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Sunday, October 28, 2007

If There's A Law Against This, Then I Am Way Overdue For An Orange Jumpsuit Fitting


There's a tired old bit of conventional wisdom about profanity being the crutch of people with lousy vocabularies and, quite frankly, I find that to be a load of crap. My command of the English language is something about which I am both inordinately vain and proud, yet I find that, in certain situations, nothing gets it done like good, old-fashioned cussing. Let's face it, swearing feels good. It releases pent-up frustrations, channels anger in a nonviolent direction, and likely rids your body of free radicals and aging phototoxins or some such other junk. It probably saves me approximately eleventy billion dollars annually on expensive spa treatments, cosmetic surgery, and Oil of Olay In A Drum. All that just from saying The F-Word when the button to open the microwave jams. Again.

Imagine my dismay, then, when this news item came to my attention recently:

WOMAN FACES JAIL TIME FOR SWEARING AT TOILET
A West Scranton woman could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300 for allegedly shouting profanities at an overflowing toilet while inside her Luzerne Street home. Dawn Herb, whose potty mouth caught the attention of an off-duty police officer, was charged with disorderly conduct recently, prompting her to fire off a letter to the editor and vow to fight the charge.

Boy oh boy, is this troublesome. There is a sheriff's deputy that lives behind me, catty-corner actually, and when I deliver a blistering philippic to my electric can opener on a semi-weekly basis--the kind that inevitably begins with, "Why, you son-of-a-bitch!" at the top of my voice, it is entirely possible that he can hear me. Actually, it is entirely possible that most of the neighborhood can hear me. I hate this damned can opener. It's one of those "space saver" models that mounts under the cupboard above. I like that part of it. But, for some reason, it only works about a third of the time. The rest of the time it lets go of the can, or it refuses to bite down all the way, forcing me to send the can around and around and around about forty-seven times to get the fricking thing open, or it completely comes apart and I'm left with the entire opener apparatus stuck to the can which is still unopened. Then, the real yelling starts. Please, do not ask me why I have not purchased a new can opener. I really do not know. What am I waiting for? you may ask. Perhaps I am waiting for Rick to rescue me by coming home one day with a new can opener of his own accord. Perhaps my natural stubbornness and innate frugality are merely winning this war. After all, as often as I use this can opener, is it worth it to buy a new one? And let me stave off any queries regarding the Usage Of A Manual Apparatus. None of those in the house are operational, either. I know! It's like the Dept. is the place where can openers go to Exact Their Revenge! Sigh. But I digress.

And now, thanks to poor Dawn Herb of West Scranton, I have to worry about starting a shocking career as a criminal, led down the path of wrongdoing by a kitchen appliance. Her citation accuses her of "using obscene language or gestures with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm or recklessly (creating) a risk". This sounds like a lot of b.s. to me. And it does to Ms. Herb as well. “There was no intent to do anything,” Ms. Herb said. “I just feel so violated and irritated ... I don’t even have a criminal record.”

What recourse do habitual users of the more blasphemous invective have, now that we have been threatened with police action? Must we change our ways? Are we to cower in our homes, shut our windows, lower our voices, gargle with cologne to sweeten our jeremiads and lighten our tirades? No, says Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union based in Philadelphia. “It cannot be the basis for a citation. You can’t prosecute somebody for swearing at a cop or a toilet,” she said. “We bring one of these cases a year and sue some police departments because they do not remember that they are not the language police.”

Hear, hear! If there must be Language Police, then let them do the Real Work Of The Language That Must Be Done, such as stamping out "irregardless" or the improper use of apostrophes to make common nouns plural or the constant misuse of "it's" as a possessive. Good God, there's a helluva lot more for them to do than pick on a few of us cussers!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Epiphany

Some things just sort of creep up on you. You know how it is: you look at the calendar and suddenly, it's almost Christmas. Or you realize you forgot about your nephew's birthday. Worse, you pull out those navy pants now that it's fall and the waistband is a leetle bit tight. Where did those pounds come from? You didn't think you ate quite that many Lay's Classic potato chips right from the bag, but it looks like you did. This morning, a new grey hair is glinting at you from your bangs. And the habit that your husband has of leaving the room and leaving the remote for the TV in his chair across the room is now grounds for divorce. It's this kind of stuff that can lurk in the dusky margins of your life quite innocuously for oh, so very long, until one day, any one of them can be The One Thing that it takes to make you stop and Re-evaluate Your Life.

Readers, I've had That Moment. And I am going to share it with you. It was when I realized that Google had replaced my mother.
Oh, I can hear your anguished cries. Your ragged gasps. Your wailing and gnashing of teeth.

All that crap.

Er, lamentation.

Imagine my own dismay. But we all know that the first step on the Road to Recovery is knowing that you have a problem, and once I identified the problem, I knew I was on the way to solving it.

For years now, my mother has been crabbing at me about how I never call her and that she always has to be the one to call if we are ever going to talk at all. This is true. I won't deny that. My aversion to the telephone is well-known. I am not a Social Telephone Talker. To me, a telephone is a Necessary Communication Device, such as: "Hello? Yes, this is Nance. I will be there to meet you at 11:00 A.M. What should I wear, heels or flats? Thank you. Goodbye."

But my mother, who loves to chat on the telephone, cares not for my excuse. "I am your mother," she reminds me. "Don't you think I'd like to hear from you?"

Honestly, my reply in my head is, "Not really. Jared is away at college, and Hell be damned sure he doesn't really want to hear a whole lot from me. Sam is at the junior college and then goes to work and has his cell phone and he never ever checks in, even under penalty of death or vacuuming, so he doesn't want to hear from me. So, no, Mom. I can't imagine why you'd want to hear from me." But, do I say that aloud? Oh, heavens no. She's 78 and she can't really take it, I don't think. (Although...she is pretty tough, and she did raise me, after all. But, I'm more like my father was. But I digress.)

What I really say is, "Oh, Mom, I'm sorry. You know how I hate the phone. It's easier if you just call me. It's not like I'll hang up on you for heaven's sake."

And then she aims really low and pushes the classic Guilt Button: "You used to call me a lot more often."

And I realize that this is true. It really is. I used to call her tons more often. Tons. I'd be doing my crossword puzzle and call her and say, "Hey, Mom! What was the name of the guy who...?" and she'd know it if it was, say, from the 1920s through the 1960s, or in American history at all. Or, I'd call her from the lounge at school if we were trying like crazy to think of the name of some actor who was in an old movie that we were talking about or the words to an old song from the forties. Or let's say I was teaching an American novel that had a reference to an old product, like Ipana in it. I'd call her up and say, "Mom, what in the heck is I-P-A-N-A and how do you pronounce it, even?" And she'd get all excited and tell some bigass story about it from her childhood and even sing a jingle from the radio for it.

Sigh.

Not anymore.

Now...I have Google.

Let's face it: Google has made my mother obsolete. Who needs Patsy June when I have Google? It's faster and it's more complete. AND--I ask Google one question and get one answer. I don't have to also hear about grandchildren, my brother and sisters, my uncles and aunts, or any aches and pains. It's strictly business and one-way. Google is less involved.

Google replaced my mother.

Now that I've identified my problem, I think I've actually embraced it. I'm not even sure it's a problem anymore. Thanks for all your help! You guys are the best!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Politics: No Joke...Except This One


Quickie post, and it's material stolen from Defective Yeti. This has to be the best Knock Knock joke around right now. It is also, however, the saddest and most poignant. I'll be back later with a real post. Here goes.

Knock knock
Who's there?
George W. Bush

Oh, god. Still?
Yes, for 14 more months

F_*k.

Sigh.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh, Canada! And Some Other Stuff While I'm At It


I'm going to start with my biggest idea first and then it will likely go downhill from there. (How many other blogs are kind enough to provide such an endearing caveat, now answer me that, will you?)

This past weekend, Rick and I sneaked back up to Canada--Our Neighbour To The North--for a little trip. (This sparked a rather spirited and Seinfeldian discussion as to the proper terminology for said occurrence. What, really, should we have called it? We determined that "vacation" was a gross misnomer: vacations connote a longer stay than just our Friday-Saturday-home on Sunday-trip. A proper "vacation" must be at least one week, we decided. "Holiday" sounds too affected and British, and really implies something festive and event-oriented; we were not doing much of anything of the sort and are absolutely not British and while I am often affected, strove not to be while in Canada. This time. "Getaway" is certainly useful and very multipurpose, but tends to conjure up visions of spontaneous air travel and the leaving behind of distasteful and chaotic situations that one can no longer tolerate but must return to nonetheless. While this can often describe my career at The Rock, it is really not entirely truthful. We finally settled on "jaunt", which I am particularly happy about since it calls up images of car travel and energetic-ness and small go-look-ats within the short trip itself which is exactly what we did. But, as usual, I digress. Wow. A lot.)

Anyway. While we were sitting in a longish line at the Peace Bridge, waiting to cross into Canada, a Big Idea came to me. I was incredibly bored sitting there, as was everyone else, I am certain. What a missed opportunity, I thought. Here we all are, sitting in lines waiting to cross into an entirely different country, and all we are doing is waiting. (By the way, there were 15 lanes going into Canada. Only 8 were open. Why? I have noticed this phenomenon in banks, grocery stores, and other establishments. Why even build all those checkouts/lanes if they are never going to be utilized? If you are going to only have, say 11 lanes open, then just build 11. But I digress.)

So, back to us all waiting. I turn to Rick and say, "You know, this is a huge waste of time and resources. Why doesn't Canada take this amazing opportunity to entertain incoming tourists? Or educate us? There could be a huge slide show featuring famous Canadians! There could be wandering singers, or a figure dressed up like a moose and a Mountie. They could have a curling demonstration. There are tons and tons of Canada-intensive things that could be going on right at this moment, but instead, we are sitting here worrying about what they might ask us at the border and how long they will take. Remember at Sea World how they used to have a barbershop quartet that entertained the people in line who were waiting for the show? It made waiting less tedious. Canada should do that. But no mime. Never a mime." (There's never a reason for mimes. Never.)

And this could be going on for the U.S. side as well. I'm not just picking on Canadians. I would never do that. I am a fan of Canada. And Canadians. It's well-documented. But anyway, what do you think? I think the idea has merit, I really do.

Next up: my blog. I have put up a poll for all of you to vote on my latest attempt to alleviate my boredom by changing the color scheme on my blog. Thanks to the 7 of you who have exercised your democratic voices. (Seven, really? Can you not humor me just a little bit? Can you not...oh, good heavens. How pathetic am I, really?) Please feel welcome to offer any color scheme ideas in comments. Offer any topic ideas in comments. (Offer me menu planning in comments, but only if you're going to come here and shop for the groceries, too.) Seriously, I wish I weren't so persnickety about color and appearance; I'd just whomp up the basic template and be done with it. Why am I such a frickin' project? (Rick asks me this every day. He mutters it, though, and is astounded that I hear it.)

Related topic: The Tie Report. I do this mainly for me (and for Brian, but you know...it's almost as if he doesn't even read it!) and will continue to, but I wonder if any of you Fairly Newcomers even are aware that it exists. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please scroll down my sidebar to read my nightly report on the tie being worn by Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News. If you're thinking, "What? Why on earth would I want to read something as dull as that?", then clearly you need to read it.

Oh, and can I just be a homer for a moment? HOW ABOUT THOSE INDIANS?!

Rick and I stayed at a small country inn while in Canada; our room was charming and lovely, but it had no television. We went down to "the lounge" (that's Canadian for "living room") and watched the baseball game with other guests from Connecticut, Detroit, and Canada, all of whom were Indians fans. We chatted and cheered and had smart, lovely conversation. I was in heaven. As a matter of fact, I was in heaven pretty much the entire weekend: excellent wine, good food, delightful innkeeper, intelligent and pleasant company in the inn's breakfast room, and no rain. And I've finally gotten smart: I'm not telling anyone where we stay. Too many people know and it's nigh unto impossible to get a room in the summertime. Don't ask me! I mean it, now!

Last item: While shopping in Canada, I passed several times a store selling not only the hideous Crocs, but the little doodads that stick on them. Every time I passed the place, I said energetically, to no one in particular, "Stop selling Crocs!" It was my personal protest. I feel good about that.

And all this other stuff, too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yawn.


Let me warn you now--the only reason I'm posting is because it's been about five days and it's time. I usually post about every five days, and I don't want to lose readers by not following through on the informal contract I've established here at the Dept.

But I've really got nothing to say. I'm at that stage right now where I'm that ten-year-old brat who's standing at the front door on June 15th, bathed in glorious sunshine while her mother is inside doing laundry, feeding the baby with one hand and unloading the dishwasher with the other, and I'm pushing my forehead through the screen whining, "but I'm bored!"

It's terrible. I have a really low Boredom Threshhold. I start handing back student papers in class, and I stop and make my aide do it because I get massively bored. I hate the whole tedium of it: look at the name, walk to the kid, hand the paper to the kid (sometimes waiting for the kid to realize that I'm standing right there in front of her with her paper in front of her), turn around, repeat ad nauseum. And the grading! Right now, I'm grading the Act II test of the Arthur Miller play The Crucible. There are two essay questions. Imagine reading the same responses 95 times. That's what I'm doing. I want to stab my own eyeballs out. I mean, I realize that it's necessary. And some of the responses are well-written enough that they are not a punishment to read. But it's not like I'm reading for pleasure here. I'm reading the same stuff over and over again. I have to. They have to include certain things in their responses. It's what I'm measuring. It's that time of year, you know?

And I'm continually bored with dinner. What does everyone feel like eating? What do I feel like making? Or, where do we feel like going? Blech. Who cares anymore? Do you know what I had last night for dinner, left alone to my own devices? Here it is, in order: a half-pint of Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut-butter ice cream, a handful of Lay's potato chips, a half sandwich of cold meatloaf. Oh, and later, for a snack, a half of a bagel with a slice of Swiss cheese. Does this sound like the meal of an A.D.D. Refrigerator/Pantry Grazer or what? It's pathetic and sad. And it's all because I am intensely bored.

I'm already bored with The! New! Fall! Television! Lineup! . I wanted to watch "Journeyman" because it sounded like it would be very similar to a book I loved, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Instead, it got bogged down with a dumb secondary plotline and a completely unnecessary character and bored me senseless. That happened to me with "Heroes" last year. I started watching it, but soon realized that they were going to keep introducing character after character after character in a mindless and ceaseless parade for no apparent reason. I got hugely bored. (I surmise that they did, indeed, save the cheerleader, but I find that I don't care if they saved the world.) I wanted to really like "Chuck", but it got "dumb" and I got bored with all the double-agent crap in the second (third?) episode, and the characters got so cartoonish that I was actually yawning I was so bored. Scratch that one. I was charmed at first by "Pushing Daisies," but the nonstop narration started getting so invasively monotonous and boring that I kept noticing something annoying: for a guy whose second touch could kill the girl he's so crazy for, he sure gets damned close to her. Damned close. I just found that bothersome. I started obsessing over the fact that they didn't seem worried over that at all, and they stood really, really close to each other. A lot. To me, that's a problem.

But I digress.

My original point is, I am bored right now with stuff. Like the overall color scheme of my blog. But, I am not one to embrace change, nor risk alienating my readers. Plus, the blue is symbolic of my politics. Yet, I feel like I need a bit of a Fashion Makeover at the Dept. What do you think? Should I go for a new palette? What do you suggest?

Sigh. So many things to consider, yet I really don't feel like it. I'm suffering from Generalized Malaise. But, who isn't? Perhaps a change of scenery will do me good, both in cyberspace and the real world. I'm off for a bit of a getaway this weekend. When I come back, I'll try out your Blog Style Suggestions. In the meantime, I've given you plenty to Brainstorm about.

Friday, October 05, 2007

All The News That's Weird To Print: Cleaning Favorites, Green Glittery Bones, And Second-Story Mushrooms

Sometimes I read the newspaper and I swear that I've entered another dimension, one where the time-space continuum is warped and skewed and all life is madness and real people don't exist. And I'm not reading the Politics section about Republicans or an interview with The Angel of Death about his Surge Strategy or anything, either. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Usually, it's the Inside & Out section of The Plain Dealer, the cleverly titled segment all about gardening and decorating. It contains articles full of helpful hints and stories about things that the average homeowner/gardener reads and scoffs at with varying degrees of intensity. "Oh, certainly I will rub a small amount of linseed oil into the wooden handles of all my tools such as trowels, shovels, hoes, and rakes to prevent them from cracking and drying out!" I say as I read the feature article titled Chores Galore! "I don't even moisturize my flaky legs after every shower." Soon, I am moved by how Readers' Solutions for Cleaning Get Heloise's Seal of Approval. It seems that I missed my chance to send in my own favorite family recipe for cleaning solutions with other NE Ohioans awhile back. Alarmingly, this article took up nearly an entire page and people waxed not only nostalgic but downright poetic about their favorite concoctions for cleaning windows, floors, mirrors, and you-name-it. I nearly became ill. One woman actually wrote of her Aunt Helen's recipe for glass cleaner: "as I touched it lovingly, my heart was flooded with fond memories of her. She loved to clean. She would fill an empty bottle with this concoction and away she went." Good God. Of all the things for which one can be remembered, to have it be cleaning...well...yikes. Allow me to say this: my recipe for a cleaning solution is very simple. If at all possible, hire someone.

But trust the truly insane to come from La Diva Domestique, Martha Stewart. The most bizarre sentences I have ever read in print, bar none, have to be the ones in her column Eerie Decorations for Halloween Fun. I almost had no emotion in my personal database of feelings with which to react to them. Here they are:

(^)A giant glass cheese dome, something I have had in my kitchen for many years, formed the perfect display case for green-glittered plastic skulls and bones when set atop a very large cake stand.

And this caption under a photo of the aforementioned objets d'arts:

(^)Glittered plastic skeletal parts create a dramatic and unexpectedly artful ambience when set off by an oversized glass cheese dome.

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?

O-kay.

You know, it's enough to put me off my paper.

Yet, I soldiered on, unwisely, it turned out. Starting on a column innocuously headed HOME MAINTENANCE, I was intrigued by the headline Remove the Source of Moisture if Mushroom Growing in a Home. This didn't sound too goofy to me; I live in a neighborhood of really old homes, some with dirt floor basements, and mushrooms sprout up in them once in a while. No biggie. Oh, dear reader...! First paragraph: I received an email from a reader recently who found a mushroom growing on a second-floor hardwood floor and asked if this was cause for alarm, and also asked for suggestions on how to handle it.

Holy crap! Is this "cause for alarm?" Ummm...is your second floor a mushroom farm? No? Then hell, yes, it's cause for alarm!

In the meantime, though, since it is October, do you have a slightly oversized cheese dome and some green glitter? Then I have a suggestion....
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