Thursday, January 24, 2013

This Post Is The By-Product Of NEO's Freezing Temperatures: Doing My Part To Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Right this minute, my house is so clean that I am afraid to move in it.  This is what days of frigid temperatures and snow will do:  force me into Domestic Activity.  I even did a few things that were Not Pressing, such as:

1.  Polish a silver tray.
2.  Finally take all of my high heels up to the spare closet.
3.  Update a few pictures in the picture frames.

My fantasy basketball team is falling apart due to injury.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that this week, no amount of research and tinkering will get me the win.  My big men are all hurt; my lineups are decimated.  I've decided to take the week off from the NBA.  Instead, I've found all kinds of interesting things on the Interwebs as I try to forget the fact that the West Egg Gatsbys are losers.

1.  I found out that Ferrero Rocher, those lovely chocolate hazelnut candy orbs, exist because the company that manufactures Nutella wanted to do something with the byproducts remaining from making their signature product.

2.  Do you have a cat?  Do you live in New Zealand?  If you answered yes to both of these questions, you might have a problem because NZ is considering a ban on cats.  An economist, Gareth Morgan, is concerned that cats there may wipe out native species of birds and rodents.  He characterizes cats as "neighborhood serial killers."  Sigh.  In my town of 53000 residents, there are supposedly 14000 feral cats.  How anyone arrived at that number (quoted once in an out-of-state publication), I have no idea.  I see the same two or three stray cats every week.  They drive Piper and Marlowe crazy.  The only killing I've seen is when Marlowe killed a mouse from our basement.  I was thrilled.

3.   John Boehner said recently,"Given what we heard yesterday about the president's vision for his second term, it's pretty clear to me that he knows he can't do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans. So we're expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party. And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal -- to just shove us into the dustbin of history." Wow. He sounds bitter and upset.  But it reminds me of...what was it now?  "Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term."--Mitch McConnell.  I'll let My Dear Readers come up with the line for this one.

4.  Does/Should anyone care whether Beyonce lip-synced the National Anthem?  I didn't think so.  There are other things far more worthy of our distress.  Besides, if Aretha says to back off, that's good enough for me.

5.  I found this quote about Aging.  The fact that it came from a goofy article about what happens when hot girls get old, where they mistakenly attributed it to Hunter S. Thompson, dulls it in my esteem (if only it came from Dorothy Parker instead!), but I still like it:

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming 'WOO HOO what a ride!'"

Those who know me know that I cannot even pretend to be the "skidding in sideways" type, but I like the idea of the whole thing anyway. 

6.  Finally, Jared sent me this ridiculously silly viddy clip.  He loves to send me Interwebs Inanity, and this one made me laugh and laugh and laugh.  I hope it gets to you that way, too.

What silly/interesting/fun things do you have to talk about?  And did you laugh at the viddy?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Those Drops Of Ink That Make The Millions Think...

"One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment." --Hart Crane

Oh, where was this splendid quotation when I was teaching vocabulary to my students every Monday for thirty years?  Yet, even if I had typed it in bright red enormous font and put it up on the SmartBoard, the few who read it would have been mightily unmoved.  "Big deal," they would have thought, "I'm not going to be a writer."


But holy crap, I love words.  True, there are those words that I really dislike saying or hearing, as Jared and I discussed way back in September in this post.  Words that bugged us include sketchy, succulent, squat, and pocketbook.   If you recall, we sort of promised that we'd follow up with a Favourite Words post.  TA DA!  Without any further procrastination on Jared's part ado, let's get to it! 

List of Favourite Words:  Jared

1.  Duration. I love the way it sounds. I like the fact that simply saying those three syllables eliminates clunkiness like “length of time”, “time period”, “however long it lasts” and other such ridiculousness. I work in an industry where time periods (durations! See!?) are critical to us, our customers, and our financial well-being as a company. I recently said to a customer, “Assuming you don’t go over the weight restriction and do not exceed the duration that we previously agreed upon, you are done paying us.” This guy says to me--I shit you not--“Boy, I don’t understand a word of what you just said, but I won’t be curing anything.”  OK then.

2.  Blister.  I like that as soon as you say it, the reaction is visceral. Everyone knows what it is, and everyone hates them more than anything in the world. Get a blister on your foot, you’re out for a week before you can regain your normal gait. Try saying it in a sentence like this, using it as a verb: “The Cavs just got BLISTERED by the Lakers last week.” See!?  Now, say that same sentence and sorta let the “BL” sound flop out of your mouth behind a small forced breath.  It almost pops and rolls out of your mouth with a sort of force that I find nice.

3.  Flabbergasted.   No word in the English language does a better job of fitting an emotion perfectly. It just makes me think of someone so confused that their only logical recourse is to weep while they shake their head from side to side, spit flying, spectacles becoming unwitting projectiles. Because at the point where one is in a state of Flabbergast, there can be no words spoken. One’s mouth does not make words when one is in this state, let alone a complete sentence. Plus, I like the way the word feels when I say it. Like, the way it forms in my mouth.

4.  Scrotum.  Hear me out. Think about some of the other awful and juvenile names for that part of the anatomy. Tell me scrotum isn’t better than all of them. You cannot tell me that unless you are a liar, because that is a lie. It still sounds a little bit crude so that if I want to insult my baby brother, I can say something like, oh, I don’t know, “Quit being such a scrotum and pick your team!”  Even better?  Shorten it. Shorten it to “scrot.” With a short O sound. Throw some talc down there;  prevent scrot sweat.  Tell a friend to “quit it or I’ll sock you in the scrot.” It’s very satisfying.

List of Favourite Words: Nance

1.  Alacrity.  This word gets a lot done.  Even its pronunciation conveys its meaning.  It has that flat little short A in the second syllable, followed by the hard C. Does it mean brisk AND cheerful AND efficient AND ready AND willing? Yep. All of that.  It is the caffeinated assistant who is wired and chipper and anticipatory who also brought you in a cupcake AND your favorite kind of pens AND already did the whatevers BEFORE you even asked.

2.  Horrid.  Looking at the word is like seeing a shudder.  It is wide eyes, crawling skin, cobwebs in your face, and all the creepiness anyone can imagine.  It starts with that huffy H and ends with a sudden DUH.  If you say it with the right emphasis, it can even sound like you're throwing up or retching.  Try it.  So good.

3.  Vast.  The irony of a little, monosyllabic word conveying enormity of space is not lost on me.  When I see this word, I always imagine someone sweeping his/her arm wide over a horizon.  The short A becomes automatically elongated by the sibilant S, which softens the T at the end.  I like to use this word hyperbolically, almost exclusively.

4.  Snark(y).  This is a relatively new word, and one I jumped on immediately.  It's another word that packs a ton of nuance.  Rather than load up on adjectives and say, "Verdele was acting smug and gossipy and snotty and bitchy and arrogant and a little snitty," we can just say, "Verdele was snarky."  Also wonderful is that it can be so flexible. Snark can be a verb (Don't snark at me; I was just asking!); it can be a noun (I didn't appreciate the level of snark in your voice, Mona.); it can be an adjective, as used above with Verdele; it can be an adverb (The waiter rather snarkily told us the specials.).  Because of its origins as a tabloid word, it has an admittedly short existence.

Jared and I have a lot of favourite words, but these are a few which we use often and which came to mind immediately.  Now, of course, we must know yours.  What are some of your favourite words?  Do share in Comments!  (And if you want to read some more of Jared's (and my, and our shared) lists, you can always go to our now-hibernating blog Stuff On Our List.  Click here.)

image found here

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

In Which I Give You A Great Legacy. You're Welcome

When I was a little kid growing up in a steel town in NEO, we were strapped for cash although I never had any idea.  My two sisters and my brother and I never once heard our parents say anything about money being tight, and I don't recall ever feeling like I was missing out on anything.  Oh, sure, my friends went places like Cedar Point amusement park and the drive-in movies, but it never occurred to me to even ask if we could go to those spots.  I automatically assumed that, if those were Our Kind Of Places, then we would have already gone there.

One thing my father made sure we always had was plenty of really good food.  And St. Patsy could always throw out the chow.  In addition to her own collection of farmstyle recipes from her own family, she learned a bunch of good SerboCroatian and other European recipes from living with my dad's parents early in their marriage and from living in such a melting pot town.  My mother's food is still, all these years later, wonderful.  Dad was always brutally critical, however, and Patsy dreaded his forays into the kitchen while she prepared any meals.  He cautioned her about the height of the flame on the burners, asked if she had washed her hands, and wondered aloud if there should be a lid on that.  On one memorable weekend morning, Dad critiqued her pancakes.  Mom threw one at him and vowed to never, ever make them again.  She never did.

All of us kids looked forward to Saturday nights because it was Steak Night.  If it was nice weather, Dad would set up the backyard charcoal grill and cook them outside.  I don't know how they managed steaks for six people--it was always pinbone sirloins back in those days--but they did.  Invariably, as he grilled, a neighbor would mosey over and say the sentence my father always dreaded:  "Must be nice to be able to afford steak!"  The observation was always delivered with the same hangdog look, followed by a sort of admonishing expression of disapproval.  Dad detested it.
He wanted to tell them off, but he always said the same thing in a cool and level voice:

"Well, I don't smoke, drink, or chase women, so...."

Most of the neighbors who butted in and commented did one or more of those things, so that shut them up pretty quickly.  Not to mention the fact that its implication--that my father saved money by not having expensive habits; therefore, he spent that money on something nice for his family--had the added effect of making them feel a little diminished.  It really was a perfect response.

We all loved that rejoinder and started using it for anything we spent our money on.  All of us had jobs, from babysitting to paper routes, so we had some pocket money every so often.  If any sibling made fun of what we bought, we'd simply say, "Well, I don't smoke, drink, or chase women." Dad has been gone for more than a decade now, but years and years later, we all still use it. 

Case in point:  My sister Susan confided in me last month that she was in a bidding war on Ebay for a game.  It was a game from her childhood, one that we had played and played and played together (at least when we were getting along).  Both of us loved it, and we had even made up another game using its pieces.  It had attained mythological status for us, but, sadly, it had become lost long ago.  She sent me the link for it.  At one point, the price soared to over thirty dollars.  Thirty dollars for a game that had probably cost six bucks back in 1970, when she first played it!  But Susan is a Nostalgia Junkie.  She is hooked on her childhood.  And that is why I wasn't the least bit surprised to find out that she was the winning bidder.  At FIFTY-ONE DOLLARS.  "Holy crap, Susan!"  I said.  "That's a lot of money!  Who will play the game with you?  Wow!"  With her usual aplomb, she responded, "Look, I don't smoke, drink, or chase women.  And you're gonna play with me, duh.  And each time you do, I'm charging you a dollar."

Except that she does smoke (every so often), and she does drink.  It is true, though, that she doesn't chase women.
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