Friday, December 19, 2008

We Wish You an Inoffensive Holiday

The other day, I swear I saw a commercial with people singing “we wish you a happy holidays.” Now, I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure the lyrics to that Christmas classic actually include the word Christmas. Also merry.

The whole “war on Christmas” thing has been done to death, honestly. Those unfortunate enough to work in retail at this time of year experience all sorts of backlash for whatever season’s greeting they choose: “Merry Christmas” often draws criticism from a superior, “Happy Holidays” makes many customers angry, and actually saying “Season’s Greetings” makes them sound like poorly-programmed robots.

(I realize the previous paragraph is filled with extremely broad generalizations. There are some people, somewhere, who are actually offended by “Merry Christmas,” but I’ve never encountered them outside of the internet and talk radio.)

I’ll never forget the issue of American Girl Magazine I got many years ago, back when I, myself, was an American Girl. It was the holiday issue. You have to understand that this magazine always went to great pains to be all-inclusive; nothing in that magazine implied that any of its readership would be celebrating any holiday in particular, even though I’m sure 90% of them had a Christmas tree. You want Kwanzaa activities? They had Kwanzaa activities.

Now, this particular year, as a craft activity, they featured some kind christmas-scene of ornament you could make with bend-up wire hangers or something. Typical American Girl fare. Bear in mind that, at no point in the instructions did they refer to “hanging it on a tree.” This ornament could go in your window, or on your festive Solstice Snowman for all they cared. They featured many different shapes and colors, all of which were inoffensively winter-themed.

Still, in the following issue, they printed a letter from a disgruntled Jewish girl, wanting to know “what they were supposed to do if they celebrated Hanukkah.” If I’d been on that editorial team, my response would have been “make a Star of David and stop having a complex about it.” Luckily, I wasn’t. The real-life editorial team explained, gingerly, that it was their understanding that this craft activity could be adapted to any holiday.

I guess my point in all this is pretty simple. If an overworked clerk at Target says Happy Holidays to you, or if a magazine features a craft activity that looks suspiciously Christmas-y, it is really, honestly, not a personal attack on you or your faith.

Newsflash to everyone: pretty much nobody cares how you celebrate this time of year. The small percentage of people that do care aren’t the people that you need to worry about. The people who will ultimately disenfranchise you are the people who are trying way, way too hard not to hurt your feelings.

The whole concept of taking a Christmas carol and changing the lyrics so it’s no longer about Christmas? Bizarre. Plus, if you carry this out to its natural conclusion, it becomes painfully redundant: We wish you a happy holidays, and a happy New Year. What?

Here’s the thing. This time of year is about love and family and giving and feeling that warm fuzzy feeling inside. The modern Christmas celebration is a big part of that, and you know what? That is okay. It doesn’t mean your holiday is any less of a holiday. Celebrate it with pride. If someone says Merry Christmas to you, they are wishing you joy in their own way. Smile, and respond with whatever greeting makes you the most comfortable. The same goes if someone says Happy Holidays, or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Whatever. In the unlikely event that someone’s actually trying to upset you with their chosen holiday greeting, they’re not the type of person who deserves positive reinforcement. Grin and bear it.

There is a surprising amount of joy and peace to be found in the realization that most people just want to do their own thing, and let you do yours. If we can all start living like responsible adults who don’t care what other people do to celebrate the holidays in their own homes, then the world would be a much happier place.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lorena Bobbitt ain’t got nothin on Teeth

Teeth is, of course, about vagina dentata. And like the mythical phenomenon itself, it's a heavy metaphor for the strength and power that women possess. When it comes to portraying vagina dentata, it's nearly impossible to go wrong: man tries to take advantage of woman, woman's vagina bites off his penis. Game, set, and match.

Where Teeth fails is its attempt at an accurate portrayal of young Christians. Admittedly I'm tough to fool, having grown up in exactly the kind of group of friends that the protagonist is meant to be a part of. There's a temptation to believe that abstinent teenagers are teethposters-793555 particularly perverse in their own way, more likely to talk about, obsess about, and engage in particularly freaky sex. Sadly, that's not the case: they're just like anyone else, and while many of them have issues of guilt and shame surrounding the act, it doesn't turn them all into sluts or rapists.

And it doesn't turn them into victims, either. By the end of Teeth, our heroine takes a sort of pleasure in putting herself in sexually harmful situations so she can have her sweet, toothy revenge.

The first man to take advantage of Dawn is a young boy she meets at the abstinence group where she speaks, and as he rapes her, first he is angry at her for denying him, even though he is self-admittedly responsible for his own sexual frustration: “I haven’t even jerked off since Easter!” Then he is comforting: “don’t worry, you’re still pure in His eyes.”

It’s true, you can be a born-again virgin. You can even get your hymen surgically replaced if that’s your bag. But, although modern Protestant Christianity is founded on the principle that you can be forgiven for any transgression, basing your choices on the hope of a last-minute deathbed confession misses the whole point. And Dawn understands that all too well – she throws her purity ring off a cliff after the rape.

(I once lost mine down the drain. Symbolic?)

After that, Dawn becomes a professional victim, bouncing from abusive man to abusive man, leaving a trail of severed extremities in her wake. And this becomes her legacy – her power. She’s like the vengeful matron saint of molested girls, wreaking the kind of revenge that they cannot.

The problem with Dawn’s power is that she doesn’t control it. While she learns its foibles and becomes accustomed to the vicious fangs that lash out at men to whom she doesn’t grant entrance, she still must put herself into traumatic situations in order to display her true colors.

The true power of womanhood lies not in the mysterious, the mythological, or the ill-understood. Being a strong, capable woman is pretty much the opposite of lying back and letting your genitalia do the talking. For all her mythical power, Dawn is still doing what victims do. And a movie that could have held a powerful message about true female strength becomes just another bloody black comedy.

I give it a 5/10.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Weirdo Pride

I have been a weirdo for most of my life. I know it’s an ill-defined term, but it’s also the only way I can think to describe my life. Everything else sounds pretentious: outcast? A “sense of otherness?” Gag me with a rake.

But yeah, I’ve always been a weirdo. A lot of it was self-inflicted, but a lot of it was just me – I was weird, I was quiet, I liked things that other kids had never heard of. (This was back when the Lord of the Rings fandom was dominated by college professors, not twelve-year-old girls.) The internet was a godsend; I spent most of my time there mingling with adults who enjoyed Jane Austen, never letting on to the fact that I was just a kid.

It’s no surprise that I’ve grown up to despise precocious little children. Now I can see their obvious immaturity, the way they talk a big talk, yet lack the emotional insight to deal with…anything, really. Maybe there are a lot of kids who are slipping under my radar by failing to mention their ages, as I hope I did.

My whole life I had to deal with “the homeschooling issue.” I had the following conversation about eight million times:

“So where do you go to school?”

“I’m homeschooled.”

“Ohmigod, really? You seem so down-to-earth! I mean I’m not saying you should be stuck up or something, but wow, that’s just, your mom must have been really committed to your education! Do you get to wake up whenever you want? Are you going to college? BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH HEE DA.”

I very seldom ran into negative reactions, since most people are tactful enough to keep their thoughts to themselves in casual social interactions. There was one notable exception: two fifty-something women in line outside a store (it was a Beanie Baby thing, back when those were cool) who confronted my mom about homeschooling me. Basically, they explained (in front of me) how I was going to be socially retarded for the rest of my life and how she was a Bad Mother (true, but for different reasons). When she explained that she had worked in the school system for eleven years and was a bit soured on the whole thing as a result, they just blustered on about how IT WAS DIFFERENT NOW AND SHE WAS SO OUT OF TOUCH AND YOUR POOR DAUGHTER IS ALREADY SUFFERING LOOK AT HOW SHE WON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH US. (Because you’re a huge bitch, lady.)

I did have quite a few intensely awkward social experiences growing up, but I soon discovered that I'd just been unlucky. As soon as I move on to junior college, I had no problem making friends. It wasn't hard to find people who shared my interests and sense of humor, and even the same group of dubious acquaintances I grew up with in the homeschooling world had matured and branched out and were a lot of fun. But even then, I continued to be the weirdo.

Instinctively, I presented myself as being relatively normal by using words like "curfew" (I'd never had one, since I had nowhere to go) instead of "my mom doesn't let me go anywhere" and "my ride is here" instead of "my mom is here to pick me up since I don't have a license." It worked. I had a good time there. I blended in, somehow.

Nowadays I am a weirdo again. I met my husband on The Internet. (Trust me, those Dateline jokes never get old.) We work nights and sleep during the day (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP CALLING BEFORE 6PM OR I WILL PERSONALLY STAB YOU IN THE FACE). I don't have a ton of friends knocking down my door. While I have a license now, I don't have a car, and a Big Day Out consists of a trip to Walmart, Target, AND Friendly's. From a certain point of view, my life is relatively lame. Sometimes I feel the need to defend it. But other times I realize, hey. This is just me. This is how I live. And I know I'm not the only one, thanks to the internet.

WEIRDOS REPRESENT.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Futurama: Bender’s Game ain’t no Orson Scott Card

That probably sounds more insulting than I intended it. I like Orson Scott Card, to a point. Speaker for the Dead is one of the greatest books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. But the sci-fi classic Ender’s Game is still considered his magnum opus, and it was this title that the Futurama folks decided to parody when they made their third installment in the four-part film series.

Bender’s Game is sort of like Ender’s Game in the sense that people playing a game are actually doing things in real life. Sort of. But in reality it’s a Dungeons and Dragons/Lord of the Rings parody, which would have been a lot more relevant five years ago.

The plot revolves around fuel and fuel demand: dark matter, the substance that keeps ships running in the Futurama universe, is being controlled by Mom’s evil corporation and Farnsworth has a plan to stop her. Meanwhile, Bender is deep into Dungeons and Dragons, to the point where he must seek psychiatric help. It’s all about as exciting as it sounds.

It has the usual chuckles of any Futurama episode, but when compared to the previous movies, especially The Beast with a Billion Backs, it’s kind of…dull. I’m also not entirely sure what point it’s trying to make. You might think cartoons don’t need a point, but Futurama usually has one, and Bender’s Game feels out of place in this regard.

I give this one a 6/10.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

When You Were Young

Blog posts like this make me glad I didn’t keep a reliable diary back in the day. Not, at least, in the sense that I talked about my feelings a lot. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing embarrassing to be found in my old “Notebooks,” all of which were inspired by Amelia’s Notebook.

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Sometimes I think that you're the only one who understands. If I tell Mom how I feel, she freaks out. A journal won't say anything. Christmas didn't seem "right" last year. It was dull. We didn't see the living nativity, we didn't bake, we didn't go to parties, we didn't see 1 amazing nite, or ANYTHING! I didn't get many presents, just about no toys.

...

News! Family meeting went Okay. I can't get pierced ears, but I can build a website!

I built a webpage called Galadriel's World of Beanies, but all it is right now is a banner advertising my sponser, expage. I'll have to figure out how to add to it.

At least it wasn't Geocities.

Mom is mad. I can't figure out why. Maybe because I told her stop it when she kept grabbing my hand when I was trying to send an e-mail to Dad when she told me to.

As I recall, I was trying to sneakily check my e-mail at the same time BECAUSE SHE WOULD NEVER LET ME GET ON THE GODDAMN INTERNET.

I want to turn 12 already! Being 11 is the pits. You know you're old enough to do something, but your parents treat you like a 3-year-old!

Surely, being 12 will change everything.

These moody fits - are the just adolescence, or are they signs of an artistic spirit? I wish I knew.

It would be several years before I learned that "artistic spirit" was a euphemism for "Borderline Personality Disorder."

On a more holiday-themed note, I'm amazed that this branch has survived for eleven years. (click for big)

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gender Equality Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

“Feminism” has got to be one of the most misused words in the English language. Definition: “belief in the political, social, and economic equality of women.” It’s hard to argue with that. Of course “equality” becomes problematic when you are dealing with two groups of people who are different; men and women sometimes have different needs and desires. But when it comes to things like career availability and salary and being able to leave the house without wearing a veil, we all want the same thing.

But we don’t all always want the same thing for each other. And that’s the root of the problem: when one person thinks s/he knows feminism what another person needs or wants, better than that person does. In some cases, of course, this is entirely possible. But I don’t particularly like the idea of a guy in the deep South with an “ARYAN POWER” tattoo on his forehead decided whether or not I should have access to contraception.

But there is another threat to true feminism, and it’s in a place you might not expect. Radical feminism.

A house divided against itself cannot stand, and boy, are feminists divided. Just like any group that is entirely self-identified, it’s hard to figure out exactly what the tenets are – but one particularly prominent voice of radical feminism on the internet is Livejournal user _allecto_, whose denouncement of Joss Whedon’s T.V. series “Firefly” has gained much attention. I won’t go into the minutiae of it, because that’s not important. What is important is this statement:

I support women but not their choices. Choice for women is not the same as self-determiniation. I support women to become self-centering and self-determinining. I do not support their patriarchally constricted 'choices'.

Oh, and by the way, rape isn’t rape either.

I believe in the radical feminist definition of rape. That is that men who pressure women into sex are rapists. That women who are pressured are not freely consenting and are therefore being raped. There have been a few discussions recently in the rad fem blogosphere debating whether all male initiated sex is rape, given that women are politically, socially and economically subordinate to men. So, in my understanding of Joss Whedon as a rapist is hinges on my definition of rape. I would argue that most 'sex' between men and women, in the contemporary 'sex-positive', pornographic, male-supremacist culture, is rape.

When a rape survivor stepped up in the comments and said:

However, I think you should know, as you seem to be so pro-women, that as a female rape victim (and hey, rape can happen to men too! it does!), the way you are throwing around the word 'rape' is something I find incredibly offensive. You (and the radical feminist blogosphere in general, though I know you're only one person and not representative of a whole) should really seriously reconsider the way you're using the word like it means nothing.

The response was:

This post was about Joss Whedon, Firefly and misogyny. Please address the topic. If you have a problem with the Radical Feminist view of rape then make a post on your own blog argueing against Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon and Robin Morgan. This is a Radical Feminist space and as such I support the Radical Feminist definition of rape.

Well, I haven’t been violently raped, but I can sure as hell bet that it’s a lot more traumatic than being “raped” under _allecto_’s definition. Not that it matters; _allecto_ is one of those people who has ascribed herself so fiercely to a “GREATER GOOD” that the feelings of individuals no longer matter.

But basically, what all this boils down to is that radical feminists like _allecto_ want women to behave in a specific way: generally speaking, they should shun the patriarchy (which is almost every aspect of modern life, according to them) and be in a loving supportive relationship with another woman. Because otherwise they are gender traitors. (Judging someone for their “choices” while “supporting” them is one of those lame things that fundies say about homosexuals all the time. And it always rings hollow.)

And no, I have no idea how she expects the species to continue.

Things get a bit more muddled as one delves into some of her other writings. Though she clearly states:

Under patriarchy, rape and sex are not discrete either as concepts or as acts. Simply put, male dominance means that sex is some guy acting his sexual fantasy upon the prone body of a woman. That is exactly what fucking is. That is exactly what sex is. What I was trying to describe as sex is not sex simply because sex is male dominance is intercourse is rapist.

Yet:

…nor am I so cynical to believe that no men are capable of interacting with women as human beings. I have been objectified by women before and I have met men who are capable of respecting women as discrete, inviolable individuals. This doesn’t mean that fucking isn’t an act of male dominance it just means that lesbianism as an act of political resistance has been co-opted and controlled by the ‘queer’ malestream and that men are not biologically programmed for rape and conquest, they just use that as an excuse.

So you can have sex with a man as long as you’re not having sex. Is radical feminism, after all, just holding a state of mind? It’s now beginning to sound uncomfortably like neo-Christianity, the kind where all you have to do is keep Jesus in your heart and pray without ceasing and as long as you’re sorry it will all work out ok. Which is fine in your personal life, but if you’re going to run around espousing a socio-political viewpoint that wants to change the status quo, or patriarchy, or whatever, then it doesn’t make sense.

I am all for feminism. I am all for teaching little boys that little girls are different, but at the same time, people just like you. And eventually, the world will be run by men and women who understand and respect each other.

And I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot do as a woman. I don’t want men telling me, and I don’t want other women telling me. In my life I have never felt limited by the gender I was born with, and I am truly disgusted at the idea of being judged for my choices, whether those choices are to lose weight, shave my legs, sleep with a man, or watch Firefly.

(Speaking of weight loss, I meant to integrate some discussion of Ariel Stalling’s blog post “Fat is a feminist issue” but I got too carried away. Anyway, suffice it to say, it’s just another case of feminism limiting women instead of empowering them. Her post was dissected by radical feminists elsewhere on the internet, coming to the basic conclusion that all her motives were wrong and she was a terrible person for wanting to look good.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It is autumn and that means PUMPKIN PIE FOR DINNER!

I am an idiot and I still successfully made REAL pumpkin pie, so I know you can do it too. We're in November, so it's high time to hone your skills and impress your family and friends.

Using Real Pumpkin

No, it's not necessary. Yes, many people will claim that it doesn't make a difference. However, I'm a firm believer in the principle of doing everything completely from scratch, at least once. If nothing else, you get the satisfaction of turning a big, hard squash into a delicious pie. If you're determined to use canned pumpkin, skip this bit. (No pictures for this bit, I've already done all my steaming and pureeing for this year.)

1. Buy a Pie Pumpkin

You can use a "regular" jack-o-lantern style pumpkin, but they're usually more watery and less sweet; I'll mention any necessary adjustments later in the recipe. You can also use butternut squash. I've heard that "canned pumpkin" is actually made from a variety of butternut, but I have no idea if it's true. In any case, butternut flesh is much more orange and might give you a more "pumpkin pie" color.

At the store, pie pumpkins are the smallish ones that are labeled "pie pumpkins." Durhey. If you pick a big one, 8+ inches in diameter, it will yield enough pumpkin for at least two pies. A more average one, 4-6 inches, will likely yield just enough for one (or one plus a mini-pie).

2. Cook Your Pumpkin

Steaming is the fastest way to cook it, so I'll stick with that for now. You can also bake it, but it takes ages. (The same principles apply to butternut squash unless I say otherwise.) Pumpkins have a very hard skin, so it might take a while to saw through it with a normal bread knife. I was able to pry mine apart eventually, but if you have a clean hand saw lying around, you might be better off with that. Take my advice and don't try to cut through the stem parts. It's just way too tough in there.

Once your pumpkin is halved, remove the stem (if it has one) and scoop out the goopy bits. You can save the seeds for roasting or just throw them out, see if I care. An ice cream scoop works particularly well for this. Once your pumpkin is clean, it's time to get steaming!

Microwave steaming is the fastest, but if you don't have a microwave-safe dish big enough to hold all your pumpkin, you can do it on the stovetop just as easily. Just plonk it in a steaming basket and let it go until the flesh is tender. It shouldn't take longer than 30 minutes. Alternately, put it in the microwave with some water and let it go for fifteen minutes, check for doneness, et cetera.

Once it's tender, the flesh should scoop out of the skin pretty easily. So disembowel the pumpkin into a bowl. The flesh should NOT be watery; if you used a regular pumpkin or if you ended up with a really watery pie pumpkin for some reason, just let the flesh sit for a while (30 minutes or so) then pour off any free-standing water. If it remains wet after that, try squeezing it in some cheesecloth or letting it sit in a strainer in a bowl in the fridge overnight. You don't want to end up with a watery pie.

3. Puree Your Pumpkin

The flesh will probably be too dry to put in a blender for now; a handheld blender like this works best:

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You will have to mash it and work it around, but eventually you'll get it all smooth. There are a lot of other ways to accomplish this; a food mill, a food processor, or even a hand mixer can work with some patience. However, if you have absolutely no tools at your disposal except for a blender, you can wait until mixing the filling together and use a blender.

You can freeze your pumpkin puree for later use, or pop it in the fridge for a few days.

DO NOT CAN PUREED PUMPKIN IT MIGHT KILL YOU

Well, now you are all ready to mix up your pumpkin pie filling. Time to go buy a frozen pie crust from the store, right?

WRONG.

Making Your Crust

Most of cooking is more of an art than a science, but baking is something else entirely - and pie crusts are one of the most intimidating baking tasks out there. No one wants to accidentally make - gasp - a tough crust. There are all sorts of tricks and tips and recommendations, but I have discovered that making a good, flaky pie crust really ain't that tough. You just need to follow one simple principle.

IT HAS TO BE COLD.

Really, that's it. A flaky crust is achieved by layers of fat melting slowly, for which they need to be cold. As long as you use cold water and cold shortening, your crust will turn out just fine.

Here is what you need:

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1.5 cups flour
1/3 cup CHILLED water (at least 8 hours in the fridge)
3/4 cup CHILLED Crisco (blah blah blah)

Any kind of all-purpose flour will work, although I don't recommend using 100% whole wheat since it tends to fuck up most baking tasks. I used a cup of white and half a cup of whole wheat, and the crust turned out delicious. You can also use pastry flour, but it's not necessary. I don't recommend bread flour, as gluten is the enemy of a flaky crust. (Also, you can use butter instead of Crisco. Cold butter is impossible to work with, though, so some people recommend grating it beforehand. I've never used butter in crust, but I'm sure you can figure it out for yourself.)

Now do this:

1. Mix up the flour and Crisco using two forks (or one of those pastry masher things if you're fancy). The idea is not to mash them together, but to just push the ingredients around, lightly, until they have formed sticky bits of pseudo-dough. Then add the water, until the dough sticks together (but don't make it too wet!). You should be able to work with the dough without it completely flaking apart, but that's it.

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2. Flour your rolling space and plonk the dough onto it. I have it on good authority that it's best to roll between two pieces of wax paper or in a pastry bag, but I never remember to buy either of those things, so I've found it works just fine to flour your counter, flour the top of the dough, and roll it out. Re-flour the dough as necessary to keep the rolling pin from sticking. (Protip: Any long glass or bottle can work as a rolling pin in a pinch.) Roll it out to about 1/8 inch.

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DO NOT OVERWORK YOUR DOUGH! Working it produces gluten blah blah blah flaky crust. Just roll it out and lay it in your pie pan gently, sticking together and repairing any tears. This is also the time to clean up your edges and flute the crust, which is not as hard as it looks. Just stick a finger inbetween the edge of the dough and the pie plate; mash the dough around your finger and then remove it (your finger, not the dough). And voila!

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Pop the pie crust into the freezer to keep it cold. This is important, remember, cold crust = flaky crust. Go ahead and PREHEAT YOUR OVEN for 450.

Making Your Filling

This basic recipe will probably have to be altered if you're using canned pumpkin, so refer to the directions on the can. Why are you even reading this? You disgust me!

Anyway.

You will need:

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1 - 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 can skim evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
2 eggs (can substitute for 4 egg whites for cholesterol free!)

Mix it up! Use a mixer, hand blender, or actual blender. If you crave a really smooth pie, go ahead and blend the ingredients thoroughly. If you don't mind a few stray pumpkin fibers, just mix it. But make sure to mix it THOROUGHLY, as some of the spices you've used are heavier than others and can sink to the bottom of the pie.

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In place of the spices, I use 3 tsp of pumpkin pie spice I bought at the farmer's market. You can use grocery store mix if you like. Every recipe differs slightly in what spices they call for, so if you feel more comfortable just using a spice mix, I won't tell.

DON'T DESPAIR that your mix is very runny. It will firm up in the oven, I promise!

This should yield plenty of filling for most pie dishes. However, if you have a particularly large or deep dish, you can add more of everything - another cup of pumpkin, another egg, more spices, more sugar, and more evaporated milk. The spices and sugar can be done pretty much to taste, so check on your filling every time you add something. Once it's perfect, go ahead and pour it into your crust!

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Bake It

Pour the filling into the crust. If you have extra, you can make a tiny pie with extra crust or just bake it as a pumpkin pudding. I've been told by veteran bakers that sticking the pie back in the freezer for 20 minutes or so will help the filling set. This is a pretty good idea, especially with pumpkin pie, since the heavier spices have a habit of sinking to the bottom.

Once it's ready, pop it into the oven for 15 minutes. After that, turn the temperature down to 375 and bake for another 40 minutes. Test the pie with a table knife; if it comes out clean, your pie is done! You can also try flaking off a bit of the crust to see if it turned out nice and tender like I promised. You might have to give the pie a little longer, especially if it's very deep. At this point, however, I'd cover up the edges of the crust with tinfoil to avoid them burning.

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And that's it. Your very own pumpkin pie. You're welcome.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Healthy Relationship Classes

Just like everyone else, we have a few odd neighbors. I’d like to think that mine are special, but I know they’re really not. Even so, I still enjoy telling their stories and reminiscing about some of the good times and bad.

Fighting Neighbors

Everybody fights once in a while. If you’re our downstairs neighbors, who own two uncontrollable dogs and seem to hate each other, then fights are a bi-weekly occurrence. Sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 am on a random weekday, our downstairs neighbors will stand by an open window and scream at each other. The words often can’t be distinguished, but the sentiment is unmistakable.

(I had a dog-related run-in with the fighting neighbors after they’d first moved in. I was heading home from walking Coco, but when I saw that we were all approaching the same door, I backed away from the path – a good ten feet away. Coco was intense, but calm.

Not to be deterred, the two dogs – a German shepherd a black lab – dragged their owner off the path and towards Coco. It wasn’t 100% clear whether the man intended to let them meet, or was simply being dragged by two dogs whose combined weight was at least 20 pounds heavier than he was. Before I could figure out what to do, the shepherd lunged at Coco and bit her on the face.

During this entire display, the female half of the fighting couple just stood behind them with her arms folded. Thanks.

Anyway.)

The fighting couple isn’t the first fighting couple we’ve seen and heard. Last winter, a fleeing man was pursued into the snow in our front courtyard by a hysterical woman, dressed in Goth/Wiccan chic with bare feet, who then threw a Cup Noodle at him. I have no idea.

By far my favorite saga involved a possibly bisexual woman who was being encouraged to leave her current partner (a man) with another woman, who may have been a friend, parent, or potential lover. Loudly encouraged. Very loudly. In the courtyard, when everyone’s windows were open because it was the middle of the summer.

I should mention that both of them sounded like they had been chain-smoking crack and shooting heroin for hours in preparation for the performance.

“JUST TELL ME THIS. WHAT CAN HE GIVE YOU THAT I CAN’T GIVE healthmarr YOU?”

“I DON’T KNOOOOOW.”

“JUST LEAVE WITH ME RIGHT NOW.”

“I CAN’T, I CAN’T!” *sobbing*

“JUST DO IT! YOU DON’T NEED HIM! YOU DON’T OWE HIM ANYTHING!”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

There is a local organization called “P.E.A.C.E. Inc.” that advertises “healthy relationship classes.” They sent us a pamphlet the other day. If I had any balls, I’d go tape it on the fighting couple’s door.

Which brings me to…

Note-Leaving Neighbors

In a shared living space, notes are inevitable. Sometimes people need to communicate important sentiments to each other, and they don’t always know of any way to get those sentiments out in the open except NOTE-LEAVING.

Which has led to some fun times in our building, let me tell you.

The fighting neighbors, as I’ve mentioned, have two uncontrollable dogs. One night I returned from walking Coco to find a note on the fighting neighbors’ door. It read:

Your dog has been barking nonstop all night. As you can imagine, this is very annoying for those of us who live here. Please address this problem as soon as possible.

Your Neighbor

The note had disappeared within a few hours, only to be replaced the next day with another note, expressing the same issues (but in different handwriting). Finally, the fighting neighbors struck back with a long missive that I will paraphrase here.

We would like to apologize for any inconvenienced caused by our dog barking. He is a new arrival and we are in the process of crate training, which, as any dog owners will attest, is very difficult. A bark collar, as inhumane as they are, has been purchased. Please be patient with us during the training process. If you have any further concerns, please contact me at (blah blah blah).

But none of this was nearly as entertaining as the McDonald’s bag.

At one point, someone left a McDonald’s bag full of McDonald’s trash in the hallway. I’m not sure why. But I didn’t get whipped up into the same apoplectic rage as the neighbor who took the trouble to write a note and tape it to the bag:

Trash goes in the basement, NOT in the HALLWAY!

A response was scrawled the next day:

SUCK MY DICK.

Someone threw the bag away.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Healthy and Cheap: Crock Pot Chili!

It can be pretty hard to devise recipes that are high-protein, low-calorie, heart-healthy, and inexpensive. Believe me, I know. But I think this crock pot chili fits the bill.

I have a natural aversion to following recipes literally. Usually, when I read over one, there’s something that doesn’t sit right with me, and so I search other recipes to see what I can find. I cobble something together that sounds good, and usually, it works out just fine.

I’m particularly happy with a crock pot chili recipe that I’ve devised. I used a few different recipes to come up with it, and it’s very quick and easy. It also has the advantage of being a recipe that you can leave for a few extra hours if you can’t get home on time; it’s hard to overcook chili.

This batch makes enough to serve 4 or 5 people, and leftovers can be used to make delicious chili cheese fries. (Just slice up some potatoes, sprinkle with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, bake on a cookie sheet greased with olive oil, flip after 5-7 minutes and bake until both sides are browned. Top with chili and some grated cheese, bake for a few more minutes. Presto!)

Crock Pot Chili

You will need:

1lb ground beef. Less or more is fine, but if you have a small crock pot you’re limited on the amount you can mix in. Feel free to skimp on this; it’s the most expensive ingredient, and you don’t need it.

2 cans beans. Kidney beans, pinto beans, pretty much any kind of bean you’ve ever seen in a chili is fine. Dried beans might work if they are pre-cooked, but I haven’t tried this yet.

1 8oz can tomato sauce.

1 28 oz can stewed tomatoes.

1 green pepper, chopped.

1/2-3/4 large sweet-ish onion, chopped. I recommend against using strong onions in crock pot recipes, as they tend to impart an unpleasantly onion-y flavor into everything.

3 TB chili powder.

1 tsp salt.

1 tsp cayenne pepper. Omit this if you like your chili without any spice, but this is just the right amount for those of us who like it zesty but not spicy enough to burn the tongue.

1 tsp cumin.

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed.

Now:

Brown the meat in a saucepan; drain. Mix all ingredients in crock pot, then set it to low and let it cook for 8-10 hours.

Now enjoy this high-protein, high-fiber, filling and delicious dinner/lunch/snack.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I Wanna Do Bad Things With You

Oh, dear blog, sweet blog. It’s been too long. See, as of now, you’re just a side-project, and I have a real job that demands a lot of attention. Right now, in fact, I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be wrastlin’ up some stories of wacky celebrities for my actual writing job. But I’d rather be here.

I think I got discouraged with this whole venture when I realized that my readership spike, courtesy the Postsecret blogroll, was not going to last. It's always discouraging when you realize that something is going to be an ongoing battle, rather than a one-time deal. Like washing dishes, or cleaning the bathroom, or doing laundry. Or blogging.

It seems like I don't have time to promote this blog, write decent stuff for this blog, AND do my actual job. But dammit, I'm going to try.

Someday I hope this blog will be my job. Thousands of people live this dream, and thousands more are attempting to live it, as evidenced by the number of bloggers constantly bitching about their overstretched budget.

But I've already broken a lot of cardinal rules of Making Money While Blogging, one of which is to "have a theme." I don't have much of a theme. Invariably, anyone who reads my blog is going to have to scroll past a bunch of shit that doesn't interest them if they want to read the stuff that does.

So, basically, what I'm saying is, I'm going to get this blog back on track. I promise.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Stink

I have a very sensitive nose. My mother used to say that hers was “like a bloodhound,” although the metaphor only extends so far, seeing as bloodhounds will inhale their own shit. I think she just meant to say it was sensitive, which it was. And I have the same curse.

At least once a week I play a little game called “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT STANK?” It might take the form of seeking the source of a bloodhound101503a mysterious smell, or repeatedly, obsessively sniffing a food or drink item to make sure that it hasn’t gone bad. I’ve sacrificed many chicken breasts to my “dude that smells rotten” zeal.

Not convinced that it’s a curse? Consider.

1. You know that plastic smell inside new garbage cans? We just bought one of those plastic dispensers filled with water, AND THE WATER SMELLS LIKE THAT. I find it difficult to drink.

2. Car exhaust gives me migraines.

3. One time, Harry vomited on the radiator pipe while it was running full blast. The resultant smell drove me out of the room. Mmm, fried cat sick!

4. I can’t quite bring myself to replace our vacuum cleaner bag, since it’s not technically full, but it gives off this horrible musty odor every time I run it. Ugh. Mom used to have this allegedly vanilla-scented thing she put in hers, but it just made it smell like moldy cookies. Fuck vacuuming.

All this nose power, and I was still unable to detect the rotting onion in my kitchen until it turned into PURE LIQUID DEATH. What good is it?

None. I just emptied my trash and discovered the most amazingly unique and horrifying smell. Most smells in the trash I can identify – old meat, old cheese, old potatoes, old fruits, old veggies. It’s all fine because I know where it’s from. Even the smell of rotten chicken is okay because it’s familiar. This….this was something altogether bearbbh-sense-05 different and awful. And to make things that much more exciting, the handle snapped off the trash bag as I was trying to tie it. For the second time this month.

God as my witness, we will never buy off-brand trash bags again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Motion Picture Association of Fail

Today I was reading some Amazon.com user reviews for the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated. Just, you know, for fun.

The failures of grammar/humanity/logic present there are staggering. STAGGERING.

[Quick background for those who don’t know: this docu is about the MPAA and how incredibly secretive they are, and attempts to examine their standards for rating movies the way they do. The upshot of the whole thing is, no matter what your feelings on censorship, this mostly-anonymous group has WAY too much power. It’s a good film. You should see it.]

mpaa_language

This reviewer gets off to a good start:

Kirby Dick is certainly preaching to the quire when I viewed his documentary that attempts to skewer the MPAA.

I know this is just a function of people using words and phrases without having the slightest idea what they mean or where they come from, but it’s still baffling to me. This is even worse than that omnipresent “sike!” It’s PSYCH, you bastards. Psych. Will USA’s moderately popular television series help drill this into people’s heads?

Anyway. He then goes on to ask why Dick didn’t “aggressively interview” members of the MPAA. Apparently he nodded off sometime during the movie and missed the fact that THEIR NAMES ARE KEPT SECRET, THE PEOPLE HE COULD CONTACT REFUSED TO TALK TO HIM, AND HE DID INTERVIEW SEVERAL FORMER MEMBERS. Wut.

 

Its original packaging, you say? HOW DO YOU KNOW?

DVD arrived in excellent condition, in original packaging.
Film is documentary about how films are rated.
Films are not rated in the manner you would think.

 

Apparently, there is a place for censorship, but not parental responsibility.

If you're a fan of one-sided, two dimensional teenage anti-establishment rant films like "The God Who Wasn't There," you might like this film. If you've ever read a book in your life, you won't. I say this as a long time liberal. There's a place for censorship, it's never perfect, but if you went with your 7 year old to see a film with some of these scenes in it, you'd wish they were edited out.

 

I don’t know if this guy is living in Veronia Mars land or whatever, but I think this is pretty typical of PIs in the real world.

Right off the bat I was kind of smirking to myself when I saw the private investigator he was working with. This woman didn't come off like a professional P.I. at all, more like a typical, nosy, next door neighbor armed with nothing more than a video camera and an online background check subscription.

This one complete with title…..some reviews need no further comment.

This review is G Rated - (couldn't get the PG-13 past the amazon women)

So, there is this Big Bad Wolf, MPAA, aka: studio penguins[suits]. They got a lock[monopoly] that they threaten Little Red Riding Hood[independents] with. If she gets past the lock, then the wolf has to go to grandma's house[consumer], eat her up, and pretend its for her own good.
Some would say this is a form of moral censorship. The industry would like to be quite open about it, but, unfortunately, because it is a secret, well, obviouly it just can't be discussed.
Enter the director, Kirby Dick, who hires a couple of bosum buddy dicks[detectives].
Presto! No more secrets! They literary dig into the trash of suspect members and the result IS HILARIOUS!!!
Remember Jack Valenti is very important. If you don't, well, he will remind you.
There is also an important discussion on Big Business, six I believe, companies that are attempting to control our culture by copyrights, money, political influence, etc., etc..
So for a informative, humorous, current events, etc., etc.,-
YOUR IN FOR AN ENTERTAINING TIME
WELL $PENT!!!

mpaa1

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Things Most People Like That I Don’t

got-to-get-paid

Shakespeare. Language and literature evolve and change, and every day we stand in worship at the Bard’s feet is another day Arthur Miller doesn’t get his due. Seriously, by now we’ve all learned that Shakespeare pretty much just reworked old poems and stories for the stage. Yes, some of them are cool and fun, but he doesn’t deserve credit for creating the theater. Someone else would have done it if he didn’t.

Seinfeld. It’s not funny. If it were actually what it purported to be, a show about “nothing,” it might be entertaining. But it is about something: it’s about fucking ridiculous people who get themselves into circumstances that should not happen to anyone with a functioning brain. Actually, this premise works pretty well for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so maybe it’s just that I hate the entire cast. Which I do, pretty much.

Olives. A lot of people across the country don’t like olives, but now that I live in a town that’s named after some place in Sicily, I am cursed to be surrounded by olives. I’ve spotted maybe four or five obviously Italian people since I moved here last spring, and I cannot believe that they, alone, require every grocery store to have an olive bar the size of an entire deli. It must be the mob. It must be.

‘80s Music. It’s in revival now, I think because kids who grew up with it are now adults and they control the universe. Someone needs to remind them all that ‘80s music is coke-fueled and sucks, no matter how much it reminds them of Mommy rocking them to sleep while they watched Pretty in Pink together. (Yes, there is some good ‘80s music. I actually enjoy being Rickrolled. But I don’t need to hear any more Duran Duran. Srsly.)

Texting. I get the appeal, sort of, but it’s really just another way to stay “wired in” as it were, you kids with your hula hoops and your Twitters. I guess texting somehow bridges the gap between calling and emailing; it’s a way to contact people immediately, but they can also easily ignore you. Personally, I call someone with urgent matters and email all the rest. So far, no need to spend 10 cents on a mutated text message that takes ten minutes to wrangle onto the screen.

Grand Theft Auto. Hey, I like games, and I’ve dipped my toe in the GTA waters occasionally. It’s okay. I just can’t figure out why IV is being hailed as OMG THE GREATEST THING EVER. Most of the voice acting is pretty abysmal, and after watching my boyfriend play hours and hours I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s basically an interactive subpar mafia film. Which is fine, but I’m not wetting my pants over it. Yes, the ads are funny, and yes, the animation is very good. But perfect? Nah.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Things with Wings

Note: This post was written at midnight, but I didn't publish it for some reason. Just imagine the time stamp says 12:00.

I think it can be universally agreed that there is nothing found in a typical WASP kitchen more disgusting than raw chicken breasts. They’re slimy, they’re fatty, they’re a sickly shade of grey/pink. They’re incredibly difficult to slice, although my kitchen scissors technique serves me pretty well. They’re just gross and evil.

Just moments ago, I pulled some chicken breasts out of the fridge to stick them in marinade. They’d been in there MAYBE five days, so it didn’t even occur to me that they might have gone south. But soon after opening the ziploc bag, that sickly, garbage, dog-fart smell hit me.

I should have just accepted it and moved on. I really should have. But instead, I brought them to my nose and sniffed.

WHY?

They are now securely wrapped in the garbage, and my stomach is churning like a washing machine. The horror.batman300

Anyway.

Last night, around this time, we were packed in a theater surrounded by a bunch of nerds. There were several people in costume, including a few Batmen, a Harvey Dent, a Joker, and a Robin (dream on, little buddy). You guessed it: we saw Mamma Mia!

I apologize for the juvenile nature of that joke.

It was The Dark Knight, of course, and aside from being robbed of the opportunity to see a trailer for Watchmen, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. You can read more about the night here, or read my review of the movie.

I have to go vomit now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

And By the Way, Who is David?

Since I finally bought my wedding dress on Sunday, I wanted to share my experience of NOT buying a dress. Naturally, it happened at the center of all things unholy: David’s Bridal. Here is the post I made on a wedding-related Livejournal community shortly afterwards. (FMIL stands for Future Mother-in-Law.)

Mostly because my FMIL demanded it, I went to David's Bridal yesterday to try on dresses. I've pretty much decided to buy my dress from a local shop that specializes in proms, because they have a lot of designers that I like and are much cheaper since they cater to broke high school students rather than fanatical brides. But with my own mom shunning me for marrying an atheist (HE IS NOT A CHRISTIUNNNNAAAAH! etc.), FMIL has basically been a surrogate mother to me for the last year. Plus, she was paying for dinner. I couldn't say no!


We headed to the David's Bridal on Erie Blvd. in Syracuse. My first thought was OHMYGOD MIRRORS EVERYWHERE. I imagine that's common to all DBs, but it was very unnerving for someone who doesn't like to look at herself. Every time I rounded a corner, ME! I browsed the peripherals for a while, because I wasn't quite ready to plunge into dress shopping yet. They had a pretty paltry selection of shoes. I don't know how many lines they actually produce, but their s320x240 shoe section was small and they barely had anything in my size (9). Of course, each style of shoe fit VERY differently and none of them were comfortable. But that's pretty normal for me, Miss Widefoot.
Looking at the veils up close, they seemed like a massive ripoff. $120 for a pile of tulle on a comb? They sold some nice airy shawls for $20 that were actually made of a nicer material, so I got one in Apple and decided to make my own damn veil. TAKE THAT BRIDAL INDUSTRY.


The dress trying-on was inevitable. I picked out a few styles I liked, one in my street size and one in the next, just in case. Of course, you have to register to try on dresses. Why? Are they afraid you'll run off with it, veil sailing in the wind? The process was relatively painless, although when I told the employee that I had 4 bridesmaids, she immediately wrote in 4 groomsmen as well. We don't have groomsmen. We don't have any male attendants. Do they never get slightly offbeat weddings in their store, or what? It just seemed like an odd presumption to make.


I also had to give my bra size, which I accurately reported as 38C. Within a few moments, I found myself locked in a stuffy dressing room, surrounded by pounds of fabric. I was instructed to put on my shoes, THEN the corset, THEN the slip. I think. (This was wrong, as I later found out.) So I stripped down and started attempting to wrap the corset around myself. It was a no-go, unsurprisingly. Apparently, the undergarment industry doesn't believe in the existence of fat women, because OBVIOUSLY EVERYONE WITH A 38C HAS THE jordan_aka_katie_price_wedding_dress11 SAME SIZE STOMACH RIGHT? I don't. I ended up having to throw a few garments back on and yell for help, which came in the form of a bigger corset with a bra that was several cup sizes too big. Awesome.


The dresses were the same story - tight in the belly, big on top. Huge ego boost there. They assured me that alterations in the bust were no big deal, and that I was OH SO LUCKY to be tall enough that I wouldn't need a hem, which is the most expensive alteration for some reason. (Personally, if I were a seamstress, I'd rather do a hem than anything else. Diff'r'nt strokes.)


I didn't really like how the dresses looked on me, but it was fun to dress up as a bride with a saggy top for a while. I did get to see the tiara I was interested in, plus one of their ridiculously overpriced veils. (The shoes I picked were a living hell, and only lasted about 10 minutes before my Birkenstock feet needed a break.) My face was all pink and sweaty from struggling with the voluminous undergarments, but I WAS A BRIDE!!!11111eleventy!


I was happy to get back into my street clothes. I worked with a few of the salesladies, but the one I was around most often smelled strongly of acrid smoke - not typical "I just took a cigarette break" smoke, but more "I smoke every half hour when I'm at work and I've been wearing these clothes for five days in a row without washing them." It was just ugh. Her attitude was a little unprofessional, which I didn't mind so much, but I didn't really like it when she pointed out my giant hips. You know, "the reason we need to go a size up is because of her hips." Yeah, I know I'm fat. kthx. I know she meant zero offense, but it made me feel vulnerable while standing on a pedestal in front of dozens of strangers.


I do have to give her credit for not being too pushy. I told her I 8428994-peopleareshapes hadn't decided which dress I liked best, and she said she'd call me sometime. It was pretty painless to weasel out of buying something.
Overall, not a terrible experience, but not the Magical Fun Time that a lot of brides seem to have. I'm just not into the idea of dropping $700 on a dress that doesn't really look that great, and weighs 30 pounds. I'm kind of glad I didn't bring a camera...I know I looked awful.


Dinner was at Friendly's. Nothing but an A+ review there!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hell is Other People (‘s Laundry)

Many years ago, most land was owned by a small percentage of rich white males. If you weren’t fortunate enough to be a member of such a male’s family, or have a job that included a place to stay, you had to rent from one of these males. This tradition continued for many years, and eventually distilled down to modern apartment buildings that the owner visits maybe once a decade. You know, landladies used to cook breakfast for their tenants. I’m just saying.

On the positive side, renters are now afforded a large amount of independence. Getting a house and land of your own is no longer a laundry_21746_lg priority for many people, since an apartment is basically a mini-house that you can just leave when your lease is up, instead of trying to sell it for a fraction of the price you paid 15 years ago. If you find the right place, you can do whatever you want – paint, have pets, be loud and obnoxious a 3 in the morning, et cetera.

One problem, however, has yet to be solved: communal laundry.

In some, rare cases, renters get their own washer and dryer. But most don’t. Since everyone has to do laundry, and most people only need to do a few loads per week, it makes sense to team up. Like many apartment complexes, ours has a mini-laundromat in the basement. Three washers, three dryers. Since all the buildings are connected via the basement, in a complex series of underground tunnels, one has the ability to use another building’s machine in the event of overcrowding or malfunction.

Today, I decided it was time to venture into the dark. Both of our couches are extremely old and ratty hand-me-downs, not that I am complaining, because they were free. And, as far as we know, not infested with fleas or diseases. But it was pretty much imperative to cover them up with something, since they looked like hell and smelled strongly of Chef Boyardee.

So, we have two couch covers. And now that we have a dog, they smell like rotten chicken and are covered in hair. It’s imperative to wash them at least once every few weeks, and since we’ve got family coming over to dogsit during the midnight showing of the The Dark Knight, I felt the place should have some usable seating.

So, I stripped off the covers and headed down to the basement.

When I reached the machines, I saw that all three washers were marked with a neat sticky-note that stated something like:

Flashes once THREE TIMES “choose cycle” called Mac Gray 7/12/08

I don’t know what the hell is going on. Although it’s quite possible that this person is insane, I really don’t want to take the chance of it stealing my $1.75 and refusing to go. So, I decide to take a little journey to the adjacent laundry room.Laundry-Posters

I should mention at this point that our basement is creepy as fuck. Not the actual laundry part, really; it’s a little dirty, and there is a mysterious storage room filled with random household items and possibly the jarred head of one of Hannibal Lecter’s victims, but other than that, no biggie. It’s when you start to venture into the pathways that connect the buildings…

Pipes cover the ceiling. Scratch that, they ARE the ceiling. In some places, they’re so low that anyone over 5’ would have to hunch over to avoid a concussion. Cobwebs are everywhere. The hallways are dank and narrow, and lined with mysterious unlabelled doors. I think my actual worst nightmare would be getting stuck down there in a power outage. I should really start carrying a flashlight.

Some rooms have gas meters on the walls, others have cable connections hanging precariously from the ceiling. Others are eerily empty. Since I’ve traveled between this building and the next before, I wasn’t too freaked out; I just made my way calmly to the next laundry room, basket in tow.

All three washers are filled with clothes. Two are running, and one has completed its last cycle. I have no way of knowing how long it has been. And so the conundrum begins.

Is it my right to remove this person’s laundry and leave it in a wet lump on top of the machine? For all I know, the cycle ended five minutes ago and the person is on their way down the stairs as we speak. What if, horror of horrors, they CATCH ME REMOVING THEIR CLOTHES?

DUN DUN DUN.

Then again, maybe it ended an hour ago and this person isn’t coming back for days. Yes, it’s happened – I once removed a person’s clothes from the dryer, reusable sanitary pads and all, and set it on top of the machines. Where it remained. For about a week.

(On a side note, can we pass an edict that people with communal laundry systems PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT USE CLOTH SANITARY NAPKINS? Highlight of website: 100% money back guarantee. Try our pads for yourself for 3 months - if you aren't completely satisfied with their performance - return your pads for a 100% refund (excludes postage). I don’t know about you, but I would NOT work in that Customer Service department.)

I really have no idea what to do in this situation. If a single person has decided to use all three laundry machines at once, then they deserve to have their clothes in a wet lump. In fact, they deserve much worse than that. But what if I come back down to find a note reading, “HEY ASSHOLE, I AM SO SORRY THAT YOU WERE IN SUCH A HURRY THAT YOU COULDN’T WAIT FIVE MINUTES FOR ME TO COME GET MY CLOTHES…HAVE A NICE LIFE! P.S. I PUT POISONOUS SNAKES IN YOUR LAUNDRY, ENJOY.” Chances are, this person doesn’t realize that there are no other available machines in the general area, and I really had no choice but to do what I did.

So, I decided to venture beyond the two laundry rooms with which I am familiar…into the great beyond.

I found: mysterious doors, cobwebs, a giant rusty water tank, and a room that contained a wicker bench with a hurricane lamp sitting on it. I did not enter this room.

At this point, I decided to give up and return to Laundry Room #2. I had now given this person ample time to return for his or her laundry, and I couldn’t wait around any longer.

Pulse racing, I dug the sopping clothes out of the washer and piled them all on top of the adjacent machine. I shoved my own laundry in, poured in detergent, slammed the door, and chose my cycle….and ran.

I’m afraid to go back. But I have to. I have to.

Hey, all you wonderful hip young people with communal laundry rooms – here are some tips to keep in mind. It’ll keep us all healthy and happy.

1. I am truly sorry if, for some reason, you had no choice but to let your laundry pile up for several months. However, no matter how many loads of laundry you need to get done OH MY GOD RIGHT NOW, please for the love of God do not use more than two machines at a time, AT THE VERY MOST. Unless you have a laundromat with like 50 machines, in which case, go nuts.

2. Keep track of your goddamn laundry. Now, if you are running two-three loads simultaneously, despite my advice, you had better set a kitchen timer and be down there at THE EXACT MOMENT when the laundry is done. But if you are using one machine like a reasonable person, you should still be considerate, especially at peak times – evenings, weekends, et cetera. Don’t start a load if you can’t be back to check it at the proper time. Or, do your laundry at 3 in the morning and don't worry about it.

3. If you are not able to keep an eye on your laundry, leave a basket with it. The odds of someone stealing your basket are fairly low, plus they cost about $2 so you can just buy a new one. Leaving a basket with your clothes ensures that the next person to use the machine will have somewhere to put them, rather than in a pile on top of the machine.

4. If you are a paranoid schizophrenic, please refrain from leaving incoherent notes on the washing machines. Also, take your pills.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Recipes for Lazy People: Catalina Stew

Hopefully, this will become a regular feature on my blog.

YOU WILL NEED:

A crock pot

3-4 potatoes

small package of stew beef

1 small onion

3 carrots

1.5-2 bottles of Sweet Honey Catalina salad dressing

Chop and mix. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low. Enjoy.

P.S. I cannot even begin to tell you how glad I am that Amazon does NOT offer used salad dressing.

Because There Are Other People in the World, Okay?

I’ve finally put my finger on something that’s been bothering me for a while. This blog has languished while I lacked in time and inspiration, but I’m back in full force now and I have plenty to rant about.

The internet is a haven for pretty much any opinion under the sun, and often, these opinions clash. Argument after argument has made many of us defensive, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else. But, I implore you, gentle readers – if you find yourself about to use the phrase “I don’t understand,” please stop and think about what you really mean.

In my travels on the blogosphere, the only thing that makes me more sick than the word “blogosphere” is seeing things like this:

“I have no interest in seeing the Saw series, and I just don’t understand why they keep making them.”

16_tila3_lgl “I was forced to watch Hellboy last night, and I just don’t understand why they are making a second one!”

“Why does Quentin Tarantino keep ripping off ‘70s movies? Why can’t he do something original? I don’t understand!”

BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY PERSON WITH AN OPINION, OKAY?

I get it, I do. People are pretty much being hyperbolic; they do see the obvious answer, which is, “it makes money.” They’re questioning something a little deeper than that – the integrity of those who produce these things, and the integrity of those who like them.

In some cases, their righteous indignation is warranted. Some things are objectively sleazy and terrible, such as the latter-day “____ Movie” franchise, and Tila Tequila. But when you are making judgements about a well-loved series like Saw without having seen more than a few frames of the movies, at what point do you have to stop and realize what you’re doing?

Yes, things exist that you do not enjoy. Some people like them. If you truly cannot comprehend this, please seek mental help, and more importantly, stop blabbering about what you don’t like. Unless you have something intelligent to say, don’t say anything at all.*

* Yeah, right. This is the internet.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

99 Bottles of Beer

The Plan: Quickly rinse and throw some dishes in the sink to soak in lovely, piping hot water and apple-scented Dawn. Wipe down counter. Sweep floor in preparation for mopping.

The Execution: Quickly rinse dishes, discovering that, for some reason, the garbage smells like rancid tuna and tin. WE JUST ATE THE TUNA A FEW HOURS AGO. WTF. Grumble to self about this issue while attempting to wrestle pile of dishes into the sink. Task  3069 finally completed, proceed to clear floor of objects that impede sweeping. Pick up partially empty six-pack of Labatt Blue, used for a delicious sausage and potato recipe and whenever I feel like cooking something in beer. Balance precariously on crossbeam of table, for some reason.

BEER SMASH

Luckily, just one bottle broke. Casualties included about half a roll of paper towels, the cardboard carrier for the beer, the box for a case of root beer that was nearby, and my sanity. You see, this was not the first mishap of the day.

Earlier, just before my fiancĂ© left for work, he was engaged in a particularly spirited tug o’ war with our dog. They were using her favorite toy, a Woot Monkey. It was all fun and games until one of those “slingshot-like rubber arms” snapped back and hit Coco in the eye.

Initially frightened, she quickly made a full emotional recovery as only animals can. Her humans were a little more frightened; I tested the affected eye with a flashlight to find the pupil properly responsive, though she wouldn’t keep it open all the way. As the evening progressed, Mike called regularly to check on Coco’s status. I Googled, and we debated the need for a trip to the emergency vet (and the possibility of affording it).

Meanwhile, Coco snoozed peacefully, completely unaware that she was the center of so much anxiety. After about an hour, I woke her up to check on her eye.

Picture 1231She looked up, blinked, and both eyes came blissfully open as if nothing had happened. I examined further; all swelling was gone, and aside from some goop in the corner and a slight bloodshot tint, the eyes were identical. A few hours later, the goop was expelled and the eye itself looked much clearer.

There was much rejoicing.

The quick recovery alleviated my fears as only a quick recovery can. I sought solace from pet owners on the internet, but that didn’t go too well. As it turns out, lots of people on the internet will make you feel like you are a Bad Person for not taking your pet to the emergency hospital for something that is, quite clearly, not an emergency. The conversations usually go like this:

“My dog got hit in the eye. She seems okay, but it’s a little swollen. Can this wait until Monday?”

“NO YOUR DOG CAN GO BLIND”

“I really can’t take her to the emergency vet tonight. I don’t have money or a car. I know eye injuries can be serious, but she seems to be recovering just fine.”

“DO YOU WANT YOUR DOG TO GO BLIND? WE CANNOT DIAGNOSE HER OVER THE INTERNET, WE ARE NOT VETS.”

“Look, trying to make me panic isn’t going to change the fact that I CANNOT TAKE HER TO THE VET RIGHT NOW. Can someone just tell me if this is likely to be a serious problem, given the detailed information I have provided?”

“RARRR BAD PET OWNER RARRRR”

Oh, there is a possibility that she could go blind from being hit in the eye with some fabric? That changes EVERYTHING, I’ll just walk the five miles to the emergency vet and pull the $94 exam fee out of my ass!

Sometimes I hate the internet.

Anyway, all is well now. Except the trash smells like rancid tuna, tin, AND cheap beer.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Truth, Justice, and the Right to Spam

Well, it’s the fourth of July. Time for barbecuing, lemonade, fireworks, being forced to talk to your extended family members, et cetera…

I’m celebrating by working, as usual. When you freelance, there is never a day off – something always needs doing. The internet is worldwide, so business hours never end. On the plus side, you can drink whenever you want.

Speaking of controlled substances, I dyed my hair red and blue for the holiday. Well, in streaks. Mostly because I didn’t want to get hair dye all over my skin and I don’t care what anybody says, putting conditioner or vaseline on your skin does not prevent staining.

Picture 1099 Picture 1100

We are taking a picnic to a local park today. It has a double purpose, because someday soon, we might take pictures for our wedding invitations there. Hopefully. I have left the planning of this in the hands of my fiancé, who, being a man, does not understand that weddings need to be planned more than three days in advance.

One final note to those who might be taking road trips for the holiday: before you head out, see if your local toy or novelty store has one of these babies in stock. It is endlessly entertaining, and amazingly clairvoyant. Before long, you’ll be smashing it open to see where it keeps its brain.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Shamu, The Mysterious Whale

Every time we go to the vet, we manage to spend upwards of $400 on medications, preventative pills and drops, vaccinations, something called a “biohazard disposal fee,” etc. etc… and that’s with a healthy dog. We’ll end up selling a kidney if she ever actually needs the vet.

Picture 1079 I can’t complain too much about flea prevention, because fleas make my life hell. And heartworms? Well, that sounds awfully unpleasant. Anything for our little girl!

And, of course, allergy treatments. Benadryl twice daily isn’t so bad; we buy the store brand and Coco happily takes her pills wrapped in cheese with little fuss. But then there’s the prescription ear drops, and the cleaning, and the possibility of having to put her on an even more premium food. Is Innova at $50/bag in our future? Please God no. (And no thank you, Mr. Vet, I will not buy Hill’s prescription foods that they pay you to promote. Hill’s makes Science Diet, which, despite the name, is like feeding your dog McDonald’s every day. I can read an ingredients list as well as you can. Yes, I know that “most over the counter dog foods have the same ingredients.” Our food doesn’t. Shut up.)

When it comes to the medical profession, I’ve always had a healthy dose of suspicion. It’s a far cry from paranoia – it’s just that I don’t trust doctors to be supergeniuses, and so far it has served me pretty well. Like everyone else, vets are in business to earn money, and if Hill’s pays them to promote their products, well…

I can do the research and surround myself with dog people who aren’t in it for the money, but for the love of animals. I can find out what’s up. I can learn the common allergens and go out of my way to buy food that will keep Coco healthy. Picture 1089

Like most doctors, vets don’t bother to promote a truly healthful diet because a) it’s expensive and b) ultimately, it might not have an appreciable effect on your overall well-being. Most humans eat like crap, and most dogs eat like crap, but thanks to modern medicine we’re all living WAY past our natural life expectancy. I can’t really criticize vets for not insisting on premium foods; just please, trust me when I say I’m feeding my dog well. Because I am.

Ultimately, the most entertaining part of our visit was the Sarah Silverman soundalike who kept whining to the receptionist about how she lived OH SO FAR AWAY and COULDN’T GET OUT OF WORK EARLY and DID SHE REALLY HAVE TO COME BACK IN SEVEN DAYS. Hey, perky? Are there seriously no veterinary practices closer than an hour and forty minutes away? Because, if there are, then you really don’t have any right to complain.

And a special brand of hostility goes out to the person who called the vet while we were in the waiting room, asking if s/he could have his/her puppy’s ears docked. Not cool, buddy. Not cool.

2008: The Year for Movies

Yes, I am excited for The Dark Knight. I don't care if that makes me EXACTLY THE SAME as five billion other people on the internet. I am a fangirl.

Batman Begins was far from my Movie of the Year; I thought it took itself far too seriously, considering that it was about a man who dresses up in a giant rubber fetish suit. While it was a welcome rBatslap.thumbnailelief from the utter goofiness of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher reign, it swung too far in the other direction. Plus, Ra's al Ghul? Talk about your obscure villains. He's right up there with the Toymaker (Real name: Cosmo Krank. Seriously.)

Now, we're down to the villain to end all Batman villains, even considering that there are approximately 85 of them. The Joker is everybody's favorite. There is always something sinister about his jovial demeanor, even in the silliest of plots. And Heath Ledger, according to all reports, is takin' it to the max.

Alan Moore's Joker origin story, The Killing Joke, is one of my all-time favorite comic book stories. The man can weave a tale. And though we've been told that no Joker origins will be shown in The Dark Knight, it makes the character that much richer for me. To know that he was once a struggling comedian who fell in with the wrong crowd - what a story.

But The Dark Knight is a few weeks away. I'm considering seeing Hellboy II inbetween then and now, because I liked the first one and this one is supposed to be even better.

Today, Netflix served up Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs. I was never a rabid fan of the show - I didn't even watch it when it was on, but when I finally caught it on DVD, I enjoyed the series. I never found it as consistently funny as, say, early Family Guy - but then I was never a Simpsons fan either. Oddly enough, the few dramatic/tearjerking episodes were actually some of the strongest. (God damn you, The Sting. God damn you.)

Bender's Big Score, the previous direct-to-DVD feature, certainly could have been worse. It was stronger than Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, but nowhere near The Simpsons Movie. If you looked at it as being a long episode of the show, it was perfectly serviceable.

Personally, I felt The Beast... improved upon the previous installment. It seemed more cohesive and was certainly more compelling, story-wise, with roughly the same number of laughs. With the titular creature, Yivo, as a metaphor for Christianity, there were certainly a few "hmm" moments (as well as some witty jabs disguised as humor - of course).

I won't go into a detailed summary, because this post is long enough already. I do recommend The Beast... to Futurama fans, who hopefully will not be disappointed and upset at me for personally steering them wrong. I'M SORRY! WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No, I Will Not Have American Cheese At My Wedding

Do you know what our problem is, as a society, these days? Too many choices. Choices are what you get after you banish tradition and ceremony, and decide to forge your own path. Freedom is great, but it’s also kind of a burden.

Never has this been more true than in the planning of my wedding. After reading The Offbeat Bride: Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides by Ariel Stallings, I decided once and for all that I didn’t want a poofy, flower-laden, whitewashed, fairy tale wedding. I just wanted to get married, and to have a party to celebrate it. Never a part of the marriage-obsessed female culture, I just wanted to have fun.

But my transformation into an offbeat bride didn’t happen overnight. There was a time when I wouldn’t hear of canned soda or pizza at my wedding, but I’ve found that it’s better to just relax and not worry about people’s perceptions. I’ve gradually come to accept that a wedding doesn’t need to have flowers, an open bar, or a DJ who insists on playing at least one of the songs on your “PLEASE DO NOT PLAY THIS IT MAKES MY EARS BLEED” list.

The weddings featured on Ariel’s blog have been an ongoing source of inspiration. This recent affair is one of my favorites, even if a polka-dot dress isn’t really in the works for me. I like to pick and choose my favorite elements and mentally collage them into My Perfect Day.

But once you open the floodgates of Offbeat Brideism, there really is no going back. Everything must be questioned. Do you want to walk down the aisle, or enter by trapeze? Do you want to throw your bouquet, or hand it off to your lesbian relatives as a sociopolitical statement about marriage equality? Do you want to have a cake cutting, or a donut fight?

I truly believe that traditional brides have an easier time of it, just floating along on prefabricated clouds of Weddingness. They question nothing, and therefore have a script already written for them.

Speaking of scripts, I really should get back to writing my ceremony. But before I do, I’d like to share a few of my hard limits when it comes to my wedding. As flexible as I’ve been, these are things I simply will not entertain.

1. American cheese.

2. Our dog as ringbearer.

3. Stiletto heels.

4. Anyone asking me “so, why aren’t your parents here?”

5. Favors in tiny plastic swans.

6. Uncomfortable shoes.

7. Wire hangers. (j/k, j/k.)

Because you have to draw the line somewhere.