Dr. Slaw: the Google Search Phrase Psychologist

Looking through the Google search terms that reach this blog is a little like rooting out the public's deeply buried desires and shivering, jagged fears. Ones that have otherwise shied from the light of day.

It's the place where the people of Webland feel safe and free to search for answers in their most starkly insecure moments...

Some of them not even involving poop, women licking things, or the Jonas Brothers.

Scanning these terms, our blog mascot, Old King Cole Slaw, indicated he felt he could help many of these poor, lost individuals.

Apparently, in between representing Of Cabbages and Kings, he has been slaving away to get his Psychology doctorate from the SFIHHSF. That is-- Steve Freud's International House of Head Shrinking and Flapjacks.

His last assignment involved creating his own inkblot charts using filo dough and jam. I have to say, they were delicious.

And since we are about nothing more than helping and guiding here and spreading vast amounts of misinformation -- I have asked our leafy-green brain expert to examine some of the searches that reached Cabbages this last week, and give his professional opinion. I'm terribly excited about it!

So without further ado-- I bring you Dr. Slaw and our real-life Google search visitor patients:

"What famous dead person would hang out with me? quiz"

Dr. Slaw: You are looking for love in all the wrong places. Clinging to fame and expecting it to rub off on you is not the answer. Celebrity is fleeting. If you are looking for friends, finding famous dead people to share the good times with you is highly unrealistic and possibly delusional.

I recommend digging up some long-dead relatives and trying to work things out with them first. There is less hired security to overcome, for one. And once you gain confidence in dealing with them, then you might feel secure enough to move on to department store mannequins, Furbies, and drunk Steelers fans enjoying the "I love you man" phase of their buzz.

"Murder by Slap Chop"
Dr. Slaw: Murder by Slap Chop is never the way to effectively work out your problems. First of all, you would have to cut the body into very, very tiny pieces in order to get it into the Slap Chop, making double the work for yourself.

Secondly, a consumer group test on KDKA showed that the Slap Chop plastic guard can actually break apart, leaving tiny plastic shards in the item you're chopping. So even if you could Slap Chop someone to death, this would give any forensics experts a clear clue to the weapon used. I would not recommend it. Stick to arsenic, if you must; it's a classic.

"Clichés wrecking people's vocabulary"

Dr. Slaw: Why are you fixated on this? First of all, I don't believe this is true. But secondly, remember, every time you point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you. There is no 'I' in 'team'. And it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. You have to love yourself before you can love others. Now, move along sonny, you bother me.

"Does tony the tiger live in shepherd"
Dr. Slaw: You, my friend, seem to have trouble separating fiction from reality. You are unable to see how your delusions and your wish-fullfillment are affecting your perceptions, and this is bound to bring you disappointment. Let me explain this to you: Shepherd exists only in your mind. There is no Shepherd. Once you can come to grips with that, you will be better able to enjoy life.

"Which parts of the cabbage do the clones come from?"
Dr. Slaw: Er... I believe these are not cabbages you are seeing; they're Brussels Sprouts.... Yeah, that's it. Brussels Sprouts. But -- (ahem)-- enough about me, let's talk about you. How much do you know about the cabbage clone invasion and where did you hear about—

Oh, I'm so sorry, Dr. Slaw, that's all the time we have. Thank you so much for your fine work today. I wish you the best of luck with your second career. I believe you've helped the Internet become a more mentally healthy place, one Google searcher at a time.

And really, this wouldn't be the first time a vegetable gave psychological advice. I mean, I've seen clips of Dr. Phil.


Black Spike Heels and a Red Sombrero

I slapped "Sombrero Guy" down on the table. But then she raised me one ""Hallelujah Lady."

This is a running joke I have with my hairstylist. I work in a very off-beat, bohemian part of town. Her salon is in the mall. There is much Fascinating Humanity in each. And every visit, we routinely swap tales of real-life characters we've encountered like cards in a rummy game.

Our office receptionist keeps me looped in to our local interest. Her clear view of the city sidewalk is a little like being in one of those mini-subs which explores the dark, little-charted depths of the ocean. She's constantly encountering all sorts of amazing new species.

Some with fins and frills to lure in unsuspecting prey...

Some with remarkable communication capabilities and elaborate self-defense rituals...

Some unexpectedly excreting bodily fluids back into the environment...

And others showcasing intriguing mating approaches.

Some are also completely off their nut.

"Sombrero Guy is here! Sombrero Guy is here!" This was my receptionist friend through the inner-office phone. Sombrero Guy's reputation preceded him. I knew the tales, but had not witnessed his self-expressive styling for myself. I ran the two flights downstairs.

By the time I got there, I could just make out a slim figure in the distance. A stringy, knobby man, in denim mens' acid-washed Bermuda shorts, a rumpled t-shirt, a giant red sombrero...

And teetering in shiny black stilettos.

It made a statement.

Mostly, we think the statement is, "I get dressed while very, very strung out."

The "Hallelujah Lady," on the other hand, comes to walk around the mall in the mornings accompanied by her constant exercise buddy, Jesus Christ.

Now, I have heard people say the phrase, "I walk with the Lord." But up until now, I wasn't aware that it actually involved laps and a pedometer.

Anyway, maybe it's from feeling the burn, the freedom from those extra calories, the endorphins, or maybe the Son of God is an even tougher motivator than personal trainer Jillian Michaels...

But not long into her circuit of the mall, the Hallelujah Lady will be out there, praising Jesus, waving her arms (burning off even more calories) and her shouts of joy echo off the store fronts and through the food court.

People turn and stare. The hairstylists all peer out to watch. And the Hallelujah Lady carries on, undeterred, exercising-- or perhaps exorcising-- both Body and Soul.

Well, I do realize that for her sheer enthusiasm, Hallelujah Lady is going to be an awfully tough one to beat for my next hair appointment. But I have hope. Recent coworker witnesses have documented sightings of a new local lifeform...

A guy who commutes on a uni-cycle during rush-hour while playing guitar.

We've thought a lot about this, internally. And the best we can determine is that clearly, he needs the guitar, given unicycles do not, in fact, have a sound-system built in.

And a boring old iPod, well... it just wouldn't have the same atmosphere, would it?

Hats off to that! Or, well... sombreros, if you've got 'em.

WWMD: What Would MacGyver Do?

Technical whiz. Humanitarian. Mediator. Mullet fashionista... In the 1980s, MacGyver was many a teenaged girl's Renaissance Man.

At least, among my circle of friends.

I was reminded of this recently, as conversation with some of these same friends-- recently reconnected due to the Seven Degrees of Separation Known As Facebook Stalking-- drifted back to the Swiss-Army superman we'd loved so well.

It was really only a matter of time.

MacGyver had absolutely topped our list of 80s heroes. Michael Knight of Knight Rider wasn't bad, but somehow deep-down we knew any guy who'd wear a black leather Member's Only jacket every single day, and whose best friend was his car, was just not relationship material.

I'd had a mysterious crush on Mike Nesmith of the Monkees-- the sarcasm, southern accent, sideburns and green wool hat was an acquired taste, I'll admit.

Harrison Ford was a particular favorite, too-- at least once I overcame the Kid-Brain Observational Barrier that prevented me from realizing Han Solo and Indiana Jones were actually played by the same person. (I don't exactly recall why it took me so long to figure this out. I can only say it was the same inconsistent value-assessment issue that caused me to think that Roddy McDowall was the Greatest Actor Ever because he played Cornelius in the Planet of the Apes films. I couldn't understand why he wasn't earning Oscars for this.)

And Johnny Depp as Tom Hanson of 21 Jump Street was a perennial on that list, prized not just because of his innate Depp-ness, but because that show was actually preachy enough it got my mom's Stamp of Approval.

But MacGyver.... Among my friends and I, MacGyver was a unifier. Someone we could all agree on.

Discussions around the lunch table covered all the normal drool-drenched fluff that hormonally-charged teenaged girls would dwell on. But inevitably, we would linger on MacGyver's impressive problem solving skills.

Yes, while boys would debate who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman, we would evaluate how our favorite TV hunks would get out of various jams.

"Who would be able to break out of prison first, Michael Knight or MacGyver?"

"Michael Knight would just call K.I.T.T. who would roll through the brick wall and bust him out."

"Yeah, but then the cops would know he broke out and be looking for him right away. MacGyver would weave his paper napkin from his meals into a super-tight string, and use it to either get the keys to his cell, or fashion it into an elaborate pulley-winch system, which used physics to bend the bars enough for him to get through."

(Science class was always disappointing to us, and I blame MacGyver. We never did cover making a bomb out of chewing gum, a can of baked beans, an aerosol hairspray can and a lighter. He set an example our teachers couldn't hope to live up to.)

In fact, no one quite compared. The A-Team members needed the whole team, a blowtorch and large plates of metal that happened to be lying around once a week, 15 minutes from the end of every program.

Magnum P.I. had personal connections.

Remington Steele had luck and Laura.

The Six-Million-Dollar Man had superpowers and a price tag.

Yes, when compared side-by-side to our other heroes, it seemed MacGyver was the only one who could get by entirely on his own innate wit and mechanical skill.

If we were stuck on a deserted island with only one TV leading man, we all agreed, you couldn't do much better than being stranded with MacGyver.

Plus, he's the only character from my youth that's had the distinction of becoming a verb.

Note: this post is dedicated to my high school lunch table friends, and was MacGyvered together from Grape Fruit Roll-Ups, duct tape, Superglue and a lot of coffee.


Shiny New Groups for Irrational Loathing

I don't know whether it's the crappy economy... the unemployment rate... the natural disasters... or the fact Tom DeLay dropped out of Dancing with the Stars. But lately, doesn't it seem like people are just looking for someone, anyone, to take the brunt of the blame for life's ailments?

Read the user comments on any news story, pop by any forum, and you'll see an outpouring of Advanced Scapegoatism and undiffused public rage. Yes, this is where race, government, political parties, sexual orientation, religion, atheism, sports, uppity weather, inconvenient fault lines and-- as I learned yesterday-- we women who are apparently too stupid to be allowed to drive because we cause men to speed, run red lights, and drive recklessly (we are so kooky that way)-- all get a nice thrashing.

Basically, the idea translates to "anyone who's not me sucks fish eyeballs."

So I was thinking this morning, the problem is, we're rapidly running out of folks who already haven't been bashed into throbbing bruised masses. It's getting cliche. Yep, we need to spread the irrational loathing around a little. Show our versatility. Why, there are whole obscure groups who haven't gotten theirs yet!

Why should we limit ourselves?

So I have some suggestions for those of us who need to project, deflect, and let off a little steam.

  • Flat-pack Furniture Manufacturers. Feel the country is falling apart? Well, it's probably because of a poorly die-cut cam-hole, and a loose cam-screw due to those irresponsible, corner-cutting, pre-drilled-hole-missing, flat-pack furniture manufacturers. Those furniture manufacturers are so smug, laughing all the way to the bank as they give us instructions in ancient Babylonian along with diagrams with all parts marked " Q." This is why our economy fell apart, I bet. Not because so much of this furniture isn't made in America, but because it's held together with wooden pegs in peg-holes twice their size.

  • Department Store Mannequins. The conceited bastards. They stand around all day expecting us to fawn over them when what are they-- pressed wood and a little paint? They're taking away the jobs that real people could be doing, because we wouldn't complain at all at standing 24-hours-a-day with our hips jutting out a foot before the rest of our bodies. And plus, they set a completely unrealistic example for us about what we're supposed to look like. We would all have perfect hair if we could wear wigs. Our makeup would never run if it were painted on. And the clothes-- don't even get me started on the clothes! All our clothes would fit perfectly if we walked around with them pinned in the back to give a more slimming, fitted appearance. They must be stopped.

  • Images that Come in Photo Frames. The artistically-shot Wonder of the World... The smiling, loving couple... The beautiful flawless family where the kids haven't cut their own bangs and the dog doesn't have gas. Yes you, Photo Frame Images, set a standard of camaraderie and elitist taste that conflicts with the viewpoint of millions of Americans. You need to bring it down to earth. Why don't you show us a black-and-white photo of that abandoned meth lab down the street, or the new county courthouse they just built downtown? Now that's Real Art. Why don't you show Carl and Myrna grinning, fresh from the WalMart dentist? Why do you insist on shoving these unrealistic representations of life we're never going to see and wouldn't want to, even if we won the lottery and not just because Stan here isn't allowed to fly because he accidentally got himself a file at the FBI for that small bomb threat joke he called into the Rent-a-Center last year so he could have the day off?

  • Goats. They're eating up all of our resources. For instance, tin cans that could be recycled instead end up in the gullet of a four-stomached beast that expects us to cater to its needs. Not only that, as the blogger of Nanny Goats in Panties will attest, they're taking over our media. A recent post on her site proves, innocent people are just trying to get news and entertainment from blogs like hers, when suddenly they are, out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever except for a blog title called Nanny Goats in Panties and a header filled with goats, showing us not the hard information and non-goat-related laughs we demand. But the occasional funny goat picture. It's mind control, I tell you! They should, at the very least, have warnings like peanuts packets that bear the words "May Contain Peanuts." Live goat-free or die!

Well, these are just a few of the groups that I think safely have it coming. But, of course, you all are free to come up with your own groups that are blissfully going about their own business but are just asking for a good needling.


The Land of Lost Ideas

The idea was there, then gone. Somewhere between "Hey, that would make a good a blog post" and "Oooh, look! The coffee's done! Slurp!" the idea had just enough time to make a clean getaway.

Which got me wondering, exactly where do these ideas go when they vanish like that?

Well, extensive in-depth research— okay, maybe five seconds on Google, though with some really canny search-term jockeying— revealed the truth, which I will share with you today.

Forgotten ideas go to Evernon.

Evernon, for those who don't have a map handy, is not in any specific spot, really, but it's located just a little to the left of everywhere. You can get there by grabbing a piece of paper and a pencil and then drawing a blank. But that's actually a lot harder than it looks.

You can also get there via a few known portals.

A popular portal to Evernon is located along the Washington DC. beltway. Who doesn't know someone who's gotten lost there at one point or another-- only to find themselves suddenly, mysteriously, intersecting the turn-off they need with no real idea of where they went wrong, or how they got back on track?

Another path to Evernon lies in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, connected to Old Babcock Road, New Babcock Road, North Babcock Boulevard, Babcock the Middle, and Formerly Known as a Babcock but Now Call Me "Jeff" Lane.

If you have an area in your hometown where you inevitably get turned around, disoriented and lost, that is very likely an on-ramp to Evernon.

Now you know.

Evernon contains a number of different towns and it is the place where all missing things go.

In these rolling hills, dales, valleys and laundromats, you will find all of those AWOL socks from your laundry basket.

You might discover that pen you were sure you had in your pocket but which seemed to have vanished into thin air.

You'll find all the calories manufacturers remove from foodstuffs in order to make them "Light," "Fit," or "Fat-Free."

You'll find sections containing those hours you lost during that particularly good party...

The hair you recall having but which seems to have vacated for more fertile pastures...

And the weight you worked off with that special all-pimiento diet last year.

As evidenced by that last point-- and your regained 10 pounds-- the portal to the areas around Evernon is, in-fact, two-way.

So, I still have hope that my lost idea may come back to me someday. In the meantime, I seem to have misplaced my post ending, but I did find a lost sock.

Ah, well. It doesn't pay to get greedy.


Gross Hunters- Ghost Hunters Tribute Parody

Gross Hunters follows the work of C.R.A.P.s (the Crud and Residue Analysis Partnership), a team of parapsychologists-by-day and amateur public health inspectors-by-night.

Their mission? To search for evidence of the filthiest hotels and grossest historic landmarks in the country.

Meet C.R.A.P.s co-founder, Jayden Baldgai:

"Here we are at Le Chateau D'Isasteur, rumored to be New Orleans' most disgusting hotel. Guests claim a child-sized cockroach roams these halls at night.

"Others say a terrifying face appears in the bathroom mirrors, made of toothpaste residue and spit. It's our job to disprove it before the Board of Health sweeps in and closes 'em down. We'll see what we find."

Joining Jayden on this night's C.R.A.P.s investigation is:

Graham Friggen- C.R.A.P.s Co-Founder...

Afraid-of-Everything-But-Bugs-Vermin-and-Dirt Dude -- Tech Manager

Overly-Excitable Guy -- Comic Relief/Equipment Misplacer/ScapeGoat

And Random-Trainee-Chick-We'll-Never-See-Again-But-Wearing-a-Tank-Top -- Eye Candy

We join the C.R.A.P.s team at Chateau D'Isasteur, after a roadtrip involving witty banter and strategically-filmed bickering.

"Okay, here we are in room 237, where witnesses claim they've seen the giant cockroach.

"Also, one guest claimed she woke when she felt a cold spot. The bedspread was apparently so filthy, it was trying to crawl off the bed.

"So we're going to use our heat sensors and motion detectors tonight and see if we can recreate that."

CUT TO: critical evidence-gathering sequence involving:
  • Grainy, jostling footage
  • Cast members saying "Dude, did you hear that?" 47 times
  • Tense soundtrack music coincidentally blocking out what the cast just heard
  • Cameras swinging the opposite direction of what the main cast seems to be seeing
  • And something triggering the motion detectors, which could be a giant cockroach but is actually Overly-Excitable Guy helping himself to the mini-bar.
After last night's thrilling recording session, C.R.A.P.s leave the site and Dude and Guy review the collected footage.
GUY (gasps, points to the screen with shaky finger): "Dude, what's that?!"

DUDE (yawns disinterestedly): "Ghost."

GUY (trembling with excitement): "Dude, over there, isn't that--?!"

DUDE (nibbles a fingernail): "Meh. Free-roaming, full-torso, vaporous apparition..."

GUY: "Dude, but look, what the hell is that?"

DUDE (leaps up, almost knocks over chair): "Whoa! Now that Jayden and Graham are gonna wanna see!"

Jayden, Graham, Dude and Guy as they gather around the high-tech equipment in preparation for the Reveal:
DUDE (pointing at the computer monitor): "Now here, we have just a bunch of orbs, which indicate electrical energy that could be, you know, conclusive evidence of paranormal activity, blah, blah, blah...

"And here's an apparition that tried to eat Guy. But here's what I really wanted to show you is..."

JAYDEN: "Look at all those dust particles and bugs that initially appear like giant circles photoshopped into the footage! This is terrific, Guy... Dude. Great job! We have something really awesome to show the client."

Celebratory manly fist-bumping occurs following a fine Gross Hunters tradition.

GUY: "We also have an EVP for you to listen to."

GRAHAM: "Electronic Vacuuming Phenomena?"

GUY: "Yeah, this was when the maid was in the room working. Take a listen."

A spine-chilling male voice emanates from the recorder over the vacuuming sound:

"I will swallow your soullllllllll."

"Hear those clicks under the horrifying otherworldly voice that just made me wet myself? Yeah, those clicks mean that that vacuum the maid is using just doesn't have enough suction...

"In a room of that size, with as much test debris as we put down there, man, you should be hearing a lot more grit and grime rattling through that tube."

JAYDEN (nods): "This house is unclean."
Cut to Jayden and Graham with the owner of Chateau D'Isasteur, Mr. Jethro Tully.

JAYDEN: "While we didn't catch footage of the cockroach, the toothpaste face, or the moving bedspread, we did find a dresser made entirely of dust and pea-soup vomit...

"It also looks like your maid needs a new vacuum cleaner, that one is clogged...

"Oh, and by the way, it seems the entire place is filled with malevolent spirits who want to destroy you...

"But, anyway, you're gonna want to get that vomit dresser out of there before the board of health shows up." 

MR. TULLY (looking grateful and shaking their hands): "Thank you, C.R.A.P.s, for giving me the chance to save my business."

Cut to Jayden and Graham in the C.R.A.P.s van, driving back home.

GRAHAM: "Well, I think we really helped Mr. Tully out this weekend. Hey, while I think of it: where's Guy? I didn't see him get in the other van with Dude."

JAYDEN: "He got eaten by the thing in 237 when he was packing up the equipment."

GRAHAM:" Oh. That kinda sucks. I hope they moved out that vomit dresser first."

JAYDEN: "Yeah, they did, it's cool."

GRAHAM (nods): "Where to next?"

JAYDEN: "Where-ever the voiceover narrator they splice in later tells us."

VOICEOVER NARRATOR SPLICED IN LATER: "Next week on Gross Hunters, Jayden, Graham and the C.R.A.P.s team scour the famous House of Mud tourist attraction and see if lives up to its name...

"And C.R.A.P.s gets a surprise phonecall from New Orleans. Has Guy been regurgitated by the thing in 237 along with a second vomit dresser? Will he ever officially be off the C.R.A.P.s team?..

"Find out all the dirt, on the next breath-taking episode of Gross Hunters!"

Duel Two: Trucker Granny's Revenge

The old lady crept along the analgesics aisle with her shopping cart like the lead villain in a mummy movie.

And not one of those sleek, hyper-drive new CGI mummies, either. Oh no, we're talking Old School, plodding, 2-miles-an-hour, long-deceased, vengeful yet been-around-the-block-enough-they're-waiting-for-you-to-fall-and-break-an-ankle, pharaoh-type mummies here.

The ones who'll off you when they're good and ready.

I thought nothing of it at the time.

I assumed her, quite wrongly, to be just your average elderly lady. The kind with bladder control concerns. And gout. And arthritis from knitting her cats legwarmers.

And then I made the mistake that would cost me.

I had five minutes before I needed to be back at work. And I ducked around her.


Have you ever seen Spielberg's Duel with Dennis Weaver?

Dennis Weaver is a businessman driving on a desolate Western road. He needs to get to a meeting quickly. So he passes this slow-moving, large, mud-spattered gasoline truck-- just one simple action, something that happens a million times on the roads every day.

Unfortunately, the driver is two gears short of a well-wired gearbox.

And because of this single pass... this simple gesture... this one moment in time he cannot take back... that unseen driver begins a relentless mission to eliminate Dennis Weaver from America's roadways and make him go "splat."

I'm telling you all this because I suspect Duel was actually based on a real-life story, and that this old lady was actually the driver of that truck.

I don't know whether it was the speed with which I went around her. Or a snotty clack of my plastic shopping basket. Or an impertinent squeak of my shoes on the grocery store floor.

But this old lady let me get ahead of her in the aisle just enough for a false sense of security. And that's when she changed-- shedding her Sweet, Grandmotherly, Octogenarian Disguise and transforming into Trucker Granny from Hell.

Yes, I had no sooner headed on my way, and began to think about things back at the office, when the old woman put on an astounding, rattling burst of speed, plowed the shopping cart forward and...

Rammed it hard into the back of me, catching the ol' Achilles heel and the less firm parts of my nether-regions.

The cart clanked and jarred. I tripped forward, catching myself. Fellow shoppers witnessed, wide-eyed.

And I have to tell you, it was at that moment, there was a part of me that was really impressed-- though not necessarily my ankle tendon which was throbbing a bossanova of pain.

I mean, not often do you underestimate someone so thoroughly as to have your impression proven completely and utterly wrong-- and with physical assault, no less.

And when I turned to look at her and said a pointed, "Hey!" (a brilliant comeback considering the surprise circumstances), Granny had transformed once more. Only now she had become also blind and deaf.

She could not hear my indignant, "Hey."

She could not see me before her. She just smiled smugly, steadfastly refusing to meet my gaze.

The turbo which she had relied on only moments before had burnt out, but she was storing up... for later I think.

Yes, Trucker Granny had earned a notch on her shopping cart handlebar.

She had made a glorious shining statement against the pushy, uppity young'ns of the world. She had taken a stand for batty, damn-well-gonna-do-what-I-please seniors everywhere.

I imagine I wasn't her first victim.

And I'm willing to bet, I was not the last.


Will Paint for Food

I popped into a Starving Artist art sale over the weekend-- y'know, just to keep my finger on the pulse of the Undernourished Illustrator niche-- and I came to realize something very exciting:

I could starve, too!

Yes, indeed, I believe I have finally found a potential market for my beloved painting hobby! Like my still-lifes of four rose heads and three stems...

My wonky shadowing, my trite and unnaturally bent figures...

My one-step-away-from-Elvis-on-velvet, only without the Elvis... or the velvet because that stuff's expensive...

Even my "Moody Blue Pepper Amid Monochrome Eggplant and Artichoke" which symbolizes the isolation that individuals feel when tossed into an urban, hustle-bustle society and...

(Actually, I just wanted to try out my Pthalo Blue.)

...Well, it all has new possibility through this creative community!

All this time, I felt my meager handicrafts should be stacked in the dark basement to be kept watch over by the spiders. (They'll let me know if it floods, communicating through a series of web messages and Morse Code.)

But now, now I see these works of art could be brought to the surface-- the Morloks that they are-- and served up to a ravenous public!

Oh, you should have seen the crowds at the sale, friends! People of every age, swarming the aisles of stacked canvases, surveying the overlooked artistic masterpieces with a keen eye.

Here, a pseudo-European café scene in vivid, expressionist smears of orange, browns and yellows. Clearly communicating the intrigue of foreign delights... and runny egg.

And there, a lighthouse, lonely in the distance, sloping somewhat leftward into a rocky crag, making a statement about time, age, and using a ruler in a hurry.

To the right, a panel reminiscent of Monet's Waterlillies, ideal for those who cannot afford $2.99 for the actual Monet poster, but still want to stir the envy of elite, art-savvy friends...

And to the left, images of the Eiffel Tower, as if plucked from the very easel of a Left Bank Parisienne herself... You could almost smell the fresh baked baguette... the fromage... the, er, Gérard Depardieu.

Yes, these and more were examined, appraised, and considered for their own unique qualities by local connaisseurs of the finer things in life. Like whether they would match the couch...

Whether the lighthouse scene was the right size, or the Van Gogh Starry Night knockoff was more "Them"...

Whether the pink acryllic goddess fresco in marker-outlined profile had enough of a Roman nose to match the Roman spa tub freshly installed.

Yes, it was a day of critical decisions in the art world for my fellow Pittsburghers.

I admit, I left there feeling just a tad overwhelmed. Here, united in one place, was so much hope... soul... potential to tie the whole room together. Well, it left me with a brand new perspective on creative passion and on the brave drive to succeed in spite of the odds...

Also, the percentage of attendees who likely enjoyed lawn gnomes in their yards.

Things to think about, friends. Things to think about.


The Second-Degree Murder of Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann died in a freak microwaving accident. Call me callous, but it was not until I was well into adulthood that I was reminded of this tragic event.

In fact, only as I sorted through old toys for charity, did sight of the Brother Raggedy unleash the ugly, terrifying truth I had blocked out for so many years.

His sister Ann would not be among these bags and boxes.

Raggedy Ann was dead.

Ann and Andy had been a rather mismatched set from the beginning. Ann was a tall girl-- lean, lanky, and towering above her brother.

Together they looked like a stuffed Sonny and Cher. And, following the tradition, it was Ann who got all the attention.

Ann also suffered from female pattern baldness. So my mother would dutifully re-wig her with whatever color yarn she had handy.

By my kindergarten year, Ann looked less like Cher and more like Courtney Love-- a sticky, smeared, and faded strawberry-blond.

Then she succumbed to further indignity, when Grandpa sat on her.

I can admit it now; it was my frantic attempt to save her from smothering (the Aged Relative was not known for his exemplary hygiene) that inadvertently detached her arm, and triggered her true downward spiral.

I waited fearfully, while Mom put Ann in rehab. Under her skillful hands, Ann was stitched-up, washed, coiffed, detoxed and just about ready to begin life anew. I was overjoyed.

But Ann was also still drenched. A day went by... another... and repeated tumbles in the dryer, and even summer sunbathing on the porch, didn't encourage her ultimate recovery. I was five and I was anxious.

And that’s when Mom decided to speed-dry her in the microwave.

I should emphasize that in the mid-70s, microwaves were still rare and mysterious things. Shadowy and mystical... Akin to Sea Monkeys, StarWars and the high-tech visual delights of Atari Pong.

Mom's logic was that if a microwave could cook a baked potato in seven minutes, it could surely dry some cotton hussy with sporadic alopecia. And it might have worked, too. Only, see, microwaves cook from the inside out and Ann’s insides were, we later learned, sawdust.

Black smoke pouring from the appliance signaled the beginning of the end for our Ann.

In seconds, our dining room smelled like a bonfire. Flames shot from Raggedy Ann’s chest, licking the microwave’s inner roof. The smoke detector squawked like a dying goose. Mom shrieked, tossed baking soda on the doll and patted her down like Kurt Russell in Backdraft. Ann was carried out smoldering.

My mother made a final, noble attempt to resuscitate Raggedy Ann. A denim patch went over the spot where the fatal heartburn had taken place. And we went through the motions of redrawing her facial features with magic marker.

But she still reeked of burnt wood and scorched cotton. And her face was just wet enough so that her markered lips bled into a crooked, post-mortem sneer.

It was time to face facts: Raggedy Ann was no more. We put her in a grocery bag and I watched from the window as Mom set her out with the trash.

I never got another Ann. It would have been disrespectful. But when the Adult Me picked up Andy and added him to the donation bag, I had to wonder...

How on earth did I ever explain to him that his sister, who went in for a simple makeover procedure, ended up dead and dumped at the side of the road?

To this day he probably figures it was a mob hit.


Old Fogey Ranting

Old. I am. Officially.

And worse, I am Old and Cranky. A two-fer.

At age 38, I have somehow transformed into that bitter, judgmental old biddy who waves a cane at the damned whippersnappers and laments what happened to the good old days.

The days when we ate lead paint and enjoyed its crunchy burst-in-your-mouth flavor. The time we, at any moment, could be pitched through the windshield like a spiral-cut ham, due to our lack of safety belts and car seats.

I have become this person.

I realized I had become Great-Aunt Gertrude of Fogeyland when I went for Chinese food, and I found myself staring steely-eyed at the teen at the next table.

It was family bonding time there for Teen. An evening out for fried rice and family moments. But was Teen talking about her day? Was Teen passing the lettuce wraps?

Teen was texting.

And texting.

And texting.

Twenty minutes, Teen sat at that table in a Cone of Silence, texting.

Then she put it down.

And picked up the portable video game player.

Now, I know the world has moved on from the sepia-toned days I was a kid. I mean, just the fact that poo-brown corduroy split-skirts are no longer a wardrobe staple is a sign of that. (One case, for the better, I admit.)

But if I'd brought even, in Fogey Terms, a book-- that's one of those papery things with words printed on it where you have to turn the pages, in a time of history known as "B.K."-- Before Kindle"--

Anyway, if I'd brought one of those Kindle precursors to read at the dinner table as a kid?...

Man, that thing would have been whipped out of my hand so fast, I would have thought Superman was turning the Earth backwards on its axis again. (1978 Superman: The Movie reference. Non-fogies exempt from understanding this.)

When I was a kid, we had to sit there at the dinner table with the Old Fogeys, be bored to tears, and pretend to like it.

There was no disconnecting from the Mandatory Family Fun. Oh, sure, you still hated it. You'd rather have punctured your brain with a Crazy Straw through the ear. (Fogey Reference #2.) But hating it was a part of growing up, learning to behave, treating others with, dare I say, respect.

So you endured. You found other, more creative ways to entertain yourself. Like tying your straw wrapper into exotic shapes and lobbing them at your siblings. Or strategically planning how much of your vegetables you could smear around your plate to make it look like you'd actually eaten some of them.

But you certainly didn't openly block out your parents with, y'know, fun.

So I've found myself wondering what's going to happen to a generation who's been entertained every second of the day, every day. Kids who have never had the opportunity to be bored out of their well-pierced skulls, in order to be polite to other people.

Will they grow up happy, well-adjusted multi-taskers?

Or develop into those coworkers with the attention span of a fruit-fly on speed? Ones who stand up and shout, "Score!" at the high point of your company presentation because they finally racked up one-bazillion point on Mario Brothers 5000, now with Hologram Mushroom Action?

I don't know. But being a Fogey, I've now exhausted myself with the idea.

Time to go get my shawl and my 400 cats and make sure the LifeAlert machine's turned on, and have a nice nap. Later, I might crank up the Ford (Fogey Reference #3) and see about some more Chinese food.

That fried rice is a nice, easy chew on the dentures.


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First Airport Goes Nude in the War on Terrorism

By Penny Penn-Schyll
Nashville Star-Sun-Post-Reporter

NASHVILLE, TN-- Responding to the thwarted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the Bettie Page Memorial Regional Airport and Discount Lingerie Outlet, outside Nashville, has taken an innovative step toward passenger safety: mandatory nudity in all terminals and departing flights.

Dubbed the BareTrans Program®, now passengers experience travel in the buff, beginning at airport security checkpoints. Upon disrobing, all clothing must be stowed in airtight Spacebags® and will be scanned for prohibited substances. The bagged clothing must then fit completely inside a carry-on bag. This is hermetically-sealed by trained security using Hermet™ (patent pending), duct tape and those twisty-ties they put in toy packaging. There is a fee of $15 per bag, and bags must remain sealed until passengers reach their final destination.

Other changes have been made to accommodate the new, more rigorous safety requirements:
  • Temperatures in the terminal have been adjusted to a consistent 75 degrees.
  • Disposable plastic covers are now available for hygienic airport seating, and can be purchased from the airport shop at just $5.00 per cover.
  • And the Hooligans' Family Restaurant will no longer serve its Sizzle-n-Spice Fajitas due to potential spatter injury and class action lawsuit.

With the elimination of pockets and carry-on bag access, post-security money-handling is now prohibitive. Passengers must pre-pay for any food, beverages or souvenier items they predict they might possibly consider purchasing in the airport or in-flight.

Passengers estimate their total future purchases at Check-in and receive a bar-coded hand-stamp for that amount. As purchases are made, each item's cost is debited from the passenger's pre-paid account by simply scanning the barcode.

While airport officials indicate the new program is still in transition, passengers do seem to like the sense of safety the BareTrans Program provides.

"Fer 75 years, ain't nobody seen me nekkid but Doc Graham and my husband Everett here," said traveler Emmeline Dodd, age 94, off to visit her baby sister Margaret, 90, in Tuscon.

"But if it takes me givin' half o' the county a cootch-show in order to keep the good ol' U.S. of A. safe, why, I'll do the patriotic thing and make my privates public fer Uncle Sam."

Mrs. Dodd's uncle, Sam Johnson, age 102, declined to comment.

With the early success of the BareTrans Program, travelers can expect airports across the nation to follow their lead. Hanes Community Airport in Thredbaya, Maine, is currently implementing a variation of the program, called the "Tightie Flightie Initiative." While the process remains largely unchanged, passengers may retain their undergargements throughout the course of travel.

But officials at Bettie Page Memorial call the Tightie Flightie plan "risky."

"When you have terrorists willing to stow WMDs in their BVDs, you just can't take chances on things like personal privacy, dignity and Victoria's Secret," explained airport public relations manager, Buffy Bethune.

"We have a new slogan here at Betty Page Regional: 'Bare in the Air Gets You There.' And we stand behind that. Well, not directly behind. But more to the side. With our eyes averted. Politely."

For information on these and other security programs in your area, please contact your local airport.