Spamming the Classics

Folks who follow me on Twitter might have read me talk about my recent onslaught of spam comments every hour on the hour, featuring the many exciting facets of multi-layered personality, Kim Kardashian.

Oh, we learn in fragmented English about her incomparable beauty, her friends, her personal vulnerabilities, her unique style and, of course, all of this links to shots of her in her birthday suit.

So on any given day, I can reject upwards of 20 of these Ode to Kim comments.

Earlier, it had been Carrie Prejean, the beauty contestant who caused a big hubbub by taking an anti-gay stance because of her strong Christian values... Until her Birthday Suit photos went public.

The spammers are fickle. They transfer their affections easily.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how these spam folks tend to focus on really the lowest common denominator when it comes to their favorite babes. We always are inundated with these no-talent, fifteen-minute-famers out there, built up to be some all-enduring Aphrodite for the Ages, in and out of Juicy Couture yoga pants.

Now what I'd enjoy seeing-- just to mix things up a little-- is spam promoting something with a little more longevity. Say:

Naughty Pablo Piccaso Senoritas bare it all! Watch Girl Before a Mirror in a very private moment, only before seen in museums! Her naked breasts may be wonky, but she's got style to spare and she's waiting for you!

Or maybe:
Your screen will sizzle as you download a tale of one hot desperate housewife getting it on with the local clergy in never-before-seen behind-barn-doors Puritanical action! Yes, it's Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter! Click here to view.

Or even:

It was banned. It was burned. This is the film based on the book no one wanted you to see...

To Kill a Mockingbird. Watch wanton hussies inviting you in to "bust up their chiffarobe"! In this steamy south, anything can happen!

A little spam variety. That's all I ask.

Oh, I still won't approve it. But a gal can only hear so much about the gorgeousness and all-around perfection that is Kim Kardashian before she starts to get just a tad jealous.

So what's your most entertaining spam?

PS- Folks, just as a heads-up, I'm taking Friday off from Cabbages and will resume posting again next week. My bud Josette of Thorson/HADLEY heavy metal fame is visiting over the holiday weekend and I've decided to give myself a mini-vacation from blogging as well.

Hope you all have a great Memorial Day!

Scrubbing Bubbles, Ass Burnings and Left in the Lurch

I was giving the ol' shower and tub a scrub yesterday, enlisting my friends the Scrubbing Bubbles to help me fight the good fight against soap scum and mildew.

I had about three different chemicals going, forming a low-hanging noxious cloud that could fell a housefly at six paces.

It even managed to make the mildew rethink its plan for Manifest Destiny in my tile grout.

And as I was scrubbing, balancing precariously, and burning out all of the mucous membranes of my nasal passages and throat, a sage warning from long ago passed into my consciousness:

"You'll burn your ass."

Those were the words of our college janitor, a tall, otherwise monosyllabic man we called "Lurch." Like the insights of Plato, Aristotle and Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski, the wisdom carries on.

Lurch had come to us like a runner-up in the Great Beauty Contest of dorm cleaning. The mediocre understudy to the Broadway star's shining talent. It was partially because of Suzy, the bathroom-cleaning dynamo and surrogate mom we'd come to love our last three years, that our new friend could simply never measure up.

Suzy knew all of our names. She remembered what classes kids were struggling with, what majors were were in, and who our friends were. She gave us advice and soothed rotten days and Suzy also cleaned a little. Or a lot, really. Because when she left-- to paraphrase Timbuk 3-- the bathroom was so bright we had to wear shades.

It was her skillz that took her away from us, to first a higher-end dorm and then a more important staff building. And that was when we got Lurch.

"Good morning," we would say to the figure, looming and lurking in the janitor's closet.

"Mnnmmmnnng," Lurch would say, peering down on us with a gaze that always made us feel just a little undressed.

This was how things went each week.

"Good morning."


Followed by that look again that made ya want to take a shower. But soon, the shower wasn't looking so shiny, either.

Mold began to creep in on the tile walls and floors. And my roommate and I had to develop a special showering technique where the arms and elbows didn't extend too far past our persons-- lest we bump into something on the walls that might want to bump back.

I called the housing department and reported it. "There's something growing in my shower. I think it knows my name."

Which, interestingly, was more than Lurch did. But then we didn't know his, either.

The funny thing was, for nothing being very clean, Lurch was always around. Hanging in the stairwells, lurking in the cleaning closet, waiting by the common room, wandering in the laundry. The creep factor had increased four-fold, while the clean factor had reached a new low.

Until Lurch discovered lye.

At least that's what we think it was. The wall of chemical fumes would envelop the hallway accompanied by a thousand roaring flushes.

And that's when Lurch said to us the only words we ever did hear him say. "Don't sit on the pot for a half hour," he told us, pointing to the toilet. "You'll burn your ass."

I don't know what he'd applied to that toilet seat, but we didn't test it to find out. And for the rest of the year, whenever we saw Lurch hanging around the stairs, lurking in doorways or emerging from a cloud of chemicals, his words of warning came back to us. "Don't sit on the pot. You'll burn your ass."

Ah, dear Lurch-- you renaissance man of domestic engineering philosophy. Scrub on, man. Scrub on.

Are You Calling to Report a Smell of Gas or Explosion?

Ah, it's that time of year again, folks!

The cusp of Memorial Day? Allergy season? When rogue gangs of Monarch butterflies flap
northbound for their summer homes?

Um, no. It's that time of year I wage an Epic Battle with my gas utility.

I've mentioned this before; they feel every six months they need to get into my house to read my inside meter. They also feel they can only give me a four-hour window appointment, so I have to take a half day off work to have this done.

I personally feel I need the money that working outside of Meter Proximity provides.

They feel this could be solved if I just paid thousands of dollars to move it outside. Which would, in an interesting twist of fate, also require me to take off work, so it could be completed.

I feel it is stupid to do that when other gas companies seem to be able to read meters remotely, with the Technology and the Magic of Not Annoying the Frig Out of Customers, Who Actually Do Not Ponder Their Gas Meters As Much As You'd Think.

The gas company does not seem to see it the same way.

We have not yet agreed to disagree.

So they indicate that another terrific option would be for me to leave them a copy of my key, which they will keep safely for me somewhere in their offices along with Jimmy Hoffa and the Ark of the Covenant.

Given, I've just enjoyed an episode of Identity Theft, as well as someone using my blog content without my permission, I can't say I'm feeling that trusting.

So, I have my bud Josette visiting me over the Memorial Day weekend, and I realized I would be free next Thursday morning for that convenient four-hour window.

I told the gas company, "Hey, Golden Opportunity, dudes-- let's schedule it then!"

And they looked at the schedule, and they said, "Um, yeah... no. We're not available that day to look at your meter. Choose another day."

I informed them I did not have another day. If they wanted a day, this was it. The brass ring. The chalkware elephant. The giant stuffed Barney.

But I just learned I could call back during 7:30am and 9:00am the next day and see if I could get a Shop Manager to open up that time.

Okay, so, yes, the next day, I called in that earlybird hour-and-a-half-window of time and...

No shop manager. Call back again. We'll put your account on hold until you straighten out your non-Meter-Oriented-Life more in our favor.

"Do you have Saturday hours by any chance?"

Not so much.

I initially started wondering where that Shop Manager is, if he's not at work minding the shop in the morning like he's supposed to be.

But I realized. He's probably at home waiting for the meter reader.

Soon I will be calling the gas company to report an explosion. And it very well may be me.

UPDATE: And this evening, in spite of my account being on "hold," I come home to a second threatening notice indicating they have already tried to contact me, but I have completely neglected to respond.

(Um, so what WERE exactly those two phone calls I made to them? And once where I gave them a time to come, and they said they weren't available? Did I make those up? Was I sniffing natural gas fumes or something?)

But this time in the letter, THIS TIME they indicate I can fill their requirements by calling my meter reading in 24/hours a day, seven days a week. WONDERFUL! Gladly! Hand me the phone!

So I dial the number with anticipation in my heart, and give them my 13 digit account number, and they ask me to guess their name (it's Rumplestiltskin), and give them my first born child to spin straw into gold... oh, and enter my meter reading, too, and...

They won't accept it.

Nope. I need to talk to a person on weekdays and schedule a meter reading.

And that's when I exploded in a giant burst of flame all over my living room. This is now a dead woman, typing here, exploded by bureaucracy and rage like an over-roasted marshmallow.

Fer cryin' out loud.

The Devil and Great Adventure

Gold... power... smokin' hot stringed instrument competitions in two-part harmony with feelin': these are the things the Devil of American fable and song tends to lean toward for his bargaining chips.

But if he'd ever wanted to expand his repertoire a little, I'd say he'd have found himself a thriving new niche market courtesy of one school trip and the Looping Starship down at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

It was our junior year high school Physics Class. And the benefit of this class was not simply that we got to drop things that went "sploot" to see them plummet at 9.8 meters per second squared in the name of Science.

Although any 16 year old will tell you, that was pretty satisfying.

No, it was that every year, the junior class went on a field trip to Great Adventure amusement park.

Now this, too, was in the name of Science, and Education, and Big Whirly Things Demonstrating Physics in Action. We knew this, because we were sent with worksheets, where we were supposed to calculate these Real Life Examples scientifically. Y'know, in between applying sunscreen and smearing ourselves with day-glo liquid cheese.

We started out with the best of intentions. Why, we crowded into the Enterprise and understood just how it was that centripital force prevented Sally Rodriguez and Andy Goldberg from being pitched off into Long Island. Which was a disappointment to some because Andy Goldberg had really been holding our football team back this season.

We strapped ourselves into the Pitfall and worked out that yes, my inappropriately loose footwear had, in fact, dropped at 9.8 meters per second squared. And we calculated the distance it would take for me to hop to the nearest souvenir shop to purchase a pair of flip-flops.

We even managed to calculate the amount of force that was behind the lunchtime chili cheese dog, nachos and funnel cake Kelly O'Hara was reintroduced to on the pirate ship.

But when we buckled into the Looping Starship, our view of life was forever changed.

This ride was new at the time, a Space Shuttle-shaped contraption on a 360 degree arm. Having just seen the Challenger blow up in very recent memory, there was already an uneasy sense about the ride.

It would have been like folks in the early 20th century stepping onto a gondola ride named "The Titanic of Love." It sets a certain tone.

But, this ride had also been advertised on local radio and television for months now. Its reputation preceeded it to the point that it had become a thrill ride Collossus.

We were young and pepped up on sugar, and completely game for anything. And so was one of our math teachers. We'll call him Mr. Barnes, an eccentric man who looked a bit like actor Joel Grey with a mustache, and whose wardrobe choices involved glaring polyester primary colors which he would mix-and-match with joyful abandon.

Heretofore, Mr. Barnes had been treated with the bored tolerance you'd expect from teens. He was there to supervise, and nothing more. A kelly green pantsed and yellow shirted and red cardiganed prison guard we tried to block out which, given the color scheme, you can imagine wasn't terribly easy.

When the Starship first started its back-and-forth penduluming, we felt all the optimistic anticipation of youth.

Back and forth... back and forth... higher and higher the Starship it climbed.

Right... left.... backwards... forwards... we swung and rocked.

The harnesses over our heads pressed into our middles as our weight increased against them.

The harnsesses shimmied and wiggled against this pressure, as our view began to swing from sky to ground.

Until finally, finally, there! There, we were hanging like bats above the entire park. Our world turned completely on end. The time we hung there seemed interminably long. And that, my friends, that is when my classmates and I began to crack.

One girl began to laugh uncontrollably. Another was shrieking. And one of my friends began to speak in tongues.

No, wait, it wasn't in tongues. It was just the words she was saying before us were so foreign, so unbelievably impossible, the ears would not initially process it.

"Mr. Barnes, if you get me off of here, I promise, I'll really buckle down in math. I'll get As! I'll start a study group! Really, I will. Just get me offa this thing!"

And the trend began to catch on. As we swept back around the 360 for a second dangling upside down experience of seemingly infinite length, other kids began to make their bargains.

"Totally, Mr. Barnes! I'll do extra credit! I'll tutor other students! I'll clap the erasers without being asked! Just get us down from this thing!"

If Mr. Barnes had been wise, he would have gotten this all down in signed contracts. After all, we did have paper and pens with us.

Because as the Looping Starship finally made its slow, sweeping, careening descent back to Earth, those promises, they evaporated like the blue raspberry Icee stain on Patrick Kennedy's t-shirt.

"So about those A's... when do you want to start that study group?"

The memories of promises made vanished into the humid Jersey early summer air. Even our worksheets were forgotten. We had gotten on the Looping Starship and we survived.

The Devil wouldn't have let us off so easy.

Existentialism at Smashin Slug

This weekend I learned the place where quality customer service and the great gumbo soup of humanity come together is the ideal place for any up-and-coming existentialist playwrights to glean ideas.

Sartre had a room with no windows, no mirrors and and a locked door...

And me, I became trapped in a world which existed entirely outside of time and space, disguised as a women's clothing store we shall call, for the purposes of this tale, "Smashin Slug."

So as not to alienate my male readers, the item I was trying to purchase makes no difference to this story. Just suffice it to say, it was my Holy Grail of jewelry-- something specific I'd searched for, for over a year.

The important point is, once you find your Holy Grail-- whether it's the last Guitar Hero or the latest iPhone, or something completely girly no guy's gonna care about-- you're probably a little hesitant to just put it back on the rack, and leave. You don't easily let some other questing knight grab it and plop it in his trophy case, along with his jousting awards and boar heads.

There were two cash registers open. And the two cashiers were serving two customers. I was next.

I had thought, at the time, that this meant something.

One woman was waiting on her friend. And this was an elaborate, multi-tiered process involving different levels of purchasing, rating additional discounts and analysis, and nuclear arms negotations. All of it resulted in everyone in the store knowing what sort of free granny panties the customer was getting and where they would be shipped.

The second cashier was waiting on a woman buying her entire summer wardrobe for, from the looks of it, a Bingo Enthusiasts all-you-can-eat Hawaiian cruise. Only, none of it was she certain she really wanted, or whether it went together, or which went with what.

Somewhere along the way, she had mistaken the cashier as one of the presenters on "What Not To Wear" and decided that this would be a perfect time to get affirmation of her individual purchases, and the outfit potential therein.

I wasn't aware of this originally. No, I'd stood there in my own world, thinking about Life, the Universe and Everything, and just generally being happy about my find-- until what was happening before me started to seep into my ears.

"I think this shirt goes just perfectly with these pants, but is this necklace too dressy? Perhaps it should go with this one."

The shirt was a glaring purple-and-yellow floral number which I hesitated to look at for long because I value my retinas.

It had a wide ruffle at the collar, like something you might pick up at Olive Oyl's garage sale. The woman was holding it up to purple polyester capris and a necklace with giant plastic beads.

It looked like the Easter Bunny had exploded at Don Ho's luau.

"Or how about this? Is this better?" She held up a yellow and purple baby-doll mu-mu shirt with the pants and a necklace made of an entire garden of enamel flowers.

"But, you know, maybe this necklace is better, because I already have purple here." She indicated a third uber-purple item with some yellow and flowers and unnatural fiber and ruffles which, in a good Hawaiian breeze, might allow for some wind surfing.

I looked at the item in my hand. I took a deep breath. And I zoned out for another ten minutes.

It's possible to sleep standing up, if you lock your knees first in a really balanced stance.

When I came to, it was still going on. The one cashier was desperately trying to get the woman's credit card away from her to ring things up, but the Bird of Paradise fashion show just kept going on.

The other sales lady was running back for a hundredth pair of underpants and debating how much it would, or would not, ride up.

At this point I was starting to realize, I was never going to leave Smashin Slug unless I took evasive action. I glanced half-heartedly for a weapon. I thought I might be able to use a hanger, or possibly a heavy platform sandal.

But cold-cocking them both and thrusting money at the cashier would not do. This was true exisitentialism in retail. Dealing with the public is its own universe. It's own cycle of futility.
And sometimes, sometimes you get sucked into the action simply because you are there.

The difference is there's rarely so much Hawaiian print in existential plays.

I Am a Great Big Ol' Content Thief...

...And I take other people's hard work without permission to use in entirety for my own financial gain because I'm too lazy to write my own original material but still want the dough. My advertisers should drop me like a hot potato...

My friends and family should shun me...

And my beloved dog should bite my leg.

Okay, so maybe I'm not a content thief-- me, the true author of Of Cabbages and Kings upon which this post resided first. But the dude or dudette who seems to be leveraging my Feedburner feed, complete with my illustrations, for what Feedburner calls "Uncommon Uses" very well may be.

As the site in question I refer to doesn't allow for comments, and their email form leads apparently only to an advertiser site, I hadn't found a way to contact them to ask them politely to remove my posts. Y'know, the posts that make up the content on their shiny new, highly-ad-filled site.

So I thought it would be entertaining to write this particular post on the topic. I imagine their automatic posting program will load it under their "Epic Fail" category, like they did a number of my other posts.

Let's enjoy the irony of that together.

And while I'm on the subject--

Providing me with a linkback guised as "Click here to read the whole post" when my whole post has already been included in the site, and there's absolutely no reason to click, does not make it all hunky-dory.

It is neither hunky nor dory.

If anything, it is fair-usey loopy-holey. And not as flattering as one might think.

So, this is a test of the Emergency Head-Off-The-Folks-Who-Don't-Know-What-a-Copyright-Statement-Is-All-Rights-Reserved-Please-Remove-My-Posts-Now Messaging System.

I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt. That the person just somehow didn't know you can't simply lift whatever you like from someone else's site without asking.

That the person doesn't realize I actually really care about what I post here, and that all my content isn't just LOLCatz photos or jokes your grandmother forwards to everybody who goes to Bingo with her.

So here's to new beginnings! As in, you, Content-Reappropriator Dude or Dudette, can begin to find all new content to plop in your ad-glutted site and operate it without me. Thanks!

Because I kinda don't think your advertising sponsors would find seeing this post scraped and slapped up on your site quite as funny as I would.

Just sayin'.


UPDATE: Ah! It looks like they've suddenly truncated the posts and offered attribution!

Three cheers for choosing to take the path of proper Fair Use! He shoots, he scores!

The Which Type of Spammer Would You Be? Career Quiz

In these tough economic times, many people are making ends meet by taking multiple jobs or shifting careers.
  • But do you know the one innovative industry that is impervious to market ups and downs?
  • Have you investigated the one area which continues to thrive, offering a surprisingly wide array of exciting careers for the self-starting go-getter?
  • Have you looked into the only occupation where all you need is determination, an email account and a good old-fashioned lack of ethics and boundaries?
Yes, you can enjoy a lucrative and adventurous career in the Spam Industry!

But how do you know what type of Spamming would be right for you? Just take this quick and insightful quiz from the Clogg & Cheetham Institute for Artful Spamming Technology.

At Clogg & Cheetham, in just six weeks, you'll be trained in the Spamming area of your choice, by a Certified Spam Consultant. In no time, you'll be meeting new people by blocking up Inboxes, selling the goods you know people really want but are too afraid to ask for, and offering Network Administrators real job security by the constant influx of new mass-mailed messaging.

Don't wait! Find out what kind of Spamming is right for you, and soon you'll be on your way to a profitable new career-- without ever having to leave your home.

Start the quiz now!

1.) In social situations, like a party, you tend to:
a.) Find a topic you enjoy discussing and examine it from every angle for the duration of the party to anyone within earshot
b.) Use it as an opportunity to discuss the political challenges facing your beautiful yet hopelessly corrupt Nigerian nation
c.) Let loose with whatever stream of consciousness comes to mind.
d.) Change the topic to whatever you had planned, regardless of context

2.) In your spare time, you like to:
a.) Stalk celebrities, take photos of them in compromising positions and post them online
b.) Spend time visiting relatives, who have been wrongly imprisioned due to their noble political aspirations
c.) Read snippets of novels and news articles. While you get bored after a few paragraphs, you feel this keeps you up on the latest literature and current events.
d.) Sell, sell, sell. There is never spare time for you. Money does not grow on trees, you know.

3.) If you had a personal motto, it would be:
a.) I like Paris Hilton in the springtime. I like Paris Hilton in the Fall.
b.) For just the cost of a cup of coffee, you could help one imprisioned member of the Nigerian Royal Family buy his way to a brighter future
c.) It was the best of times, it was call me Ishmael.
d.) A sucker's born every minute.

Congratulations! You have completed the Clogg & Cheetham Institute for Artful Spamming Technology Career Quiz. Now let's learn what the right spamming career track would be for you!

If you chose mostly a.) then you won't want to miss our Celebrity Spam major. Whether it's Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian or any of our other beautiful and talented phenoms of the Hollywood and social scene, you will share the latest news, insights and birthday suit photos over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again in blog comments, on forums, and so, so much more.

If you chose mostly b.) then our Someday My Prince Will Come spam major is the metaphorical glass slipper for your career foot. This is your opportunity to help out the less fortunate royalty deposed and neglected in third-world nations-- and to meet great new people with big hearts and even bigger bank accounts!

If you chose mostly c.) then you might be the right fit for our Literary OCD/Stream of Consciousness spam track. It's the perfect opportunity to learn a little bit of everything, while never burdening your brain with too much information.

And if you chose mostly d.) you are the perfect candidate for our Soulless Sociopathic Special program. You'd take pennies from the sticky hands of daycare kids. You'd bleed your own grandmother dry and not even blink an eye. Yes, you have what it takes to sell products that don't exist to people who don't have the money to pay for them. You have a wide world of opportunity ahead of you! The sky's the limit!

So whether you're an A, a B, a C, or a D, you're all winners at Clogg & Cheatham. Find your new rewarding career with us--- Apply today!

The Secret Subterranean World of Pittsburgh Parking

It's like the Mines of Moria. Nestled under the city lurks an unexpected subterranean world. One where water drips in concrete caverns. Creatures lost and bewildered scurry through winding paths, searching for the light. And great hordes of treasure accumulate in jingling tribute, as travelers beg exit without incident.

Yes, these are the parking garages of downtown Pittsburgh.

Getting disoriented there is like some regular rite of passage, an important part of venturing into the mystic city. For me, this weekend it was a trip to see Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" play at the Benedum Center theater. I tucked my vehicle deep into the bowels of a nearby garage, wound around the parking cave's great pylons and Tow Away zones, and made note of my level-- Orange. Floor: G2.

Leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, I found my way to the elevator, and rose back into the world of the living again, as it spat me out into the marble-floored lobby of some high-rise. I spun through revolving crystalline doors and out onto the street.

After we put on the ritz with ol' Frohdrick Frahnkensteen and his monster man-about-town, I returned to the block where my car rested, miles below.

Yet-- it seemed everything had changed. I had left a building with a shining glass front. It took a moment for me to locate the ramp my little steed had originally descended.

Ah, and there! Next to it. A building with a revolving glass entrance!

I entered, crossing its marble floor.

I stepped into its elevator on the left. I descended. I got out on G2.

It was not orange.

Eyebrow raised, I exited the elevator expecting the Orange percentage to increase 100% as I rounded the corner.

It didn't.

My GOD! In the three hours I was in the theater, someone had repainted the entire floor and stolen the ticketing machine that had been there, as well as my car!

Or, well, maybe I was on the wrong floor.

So I got back in the elevator and pushed the button once more. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps it was G1 and not 2.

The elevator rose. The doors opened...

A complete absence of Orange. Creatures scuttled from the elevator light. Something howled chillingly in the distance.

I was in the wrong parking garage.

I ascended once more, offered a blushing, cheesy grin to the guard at the security desk, who had now seen me twice in five minutes-- probably a record-- and I stepped back out onto the street.

I slipped my parking ticket from my pocket, and against raging winds, ventured down the block. I read the address on that ticket, yet it, and the name of the garage matched absolutely nothing on the entire street.

But then-- then I saw it. Another set of gleaming glass revolving doors. Another building with a bright marble-tiled entrance. And there- an older couple dressed up and walking purposefully toward them.

Could they possibly know the path to the Mystic Orange Parking Garage of Lore? The Otherworld that only the denziens of this labyrinth could know?

Look! An elevator! On the left!

And buttons-- a G2!

Oh, fellow travelers, could it be? Had we found the walkway through the mysterious underground city?

The doors cracked open to reveal the warm, inviting orange glow. And there, my breadcrumbs still lay, a crumbly trail to my beloved four-wheel steed.

I had made it!

Of course, finding the Exit was a whole other story.

Job Interviews for Daytime Soap Opera Characters

On Twitter, I spied a Tweet about a soap opera my mom watched years ago. It paired a character I remembered (and who I kinda thought died) with someone I'd never heard of before.

And that got me thinking...

Can you imagine what conducting a job interview would be like with your standard, long-running daytime soap opera character ? Can you imagine asking them to actually sit down and comprehensively summarize parts of their lives?

I thought I'd take a crack at it:

Interviewer: So, Ms. Charlarae Minton-Barber, is it? Have a seat.

Charlarae: Oh, it's Minton-Escobar now. I just remarried last week.

Interviewer: Congratulations.

Charlarae: Yes, I could no longer take the mercurial nature of my husband, Roderick Barber, the compellingly-mysterious yet abusive shipping magnate/jewel thief who's been gaslighting me for the last two years in order to get my fortune.

So I got an annulment on the grounds I married him during my case of amnesia (the third case: the other two times I wasn't single then)...

And now, with the annulment in place, I finally married the man of my dreams. My Peruvian, one-legged stableboy, Paco....

He may only have one leg, but his lovin' is still muy calliente!

Interviewer: Um... yes, well....

Okay, Mrs. Escobar. Maybe we should just move on to the job. The position, as you know, is curator for SunnyOakGroveDale's fine art gallery. So tell me a little bit about your qualifications in this area.

Charlarae: Well, as it says on my resume, when I lost my eyesight during my second bout of amnesia, I was found by a group of traveling artisans. I didn't know my name, where I lived or remember I owned half of SunnyOakGroveDale. But, oddly, I could see the most beautiful pictures of it all in my mind.

This ragtag group of kind, creative gypsies helped me bring my artistic talents to the surface, in spite of the infirmity that kept my world in darkness.

There I painted under the name of "Chrysalis" for a number of months, developing quite a reputation for myself in the field.

It was, in fact, the painting I did of my then-husband, Count Francois deMonais-- his noble face still lingering in my amnesiac mind-- that helped him find me again. The portrait was such a hit with critics for its power and sensitivity, I was drawn reluctantly into the limelight and Francois recognized my photo in the newspaper.

Interviewer: (writing) Has... experience... with... art.

(Looks up)

Now, Mrs. Escobar, an important part of being a curator for our gallery is in networking. What skills do you bring to the table?

Charlarae: Well, I know lots of people. In fact, I must be related by blood or marriage to almost everyone in this town--

Wait!-- not maybe the waiter down at the club. What's his name?... Randall.

-- No, no, I take that back. Actually, Randall is the father of my stepniece Claire's baby, Angela. He got her pregnant last Fall during the flood, when they were trapped on that roof as the water surged around them, just at the time Claire was actually supposed to be at the church getting married to Paolo, our Italian exchange student.

So yes, I'm related by blood or marriage to everyone in this town.

Interviewer: (writing) Has... connections.

Okay. One last question for you, then, Mrs. Escobar.

Why, with no formal artistic training, do you believe that you can be curator of this gallery?

Charlarae: Well, I didn't need training or even work experience when I became the high fashion buyer for one of SunnyOakGroveDale's hottest and most elite boutiques...

I just stumbled into the role of head chef of La Plate Vide, one of the city's most famous restaurants. Until that point, no one had actually seen me so much as nuke a Hot Pocket.

And for a brief time, I was a neurosurgeon... Though, to be honest, we don't like to talk about that much. That was before my first amnesia and I was practically a whole other person then.

She was a brunette.

So, you can see, I've been excelling in fields I've never studied for, for years. I'm just lucky that way, I guess.

Interviewer: (writing) Naturally... qualified.... no... need.... to.... check.... references.

Okay, Ms. Escobar, I think I have enough information. We still have other candidates to meet, but we'll contact you in two business days. Which is actually three months of daytime episodes. So, I'll talk to you during Sweeps Week.

Thank you for your time today.

Charlarae: You're quite welcome. But I... I... (she blinks confusedly)... I'm sorry. I just had a little flash there.... (blinking) Who are you again?....

And-- if you don't mind sharing-- who do you think I might be?

Happy Friday to you, folks!

Cracking the Spouse That Wasn't

It's not one of my most shining moments. As far as moments go, on a scale of "Filled with Awesome" all the way down to "Drools a Bit," this is probably hanging out at the bottom with the time I put the liquid coffee creamer away in the dishes cabinet.

Or maybe when I went to K-Mart wearing two entirely different shoes.

Without going into all the boring details, I need information to complete a task. It's nothing secretive, sensitive or even exciting really. But I still need the info. And the system I access to get it has been banned to me.

Locked down, in fact.

A full, "Flashing Warning, Call the Brute Squad, None Shall Pass" has gone into effect.

Because it appears the coincidental similarity between Yours Truly and a completely incompetent yet very persistent hacker is only the difference in that I won't try to blackmail myself with my own data-- if I ever get my grubby hands on it.

Yes, I caused the system to go into Red Alert Whooping Siren Lockdown Mode. And all because I couldn't remember my password.

It was one of those systems that feels that because a whole lunar cycle has passed and the planets are aligned differently and it's a month with an R in it, the password must be changed.

Every time I log on, they make me change the password. And every time I withdraw it from the lock-box in the windmill of my mind and get the information I need.

Until this time.

So I spent the better part of an hour trying to think what I would have called it if I were me.

Which, of course, I am most of the time. But I wasn't forthcoming.

Not to be deterred, I chose the option for "Forgot my password." This, I thought, would be my salvation.

But in the tradition of Sphinxes, and trolls under bridges, and Alex Trebek, the system decided that it would be a whole lot more fun to pose me an impossible riddle:

"What is your spouse's maiden name?"

"You're kidding right?" I asked it.

But it assured me, it was in a very serious font and meant business.

"But I'm not a man. Or gay. Or married," I shouted at it.

It didn't care about my personal life. It just wanted the answer.

"Couldn't you have just asked me what's the meaning of life and been done with it?"

"Cliché," it thought dismissively.

So I started guessing. Maybe it was my own last name.


Maybe I'd misread it when filling it out originally, and it was my mother's maiden name.


Maybe I'd left it blank.



It was having none of that. It just laughed.

I started putting down the last names of actors I liked, in an embarrassing, increasing panic.

"We are a computer system, we are not Entertainment Weekly," it informed me.

And then, having toyed with me to its satisfaction, it locked me out. No phone number for assistance. No support line. It told me to have a think about what I'd done here today, cool off for 24 hours, and come back to try in a second time.

They'd be waiting.

Oh... they'd be waiting.

I guess I should feel lucky, though. Trolls, sphinxes and Alex Trebek aren't so much into the second chances.

Bringing Back the Fiction Character Draft

It's been like that drawing of the Evolution of Man...

Except instead of hairy, slope-browed knuckle-draggers transforming image-by-image into a Hip, Modern Nudist...

Now it's more like a two-dimensional archetype with poorly-executed slapstick sensibilities changing slowly into a competent lead character who surprises me occasionally and annoys me little.

As far as writing goes, I'd call it a minor success.

What I'm talking about is the evolution of the lead character in the novel I've been working on. I've almost completely drafted this thing three times since college. And as I slide into the home stretch of Draft Three, I have to wonder:

What will become of all the characters I changed, zapped from the plotline, and offed with, y'know killing and future non-life?

I can just see bringing my lead character, in his many iterations, into my office and sitting them down.

"Look, guys, I've called you all here because we need to talk.

"We've shared a lot over the years. Spent long hours working things out. We had our rough patches. But we've had some good times, too.

"As time has gone on, however, the plot has changed, and we have had to change with it.

"As you probably know, the book is almost finished. And I think this draft, with some minor tweaking is, well, this is 'It.' The Keeper. And our friend Lead Character Three, here, he's really getting the job done. He's got layers. He's put up with all the crap I've thrown at him. And he's holding his own. I'm proud of him.

"So, Two... One... I do appreciate all the time and effort you've put into this project. I couldn't have done it without you. We never would have gotten where we are today...

"...But I'm afraid I no longer have need for your services. I might eventually re-purpose parts of you for other, more minor characters in future works. But for now, it really looks like Three and I will be moving forward into any sequels."

Here One probably shrieks in melodramatic grief, while Two has a panic attack, gets on his knees, seizes my hand and begs me to reconsider. "But-- but-- Where do we go now? We have nothing! This storyline was our lives!"

"Er, Two, it's this sort of one-note, high-strung behavior that encouraged me to take another direction in the first place," I tell him.

"It's all so futile! So disappointing! So--"

Eventually, I'd have to write them into a nice spa in the country. One of those Victorian-style high-end hospitals, where the nervous and afflicted can go to recuperate. Given the way I rewrite, I imagine the place would soon be packed.

"Hi, remember me? I was the female lead from Draft One," a woman with over-sized spectacles and a fluffy white bathrobe would say, extending her hand in greeting. "The author decided I was too circa late 80s early 90s, and my analytical personality lacked potential reader connection. While at times my stoicism was whimsical, overall it left very little opportunity for growth."

"Sure, I remember you!" Lead Character One tells her, his face breaking into a smile. "I never could understand why she didn't include you in Draft Two."

"Oh, she drafted some fiesty, more down-to-earth female she felt she and today's readers could better identify with."

"How horrible!" One gasps.

"Could be worse," she tells him, waving it away. "I could have been Minor Support Characters One to 22. They're here, too."

"I haven't noticed them," says One, looking around dramatically, as if they might show up at any moment.

"And you won't. They fade into the background unless they're needed. We'll only see them if anyone needs integral comments that further the daily plot. Otherwise, they're completely invisible."

"Oh my gosh, no! Really?" asks One, eyes wide with shock.

Draft One Female Lead shrugs. "If one of them does a good enough, stand-out job, they might get a cameo later on. You never know."

One still looks horrified. He'd spent most of the first draft in the same way. It had to have been exhausting.

"Well, off for my mud mask. No reason not to keep trying to look my best. You never know when you might be needed again." The former Female Lead turns on a heel. "Oh, but One?... I don't know if you've taken a walk around the whole grounds yet, but... I don't advise it."

"What? Why?"

"Well, there's just the graveyard... the character reshaping wing... The plot chopper... Trust me. You're not up for it."

"NOOOOOOOOO!" shrieks One, extending his gaze to the heavens.

Unfortunately, not all characters can be rehabilitated.

Have you ever written something, thought it was okay, and then later wondered-- what the heck were you thinking?