Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Wow, they really know how to milk it, don't they? First they halve season 7--the usual 14 episodes--just to stretch the last season over two years. And then these trailers. Using "Love Hangover" by Diana Ross is a stroke of genius. Was that Don's idea?

I will officially go into mourning after the series finale. This show has meant so much to me over the years. That said, this last-last season better be EPIC, because part 1 of season 7 was sort of a let-down.

I admit, I got choked up over these clips....

Premieres Sunday, April 5th. Not that I'm counting the days or anything.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"As far as I can tell, a massive electric shock. 
He died instantly." 

For explanation of post title, see 1:59 of the second YouTube clip

On the night of November 22, 1987, two Chicago television stations--WGN and local PBS affiliate WTTW--were hacked by an unknown party who managed to override the TV signals and break in with two separate pre-recorded segments that became officially known as "The Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion."

Here's a synopsis of the WGN hack (from wikipedia):

The first occurrence of the signal intrusion took place during then-independent station WGN-TV (channel 9)'s live telecast of its primetime newscast, The Nine O'Clock News (now known as WGN News at Nine). During Chicago Bears highlights in the sports report, the screen went black for 15 seconds, then returned with a person wearing a Max Headroom mask,[1] moving around and jumping. His head was in front of a sheet of moving corrugated metal, which imitated the background effect used in the Max Headroom TV and movie appearances. There was no audio other than a buzzing noise. The hijack was stopped after engineers at WGN switched the frequency of their studio link to the John Hancock Center transmitter.[2]

The incident left sports anchor Dan Roan bemused, saying, "Well, if you're wondering what's happened, so am I."

Pt. 1 -- The brief interruption on WGN during the evening news

And then later that same night, during a showing of Doctor Who on the Chicago PBS station....
Doctor Who was interrupted by television static, to which an unidentified man appeared, mentioning about WTTW pundit, Chuck Swirsky, saying he is better than him. The man started to moan, scream and laugh. He continued to laugh and utter various random and unrelated phrases, including New Coke's advertising slogan "Catch the Wave" while holding a Pepsi can (Max Headroom was a Coca-Cola spokesperson at the time), then tossing the can down, leaning towards the camera and giving the finger wearing a rubber extension over his middle finger, although it was hard to see the gesture. He then retrieved the Pepsi can, and saying "Your love is fading", before removing the rubber extension, then began humming the theme song to Clutch Cargo* saying "I still see the X", which referred to the final episode of the series, before resuming humming again. He then began to moan painfully, exclaiming about his piles (a reference to a Preparation H commercial), to which an indistinguishable flatulence sound is heard. He then stated that he had "made a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds" (the WGN call letters used by the Chicago television station as well as its sister radio station are an abbreviation for "World's Greatest Newspaper", in reference to the flagship newspaper of their corporate parent, the Tribune Company's Chicago Tribune). He then held up a glove and said, "My brother is wearing the other one," and he put the glove on, commenting that it was "dirty" and that "it's like you got blood stains on it!" He then threw the glove down in disgust.
The picture suddenly cut over to a shot of the man's lower torso. His buttocks were partly exposed, and he was holding the now-removed mask up to the camera (with the rubber extension now placed in the mouth of the mask), howling, "They're coming to get me!" He then said, "Come get me, bitch!" An unidentified accomplice wearing a French maid outfit** then started to spank the man with a flyswatter as he screamed loudly. The transmission then blacked out for a few seconds before resuming to Doctor Who in progress; the hijack lasted for about 90 seconds.[3]
a weird 1960's cartoon, popular with stoners
** actually it was a cowgirl/Annie Oakley costume

Pt. 2 -- The more famous one, a longer clip (the one with audio), 
aired in the middle of a Doctor Who episode

ALSO, some of the subtitles are inaccurate: "Max" didn't say "I stole CBS," 
he said "I still see the X" (Clutch Cargo reference) and at one point 
he says "My piles!" not "My files!"

As it happened, I remember the incident well. I was actually in Chicago at the time, visiting my Dad for Thanksgiving week. Although I grew up in Indianapolis full time, I spent most holidays and about a dozen weekends a year in the Windy City. My Dad worked for an advertising agency on Wacker Dr. (heh heh, "wacker"), from 1985 - 1991 and he lived in a high rise on Diversey Pkwy, across the street from Lincoln Park.

Dad's old digs. I love that neighborhood and make a point
to pay my respects whenever I pass through the city. 
I didn't see the clip when it originally aired that Sunday night, but I saw the aftermath. My Dad always had the news on during the evenings, so in the following days we got to experience all the brouhaha and the media reports over "the television piracy." 

Here's a compilation of clips covering the incident:

My favorite part of the above video comes in at the 4:00 mark, with the incensed Doctor Who fan moaning in a thick Chicago accent, "We're gonna have to tape ooooh-ver it." It's funny, you'd think of all people, Whovians would appreciate being the first to see something bizarre and unexpected coming over the airwaves, but I also see why they would have been pissed off. In 1987, you didn't have instant access to any television clip you wanted to watch. You weren't spoiled by things like On Demand and YouTube. Doctor Who was more of a cult thing back then--definitely not as mainstream as it is today--so if you wanted to see The Doctor you really were at the mercy of the local PBS affiliate (and your VCR, apparently). In fact, the main reason why the Max Headroom pirating was able to gain legendary status in the pre-internet days was most likely because of the fans who were taping the episode, inadvertently preserving an infamous bit of broadcast television trollery in the process.

It's not hard to see why the FCC was nervous; obviously the persons responsible for carrying out the signal intrusion knew what they were doing and had access to fairly sophisticated broadcast equipment. These weren't your garden variety pranksters; if they were able to shanghai a newscast and an episode of Dr. Who with footage of some guy dicking around with a rubber mask, a flyswatter and little PG-13 bare-assed S + M, who knows what else they were capable of? What if they broke into an episode of This Old House and subjected innocent DIY enthusiasts to full-on penetration porn? Or what if--God forbid--the bastards used their evil to sabotage Moonlighting?

Bur aside from the FCC and television news, I don't remember much panic among the general public. There was a lot of head-shaking and a general attitude of "those darn hooligans better watch out!" but there was none of the "Oh my God, they're terrorists!" reaction you might get if it occurred today.

There have been countless online articles and blog posts written about the incident, and the video clips have racked up millions of views on YouTube. Over twenty-five years later, the prevailing attitude reflected in the YouTube comments (and some of the internet think-pieces) seems to be one of "OMG this is so fucking creepy!" I don't disagree with that sentiment, but IMHO the first WGN clip featuring the random Max Headroom head bobbing around the screen with the background buzzing noise is 100% creepier than the second interruption. If the hackers had stuck with the first intrusion and then faded into the ether, I think I'd have been sufficiently freaked out for the rest of my life. But coming back two hours later and goofing off with a Pepsi can, complaining of hemorrhoids and getting spanked by a fly swatter sort of negates the creepy momentum they had going with that first appearance.

The other thing that strikes me about the news coverage of the signal intrusion is how sure everyone was that the "pirates" would be caught. The fact is, the hackers were never caught or identified, and that makes it even more intriguing. 

Amazingly, in 2010 a guy on reddit claimed to know the duo behind the hacking. He has no real proof, but he's got some amazing insights. If he is telling the truth about being peripherally involved in the hacking/phreaking community in Chicago at the time, I'm inclined to believe that the two brothers he talks about are the culprits, The most telling clue is his revelation that the brother with autism (the one in front of the camera) had a habit of saying "Oooooh," (instead of "um," for instance) during pauses in conversation, something that rubber mask Max Headroom does frequently throughout the broadcast.

I hope that they never fully uncover the real story behind the Headroom hack. In this day and age of internet hoaxes and blatantly scripted "reality" TV and beloved icons being outed as cheaters and sexual predators, it's kind of comforting to have this bit of mystery that's managed to survive the internet age. The MHBSI stands out as a whimsical, bizarre little puzzle that can be endlessly debated and analyzed, but never understood.

And I kinda dig that.


Wednesday, March 04, 2015


So then there's this little bit of 1960's weirdness, a religious cartoon that they used to toss in among secular cartoons when I was a kid. The five-minute animated shorts centered around the adventures of a little white blob called "Jot." He'd do something evil like break a toy or not wash his hands before Sunday school and then some off-screen authority figure would make him answer for his sins and wrap it all up with a Bible verse at the end. There was also--weirdly enough--some very flower child psychedelia thrown in with his escapades, like in this short where he lies to his mother about stealing a cupcake and then has some sort of trippy freakout when his conscience gets the best of him. 

Due to his meltdown, Jot never gets around to eating the cupcake. Personally, I think it would have awesome if they had the little guy eat the cupcake and then start tripping balls. That would send a fun message: "Kids, don't steal sweets from authority figures because they'll put hallucinogens in the ingredients to catch you out, you thieving little bastards."

I'm pretty sure I hated Jot, probably because I resented having preachy morality lessons crammed in between secular weekday cartoons. It would have been one thing if they'd confined it to the Christian channel, but having to endure creepy religious crap when you just wanted to watch Caspar the Friendly Ghost really sucked.   

My most significant Jot-related memory was playing ping-pong with my friend Heather, age 8 or 9, in the basement of my neighbor's house (our elderly neighbors across the street regularly invited us kids in for snacks and games; if I remember correctly their grandchildren lived out of town, so us neighborhood urchins were sort of their grandkid surrogates). Heather and I would take turns slamming the ping pong ball across the table as hard as we could, pretending it was Jot the Biblical dot-goblin.

Well, what do you want? We didn't have violent video games back then. We had to use our imaginations. 

I'd still probably wear this t-shirt, though. For kitsch value.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


From (Everything Is Terrible vlogger) ohmy70s because they are the awesomest....

Remember when Charlie Sheen's brain broke and he was all over 20/20 and Piers Morgan and whatnot babbling about his "goddesses" and "tiger blood DNA" and--of course--"WINNING"? I mean, he was/is clearly bonkers, but now that I've seen this I wonder if the "WINNING" thing came from a late night infomercial hallucination fever dream Chuck fell into after a 48-hour hooker/porn star/freebasing bender and was visited by an apparition of this Win Paris dude. 

Makes sense to me. 

Everything about this clip is so 1970's insane. The skin-tight jeans hiked up to the nipples. The orange tracksuit. That nightmare leisure suit. The fact that Win looks like a creepier version of Hugh Hefner with a bad bowl haircut. (Not to mention the Midday Movie "Son of Kong." WTF?)

I have vague memories of these '70s fitness/motivational gurus. There seemed to be a lot of them back then. They used to pop up on afternoon talk shows my mom would watch (Merv Griffin, Dinah, etc.). These odd little guys confused me, the way they bounced around the set, screaming at the camera and the studio audience. I'd be like, "What is that man so mad about?" And the king of them all was Richard Simmons, crying and shrieking and hugging all over the fat women.

I couldn't find an illustrative Richard Simmons clip from the '70s but I did find this gem. If you ever wanted see Richard Simmons molest a PM Magazine reporter and drop the f-bomb, well, you're welcome.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Sarah Failin'

Several years ago I had a dream where I ran into Sarah Palin in the salad bar area at Kowalski's (a Twin Cities supermarket chain). I've forgotten many of the details; I only recall pushing her grocery cart aside, putting my hands on her shoulders, staring her in the eye and demanding, "What is wrong with you? Really, I'm serious--what the hell is your problem?" I don't remember what answer she gave me, or if she said anything at all. 

I think I already knew the answer. It was clear then, it's crystal now: the woman is a gold-plated idiot. No complicated answer. No clinical diagnosis. That's really all there is to it. She's dumb as a bag of hammers. 

I wish a wolf would shoot her from a helicopter. That would rule. 

Sic her, boy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Damn, those are brave actresses. I hate my profile (nose-acceptance issues).

Somehow I totally missed the Girls premiere this past Sunday (I was thinking it wasn't til next week), so I made sure to catch it last night because I can't stand not knowing everything about that show. To my great relief, I loved it.

I didn't like season 3 much. I found most of it rather sitcom-y. Not typical sitcom-y, mind you, but sitcom-y compared to season 1 (which I loved) and season 2 (which I loved even more). It was mostly to do with the trajectory of Hannah and Adam's relationship. It just got....I don't know. It wasn't as interesting to me. And I hated the addition of Adam's psycho sister. I mean, Gaby Hoffmann is a good actress but holy shit, her character made me want to run screaming out of the room every time she appeared. I guess that's the intended reaction--the Caroline character is batshit bonkers--but in a way that's really hard to watch. Yuck. 

For the love of God, PLEASE kill her off. 
There were a few things I did like about season 3. For one, I really dug the "Beach House" episode and the weird dance they choreographed for no reason at all. I re-watched that one recently and can't believe I forgot that the song they danced to was "You're Breaking My Heart (Fuck You)" by Nilsson. Great tune!

"Run down to Tramps, have a dance or two...."

And then there's Shoshanna. Any scene of her losing her shit--either silently or loudly--is comedy gold, and there was plenty of that in season 3. Seriously, Zosia Mamet is hilarious. She was great on Mad Men and she's better on Girls.

And then Jessa. Love her character but her storylines have been sort of all over the place. I didn't like her rehab/relapse thing because *yawn*....BUT towards the end of season 3 she got awesome again and I adored her friendship with the Louise Lasser character. And I loved everything about her in the season 4 premiere.  

Yeah baby she's got it.

Speaking of the season 4 opener, there's that one scene, you know, the Marnie/Desi scene everyone's clutching their pearls over. Firstly, it wasn't all that shocking, and secondly, I wonder if anyone else caught the sly subtext, because it seems lost on the general public so far. My interpretation: Marnie loves having Desi's nose up her ass--figuratively AND literally--but (unlike Charlie) Desi's a duplicitous dick who treats her (and his "real" girlfriend) horribly and Marnie can't get enough of that shit. Yeah, it makes me want to slap her, but I'd really rather slap him. There were too many of those guys in my past.

Girl, don't look so smug. He sucks.

Anyway, I'm just relieved that things are looking up for season 4 so I can continue to love and defend Girls with all my previous ardor. 

Friday, January 02, 2015


Came across this image some time ago...can't remember where, how, when, who, why, etc. 
But it's honest and hopeful and says everything true about everything. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Duran Duran
"New Religion" 
New Year's Eve

On the last day of 2014, may I present Duran Duran on the last day of 1982 at the Palladium in NYC. "New Religion" has always been one of my favorite classic Duran tunes, and it kicks ass live. I especially love the way John (bass) and Andy (guitar) play off one another. And of course there's Simon. He really knows how to shake his.....tambourines.

Excuse me sirs, can I bum a ride? 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

I've always loved this macabre little Yuletide carol. 

Oh Weird Al, you're a national treasure.

To all a good night! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A few words about Angelina "chicken pox" Jolie

"OMG you guys, I totally have chicken pox! I can't believe it!"
Neither can anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex, honey.

I've mentioned my loathing of St. Angie several times before on this blog. In fact, looking back, I realize I've devoted a lot more space to her than I should have. So, for the last time, here I go. In the immortal words of my father: "I'm not going to tell you again!" 

When it comes to my knee-jerk revulsion to all things Jolie, I can't exactly pinpoint when it started. I know that earlier in her career (before the Brad Pitting and all the compulsive child collecting) I barely paid her any mind. I knew she existed; I even saw some of her movies: Girl Interrupted, Gia, and Tomb Raider--that last one, in my defense, was not my idea. It was the summer of 2001, I saw it on a date, and aside from being bored out of my skull, I don't remember much about the movie itself. Ironically, the guy who dragged me to see Tomb Raider apparently had high expectations for it and spent the whole car ride home ranting about how awful it was. I was like *shrug* "Okay, whatevs," which kind of sums up my whole reaction to Angelina Jolie at the time. I didn't have much interest in her movies, she was just another "bleh" Hollywood actress churning out mainstream crap that held little interest for me.   

I think it was around the time she was trying out her whole emo persona (the goth-y/bloodletting/Billy Bob era) that I realized how much she grated. Not surprisingly, this was also when she started getting all that press for her contrived "edgy" shenanigans. The whole thing just reeked of shameless fame-trolling, and the fact that the media seemed to be swallowing the line of bullshit she was trying to run on everyone (at the same time praising her "acting" skills...wha?) made her all the more nauseating.

The Brad Pitt thing sort of clinched it for me. Now, I know the tabloids would have you believe that every woman in America still cares deeply about the breakup of "Brad and Jen" and Angelina's role in it, but let's get real here. Brad Pitt, IIRC, was known to be something of a slut during his marriage to Aniston (and well before that), so the news that he couldn't keep it in his pants on the set of that stupid movie was hardly earth-shattering. Also, was the general public that emotionally invested in the Aniston-Pitt union? God, I sincerely hope not. No, what chapped my ass about that whole dumb media circus is that was the moment in time that Angelina's fish-lipped mug became completely inescapable, and it's been that way ever since. 

AND THEN, in light of the Sony leak and Jolie's chicken pox fakery, I read something about Jolie's past so wretched and disturbing that it made my blood boil. Following a link from an article about famous people with mental illnesses, I came upon this. I wouldn't even recommend clicking on it, because it's vile. To sum it up, the article references a viral video in which Angelina Jolie "talk(s) about beating her pet dog to death (whom she states died a short while later), trying to kill her pet snake, and other acts of cruelty towards other animals that were in her care." If you have any doubts about the validity of that information, the video is embedded in the above link, where you can hear it straight from the skank's mouth.
So that's it then. Angelina Jolie is a psychopathic animal abuser. I'm not fooled for a minute by her whole Mother Teresa act. I don't care what sort of "humanitarian" efforts she attaches herself to. She could find the cure for cancer and broker a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Palestine and the woman will forever be a piece of subhuman garbage. It makes me wonder now about my years-long visceral abhorrence of that woman. Maybe I could smell the evil on her. Or maybe it was just a coincidence. 

At any rate, I refuse to support any of her movies or anything she "directs", "writes," or touches with a ten-foot pole. In fact, I'd rather be forced, Clockwork Orange-style, to watch a week-long marathon of Keeping Up With the Kardashians than to see five seconds of footage of Angelina Jolie ever again. 

And Brad Pitt can also take his toys and go home. I'm done with him too.

Monday, December 08, 2014's a hell of a drug.

Once upon a time Frank Zappa and Borat had a kid together and that kid grew up and he got himself a silver jumpsuit and a Yamaha synth and a key-tar and Lady Gaga and made this video and it was the greatest achievement in the history of the arts and it made everything warm and special and magical and the stars aligned and the angels wept and peace broke out across the land and everyone laughed and hugged and cried and holy shit this really is the greatest thing ever recorded.

You're welcome.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Okay, so this blog has been semi-comatose for a while, but I do have an excuse...for the month of November, anyway. See graphic above. YES, I actually won NaNoWriMo this year! I wrote a 50,000 word novel between Nov. 1 - Nov. 30. Hallelujah!

This was my fourth attempt at NaNoWriMo. I entered in 2010 and made it to around 10,000 words before running out of inspiration for that particular project. I still have what remains of the manuscript, so it's something I may go back to at some point. I tried NaNo again in 2012 (working title: Wreckage), but didn't get past the third day. This time it was a case of having a very vague idea of a story, one not fully formed in my head enough to keep up my momentum. Then last year, 2013, I had an awesome idea for TWO sequels to Thanks, That Was Fun. My 2013 NaNoWriMo plan was to start on In Spite of Me, the second installment of my would-be trilogy. (The Morphine album Cure For Pain was the inspiration, hence the book title.). But that fell apart about 16,000 words in. I don't quite know what happened there, but I still have all my outlines and I will definitely return to ISoM in the future.

And then, this year. This year! Fourth time was the charm. I wrote my ass off for 30 days and ended up with 50,107 words. The novel is nowhere near finished. In fact, it's only 3/4 of the way there, and much editing needs to be done. But still, I DID IT!

My 2014 NaNoWriMo novel is, incidentally, titled Harleighwood. I'm giving myself a week off before I go back and start editing and adding to fully complete it.

But for now, YES! It is finished. Temporarily.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"The secret to life is to have no fear. When you can let go of what others think about you, how something is going to turn out, or how your past will affect your future, then you are finally living life free.”
-- Unknown

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"He's a man you don't meet every day." 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Richard Charles Ryan 
June 1, 1931 - May 7, 2014

Dad and me, circa 1993

I lost my father last Wednesday, May 7. 

I haven't been able to write anything; my brain has shut down. As far as my emotional state, I've been cycling from anguish to rage to numbness to anxiety to hopelessness ad infinitum. My husband has been amazing--he is truly my rock. I've also been getting a lot of support from friends far and near, some of whom have experienced the loss of a parent themselves. It has meant so much to hear that what I'm feeling and going through is normal and completely understandable. Thank you to everyone for being so awesome. Your kind words and support bring more comfort than you'll ever know.  

I'm going through all the old photos of Dad that I have. There are some great ones but unfortunately--or fortunately--I made some awesome scrapbooks for Dad a few Christmases ago that have all the best family photos of him with all his kids and grandkids, as well as pictures and clippings from his career as an adman from the 1950's through the 1990's. There are also some funny pictures of him during his swinging bachelor days in Tulsa and Chicago, which are a hoot. I've got dibs on the photo albums so I am looking forward to having those again and maybe posting the best shots here on the blog. I think Dad would like that.

His memorial service is being held in Tulsa at the end of this month. He didn't want a funeral, just an Irish wake with plenty of booze and toasts and music. Dad's favorite local Irish band -- Cairde na Gael -- will of course be providing live music.

Nicest group of musicians you'd ever want to meet.
I'm still processing everything and I may not be able to write about his death again for a long time. 
What else is there to say? I guess this says it all......

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Getting this in just under the wire (for Pacific time, anyway)....


80 is the new 40!!!

John and I are packing to leave for England (gonna meet my UK family---including my step-grandchildren!) so this is all very last minute. Thus, here's a cool infograph from

And this photo is my favorite. Of course.

I love that she's a catwoman!

Cheerio for now, luvs! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"BREAKING: Female celebrity wears swimsuit
after expelling small human from her uterus!"

The current trend of "BODY AFTER BABY!" headlines that periodically scream at me from the covers of former guilty pleasures like People magazine and its bastard stepchild US make my brain poop. Feature stories like this are so prevalent I didn't have to dig deep to find examples like this: 

"My secret? Adderall and Ex-Lax! Carrot sticks and Pilates!"

And more recently, we have--ugh--Kim Kardashian (and/or her publicist) making sure we all know that she has shed every single ounce of her baby weight! And this is an important thing that people REALLY CARE ABOUT

The sad thing is, I'm not even being facetious. Since we live in a supply-and-demand kind of world--this is not only solid evidence of carbon based lifeforms demonstrating an intense interest in Photoshopped images of "stars" like Kim Kardashian, but also a perverse hunger for details of the strict amphetamine/colon cleansing regimen she employs to shed those pesky post-fetus pounds, along with the help of an assistant whose one and only job is to slap the occasional Pep-o-mint Lifesaver out of the "reality" star's hand should she feel the urge to splurge.

I don't mean to imply that Kardashian is anorexic or "Hollywood-skinny" (same diff, technically). After all, having pontoon floats inserted into her asscheeks and silicone bags in her chest insures that she can claim to be "curvy" and "real" and anyone who dares suggest that she's a vapid, no-talent waste of eyeliner who purposely turned herself into a creepy inflatable hip-hop-Barbie-doll-wet dream is just OMG so meeeeean you guys!!!!

"Dammit, I'm just as classy as Beyonce! Or at least Nicki Minaj!"
I'll end this post with two favorite quotes about the Kardashians (and celebrity idiocy in general): 

"Between the three of (the Kardashian sisters), they've brought the Armenian literacy rate down to 14 percent. If you handed them a stack of script pages, they'd probably ask you when they started making tampons that small." ---Internet humorist Seanbaby

"Whether it's Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated. Being a fucking idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you're rewarded significantly."
----Jon Hamm, aka Don Draper (PREACH IT, BRUTHA!)

Friday, January 17, 2014

"Thriller"....The Playmobil version

A few words about this video....

This is not an entirely faithful recreation of the Thriller video. In fact, it's a very loose re-telling of the original Michael Jackson feature. It's French, though....what do you expect?

There is, however, a sequence where some Playmobil figures rise (awesomely) from their "graves". 

I have spoken about my love for the wonderful weirdness of Playmobil music videos in the past. Seriously, I can't get enough of this shit. In fact, if every music video was filmed using Playmobil figures, there's a real chance I might never leave the house. 


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ned Vizzini
1981 - 2013

I guess there's no "good" way to find out about a person's death. As these things go though, social media has to be one of the worst. 

Yesterday I got on Twitter and noticed that Ned Vizzini was trending. I was like "Oh, that's cool," and clicked on his name. Then I saw the "top tweet", a headline that hit me right in the heart.

Author Ned Vizzini, 32, commits suicide in Brooklyn

I'm still in shock. 

I interviewed Ned in 2012 for Praxis. He was kind, funny, and generous, and I was beyond thrilled that he took the time to talk to me for my little literary magazine. I'd been a huge fan of his work for nearly ten years. It wasn't, however, the first time I corresponded with him.

In the summer of 2003, I was working part-time at the circulation desk of the Fountain Square Library in Indianapolis. One quiet weekday afternoon, I noticed a YA book that had been dropped into the return slot titled Teen Angst? Nah... I checked it in and then, instead of putting it on the shelving cart, I started to read it while standing there at the desk (as I said, it was an unusually quiet day). I was surprised and impressed by this quirky, funny, wise collection of essays from a gifted teen growing up in a loving but eccentric family. I finished it by the time my shift was over.

At the back of the book, there was a website and an email address, encouraging fans to get in touch with the author. I dashed off an email to Ned, telling him that although I was much older than his targeted demographic (30), I still really enjoyed Teen Angst and hoped that he would write more (the book, published in 2000, was his first and only one at the time). I didn't expect to hear back, but a few days later I received a message from Ned. He said he was glad that I enjoyed the book and thanked me for reading. I was touched that he'd taken the time to reply to me.  

Fast forward two years. I was living in St. Paul, MN and, while perusing the stacks in Highland Park Library, I found Vizzini's second book, the 2004 YA novel Be More Chill. I checked it out, read it over the course of a weekend, and loved it. I decided to get touch again, telling him in another email how excited I was to find that he'd written a novel and that I thought it was a very clever and innovative story. I also added something to the effect of "I'm not sure if you remember me, but we exchanged emails a few years back when I wrote to tell you how much I adored Teen Angst."

I got an email from Ned the next day. He wrote, "Yes, I remember you." He thanked me for checking out his novel and told me that he was working on another book that was due out the next year (2006).

I watched for Ned's next book and read it as soon as it hit the library. I was surprised that it was a bit more personal and, although it featured a lot of the humor that he'd become known for, it was a bit more serious than his other work. Titled (ironically) It's Kind of a Funny Story, it was a semi-autobiographical account of a severely depressed young man who checks himself into a psychiatric unit when he starts having serious thoughts of suicide. The novel struck a chord with a lot of his young readership, many of whom wrote in to tell Ned about their own issues with suicidal thoughts and depression and how IKoaFS had helped them get through it. I found myself wishing that the book had existed when I was a teenager, battling my own untreated depression.

Ned Vizzini in an interview with the mental health website Strength of Us
It's Kind of a Funny Story is 85% true. I actually did spend a week in the adult wing of a psychiatric hospital in Brooklyn after calling a suicide hotline in fall 2004. I was 23 at the time, however, not 15. I made the main character, Craig, 15 years old in the book but gave him my problems and worldview.  
In 2010, IKoaFS was made into a feature film starring Zach Galifianakis. As a fan of the book, I didn't feel that the movie did it justice. The Galifianakis character wasn't even in the novel, yet he featured prominently in the movie (kind of gimmicky, in my opinion). I also thought a lot of the book's humor was absent from the film. Still, I thought the performances were excellent and I was happy for Ned; it was exciting to see his work adapted for the big screen. 

In our interview, Ned talked about about his experiences on the set of the film:
P: You wrote a series of reports from the set of It’s Kind of a Funny Story where you talked about watching the actors shoot the “Under Pressure” scene. Having witnessed it performed live right before your eyes, what was it like seeing it on the big screen? And now (two years later) what stands out the most about your time hanging out with the actors and film crew?
NV: That “Under Pressure” scene looks better on the big screen than it did when it was being filmed. Of course it looked cool then, but when you hear the music being piped in and see the actors taking their positions, you peek behind the curtain in a way you can’t with the finished product. In terms of what stands out the most: filming on the Brooklyn Bridge. I had a date with me when I visited the set that night and she’s now my wife.
Read my Praxis interview with Ned here.

Going through my inbox while writing this, I'm surprised at how many (short, friendly) emails Ned and I exchanged back and forth, particularly over the past year. We also replied to one another several times on Twitter. I think it just goes to show what a sweetheart he was. A busy bestselling author who published two novels in the past two years--The Other Normals in 2012 and House of Secrets in 2013--wrote for television (Teen Wolf, Last Resort, and Believe), contributed work to Salon, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, lectured at colleges throughout the country, and yet still took the time to engage with fans and support his fellow writers. Although I never met him in person, I feel like I got to know him well, or as well as you can get to know someone over email and Twitter.

Link to one of the Tweets I received from Ned, dated January 26th.

The last I heard from him was an email on October 19, which I now sadly realize was two months to the day that he took his life. It was in reply to a message I sent recommending that he read Greg Sestero's The Disaster Artist:
andie thanks for sending me a book rec I actually appreciate!! Tom Bissel cowrote this 'Room' book and I like his writing so I want to check it out.
As I said, I'm still pretty much in shock and my thoughts are unorganized and disjointed. I'm just so saddened by his death. I can't even begin to imagine the hell that his family is going through. My heart goes out to them.

Rest in peace, my friend. The world was lucky to know you.

"Did you have to change all your poet's fire into frozen dust?"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An oldie but goodie....taken from the archives. Not my archives, but the archives of Capnwacky's Zonar. You may remember my Capnwacky-related post from last Easter.


Zonar reports on Thanksgiving

The following text is a report I have written up on the human holiday Thanksgiving to send to the Superion High Command. I repost it on this blog so that you humans may enjoy my insights on your culture:


This week hails the holiday of Thanksgiving for humans living in the Earth country called The United States of America. Being a American-created holiday, it focuses on American's favorite activities. First, there is a day of eating, followed by a day of shopping. Also, apparently there is some football watching, though my observances are inconclusive if this is part of the holiday traditions or merely normal everyday behavior that continued during the holiday.

Colonists, fattening their prey.

The first day of Thanksgiving celebrates the day American colonists arrived from the old world* and ate all the native Americans. To commemorate this day of conquest, humans gather together with their family members and eat large, cooked birds (symbolizing the "Indians"). Also, there is pie.

Following the day of consumption, the second day of Thanksgiving is focused on purchasing consumable goods from chain stores. This is apparently a contest among the Americans to see who can purchase as many items as possible in a single day (I am inferring this, as I see no other reason for the frenzy given that these consumable goods are available both before and after day two of Thanksgiving, and purchasing them on any other day would be a simpler and more comfortable experience). Predominantly the female American humans take part in this contest, and must survive through rounds of driving very early in the morning, finding a parking spot, and the traditional running of the fat ladies. It appears to be a grueling, dangerous experience. Fortunately, they have loaded up on carbohydrates the day before.

Eager combatants outside of the arena.

When a winner of the competition is selected, the surviving female combatants return home to divide up the remaining piles of food and retain the remaining piles of resentment. Everyone hates themselves for ingesting so much on Day 1 and prepares to repeat their mistakes throughout the following holiday season.

*not literally another world, but merely another country on the same world. "The Old World" is merely a term used by humans, indicating their dim view of the universe and how it works.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


Everything Marie, an absolutely fabulous site that helps indie authors promote their books via blog tours, reviews, and interviews. The site is owned and operated by blogger Tiffany Marie, who also reviews upcoming films and newly released DVDs. In short, the girl is AWESOME!

Tiffany is promoting Thanks, That Was Fun with a blog tour beginning December 5th and concluding December 19. I am beyond ecstatic!
Take a look at her website here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

In honor of Halloween, here is an acoustic cover of "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Joshua Path, a truly amazing singer/songwriter I had the pleasure of interviewing in 2010.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Now, run along and wipe that face off your head. You're getting rancid.
Last night my husband and I had his friend and colleague Bob over for dinner. I hadn't met Bob before, but we laughed and slapped a gleeful high-five when we discovered we were both vegetarian.

Let me clarify. There are a few sub-types of vegetarians. Bob is a pescatarian (no beef, pork, poultry, just fish). I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian. No beef, pork, poultry, fish, or anything in between. Occasionally I'll eat cheese made with vegetarian rennet, and sometimes cage-free, organic eggs (and I still love ice cream). If you want to get really specific, I don't eat anything with a face. 
Except for these guys. Yum!
(Source: Happiness is Cookies by Clawson Cookies.)

If this information makes you want to scream and punch a wall, that's fine by me. I'll admit--it is a bit confusing.

Related: I've lived all over Indiana, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and now Reno, NV. Over the last eighteen months, I've traveled to NYC (twice), and to Tulsa, OK (more than twice). 

Of the six locales mentioned above, can you guess where I was hassled for being a vegetarian? I'll give you a hint:
  1. Indiana
  2. Minneapolis 
  3. Baton Rouge
  4. Reno
  5. NYC
  6. Tulsa
Yes--my beloved, progressive, Earth Day-founding Minneapolis and the Seat of the Empire, A-#1, King of the Hill, top of the heap: New York, New York.

I'll back up a bit.

I grew up on the north side of Indianapolis, just blocks away from an adorable vegetarian restaurant called The Stillwater. 

I couldn't find a photo of The Stillwater, so here's a yearbook photo of Dave 
Letterman, graduate of Broad Ripple High School, class of '65. He looks like my Dad!

My mom took me to the Stillwater once when I was ten years old, and I was baffled by the concept of a meat-free menu. You see, I was raised on a very meat-ful menu, which was down to my father, a big Irishman who loved his meat, his potatoes, and sometimes sausage for dessert. To this day he still prefers corn beef, meatloaf, and pork chops, but won't touch chicken since he was raised in Illinois during the Great Depression, when chicken was all anyone could afford.

When I was away at boarding school during my teen years, I developed a taste for beef tacos from Taco Bell, Burger King Whoppers, Big Macs, and greasy pepperoni pizza--stuff I wasn't allowed to eat at home (my parents divorced in 1983 and I was mostly raised by my mom, a health nut who ate chicken, turkey, and a ton of veggies. She now eats fish and veggies). I gave up fast food at the age of twenty, but continued stuffing my face with processed meat products--frozen cheeseburgers, Italian sausage, and corn beef--well into my twenties. 

In 1995, when I was twenty-two years old, I got very sick and discovered that red meat made me projectile vomit. I couldn't even stand the smell or sight of it. It wasn't difficult for me to quit red meat. 

For the next two years, I ate only chicken (I never cared for turkey) and the odd vegetable. In mid-1997, I decided to try going vegetarian. It fit with my belief system (I'm a hardcore animal lover) and I knew it was healthier than fried chicken, the only meat product I found it hard to live without. The last time I ate meat of any sort was Labor Day, 1997. My last carnivorous meal was a half-order of white meat chicken from KFC. I thought "well, I might not be able to do this, but here goes nothing." 

To my surprise, I was able to quit meat altogether and I never looked back. In the last sixteen years, I've haven't had a craving for anything besides--again--fried chicken, and that was during my first year of being meat-free. I even found a healthier alternative: fried cauliflower. Same texture as chicken, wonderful when fried and breaded. It's still one of my favorite dishes ever, along with vegetable pakora. 

 Above: Fried cauliflower. It's de-lish.

In my mid-twenties (ca.1998), I had lunch with my Mom once a week (I miss that). She introduced me to India Garden in Broad Ripple, and I decided right then that I could probably live off nothing but their potato samosas, palak paneer, tikka masala, dal, Basmati rice, and, of course, vegetable pakora (pictured above).  

India Garden spoiled me for Indian food. I was unable to find an Indian restaurant in Minnesota that came close to their perfection. I couldn't even find anything comparable in England, either. India Garden is the BEST. The next-best curry house is a cute little restaurant in Baton Rouge called India's.

John and I have already found an Indian restaurant near downtown Reno, called India Kabob and Curry and it is YUM (still not as good as India Garden, but relatively close. And they have great pakora.)

Okay, wow. I never intended to write a food blog. That market is saturated, so now I'll just bitch about dumb things that were said to me in Minneapolis and NYC in regards to my vegetarian diet. 

The Minneapolis comments were made by acquaintances that I'm no longer in touch with. The NYC comments were those of an oddly curious waiter in Hell's Kitchen. 

I'll start with the Big Apple, then I'll take a bite out of the Mini Apple.

ON-DUTY WAITER: "You're a vegetarian? Oh my god, really? turkey on Christmas?"
Oh hell no. As I mentioned, I was never fond of turkey, because turkey is prepared two different ways: Bone-dry (roasted) and slimy and wet (deli). I won't be having either, thanks.

I wish I could properly convey the astonishment in the guy's voice. He was a native English speaker, so there was no language barrier. And he waited tables in Manhattan, so he had to at least be familiar with the concept of vegetarianism. But he didn't act like it. In fact, he seemed utterly mystified, like I'd just told him I was a Roman Catholic nun and I loved the feel of old lady pantyhose against my skin. (I'm not. And I don't.)

"So, do you eat asparagus all day and then sit around and fart?"
Let me just blow your mind: I rarely need to make time in my schedule to sit around and fart. I can multi-task. I do like grilled asparagus, though.

CUSTOMER: "Oh man, vegetarian? I could never do that. My grandfather was a proud truck farmer (or goat hoarder, or bullshit wrangler, or dog snatcher, or whatever)." 

Truck farming. Yep, that exists.

Good for grandpa. Sorry that you lack the mental resources to imagine a different lifestyle. Still, those trucks ain't gonna farm themselves....

SOMEONE: "I wish I could be vegetarian. But I'm Latvian/German/Hungarian/Icelandic/Spanish/Brazillian/Italian and I need my meat."
Don't loan your meat out to anyone else, then. I'm Irish/English/Choctawand I will continue to eat whatever I damn well please, including (but not limited to) a metric shit-ton of kale.

*For years, I mistakenly believed that my maternal grandfather was Cherokee. It turned out that no, he was Choctaw. But he grew up in rural Oklahoma in the 1920's, a time when people didn't exactly broadcast their Indian heritage or care to know much about it. Unlike my dad's family, who will tell anyone who doesn't run away screaming all about the awesomeness of the Emerald Isle and its people. (I do love them Irish.)

SYNAGOGUE, ST. PAUL, 2005 (I worked in the admin office).
CONGREGANT: "No meat? Is that a religious thing? What are you, exactly?"
Ummmm....a Democrat?

"Oh, I looooove meat. How can you not love meat? That's ridiculous because....BACON!"
Enjoy being an unpaid shill for the pork industry. I'm sure they appreciate your efforts.

"Real girls eat meat!"
Congratulations. You're in fine company. Check it out: 

Go cram a cheeseburger in your head, dipdouche.

I just need to stop and have a mild rant here. What's with the T-shirt manufacturer's creepy aversion to the word "women"? "Real girls" sounds all underage and icky. It's probably from Abercrombie and Fitch, proud proprietors of all things underage and icky. 

Sadly enough, the bizarre comments I've listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. I'm still perplexed that I heard brain barf like this from randoms in one of the coolest cities I've ever seen. Also, 95% of the people I knew in the Twin Cities: friends, neighbors, countrymen, urban cowgirls, etc. were--naturally--open, sympathetic, and usually vegetarians themselves. 

The rest of 'em got more brains in their stomachs than in they heads.  

NOTE: Thanks to my John for coining the term "dipdouche" when we were out in traffic the other day. I just felt privileged to be in the presence of the original Master of Brookovian Wit when he spontaneously busted out a new drollery, one that he doesn't mind me borrowing when the situation calls for it (see above).