Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday morning coupon product parade…Christmas edition

It’s about that time again, actually it’s not even close to that time again but since apparently we’re supposed to start planning for Christmas as soon as we stop wearing white after labor day, I’m just going to float with the tide. (Because contrary to what you might think I’m not really a boat rocking type of person.)

Up first, Talking Teddy from Dream Products Inc. Talking Teddy makes learning fun and easy! You can teach kids to count and dress! However, one can’t help but wonder, what psycho would teach their kids to dress like a reject circus clown?

Furthermore, when oh when will manufacturers realize that talking stuffed animals come alive at night and slaughter entire families in their sleep! This is an enormous national problem. Frankly, I’m surprised neither presidential candidate has addressed it. Have they learned nothing from Chucky? Don’t they know that voodoo witch doctors stuff these things with the souls of serial killers and sociopaths? Plus, in that outfit even I would want to kill my family. I don’t want to be anywhere in the neighborhood when Talking Teddy comes to and realizes that for all of eternity he’ll be wearing red and blue cargo pants with a neon green pocket, especially after a day of having his extremities squeezed and being forced to recite the alphabet.

Don’t think it’s true? Visit the Dream Products website. You'll be terrified to know that Teddy is featured along side such accessories as, a full set of self threading needles, super long reach scissors, and high powered binoculars. If you really want to scare kids this Halloween, set out these little minions of hell.

Next up, if homicidal bears don’t float your boat, how about a book---starring YOUR CHILD! See your offspring come to life in print as a fairy, a princess, Elmo’s best friend or any number of other adventures. Just send My Adventure Books your child’s name, birthday, address, brothers and sisters names, mother’s maiden name, social security number…hold it right there. Anybody else smell a scam? I’d bet any money after you give up that info they call asking for your bank routing numbers and say all you need to do to get the books is "hold" a few thousand dollars in your bank account.

My suspicions were confirmed when I took a closer look at the picture in the ad. Instead of the jolly Santa we’ve come to know and love, this Santa motions to the reader like a drug dealer in a dark alley. Behind him in Santa’s little sweatshop, surly elves are engaging in all manner of shady goings-on. One is obviously wasted and dragging a passed-out bear across the floor. In the back, an elf spreads his legs while a friend points lasciviously to his merry twig and berries. Meanwhile, Santa tries to reel you in for the con and subtly threatens that he knows everything about you, while four of his cronies sneak away with an over sized baseball bat and two large dice to take a big money game down the street. Other “My Adventure” titles: Disney Princess Adventures in Human Traffiking, Fairies Fun with Prostitution Rings, Cars (Hot and Stripped), and Dora the “Exporter.”

Our next product is not really a product but an ad for the the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. “Bring the Whole Family!” Time Magazine says.

I don’t think so Joe.

Because I see the look on that kid’s face. It’s not awe or Christmas cheer. It’s terror. That kid knows that at any second lasers and flames will shoot out of those Rockettes eyes. Little Timmy has realized it was all a trap. Santa was probably in on it too.

The Rockettes have had enough you see. They kick and twirl and dance for the man all day and all night and for what? A mediocre pay out and a pension plan that just tanked on the stock market? They know that someday, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, their legs won’t kick so high and their cheeks won’t be as smooth. They’ll be replaced with newer, fresher models and turned out into the cruel, cruel world. So they’re organized. Soon the theater will be filled not with yuletide joy but with the stench of seared flesh and puddles of blood. These toy soldiers aren’t toyin’ around. Timmy knows it.

Timmy, knowing he’s not long for this earth, wishes his parents would have realized the truth about Christmas, and that truth is… Little Timmy doesn't give a flying fuck about the Rockettes. He’d rather play Wii at FAO Schrawtz because he’s not seventy, he’s seven.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone. And after THAT have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. And then, after THAT, have a happy and safe Hanukkah. And then, finally, after four months of waiting, have a happy, killer stuffed bear and Rockette free Christmas.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Vampire Story

In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday I thought I’d post this little number I dug out of my archives. It’s a vampire story and my debut in fiction.

Judging from the tri-color lined newsprint it’s written on, I’m going to guess this was written circa first grade.

In my opinion, this vampire story surpasses the Twilight series, mostly because (spoiler alert!) there’s no teenage girl who gets pregnant at the end and insists on having the baby even though she’s puking geysers of blood and the baby is cracking her ribs and she will die when it’s born but, oh lucky for her her husband is a vampire so she can live forever and raising an infant is totally a breeze because vampires don’t require sleep...ANYWAY…

I hope you enjoy “Untitled.” (Author’s commentary is in Parentheses.)

Once upon a trick or treat there was a girl her name was Linda and she was trick or treating.

(I’m pretty sure I thought “once upon a trick or treat” was a wildly charming line that would make my teacher swoon. And second, unless this is Halloween 1965, there’s no little kid named “Linda” probably my teacher’s name was Linda and I was attempting to suck up.)

She came to the first door. She knocked and said trick or treat! The door opened there was a vampire he said aha! You can my victom!
Oh no!
He took her in.
No! I-I-I’m only a little girl!
Anyone can be my victom.

(Note my avant-garde lack of quotation marks or tags to clue the reader in as to who’s speaking. Also, the vampire’s equal opportunity outlook on who could be his victim was before its time.)

There was monsters & goblins and wiches. Were they real? Or were they just big kids all dressed up? The vampire put me in the basement. I looked at my watch it was 10:00! I was suppose to be home by 8:30.

(Let’s forget for a second Linda’s hope that, while the vampire is real, the monsters goblins and “wiches” are just the big kids. Let’s instead focus on my masterful show of the passage of time in this story. Remember that the vampire’s door is the first door our little Linda comes to, so let’s say for the sake of argument that her parents, because they’re assholes, only gave her an hour for candy collecting (never mind that they sent her out alone, this was the early eighties, that was still OK). That would mean that Linda knocked on the vampire’s door at approximately 7:30, at which point he grabs her, puts her in the basement, she looks at her watch, 10:00! (which for dramatic effect, is like 3 in the morning to a first grader.) Either the vampire’s basement exists in some sort of time warp worm hole, or the events that transpired between 7:30 and 10:00pm were just too horrible to recount, OR, I only had one sheet of lined newsprint paper and was trying to move the narrative along so it would all fit on one page.)

I looked and saw a door! It was not locked!

(Here the author has become Linda and realized that, while the vampire is non-discriminating, he isn’t all that smart when it comes to locking up his prey.)

It went threw a spooky haunted hall. And there was a slide at the end that led outside.

(That’s me cranking up the action sequence suspense. Also, keeping in mind my target audience, I thought a slide would be an exciting feature, Linda could escape AND have fun at the same time!)

She ran home and did not daer go to the next door!
The end
or is it? ha! ha! ha!

(That’s me leaving the door open for a sequel)

The general moral I was trying to get across here is do not go trick or treating in a neighborhood where vampires live. And if you do get stuck in a vampire’s time warp basement, look around and see if there happens to be slide that leads outside. But whatever you do, do not dare go to the next door!!!! HA HA HA!

The end (or is it? HA! HA! HA!)

P.S. The picture above is my brother Steve's portrayal of a Welcome Back Cotter inspired devil. I'm pretty sure he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and had nightmares for awhile. Also that trident was a popular playtime accessory for years to come, in such games as, "Poke Down the Wasp Nest" and "Fix Grandma's Hair While She's Sleeping." (Steve has only recently stopped having nightmares after seeing himself in the mirror.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Steph Makes Roomba for Zumba

My friend Lori has been trying to get me to go to a Zumba class for awhile. Last week I almost went, but when I showed up late and saw the aerobics room of the gym packed with wall to wall bodies, the claustrophobic side of me said no thanks. I decided to get on the elliptical and watch the economy continue to crumble on CNN instead.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Zumba, it’s an exercise method based on Latin dance moves that the official website describes as a “fitness party.”

Yesterday, I made it to the “party” and learned some valuable information about myself. I have really known this my whole life but Zumba confirmed it. I am rhythmically challenged. Actually no, it’s not the rhythm part that’s challenging, it the movement part that’s the problem.

Lori looked like she just stepped out of an Enrique Iglesias video. I on the other hand, moved with the ease and grace of a foldable army cot. If I could have videoed myself for your viewing pleasure I would have. But that won't be necessary. Just take a moment to picture John McCain or Frankenstein dancing at a Shakira concert…I’ll wait while you conjure this mental image…got it? That’s about what I looked like at Zumba class.

I’m a natural at a lot of things, telling a story, drawing a picture, but I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a natural dancer. Some part of me always knew this and this is the reason why I sat on the floor reading on the days when I went with my mom to work and watched her teach other people to Samba and Foxtrot. It’s the reason why I snuck out to go find alcohol fifteen minutes into every school dance.

I was not the kid who went out to run around and play or spontaneously combusted into dance. I was the kid who sat inside reading books beyond my age level, doing cross stitch patterns, and watching movies on HBO with my grandma. I mean don't get me wrong, I love parties. It's just that usually my role at them is to sit somewhere and make fun of things, usually myself.

In the video I've included here, these children, who've just learned to walk a few short years ago, are more coordinated at Zumba than I am. The girl in the pink shorts really wants to get down, sister friend has got some moves. I relate more to the first girl in pink though, who obviously wants to stick her head in her easy bake oven rather than dance on a stage. At various points she stops to check her nails and fix her hair, all the while carefully moving back behind the other kids. The piece de resistance is at the end when she outright refuses to wave her hands above her head. She begrudingly does it, but I have to say I've been in this same position, I've never NOT felt like an idiot at a concert with my hands in the air. It's clear that this girl would rather be home reading Anne of Green Gables.

I’m a pretty laid back person, but I was never really one for letting loose. So maybe Zumba can teach a thirty-something dog some new tricks. I’ll go back, and I’ll let you know when I advance from having the grace of an army cot to a limber zombie.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Meaning of Life (in a way)

Thursday my friend Pennie passed away.

At her memorial, I was reminded that during a very dark time in my life, Pennie met me for breakfast every Sunday for about two months. We’d both shared similar childhood experiences and she met me to talk, to tell me about her life, to assure me that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. She helped me a great deal.

There are a lot of people in my life, but only a small number would commit to me in that way (unless they have a Psychology degree and charge $200 an hour). Pennie was a special person and I’ll miss her very much.

After the services, I sat with my friends Chris and Alisa on their porch and talked about life and death. I read somewhere that this is what makes us different from animals, that we know we’re going to die. I’ve been thinking of something Chris asked ever since then. Does knowing your time here is finite change the way you act in day to day life? I’ve been thinking, can I say that I’ve done the same thing for other people as Pennie did for me?

So I’ve been analyzing a bit. In the four days since Pennie died, I have thought ill of people I love. I have held grudges and kept anger inside. I haven’t called my mom. And I have picked two, no three (really stupid) fights with my husband.

One fight was about how he’s always wearing his headphones at his computer, which by the way is a courtesy to me so I don’t have to hear every ding and bang of whatever game he’s currently addicted to. My grievance though, was that he can’t hear and respond to me no matter where I am in the house, being of the opinion that anything springing forth from my mouth is of utmost importance and requires prompt attention even if mumbled under my breath while walking away. Especially since what I was mumbling is that he should look before he puts things in the washing machine like my suit jacket and would he put his suit jacket in the washer? No.

But alas, here I go, so easily stumbling into tiny things that seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of life. So what’s my point? I don’t really have one (come on are you really that surprised?) I guess the point is we just have to keep on living the best we can every day. Loving the people we love, helping others, not holding grudges, and checking that things aren’t dry clean only before putting them in the washer.

(Danny’s addendum: How about not putting things that are dry clean only in the hamper).

(Steph’s addendum to the addendum: Still you should look, and come on it’s a suit jacket, it sticks out like a ketchup bottle on a snowbank.)

For Pennie

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong on a boat out at sea
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere you feel free
--Tom Petty