Puce is Not for Sissies: Part Two

(If you missed Puce is Not for Sissies Part One, and the explanation of what on earth this is, and why it's on Cabbages this week, click here for enlightenment and hopefully a few jolly snickers at my expense.)


"So how do you two like school this year?" queried Uncle Ray.

I hated it. David Lipton had purposefully stepped on my G.I. Joe lunchbox and stomped it until it oozed peanut butter and jelly. My teacher looked like the Church Lady. "Fine," I said.

The phone rang so The Creep yelled, "I'll get it! It's for me!" and ran from the room. She was spared the inquisition about school. I was sure that she had asked her friend to call her when she got home, for the sole purpose of avoiding interrogation. Teenagers were lucky like that. They always had excuses to be rude.

Dad strode into our house with a grin on his face, yelling, "Honey! I'm home early and--" His eyes fell upon Lydia and Ray. The grin slid off of his face and, in an instant, a new one appeared. It was the same grin he put on when my cousin Todd bit him on the ankle. "Hello Lydia, Ray." Dad noticed Mom admiring my present. "That's an interesting color."

"It's puce," Mom informed him.

"Sure is," Dad agreed, giving me a knowing glance. In the back of his closet were a watercolor painting of a pigsty, a souvenir Indian headdress from Lydia's trip west, and a silver-beaded handmade whatchamacallit that looked like it could have been either a Christmas tree ornament, a bracelet, or a bathing suit top. All of which were gifts compliments of my aunt and uncle.

Dinner wasn't much better. There was toxic waste on my plate. It sat there, stagnant and brownish-purple-punk, staring at me. I stared back. It was eating through Mom's fine china. 

I was sure Mom would be greatly upset about that, since we never touched the good china unless our relatives came. I didn't dare take my eyes off my meal; at any moment, it might decide to crawl off of the plate, and I wanted to be prepared. 

If the toxic waste were consumed, it would surely eat through my guts. Mom plunked down three little golf balls into the blob on my plat, and The Blob encompassed and devoured the golf balls in an instant.

"Eat your brussels sprouts," said Mom. "They're good for you."

"They disappeared," I told her. "I think they're drowning."

"You eat your dinner," Mom ordered. "This is Aunt Lydia's favorite dinner! And anyway, you love beets! You love creamed tuna on toast!"

Oh, that's what that was! "I do?" I queried, keeping a watchful eye on The Blob.

"You do." Mom's eyes burned a hole through my brain. It was a form of mind control. Her will traveled directly into my thoughts and became embedded there. That same force made me pick up my fork and attempt to shovel up some of The Blob. The Blob growled at me. My love of life overcame my mother's power, and I put down my fork.

I looked over at The Creep to see how she was faring. She was staring at her dish, too, and I noted that her hand was reaching for her fourth piece of bread. "Gee, Brenda, why aren't you eating? I thought you loved creamed tuna on toast!" I said.

Attention focused on her. She glared at me. "Oh, I do! I do! It's just that I'm not feeling very well. My stomach hurts."

"Couldn't hurt too much. You've had four pieces of bread." I had temporarily evened the score.

The rest of my relatives' visit went on in much of the same manner. We opened up our belated Christmas presents. I got a pair of puce plaid knickers to go with my shirt and tie. The Creep and Mom agreed that I would wear the whole ensemble to school the next day. The Creep had her revenge. I don't want to talk about it. I also received a record album of Shaun Cassidy's Greatest Hits.

"Wow!" exclaimed my sister. "Aren't you lucky, Robby! Boy, am I jealous!" She cackled with evil glee.

To the immense delight of my father, my sister, and myself, Aunt Lydia and Uncle Ray finally went home. I also figured out what to do with that album Aunt Lydia gave me... 

Guess what The Creep got for her birthday?

Puce is Not for Sissies: Part One

I unearthed one of my high school's literary magazines from way back in 1989, and realized I had apparently been writing humor-- or at least what passed for it among my peers-- for a very, very long time. 

This story appeared in that magazine as it appears now. While it certainly presses the boundaries of the word "literary," I thought you folks might get a kick out of seeing my 17-year-old self's fledgling attempt at humor story-telling. I've broken this into two parts because it's a bit long for one post.

"Do you remember me?" asked Aunt Lydia with a broad, toothy smile Crazy Glued to her face. "The last time I saw you, you were one month old."

"No," I mumbled. "I don't remember back that far. That was seven years ago."

A plump hand the size of a catcher's mitt reached toward me and repeatedly wrenched the side of my face. "Oh, you are just soooo cute, Robby! Where did you get those dimples?"

"I don't know," I said, but thought they were probably due to so many of my relatives tweaking my cheeks.

And then it happened. Uncle Ray posed the one question I dreaded to hear. "And what do you want to be when you grow up, li'l feller?"

"I don't know," I repeated. I knew I couldn't tell them what I really wanted to be. They'd just smile and laugh like they always did and tell me, "Looks like ya got big plans, Son." 

I was serious. I wanted to be a doctor so I could save people's lives. I want to be a cowboy so I could get to ride a horse. I wanted to be an astronaut so I could walk in space. I wanted to be a great movie star like Pee-Wee Herman and have my own Saturday morning TV show. Most of all, I wanted to be old enough so people wouldn't ask me such stupid things.

It was bad enough that my relatives had come to visit for a few days, but there was a boa constrictor wrapped around my neck. It was squeezing tighter... tighter.... tighter... and I pulled at it, attempting to pry it from my throat. That made the serpent angry, and the angrier the boa constrictor became, the less I was able to breathe. I gasped for air.

"Leave your tie on," said Mom. "You look nice, Dear."

"I don't want to look nice, Mom. Uncle Ray and Aunt Lydia are here. Can I take this off now?"

"No. Wait until your father comes home." She adjusted the boa constrictor. I gasped again. "And stop making those disgusting wheezing noises, Robby! One would think you were choking to death."

"We brought your birthday present for you, Sweetie," gushed Aunt Lydia. She rooted through an enormous shopping bag.

Birthday present? I knew what it was! My heart soared. Things were looking up. It was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Slimeblaster that Santa forgot to bring me for Christmas. He didn't bring it because he knew Aunt Lydia and Uncle Ray had gotten it for me. Good old Santa! I knew he wouldn't let me down!

A box! Aunt Lydia handed me a box! I could hardly wait. The ribbons, card, and paper were quickly shredded and tossed onto the floor. I mean, I shredded that giftwrap faster than Ollie North ever could have. I moved the box's lid to reveal...

"It's a lovely shirt and tie, isn't it, Robby?" asked Mom.

"Yeah," I said.

Mom turned and smiled at Aunt Lydia who was sitting on the couch, causing it to groan and beg for mercy. There was no room for Uncle Ray; he sat on a chair. "Robby looks so nice in puce, too," commented Mom as she eyed my birthday present. "And what do you say to Aunt Lydia and Uncle Ray, Robby?"

What could I say? It's ugly? I hate it? Exactly what is "puce"? "Thank you, Aunt Lydia and Uncle Ray," I said.

My 16-year-old sister slammed the front door with the usual amount of force to announce her return from high school. She entered the living room and plunked down her books. "Hi, Aunt Lydia! Hello, Uncle Ray!"

With some difficulty, my aunt rose from our sofa. It sighed the biggest sigh of relief. Aunt Lydia's body enveloped my sister in a hug. I laughed. My sister peered over Lydia's shoulder and gave me a dirty look.

"Look what Aunt Lydia gave Robby for his birthday, Brenda!" said Mom, holding up the present that was not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Slimeblaster.

"Oh yeah! That's a real cool outfit!" She eyed me maliciously. "Exactly what would you call that color?"

"I believe it's puce, Brenda," replied Mom.

"Awesome shade! And Robby just looks soooo good in it! Why don't you wear it to school tomorrow, Robby?" My sister was a creep.

"Good idea," agreed Mom.

"And those orange polka dots on the tie really enhance the brilliance of those fluorescent green stripes in the shirt, don't you think, Robby?" asked The Creep.

"Guess so," I said.

"I'm so glad you like it." Aunt Lydia smiled again. She smiled more than Jimmy Carter...

Question for today: Have you ever gotten a chance to go back and read things you wrote as a kid? And how did it hold up? 

The "Guess That Christmas Song" Game-- Answers!

Did you get a chance to play "Guess That Christmas Song" in yesterday's post? No???? Well, we all know you're just killing time until you can go warm those feet by an open fire, pour yourself a cup o' the nog and let the festivities begin. I mean, it's not like you're doing actual real work right now or anything, are you?

Are you????!!

So... head on over and check out the game here and then come back for the answers. I'll wait.



Ah! There you are! Great to see you! Okay. So here are the answers to yesterday's game:

  1. The seduction of Santa Claus by shameless gold-digger for high-end gifts. Answer: Santa Baby
  2. Personage looking to trap potential significant other in remote, lengthy house-bound situation prays to weather gods for excess winter precipitation. Answer: Let It Snow
  3. Repetitious ringing celebrates crisp winter excursion via quaint seasonal vehicle. Answer: Jingle Bells
  4. Child receives relentlessly beating percussive toy for Christmas; convinces audience it's his gift to them. Answer: Little Drummer Boy
  5. Doo-wop dancing around the indoor conifer, where participants remain oblivious to the pre-Christmas pagan traditions it draws on. Answer: Rockin Around the Christmas Tree
  6. Public announcement that Jesus has made his first big entrance, and if you dig the kid, you should probably pop by his delivery room and say "hi." Answer: O Come All Ye Faithful
  7. Medieval Nordic monarch gets unexpected houseguest post-Christmas-- shares a nosh and a few toddies. Answer: Good King Wenceslas
  8. Santa shows true colors by demonstrating abusive working relationship with employee sleigh-transport driver over diversity issues. Answer: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  9. Bribery and threats abound, designed to keep locals in line, in anticipation of a Christmas kingpin paying a visit to his turf. Answer: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  10. Holiday depression and separation anxiety-- all wrapped in a garland of guilt-- color this song. Answer: Blue Christmas
Hope you all had fun guessing at the songs. You may now go back to trying to look productive.

Oh, and to all those who are celebrating-- Merry Christmas! And you-- get that lampshade off your head; it's not New Year's yet. Pace yourself.

The "Guess That Christmas Song" Game!

Hi, and welcome to "Guess That Christmas Song"-- the holiday game show entirely without prizes, where we describe one of the season's beloved and most overplayed Christmas tunes and you guess the title!

Answers will be given in tomorrow's exciting post. It's fun for the whole family!

(Except for, y'know, Great Aunt Myrna who says she can't read anything that isn't large print... And Step-Uncle Gordon who hasn't liked anything officially since 1937.... And...)

Let's get started!:
  1. The seduction of Santa Claus by shameless gold-digger for high-end gifts.
  2. Personage looking to trap potential significant other in remote, lengthy house-bound situation prays to weather gods for excess winter precipitation
  3. Repetitious ringing celebrates crisp winter excursion via quaint seasonal vehicle
  4. Child receives relentlessly beating percussive toy for Christmas; convinces audience it's his gift to them
  5. Doo-wop dancing around the indoor conifer, where participants remain oblivious to the pre-Christmas pagan traditions it draws on
  6. Public announcement that Jesus has made his first big entrance, and if you dig the kid, you should probably pop by his delivery room and say "hi."
  7. Medieval Nordic monarch gets unexpected houseguest post-Christmas-- shares a nosh and a few toddies.
  8. Santa shows true colors by demonstrating abusive working relationship with employee sleigh-transport driver over diversity issues
  9. Bribery and threats abound, designed to keep locals in line, in anticipation of a Christmas kingpin paying a visit to his turf.
  10. Holiday depression and separation anxiety-- all wrapped in a garland of guilt-- color this song.
Thanks for playing along! See you with the answers tomorrow! (Update: December 22-- Click here for the answers!!)

50% Off... With His Head

"Embalmed Head of King Henry IV Found!" says the headline.

And the article goes on to discuss how ol' Hank had lost his head in the confusion of the French Revolution-- like, way literally-- and how the cast from the French version of Bones was called to identify him, in an exciting Sweeps Week two-parter. (Spoiler: he's not Gormagon.)

But what the Reuters article neglected to say is just where this decapitated head was all this time. And that really bugged me because I was sure I saw someone Tweet that it was found in...

Get ready for it...

A garage.

Yep, that's right. A 400-year-old embalmed head in your garage. (And-- ah!--  HERE it is: Time Magazine...)

So I'm guessing this French retiree's garage-- where the dead French dude's mummified noggin was stashed since the 1950s-- must be a lot like my family's place growing up. I mean, we weren't quite ready to star in an episode of Hoarders, but we did manage to retain some pretty weird crap.

Honestly, does the average homeowner really need a tarantula in a formaldehyde-filled jar? Or 300 Victorian doorknobs? Or a full-sized Early American spinning wheel? Or a pickled eel?  

I mean, really, how many times do you find yourself wishing, "Oh, if only I had a pickled eel handy! Drat it, now I'm going to have to figure out where I put that canned lamprey I was saving for Christmas."

Tim Burton could be my cool, normal uncle or something.

So I can see it now... France 2010...

Back behind the box of rat-eaten medieval mille-fleurs tapestries, past the rusted-out bicycle, the spider-infested baguette boxes, and the Jerry Lewis VHS tapes, there the solo-flying head of King Charlie Four has been quietly hanging out amusing himself for half a century. Playing "I-Spy" and "King of the Mountain" and whatnot.

So one day, the retiree's wife gets sick of the fact that the only thing that currently isn't stored in the garage is the Renault. 

And she announces, "We are going to have a garage sale and get rid of some of this junk." Only she says it in French, so it sounds a lot classier.

"Wee air go-wing to ave a gawage sell, and geet reed of some of zis jjjunque..."

(See that-- four-and-a-half years of French really paid off.) 

And so out come the mille-fleurs tapestries... ("Aren't zees Belgian?")

And the rusted-out bicycle... ("Movie prop from Amelie... We weell sell eet on ze EBay...")

And pretty soon, the wife shrieks:

"Mon cher, you weell not beeleeve what Ah jjooost found!"

"Eez eet beegger zan a baguette box?"


So,  soon Saturday morning comes, the garage sale is on, and folks are looking for a bargain.

"Mon cher," calls the wife, "'ow mush deed you want fair zis yooman mummy 'ead? Zere eez no price tag on eet."

"Eet keeps falling off. Five francs. And tell eem Ah weell throw in ze Jjjerry Lewis tapes."

And that's how I like to think the good folks in France were able to put King Henry back together again. 

Of course, now that I'm thinking about it... I wonder what Dad ever did with that tarantula in a jar. As I recall, he kept it back by his electronics worktable...

Y'know, just propping up Vinnie Van Gogh's ear.

Facebook 'Like' Function Spoils Dexter Netflix Savorability Factor

Now see here, Facebook-- how can I convince you that I do not want to know?

Offline, I close my ears and childishly "la-la-la" to myself over possibly-dangerous watercooler talk.

I tell my friends "Talk to the Hand" when they start with the hearty, "Hey, did you see last night's ep--"

And I warn these good-hearted folks that mine is a No Spoiler Zone, particularly when it comes to Netflixable shows like Dexter, which I like to wait for, and savor, commercial-free.

Mother Facebook, however, has other ideas about what is good for me.

See, I had made the mistake of "Liking" Dexter on my Facebook profile. And now Mother Facebook is all up in my face, like that new agey parent who just really, really wants to be your very bestest friend and feels the most effective way to do that is by intruding all over your personal interests. 

In this case, she's determined to dish the latest on Dex. She does not care that I have been trying to avoid all details of Season 5 like medieval peasants would circumnavigate a popular plague-era rat networking convention.

No, instead Mother Facebook reacts to this by flinging tidbits of info at me into the stream of my otherwise-innocuous Facebook updates. I find I'm starting to flinch every time I see Michael C. Hall's smirking mug.

"No! No! Do not WANT! Ignorance is bliss! Flee, Michael! Away with ye! We shall reconnoiter later!"

It's like Mother Facebook is that gossipy old neighbor who takes great evil pleasure in "accidentally" letting you know she saw your husband slip across the yard to that desperate soccer mom's back porch.

So it looks like I'm going to have to "Unlike" Dexter, simply to release myself from this net of unwanted joy-crushing Facebookly media spoilage. All I can think is, it's a good thing Facebook wasn't around when The Sixth Sense and The Crying Game were out.

"Find Out How Bruce Willis Felt Playing a Ghost!"
"Read all about how Crying Game Actor Prepped for Transgendered Role!"

Yeah, yeah, we know-- and the boat sinks Italicand Leonardo DiCaprio dies. Thanks a lot, Mother Facebook. Thanks a friggin' lot.

Eddie Izzard's Death Star Canteen With Legos

I've been running fast on deadlines this week-- seems it's hard to find the funny when you're buried under the weight of two tons of Excel spreadsheets-- but I didn't want to leave my dear Cabbages readers empty-handed and completely Cabbage-free.

So I thought-- if you haven't gotten a chance to see it, or if you haven't seen it in a while-- you all might enjoy this peek at the Death Star Cafeteria, courtesy of comedian Eddie Izzard, and a kid who is very clever with his Legos but also has a whole lot of time on his hands.

This was actually part of what inspired me to write my Darth Vader Brainstorms Naming the Death Star post.

Enjoy! (And, please, take a tray.)

Things You Can Learn from a Muppet

Over the years, I've learned a lot from the Muppets. And no, I'm not just talking about piddly little things like... y'know... spelling, numbers, colors, or Gilbert and Sullivan show tunes as sung by giant cucumbers.

No, I'm talking about the really useful stuff!
  • There is currently no 12-step program for cookie addiction. And self-regulating cookie addicts fall off the wagon hard.
  • You really can put lipstick on a pig-- though they prefer to play up the eyes.
  • If you don't like one of your facial features, swap with a friend. This is the trick your plastic surgeon doesn't want you to know.
  • Speaking the local language is no prerequisite for having a successful career in the chemical sciences or television cookery industries.
  • Prop comics from the Vaudevillian school can be bearable in the right medium.
  • City pigeons make great pets, though with improper handling they can cause jaundice.
  • "Mnah-Mnah" are magic words that can make even the most tone-deaf person sing.
  • Throwing an effective boomerang fish requires a very smooth snap of the wrist. Also, probably, thumbs.
  • Nepotism is even found in the frog species, particularly in show business.
  • Never hire a demolition company whose founder's legal first name is "Crazy." 
And lastly:

  • When playing a reed based woodwind instrument, it is always prudent to be rubber-duck-free....

Giving Thanks, Cabbages-Style

Above: Every bored toddler should be playing with razor-sharp axes for the holidays, right? (?!)

Well, it's that time of year, folks! Time to stop and think about what makes us thankful. So at Cabbages, I've put together a very special list of the things that I've been grateful for in the past year which are 100% unrelated to things like turkeys, family, or parades where giant Snoopys stomp Manhattan like beagle-shaped Godzillas. Perhaps you might even join me in a few of them!

  • I'm thankful Lindsay Lohan is finally getting the help she needs. Again.
  • I'm thankful I didn't have a large beverage before seeing the new Harry Potter, as I was not forced to recreate the bladder-busting "crumbling Roman aquaduct in rainy season" concerns of that time I went to see Gladiator with a jumbo Diet Coke.
  • I'm thankful actress Betty White is too busy implementing her plan for later-life World Domination in order to make another sequel to Lake Placid.
  • I am thankful for Twitter, because writing pithy messages in 140 character increments has unleashed my secret desire to write existential philosophy for tea-bag envelopes.
  • I'm thankful my two kittens nuzzle me awake before the annoying sound of my alarm goes off. Less thankful they do this at three o'clock in the morning. (They will be receiving wristwatches for Christmas.)
  • I am thankful for blog spam because I have learned amusing new phrases like: "I need to encourage you how yearn a heyday" and invitations like: "...And so entertain stomach with us." I've decided to entertain stomach throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanks, Spammers-- Pass the stuffing! 
  •  I'm thankful for Facebook quizzes like "How Mentally Unstable are You?" or "If You Were a Dried Legume, Which One Would You Be?" So I know who to stay clear of, should I see these people in real life.
  • I'm thankful for those cha-cha-ing, ever-pooping Charmin bears commercials as it makes me wistfully nostalgic for the days of squeeze-obsessed spokesman, Mr. Whipple.
  • I am thankful for the beauty and versatility of sarcasm, for without it, we would likely not be where we are here today.
Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! (I am additionally thankful that you stopped by-- no sarcasm involved.)

My Superheroic Alter Ego: Blood Pressure Elevation Girl

Faster than a racing heartbeat! More powerful than a punctured jugular! Able to generate her own anxiety at the flash of a single white lab coat...

It's the world's most boring party trick!...

It's an exciting new pharma giveaway!...

No! It's Blood Pressure Elevation Girl! Feel the rush!!

Yup, that's me. 

Aside from the time they couldn't get my blood pressure at all and I had to convince them I wasn't the walking dead...

My one big superpower has been going to the doctor's office and instantly shooting my otherwise-regulated blood pressure skyward to levels so unrealistic, that medical staff are ready to shield themselves in protective gear less I explode in a shower of coffee, bodily fluids and Cheez-Its.

Like most superpowers, this talent is both unwanted and mysterious.

I mean, it's not like I'm afraid of needles, blood, or have an irrational fear of $10 co-pays.

I'm not germophobic or unnaturally averse to the latest paper dressing gown fashions.

Yet the moment I get into the doctor's office, I can feel the anxiety creeping onto me like a radioactive spider. 

Breathing exercises don't work because then I start getting neurotic about that. 

"Am I breathing less than I normally do? Am I getting too much oxygen? Is it possible to get too much oxygen? Ack!.. Will the oxygen make the blood pressure rise from all the extra oxygen molecules, like one of those Three Musketeers Bars that float around the office on the commercials?!"

Reading the magazines doesn't take my mind off things, because someone helpfully stocked my entire doctor's office with health and medical magazines. Articles like "You Can Prevent Death Before 50" and "Your Colon and You" are not so much mentally transporting. 

I respect their efforts. But I just don't want to read about the place I already don't want to sitting in. I don't want to be learning about new diseases at this moment; the time for intellectual curiosity is not Now.

I want a nice boring Highlights for Children magazine with all the hidden items already circled. Or a supermarket rag covered in reality TV stars I've never heard of.

And then I get called in, and the medical assistant wants to take my blood pressure. I inform her in advance it's going to be higher than normal, because I don't want her to feel sad and disappointed. I figure it's good to set expectations. And as it's happening, I'm still there trying to will the number down, like I can control the blood pressure cuff with my mind.

Which, of course I can't, because telekinesis is not my superpower.

So she goes out of the room telling me my blood pressure is "a bazillion over many," and then has me wait seven years for the doctor, who will come in to take my blood pressure again, because they are Optimists.

But me, I am an over-achiever. So I will sit there and try to over-achieve on getting my blood pressure down. I will picture beautiful tranquil islands, and try to distract myself by counting all the letters on the posters taped to the walls. 

I can tell you how many babies are on the vaccination poster. (Nine. Four facing forward, five posed sideways.)

I will examine my nicely-printed chart of perfectly normal blood pressures from home over the last three months, and develop my defense case for the doc. 

"See, I can prove I'm not compulsive hypertension liar." And I will examine my own personal blood pressure cuff, to make sure the batteries are still good. If I am waiting there seven years, I can do this a good many times.

Clearly, I am a sick woman, but not in the area they think.

So today, I went to the doctor's for this very thing. Expecting this very same scenario. And the doctor said: "120 over 77. Perfect!"

I had her repeat it. And I am now befuddled. My superpower is gone? Am I like Hiro when he lost his time travel capabilities?

Will I wake up the next time, with the ability to... oh... write equally well with both hands? ("I am... Ambidextra!")

Will I suddenly be able to accurately estimate how many jellybeans in a jar? ("You may call me... The Quantifier.")

Or maybe I'll finally be able to wrap Christmas presents so they don't look like a five-year-old thumbless child did it. ("I am... the GiftMaster!")

Now I think about it, I hope it's that last one. Christmas is coming. And anyway, I won't need the superpower of self-elevated blood pressure.

I'll just go to the mall on Black Friday.

So tell me: what's your superpower?

Toyota Highlander Geek Family Kid Versus Supernanny Smackdown

Folks who follow me on Twitter might know that as a marketing writer myself, I recently had some, um... strong... opinions on the new Toyota Highlander ads series.

These commercials are the ones featuring the blond, tousled-haired tot who is the self-proclaimed Mr. Blackwell of all that is Cool and Roadworthy in the world of foreign minivans.

See, this mouthy munchkin has been dealt such a rough hand in life...

While he personally is apparently so cool that car windows frost up when he walks by, he also bears a horrible burden. He confides that he, by some strange twist of fate, is son to the "Geek Family." Parents who drive an unfashionable wood-paneled family truckster circa 1985.

From what I can tell, the trouble with this car isn't reliability or even spaciousness. It's that it's not even retro enough to be sufficiently back-in-style for his discerning elementary school tastes.

(Y'know, like velvet Elvii, lava lamps, or 60-year-old Cher wearing electrical tape again.)

So we are naturally led to agree that the opinion of a person whose whole life has spanned the service of a single two-term President is the one we should be following for our major automotive decisions.

Unfortunately, when you are a changeling from the Magical Land of Coolsville, where the highways are paved with gold, and all the precious wee ones ride in Corinthian leather car seats in supercars, well... landing up in the Geek Family truckster becomes a painful pothole in your young existence.

And that's where I think Supernanny needs to come in. See, I would like Supernanny to sweep in the moment Coolboy's disrespecting Geek Dad's sock-and-sandal footwear combo, give the kid an eight minute broadcast time-out on the Naughty Curb, and lecture the adults on backbone, brats and parenting.

Says Supernanny Jo in my happy vision:

"You will sit on the Naughty Curb for disrespecting your parents, making Bart Simpson look like Mother Theresa, and not being even half as funny as your ad agency writers think you are. You will sit here for an eight-minute media black-out, and then you will apologize to your mother, father, and primetime viewers on basic cable."
Barring that, I would settle for some Roald Dahl/Willy Wonka-style justice.

Now, of course, there are those who would say, "But it got your attention, and you're talking about it now, giving it press, so therefore, it is good marketing!"

I figure those people also probably enjoy pebbles in their shoes and Pauly Shore marathons and can make excuses for that, too.

See, for me:
Positive Attention
Hey, I might still consider this product/service in my decision-making process.
Negative attention, or in this case, "causing me to disproportionately contemplate the lamentable state of the world in terms of parenting, respect and manners, even though I know very well it's only a friggin' 30-second car commercial"
Associating your product with smart-mouthed, fast-talking kids, and reminding us why nobody ever really liked Danny Partridge much. And look how he turned out.

But just think: somewhere in the Magical Land of Coolsville, by the babbling energy drink brook and sitting under the tree where the hot new video game discs grow, is the real Geek Family Kid-- the missing one, the one that got swapped by the media trend fairies for Too Cool Boy.

Sure, he probably has a haircut shaped like a cereal bowl and knows Star Trek episodes like baseball stats. But in this magical land he might just say an even more magical word to one of the adults.

Like "please" or possibly "thank you."

The Coolsville elders will have to call a meeting to figure out how to handle it.

Are there any ads out there right now that make you blow a gasket, scratch your head, or just wish they would go away?

The Totally Non-Holiday Holiday Movie List

Somehow it became November, and the winter holiday season is creeping upon us. 

Which got me thinking about the rather strange array of movies I trot out during the next eight weeks in an attempt to be festive... while simultaneously not feeling the urge to drive an icepick through my ears because I'm hearing "White Christmas" for the 400th time in a day.

So for all of you folks who reach a point where if you hear about how "every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings" one more time, you're going to go on an eggnog-fueled rampage, this list just might be for you.


  • Addams Family Values. Ah, nothing like the combination of dry Gothic wit and blue blood summer camp, culminating in a completely off-season Thanksgiving holiday pageant to say, "Pass the turkey... But please use the medieval catapult."

  • Die Hard. Terrorists. Walking through glass in bare feet. Being held hostage. Lengthy delays in airports... Sounds like a family holiday to me! Plus, it's chock full of Christmas music, peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men. Okay, so that's near the closing credits. But, still.
  • The Ref. This is the Christmas movie you watch to feel really good about any of the petty conflicts, inconveniences and irritations you might encounter during your own holiday season. Or, perhaps, you'll be wishing Denis Leary will come and hold your own squabbling relatives hostage for holiday dinner-- y'know, just to liven things up a bit in a new, fresh and festive way.
  • Ghostbusters II. The ultimate in Christmas feel-goodness as found in mood slime and Jackie Wilson piping "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher" through the movin' groovin' "Harbor Chick," Lady Liberty. If you can make New Yorkers happy during rush hour with monumental traffic jams (literally, in this case), you've truly channeled some holiday spirits. Believe me, I know. I'm originally from New Jersey. I've seen the malls.
  • Funny Farm. Watch Chevy Chase try to create the picture-perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas without Randy Quaid in a powder blue leisure suit and dickey. Challenge guests who've had an excess of mulled cider with rum to compete and see who can laugh most like the insane Redbud mailman.
  • The Hogfather. Okay, so this really is a Christmas movie... If, y'know, you lived in an alternate universe where Santa was actually an anthropomorphic pig deity. And a wild-boar entourage pulled his sleigh. And where Death was basically a good guy but a little bit misunderstood. And he had a granddaughter who was a part-time nanny, part-time witch. But otherwise, totally Christmassy.
  • Death Race. Jason Straitham demonstrates that Christmas is more than a season-- it's inexpensive background set decor while you eradicate the baddies. (Thanks to my friend Dave for this suggestion.)
So, folks-- any other films you'd like to add to this list? At Of Cabbages and Kings we always are glad for suggestions!

Object Identification from Cat's Perspective

You are a "cat."

This is called a "toy"...

This is also called a toy.

This is called a toy.

This is a toy.




Another toy.





Arrgh, here be a toy.




What food? So sorry, my mistake...
Any questions?

Trick-or-Treat Bag of Halloween Humor

October: the time of year the witches set aside their Swiffer Wetjets for more traditionally seasonal modes of flying transit... 

Those bright, crisp days before the carved pumpkins begin to sag, sink and soggily sway like drunken old men on every doorstep...

The time of year I realize how many Halloween humor posts I've written since I started blogging, and that newer readers haven't gotten a chance to check them out!

So if you're looking for a few holiday cackles, a dollop of zombie fun, a resurrection of 80's childhood nostalgia and maybe even a few otherworldly groans, look no further than our list below! Click a title to find your frightening funny.

All That is Zombie

  • Rip Slaughter: Zombie for Hire. An original example of the Film Noir Zombie Detective genre. Okay, there probably isn't a genre that specific yet. But maybe there will be.

Halloween in 80s Kiddom
  • Nightmare on Sesame Street Part One. Take one talented seamstress mom, two tons of fiberfill, and a tube of window caulking and what do you get? Halloween immobility and award-winning costuming all-in-one. 
  • Nightmare on Sesame Street Part Two. The mean streets of Jersey prove trick-or-treating is a dangerous game, and not just because Mrs. Martin's been giving out the same bag of Milk Duds for five years.
Hope you enjoy 'em-- They're sugar and razor-blade free!

Alice's Adventures in Vampireland

Well, I knew the whole True Blood/Twilight thing had millions of fans by the jugular, and that lately these days even Jane Austen heroines were taking a page from the Zombie Defense Guide... 

But I had no idea that this trend toward horror revisionism had seized my friend, author Lewis Carroll, in its pale and bony grip. UNTIL I bought a set of festive Alice-in-Wonderland-themed drinking glasses.

Through The Drinking Glass and What Jenn Found There...
Each glass features drawings of little Alice and her Wonderland colleagues, along with swirling literary quotes. Cute, right?

But it was only upon closer inspection I realized that the Tea Party Patriots might not be the only tea-drinkers calling for blood these days...
Here you can see Alice fleeing the Mad Tea Party realizing that the Earl Grey she'd been enjoying was actually a Vlad the Impaler Pekoe...

A little spicy, filled with nutrients, and just a hint of lemon!

The Hatter, too, seems to be imbibing of the human life fluids...
Not exactly what you expect to see in dinnerware unless you worked for American McGee.

Now you might say, "Jenn, you giant doofus! What you're looking at is a cheap four-color printing process and the manufacturers just didn't want the added cost of making the tea brown."

Ah, but think how this puts a whole new spin on the Red Queen! And the Queen of Hearts-- how literally do we want to go with that? I mean, no wonder she was so big on mass decapitation-- I hear the same went for ol' Vladdy-boy back in the Transylvania homeland.

She wasn't cranky, she was just following a fine old Eastern European tradition.

This also explains why Wonderland is located underground. None of that pesky sunshine interrupting a hot croquet game with the players exploding into ash every few minutes.

Of course, there will have to be a sequel. 

Though Through the Looking Glass might be tricky for a lead character who can't actually see her reflection.

Marketers'll have to revisit that one.

Postal Service Says You Can't Go Home Again. Like Ever.

It's been a challenging week. And by challenging, I mean more involved planning, elaborate precision, multi-tiered problem solving, and gut-wrenching roadblocks than a caper film involving Mini cars and big explosions.

Only without, y'know, the fun.

(Or Mark Wahlberg and his one facial expression.)

But hey-- I successfully moved my Dad from the Florida Keys to here in Pittsburgh, without actually flipping out on my relatives who tell me to "let them know if there's anything they can do to help Dad, only they're not sure what they can do because they're so very far away, and are really busy, and have a new washer and drier delivered tomorrow, and need to be there for that, so good luck with everything okay thanks bub-bye."

But I didn't blog to tell you about my Mr. Hyde inner rage.

I'm blogging today to tell you about the amusing bit of bureaucracy I ran into at a Florida Keys post office on Friday.

The goal had been simply to get Dad's mail routed to my address while he's here in Pittsburgh for cancer treatment. So I filled out the form and Dad signed it and we approached the bright and shiny front desk.

There, the postal worker-- a lady who looked sun-blighted from years in the Keys, or her color possibly drained from Post Office Customer Service and dealing with people like me-- examined the form and said to Dad:

"So you're leaving the Keys forever, huh? Well, good luck!"

I blinked. "Excuse me?"

She indicated Dad. "He's not coming back, right?"

I wondered if she knew more about Dad's medical diagnosis right now than we did. Maybe she was like that cat I read about in the news who could just tell who the next person in the hospital would be to snuff it.

"Um, we don't know yet," I said, puzzled. "He might, but we don't know when. That's why we didn't choose the option where you have to fill in a date to start routing his mail back here."

"You checked Permanent. He's moving away permanently. So he can't come back," she told me.

Now, by this point in the day, I had already:
  • Walked about a mile to get Dad's car from the hospital parking lot and drive it back to his house
  • Run numerous errands
  • Personally dropped off the man's water bill and electric bill payments because he insisted that no one should spend the stamps to mail them when it was so easy for me to just run in.
I had flown through a tropical storm to get there, was working on not enough sleep on Dad's dusty sofa, and my stomach was roaring like a grizzly bear on picnic grounds...

I was a woman on the edge.

"Can't come BACK?!" I asked.

Dad saw the inner Hyde emerging and assured me, "She's kidding."

I said, "I don't have a sense of humor right now. It's moved. And it's checked the Permanent box."

But the Post Office Worker was not smiling. "I'm serious. He can't come back. Once that box is checked, we can never route his mail back there again. We need a date when he'll return."

"But I don't know the date when he'll return," I said. "People move all the time and never have an idea when they'll be where. How can I know what that date is? I am not Nostradamus!"

But she just said how this was a much better system than it was before, and the fact we hadn't needed to write a date in the previous system was WRONG, and this now is RIGHT and the most efficient way of doing things and...

"Is Eric Idle back there?" I asked the heavens. "Is Michael Palin or John Cleese going to pop out and say, 'And now for something completely different...'? Please tell me they are."

But she didn't seem to know those guys. Perhaps they worked there before she joined the USPS.

Eventually, we agreed to choose a completely arbitrary date in the future, which she says I will only now have to remember to change and update before it comes due-- making this system, thus, so very easy and user-friendly and far superior to the previous system and...

Dad was tugging me to the door.

I've heard that phrase, "You can't go home again."

Guess our friends in the Postal Service take that to the letter.

Everybody Sing!

It's been a rough couple of weeks, because I learned my Dad has developed cancer, and it's spread to other organs. I've been trying to get him moved to my city, as well as arrange for care, all while trying to balance my job, which keeps me in Cheez-Its and eyeliner.

That's the distinctly non-funny part.

But, I like to think that when life hands you cabbages, you might as well make cole slaw. Not that I actually eat cole slaw due to my acute mayonnaise-a-phobia. But you get the drift.

So while I assure you I will find my funny for you with next week's post-- I mean, I'll be traveling, so there will have to be humor fodder in there somewhere-- in the meantime, I give you an apt little musical number from our friend Eric Idle.

Don't be afraid to sing along there at your desk!... If you're at work, your coworkers will love it. If you're at home, your kids will moan, "Awww, Mom/Dad!" and you'll totally embarrass them, thus doing your job as a parent.

If People Acted Like Pets- Office Edition

I've learned a lot about living with a pet, since adopting my cat, Alice, almost two months ago. Things like: puncture wounds really can mean love. And: wool pile stroking your cheek in the night doesn't mean the area rugs are getting frisky.

But I've been thinking, the lives our pets lead might not apply well to the world of humans, particularly in the corporate world. Simply because this is how that might go:

  • Business breakfast meetings would start with coffee, danish, and half the execs running circles around the conference room table excitedly sharing tales of what a great poop they just had.
  • All group projects would require two employees to attempt the task, and two to hop up and lay on the project planning document.
  • Dull meetings would be filled with long, loud sighs bearing the weight of the world.
  • All project discussion would cease when someone accidentally drops a paperclip. Meetings would allow time for executives to compete and see who will bat it around the room.
  • When you can't find one of your colleagues in his office, you know he's in the shipping room, leaping in and out of the mailing boxes.
  • The corporate cafeteria would serve meat, bones, meat and meat.
  • Powerpoint presentations would find half the staff in the audience, and the other half up front blocking the screen.
  • Business restrooms would be the same, but TP would be tracked with gusto around the office space.
  • Dropping the ball in your job would suddenly also involve digging your teeth into it and refusing to pass it to the person you've been working closely with.
  • And when your boss asks you out for a bite... you bite him.

You pet-owning folks have any more to add to this list? I'd love to read 'em!

Deep Thought: Firefox Browser's Rainbow Cursor Hypnotism Show

Lately, my Firefox browser has started navel-gazing. Or the computer equivalent of it-- "cursor-contemplation," "arrow-oogling" or "mouse-minding"-- in lieu of a navel-esque region.

Yes, in the last few weeks it's grown introspective... Free-spirited... Philosophical...

Or, to put it a different way, it's become a giant frigging "Road Closed- Detour!" sign on my Internet Highway. And there are no Men at Work, either.

See what happens is, about every ten minutes of an hour, Firefox goes out for a smoke break. Or skirts the astral plane. Or has a bag of microchips and a nice data dump.

All I know is, it turns my cursor into this little rainbowy Dark Side of the Moon laser light spinny-do-- a colorful hypnowheel of death-- and it says, "Talk to it, babe. Be back in ten." and leaves me hanging.

It doesn't even play me "Comfortably Numb."

Most annoying is not that it processes something behind the scenes like Oz and his curtain. It's that it spins for five minutes, stops, waits for me to click on something thinking it's done fooling around, and then...

It does it again for another five minutes.

It's like it needs that taunting interaction between five-minute personal time. Just to make sure I'm still there mesmerized by this spectral beachball from hell.

Ten minutes is just long enough-- I might add-- for me to completely forget everything I was trying to accomplish online.

So now I keep Notes to Self about what I was writing, before the Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes came along.

I just hope during these little staycations , that it is out there doing something productive. Trying to calculate the meaning of life maybe, and not just off beer Googling or taking a browse down memory lane.

I plan to upgrade it, to see if that will improve the situation. But I have this nagging fear that will only toss all my bookmarks to the wind like pick-up sticks, develop selective amnesia on my passwords and up its holidays to include travel time.
"Hello-- is there anybody in there?"
Oh, and Firefox-- to save you the trouble, the answer to that question about the meaning of life?-- It's 42. Please don't call a time-out to verify.

Question of the day: What's your biggest pet peeve about computer technology?

And has your browser been strolling off for personal time? Maybe it's been hanging out with my browser.

Drafting a Novel: Lessons Learned, Albatrosses Groomed and the First Day of Kindergarten

I finished the full draft of my novel last week-- that loose-leaf albatross that's kept me company for many months, hanging around my neck and weighing heavily on my mind.

And now that I've shed it, and started the serious Albatross Grooming Process we call "Editing Like Ya Mean It," I thought I'd share a few favorite things I learned along the way.

Everyone you know is also writing a book...
Or has a Best-Selling Idea for a book...

Or has been thinking they might think about writing their memoirs of that one wacky time in college with the thing and the stuff.

It's pretty cool to learn that the only thing holding 75% of our populace back from winning the Pulitzer Prize for literature-- or kicking Dan Brown's symbolically-coded butt off the NYTimes list-- is that this material just hasn't been committed to paper yet.

So be prepared that when folks ask where you've been hiding yourself away lately, and you mention the novel, everyone from your cousin to your mail carrier will reveal themselves to be the next Rowlingpalinclancykerouac.

Thankfully, there is room for everyone.

You'll start rewriting history for your characters, like you were PR for a political candidate.
With the whole book together, you start to see scenes where your character is saying and doing things he never would have done once you actually got to know him, on page 521. Maybe it was the day you drank too much coffee. Or weren't feeling the motivation. Or you were distracted by... oh... a really noisy SunChip bag.

So you sit your character down and tell him, "No, you didn't say that. You said this. This is more you." He might recall very well having once held strong opinions on migrant workers or a new ketchup bottle, and now it's wiped away.

But like in politics, soon with careful attention, spin, and the Wonders of Word Processing, you'll make him forget-- as if it never was. There might only be some lingering discomfort.

There is a special panicky moment when you realize someone might read what you've written.
Talking about the writing process is always fun. It's safe. It's intangible. "It's a work-in-progress," you say fleet-footedly. "It's too soon."

You can stall so nicely with vagaries to the point your material gains in Fabulousness an amount inversely proportionate to the quantity of people who never, ever see it.

But once the novel's actually done, and all your friends have been hearing the blah-blah about it for years, suddenly they get this idea they might want to...oh, I dunno... read it.

And it turns into the first day of kindergarten for your novel. As in, you know very well the novel might still pick its nose in public and may not always use its Indoor Voice. But you have to let go sometime, right?

You begin creating elaborate scenarios of how people will misread what you've written.
The less you describe, the more readers will grab onto what you did say and try to interpret it their own way. And you start to worry your demure heroine will become rumored to be a crack-smoking Lady of the Evening with narcolepsy. And her dog will suddenly become symbolic of her desperate need for control in a male-dominated society.

You envision your simple childrens book about a squirrel who forgot where he buried his nuts will become your personal treatise about the nation's hoarding problem.

Once it's on paper and before eyeballs, it's out of your control.

You realize you've been on a Manuscript One-Arm Strength Training Program, from carrying 500+ page double-spaced draft everywhere you go.
Fifty pounds of dog kibble will seem like cotton swabs to your mighty physical power now.

You will have to boil down years' worth of blood, sweat, snot and brain oozage into a few heart-pounding, eye-popping, irresistable sentences if any agents or editors are ever going to pay attention to it. The giant stack of manuscript pages will seem like a happy day at the beach compared to this. It's fitting War and Peace on a fortune cookie. And you don't get room for that nifty Chinese Word of the Day either.

No one will understand why it's taken you so long to write the damned thing, because, heck, James Caan only spent a few weeks writing that whole Misery Chastaine novel-- his best one ever-- and he even spent half his day trying to break out of Kathy Bates' house.

Spam Random Delusional Compliment Generator- And Fingerpuppet Show

Everyone loves a good compliment, and spammers know it. So today's most innovative spam comments are laying it on thick, with lavish praise, fawning adoration, linky love... and an unrepentant and merry ignorance of context.

I've been getting this one lately:
Hi everybody. i would just like to make an introduction to everyone at www.cabbagesnkings.net Your forum is good! Generally when I visit forums I just come across crap, but this time I was really surprised, finding great information. Keep this fantastic effort up?? Visit CYOOT-HANDMADE-FINGERPUPPETS4KIDS.SPAM!

Ah, so kind, so detailed, so good for the self-esteem... If, y'know, this was real, a forum, or I'd planned to share vital finger puppet resources with my online buds.

I hadn't realized the finger puppet market was such that, like certain prescription meds of a personal nature, there were advantages to seeking them out through quiet, blackmarket spam puppeteering channels.

The nervous single man living in Mom's basement, pulling some strings to get rare illicit marionettes...

The schoolmarm with a rep to uphold, sticking her hand in underworld dealings for a knockoff Kermit.

Of course, "fingerpuppets" is probably a metaphor for something else far less yarn-and-felt based. I didn't click the link to find out.

Knowing the truth, you see, would ruin the images I've been enjoying of a secret underground Fight Club-styled Muppet Show, where you only get in if you pay a few under-the-table bucks to Scooter.

"What happens in Muppet Show, stays in Muppet Show. Now... Time to put on make-up and dress up right."

But I digress.

Because of the plug-and-play nature of the spam lately, I've been wondering whether these newfangled spammers don't have some sort of Random Delusional Compliment Generator for their comments.

Sort of a Mad Libs version for spam. They could input the top hundred or so insincere compliments and commentary into their database...

Keep it up!

Great forum!

I learned a lot.

Lots of good information here!

I love it here. I disagree with everything you said in this post.

(Some mixed messaging with that last guy. He's a wild card.)

I am a new first-time reader and am happy to meet everyone.

I have read all of your posts for a while now and will be back often.

And then they put it all together at will-- a mix-and-match for rich and exciting new spamitization in endless variety!

Lots of good information here I disagree with. Hi everyone, i am a new first-time reader and have read all of your posts for a while now and buy fingerpuppets hot blondes hot blond fingerpuppets. Great forum keep it up www.misspiggygoeshogwild.spam
Oh, I know it wouldn't improve the quality of spam we receive...

But hey, if I have to take the time to Not-Approve it, at the very least, it should be entertaining.

(Pssst, Scooter, here's that $20 I owe you. This week's secret password is "mnah-mnah")