before the messages are read.

If you picked up the foreshadowing in the lead of this blog, (thank your 9th grade English Comp. teacher) you can't just enter a quick code. AT&T requires your pin be longer than your left arm including a delicate mix of numbers, letters, capitals and symbols with overtones of hieroglyphics, Cyrillic, and high notes of paprika. Your pin must be at least as complicated as the double helix structure of the DNA strand, but something that you will remember if prompted with the security question: "What is the name of the town of your paternal great great grandfather's birth in the former Yugoslavia, former Croatia, former Bosnia-Herzegovina, former Ottoman Empire? Proper spelling required." Your pin requires its creator to have a memory equal to Rainman's, but if you master this first step, the Wax on, Wax off portion of your training for you Karate Kid buffs, you will be able to control the universe as laid out by AT&T, or at least proceed to "paint the fence":

Tricks you can Turn in the AT&T U-verse if you take enough Gingko to remember your Code:

You will be able to program all four of your TVs to record 9 programs simultaneously in 12 languages including Braille and Furbish. You can do this fancy trick from Belize or Peru or wherever you winter in December providing you can detach yourself from your life-giving remote long enough to actually have a vacation.

You can link your AT&T cellphone and program Zombies and Robots and your Roomba through your cellphone.

You can override security measures of a Brinks truck through your TV remote.

You can order Canadian prescriptions through your digital recording device.

You can remove 67% more of dental plaque from those "hard to reach places."

You can get your children to salivate five minutes before dinner increasing the likelihood that they will eat said dinner.

You can contact at least 6 dead people from history that you've always wanted to have dinner with.

You may even be able to reduce or remove the appearance of unwanted facial and body hair.

One (actual) Good Thing About AT&T Uverse:

My husband tells me the wireless connection is excellent. That, I might add, is a feature I have never used in my own home preferring to work on the computer on top of this antique relic called a "desk" that is conveniently located next to the early technological wonder called "an outlet."

Note to my readers who have remarked on the abundant length of my blogs: If you've read even one of my blogs you know I'm nothing if not a rambler. How long does it take to write these monstrosities?? Long enough to cause third degree burns to mine thighs, mine thighs, if you're ever tempted to actually put your laptop on your actual lap regardless of the quality of your laptop cooling system. That's why God invented the desk (5th day) before he invented the Laptop (6th day, Genesis 3.14, or three years after Peter Gabriel left). I put my laptop on a trivet on my desk and don an asbestos-lined bathrobe when I write, just to be safe. Why do you think the Unabomber used the good old-fashioned five subject college ruled spiral notebook in lieu of the laptop computer for his classic manifesto? When you have a lot to say, you must protect your thighs!! Sometimes doing something just because we can isn't necessarily the best choice. Ask Evil Knieval's chiropractor or anyone who bought a Hummer.

Downside to AT&T; subheading: Come to my Pod and bond with the Zombies:

After about 14 hours of residency in our new AT&T Universe, you become dependant on your TV remote as if it is water or a flush toilet or caffeine. Here is some behavior changes I noted during my transition to AT&T Pod:

1. Receiving 400 options for TV watching eventually makes you feel obligated to attempt to use 400 channels of TV Watching. I have calculated that I will need to live to be 114, leave my house no more than 24 times, never hold down a job requiring more than 12 minutes per week of work, and relocate the toilet and shower to the living room (Which will require better window coverings once we've recouped our costs of replacing 4 perfectly functioning phones, see how we chipped away at that $70 savings?) in order to fully get my money's worth when it comes to TV watching, recording, and pausing of live TV.

2. Repeated exposure to the AT&T logo either visually on the computer and TV or audibly repeated every time I use the phone will eventually make me less of an American citizen and a Wisconsin resident than a Pod zombie in the new AT&T U-verse. My son, immediately addicted to Boomerang and all the Yogi Bear access now asks if he can "watch some AT&T?" As a side note, did any of you remember that Yogi bear was a smoker??? I knew about Batman and Catwoman and their Lucky Strikes, but kind of a strange habit for a bear in a fishing cap who lives in Jellystone and doesn't have thumbs I believe Yogi is even a distant cousin to "Smokey the Bear" who, despite his moniker, was anti-smoking and green back in the dark days of 1950s advertising where Big Tobacco labeled cigarettes as "Native American herbal supplements."

The Flicker of Doubt: Torn between life as we know it and channels dedicated to Serial Killer Entertainment:

After 24 hours on AT&T, I was ready to cancel and go back to the old regular Universe called Earth when I surfed upon the Big Kahuna of entertainment: a channel that features serial killer movies. It was like they programmed a remote directly into my brain trying that one last sales hook. I paused, I recorded, I watched. No matter I've seen and probably own on DVD every good serial killer movie ever made, I fell for it. I was up all night and when I did nod off, I had graphic nightmares that left me terrified and exhausted... It was great. When I detoxed after a marathon of Summer of Sam, Se7en, followed by Silence of the Lambs and a special on Ted Bundy, I realized I needed to detach this monkey off my back and return to the good old days of "52 channels and nothing to watch."

Confidential to AT&T: While I've enjoyed my visit in your U-verse, but even for grossly inflated savings $70 a month, $6.47 when all is said and done, I can't live without my caller ID and my ability to experience bodily functions without a remote or security code. I'm happy to come out of this experience with more substantial draperies and a deep-seeded fear of technology, but I'll be boarding my spaceship and returning to Earth momentarily. If you'd like to have me back, please enter your 92 digit pin, followed by the pound sign. I'm sorry, that pin is not valid. Please enter your 92 digit pin, followed by the pound sign. I'm sorry, that pin is not valid. Please enter your 92 digit pin, followed by the pound sign. I'm sorry, that pin is not valid. Osama?? is that you trying to infiltrate Juj's messages about overdue material from Blockbuster and the Shorewood Library??? I have to sign off now, I see smoke coming out of my laptop.