Saturday, August 29, 2009

Songs of My Misspent Youth: Things Can Only Get Better

Howard Jones was like a funky, adorable therapist. Don't crack up, don't live your life in one day, no one ever is to blame, what is love anyway?

Even You Know I Love You, Don't You gets points for making me less awkward because of the time I walked across Caldor all by myself to pick out the cassette of One To One AND LIVED!

All of his songs are good lessons with catchy tunes I could play on my synth, but this week I'm singling out Things Can Only Get Better, because it fits my theme.

It took me years to recognize the exact reason, but I always looked forward to the end of summer. Once the heat waves and long trips were over, summer was actually pretty neat. So there I was in 1985, listening to Rock Over London on Z-100, putting my puzzles together, totally at peace. The misspent part, I guess, is the whole lead-up to autumn. And all that other deep-seated fear crap that HoJo helped me throw away.


Thursday, August 27, 2009


My weekly routine of finding out the topic for the next 100 Word Stories' weekly challenge and then writing a story had a twist this week.

The topic was Over The Falls In A Barrel, and I got a rather devious comeuppance tale in my head right away.

I killed my fifth husband on our wedding night. You know how it is.

To cover it up, I thought I'd take him to Niagara, do the whole traditional over the falls bit. People die doing that all the time.

The hippie by the side of the road guaranteed his magic barrel would change my life. Didn't tell me it would bring that old bastard back from the dead and keep me from dying when we hit the rocks. The doctor tells me I'll probably be like this for the rest of my life. My husband visits me every day.

Only...originally it was a little too close to the whole thing with that guy from Megan Wants A Millionaire, but I didn't know that because I don't watch that kind of news willingly. So I rewrote the whole thing so it would be less awkward. The story ended up feeling awkward to me in other ways, but the good news is if you go listen to the podcast and hear me talking about the dude outside my house with the neon pink bag, he eventually went away and I don't think he had any body parts in the bag.

The whole barrel of 10 tales can be heard here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Following last week's admission that this blog isn't going to change the world, I decided to use it to chronicle the answering of some heavy questions that weigh on my mind.

For starters, how did a form of Caribbean music end up named after a chick from Greek Mythology?

I know, you're thinking, "WTF?" but I don't waste my time with easy things like not giving a flip about why things are the way they are, I wake up with Taj Mahal in my head and start wondering, how. How the hell did that crazy Odysseus suddenly end up somewhere in the general area of Trinidad and Tobago while cavorting on Malta?
Banana Boat by krapzapper
Boat, I know.

Naturally, Wikipedia has an entry on how whitey discovered the music when slaves of the French were allowed to make sound.

That doesn't really tell me anything except a faction of humanity is totally insane and another--thankfully stronger--chunk of the population manages to keep singing even when living under really really messed up circumstances. Which I'd grasped by the age of four.

Looking up the musicians themselves, I found out the type of song called Calypso started out as Kaiso. Which brings my quest to an abrupt end. The only connection exists in the confused minds of the fans and writers of the Pirates of the Carribean franchise.

I realize I could have just asked my neighbors' cousins, but I didn't want to seem like a total ass. So I put it on the Internet.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Songs of My Misspent Youth: As

How can I cite my Poppy's birthday and my Aunt Bubbles' and Uncle Gene's wedding anniversary as my misspent youth? I don't get to celebrate those days with them anymore. I celebrate them, of course, because they're people to be celebrated, but it makes two of the happiest days in August a little less shiny. Makes me start regretting every minute I spent not near them, but then the zen kicks in and I remember they're in everything I do and all I can do is pull out the Stevie Wonder song As and declare that I get the lyrics because of them (and a few others but this weekend is theirs).

This song happens to be one of three songs I've got in my head to have played at my funeral because it's that awesome. I realize unless I manage to create some people to outlive me I probably won't have anyone to carry out the task of pressing play much less understand why I'm obsessed with this song so I'll just crank it up now and every time I hear it and be all, "I have people I love and sea-faring parrots are in the lyrics and this song is capable of raining down glitterly love all over the world and I would make a total fool of myself if I was ever near Stevie Wonder because he wrote the greatest song that can be heard." Only not that coherently. It would come out as, "YAAAAAAAAAAAA-HAAAAAAAAA!"

If you need another twelve minutes of As goodness, I give you the Gene Harris version from '77 and George Michael/Mary J. Blige version from '99.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sockin' It To The Challenge Over and Under

No matter how many brain cells are burned away in the scorching heat or how crazy the outside world becomes, the 100 Word Stories' weekly challenge is like a soothing balm I stick into my ears, bringing a cooling waves of goodness to my brain. Better than ice picks any day.

This week's topic was Over/Under, and of course I wrote something that starts out with something recovering from being dirty.

Over and under we tumbled, around and around in the darkness for an hour. Just as I was warming up the buzzer went off, the door opened, and she stole my mate away, leaving me lying there as the hot metal cooled.

I didn’t think much of the wet clothes dumped on top of me until the man they belonged to brought me home. He knew what I was but he didn’t care. He even let his kids play with me, and now instead of spending my days on stinky feet, I have curly hair and the shiniest button eyes.

This and 9 other tales that go beneath the surface with very special guests can be heard here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

500 Words About Not Knowing What To Write

I can't think of anything to say.

I mean, I can, but I'm a guest in your computers, there are things you're tired of hearing about and you don't come here to read about my latest ache--hell, I don't even talk to my family about that stuff. My Uncle Gene, bless him, taught me the proper response to the general greeting, "How are you?"

Can't complain, who'll listen?

I'm not a complainer, after all. Oh sure, I'll get on my soap box sometimes hitting up people I know in states where decision makers are undecided on things near to my heart, but I'm like the weather, wait a few minutes and the clouds blow over. I say what I need to and move on. Sometimes that gets mistaken as backing off, or not being interested, but to be honest you get 10% of me in this blog, another 10% in the comic, and %5 on Twitter and Facebook. That's not enough to figure me out, and I like it that way.

I won't talk about work, I'm not comfortable telling day-to-day tales of my family and I definitely wouldn't go into detail about my neighborhood because I've gotten enough e-mails and friend requests from guys who live a little too close telling me they love my smile and would like me to turn on my webcam. Or just the random tweeting from someone who is quite obviously not Prince. I'd break the Internet with my fangirl squeeing about all the music I like. Did it come from England in the '80s? I love it. Was it played on WLIR? I love it. Is it played on WFUV? I love it. I'll leave it at that, because this post is already running overtime.

I read neat things elsewhere and wonder who I can share them with. Like this brilliant response to a now-deleted diatribe by a homophobe complaining about SyFy's commitment to make less stereotypical characters. Some of the things I think are brilliant might not be safe for work, though, and how do I know where you read me?

I'm always writing offline, I have about ten projects going on but my life doesn't always allow me to say, "I'll be ready to show you X in September," so I'll mention them when they're ready to be seen, like how I sprung Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap on you. It got 54 views. THANKS!

Every social networking site greets me with, "What are you doing/thinking/feeling?" I could just respond, "A lot," and leave it forever but that's dull. I dread being dull. I like having something to say.

I also like LOLcats, but who doesn't? You all read I Can Has Cheezburger, what's the point of me repeating the day's fuzzy cuteness?

So I've got nothing new. It was a lovely day, the weather has been pretty good to me. Hope it's being good to you too, and thanks for reading my stuff, even when I have nothing to say.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Songs of My Misspent Youth: What's The Matter Here

I can't spell misspent youth without 1988. After all, I spent 10 months of that year and three months of the previous one staggering around going, "ACK, MY EYES!" because there was metal in it and every doctor I saw was quick to tell me there was something wrong with my eyes but they had no idea what and I should maybe take focusing lessons or maybe get an MRI but please get the hell out before the other customers see and think I'm giving them pink eye.

For the record, if you're not laughing already, MRIs do not mix with metal lodged in any body part and it's one of the ways being poor of pocket change has saved my life. A head full of metal stuck in a magnet, yeah, that would have worked well for me.

But two months before Dr. Katz the merciful angel of eyesockets everywhere was to pick my eyes clean there was the summer of 1988, and in particular there was the lowest point imaginable which took place this very week. The Shreeek of The Week on WDRE was What's The Matter Here? by 10,000 Maniacs, and naturally I just loved 10,000 Maniacs based on their name but once I heard this song, this whole calling out of every child abusing moron within earshot, I was like, YES, NATALIE MERCHANT, WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH THAT ANYWAY?

Child abuse is right up there on my list with animal abuse as things I take no excuses for, and as many of you know when I get fired up over injustice, I go big. I was even more insufferable at 14, I can assure you. So I was sitting in the backyard in the lovely darkness unwittingly grinding more metal down into my eyes in between trips indoors to rinse them with the glorious relieving collyrium eyewash the pharmacist up the street suggested and I was getting some relief from the congestion that was building up little by little because the heatwave had ended and here comes this song that I really dug and it won bestest song of the week and it was so awesome I did not die that weekend. Or ever. I kid you not.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Am All About Hobo Chic

Part of my weekend ritual is going to the RSS reader and finding out what the next 100 Word Stories' weekly challenge will be. The past few weeks I had the added glee of finding out Google Reader includes a player to hear the podcast right from the frikkin' reader! I'm like Tarzan with razors over Google Reader now. That's a good thing, trust me.

This week's topic was The Walls Shuddered. Of course I went straight for lampooning reality shows and used the word urine.

Only two designers remained. For weeks every kind of degradation had been inflicted on the false walls of studio 7, from kitschy mirrors to neon animal prints, the wooden framework and sheetrock thought they'd felt it all.

When hobo chic was announced as the theme that would decide the champion, the vivacious male designer rushed off to collect every old newspaper in the building, while the grim art school girl merely announced she'd be creating eye-catching patterns using an assortment of urines.

As newspaper was torn and squirt guns were filled under the harsh spotlights, the walls shuddered imperceptibly.

After submitting the story I happened to catch Design Star, the show I had in mind writing this one, and apparently everyone needed to decorate with food because a dude decorated a wall with matzos. Another designer screwed apples to the wall, and yet another had bottles of liquid lining the walls which made me start shrieking, "Howard Hughes, Howard Hughes!" Mum had to point out the bottles were filled with chocolate milk. That image didn't help.

This week there were only 9 other stories, but they all shake my walls, baby. Go listen to them all here. Seriously, you need to listen because there are sound effects involved and I'm not going to tell you where.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reading The News Shouldn't Be This Intense

When you heard that Newsgator was ending their free online RSS reading service, did you imagine a raspy hiss of a scream off in the distance? Because to be honest all I really did was just rub my aching forehead and export my OPML file.

Then I started to write this post. This is how I felt a week ago:

I can't take to Google Reader. I tried, I even have a copy of my feeds in Google Reader that I open and mark as read every weekend because I take one look at it and wince.

But now that's what Newsgator is telling their users to use.

An offline reader is out because I go back and forth between computers. While I could probably set one up the way I did Agent, the usenet reader, but I don't want to.

I thought I'd give BlogLines a try, and maybe if you've been reading this blog a long time you're thinking, " did...."

I found I had a BlogLines account!

With 25,976 unread items.

I deleted everything and imported my database again, then marked the 33000+ items in there as read. I figure I'll clean out Newsgator and then pick up on Bloglines. Sure. I'll have that done in a month. Definitely.

(Betting on how soon I'll forget this starts now. I'm in the 1-2 days pool.)

9 days after I wrote all that, you know what?


I don't know if they changed it or I just sucked it up and got on with it, as I'm doing these days--making myself do stuff even if it makes me wince and retch and flail around and go numb. Not that Google Reader has done any of that yet. Therefore Google Reader is better than Life 3.5!

But I guess you knew that already.

There are 3113 unread items in Bloglines because I'm not using it, I'm using Google Reader, which has no unread items, because I frikkin' love it!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Songs of My Misspent Youth: You & I Both

I remember the first time I heard You & I Both by Jason Mraz. Not a week after losing the love of my life and deciding blogging was a pointless waste of time, I was listening to the World Café, and Jason Mraz was the guest. I froze in mid-polish, listening to this song and having one of those moments that get people called loony for thinking radio has the ouija board-like ability to send messages that give meaning to EVERYTHING.

I was dusting at the time, because we were adopting the Ninja Twins in a few hours and while I didn't know that they'd be Ninjas or even twins, I knew dusting was a good way to stave off DOOM FUNK. Also, kittens generally do not like to sneeze, and are unimpressed when you show them photos of how cute pawprints through dust look.

So it was quite the moment, and the song never became as big as Mraz's other songs and that always pissed me off because after getting a message from beyond like that I'd want to get it again and again as often as possible.

My foot went through the floor that night as well. Not entirely through it, because of the linoleum and three layers of tiles over where the termites were dining, but I was in DOOM FUNK, and the radio was killing me softly with Jason Mraz songs, and...I just didn't walk across that spot from then on. The kittens would go on to point out there were things eating the house, and did not stop pointing this out until it was remedied, but that's another story. A comic strip, to be exact.

If I knew then what I know now, I still wouldn't have mentioned the weak spot in the floor that night. Things happened, and a few weeks made no difference to the floor, but having the money to save my dog's leg two weeks later was a much higher priority. I couldn't have changed the existence of termites without a very sturdy time machine and hazardous chemicals, anyway. Six years on, I'm okay with the way things went. I don't even regret redirecting my writing into offline projects. Maybe because of the song. Maybe because of cats and dogs. Maybe because it makes a hell of a story. Maybe I'll tell the whole thing someday.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Existential Drama!

The hot heat of summer, with its monsoons capable of flinging tree parts at me and turning off the electricity, cannot keep me from taking part in the 100 Word Stories' weekly challenge.

This week's topic was Unprepared, and sure, I could have written all funny things about people showing up in (or not in) their underwear, but I had a different idea...I WENT WEIRD.

I came here totally unprepared. I had never been a human before. I had no idea what I was meant to do. Looking around me, I noticed I wasn't alone. It didn't make me feel any better.

Those around me taught me how to dress and how to think. I learned their language, ate their food and drank their drink. I felt safe.

Then one day the sun illuminated another path, and I wondered if I could be someone else in this lifetime.

I'm totally unprepared for what comes next. So is everyone else. I feel okay about it. Alive.

Is that the most honest thing I'd written about myself? Possibly. What does it mean? I have no idea, read it again and let me know. I'm guessing it's about life in general, but I could be wrong.

This week there are 12 other great stories that can be heard and read here. CLICK IT! CLICK IT NOW!

In my rambling avoidance of just reading the story I mention my Tumblr account I haven't linked to anywhere. UNTIL NOW! It's got blogging and comics and tweets and photos and no ads! It's tumblriffic! I have no idea what tumblriffic feels like. I'm tingly.

This just in: Somehow...I tied for first with the brilliant Anima and the mysterious Planet Z. I...was not prepared for that. At all. No living with me this week. :D

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I'm Thinking of Getting This Tattoo

Maybe I'll just engrave it on a Medic-Alert bracelet.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Songs of My Misspent Youth: Keep Me In Your Heart

Of all the songs on this list of mine, this is the one I can honestly say is not from misspent time. I guess I've been very lucky to have loved people, cats, dogs, birds, hamsters, and fish who made my life so worth living that the pain of losing them is even worth it. Not that they're lost. Not that they're dead. They're in my heart. I'm weird that way.

But when I saw this date falling on a Saturday, there was no other song I could play. I needed to hear Keep Me In Your Heart by Warren Zevon when I did. It came along at a time when I was being reminded again and again what was important in my life. Knowing why Warren Zevon wrote it just made the song that much more meaningful.

I'm being deliberately vague because while August of 2003 is what I'm thinking of, I'm sharing this one with everyone who misses a loved one.

Enjoy every sandwich, people.