The Legend of Fangy Pitchtail

The Jersey Devil has its pine barrens. The Loch Ness Monster has its Scottish aquatic tourism. And Fangy Pitchtail claims the weedy, second-tier, far-back of my residential yard.

Like ol' Nessie and Bigfoot, there is some reason to question our friend Fangy's existence. But where they have grainy non-credible portraiture, I have but one fleeting eyewitness moment to back it up.

I had always suspected there was something back there. When I first bought the property, the Way-Back of my tiny personal kingdom was a lush jungle of prickles, vines and National Geographic photographers.

So with the blind, zealous ambition of a new homeowner, I gathered machete and gloves and well-informed native guides and went about reforestation. The Nat Geo folks moved three backyards over to examine the fascinating suburban ecosystem of lawn bowling balls, bottle trees and other creative recycling. Things were looking up.

Soon, I had seven bags of creepers and stabbers and stick-to-your-socksers. But new information caused the glittering joy of a job-well-done to quickly lose its luster.

I could not stop focusing on a strange spherical hole, the size of a golfball, dug deep, deep, deep into the dirt.

It looked like something was living there. Something roughly the diameter of a very thick jungle vine.

Suddenly, I wondered if I was truly alone. And I wished I could go back to the days of solitude and a 75% less chance of slithering subterrainean guests.

Well, from then on I kept the place clear in only a half-hearted way. Just often enough so I wouldn't be labeled the local kook, the crazy lady with the Addams Family film set for her backyard.

When I did weed, I weeded while peering over my shoulder, questioning every rustle in the brush, every vine I grabbed...

A surprise grand entrance of a local cat lost me about three lives of my own, as my ragged nerves exploded in a personal landmine of limbs and heart palpitations.

Then there was the day a friend and I were chatting in the kitchen, and happened to peer out the back window into the yard.

It was only a moment, as these things tend to be. One second in time with no independent verification, no solid proof. But we both stopped dead in conversation as something large, long, sleek and black was spotted, just slipping over the top of the five-foot back fence.

"Er, maybe it was a cat," my friend told me, lying on cue as good friends tend to do in situations of discomforting backyard anaconda. "A black cat's tail. That's all. Just a cat."

"Sure," I agreed, knowing full-well a cat's tail does not taper like that. If that was a cat, it was a scaly mutant cat. That lived in a golf-ball-hole.

And that made the image of Fangy Pitchtail all the more, um, colorful.

So Spring is here, and the Way-Back yard needs to be weeded again. I know the probability is that my cold-blooded squatter is probably just a simple black snake, completely harmless and likely more afraid of the shrieking, edgy creature above than she is of it.

And perhaps Fangy isn't even there anymore. Perhaps he's relocated to the yard with the National Geographic photographers, helping document the local fauna and why anyone needs a wall artistically-constructed out of 100 empty Chlorox bottles.

But like those who doggedly pursue the fabled, the impossible, the mythic, I can't help but feel Fangy is still out there and waiting. Biding his time for that one big meeting. His ultimate chance to pose for a blurry shot on film.

The stuff of which kitschy souvenir t-shirts are made. I mean, a scaly mutant cat that lives in a golf-ball-hole could really make a killing.
Er, maybe I should rephrase.

Technical Meh

I know now that I'm not the only one. In fact, I have proof.

My friend Kathy of The Junk Drawer wrote recently she plans to say "Sayonara" to her uber-surround-sound-indoor-personal-home-multiplex the moment her husband, Dave, snuffs it. Such is her increasing animosity to the beast.

(The multiplex, I mean. Not Dave. She likes Dave.)

My own relationship with my home entertainment system is thus:

Getting the bare minimum hooked up and working properly in the first place has been a Light-Beaming-From-the-Heavens-Chorus-of-Fat-Kids-With-Wings-and-Harps-Flapping-Around Miracle. One not to be screwed with.

Adding or enhancing this system is absolutely out of the question.

Yes, I admit it. I am perfectly content having reached a state of Technical Meh.

I have worked it out so I know where the cables go for the current items I own. No more, no less. This alone had been finalized through lengthy consultation with a friend, a dad, a Radio Shack employee and pinpointed through a series of pencil drawings and weeping phone calls.

When I have moved domiciles, or exchanged dead home entertainment technologies for happy live ones, the cables are all marked with careful, specifically-coded systems so detailed and mysterious, Tom Hanks and Dan Brown are doing a book-to-feature movie about them.

This system gets threatened about once every three years, as my dad comes to visit for Christmas.

He sees that I have three remotes. One for the TV. One for the cable. And one for the video player. And he feels that in his deep and abiding Dad Knowledge, he can streamline this for me into a single Omniscient Remote.

But while that idea is a lovely fairy tale we might enjoy pondering in dappled garden glens, I do not, in fact, want One Remote to Rule Them All.

I like my Triumvirate of small black buttoned boxes. What the Pop learns after a few hours of research on the matter is that my technolgy currently teeters on the precipice of Ultimate Doom.

One subtle change could render the entire system into electronic paper weights.

These days, when the spirit moves him to reach for remotes with renewed vigor at the challenge, I slap his hand and tuck a mug of egg nog in it.

But that's family for ya, isn't it? Always trying to push your buttons.

Aesthetic Examination in Fine Bad Art: Portrait of Big-Eyed Pig-Dog-Person

At Of Cabbages and Kings, we are all about showcasing only the very best in the arts-- whether it be highly literary tales involving school bullies and toilets as a metaphor for man's raw and eternal struggle against man...

Whether it's the music that truly defines our time such as Beach Boys parodies dedicated to surfing Peruvian llamas...

Or whether it is showcasing the landmark moments in fine art. Like this piece I discovered while strolling the attic galleries of a local antiques purveyor...
It is installed to the right of a photo of three small children in overalls, and above a broken Victorian china cabinet, as if daring the viewer to question this intriguing, anachronistic juxtaposition.

Note how the artist has embraced the Big-Eyed Child stylistic trend found commonly in the latter part of the 20th century. Yet undoubtedly the viewer will agree, the physical features of the subject give this particular piece a dynamic and memorable look and feel all its own. I believe with further examination, the viewer may find it virtually impossible to un-see this work once seen-- thus reinforcing the artistic importance of this piece.

Let's take a closer look, shall we?

Note the saucer-like, disproportionate eyes.

Where normal pieces of this genre learn toward sentimentality, the gaze of this figure dares the viewer to object. "Weep? Why would you weep for me?" it demands, brow furrowed under its blond Carol Channing wig.

Large pouty lips, set in distinct disapproval, also emphasize the dark mood of the subject. While the nose above transforms the figure from irritated human with mysterious displeasure-- the Anti-Mona Lisa, if you will-- to reveal an almost inhuman, animistic quality.

Is the nose that of a dog, a cat, a pig? Has the artist transformed a beloved pet into anthropomorphic form to share an interpersonal connection that transcends the dynamics of master and beast, and back again?

Does the androgyny of the figure convey a personal ambivalence? Or is this a portrait of Elton John in his younger days, connoting a love-hate sensibility with his work and within his own identity?

In conclusion, this work, while unsigned, remains an important example of portraiture from the 1970s.

It has been left in its spot in the gallery, on the chartreuse green wall near the room with the fringed vests and framed Dukes of Hazzard poster, in a hope that more people will get an opportunity to see this seminal 70s masterpiece.

Thank you for joining our discussion today. Next week we will examine The Bobblehead As Modern Expression of Ancient Greek Marble Statuary.


They want revenge. Or national treasury bling. Or weapons. They want to destroy the planet with assorted lasers. Or robots. Or giant sharks. Or giant robot sharks with lasers.

Some of them want a big-ass promotion.

But it occurred to me that very few movie villains, if any, ever want what so many highly obsessive folks teetering on the precipice of sanity seem to want...

An excess of cats.

So I was thinking, just once, I would love to see an action picture where the bad guy gets on the video comm-- which they all seem to have--

(Tech companies must make big bucks setting up satellite communication systems for Evil Overlords)

He picks up his pre-prepared evil guy speech--

(Because so often they toil for decades to achieve revenge and world domination, yet don't seem to have their evil monologues memorized. You'd think they'd be rehearsing in front of the mirror along with brushing their teeth every morning.)

-- And he tells our heroes something like this:

"This is Professor Heinous. My giant robot laser sharks are everywhere, and as you can see, I have you, citizens of Earth, right where I want you. So now that I have your complete and undivided attention, I will issue my demands..."

"By 12 midnight tomorrow, I want the major leaders of Earth to assemble and present me with the world's entire supply of...."

—You can hear a bead of sweat roll—


Here the leaders of the major nations, on each of their individual monitor screens, exchange glances with their advisors. Eyebrows are raised. The Secretary of Defense gives a meaningful look to the President and twirls a finger around one ear symbolically.

"Um," the President of the United States turns calmly to the monitor. "I believe they're called 'Iranians' nowadays."

"Not, people, you dimwit!" shouts Professor Heinous. "What am I going to do with people? I hate people. People make me sick. Persians! Persians!"

"Oh!" interjects the British Prime Minister. "Well, that can certainly be arranged. What color scheme are you going for?"

"Color sch--" A vein throbs in Professor Heinous' neck as he sputters. "Are you insulting me with talk of textiles?! This is a concrete stronghold cut into an isolated volcanic island. Do I look like I need rugs here?"

"Well, actually," says the Prime Minister, nodding hesitantly, "I wouldn't recommend the world's supply, but my wife indicates just a few would really tie the—"

"Persians!" shouts Professor Heinous. "Cats. Fluffy ones. That are soft and furry and go by names like Tiddles and Mister Whiskerton, and eat Fancy Feast out of crystal goblets. Persians, you fools! That I can talk to and pet and watch frolic after a feather on a stick. And which will never, ever leave me, largely because I will lock them in the Evil Compound and plus this is an island and they can't swim."

"Ah," said the Prime Minister of Japan, "'kay. Sure."

"And now for my second demand," says Professor Heinous. "I also expect to receive.... the world's supply of tinfoil, and all copies of the Sacramento Bee newspaper dating from 1982, February, back to 1960, July. I'm missing those copies for my collection and now that I rule the world, I'm thinking the time is right to really flesh it out."

The camera pans and we see that in most of the Evil Conference Room, there are stacks and stacks of hoarded yellow newspapers, piled high to the ceiling, many of them still in their original plastic wrappers.

"And don't send any of those Clean House people here when you drop them off. I hate that Niecy woman. She's obnoxious. I guarantee you, she will be the first to die."

So-- tell me, folks: what would you like to see a movie villain do that hasn't been done yet?

Still Not Melissa Hornswaggler

The voice rang tinnily from the answering machine. "This call is for Melissa Hornswaggler. This is Miss Trust. Please call me back at extension 521 by 5pm today, at 555-2398. I believe you know what this is regarding."

I hoped this Melissa did, because I sure didn't. It was a Friday evening going on 6pm. And the message was on my answering machine.

I thought vaguely I should call Miss Trust on Monday morning, when the offices of her very unamused-sounding business might be open. So I could tell her she'd misdialed for Melissa. But what with Mighty Weekendness going on between Friday and Monday, I went into work with Monday on my mind, and it completely slipped from my mental To-Do list.

I was reminded next Friday evening...

"This is Miss Trust for Melissa Hornswaggler again. Because you didn't respond in the period of time we'd discussed regarding the matter we'd detailed, I have no choice but to go through with processing the vague thing I won't actually say on the phone. We can avoid this, however, if you call me at extension 521 by 5pm today." Miss Trust's voice was like an iceberg, and Melissa Hornswaggler had large un-seaworthy luxury liner written all over her.

I wondered vaguely whether there had been some type-o in Melissa's paperwork that made them call me instead of the Hornswaggler Estates, or whether Miss Hornswaggler had given the wrong number intentionally, trying to escape debts... Feds... or a particularly pushy Music of the Month Club.

I made a mental note to call Miss Trust bright-and-early Monday morning.

Unfortunately, the Post-It went completely unsticky in the home office of my brain and clung to some tumbleweeds and bits of fluff.

So Sunday afternoon, I was home to receive a call from a robot. "I. am. calling. for.... Melissa. Horn.swaggler. If you are. Melissa. Horn.swaggler. Press 1... NOW."

Hope sprang. I waited.

"If. Melissa. Horn.swaggler. Lives here. Press... 2. NOW."

I hung on the line. Option three... option three...

"If," continued Robojeeves, getting to the good part, "this is. NOT. the residence of... Melissa. Horn.swaggler.... Press... 3. NOW."

I pressed 3.

"You chose. 3. This is. NOT. the residence of. Melissa. Horn.swaggler. If this. is correct. press... 1... NOW."

I pressed 1.

"Thank you," said Robojeeves, and he hung up.

Putting the receiver back in the cradle, I grinned.

Yes! Finally the Great Hornswaggler Misfire has been ended and I had been redeemed for my horrible laxness. The Powers That Be now knew they had the wrong number. And they could spend their efforts tracking Miss Hornswaggler down to Chile, recovering their money plus shipping for Gordon Lightfoot's Greatest Hits or whatnot.

All was right with the world!

But 8:30pm Monday night, the call was not for me.

"Hi," said the kind, warm voice of a grandmother. "I'm calling for Melissa Hornswaggler." You could almost smell the baked cookies radiating through the phone.

"I'm sorry," I said pleasantly, "you have the wrong number."

"Is this..." she paused as if rummaging for information, "555-2901?" she asked.

"Yes, but there's no Melissa here." For an instant, I thought maybe Melissa had moved and simply given everyone and her grandmother the wrong number.

"Oh," said Grandma. "Well, she won something from a radio station, and I just wanted to contact her so we could get it to her." (pregnant pause)

Ah... Riiiiiight.... Suuuuure. A radio station calling at 8:30 at night promising prizes? Clearly, this was bait and someone was hoping that the striped hornswaggler would take a very big bite of it.

"Well, I'm sorry," I told the old fisherwoman sincerely. "There's no Melissa at this number. And I've lived here for years."

Now, I haven't heard anything in the last day or so, but I know that really doesn't mean this is over. I expect in under a week, there will be a ring at my door with a man in a uniform saying, "Candygram for Miss Hornswaggler!"

There'll be beefy guys waiting out front in the car, with a net.

It's piqued my curiosity about just what our friend Melissa's defaulted on. I've had to amend my idea about Gordon Lightfoot's Greatest Hits. I mean, these people are insistent. It has to be bigger than that. Much bigger.

It must be Justin Bieber or something.

I'll let you know if I learn anything from the Candygram guy.

The Epic Battle of Woman Versus Tiny Citrus

It wouldn't be the first time I've been drawn-in by cute.

Be it whimsical wine bottle packaging, containing sparkly purple vinegar with a piquant woody afternote...

Or 50s retro-look cosmetics with the power to instantly transform anyone into a knockoff Warhol portrait...

Or my crush on Ricky Schroeder in the 80s, before I realized he would grow up to look like Richie Rich on steroids enjoying a pro-wrestling career.

So cute, yes. I've been taken in by cute. But the box of clementine oranges, well, it was just irresistible.

They were so small... so virtually bite-sized... so cheerily-hued... they had to come home with me. Sitting there all together so bright, so adorable, they were like a litter of spherical kittens.

(Y'know, if kittens were a delicacy and we didn't worry about all that fur getting in our teeth.)

Only now, after having them in my house for a day, I've had to amend my kitten metaphor. (And not just because of the deep inappropriateness of snack kittens, either.) No, now I'm starting to see these little fellows are like Tribbles.

I fear they are multiplying.

See, I got them home and popped them in a large fruit bowl. Two toppled off the giant mound in a try for individuality and self-liberation. I ate them. They were sweet and far superior to your standard oranges in their tiny tastiness and peelability.

I found myself reaching for another.

By the end of the evening, I had had four.

Initially, I was praising myself for this great new addiction. Surely picking off platoons of tiny oranges was preferable to potato chips, or Butter Lovers' Popcorn (or rather "Mantequilla Extra," as my multi-lingual box tells me). This was even more nutritious than the beauty and nippy tang that is Cheez-It Perfection.

"I have just prevented scurvy!" I thought proudly. "Because, hey, scurvy could hit Western Pennsylvania at any time and maybe the public health department just doesn't want to talk about it...

"And think of all those servings of fruits and vegetables we're supposed to have each day!" I wondered how many clementines made up a serving. I was betting two. Since according to the back of the box, about a tablespoon of chicken pot pie is a serving.

These things need to even out.

So this morning I grabbed four more Clementines and tucked them into my lunch bag, feeling excited for more sweet, citrusy fun. And I thought about one of my friends at work, and popped in two for him, too...

Everyone should savor the joy that is tiny seedless mutant oranges!

But in looking at that fruit bowl, there still seems to be this giant crowd of Clementines sitting there. Ten Clementines have been pulled from their ranks in the last 24 hours, and yet they appear to be no less for the noshing.

I go to work, yet I fear that when I get home, the entire window seat, on which the bowl currently sits, will be filled with petite orbs of fragrant fruit.

By Tuesday, I will open my back door only to have a wave of them greet me, rolling down the steps and out into the back yard in an attempt to take over the neighborhood.

I will eventually have to call an exterminator, or set-up a small business and arrange tours. I can be the House o' Many Tiny Oranges.

I can get in that Weird USA book, and I'll beg tourists to take bags of the things home with them, along with souvenir t-shirts and local music talent on CD, each playing their own unique version of "Oh My Darlin' Clementine."

It's not the future I was planning for, of course. But sometimes we just have to roll with these things.

And, looking on the bright side, at least I don't shop at Sam's Club.

My Life as a Junior High Heavy Metal Rockstar

"So, how's that heavy metal band going?" Fig Newton, self-appointed class clown (you can read about his ongoing War of Wills with one substitute teacher here) had turned his chair to me, Cheshire grin on his face.

I liked Fig. His jokes never ventured into that truly mean territory that some kids' tended to. But I also knew enough to sense danger ahead. Y'know, like livestock seem to know a thunderstorm is coming.

Heavy metal?! In that moment, I tried to recall my current musical work. To-date it had involved eight years of tedious piano lessons where I tried desperately to squeeze even mild Billy Joel tunes into an otherwise rigid classical repertoire...

And the rest of it was all about school band flute-tooting, where the closest we got to rocking out was Neil Diamond's "America."

We took what we could get.

"Um..." I suavely stalled for time.

"You and Josette," Fig went on to explain. "Your heavy metal band. 'Thorson and Hadley.' I hear it's getting really big."

"Ohhh!" I said, light dawning over my mental schoolyard. Now I saw where we were going with this. This was supposed to be humor. See, because my best friend since the beginning of time, Josette Hadley and I were both big ol' nerds. Quiet, and good students, and hopelessly awkward....

Josette was a nervous kid because she'd had so friggin' many CCD classes she'd gotten the idea she was treading a fine line to Hell with pretty much breathing the wrong way.

I had the unfortunate curse of being the only child of strict, distinctly-unamused perfectionists where even my most minor toe out of line was viewed as a horrifying reflection on their failure in the whole unspoken Exceptional Parent Competition they seem to have signed up for...

None of my classmates knew these specific pressures, mind you. But they could smell fear. Sort of like sharks to blood in the water. It couldn't be helped. It was Nature's Law.

So this all was supposed to be hilarious because the banging of the heads, we did not so much do.

"They have a heavy metal band," Fig confidentially told two of the boys around him. "Thorson and Hadley, it's called. They really rock."

"Um, sure," I said, flatly, "the gigs-- they just keep coming." I went back to doodling hearts and Garfields in my Trapper Keeper notebook.

And so began the rise of this new and rather eccentric running joke among my classmates. During the day, Josette and I were introverted goody-two-shoes junior high students...

During evenings and weekends, though, we were leather-clad hard core rockers who gave Joan Jett, Heart, AC/DC and Yngwie Malmsteen a run for their money.

The shift came somewhere into about the third day of this (because in school situations, what is funny one moment is, of course, well-worth repeating word-for-word a bazillion times to infinity).

So seeing that this theme could easily run clear into summer vacation and possibly follow us for the rest of our lives, being something we'd have to try to smooth over with potential employers-- ("no, I never did bite the head off a chicken") -- Josette and I got an idea.

And we went to work.

"Here," I handed Fig a slice of spiral bound notebook paper. I even had gone to the trouble to trim those little fringy things off, so he knew it was important.

"What's this?" He held it, frowning.

"Read it."

In big letters on the top of the paper was a logo. We'd toyed with this, oh, for a good hour or two. Which in kid-time is really years. Trying out different variations. Little nuances. Eventually we'd settled on writing "Thorson" in jagged 80s KISS-style lettering, and "Hadley" all in capital letters. Because, since my name was first, y'know, hers should be in caps. To show equal importance.

We were determined not to have any control and ego issues break up our band like McCartney and Lennon... David Lee Roth and Van Halen... erm, Simon and Garfunkel.

Instead of a traditional "and" we showed our rebellious heavy metal nature by using a separating lightning bolt.

Oh, it was so very cool, we were sure.

Below this masterpiece of branding, was a song list. Twelve song titles, from the first Thorson/HADLEY album.

These titles were as repulsive and violent as we could think to make them. Which, of course, wasn't very. But we gave it our all. Edgy! Raw! Involving pain and stench even, which we thought was a particularly nice touch.

Oh, we had stepped onto the stage and strummed the first grinding electric chord of a whole new age in junior high school life!

Fig passed the paper around to his buddies, the ones who had been helping perpetuate the theme. As long as it had taken me to get the initial joke, it took them to realize Josette and I had decided to embrace it.

Next in our work were the lyrics pages. Lyrics fleshing out all of those vulgar song titles. We were nerds, after all, so one thing you could certainly count on nerds to do properly-- particularly girl nerds who excelled in Language Arts-- was to write decent rhyme.

Oh, we made the songs ridiculously silly, incredibly spoofy, and shared those, too, with the masses.

Then came the promo posters. We were Artsy Nerds, yes, so promotional literature could be whipped up in no-time!

Our school book covers brandished our logo and information about our tours. We had rave reviews written up. Soon, everyone knew about Thorson/HADLEY. Our heavy metal infamy extended throughout junior high and well into high school, until it had absolutely just nowhere else to go.

We had peaked at 18, like so many child stars.

Sometimes, now as an adult, when I find myself once again being thrown into the role of responsible, reliable goody-two-shoes, I find myself longing for my headbanging past. Those days so free, so full of beautiful music with words like "reek" and "puke" in it... And of course the fame...

Oh, the fame...

But, at least these golden days of glory were immortalized. In various spots, in the 1989 Edgar Allen Poe High School Year Book, you will see it printed there-- a message for us graduating seniors to remember always:


You can take the girl out of the 80s big hair, but you never quite take the 80s big hair out of the girl.

Helpful Tips For When You're Blogging for One

What with that big orangey, fiery thing suddenly looming up there in the sky, and leafy polleny things popping up from the ground, this has served as the annual Spring Distraction of Weeding, Sunning and Sneezing, and blog buddies report traffic has taken a dip.

But never fear! Cabbages is here!-- to help bloggers with less traffic than a One-Horse Town continue to find the fun in blogging! How? With our innovative and tasty recipes for delightful self-delusion! Why not try one today?:

  • Pretend you're actually addressing thousands per day, and the reason you don't have any traffic or comments is simply because there are so many people visiting at once the technology just can't process the data properly.
  • Post and respond to spam commenters as if their non-sequiturs about male enhancement, nude photos, and the forum you don't actually have but which they're thanking you so politely for are actually relevant to your post. Send each of them a friendship e-card
  • Comment in your own comment section, as you, responding to yourself. You will never be lonely. If you start becoming surprised at the answers, however: stop.
  • This is a great time for experimentation! So try new blogging techniques no one has attempted yet. Like--since short posts are increasingly popular-- try posting just one or two words per blog entry and watch your post count triple in an instant! You may begin a whole new trend in blogging.
  • See how many times you can use the word "meow" in a post before any of your friends become concerned. (Note: not applicable if your blog is related to cats... or you happen to be one.)
  • Create a series of posts indicating your blog has been kidnapped and asking for ransom demands. Use different fonts and type partially in caps for true believability.
  • Use this opportunity to showcase talents you might otherwise have hesitated in sharing online. Like scans of those Glamour Shots you had taken, or videos of that time you and your buddies did Karaoke. (C'mon, deep down you know your rendition of "Mandy" is a show-stopper... Why keep all of that audio gorgeousness to yourself? Your reader(s) deserve it)
Now, these tips were designed to just get you started. Here at Cabbages, we recognize there's a whole world out there of new ways to combat the crickets you hear in blogging lulls.

Want to share one of your own techniques? Just drop us a comment... or, if you've comfortably adjusted to your own company, feel free to comment to yourself in the comments field. We're always glad to hear from you... And you, too.


(Special shout-out to Speedcat Hollydale, as his goofing around with the "Jabberwocky" name spawned the idea for this Star Wars Meets Lewis Carroll spoof poem. Thanks, Speedy!)

Twas suns-up and the Jawa droves
Did zap and gather robot slaves
All cocky were the Rebel coves
And the Empire's forces staved

Beware the rancor pit, my son,
The jaws that chomp, the claws that squish
Beware the Emperor and shun
Dark Daddy, Lord of Sith

He took his saber-sword in hand
Long time for Darkly Dad he trained
So rested he by the mossy tree
And sulked a while, in pain

And as in Jedi sulk he stood
The Vader, hissing breath of fame,
Came stalking through the swamply wood
All wheezing as he came

One, two! One, two! And through and through!
The saber beam went "wumm-nah-ccchhhhhh"!
The vision fled, and Yoda said,
"Much rage have you. Now shhhh."

"And fight you did, your Darkly Dad?
Much you must learn, young Jedi knight."
"There is no try." But, reckless guy,
That kid bugged off to fight

Twas suns-up and the Jawa droves
Did zap and gather robot slaves
All cocky were the Rebel coves
And the Empire's forces staved

Note: no Wookiees were harmed during the making of this poem (what with, um, not actually appearing in it. So, sue me.)

Aliens Among Us: Celeb and Blogger Extra-Terrestrial Candidates

A new poll suggests that one in five people believe aliens currently walk among us. Now, I normally would have sniffed at that-- citing issues with technology, red tape with astrophysics, and the fact we really don't see British Police Public Call Boxes around much these days.

But then I saw a celeb I hadn't seen for a while on a TV commercial. And it gave me pause. Perhaps there really is some merit to this theory. In fact, the more I consider it, the more I see the possibilities. How could I have been so blind?!

Here are my suggestions for just a few of the potential aliens out there, putting the "extra" into Extra Terrestrial.

  • Joan Rivers. She was the one I laid eyes on and just knew, deep in my heart, that she was either an alien all along or had been supplanted and her disguise was slipping. I think the latter. Her immobile mask-like features and the new poofy, fluffed-couch cushion lips, seem to indicate the aliens used her as a suit but weren't quite sure what went where. They touched her up by crossing her visage with what they feel represents the standard for beauty these days on Earth-- a Bratz doll.
  • Nicole Kidman. Just around the Stepford Wives production, Nicole changed. Her eyebrows no longer rest where they once did. The alien inside is clearly stretching her out. She was undoubtedly chosen for this because, given her typically non-passionate acting, they felt no one would notice.
  • Renee Zellweger. This may be what the true face of the aliens looks like. She then uses a special mind-control ray so critics and reporters describe her as a "beautiful starlet," and "stunning." Note, "stunning" here may very well be a verb instead of an adjective.
  • Phil Spector. 'Nuff said.
  • Nicholas Cage. The solar rays are causing him to show his real age-- which is 345. This is just over middle-age for a person from his particular planet, but leaves him looking, on earth, a bit like a retiree who works out a lot, when he isn't sitting on park benches feeding pigeons.
  • Andrew McCarthy. He goes from teen heart throb to Weekend at Bernies sidekick to barely recognizable cameo guest star on Monk. The aliens have gotten the voice right, but the grinning, wisecracking man inside is gone behind a soulless, small-eyed facade. This would also explain his recent unusual choices to appear in Lifetime-style dramatic pictures.
I also think there may be some blogger friends we need to take a closer look at. My suggestions are:

  • Unfinished Ramber/Person/Whateverhe'scallinghimselftoday. Over the years, my buddy the Unfinished Dude has had about 12 different blogs, all sharing fractions of his vast multiple personalities. Lately, these selves even talk amongst each other sometimes for humor value-- or do they? Perhaps his body is simply host to multiple alien inhabitants. It would explain a lot. As I'm also friends with his wife and sister, they might be in a better position than I am to say whether he's really from another planet or not. But I'm just putting it out there.
  • Daisy the Curly Cat. This is the only cat I know that not only blogs, but she's demonstrated intelligence and grammatical abilities far surpassing your standard LOLCat. She is also the only cat I know who openly frowns...

Something is up with the universe.

So, friends-- I'd like to hear your suggestions for the aliens who walk among us. And no fair suggesting Tom Cruise. He already admits he's a descendant from a giant alien squid named Xenu. That one's like shooting Martian fish in a liquid-bearing wooden cyllindrial apparatus.

Bandies, Bling, Baloney and Blackmail

We were like the Home Shopping Network, but better-- because with us, not only did you get the quality personalized pimple-faced service you come to expect from a neighbor kid with marginal social skills. But we could also honk out our own musical soundtrack accompaniment.

Yes, as a member of the Edgar Allen Poe High School marching band (name changed to protect the potentially-embarrassed), we canvassed our town with all the fund-raising merchandise that any neighbor could possibly ever want to reluctantly buy.

Sure, there was the mouth-watering candy bars that made us famous. (And which, due to my illicit in-school supplying in the girls' gym locker room prevented one of our most dreaded bully diva's from lavishing me with regular pre-lunch knuckle sandwiches. It was good to have a Get Out of Bruises Free card.)

But while the candy bars remained our Signature Special, we eventually branched out to a wider variety of goods in an attempt to give our clientele the items the market truly wouldn't completely hate pity-purchasing.

Why, there was the jewelry sale-- where we offered real genuine 100% glass diamonette earrings, bracelets and encrusted keychains, suitable for any occasion. If, y'know, that occasion required something elegant that probably wouldn't fall apart much into your French onion soup.

We sold delectible cheeses, sausages and other savory items, destined to make your next party a memorable evening of processed cold-pack, peel-slice-and-serve fun.

We sold good old-fashioned Jersey-style hoagies-- cold meat sandwiches made with our own hands (and probably Aquanet, Love's Baby Soft, and that bit o' goo from the brass sections spit traps, just for seasoning). And we sold a lot of them. Which either goes to show the deep kindness of strangers or the fact that no one really spent a lot of time observing band members and their habits.

Lastly, we raised money by putting on a combination Play-Fashion Show. The sort of event that simply had it all! Flashing lights, hot trends, music, and people who never would have made the cut for any actual school dramatics parading around in borrowed duds trying to look like members of The Brat Pack, all with a loosely-tied story theme.

Grease was one such theme. Alice in Wonderland was the other. So while I was, yes, tall and thin at the time, it was universally agreed that it would be better for all concerned if I did not model. Or act. Or appear anywhere in public so people could actually see me...

Quiet, lanky girls with scoliosis and self-esteem issues were better left to paint props and clap in the right places as plants in the audience. It was how the Social Spectrum of Cool to Non-Cool worked, and was an unspoken, highly-revered tradition not to be mucked about with.

It spans generations.

So, each year, my neighbors knew they could count on (read: contemplated not answering the door because it was that Thorson girl again, with some catalog in her hand) the unique ability to purchase a variety of items suitable for any household....

To gain an eye-opening look into the world of high fashion, fine design and hand-crafted cuisine the Board of Health just hadn't thought to look into yet.

I see band members giving it their all at the Macy's Day parade and I nod, knowing what they went through to get there.

Not simply hours of rehearsal in blistering heat and finger-stinging cold...

Not just kneeling in mud and marching through goose poop on the practice field...

Not plodding forwarded doggedly, against the squeaks and honks and the "Are you ever going to get that right?-- you're driving your father and I up a wall!"

But the subtle nuances of regional, neighborly blackmail. The salesmanship. All to afford to go somewhere far, far alway from the good people that you made crazy playing measure number 32
in determined, Groundhog Day-like repetition.

Good times!

Uncle Fuzzy's House of Inebriated Ungulates

"Mi, mi, mi, miiiiiiii!" That was what I expect to hear come out of their furry lips.

Or-- given there are three of them-- perhaps a barbershop trio routine. Three-part harmony, with feeling. A rousing chorus of "Down by the Old Mill Stream," "Shine on Harvest Moon," or if they were feeling cheeky, some Skynrd.

Yes, each year, on Labor Day, I'm invited to a hotdog roast at the home of my best friend's uncle. A tranquil location in the country, chock full of Nature with a capital N. We spend the day with pigs and cows and horses and cats and turkey vultures and hawks and a corpulent hound dog with a taste for root beer and ice cream, particularly if it's in your unwatched dishware.

But it's the animals of the non-living variety that yearly have me in stitches.

You see, in "Uncle Fuzzy's" well-appointed trailer (and yes, he goes by "Fuzzy," I am so not making that up), on one solitary living room wall... In a home otherwise sparse for decor except the occasional John Deere home fashion item...

Yes, there, looming above a small sofa, there is the trio of which I spoke. They are the heads of three very unlucky deer. And they are like none I've ever set eyes on before.

I mean, this is Western Pennsylania, so I have seen my share of taxidermied animals. The rearing squirrel... The wary fox... the thoughtful moose...

And the deer, they usually have that proud beauty... Or, would, rather, if they weren't actually dead.

Alert... Yet with a placid gentility. Their expression shines through warm brown glass eyes.

Uncle Fuzzy's deer are not like this. For whatever reason-- whether his taxidermist has a morbid sense of humor or is losing his faculties with age... Whether the deer were having a little tete-a-tete when they met their unfortunate end, or rigor mortis had already set in—

For whatever reason, Uncle Fuzzy's deer look like they've been participating in a raucus woodland cocktail party where the grass and berries fermented and had a bit of a kick.

Rather than their long necks looking forward, attentive, nature at its most noble, these deer are looking all different directions, this one's head cocked to the side a bit like he's listening to the bawdy joke from the one on his left...

That one wondering whether he should trot on over to the bar for a fourth Deer Park Water and Whiskey.

Singularly, they would be whimsical.

As a collective, it's like Animatronic Hell.

No matter where you stand in the room, they are the largest thing in it. And as they hang there together, one great reddish brown energetic crowd-- they eyeball, they consider, they raise deerly eyebrows in hammy ways and seem like they're a second away from offering guests a frosty beverage.

It's like walking into the set for George Harrison's "I Got My Mind Set On You" video. Except the props are all half-mad and slurring.

Part of me always finds itself thinking it's a good thing they really are just heads. Because with bodies, they'd be off filming each other doing Jackass-like stunts, daring each other to stand in the road in headlights and play chicken with the oncoming cars.

Or challenging each other to jump over fences while inebriated. Or trying to work a shotgun between the three of 'em to just give the locals a taste of what it's like.

But, you know, I guess the nice thing is that even when Uncle Fuzzy is between girlfriends, he's never really alone. He can settle back on his couch after a hard day of farming, put his feet up, his obese hound at his feet, pop in a video and the five of them can enjoy a comfortable night in.

Sure, the deer might turn every film into an episode of Mystery Science Theater. I wouldn't doubt it for a minute.

But it never gets dull at Uncle Fuzzy's perpetual stag party.

Lurking Lyrics and Communication Conundrums

It's not easy to read song lyrics while you drive. In fact, I really, really don't recommend it. But curiosity had gotten the better of me recently during a commute when I'd popped in an old John Fogerty CD...

And that got me thinking about the wide range of singers out there who are perfectly talented-- but almost indecipherable due to a variety of different singing techniques.

I've taken a stab at breaking them down as follows:

The Codebreaker- The codebreaker singer has a lot to say, but secretly wants you to spend time cracking just what the frig it is. These are the songs you find yourself mumbling, howling or la-laing through, unless you bother to track down the lyrics-- which probably are in invisible ink anyway. Dave Matthews' Satellite is my favorite one for this. I enjoy exchanging "Winter's cold spring erases/And the calm away by the storm is chasing" for a nice series of drawn-out werewolf calls. I think it gives it a really special touch.

The Character Actor- This singer uses a colorful cultural archetype in order to become exempt from things like pronunciation or commonly-known terminology. John Fogerty, hailing from the deep, mossy bayou swamps of... um, Berkeley California... is a prime example of the Character Actor. He takes the boolay- boolay, boolay-hahdaw into the toy-ning boy-ning bathroom on the rye, and we still love him for it.

The Stealth Bomber- It's the meaning that sneaks up on you after you've heard a perky song a bajillion times and didn't realize it was actually about, oh, lung cancer from nuclear war fallout. Kate Bush is an example of this type of songwriter. I'm listening along to the fun, warbly little tune and catch something that seems slightly awry. "'Hitler'?! Did I just hear 'Hitler'?!" Why-- yes, yes I did. And after a good look at the lyrics I come to realize that according to Kate, Mel Brooks was right: Hitler was apparently a wonderful dancer. The verdict is still out on whether his middle name was Elizabeth, though.

The World Traveler- This singer believes in value. She prefers quantity of notes per word over any actual understanding of the sentence. If this singer were SatNav, she'd tell you to drive to Topeka, Nome, Orlando, Tijuana and Upper Tarnation, in order to go visit the old lady next door. Whitney Houston might have been our first World Traveler. Now one in five Idol contestants have their bags packed and use this technique.

The Garbage Disposal- Yes, it sounds like little Timmy just put Daddy's favorite screwdriver down the disposal along with chicken bones and half a box of rawhide dog chews. But it's not. It's a man who sings with rage. Deep, abiding rage. Metal rage. And that's why it's called metal, and not, oh, Fluffy Kitten Rainbow Parades.

So tell me, who's your favorite, most incomprehensible singer? What lyrics have mystified you? And if you have any types you'd like to add to my list, I'd be glad to hear 'em.