image: meanlouise

A visit to Fort Myers beach (that included dinner with the JunglePete Family) before heading back up to Sarasota for some wandering around Lido Key was an excellent way for Husband and I to conclude a year that swooshed by incredibly fast.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go create a “true life 2014” category. Crazy.


Happy Solstice, everyone!

Are you here because of one of the kind tweets about my recent post, Thinking about the Bechdel Test? Thank you to to everyone who has commented or (re)tweeted or dropped me an email.

The response has been amazing and overwhelming and I appreciate all (well, most) of the feedback. I forgot that the comments were closing today, so I’ve re-opened them for a few more days if you’re so inclined.

photo: meanlouise

photo: meanlouise

Florida builders have been making epically bad home design decisions since the first Spaniards hauled their sorry hides onto these shores 500 years ago.

Somewhere along the way, some builder said, “Hey, let’s put skylights over the showers in these ‘villas’ to distract from the fact that the bathrooms are in the dead center of the houses and therefore dark as caves.”

For the last 10 years, every time I’ve stayed at my mom’s house I’ve looked up at some point while showering and thought, “Hey, those skylights are some pervert’s dream.”

Not today. Today I looked up and thought, “Hey, Roofers!”


I think the Bloggess is great. I wish her only the best.

Even if I have spent the last few years fending off the occasional plagiarism or copy-cat allegation from her fans for things I wrote years before she started blogging.

I want to be very clear: I think she’s hilarious and I don’t hold the fervor of a few fans against her. Even though they believe she’s the first to blog about squirrels, oppossums, or anxiety-provoking encounters with strangers. You know, the shit I’ve been blogging about since 1997. (see also: this comment on the previous post).

Even though I was accused of claiming to have the same type of arthritis the Bloggess has “just to be cool.” Swear to god – it happened at my local yarn shop at a stitch and bitch right after her book was published. At least it reminded me to buy her book, which is hilarious and reveals we do have the same form of arthritis. you should also buy it (the book, not the arthritis, don’t buy that – it sucks).

Even though it’s recently come to my attention that a few of her fans – people I do not even know – had an argument in a bar over whether I plagiarized her by naming a post “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” I still think she’s great.

(The post in question is from 2001 – At that point I hadn’t even built my time machine yet so that I could travel to the future and see what her book would be named!)

None of this is Jenny Lawson’s fault, unless she secretly controls all of the Crazy in the universe.

Then it is totally and completely her fault and she owes me a fucking apology.

What is her fault, at least indirectly, is the confession I need to make about what a terrible person I am.

Heather O’Keeffe Gardner sent me a card a few months ago. It was one of the Bloggess’s “knock knock motherfucker” cards with Beyonce the Metal Chicken on it.

I pinned it to my “inspiration board,” which is apparently the bullshit name we’re supposed to call bulletin boards now.

Inspiration boards. That’s a post for another day. Not now, we’ve got a confession to get to!

In 1998, we bought a house. We got a lot of lovely housewarming gifts. Since we’d never owned a house before and had no well-known “house style,” the gifts ran the gamut of late 1990s decorating trends and household items that would make the Addams Family jealous.


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photo: meanlouise via flickr

Amazing Grim Reaper Baby Clock and even more amazing Monkey Lamp notwithstanding, a style I’ll call “French Country Kitsch Chic” was well-represented.

We’re not really country kitsch people, but these gifts were all so well-intentioned I found a place for every one of them. Serving platters, dishtowels, and other assorted housewares are useful, no matter what the style. It’s the large decorative items that posed a problem.

One of the country kitsch items was a 2 foot tall metal chicken.

15 years ago, metal chickens weren’t ubiquitous, at least not in our neighborhood.

I put the metal chicken in the front yard, where it held court over the English Ivy that was consuming everything in it’s path. In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t just put it in the backyard, which no sane human being would venture into because it was a wasteland of invasive plants and fat aggressive squirrels.

In those days, I left for work early in the morning and returned home well after dark. I have no idea when the chicken disappeared.

I think for a while I pretended the ivy had eaten it.

When I realized it was actually gone, I felt terrible.

I felt terrible because of the relief I felt that the damn thing was no longer in my yard.

For real, I mostly felt terrible because I didn’t want to tell my sweet, wonderful co-workers that their gift had been stolen. The gift they drove all the way to Frederick, Maryland to buy and have custom painted for our new home. Not because I was afraid they’d go get me another one, but because I genuinely felt bad that their thoughtful gift was gone.

Yes, okay, I was also a little afraid they’d be tempted to get me another one, so I swore to them the police were looking for my gift chicken and I was sure we’d be reunited in no time.

I realize I’m a bit of a species-ist, because I was relieved that whoever stole the chicken left the crow. I like the crow.


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photo: meanlouise via flickr

One day, I was out for a walk when I spotted the chicken. Our gift chicken. In someone else’s yard.

Unbeknownst to me, the police had caught neighborhood teenagers playing a game wherein they would transplant yard decor from one yard to another.

Years later, I learned that the gift chicken recipients had no idea where the chicken came from. I never told them.

If I was going to re-claim my gift chicken, I should have done it a long time ago. That’s what I told myself.

I didn’t sell it or regift it or give it to Goodwill. I was not the metal gift chicken liberationist. I was an innocent bystander. These were all my rationalizations for why I shouldn’t feel guilty about the fact that I was no longer in possession of the gift chicken.

I never told my co-workers that I’d found my gift chicken. For that, I felt guilty.

Who was I to take back a metal gift chicken from people who truly loved it? That would be the real sin, wouldn’t it>?

Yes. These are the things I’ve been telling myself for years.

But here’s the truth: The real reason I never spoke up and reclaimed the gift chicken my co-workers so kindly and generously gave me is because I hate French Country Kitsch and I was deeply relieved that the thing was no longer hanging around, attracting ever more French Country Kitsch into our lives.

On Saturday night, things were wild here. Husband had a gig and I read about Godzilla until my brain was full.

Then, it was time for the television.

At MAPACA, one of the my co-panelists presented an interesting paper on the Paranormal Activity movies, so they were on my mind.

I really enjoyed the first 2 movies. (I didn’t hate the 3rd and 4th, I just didn’t like them as much as the first ones). Still, I like the way each film in the franchise plays with narrative tropes and comments on the social and technical aspects of image production. manipulation of the gaze, spaces of resistance, power, and other popular culture studies stuff.

Movies 3 & 4 are available on Netflix and thus were easily and immediately available to me.

Most importantly, movies 3 and 4 are spooky but not super-scary.

Unless you’re home alone.

And by “you,” I mean “me.”

One time I scared myself witless after watching an episode of Supernatural that I’d seen at least half a dozen times.

To be fair, I also scared myself witless once watching the Dick Van Dyke Show.

True story.

But back to Saturday…

I chose Paranormal Activity 4, which was more entertaining than I remembered but, as I also remembered, not particularly scary.

Later that night, just as we were falling asleep, there was a loud, strange sound that seemed to emanate from the living room.

It only happened once, so we’ve decided to believe it was some air in the pipes.

(We aren’t concerned about the sounds on the roof. They aren’t in the attic, and even if they were, we know those are just squirrels. Or demons. Or demon squirrels).

We’d never set up video surveillance a la Paranormal Activity. Not because of the potential for disappearing and leaving behind mysterious footage, but because of the potential for disappearing and leaving behind evidence of early morning conversations like the one that happened this morning when my alarm went off.

Instead of hitting snooze, I yelled at it like a petulant teenager. “Shut UP, Godzilla!”

Disdain dripping from his voice, Husband replied, “It’s NOT Godzilla. It’s CHEWBACCA!”

Then I hit the snooze and we both went back to sleep.

He’s right, of course. It’s Chewbacca. It’s always Chewbacca.

I don’t even have a Godzilla alarm. That would be ridiculous.

While I was finishing this post, Husband and I watched that Dick Van Dyke Show episode, “A Ghost of A. Chantz,” on Netflix.

It’s still creepy and fun.

You know, it’s probably technically the first found-footage type horror movie/tv show. Huh.

Here, I found it for you on YouTube!

The Dick Van Dyke Show: “A Ghost of A. Chantz”

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My neighborhood gets pretty festive for Christmas, but I find the amount of time and money that goes into Halloween is staggering. Fun, but a bit crazy.

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I love Halloween and, admittedly, I require vigilant adult supervision in the Halloween aisles so that I don’t cart home every single novelty item pertaining to bones or mummies. Fortunately, I hate clutter so I’m generally able to resist all but the very coolest items.

Up until about 1984, folklorists considered Halloween the least commercial modern holiday.

Now, like an undead neoliberal dream, the American fear of strangers shambles forth anew each year to pick pockets and fill attics with orange & black plastic rubbermaid tubs packed with tombstones, black and orange tinsel, light strings, spiderwebs, fog machines, and decapitated rubber body parts. (As of 2006, Snopes reported that Halloween was still down in 6th place in terms of total holiday retail spending, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a multi-billion-dollar holiday).

But let’s get to the candy-tampering legends, since that’s the actual topic of this post and the most likely factor for this orgy of Capitalism.

In 1970, the New York Times ran a lengthy article about Halloween sadism, extensively quoting an ultra-conservative psychiatrist named Reginald Steen, who spun an elaborate tale of potential sadism and candy tampering by people emboldened by what he considered the increasing over-permissiveness of modern society.

In 1975, Newsweek reported the unsubstantiated “fact” that several children had died and hundreds more had barely escaped injury from candy tampering by strangers.

They were almost sort of accurate, in that a child did die from eating poisoned candy. In Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween, David Skal describes the 1974 murder of a young boy. Ronald O’Bryan put cyanide in pixie sticks, killed his young son, and collected the insurance money. At first he was a hero because he leapt into action and saved the other neighborhood children from eating the tainted candy. Which he had poisoned.

Dubbed the Candyman by the press, O’Bryan was tried and convicted in 1975.

The National Confectioners Association worked desperately with the FDA throughout the 70s and 80s to debunk this story but were unsuccessful. Candy manufacturers were unable to avoid a changeover to individually wrapped candy, which is more expensive to produce. Additionally, the emphasis on “safe” costumes” and decorations for group celebrations encourages people to spend more money on decorations, less money on candy.

Ironically, baking Halloween-themed treats (after purchasing the specially decorated cupcake supplies or cookie cutters or black icing) is wildly popular now. It seems like it would be a lot easier to poison a batch of cookies than to concoct a nefarious terrorist plot involving individually wrapped candy. After September 11th, there was apparently an upswing in parental fears about anthrax on candy –

Or to conceal a razorblade in an apple, an action that any sane person who’s ever seen an apple realizes is pretty much impossible. That’s not to say that no one has ever tried it (I can’t prove it didn’t happen) or that kids don’t attempt it for attention, concealing the damage to the apple’s skin by claiming they bit into it, but I just want to point out that it’s a pretty ridiculous idea.

In 1985, California State University sociologist Joel Best collaborated with folklorists to study these legends of anonymous Halloween sadists.

In “Razor Blade in the Apple,” (Social Problems, 32(5):488-499), Best reports they found a lot of localized hoaxes between 1959-1985, and some attention-seeking behavior from kids, but no evidence of strangers tampering with candy.

At a time when evangelical ministers were becoming regular cultural commentators on television talk shows, satanic and ritualized abuse panics were reported breathlessly on the nightly news, and people were growing concerned that increasing urbanization would lead to isolation and the breakdown of communities, Best concluded that protecting the children from this amorphous threat with a bold gesture once a year was a way to express fears about social change without taking radical action or working for real change in society.

According to Skal, the 1982 Tylenol poisonings in Chicago caused a temporary upswing in paranoia in the National media that had consequences for the way many products are packaged, but had surprisingly little lasting impact on Halloween.

Best agrees with Urban Legends and Folklore guru Jan Harold Brunvand that legends like this persist because they have a very general underlying message that can evolve as social conditions change. He concluded that the national media played very little role in keeping the legend alive. Local communities acted out their fears in their own ways.

Just yesterday, not wanting to let facts get in the way of a click-bait story about a possible case of candy-tampering, ABC news published a story that included this:

Tampering with Halloween candy became a problem in the late 1970s and early 1980s when police departments reported incidents of children finding blades, pins and pieces of glass in their candy.

The story concludes with this information:

Beginning in 1982, the National Confectioners Association maintained a Halloween Hotline in which law enforcement agencies could report incidents of tampering, and some hospitals X-rayed children’s candy for foreign objects.

Last year the NCA shut the hotline because “there is very little occurrence of tampering,” said spokeswoman Susan Smith. “Tampering is extremely rare, and we don’t even track it anymore because police just aren’t seeing it,” she said.

Oh, hey, look! (listen?) you can listen to NPR’s Robert Siegel interview Greg Best about candy tampering

updated to add this article I missed on the Smithsonian Magazine blog: Where Did the Fear of Poisoned Halloween Candy Come From?

I wanted to write a really great conclusion to this post, but now all I can think about is making grilled cheese bats, so instead here’s the trailer for a fun Halloween movie, Trick-r-Treat:

Our Tivo, Overlord II, protects our delicate sensibilities from the ravages of crass commercialism. We had to catch up on a show recently by watching a missed episode on Hulu and we were barraged with ads for blue fig and orange blossom scented body lotion.

There is something about the nonsensicalness of blue fig scented lotion that makes me utterly and completely irrationally batshit angry.

I’m not sure if I’d be this angry if it was just “fig.”

I think “blue fig” may just be a bridge too fucking far.

Orange blossom. There are many kinds of blossoms, so it makes sense to be specific. Plus, orange blossom is a pretty benign scent. Or maybe I’m just immune to it, being from Florida and all.

Are there that many types of figs?

What does a blue fig smell like?

What does a fig even smell like?

I like figs, why can’t I remember what they smell like?

Why aren’t you as outraged about this absurd product as I am?

This. Is. Bullshit.

This is such bullshit I broke my own rule about using one-word sentence constructions in blog posts for comic mock-indignant effect.

I just googled figs and immediately got distracted by the first item: Are figs really full of baby wasps?

WHAT????

No. Let’s not go down that rabbit hole right now. We need to sniff some figs.

I just demanded that we drive to the nearest convenience store immediately to buy a package of Fig Newtons, but Husband is no fool. After this many years, he knows how that will go down: I’ll buy them, rip them open, shove my face in the package, and inhale deeply while he stands by trying to look casual.

I suppose you have a better idea for how to determine what figs smell like?

Yeah, well, neither does Husband.

He said there’s no way on earth he’s driving to a grocery store that has figs in stock just to sniff them. Because who has figs in stock at this time of night?

It’s very late at night.

And if I still care about this tomorrow, which I probably won’t, finding fresh figs could end up requiring either a lot of driving or a lot of calling or, most likely, both. That’s too much like work.

Poor Husband, up until moments ago he was unaware of Fatberg, proving that Husband and I have very different twitter feeds.

Go to the link and watch the video, but maybe not while you’re eating. The voiceover is sublime.

Now, back to blue fig.

Blue. Fig.

Wait, blue figs aren’t even figs. Blue figs are actually quandong.

Oh my god. The shaving gel sample from Sephora that I gave Husband is labeled, “Australian Quandong scent.”

That stuff smelled weird.

There. I proved my point. Blue fig is not only not a fig, it’s a weird fragrance choice that we should all back slowly away from.

We should maybe also back slowly away from actual figs, because I think they may be full of wasps.

I wrote this in August & forgot to post it. I know Fatberg is old news and all the kids are talking about venomous crustaceans now, but I was too lazy to edit that part out.

{you’re welcome to leave comments for this post on facebook}

My trolls are making me tired so I’ve closed comments for now.

I actually did this a week ago, after I deleted most of the brawl on the Tomorrow People post because it was getting into territory that was both morally and legally murky. Plus the pseudoscience was causing me pain.

I left the first few comments, because that’s the kind of quality nonsense that makes life worth living.

Not really, but they weren’t abusive, so I left them.

Plus, when the radioactive children of California rise up and destroy us all, we can look back at that post and those comments with regret and remorse that we didn’t act to save humanity from our Kaiju-kid overlords when we had the chance.

The first time you hear Blitzer refer to these mutant children as “Kaiju-kids” you just remember that you heard it from me first!

If something is actually hilarious, then say that. Say it’s hilarious.

If it’s not truly hilarious, don’t say it’s “sort of hilarious.” This may be my new pet peeve, because I believe that “sort of hilarious” is something we already have a perfectly good word for: “funny.”

I’m all for synonyms and fancy turns of phrase.

Turn of phrases? Turns of phrases? Fuck it. Expressions.

I’m a fan of colorful expressions.

But “sort of hilarious” is lazy and it makes me angry.

It’s akin to “sort of pregnant” isn’t it?

It’s entirely possible I need to lay off the coffee a bit.

goaty

I have this insane compulsion to read the Family Filmgoer ratings in the Washington Post weekend section.

Last night I came across this gem of a rating for Paranoia.

The film strongly implies murders and attempted murders, although not in graphic detail. Characters drink and smoke. Someone talks about “getting laid.” There are stylized, nongraphic sexual situations between Adam and Emma, which only imply nudity. The dialogue includes an occasional barnyard epithet and one F-word.

It’s an embarrassment of riches, that review. So many things to mock, so little time on this mortal coil.

Before I could begin to peel that onion of absurdity, I became obsessed with the term “barnyard epithet,” which I will put in quotation marks here in homage to the Family Filmgoer’s use of said punctuation in reference to “getting laid.”

A debate between Husband and I then ensued over the meaning of the phrase. The phrase “barnyard epithet,” that is. We’ve got “getting laid” covered.

Husband insisted it meant “bullshit.” This was disappointing to me because I like believing it means something more colorful.

Goatfucker, perhaps.

We debated this for much longer than I should ever admit. But I will. We debated this for a long time.

While we were debating the wisdom of looking this up on the Internet, I remembered that I have a reference book on the subject sitting right on the coffee table. I’d just checked Melissa Mohr’s Holy Sh*t! A Brief History of Swearing out the library and hadn’t even opened it yet.

Meanwhile, Husband had become obsessed with the hilarity we might find on the Internet and had begun reflexively adding the words, “dot-com” anytime one of us said, “barnyard epithet.”

It’s not as funny in the cold light of day.

Maybe I should add that there may have been some mint julep slushies involved.

There, that makes the story of two adults creating a taxonomy of profanity much more socially acceptable.

Unless you’re the Family Filmgoer.

Sadly, Mohr doesn’t seem to mention the term but by the time I’d spent some quality time reading through the amusing index to the book, something buried deep in my brain was telling me that this was actually something I’d learned years ago as an undergrad and had something to do with Cold War era politics in America.

Which sounds batshit crazy, but turns out to be accurate. And sort of batshit crazy:

When leaders of the anti-war protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention were tried in Chicago two years later, defendant David Dellinger uttered an eight-letter word in court that likened a police officer’s testimony to the waste product of a bull. Dellinger was reprimanded and his bail was revoked. New York Times reporter J. Anthony Lukas called his editor, urging that the Times print the word. The editor suggested that it simply be called an obscenity, but Lukas worried that readers would imagine even worse words than the one that was spoken. “Why don’t we call it a barnyard epithet?” the editor suggested. And so they did.

So there you have it. Simultaneously fascinating and disappointing, but what can you do?

This post originally had this image at the top, but even I had to draw the line at using the image of an innocent goat with filthy hindquarters shooting the camera a come-hither look. But that doesn’t seem to stop me from telling you about it. Or posting the picture, which probably contradicts my claim of self-restraint.

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Goat pictures by MeanLouise