Monday, June 30, 2008

Do Yourself In Project #97: The Sun Screen

A while back, when I was staggering around Home Depot like an extra in Zombie Gardeners 3, Mum got an eyeful of this huge screened-in gazebo thing that was the solution to all the world's problems.

We have this great big section of concrete outside of our house, with southwestern exposure. This means that when I set foot outside my back door, I am unconscious by the time the door slams behind me. As a kid I used to sit there, with the rest of the family, to get some sun. That was around when I began choking on food, but that's another story. Not really.

It was a hot sunny day this day we saw the Home Depot gazebo. Standing inside of it, as it stood inside Home Depot, did not cool me in the slightest. Also, the weight stamped on the box--which was coincidentally my own weight--rather put me off the idea of dragging it back to the car. We asked if it could be delivered to the house, and it could...for a price. Also, the box that weighs the same as me would be deposited on the sidewalk some 50 feet from where it actually needed to be. And it wasn't going to put itself together, either.

We did not get a screened gazebo thing that day.

Now, for some reason my family has purchased about seven light, non-permanent sunshades for the yard over the years rather than actually using all these butch building skills we have. They insist each one will be different...stronger. Each one usually self destructs by October, because you aren't supposed to leave them up the whole damn year. It takes me about fifteen minutes to put these things together, so I can only assume it would take me less time to take one apart for storage. Ah, the arrogance of my's slipping.

Brylane Home sent a catalog to my house. In this catalog, was a screened version of the ol' windsock on legs. In brown. Dark brown. The kind of dark brown that conceals spiders and hell knows what else as you walk through it at night...because you have to walk through it, because it is parked right outside the door of the house and only the cats and dog have the sense to just run directly at the screened panels to get through it rather than finding one of the two zippered "doors" that are made of black screening that you can't really see until you're bouncing off of it.

Of course we got it. It was on sale!

It took me twenty minutes to put together, because the sun was out and I was sort of dead as a result. Bees rushed to the cool shelter of The Sunshade before we even had the Velcro straps adjusted. They're not dumb, those bees. They don't help, either, they just hover, jeering at the humans trying to adjust the crooked seams. A bird flew into it too, and man was he surprised by all that screening! Almost as surprised as I was to have a bird flapping around my head as its friend sat on the roof of the sunshade loudly wondering where his flying companion went. The bird figured it out and flew back around the way it had come in soon enough, and I'm relieved because I've just about had it with worrying about birds this year.

Mum and Nan love the sunshade in all its dark and not-rain-resistant-at-all glory. I have nothing against the sunshade itself as it's a lovely sunshade, but I have the kind of crazy that rejects what I've realized is basically Domo-Kun sitting in between me and my trees. I've taken to saying hello to the bees that gather along the ceiling as I lurch through, and luckily The Puppy does not want to grab the sunshade and run around the yard with it. Because you know who would have to go get it from her and put it back? Yes.

I predict this post will have a follow-up. But never mind that, here's a really nice picture Mum took of The Thing during the day, when it doesn't seem so menacing. Mum loves the sunshade so much she trusted it with her gardening bear. Aww.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Damp Nastiness of Summer

Nan's weekend movie finds were some "adult" movie with a spin on the Tarzan legend, which I think was called something like Tarzana and the Jungle Jigglers, and a foreign film called Immortel (ad vitam) about the Egyptian god Horus taking over a guy so he can make a little blue jay with a girl that cries blue tears. It was very artsy and therefore fascinated me. Which is why I was staring directly at the screen when the animated pigeon got it.

Last weekend, the 20-something-foot-tall elm that grows between our house and the house of the neighbor who does not like uncontrolled greenery was given another trim. By trim, I mean all that's left are five feet of the trunk. I do not approve of the topping of trees, but when you pass out in high temperatures and only have one functioning arm you have to concede some things. This elm, it keeps coming back for more and I admire the hell out of it for that. It's the last of about fifteen that were purchased as tiny little sticks back in the '80s to create a sort of privacy hedge. I know you may be wondering what kind of thought process is involved in planting fifteen deciduous trees as a privacy screen, and from where I stood during the whole thing I can tell you...not much.

We watched Fool's Gold, the Kate Hudson/Matthew Mcconaughey treasure hunting movie, and it was fun. It fit right in with the type of Romancing The Stone/Six Days, Seven Nights adventures I love, and sometimes it's nice to watch a fun movie. Not that the movie with the CGI bird wasn't a way.

Cable apparently thought we hadn't seen enough damp Mcconaughey, as U-571 was on way past our bedtime but Nan and I watched it because we hadn't seen it before and any movie involving the sea and Enigma machines is A-OK in our books...or T-YR depending on what settings we're using. Eh, it's too early for Enigma machine humor. I still haven't gotten Nan to see Churchill: The Hollywood Years, I think she'd enjoy that.

Then, much like last week, vine wrangling and hot weather turned a few days into a blurry mess. Every time I go outside I find more pokeweed or Virginia creeper. It's like it's out to get me. Of course the pokeweed probably feels the same way about me.

I washed the windows and cut about eight inches off one of the XL T-shirts Nan didn't want. I don't usually take scissors to clothes because I never liked waking up to find my pants missing the elastic, but these shirts make me feel like an escaped inmate and I'm tired of strangling myself every time I sit on the back of the shirt. Shockingly, the shirt does not look like an escaped inmate took scissors to it after washing windows on a sunny 90° day. My hair did, though. I didn't know until I walked past a mirror...after having walked past a few neighbors. Oh well, at least I said hello in a pitch they could hear.

Last night Nan found a Japanese horror movie called Pulse, which is about the futility of dial-up. No, I kid. A ghost is in a website, and people get so lonely that they disappear into walls, and eventually the city is all wrecked up and it's very bleak, but very artsy, and we watched the whole thing. Then I turned on my computer and wrote this. Spooky.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Things I'm Exposed To.

I'm not sure why CNN Headline News was on our TV today. I didn't put it on. You know if I've gotten to the television first if '80s music videos, game shows, British comedy or Japanese movies are on. I get my news from the Internet, pretty much always have when you consider I was 16 when I first logged on. So I have little to no use for television news.

I leave the room one minute, and Bill Gates dies.

Bill Gates is not dead.

But I come back downstairs, all ready to take my little furry men for their daily constitutional, and mum tells me Bill Gates is dead. My response--because I can talk today, but that's another story for another post--is, "The Bill Gates?"

Yes, she told me, it was on the news. Maybe not, after all.

Shaken, and feeling like I'd probably be the only person I know who feels bad about this, I fired up Windows and checked Fark. Because, you know, I figured they'd know for sure. Nothing.

Because Bill Gates didn't die. Bill Gates stepped down as chairman of Microsoft today. BIG DIFFERENCE.

CNN Headline News, meanwhile, cut to Nelson Mandela's birthday party too late to hear everyone singing Happy Birthday to him, but they would have talked through it anyway, and then the anchors fixated on the state of Amy Winehouse's lungs when they spotted her hair next to Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela and Amy Winehouse were on screen together, and hell, even I hope Amy Winehouse gets it together and goes on to win a grammy when she's in her 70s, but...Nelson Mandela. It's his birthday. The anchors then talked about what 46664 stood for, and one said it was his prisoner number about two minutes before the other anchor did, and it was so unscripted it was like being in a room with like, normal people. I don't wanna hear that kinda going on after they've just killed Bill Gates.

Bill Gates is not dead. Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela!

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Words Are Inadequate.

George Carlin is one of those people I credit with saving my life. First when I was ten and replayed Carlin At Carnegie over and over in my mind on nights when I couldn't sleep, and then again and again over the years, counseling me on the idiots and maniacs on the road, my stuff, the weather, politics, religion, sports, dusting, pets, and even making Nan and I laugh for the first time after we lost Uncle Gene and Aunt Bubbles this spring. I'm not exaggerating, if not for his humor brightening my darker corners, someone would have taken a flamethrower to me years ago.

HBO is playing his stand-up specials, and Saturday Night Live is going to have a tribute of their own next weekend, and I can only hope some young kid sees this man with his funny way with words and realize that somehow it'll all be okay, even the disappointed idealists have a place in the world.

Of course, thanks to the Internet, nobody has to wait around for TV to learn the differences between cats and dogs.

RIP, Mr. Carlin, thanks for the laughs, and thanks for making my brain want to stay in my head.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Eyes, They Are Tired

We watched Jumper, which I was hoping would be Star Wars 3.25, but...there was no Palpatine. You would think there was also no Obi-Wan, but there was Billy Elliot, and so it balanced out as he livened things up a bit. There will be a sequel! And...I'm probably going to watch it the second it comes out. I'm such a geek.

Shrek The Third was quite good. I don't know if it's just that I'm used to Shrek or just that I had Puss In Boots to fixate on, but...I enjoyed it.

We finally got to see the new Hairspray with John Travolta as Edna. I wasn't expecting it to be as fantastic as it was, so that was a treat. I don't know why I didn't think I'd like it as much as I did, I love everyone I knew in the cast, and by the end I loved everyone I didn't know, so I guess maybe it was just fear of musicals. Because, you know, I was pissed off Xanadu hadn't won any Tony awards earlier that night.

Monday, while waiting to see if the local tornadoes were actually heading for us and the news was going to let us know (they weren't, and they actually didn't), I watched the end of the U.S. Open golf...thingy...with Tiger Woods. I can't see golf balls on tv, and I don't have the kind of focus required to know what's going on as it's happening, but I think Tiger Woods won, and that's neat because I never saw him play before. Then I went outside and tried to glue my busted-up fence back together before the windstorms did more damage.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blackout Sabbath is this Saturday.

I would like more than anything to take part in Blackout Sabbath, the worldwide event where everyone unplugs all their stuff and behaves like people did back before electricity. I will be turning my computer off, and even my radio with its rechargeable batteries will stay on top of the Harry Potter book near m'man's can all day Saturday.

But mum would cut my hand off if I unplugged the fridge. Or the freezer. Or the television. These things aren't mine to control. So while I'm peeing in the dark, everyone else on my block will be using the wattage I saved for...whatever the hell it is they do.

It is a difficult thing, this conservation. Once I looked into solar panels for my house, because we've got that big flat area of roof and all. I believe it would cost about the same as a semester of college or hospitalization for a week to get the house off the grid. I mean, I realize it would pay for itself in about five years, but with my luck the roof wouldn't be strong enough to support the panel, it would break through the ceiling and crack my skull, and honestly we don't get much direct sunlight on the kitchen floor.

But there it is. I'll be continuing to try turning stuff off when I'm not using it. As I wrote this, for instance, my leg has completely gone dead. I'll get all shifty-eyed when I say I took part in Blackout Sabbath, just like when I use the plastic shopping bags at the store when I could just go use the money I'm blowing on food for nice reusable shopping bags that wouldn't eventually cause a dolphin to die horribly, just like when I insist I'm a vegetarian and yet have been seen eating my grandmother's meatballs. I mean well, but it's not enough.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

That storm we had....

This was the view out the window:

Stormy weather.

(I'm testing Ping's ability to post photos, so if the view out my window looks suspiciously like your browser, I've done something wrong and the photo can be found here.)

edit: Ping cannot post pictures using HTML. Boo, Ping.

Monday, June 16, 2008

JAFT, as we used to say.

There is a thing, it is called Ping and can be found at and I'm posting this using it. It should post to my blog, my LJ, the MySpace and Facebook...all at the same time. Sadly, I won't have tags, or current music, but I don't even know what I'm hearing right now as it's New Music Monday on WFUV.

Ping is still in the beta stage, so if you'd like to try it out, the beta code is "tastyping" and it took me three days to figure it wasn't tas typing, so...don't expect me to know anything about this service. It's magic. Also it has all my usernames and passwords.

We're about to get hit with a "violent" thunderstorm, and I can tell it's for real this time because aside from the sound and flashing sky, the temperature is absolutely lovely out there right now. Breezy, an early May evening. It almost makes standing out in forky lightning worthwhile.

Okay, have fun pinging. Get away from the window and don't walk about with an antenna sticking out of your head. (I doubt I'll follow my own advice even once I read it back.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Suddenly, The Weather Got Hot

Nan can find some interesting movies. Last week's was Blind Beast with Mako, back when he had two names, as a blind guy who kidnaps a girl so he can feel real girl parts instead of the hundreds he's sculpted over the years. Then things get artistically wild.

We all sort of wanted to see Mr. Bean's Holiday, as we love that guy. Or maybe we just forgot the things he puts everyone through. If you like Mr. Bean, you will probably like this. I don't really want to give away the plot, because, well, you'd have to see it. But for the rest of the week, every time I picked up my video camera, I felt way artsy. Sure.

During the sudden insane 105° day, I got it into my head to back up my near-19,000 photos to my Flickr account. It was upsetting to know the "Taken on" date will be the date they're uploaded, but I'm backing up my pictures. So really, should I be quibbling about exactly when they were taken, as long as I'll have a backup someplace remote in case say, my house explodes? I think not. I did a month a day for a few days. I'm no where near finished.

But I did post the pictures of our beautiful little friends who moved in, and have since flown away. I loved this bunch. Clear skies, kids.

Baby Robins

I tried to use the auto-poster for the rest of what I admit to doing in a week so it wasn't a bombardment all at once, and I guess that makes this a shorter review. Because melting from the hot weather and uploading photos to Flickr really did seem to be all I did.

Friday, June 13, 2008

There Aren't Enough Special Characters to Encompass My Profanity.

So I will merely point you all to this story about my grocery store closing, and let you imagine my reaction to this.

They close in a month. July. Hottest time of the year. Not very easy to get home while unconcious from the other stores in the borough.

Billy, Sal, Debbie, Dolores, Frankie, they'll be missed. Murray Applebaum...he needs to be incapacitated and have no one to bring him milk and bread. Just for a week...per person who shopped at the store that only meant a check to him.

What's come as an even stranger shock is that the North East Bronx Association president Vinny Prezioso (he's named in the article I linked to) once had me transfer his 16mm movie film to video. I think I've told that story before, though. Suffice to say I do believe the man is out to get me.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

She Puts Hope In The Bottom Of My Box!

I've been hearing songs off the new Aimee Mann album @#x%x*! Smilers, and for some reason the crazy old music geek who sits on the porch in my head yelling at the kids going by has been increasingly making sure I know, "That's the girl who did Voices Carry! She hooked up with those Squeeze boys and married that No Myth guy!"

I walk by and nod politely, probably the music geek catches my eyes rolling because they're her eyes too and I have some nerve rolling my eyes at myself but I just haven't given enough attention to this. I love Aimee Mann, and have for nearly a quarter of a century. I had a similar epiphany about Suzanne Vega last year, and just last month--on a much smaller scale--realized I like Coldplay. But since I got my own radio, Aimee Mann's music has been coming out of it, into my head, and it sticks there, which is remarkable considering the state of my head. My cousin, who usually loves everything cool before I admit to loving it, loves Aimee Mann. Coincidence? I think not.

So here for your listening and viewing pleasure is the first song I ever really sat up and said, "Ooh!" to by 'Til Tuesday, Looking Over My Shoulder, which I first heard in my room just before dinner as it played on a local video station called U68 back in the '80s, and her newest song, 31 Today, which recently came to visit my ears on a night I needed it via a local radio station called WFUV. Then there's I Should've Known, and That's Just What You Are, and...these songs, they are my friends.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It all makes perfect sense now.

more cat pictures

Mine, they have rubbed me with their special scent. I belong to them now. No wonder I wake up with feather balls near my head.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

As Wiggy said, it's a special kind of wrong.

The spider didn't know its strength!

"Look out," I said*, lunging for the swatter. "There's a spider!"

We get these jumping spiders--very tiny, not friendly at all, and quick. I smashed the swatter against the wall, and the weathered plastic shattered. I very quietly hung the swatter back in its usual place and went for the camera.

*You know, that sound I make. Probably sounded more like, "AH! AHHHHHAAHAHHAHHAAHAER!"

I'm catching up on picture posting. Because I can't just work from the present backwards, it is still April in my head. (And that is so true in so many ways it's wild.)

All Too Common

The Flowfield Unity is one of my favorite online comics. It's deep, it's dead-on, has a fantastic fan base, and the artist is a neat guy as well. The most recent strip, In Commons starts out as a mashup of NIN and Nintendo, and then raises the question of how the ordinary everyday artist is expected to make a living giving away free things, like how Nine Inch Nails gave away their music under a Creative Commons license.

This brought out two immediate reactions from me. First, the Closer vs. Super Mario Brothers theme mashup by DJ Roomate.

And then--it was late, and that's when I get honest--I mentioned how my earliest mix tapes were populated by songs taped off the radio, and it snowballed into an admission of how I single-handedly killed the economy of the United States.

"The movie industry will also have me on a list for waiting for movies to hit cable. I may have come off as a raging pirate in my first reply, but I do buy songs I absolutely love online, I paid $5 for In Rainbows mainly to support the idea that more artists shouldn’t rely on the industry, but I’m more likely to do it if the artists or bands are lesser known. I’m not the kind of consumer the industries like at all, though, I wear shoes and clothes until they disintegrate (not that alluring, really), my computer is heading for ten years old, my mobile phone is only a phone, and my car is thankfully low on emissions but so old the garage has to take out a special machine to inspect it (mind you the garage also had to use a “special” razor blade to scrape off the previous year’s sticker, and it looked suspiciously like a wallpaper scraper to me)."

I keep my comments light, because I don't like bringing people down. It comes from the reality I live in, I suppose.

That car? I only fill it with gas once a year. The clothes? Mostly hand-me-downs or things I bought when I was a teenager, which was around the time I last saw a doctor, come to think of it. I'm poor, you see, and I have a chronic, pre-existing condition. I am, obviously, uninsured. All this talk of "These Economic Times (TM)" makes me laugh because what everyone else is waking up to is how I've lived my entire life. The only difference between the hysterics flailing about financial ruin and me is I'm happy. I don't feel poor, I never have. I don't want granite counters in my kitchen or blinding white teeth. Oh yeah, I've never been to a dentist in my life, either. That's what it's like to grow up with no insurance. I've been very lucky with my teeth, I still have all of them and am capable of cleaning them myself, but don't worry, I was punished with the metal in my eyes and the whole allergy to the sun thing. That and the tumor took any money I saved up for anything else, and when our trees started dying that even cost us the deed to the house until the day I can pay it all back. And I will pay it back, even though there is no one interested in hiring a freak like me for longer than it takes for this body I was given to fail.

So there it is. That's a fraction of me. Pigeon-hole me, judge me, write me off, don't believe me...I don't care. I'm happy with what I do have. Money means nothing to me beyond fixing the most recent leak in my roof or making sure my family is secure. Not that I don't want to be given money for my work. But that's the other thing...I rarely get paid in money. Funny how that works out.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

We Need A Movie About Vampiric Race Car Drivers Made Of Paper Who Foil Volcanos With Bad Grammar

Last Saturday we finally got around to watching Ocean's 13. It's like, we just keep coming back for more. At least this one let us in on what the hell was going on a few more times than 12. I think.

Monday, we took the car in again, going for a record. The battery terminal connector that's been stripped and loose since the '90s is finally all shiny and tight. I'm a little sad that I didn't get to keep the old connector or the banged up penny, but I took a picture, and...that'll last longer. On the way home I was cut off by a great big yellow van with some red substance splattered all over the side (it was paint...I'm sure). For the first time ever, I gave the finger to a fellow driver. Wow. Luckily, it went unnoticed.

Monday night I finally got to see Dracula with Bela Lugosi. I'd seen bits of it before, but this is the first time I'd ever seen the one, the...well, not only...original Dracula. I giggled like Renfield, I was so happy.

The next movie to come on was Dracula's Daughter, where Van Helsing gets arrested for staking a man that is not quite Bela Lugosi. Then they do a vampire test on a girl with a flickering light and she freaks out. Further proof that I am a vampire.

Tuesday night, Nan found The Bitter Tea Of General Yen, which she told me was a movie my Grandpa Ray always told her she had to see. So of course I had to see it. Movies where white men pretend to be Chinese never fail to get my attention, and movies involving culture clashes never fail to amuse the living hell out of me. I wonder if Martians have a thriving movie business of, "Look at the funny humans, isn't their way of life weird." Note to self: when going to another country, learn the language, it helps avoid becoming an accessory to spying. Also don't get hit on the head, or fall for your captor, he'll only drink poison to get away from your crying.

In between movies, I discovered Pete Smith's Specialties. The one I linked to isn't the one I saw, but you get the idea. Fan-frikkin'-tastic genius. Old-timey me would've gone to the theaters just to see these when I had some money from playing cards in the back alley.

The Mask Of Fu Manchu, which came on after that, made Indy IV look like serious archaeology. Oh man. The classics remind me how great it was to just enjoy a movie and not get hung up on technicalities like injecting dudes with dragon's blood, Fu Manchu blood, snake venom, spider...stuff, and a little Listerine for mind control.

But that was not the last movie on TCM that night! No...Targets came on. It's a '60s movie about how guns, candy and rock 'n' roll make you nutty. Or something. I actually went to bed before it was over. Boris Karloff was involved, and for once he wasn't wearing prosthetic makeup. In the movie, not in my bed.

The next day brought rain, dancing on TV, Russian soldiers dancing to Run DMC on YouTube and a movie about a volcano under a snowy ski lodge. I was catching up on things that needed catching up on, as part of my plan to catch up on a lot of things, and so mainly just noticed a lot of ashen skiers. Or something. Then they stopped a volcanic eruption with a CGI avalanche. Right-on.

I discovered more papercraft goodies on, I have a blocky little Indiana Jones smirking at me now...and you can too. You can have a whole army of little blocky folks. I wonder how Pee Wee Herman and Jason Voorhees would get along. Hmm.

There was some silliness to end the week, I finally got around to seeing The Ramp Movie in its entirety, and then I learned of the odd thing that happens of you Google "Babby" and hit I'm feeling lucky. I enjoy that kind of weird. I do.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Rise of the Teddy Bears Has Begun.

I've been seeing an awful lot of bears recently. Not the kind that see a tree and think they have the right to climb it, only to be shot in the ass with a traquilizer by some human who just happens to have first dibs on the area. No, the cuddly kind of bear, the kind of bear children take to bed with them. Something's happening among these teddy bears, and I'm worried.

A robot teddy bear car navigation system has been unveiled in Japan, and this terrifying little monster of cuteness stands in your car and points its furry little paws in the direction it wants you to go. To the mall? To the ball game? the teddy bear picnic, where you're the main course. It nags you, too, asking where you've been, if you've been drinking, who that strange man was...and best of all, it features full on Hyacinth Bucket mode, where it randomly says, "Watch out!" even if there's no imminent danger. The bear will also play tour guide if you stroke its head. What kind of sick stuff is this? The Japanese plan to try other forms for their system, other than tiny teddies, to carry out this bizarre form of mind control...I hope they make a Hello Kitty version.

Then, from the people who brought you Down Syndrome Dolls, comes Benny, the anatomical teddy. Don't worry, Benny hasn't got a winky. Why, you may wonder? Because I guess kids can see those parts of themselves, and that's not what Benny is about. No. Benny is designed to help kids understand where bits like their heart and kidneys are, in case they need operations. Hopefully their operations won't involve tearing open the velcro strip in their chest and yanking out all the bits until the doctor finds the one that needs the fixin'. Benny is designed to help parents who have more money then they need and don't know where the spleen is educate their kids that it's always better to pretend our insides are color coded and fluffy rather than get out a book and look at a picture of exactly what is where, because possibly kids may get interested in the wrong parts. I'm sorry, but for $200, they could have included a brain. Benny has no brain!

I'm a little shaken up over all this new teddy technology. I always seemed to be a bunny person, myself, and I learned early not to let wild animals into your cars, because they will eat the wiring. Also, kids, never allow a grizzly bear to demonstrate where your rib cage is, grizzlies are not teddies. Grizzlies are friendly toilet-paper-loving forest dwellers, but teddies are out to get us all. Beware

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I For One Am Relieved.

Universal Studios has confirmed they will not rebuild the King Kong ride following the fire that took out bits of the studio the other day. (Yes, I exchanged research for the time to post.)

I once went to Universal Studios in California, you know. Yes. Got my hand stamped, got the heatstroke, saw a free-roaming Beetlejuice, and did the tour. King Kong breathed on me. And my aunt, who had cleverly seated herself behind me in the tram, introduced us. "She likes you," she told Kong. Kong pulled the tram closer, but the driver was already pulling us to safety.

I'm not kidding, I have it all on tape.