The Parking Space Number Four Dash

Tobagganing... Triathalons... Guinness World Chewing Gum Records... Competitive, yes. But like a one-player game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos compared to the heavy, brow-sweating, heart-pounding competition I face ritualistically every weekday:

Getting a parking space at work.

There are four spaces, count 'em, four spaces alloted to us, Ye Regular Joe Working Rabble in this crammed section of town. Yet we are legion. And, as a result, each morning, it's like some four-wheeled version of musical chairs only with a dash of road rage tossed in for grins. You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to snag one of these coveted containers of automotive glee....

Preferabally, sometime the evening before. In fact-- just stay there overnight, buckled in the bucket seat with the engine running. Sure, you blow through gas like you're Smokey and the Bandit. But it's the only way to truly be assured.

As a result, I've noticed that while work begins officially at 8:30, we birds have begun arriving earlier and earlier in order to tuck into this coveted parking space worm. And it's gotten so that, like today, as I drove in at 7:30, patting myself on the back about my commuting cleverness, I realized I'd patted too soon.

Four cars filled the four slots. One clicked with radiating heat.

I'd missed it by that much. I am now parked somewhere out past the fifth moon of Betelgeuse.

So now I'm thinking we need to keep some kind of scoreboard for this, the Parking Space Number Four Dash. It could be an office morale thing. And there should be prizes. But not for the people who get the most spaces-- oh, no! For we slackers who aren't rolling in at 4 am to plant our flags and claim this space in the name of smart office drones everywhere.

No, I think we office jockey underachievers should win items to help us in our quest for True Parking Space Greatness. Like a blanket for sleeping in the car... A coffeemaker that plugs into the cigarette lighter... A sleep mask that has open eyes printed on it, so we can safely snooze at our desks because we headed to work at midnight.

Sure, our families and friends might miss seeing us. Little Timmy will no longer recognize his daddy, but hey, he'll develop a close bond with the mailman, which is almost as good. Little Suzie will grow from a mary-janed moppet into a teen Bratz doll in no time.

But they can always pop by the office to say 'hi' sometime.

If they can only find someplace to put the car.


The Ad-gony of Da Feet

Advertising. It makes us laugh... It forces us to order dishes using words we'd never actually say outside of an antihistamine-induced coma ("Rooty-Tooty Fresh and Fruity" anyone?)... And because it needs writers, it pays my bills.

End-zone dances for that.

But bad advertising can also be like a too-short toenail...

It won't kill you. But it sure throbs when you bang it on the Coffeetable of Critical Thinking.

And two ads-- both of them local-- consistently make that big toe go "boing."

Let's start with the newest. It's for The Good Feet Store, a chain that offers the kind of foot-zen podiatric gizmos you'd imagine Doctor Scholl displays in his wood paneled rec-room, lecturing on their physics when he's had one too many Rob Roys.

It's The Good Feet Store's rock-song jingle that gets my metaphorical marketing toe a-throbbing.
"I'm back to doing what I love-- and more--
Thanks to the Good Feet Store
I've got my freedom back-- and that's for sure--
Thanks to the Good Feet Store."

It's bad enough that the second stanza implies, just for the sake of rhyme, that we doubt the truth of her Good Feet Store praise.

Look, lady, it's your feet. If you say you're Fred Astaire-ing your way through the frozen foods section, who are we to deny?

But it's the first line of the first couplet that gets me.

"I'm back to doing what I love-- and more."

So... also what you don't love? Then why are you singing about it with such a peppy, up-beat tune?

Shouldn't it be more some Cure-like, world-weary, miserable dirge?:
"Now that my feet feel fine I guess,
I have to do all this dreadful stuff I never used to do
And think of you
Yes, I think of you...
The fallen arch of my life"
But then, as much as those Good Feet lyrics bug me, I also find myself feeling sorry for the poor singer.

I mean, think about it: there she is, wailing her little heart out for this gig. She may have imagined getting a regional commercial on the main stations would be the one thing that would get her really noticed as an artiste...

The one song that would have people demanding her to headline their up-and-coming band...

Or that would get her on American Idol.

So she goes into the studio and finds out... it's a song about feet.

Well, feet and freedom, anyway. (Hey, Feet and Freedom might just work as a band name!... No, really! You never know. That's a freebie from me to you, Musician readers out there! Feet and Freedom. Think about it.)

(Or maybe it's just that antihistamine-induced coma again.)

Anyway, my second advertising peeve is also foot-related (notice the nifty theme we've got going?). And this peeve has been grating on me since college.

It's for a small local shoe store, and it's their slogan. The commercial shows pairs of bare, tapping feet.

"What do feet have to do with shoes?" asks the narrator, like Alex Trebek for a super-important Double Jeopardy question.
Then we see more tapping feet. Irritated feet. Nervous feet. Petulant feet.

"What do feet have to do with shoes?" the narrator asks us again, mysteriously.

We're confronted with even more feet. A conga line of feet. Rockettes feet. A Feet Fiesta!

"What do feet have to do with shoes?" the narrator intones a whole third time.

And you get the feeling she's really building up to something. Some important revelation or a terrific riddle that we'll all get giant belly-laughs over and will relay to our friends over after-work nachos because of the funny feetliness of it all.

And here it comes... the answer... the pedal punchline to end all punchlines....


Everything?! "What do feet have to do with shoes: Everything"?!!

Well, what do feet have to do with socks? What does ham have to do with cheese? What does Abbott have to do with the little scared fat guy who follows him around? What does pimento have to do with donkeys?!

(Nevermind about that last one.)

But "What do feet have to do with shoes: everything"?!

And for the love of Nike, not a single shoe in the ad!

Anyway, those are my big ad peeves right now. I'd love to hear from you about what sets your metaphorical big toe a-throbbing. Tell me about an ad you've realized just doesn't make any sense. And, hey, it doesn't even have to involve feet!

Or freedom.

(Bonus points to anyone who can tell me why one toe above is labeled "Sgt. Hulka"!)

This post has been sponsored by Humorbloggers Feet Day. It has also been sponsored by the letter F, the bunion on Mike WJ's left foot, and that toe-nail clipper you got too overzealous with last week.

Thank you.


The Final Showdown: Influ Enzo versus... well... Somebody

On Friday, when we last left the two-dimensional city of BurghTown, it was being taken over by that Sultan of Sickness... that Demon of Disease... BurghTown's Number One Crime Boss, Influ Enzo.

But where was BurghTown's B-level protector Back-up Girl, you ask?

Why, she had troubles of her own!

So Mayor Skippy sent his Deputy Mayor to the last resort-- the Last Resort Karaoke Bar and Grill, that is-- in search for some backup for the fallen backup super-heroine.
Superheroes love nothing better than half-off nachos day!

And that's when the Deputy Mayor came across the perfect choice for Back-up Girl's backup. Captain Cassette: BurghTown's former backup to the A-level heroes, circa 1984!

Captain Cassette might be warped a little here and stretched thin a bit there. But overall he's as in-shape and sharp as he was when his favorite band, Devo, was on the charts!

And once he hears about Influ Enzo's reign of terror-- and the nachos and Jell-O shots wear off -- he's ready take on this Viral Villain and whip him--

Whip him good.

But what's this?! Captain Cassette's Magnetic Strength is doing absolutely nothing in the face of Influ Enzo!

Could it be that, for treating an illness like Influ Enzo's, magnet therapy simply doesn't work?!

Great Polka-Dotted Pandemics!, whatever will BurghTown do now?

Well, it looks like it's time to call in the next choice of available heroes... Third Banana, Super Sidekick!...
The Deputy Mayor appeals to Third Banana for help. But Third Banana isn't so sure. Why didn't the town come to him first?

He knows martial arts! He's worked with heroes all his life! He even wrote his own theme song! Is it because humans tend to think monkeys are unreliable, is that it? Is it some deep and inherent Monkey Prejudice?

Well, fine. He says he'll do it. But BurghTown will see. You just can't monkey around with peoples' feelings.

And so he tracks down Influ Enzo, who is enjoying the view of BurghTown's newly smogged skyline. And the Simian Sidekick makes with the Chim Pan-Zee style martial arts!

But in spite of kick after kick-- it's just no banana. Influ Enzo will simply not stay down.

Can nothing and no one strike Influ Enzo where it hurts?!

Meanwhile, back at Back-up Girl's super-secret third floor headquarters on Main Street...

Back-up Girl has struggled out of bed and made a very important phone call. She knows only one hero can truly take down Influ Enzo and his gang.

It's just a matter of his trawler getting in range for mobile phone reception.

Yes, that's right-- it's Gorton, the Anti-Virus Fisherman! Gorton comes complete with an antivirus utility belt, AntiPhishing Fishing Rod, and plenty of containment bags to put an end to Influ Enzo's evil-doings.

When you have Influ Enzo, Gorton Anti-Virus is just the one you need to make it right!

Influ Enzo has been bagged and snagged...

Yet, as the pea-green virus begins to clear, the citizens of BurghTown see something unexpected in the sky...

Surely, Lady Liberty, BurghTown's A-list superhero hasn't finally found her Invisible SmartCar?

No! It's Back-Up Girl!...

She's perfectly 100% well again, and sporting a really interesting new non-copyright infringing makeover!

Back-up Girl, we hardly knew ya!

Yes, the City of BurghTown has been saved! All thanks to the hero who backed up the hero, who backed up the hero, who backed up the hero, who backed up ...

Gorton the Anti-Virus Fisherman...

Oh. And Back-up Girl.


Six Phases of Twitter Grief

Just two weeks ago social media venue, Twitter, got hit by hackers-- barring many of its users from 140 characters of condensed camaraderie.

I was one of those barred. And during this cold, bleak time in Twitville, I spent four days where I could see my friends post... joke... laugh... feast on the banquet of beautiful banality inside the cheerful cottage walls of the inviting Twitstead....

But I could not post myself. No, friends, I could only press my nose to the glass like a Dickensian orphan matchgirl and hope I wouldn't be run off by Tweetly bobbies saying, "Whassall 'is 'en?" And then be sent to a workhouse of some more cumbersome social media platform...

Like being made to develop time-suckingly addictive yet pointless apps for Facebook.

It was a Twitter Tantalus.

So during these four days of Twitter withdrawal, that is when I discovered the Six Phases of Twitter Grief:

1.) Shock.
"I can log in, but I can't post. I really can't post. Oh my God, I can't post I can't post I can't post!!

"Now no one can see the absolutely, crucially, vital Tweet I had all planned about pocket lint. And my pithy thoughts on the aesthetic and functional beauty of both bacon and coffee.

"Modern 140-character philosophy is taking an enormous hit because I can log-in but I can't post! It's unbelievable!"

2.) Denial.
"Maybe I can post, and I'm just not being patient enough. That must be it. Maybe I just need to wait longer.

"Maybe I can let that Tweet process in the background while I do other things.... Sure, I can do that. No problem. Patience. All I need is just a little patience. A wise man once said that. I think it was Axel Rose...

"Hey-- maybe it's processed in the last two seconds I was thinking about Axel Rose.... Yes?...


"Flyin' Spaghetti Monster on a platter, why isn't it frikkin' posting?!"

3.) Bargaining.
"Twitter Customer Service Peeps, I'm writing to ask why I seem to be banned from your service. I've been good. I've been nice. And I will be even more gooder and nicerer going forward, if you will just let me post again.

"I mean, I'll follow all sorts of new people.... In fact, how 'bout you? Do you have an account, Twitter Customer Service Dude? I'll follow you. I mean, don't you need more loyal followers? Of course you do! And I'll read every one of your Tweets and follow every link you share and retweet you and everything. Just please, please, please let me post again!...


"Are you there?"

4.) Guilt.

"Maybe I Tweeted too many of my own links in the time I was Tweeting. And that's why I can't post...

"Maybe I've been banned because I was sharing too much stuff at one time!

"Maybe I broke the Terms of Service and I never even knew it, because I was so self-involved!...

"Maybe I should have retweeted other peoples' Tweets more often. Maybe I should have participated in more Twitter theme discussions. Maybe I blocked one too many XXX hoochies wanting to show me photos of themselves starkers, and I shouldn't have been so unfriendly.

"Why, oh why, couldn't I have been a better Twitizen?"

5.) Anger.
"Well, if they don't frikkin' want me to Tweet, then it's their loss. I never really liked Twitter anyway. 140 characters? That's not writing, that's a fortune cookie!

"Ha- Who needs 'em? I have better things to do with my time, anyway."

6.) Depression.
"Meh. What's the point of social media, anyway? I mean, it's just as fake and pointless as all off-line relationships are.

"It's not comfortable, and real... like lying here in my bed under the comforter where I can be quiet and still and really think about things that matter...

"Like, I couldn't really Tweet the lyrics to an Emo song like I'm going to write here... There wouldn't be enough characters.


"What do you rhyme with 'fetal position'?"
Acceptance and hope!

"Well, I guess I'd just be better off spending my energy writing a new blog post, instead, since these Emo lyrics ended up being so pathetically funny and--

"Hey, lookit there! What do you know? I can log-in!"

Cast YOUR Vote for Back-up Girl's Backup Sidekick!

The City of BurghTown...

When last we left our heroine Back-up Girl
, she'd been hit hard by the Godfather of Gross-- Influ Enzo and his mob family.

Right now they're pestilentially plotting to pack a punch to the personal pep of the poor paralyzed populace!...

But with all of BurghTown's pre-approved and properly-insured A-list superheroes currently busy with other more pressing obligations...

Who will save BurghTown from this disaster of dysentery waiting to be dispensed?

For the first time ever, Back-up Girl needs backup herself-- and fast!... And you, good Cabbages readers, can help her!

Yes--- between his 2 o'clock nap and his 3pm cookie-and-Yoo-Hoo break, Mayor Skippy will be sending the Deputy Mayor to the only remaining place in BurghTown where they might still be able to find a superhero to save them...

It's the last resort.
No, really.

Here at The Last Resort Karaoke Bar and Grill, B-, C- and D-list superheroes with extra time on their hands get together, pour out their sorrows, and commiserate on their careers.

And-- why, I believe we have one of them here now!

Is that...?! Yes-- it IS!..
It's Third Banana-- BurghTown's popular simian sidekick to other BurghTown sidekicks!

Over the years, Third Banana has worked alongside The Cloned Stranger's mono-syllabic Native American guide Pronto...

He's lent a hand to GuanoGuy's junior partner, Nuthatch, the Boy Stumbler...

And he's even traveled through time, as in-ship mechanic for Doctor Doe's robot cat, Mr. Rivets.

Third Banana's super-secret backup powers include his black belt in Chim Pan-Zee, super-psychedelic hypnotic eyes, and his deep understanding of quantum bananaramadynamics.

He also enjoys playing guitar and taking long walks on the beach.

Hurray!-- BurghTown is saved!

But wait! Third Banana isn't the only superhero here at The Last Resort. No!

Fresh from singing a well-meaning, yet painfully off-key karaoke version of "Wind Beneath My Wings," here we find...
... Miss Congeniality!

And what luck! This Gal of Goodness, this Champion of Cheer, this Diva of Diplomacy stands as a Beacon of Backup for everyone who ever followed their dreams to the very end-- and still got the shaft.

Her astounding talents include her tooth-enamel blind-beam, the whiplash sash, and a genuine BurghTown license as a certified mediator.

Well, this isn't going to be an easy choice, is it?!

But... look! Over there in the shadows of the karaoke stage...

Who's that in the neon green-and-black Tron tribute costume, knocking back a Jell-O shot?...

Why, the Deputy Mayor hasn't seen this hero in ages! It's Captain Cassette, the Totally High-Tech SuperGenius Circa 1984!...
Captain Cassette has been retired and freelancing for over a decade, having been replaced by the backup crime fighting duo, LANman and DigiDog, in the early 90s.

Ah, but Captain Cassette had known serious power. He could instantly recall and playback anything he ever heard-- though if you made him recount it more than a few times, his voice sounded a little warped and crackly for the retelling.

Combined with his super magnetic strength, Captain Cassette could tie up any villain in tape. Crime was going nowhere when he was on the job!

So here is where we need you all: who should be Back-up Girl's backup?

Should it be:

a.) Captain Cassette?
b.) Third Banana?
c.) Miss Congeniality?
Cast your vote in the comments section, and around Wednesday of next week, we'll reveal the rest of our exciting story.

BurghTown is counting on you, friends!

Have a super weekend!

Back-up Girl Versus Influ Enzo

The City of BurghTown...

Home to the one superhero city residents call when the really important crime-fighters all have something better to do:

Yes, that's right-- Back-up Girl!...

Ah, but what's this? (GASP!)

Back-up Girl-- you don't look so good!

Oh NO! You've been hit by that Malcontent of the Malady...

That Instigator of Intestinal Angst...

That Villain of Vomit...

Influ Enzo, patriarch of the Orthomyx-Oviridae crime family!

Will Back-up Girl still manage to make it to work today?--

(Y'know, since Captain Coolness has a hangnail operation scheduled...

Lady Liberty misplaced her invisible SmartCar again...

And Mayor Skippy kinda has a playdate at PizzaMouse he'd still like to make.)

With Influ Enzo bent on increasing his territory in the city, could it be BurghTown will need back-up for its back-up?

Tune in to our next exciting episode to find out!

(Or, um, not. We'll see how we're feeling.)

PS-- Did you miss previous thrilling episodes of Back-up Girl? Really?! (Gasp!)


    Ways to Amuse Yourself During the Flu

    The flu. Oh, how I have it. And it tends to put a rather unique perspective on life. After three days of the flu, your world goes from deadlines and hustle-bustle and highways to somewhat more modest goals.

    Like blinking... Or getting up the stairs before your innards go outtard... Or finding the hidden strength to push the seemingly four-foot tall Play button on your iPod.

    Right now, my computer mouse seems to be about 30 feet wide. And if I take a breather between typing each letter, I am able to complete the blog post in only a few hours, with naps.

    Which means I must be getting better.

    Yes, normal activities are not easily performed, and the days drag on. So I've come up with a list of helpful pastimes that anyone with the flu can enjoy.

    • Count the cracks in the ceiling. The great thing about this game is it only requires eye movement. When done counting, play connect-the-dots with the cracks to create interesting pictures. Or just let the dehydration hallucinations do that for you.
    • Play 'Guess That Fever.' Guess how high your fever is at any given moment. Keep track for score. A good guess earns you an extra dose of Pepto! (Note: this game requires the assistance of some mobile person who can actually bring you a thermometer. And the Pepto.)
    • See how long before your pets actually feel sorry for you. Animals sense sickness. See how long it is before your beloved fido or frisky feline notices you haven't been able to get out of the chair to fill their food dish. Five points if your dog looks at you with pity. Fifty points if your cat actually tries cuddling up to you-- and doesn't just hightail it out looking for a new, more reliable home.
    • Play 'What Do You Think Is in the Mail'? Face it, you can't get to the mailbox. And even if you could, opening envelopes takes Herculean strength and loads of time. So make guesses about the content of your mail. Then wait till someone fetches it for you and tally it up. Two points for store circulars. Five points for bills. Ten points for a letter from your Aunt Tillie.
    • Do the Two-Hour Getting Dressed Dash. You realize you need to go to the store to pick up more essentials, like Gatorade and Kaopeptate. This requires actually getting out of the whiffy sweats you've been wearing happily for four days. See if you can put on pants, a shirt, socks and shoes in under two hours. If you succeed, buy yourself an extra Gatorade as reward. Of course, you'll have to have someone strong from the store bring it to the car for you.
    Well, these are just a few of the ways I've been getting through my quality flu time. And maybe they can entertain some other sickie out there, as well!

    But, alas- I must go now. I'm off to play How Little Can I Move and Not Grow Moss?

    Mission Inedible

    The tomato sauce would run like a rolling red, anti-oxidant river...

    The spaghetti would twine like the flaxen hair of trumpeting angels...

    The wine would flow like the vats of jolly Bacchus on a bender...

    The garlic bread would crunch like Italian leather cowboy boots over a dry Sicilian riverbank.

    This was the image my college friends and I projected the time we decided to cook ourselves a real spaghetti dinner in the dorms. When you're half-starved, having subsisted most of the year on ramen and Dr. Pepper, imagination can take you pretty far.

    What imagination cannot do is conjure you actual things like pots, or pans, or a stove or utensils or bowls. Which, among our group of eight, hadn't been a priority.

    I mean, speaking only for myself, I knew how to heat up a mean Chef Boyardee beef ravioli in my coffeemaker.

    This should give you all a reasonable sense of the quality of things to come in this tale.

    So in spite of no household equipment and very little money, the spirit of youth would not be deterred for our Spaghetti Extravaganza. This dream would not die.

    We would improvis, we decided. We would MacGyver ourselves the best dinner we'd had in months!

    We divided the tasks like an elite special ops team. My friend Austin and his roommates were in charge of ingredients for sauce. Upstairs, Ed had connections with wise and grizzled 21-year-olds; he'd snag the wine. Scoobie and I would round up some utensils. Dan would work out serving logistics and pasta. We pooled our money, and disippated like fog.

    We reconnoitered later in Austin's dorm-room, dropping our supplies in the center for appraisal. Some bought. Some borrowed. Some smuggled from dining service through elaborate covert tactics and distraction techniques.

    In moments, we had the first bowl of pasta bubbling away in the microwave in a lifted plastic bowl.

    It would need to bubble there, we discovered, for the better half of the next semester.

    But other problems also bubbled before us. Because it was as we started to assemble the sauce that we realized we only had one bowl to do everything in and we were already nuking in it. How would we heat the sauce if the first half of the pasta was still in it?

    And while less ambitious people would have just used the styrofoam plates we'd invested in, we felt this lacked the glamor, the size, the sturdiness, and the, er, non-meltiness we required.

    Then Dan got a lightbulb idea.

    Er, rather, Dan noticed the ceiling fixture had kind of an... oh.... large glass bowl sort of shape to it.

    And that's when the guys decided to climb up and use their light shade as the mother of all pasta platters.

    Well, as the token girls in the group, Scoobie and I, we had our standards. We said:

    "You can't use a light fixture that's been up there for years as a pasta bowl!!...

    It's had bugs and dust and lead paint chips in it and who knows what else?!...

    Blank faces. Crickets chirping.

    "We have to wash it first."

    So Scoobie and I went off to the dorm bathroom to give it a good scrub down and bring a little sanity and sanitation back into the festivities.

    But by the time we returned-- the serving bowl chandlier removed of fly specks and 50 years of cigarette smoke-- there was another scent in the air. One of real home cooking!

    Yes, after the pasta nuked for the better part of an hour and a half until it was glowing green and if not exactly al dente, at least alright-ish...

    After the garlic bread popped hot out of the toaster slots and the oregano stopped flaming...

    After the jar sauce was hot and thickened with bits of produce chopped with a plastic knife...

    After all this... We sat down to dine.

    Oh, as we passed the shaker cheese and Ed poured the box wine into Dixie cups, we sat on the floor of Austin and the guys' palacial manor dining room, we leaned back, sighed with weary contentment, and suddenly knew...

    This was how The Other Half lived.


    Fig Newtons, False Gods and Free-for-All

    Supernatural phenomena normally steered pretty clear of Mr. Gardner's eighth grade social studies class.

    Maybe it thought it could do more good on the dodgeball court, where some of us needed all the help we could get...

    Maybe it saved its eye-poppers for the kids at the Catholic school down the street, so it could enjoy a really jazzy entrance...

    Or more likely, it was just as face-hitting-the-desk-bored as we were, from learning about the American Revolution eight stinkin' years in a row.

    Mr. Gardner himself, however, was a pretty cool guy. Each day, he'd let one of us out of class a couple of minutes early, if we could answer one of his trivia questions.

    Now, this was extremely valuable tender for our young years. See, with two extra minutes of liberation, in the 80s, you could easily:
    • Drink your weight's worth of lukewarm fountain water
    • Whip someone in the butt with your Trapper Keeper notebook
    • Tease your bangs straight up and top-coat them with AquaNet
    • Swap three Garbage Pail trading cards for some Joe Bazooka gum
    • Or any number of other critical social interactions

    No other teacher had ever given opportunity for such unbridled freedom. So, yes, Mr. Gardner was a little unconventional. And one day, the man even extended to us the open hand of trust:

    "I just have to take these papers to the office. I'm going to leave you all unattended. But you stay here quietly in your seats and read chapter 12 while I'm gone. And we'll discuss it when I get back."

    Of course, the moment he left, the paper airplanes were flying. The boys hand-wrestled. The girls squealed over the latest 16 Magazine photo spread featuring An Abundance of Guys Named Cory. And general mayhem broke loose.

    The classroom looked like it was directed by John Hughes.

    But suddenly, the giggling, the shouting, the sound of running high-tops all stilled...

    ...As a deep ancient voice resonated from the very heavens... or, you know, the classroom PA system:

    "This is God! You should be reading chapter 12! I command you!"

    It was striking how much this Maker of All Creation... this Do-It-Yourself-in-Seven-Days World-Builder.... and Mr. Gardner doing a Charlton Heston impersonation sounded alike.

    And that's when one boy— a kid we called "Fig" Newton, whose vast talents included making the perfect sound of the bell and convincing substitute teachers he was, in fact, a new student named Tyrone— decided this whole Chapter Twelve Commandment thing could be resolved with a single philosophical explanation:

    "We're atheists!"

    The classroom exploded with laughter.

    When Mr. Gardner returned, his Magnum P.I. mustache was turned up in a smirk.

    Funny, we never did speak about the important spiritual moment we'd shared in his absence.

    You'd think something monumental, like hearing the crackly voice of God, would have been worth filling the man in on...

    If, you know, if we'd believed in that sort of thing.

    Apologies to my fellow blog friends that I haven't gotten a chance to come check out your posts lately. It's not that I'm ignoring you or became a blog-snob or anything. I've been crushed with two work writing projects due at the very same time. It's a little like playing dueling banjos, only I'm the only banjo player for 50 miles.

    I promise I'll be around to see what you're up to, soon, once I can get that banjo duet down to a manageable one player riff.


    New!: The Anti-Zombie Bra from Ashley's Armoire

    Ladies: Are you tired of going on dates and then finding yourself stuck in the middle of a zombie outbreak?

    Sure, that fashionable purse is great for holding a lipstick and some cash. But it just can't carry all the items you need for a well-prepared battle with the Forces of Darkness.

    Watch as we try to cram this cricket bat, sawed-off shotgun, and chainsaw inside this standard clutch bag!...

    Oh no! The clutch bag has split! Leaving you defenseless, and without cab fare.

    And standard dress clothing just doesn't protect your delicate skin from the contaminated bites of undead restauranteurs...

    "Yow! That smarts!"

    Attractive Blond Actress in Little Black Dress: "So how can I look stylish and still protect myself against zombie plague?"

    Glad you asked! Because now, you can take smart zombie defense with you, wherever you go, and for any occasion... Without anyone ever guessing your little secret!

    That's right-- it's the new Anti-Zombie Bra™ from Ashley's Armoire®.

    The Anti-Zombie Bra™ is made from specially-designed, Sturdie™, space-age engineered bite-resistant fibers. And its push-up style makes all your clothes look great!

    But wait-- are those zombies crawling through the restaurant's broken plate glass window? No problem!

    Just clap-on the patented Anti-Zombie Projectile™ feature and the first of two steel-reinforced shot-put implants are released at the perfect trajectory to strike tender zombie brainpans, rendering them lifeless husks.

    Plus, you can adjust the angle of impact through the clever straps!

    But what if you're forced to disguise yourself as a zombie and you haven't had method acting classes?

    Simply press the center silk bow and the Anti-Zombie Bra's™ Undead Auto-Moan™ feature laments in your choice of three realistic zombie voices, freeing you from the strains of effective groaning to plan your getaway.

    And because the Anti-Zombie Bra™ is from Ashley's Armoire®-- the makers of the Boomstick Beauty™, Massage Glove Chainsaw™ and The Sturdie™ bite-and-bulletproof blanket-- you know it's quality you can trust.

    Plus, the Anti-Zombie Bra™ comes in three exciting designer colors: Charming in Darkness Black, Pretty-in-Plague Pink, and Night of the Lift-and-Separate Nude.

    So don't be caught dead wearing under-prepared underwire! Order your machine-washable and rustproof Anti-Zombie Bra™ today!

    Available only at S-Mart Department Stores. "Shop Smart. Shop S-Mart."

    (The idea for this post came thanks to a Google reader searching on the term "anti-zombie bra." I got curious just exactly what that would involve. This may, or may not, bear any resemblance to what that rather unusual searcher was looking for.)


    Space Farms: Wildlife's Final Frontier

    "A rat! Aiiieeeee, it's a rat! A giant, huge, hideous, disease-carrying rat!" a ten-year-old me shrieked and ran into the house breaking the land-speed record for a single-jet, corn-flake-powered pre-teen.

    The offending "rat," we learned was, in fact, an unlucky baby opossum. Unlucky, not just because it had fallen out of its safe tree, but because it had a run-in with a flying, exploding, elementary school banshee out to ruin its moment of quiet contemplation and tree-logistical problem-solving.

    But given that this was north-central Jersey, where wildlife pretty much consists of stray dogs and groundhogs flattened off Route 46, my confusion of marsupial with plague-spreading rodent really was understandable.

    It's not as if, among the strip malls, pizza parlors, doughnut shops and bowling alleys we had much chance to commune with nature.

    And that's why one year in elementary school— in a quest to expand our horizons and expose us to the Joys of the Natural World— my class went to explore the wonders of "Space Farms Zoo and Museum."

    Space Farms' claim to fame, back in the 80s, was it was the home of Goliath, the "World's Largest Bear." On the billboards and TV advertisements, the 12-foot-tall, 2,000 pound Alaskan brown bear was shown roaring at the cameras. A proud representative of all that was wild and proud and toothy in the Animal Kingdom.

    We arrived at the attraction, our young hearts drumming a rap beat in excitement. Animals... real animals... something beyond dogs and cats and the classroom hamster which peed on us daily. This was what life was about!

    And look-- there in that cage-- a lion! King of Beasts!

    Only this was the old, fat, jumpsuited King. Not the young, slvete, gyrating King.

    This King was one step away from having a coronary over his last fried peanut butter and gazelle sandwich. He looked like he'd soon give his final roar in the Space Farms litter box.

    We hastened on, bowing our heads in respect.

    Next we came upon a cage of monkeys, who tried to hustle us for money and banana slices... "C'mon, baby, just one little slice of banana... One slice... you can hook me up, can't you?"

    Then there was the hyena who did stand-up prop acts with creaking vaudeville jokes and then angrily heckled us until a few kids cried... "Aw, you wouldn't know funny if it came up and bit yer tail.. Yeah, go cry to yer mama..."

    There were buffalo roaming the sweeping 50-foot pen... And llamas hanging out on street corners and spitting.

    But then we saw it. The great Emperor of the Forest we'd all been waiting for. Goliath! The World's Largest Bear.

    "Is he dead?" one of my classmates asked.

    "No, I think I can see him breathing a little."


    "There where those gnats are all landing."

    He laid there in the bottom of his cage, looking at us with glazed eyes, one group of onlookers as any other in an endless, blurry parade.

    Like a plus-sized woman in a tiny spandex shirt, it was hard to tell if Goliath really was as large as was claimed. Or if his cage just was three sizes too small.

    Fur was missing in patches. Flies buzzed around his head and, long ago, he'd given up doing anything about them. They were close personal friends now. And it depressed him, because just about the time he'd really get to know one, its 72-hour lifespan would be over and it would die.

    Silent, we moved on to the Museum portion of the attraction. The varied collections of the Space family, for which the farms were named.

    We threaded through displays of vintage cars and dinosaur bones and the skulls of long-dead Native Americans, propped up, labeled and lit for our viewing.

    Then— to tie nicely in with the animals we just met outside— we saw Space Farms' wide collection of beasts, stuffed or in jars. Probably once part of the outdoor zoo, now they were entombed in sawdust and glass cases, or thriftily cradled in empty peanut butter jars and thick yellow-clear fluids, still entertaining visitors in some last macabre irony of showmanship.

    Yes, Birth, Growth, Death, Skippy jar... such is the Circle of Life.

    At the giftshop, classmates bought velvet flocked animals to take home with them, a token to remember our fine, furred friends of the animal kingdom.

    That was when I, having no souvenir money, found a whole quarter on the ground. A quarter! It glinted in the sun. Yes, this terrific streak of luck was the talk of the classroom the rest of the year.

    So with it, I bought the only thing $0.25 cents could get you back then. A metal drink coaster, bearing scenes of happy Space Farms days and the attraction logo.

    Today, as I refreshed my mind with details of this unique place, I discovered that in addition to having the World's Largest Bear, Space Farms had yet another honor bestowed on it:

    According to Roadside America, it was named one of Parade Magazine's 1989 "Ten Worst Zoos in America."

    I also learned that our dear friend Goliath never really left.

    Yes, his spirit may be roaming free among the shady Alaskan trees, along snow-encrusted mountains. But his body has been mounted Space Farms-style... Tucked in a fireplace display, between a case of guns and a hat-rack made of antlers.

    I look at the photo and can almost hear the gift shop's piped-in Musak, as it plays crackling strains of a familiar tune... The Eagles' Hotel California.

    "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave..."

    That's right-- sing it, fellas. Nature in North Jersey.

    Goliath-- I salute you.


    Helpful, Colorful Lies for Why You're Injured

    In college, I fractured my wrist in an unlucky Research Procurement Clash. (Okay, somebody accidentally hit me with a four-inch-thick, metal library door.)

    And ever since then, things like girlie push-ups... synchonized sign-language competitions... Macerena marathons... or a good stiff breeze... can cause it to go completely out of whack.

    It's free of the boundaries of Whack currently, in fact. Last I heard from it, the wrist is somewhere in Whack's outskirts, and the GPS is not working.

    Thus, my stylish wrist brace.

    But anyone who's ever had an injury knows, the moment folks see someone with a brace, bandage, bruise or cast, we all find that unfortunate soul's personal pain like a big ol' coffeetable book... Something obvious and clunky enough to leaf through and discuss.

    So that's why I thought today we would come up with...

    Helpful, Colorful, Alternate Reasons for Why You're Injured

    Yes, adventurous tales you can use for your very own injuries that are so much more exciting than telling someone you'd tripped on your cat... Shooshed poorly on the slopes... Or liberated your thumb in a regrettable Ginsu Knife Logistics Error.

    This post has been designed specifically to assist in your all-purpose injury story needs, such as:

    Arm Injuries:
    • While hiking, you saved a lost child of the fast food generation, poised to tumble from a cliff. But your arm dislocated-- given the child weighed more than a Minivan filled with Big Macs.
    • You deny wearing wrist braces. You are simply prepared to deflect bullets. And just wait till everyone gets a load of your lassooo of Truth and Justice.
    • You donate some of your spare time to the Boy Scouts, as they train in First-Aid. They get overzealous with the Modroc.
    • You were fending off a crowd of autograph-seekers who saw your last blog post/Tweet/Facebook Wall entry/YouTube video, and things got a little out of hand.

    Broken Legs:
    • While exploring the Grand Canyon on vacation, you encountered a group of baddies hoarding a stash of stolen gold in a cave. You were ziplining away from said baddies across this scenic Natural Wonder, only to have the cable snap, tumbling you conveniently onto the ranger's station below.
    • When not at your regular job, you are actually a professional wrestler, wrestling under the name of The Midnight Mangler. The injury came as a result of a mislaid pile-driver.
    • You are the stunt double for Jackie Chan, now that he's getting on in years. You don't like to talk about it, out of respect to Mr. Chan and given his devoted fanbase.

    Face Lifts
    • You're bandaged as part of a social experiment to see if people would treat you differently if you weren't so mind-blowingly attractive.
    • You have recently been reading up on the ancient Egyptians and have decided to embrace a few of their customs.
    • You are trying out for the lead in Phantom of the Opera. Would anyone care to hear your rendition of "Music of the Night"?
    • Competition in the town's underground Fight Club group was somewhat stiffer than you expected.

    So, folks-- any other suggestions for heart-pounding reasons why we might be injured?

    Let's bring dignity back to the disproportionately damaged!


    Quiz: Will You Survive a Horror Movie Situation?

    So you've always wondered, if faced with rampaging serial killer, an ancient curse, or a zombie outbreak, how you would survive?

    Would you find yourself to be the shining lead character, covered in gore, but happily reaching those end credits while the eerie voices of a children's choir sing with irony?

    Or would you find yourself spread thinly across the backlot, an arm here, a leg over there?

    Well, now's your chance to find out, with this helpful "Will You Survive a Horror Movie Situation?" quiz!

    And since Evil Incarnate waits for no-one-- let's get started!

    1.) I am:

    A.) A beautiful, blond female
    B.) A popular, athletic male
    C.) Any race other than Caucasian, but still friends with A or B due to some little-discussed Cool Person Affirmative Action Program.
    D.) Not really worth mentioning. At least that's what my classmates keep telling me when they graffiti my locker and knock my books out of my hand.
    E.) A class-clown or a down-to-earth person with a delightful sense of humor, even if it isn't appreciated by the masses

    2.) When it comes to my family, I am:

    A.) So rich, I sneeze silver dollars out of my sinus cavity
    B.) Determined to make the big moola my own family didn't-- the losers-- and willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
    C.) Proud to continue a cycle of abuse and moral ambiguity
    D.) Unaware who my real family is, because I was orphaned under circumstances no one will discuss, yet I bravely carry on
    E.) Dirt poor or working hard at a boring low-to-mid-management job

    3.) If this were high school I would most likely be:

    A.) Making out in the parking lot. Rules are for nerds and you only live once, you know.
    B.) Totally distributing the narcotic du jour in the bathroom, dude.
    C.) Accepting the adulation of my lesser classmates for my athletic prowess and good looks
    D.) Sitting at a lunch table by myself, studying. Or possibly listening to Emo music, which truly understands my inner pain
    E.) Enjoying quirky banter with my one or two close friends.

    4.) When getting dressed, my favorite clothing item is:

    A.) Four-inch spike heels, perfect for standing around looking hot, but not so great on rough forest terrain, not that I need to ever worry about that.
    B.) A sports letter jacket, of course! I have so earned it.
    C.) Whatever I was wearing yesterday for the pot party, dude.
    D.) I'll take what the wardrobe person gives me.
    E.) Black. Matching clothes is overrated since the world is going to end anyway.

    5.) When I hear a noise in the night which I don't recognize, my first instinct is to:

    A.) Check and see if it's my missing cat or my extremely late significant other, who is never this late
    B.) Continue making out because things are just getting good, and wouldn't I look so much better without my undergarments?
    C.) Assume it's the Maui Wowie, man, and pass the refreshments around
    D.) Warn everyone to stay where they are, even though no one has ever listened to me before
    E.) Brace myself, and possibly take up a cricket bat

    6.) The moment I learn the details of a curse or local urban legend I:

    A.) Touch or play around with the supposedly cursed item, because I am so much smarter than some stupid curse written by a lot of old dead people
    B.) Panic, go hysterical with fear to the point I need to be slapped
    C.) Mock the curse/legend and anyone who believes in it because I am so much smarter than some stupid curse written by a lot of old dead people
    D.) Realize that the curse mentioned is somehow related to my own family, and isn't that kinda weird?
    E.) Decide to do a little research in the Weird Legends and Curses section of the library or on the internet.

    7.) When I think of technology, I think of:

    A.) My cell phone--a great way for my significant other to get a hold of me especially since he/she is way late right now and I am so steamed I'm not sure we shouldn't just break up anyway.
    B.) My rockin' car which has no previous history of any sort of mechanical problems because of it's innate coolness.
    C.) A phone I feel compelled to answer no matter how many mysterious phone calls we've been getting lately.
    D.) Something that could kill me because I actually paid attention to the backstory curse mentioned in the opening credits exposition.
    E.) The perfect way to find out more information on deep-rooted ancient evil

    8.) If I see a friend in trouble I will most likely:

    A.) Hey, if they're in trouble, they're on their own. They were lucky I let them hang with me in the first place.
    B.) Join forces with the Darkness to aid in their destruction. The Darkness means you get really hot clothes and hair, and promises an excellent retirement plan.
    C.) Run shrieking the other way because I never wanted to be involved in this anyway.
    D.) Attempt to help them the best I can
    E.) Tend to their battered, bruised body and weep over them for 15 seconds before the baddies come again.

    9.) If I had magical/super human powers I would:

    A.) Use them to take over the world and eradicate all the losers out there who aren't as cool as I am. Population control, baby!
    B.) Use them to get revenge on everybody who didn't appreciate me enough when they had the chance
    C.) I am not Caucasian. Do we get super powers?
    D.) I would use them to end the curse facing my family for centuries
    E.) I will nurture them quietly, and with responsibility, following a grand and noble tradition. Or maybe for parties.

    10.) When serial killing maniacs are on the loose, I will:

    A.) Not worry about it, because everyone knows there are no serial killing maniacs.
    B.) Act concerned, but then go about my normal schedule of walking down dark alleys alone, investigating noises and hanging out in abandoned buildings for fun
    C.) Cry, freak out, hyperventilate and whine. Good panics over serial killing maniacs are too important to keep all bottled up inside. It's not healthy.
    D.) Wonder why the blurry news photos of the serial killer seem to wear the same trinket my long-deceased sibling used to wear.
    E.) Keep on the alert and pay particular attention to the background music for danger cues.

    Thank you for taking the Of Cabbages and Kings "Will You Survive A Horror Movie Situation Quiz?" quiz. Now it's time to see how you rank!

    • For each A, B, or C you selected, give yourself 2 points
    • For each D or E you selected, give yourself 1 point
    • Then add 'em up!

    20 points- Face it, you're meat. There's no hope that you'll see the sequel. You may have been voted Most Popular, but Horror Movie Cliches have also voted you Most Likely to Sprain Your Ankle at an Inappropriate Time and be Disemboweled. No one will even weep for you. You probably should have tried to be a little nicer in the first act.

    17-19 points- Drugs kill, and so do curses and rampaging killers. Okay, so you didn't believe the warnings applied to you. Or you just got all caught up in your own life and forgot about all the mysterious goings-on. If you'd just said 'no' a little sooner, your head wouldn't be being used right now as a football for Evil.

    14-16 points- You might live through this film, but there's no guarantee you won't be offed five minutes into the sequel. You have a few admirable qualities, but not enough to outweigh your gut instincts. Which mean your guts will eventually end up displayed artistically for everyone to see.

    11-13 points- You aren't the leading man or lady, necessarily, but you're decent evil-fighting support. You'll probably make it out there! Don't get cocky, though. Give more to charity. Add a little more humor to your dialogue. Panic openly less. Wear sensible shoes. And stay out of the backseats of cars. And you should be fine.

    10- Congratulations! You are highly likely to survive well into the next film. Unless you decide you want out of your contract only to be replaced by someone who uses your name but only looks vaguely like you, you will have a long and illustrious career being pursued by Evil.