Middle Earth on 20 Coppers a Day

Think you can't afford to holiday in Middle Earth? Well, an exciting, affordable Middle Earth vacation might just be closer than you think!

On just 20 coppers a day, you can experience the best of all Middle Earth has to offer. It just takes proper planning-- and the helpful information you'll find here-- to create the perfect Middle Earth vacation package for your budget.

Enjoy Small Wonders and Big Welcomes in The Shire!
Did you know that right now there are hundreds of Middle Earth residents just waiting to meet you? Sign up for our unique "Share The Shire" program and you'll be welcome at the home of any of a number of participating Hobbit holes as a part of this exciting cultural exchange. Enjoy fine food. Party with the locals. It's a blast! Stay once, and you might find you'll make a Hobbit of visiting every year!

Get Down to Middle Earth at the Quaint Prancing Pony Pub!
Visitors to Bree would be remiss without a stay in this charming, inexpensive bed-and-micro-brewery. With hostel-style accommodations that are only occasionally hostile, you'll find yourself right at home with theme rooms like, "Rustic Relaxation," "Prostitute's Paradise," "Barn Beauty," and the "Storage Stateroom." Enjoy home-brewed libations in pint and-- for our height-challenged guests-- half-pint sizes, the true micro-brew.

Enrich Your Artistic Side with the Rivendell Architecture Tour!
Explore gracious sinewy palaces, gazebos, and porticoes in this tour of this breathtaking Elven city. It's like nothing you've ever seen before. And yes, we know it bears a remarkable resemblance to the art nouveau artistic period around early 1900s Europe. But the Elves did it first. No, really.... Really.

Hike the Misty Mountains!
Looking for awesome views and a little action? You won't want to miss hiking Hithaeglir! Also called the Misty Mountains, here you'll encounter a wide variety of terrains and get a birds-eye view of the Great River, Anduin. Have fun in the snow with assorted winter sports. Picnic lunch is provided. Guests will need to bring their own second-breakfast.

Get Deep with the Mines of Moria!
While in the Misty Mountains, you'd be remiss to not to make this Mine yours for a few hours. Explore historic tombs of important dwarf leaders. Enjoy a brisk run through scenic underground palaces. Check out Durin's Bridge and meet hot locals just burning to share a sizzling good time. Maybe even lose yourself-- or your traveling companions-- for a while. Guaranteed, you'll never forget it!

Looking for more information on how you can start planning your Middle Earth holiday on just 20 coppers a day? Leave us a comment below and we'll be sure to get back to you.

(This has been sponsored by the Middle Earth Convention and Visitors Bureau.)


The Regrettable Third Grade Boobie Extravaganza

When your dad's a biologist, your childhood might just be a bit... different... than everyone else's.

Oh, you won't necessarily notice it in-between A-Team episodes and Crayola 64-packs.

But as an adult, you might just look back on your first years on this planet-- cringe-- and wonder how you went so far astray.

Such was the Third Grade Boobie Extravaganza.

Yup, where most parents were happy enough if little Rodney just colored in the lines, and didn't pick his nose in the school play, my dad had other priorities.

Things which, as a biologist, he found oh-so-adorable coming from a little person. But which pretty much put a giant red target on my big bespectacled noggin.

I was, for instance, the only 7-year-old who had to call horseshoe crabs at the beach by their Latin name.

And let me tell you, when your Limulus polyphemus innocently slips out in class, it does not make you the girl everyone wants to sit next to at lunch.

Now, I mention all this, because it was this line of thinking that transformed one carefree artistic moment into what we shall call my "Boobie Enlightenment Period. " I recall vividly how it began.

I was sitting on the floor of my grandpa's house in Florida on summer vacation, drawing mermaids. Red-haired mermaids, blond mermaids, brunettes... Mermaids with blue tails, purple tails...

No Crayola left behind.

And my father, watching this for some time, determined that the real problem with my drawing style was not my derivative over-use of a Warhol-esque repetitive theme...

Nope. It was that my mermaid collection violated the laws of proper anatomy. If I were ever going to be an artist of any caliber-- y'know, and not be washed up by age eight-- I really needed to pay more attention to detail, the Pop explained.

And thus, the first pair o' boobs entered into the picture.

Or actually, all of the pictures. Yup, from here on out, it was a veritable Boobie Renaissance in my artistic endeavors. From Nancy Drew to Wonder Woman and everyone in-between... if it was a female character and I drew it, you could guarantee, she had a pair.

And while this appeased the Pop regarding my maturing artistic sensibilities, I discovered once I hit third grade-- as in many an art movement-- it didn't quite translate to the masses like I'd hoped.

Unlike second grade, the third grade classroom, inside and out, had a number of bulletin boards we kids were allowed to decorate and maintain. And so for every season, we crafted a scene using our own hand-made cut outs.

You can probably tell where this is going.

Oh, my friend Josette did a snowman and kids throwing snowballs. Lance Helgerberger drew a couple of boys on a sled. And me, I drew a pirouetting ice skater...

With sweater-clad knockers Lana Turner would have been proud of.

My teacher, Miss Andros, a sweet prim maiden lady, blinked befuddled at the image and struggled noticeably about just how to tactfully address this booby-trapped situation. So she pointed. "Jenni, now you see these here... um..."

But then I explained to her, yes, I was aware of them. And how being anatomically accurate was important if you were ever to really learn to draw properly.

Mumbling and patting my shoulder, she found her argument suddenly flaked away like Elmer's paste.

And so third grade became the year I introduced my classmates to the joys of fine art. I can just imagine now, at Parent-Teacher Conferences, Miss Andros pointing out the bulletin boards and asking my mother if she could pick my contributions out of a crowd.

Oh yes, Miss Andros. She could...

She most certainly could.


Entertainment Nanosecond's Gen Y Adventure Films of 2025

I was watching the movie Stand By Me the other night, where four kids in the 50s go in search of the missing body of a teen from their school.

And it took me back to being ten, and how my friend Susie and I used to find dead bodies all the time, and bring them back home and--

Oh, wait, no. Sorry. Wrong recording.

(Rewind. Press play.)

--How my friend Susie and I used to do all sorts of dangerous-fool things all the time, like play down by the railroad tracks where the crazy winos lurked...

Or drink canteens of polluted Jersey river water after a thirsty day of roaming through the woods alone with no way to call our moms...

Or get nose bleeds and mop up the blood with skunk cabbage leaves rather than go back home for tissues that actually didn't reek like Satan's undercarriage...

Stuff like that.

Yup, even in the 80s, we had a certain amount of freedom from the Parental Order of Juvenile Analysis and Nitpickery. Freedom to do stupid crap that would get us really injured or potentially kidnapped.

And we loved it.

It forms the basis for many a good tale.

So that got me thinking: what kind of stories will our most protected, connected generation to date-- Gen Y-- tell by way of nostalgic adventure?

Maybe something like this...

It's 2025. In your handheld, you've accessed Entertainment Nanosecond, the hottest online film and television venue, detailing every moment of every half hour a celeb is actually popular.

And here's this half-hour's 2025 Top Adventure Films by Gen Y Filmmakers of All Time for the Next 30 Minutes Maybe:

  • Inside the Inside of the Inner World of Azeroth. Alone, pursued by orcs, low on supplies, and potential carriers of plague, two heroes face incredible dangers in a mystical realm. Then Justin and Reed log off of World of Warcraft 3000.

  • Goonies Revisited. In this exciting remake of a remake of the 1985 film, young Mike Walsh steals his dad's PDA only to find a previously-undiscovered Easter egg facility on it bearing a Spanish map and clues to pirate treasure. He and his friends discuss what they would do in search of this treasure, if they could actually get a lift in the mini-van from one of their moms, to investigate.

  • That Ming is Mine. Five high-tech thieves plot to steal a priceless Asian vase, and win the grand prize associated with this catburglary-based reality show. But what happens when each burglar expects to have the starring role?

  • As the Eagle Flies- Action star Will Smith, Jr. unknowingly takes on a corrupt government when he becomes witness to a U.S. authorized assassination. He must flee from dangerous federal agents-- and his patriotic mother-- both of whom have secretly implanted GPS tracking into him.

  • New-New York Brown and the Lost City of Bowled. Fighting angry natives, diabolical enemies and public transit snags, urban archaeologist New-New York Brown goes in search of the fabled abandoned bowling alley of Brooklyn.

  • Point Bruise. In this subtle adaptation of the original Point Break, extreme sports, surfing, and criminal investigation come together as FBI agent and adrenaline junkie Johnny Montana balances his life, his caseload, and 200 pounds of required safety gear.

So what do you folks think we might see in our swash-buckling futures?

(No, no, put a safety blade on that scimitar, please... also a warning label... someone could get hurt, you know.)


SlapChop Breaks Hearts and, Well, Itself

Oh Vince... I thought we knew ya. I thought that you, our fast-talking, gleaming beacon to kitchen convenience had our best interests at heart.

I assured my friends the quick, misleading cuts of the camera were only because the camera guy didn't load enough film.

I felt, deep in my soul, our garlic would peel itself...

Our salsa would say olé!...

I thought for certain we would "love your nuts."

But alas!

"The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar
which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope
never entirely removes."

-Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy must have beta tested an early SlapChop prototype.

Yes, Yvonne Zanos, consumer reporter for KDKA here in Pittsburgh, tested the SlapChop yesterday on her "Does it Really Do That?" segment. And found that not only were Vince's promises of unskinned chopping ease but pretty words to the ears... The blade guard broke into dangerous shards hidden in the food...

...Like tiny knives to one's infomercial innocence.

What happened, Vince?

Ah, but we know the answer, don't we?

It all started with Flo, the effervescent Progressive Insurance salesgirl with the big, tricked-out nametag. She broke things off with Vince in order to see Charles Dyson, the king of cyclonic suction action.

Then Vince was left with loneliness, some inner rage, and an unpleasant little incident involving a lady of the evening which made it into the police files.

Now Flo has moved on, having fallen big for the lead singer of the FreeCreditReport.com ads. She has a thing for musicians...

Somehow I don't think it's going to last.

But Vince... Vince is left with ink-stained fingers, a minced heart, and a SlapChop that chips off little bits of plastic into our foods.

So someone has to say it: it's time to cut your losses, Vince-- but a bit more sharply than the SlapChop chops unskinned tomatoes.

Yes, it's time to pick up those broken pieces of your heart-- and the jagged shards of the SlapChop plastic blade guard-- and move on.

Your inner pain is now beginning to affect us all.

I hear the Snuggie could use a plug man.


How to Prepare Zombie Chicken

The Zombie Chicken Award came into my hands thanks to Babs Beetle the other day. (Thank you, Babs!) And ever since, I've been thinking about fowl of the undead variety.

You see, I'd always expected a human-based zombie apocalypse. But, after doing a bit of research, I see how under-prepared I've been for the condition to spread to our feathered friends!

It's time to get cracking with a whole new gameplan.

Now, chickens by nature are not very bright. I mean, they can drown in a rainstorm. So, according to scientists at the Kalamazoo Institute for Non-Sentient Undead Studies, Pullet Division, it is believed that when chickens experience zombification:

"Little discernible difference in their speed, manner or problem-solving abilities should be expected, beyond sudden insatiable bloodlust and perhaps a heightened flock instinct." ("No Harm No Fowl: Probable Behaviors of Undead Gallus Domesticus, A Hypothesis." Journal of Non-Sentient Undead Research. 2009. 12:47.)
The article goes on to suggest the more subtle signs of chicken zombification may include:
  • Low, moaning cluck
  • Circles under eyes
  • Disinterest in feed
  • Sudden appearance of significant teeth
  • Decomposition of skin on comb and feet
  • Bloody beak
  • Mysterious bite marks in barnyard pets and free-range livestock
So-- how to prepare zombie chicken?

  • Heavy boots or wellies
  • Flamethrower
  • Electric carving knife
  • Hand net
  • Pressure cooker

  • Step One: Practice with electric carving knife. This should be battery-operated, for maximum mobility. You will use it for beheading. Note: zombie chickens are likely to come at you en masse, so you will wish to employ a low sweeping motion over the offending flock as a part of your defensive techniques. Don't forget to have spare batteries on hand. (Added note: if zombification spreads to pigs, use chainsaw using "spiral slice" motion.)
  • Step Two: Suit up with heavy boots. Combat boots or Wellies should serve well for this type of zombie situation. Remember, unlike a standard zombie plague, your adversaries in an undead chicken outbreak are low to the ground and are more inclined to go for the area between the ankle and shin. Dress accordingly.
  • Step Three: Don't forget the net. A good net with a nice, strong handle could be the difference between you and an unwanted zombie peck to the cheek. While chickens under normal circumstances cannot fly distance, they can get some height in flight. So a nice sweep of the net can help keep our peckish pullets out of the air, and out of your hair.
  • Step Four: Purchase and learn to operate a flame thrower. While beheading standard zombies is usually enough to kill your average human-based zombie, even healthy chickens can operate at length without their heads. That is why it may be necessary to follow your carving knife technique with a good roasting. Note: contents contaminated and not finger-lickin' good. Do not consume.
  • Step Five: Under Pressure? Use the Pressure Cooker. Today's pressure cooker represents an ideal cook-and-contain tool for your most stressful zombie chicken situations. By using a simple scoop-and-dump technique with the net, you'll be on your way to reducing your zombie chicken hoards in no time. And when the timer rings, you know your zombie foe is finished.

This is what I have learned to-date. And I hope you, my good readers, are feeling more up-to-scratch on how to properly prepare zombie chicken.

I would like to thank the Kalamazoo Institute for Non-Sentient Undead Studies, Pullet Division, for their kind assistance with today's post.


Quick-- Take Them To the Tower!

Some things America probably just needs to keep to itself. Among these, I'd suggest episodes of "Kath and Kim," our noseless Michael Jackson, and select tourists.

I have a tale to tell you about that last one.

About a decade ago, one of my buds and I took a trip to England. Oh, we had it all planned out for maximum vacay enjoyment!

Five glorious action-packed, Guinness-marinaded, art-infused, wax-museumed, Royal-Guard-pestering, tea-in-the-crypt-sipping, brass-rubbing, Tube-riding, Harrods-shopping, standing-stone-seeing, toad-in-the-hole-eating days in London, Bath and Stonehenge!

If ya don't need a holiday to recover after you come back, it just wasn't a good vacation!

Included in this trip were a couple of tours: a London city tour, a tour of the Tower of London, and a boat ride down the Thames.

And it was over the course of them, we encountered the... er... rich multi-dimensional tableau of American exported humanity.

I've often wondered why it is that the people who seem to know the least about things are the ones who always have so much to say on these tours?

Like the college girl who was chatting away to her boyfriend for most of our city tour, making it impossible to hear what the tourguide was saying. By St. Paul's Cathedral, as the guide showed us where the building was damaged due to Hitler's bombs, she paused long enough to hear the guide mention "World War II."

That's when she hit the guide with her contribution to English history:

"Well, England wasn't really involved in World War II... You know, like, not one of the major players...?"

The tourguide's mouth dropped open like an astounded codfish. But I imagine it wasn't the worst thing she'd heard during her career.

The worst thing might have been from a couple that my friend and I dubbed "The Plaids."

Mrs. Plaid was a 60-something lady in a plaid skirt and blazer. Mr. Plaid, a sixty-something man in plaid sports jacket and hat.

I imagine they thought they would blend right in once they got to Scotland.

The Plaids were a loud couple who, like the college girl, used speech as a soundtrack to life. Within five minutes, everyone in London knew all about them.

They were from the midwest and given the scope of their European tour, it sounded less like they were touring, and more like a whirlwind takeover.

They'd already been able to check off Italy, France and Spain from their list, they said, and once they hit the UK, they were headed onto Norway before heading back home to Flatland, USA.

Herb Plaid fancied himself a skilled photographer. Yes, he'd spent an evening with his high-tech photography equipment trying to get the Eiffel Tower to hold still and say "fromage." Herb was a perfectionist, Doris Plaid said.

"He also took pictures of that famous river there... you know the one... what was it called?... The Seen?"

So, as these sorts of things go, it wasn't much of a surprise that, when it was time for our boat ride down the Thames, we found the Plaids placed at our table.

We strained to hear the guide over the loudspeaker as Mr. and Mrs. Plaid oohed and ahhed over boats and bridges and ducks and oh, stray Newcastle bottles... Mr. Plaid pushing us aside with his telephoto so he could get the perfect shot.

And then we came to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. The guide announced them over the loudspeaker and pointed off the proper side of the boat.

The Plaids, however, were still talking, so it took a moment to register. We had just passed the Tower of London when when Mrs. Plaid got really excited:

"Look! Is that it? That must be the Tower of London."

"What? Where?"

"There! There, see?? Up ahead!"

"Oh yes! There it is!" And Mr. Plaid leaned all over us again to get a shot of...

"The Tower. A Thistle Hotel."

It was printed on the side of the building in bright lights.

It's since changed hands. Which is nice, really. Because that means the Plaids had forever captured on film the deep enlightening history of... a hotel chain.

So tell me, folks, about your funny tourist experiences!


I've Been Working on the Hellmouth

The hole that opened up was growing at an alarming rate. And the macadam dipping downward at its ridge hinted that its plan for Manifest Destiny was not complete.

Peering into it, I could see a significant cavern below. One filled with paper cups, broken beer bottles... and I'm not sure, but I swore I saw a small naked creature rubbing a ring and murmuring, "My Preciousssss."

We probably wouldn't have thought anything of it. But this was the second Portal to Hell to rip into the alley behind our offices in the last year.

The last one grew to rival the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, causing the city to consider summer tourism options.... Helicopter fly-overs and postcards... T-shirts reading "I Saw What Put the Pit in Pittsburgh." Stuff like that.

That's when PennDot finally filled it with concrete and problematic union workers, as per code.

My coworkers and I thought that was the end of it. But now "Pit to Hell 2" has started to suck in our world. Just in time for the summer blockbuster sequel season.

"The Hellmouth": that's how we've been joking about it. Sure, the idea of mine subsidence and underground springs are legit theories. But they just don't click as well as this being the beginning of a demon uprising in our neighborhood.

You see, the more we think about it, the more the Hellmouth theory makes sense.

I mean, what else would explain the local bagel shop-- a place where asking glassy-eyed sandwich artists for a simple ham and cheese means you might as well be speaking in tongues?

Or the strange neighborhood burger joint where madmen linger covered in scarves and teddybears... where humans bark like dogs... and where the cashier smiles her greeting with bright brown teeth?

Are these not signs that something demonly is nigh? I mean, I've seen Ghostbusters 47 times. I know how these things work.

So we're keeping a close eye out for our colleagues who smoke out back. We figure they'll be the first ones to be picked off. And it's a shame, because they're some really nice folks. I'd hate to see them go.

Well, okay, maybe not that one guy... But hey, most of 'em are really, really super-nice folks.

But in the fight against Demon Spawn, those kind of affections just have to be put aside. Doesn't matter who it is, and how much I like them-- the first person who comes in from smoke break with glowing red eyes unrelated to a nicotine buzz...? Well, I'm afraid we'll just have to slay him.

Of course, we don't have a lot to work with right now. Just some thick wooden pencils for staking, some decent scissors and a few Swingline staplers. But we'll make due.

So if the office coffee runs red, and the mini-fridge in the kitchenette shouts "Zuul," well, we'll know it's time to spring into action.

Well... maybe not the part about the mini-fridge. I don't think that's actually been cleaned out in a while.

Any tips for us to battle the demon hoards?


Pirate Office Pranks

"Pirate office pranks." That was a search term used to reach Cabbages. And so, not sure just what that would entail, I decided to enlist the help of-- nooo, not of one of these newfangled Somali pirates causing all the recent ruckus-- but a real 17th century pirate.

A pirate known for his whimsical nature, duplicitous plans, slurring speech, quick wit with a one-liner, and dashing (if somewhat unhygienic) good looks...

Only he was totally booked solid for a hanging.

So instead, I grabbed the first filthy, toothless seadog with a hat plume I could find.

With that, please welcome Cap'n Tom "Where's Me Orange Gone?" Scurvvy. Take it away, Cap'n Tom!...

Thank yer. Here on the Faithless Wench, we needs the occasional pranke te keeps the crew's morale up. An' so here are some o' me favorite shipboard prankes o'er the years...

Why, I remember the time Dodgy Joe replaced the metal anchor with a well-carved wooden one. So when I shouts "weigh anchor," ol' Stinky Smith lifts too high and went straight te Davy Jones' Locker...

We miss ol' Stinky, we do. Could play the accordian like a 12-fingered angel. But we has to wonder, what dry-rotted brain applies fer a sailing job when he don't swims? I ask ye.

Then there was when we steals Mad Andy's pegleg while he was sleeping like a babe, an' we infestes it with termites. Aye, ya never seen a man running about so crazed. Says he woke up te the sounds o' infernal chewin' and couldn't get it out o' his head all the day through. The men and me, o' course, told him we heard not a sound. I guess Mad Andy saw something was amiss by noon when one leg was more'n a mite shorter than the udder.

Ah, hows we laughs and laughs o' that one!

And the day Squinky-Eye Tucker exchanged Harry Hook's hook-hand for a soup ladle? He went to scratche his nether-regions and was in fer such a surprise, he was! The soup tasted a tad funny that night, I recall.

Or what of the day Nimble Tim, he climbes up the mast and exchanges yon Jolly Roger for a sampler o' a bright yellow smiling circle with the words, "Hug Me" stiched inta it? Why, we must o' been flyin' them colors for days...

No wonders Cap'n Gregory Greybeard was laughing so hard when we rans into him and his crew off the coast!

But me favorite joke on me mates was when I gots me some rotting meat and I attaches it to me face like so, and pretends to come down with a case o' the leprosy...

Ye should have been to see the looks 'o fear on theire faces!... Scrambling about and a-wailing like wee moppets, aye! Blind Pete soils himselves, and Nervous Nick leaps off port-side, only t'get eaten by sharkes.

Three o'the men decides then to mutiny, saying "Ye's not right in the head te commande." But then I reveals te them, "Looke, it's just a bit o' rotten meat, see?" And we laughs an' laughs.

O' course, I still made 'em walk the planke fer the mutiny. Can't be too careful, aye.

Is there anything else ye want t'knowe, lassie? Like me to show ya me cannon?

Erm, so thank you, Cap'n Tom Scurvvy-- and there we have it, good Google visitor! There are the answers to the kinds of pranks pirates do during a slow day at the office.

At Cabbages, we are only here to serve.



TV Commercial Mascots Fight For Personal Lives

TV commercial mascots everywhere are banding together for an increasingly common problem in their field-- a lack of individualism and personal lives.

Normally, the annual "Television Product Mascot Union Meeting and Expo" brings with it sessions such as:
  • Shout About It: The Pros and Cons of Screaming Messaging Until You're Hoarse
  • How Much Repetition Is Too Much How Much Repetition Is Too Much How Much Repetition is Too Much
  • And What To Do When Consumers Love Your Products, But Loathe You

But at the organization's 2009 show, themed "Can You Hear Us Now?," things took an unexpectedly heated tone.

It began with the opening speech, where the well-known "Can You Hear Me Now?" rep for Verizon Wireless revealed that he was simply called, "Test Man" by the marketing execs who created him.

And that that lack of personal identity-- while good for the brand-- was deeply affecting his social life.
"Yes, it's true. I do feel inner pain when I receive mail to my home reading only 'Test Man.' I think I might have made a terrific 'Steve.' Or maybe a 'Doug.' But in the annals of history, I am only 'Test Man,' defined solely by my job for Verizon.

"What if I finally pop the question to the red-headed cutie of Glade Scented Candles? What will she be? Mrs. Test Man? Will we be the Glade-Testmans? These are important issues to resolve this conference."

Another mascot speaking out about these concerns is television's beloved GEICO Gecko.

"Yes, I've no name beyond 'GEICO Gecko.' I mean, sure, gents have speculated I might be Gary. And I do rather like Gordon... Gordon Gecko-- it has a nice ring, yeah? Aside from that bloke in that movie, Wall Street.

"But I think it's time the world saw I have interests beyond GEICO. I mean, it's very single-minded to think that all I care about is affordable insurance all day, every day. For instance, I'm learning the acoustic guitar.... I enjoy Karaoke Saturdays down the pub...

"It's said I do a fine rendition of 'Mandy.'

"That's not to say I dislike my job. The people are nice. The hours are good. And it keeps me in crisps. All I ask is that you shout, 'Oi, Gordon!" if you see me on the street, would you? I'd really fancy that."

In the past, commercial mascots have not only had names, but elaborate storylines running around their product-centric exploits.

Like Mr. Whipple, TP-obsessed supporter of Charmin Bath Tissue...

Rosie, the Bounty Lady, who knew the power of a quicker-picker-upper paper towel...

And Madge, the Palmolive manicurist, who's love of soft hands made the dishwashing soap famous.

"But, like, in recent years, it seems marketing execs have totally have dispensed with names," explained the Dell Dude, who is now working at the In and Out Burger Drive-Thru Window since getting out of rehab last year.

"Now we have those Charmin Bears doing the cha-cha thing and pooping in the woods. Does anyone know their names? Like, does anyone care? The world has changed, man. It's a total bummer."

Meanwhile, marketing executives from top advertising firms are livid about the perceived "mutiny" of their spokescharacters.

Said Chad Tatthawker from UltraMegaMondoMedia:

"This is an astounding betrayal. We gave them life. We made them what they are today. And now they want more.

"Well, let's just see how far they get without writers and producers and animators bringing them to life in 30-second to two-minutes spots. Let's just see who needs who here...


"Is it 'who' or 'whom'? Ah, hardly matters... I'm in television."

The "Television Product Mascot Union Meeting and Expo" will be running Monday, April 13th-Friday, April 18th.


If TopGear Tested Heelys Shoe Skates

TopGear, the outrageous UK racing program, tests the power of vehicles with bizarre stunts and offbeat humor.

Over the years, presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have raced across Vietnam during rainy season on vintage motorcycles... Skimmed America's Salt Flats in taped-together 70s muscle cars... Crossed dangerous terrain in Africa in 60s roadsters... And transformed trucks into sailing ships.

But they've never tested Heelys-- the athletic shoe/roller skate hybrid that's taken grade-schoolers by storm...

Until now. (Only not really, because if this were an actual show transcript, they'd spend most of it custom-making Heelys to fit Mr. Clarkson.)

Jeremy Clarkson: Welcome to TopGear. For this episode, our producers have offered the challenge to beat all challenges... We are to leave BBC Studios, go around the corner to the local pub, and pick up lunch... all while rolling in Heelys.

Richard Hammond: And what's more, we're up against some very tough competition.

Out steps three gritty-looking primary school children in uniforms, popping gum and giving steely stares.

James May: Whoever gets to the pub and back first, wins.

Jeremy Clarkson: With one catch. We're allowed to soup-up our Heelys in any way we like.

Cut to the trio of presenters outside at the TopGear racing track. They are all examining their shiny new Heelys.

Jeremy: You know what these need?... Rockets.

Richard: That'll never work.

Jeremy: Of course, it will. I saw it done once.

Richard: On a Warner Brothers cartoon? The coyote blew up, if you recall.

James: I hate to say this, Jeremy, but Hammond's right. The physics would be all wrong. See, the weight of the rocket, evenly-distributed to each leg, would hamper mobility but...

Forty minutes later...

James: ...And that's why we'll be pouring you into a sippy cup.

But soon, the Heelys have been transformed. We see the snarling school children have added sparkly shoe laces, stickers and wheel oil.

Jeremy, Richard and James, meanwhile, have added compressed air cans, spoilers, and remote control car motors, respectively.

Richard: (to Jeremy) Compressed air? Are you racing or cleaning your computer keyboard? What happened to your rockets?

Jeremy: I found it wouldn't work without setting my legs on fire. I am right now standing on my new prosthetic legs. What about James' remote control car motors?

James: (looking happy with himself) This is ideal because it doesn't rely on power from me.

Richard: So you don't, in fact, plan to skate at all.

James: No need to.

So the contestants step up to the race line, the signal is sounded and...

Our three presenters, tangled and tripped up, topple over in a pile of wheels and flying parts. James' one Heelys motor does roll off without him, earning fourth place.

Cut to the Test Track. Jeremy Clarkson has a sneaker tread-shaped bruise on his forehead:

Jeremy: And now, we'll test the speed of the Heelys against the other high-performance vehicles on our board. But for that, we'll need our Tame Racing Driver.

Some say, he raises antelopes for profit... And only eats tinned tuna for breakfast. All we know is he's called The Stig.

Out steps "The Stig," the impressive white-clad helmeted expert racing driver. On the Stig's feet, instead of his normal white driving wear, are a pair of cheerful Heelys with a pink Hello Kitty motif.

At the signal, the Stig takes off around the track.

Jeremy: (looking at a stopwatch) Well, it's slower than the Zonda.

(Skating, skating...The Stig is listening to prog rock music in a Ipod as he goes...)

James: (peers at Jeremy's watch) It's slower than the Honda Jazz.

(Around the tire obstacle...)

Richard: Okay, it's slower than the G-Wiz. (looking at watch) How long is this program?

James: (calling to the Stig) Put some effort into it, man!

Jeremy: And on that bombshell, that's all the time we have.

(I know, I know-- it was all just a totally gratuitous post--- and a bit early for my regular Friday schedule, but I'm off that day. Thanks for indulging me, folks!)

The Soapy Primordial Soup of Ideas

It is said that Issac Newton got the idea for gravity from a falling apple. That J.K. Rowling found inspiration at a coffee shop table. And penicillin popped up when Alexander Fleming forgot to put away the dishes.

Me, I have nothing so grand. But my ideas do come mainly from one place. The Cone of Silence and Suds that is my bathroom shower.

I'm not sure what it is, exactly. The lavender soap? The comforting steamy water? Isolation and exfoliation?

Maybe it's the fact it's six in the morning and I'm still too tired to turn ideas away at the door, bags in hand. No: "Hey you, Mutant Idea-- you're too weird. Take a hike."

Nope, I'm vulnerable then. So instead, I take the Idea's bags, offer it a cup of java and embrace it. "Come, you twelve-eyed freak of a concept! Come stay a while! What took you so long to get here? Bad traffic?"

This probably explains much to many.

The thing is, it does work. But I can't say the technique applies very well to other situations. Like, say, my Real Job as a marketing writer...

"We have a new project," says the boss-type person. "We need to get together and brainstorm. Here is the rubber ducky. I'll get my loofah. And we'll meet you in the shower at 10:30."

I don't want to be a part of that, and I'm sure my colleagues would heartily agree.

Same goes for working with clients. First of all, we'd have all new images floating around our brains, distracting us from the task at hand.

Second, spilled office coffee can scald.

Third, we'd have no place to put our pens.

I try to be practical about these things, and this is just not an adaptable process for idea generation.

So tell me, folks-- what do you do to get your best ideas?

I was kinda happy with this one, and I suspect you might get a chuckle.


Bullets and Bad Comma: a Tale of Grammar Noir

The phone rang— I made an em-dash for it. A man was on the line. He said he had colon problems. I told him I was an editor, not a proctologist. He said that was swell, and he'd be right over.

He showed up at the office with a preposition for me. I said, is that a pen in your pocket, or are you happy to see me? He opened his coat to reveal his piece. A powerful little number but bulky. I asked him to put it slowly on the table so we could get down to work.

He hesitated, asking me for a quote first. I gave him two, telling him he'd need both for later.

Then he said he was ready to show me the colon. I saw right away he had a nice asterisk, but had to force myself to look beyond his dangling participle. It was totally out of whack, and I didn't want to embarrass him this soon in the meeting.

Well, it turns out he was wrong. The colon was listing, all right, but it looked like the rest had been hit by a semi-.

I explained the clause of his troubles twice. He wasn't getting it. "Do I need to draw you a diagram?" I asked.

I didn't want to compound his frustration; he was a client, after all. I was just wondering how we could find unity on this, when we reached a conjunction. That's when he hit me with the complement. "You're the definite article," he said, drawing me close.

Suddenly, our ellipse met... something I never would have predicated. It was like a spell.

And that's when the grammar police burst through the door. Turns out, my client was wanted in three states for adverb abuse.

Quickly, suddenly, nervously, desperately, he pulled his piece on them. And that was all the evidence they needed.

Soon we were in a court down at the capital. It was an upper case. Things were tense, as we worried about our past, present and future.

Then the judge read the sentence.

The collective had spoken and there was agreement. Guilty as charged!

I tried to explain it was just bad comma, but I could see we were at an end mark. They threw the book at him. The sentence. It had us in fragments. We both suffixed terribly. In fact, we still suffix.

Because we were -ment to be together. And that's all that matters.



As-Seen-on-TV Products for the Supernatural Consumer

From ShamWow! and SlapChop to the Snuggie and OxyClean, there's an As-Seen-On-TV product for virtually everyone...

Well, not quite everyone... until now! Yes, finally-- the line of helpful, effective, and time-saving products that undead and supernatural consumers have been waiting for! A family of items tailored specifically to the needs of the not-quite-living. Being inhuman and evil incarnate has never been so beautiful!

Wair. Are you a werewolf ashamed of all that unnecessary body hair? Is fur just too Old School Stylin' for your fashion-conscious wolfpack these days? Now you can be silky-smooth-- and more aerodynamic when chasing victims-- with Wair, depilatory made specifically for werewolves. Comes in super-economy sizes for that sexy, all-over hair-free feeling!

DracNav. You're a vampire leading an active social life. You like to travel-- take in new castles, or hit that hot new club. But how many times have you been nearly flambeed because you accidentally walked onto consecrated ground? Ouch!

But now there's DracNav, the world's only personal GPS-based detector for santified spaces. DracNav fits comfortably in the ear, so it's handy no matter how far from your coffin you fly. Never get lost on holy ground again! And with its new super-sonic hearing device capabilites, you'll detect angry villagers with torches a mile away. Talk about convenience!

OxyShroud. So you're a mummy... You've been wearing the same old rags for 6,000 years. And you do everything in them-- stalk archaeologists, suck the life out of disbelievers, chase away cats... You're undead on-the-go!

So how do you keep those rags of yours sparkling clean? It's easy with OxyShroud! This unique steam-cleaning kit uses the power of oxygen, to clean those rags and get them their whitest. Plus, OxyShroud's special system allows you to keep the rags on while you clean, so you'll never disintegrate to dust from a full exposure to air.

Safe4Silver. You love jewelry, but how do you know it's safe to wear, now that you've become a werewolf? Well, Safe4Silver will test your jewelry to check for silver content. Simply send your jewelry in our easy-to-claw-shut Safe4Silver pre-paid envelope. Pieces we discover contain silver, we buy direct from you. Then we'll return-mail you the rest-- (less the cost of shipping and handling)-- along with your cash. Avoiding nasty silver burns and potential death has never been easier... and more financially savvy!

ShedEgg. Living in the Black Lagoon can leave your skin rough and scaly. But with the new ShedEgg, you can remove years of those unshed skin layers, to uncover that beautiful tadpole-like glow you remember.

(Thanks to my witty friends Shirley and Scoobie for helping inspire this post!)

And while you're here, tell me folks-- if you had your druthers, what would you rather be-- a werewolf or a vampire? (Or other.) It always makes for an interesting discussion. :)


Pirate Captain of the Ship o' Fools

Ah, April Fool's Day! Growing up, I loved this day right next to orthodontia visits, dodgeball, and three-bean-salad day at the cafeteria.

Which is to say, not so much.

The Pop, however, was made for this day. It was the one day out of the year he could bewilder, beguile, and make people leap out of their skins-- and it was all nationally-sanctioned.

I just wish he'd have spread it around a little.

As an only child-- and with a mother who hadn't been officially amused since 1968-- the concentration of Dad's April Fool's efforts fell quite naturally on Yours Truly.

And the Pop-- a man who has never easily parted with money--- supported the idea behind this holiday so much during my formative years, he was even moved to make some minor investments:

Joy buzzer.

When my father would ask to shake my hand randomly before school, I eventually learned fear...

Sorta like Pavlov's dogs.

I'm just glad the Pop worked at a general hospital and not a psychiatric one, or I suspect the electro-shock therapy machines might have also been borrowed for upgraded April Fool's Day fun. ("Hmmm.. I wonder if I can increase the charge on this joy buzzer...")

Melted ice cream on stick.

Coming down for breakfast, I knew to question why this item would be in the kitchen, on the floor, at six in the morning. It was simply a case of human nature. If spilled, Grampa (a firm believer in the two-second rule) would have tried to eat it, anyway. The answer was not that Mom was having an affair with the local Good Humor Man. Or that Grampa developed sudden germophobia.

Whoopie cushion.

A defect in the Pop's example of this Joke Store Classic made the item become an instant, over-glamorized drink coaster. (One point goes to Jenn!)

Fly in ice.

Why would there be ice--fly-filled or no-- in my morning orange juice? Again, time of day is key to April Fool's prank success. And impatience is a detriment to pranks played on eight-year-olds developing critical thinking skills. I was more concerned, not about the prank, but that the fly was a real one that Dad had used for the prank. In my house, you never could be sure.

Peanut Brittle Can.
I no longer like peanut brittle and I think this is why. I'm sure you know this joke. You offer someone candy, but when they open the tin, spring snakes pop out. Now, I was a nervous kid anyway (I bet you're starting to understand why). So the first time, I admit, I did leap high enough to pass the Space Shuttle on its latest mission.

Unfortunately for the Pop, he banked on my having a short memory for this trick, and tried it on me several times. Maybe it was more costly than the other pranks, and he wanted to get his money's worth, I don't know.

But at age five, snakes only really have to leap out at you once instead of sweet, sweet brittle, before the whole scene's emblazoned on your memory like a Tweety-bird tattoo.

Random Prank-a-Rama
Other stunts were of a verbal nature. Ones like, "Look how much it snowed last night!" and I'd peer out to see golden daffodils bobbing cheerfully in the yard.

Or, "Hey, Jenn, you can go back to bed-- school's closed today."



So I have to say, even as an adult, I look in my email on April Fool's Day with some hesitation. He's been quiet for years, yes, but I really don't think that means anything.

I think he's just biding his time, waiting for the right moment.

I haven't seen anything questionable yet... But it's early. So like every year, I am lashing myself to the metaphorical mast.

This is one Ship of Fools that's already set sail, my friends!

Do you have any practical jokers in your family? Or are you the practical joker? (I bet you are... It's you, fess up!) :)