Halloween Odds & Ends

The Vanishing Date

I wrote one of the many ghost story endings appearing in The Morning News today.

Encyclopedia Brown For District Attorney

Speaking of The Morning News ..

TMN and I are holding a contest, in which we’re asking participants to make a display campaign paraphernalia for fictitious candidates. And while the event has attracted considerable notice on Teh Intarwebs, it grieves me to report that submissions have been scarce.

The deadline for submissions was supposed to be today, but they have extended it to November 3rd. Also, all participants now get buttons!

I’ve heard a few people say that they would participate, but they lack a “large-format printer.” The assumption, apparently, is that I used one of these new-fangled contraptions to print out the examples. Honestly, I don’t even know what a large-format printer is. My signs were mocked up in Microsoft Publisher; printed out, section by section, onto normal-sized pieces of paper; and then taped onto a real political sign that I had appropriated from a local median. (Fun fact: in Seattle it’s illegal to place political signs on medians, traffic circles and other conspicuous roadway locations, so if you filch one from one of these locations, you are actually enforcing the law.) I realize that sounds like a lot of work, but, honestly, I made all three signs shown in less than an hour. And you don’t even have to go this route, if you don’t want to: handmade signs are welcome. In fact, my favorite of the signs we’ve received thus far is a pen-on-posterboard affair.

Also, you are not limited to political signs. Although that’s what I made by way of example, the contest calls asks you to create a “sign, banner, flier, etc,” so less ambitious stuff is certainly acceptable.

Anyway, I know you guys are a literate bunch, so please send something in if you have the time and inclination. Plus, TMN gets a lot hits and they’ll include a link to your site along with your entry, so this is a perfect way to simultaneously showcase your creativity and drum up traffic.

A Modest Proposal

Last week I heard a radio commercial for Fred Meyer advertising Christmas decorations. They spent most of the 30 seconds justifying their decision to unleash the yuletide juggernaught in October. “As you get older, your family gets bigger,” the announcer said. “Which means you need more time to prepare for the holidays. So, see? We’re only hawking these dancing Santas nine weeks early as a favor to you!”

Sure enough, I stopped by Fred Meyer this morning to grab another bag of candy (I ate all the ReeseSticks — saw-whee), and found the “Seasonal” aisle cram-packed with wrapping paper, artificial trees, and wreaths — and no candy, except for a few picked over bags of sugarfree gum and Hershey BigYuk Bars (semi-sweet chocolate with creamy asparagus filling).

American holidays have become like suburban strip malls, expanding outward to the point where they’ve merged into one continual year-long festivity. I have no doubt that the Fred Meyer guys have Peeps and Easter Basket grass all queued up, ready to put on display come November 12th.

Why don’t we just make up a new holiday: Tomorroween. Tomorroween is the holiday which, regardless of the date, falls the day after today, the one where people exchange gifts, eat candy, send cards, drink alcohol, bake pumpkin pies, set off fireworks, plant trees, put colored lights on the eves of their house, wear costumes, buy roses for their loved one, and fly the flag. Stores could just have an aisle devoted to Tomorroween merchandise, and never have to rotate their stock; the guys who make M&Ms could stop changing the color of their candy every three months (black & orange in October, red & green in December, shades of pastel in March).

And maybe, in exchange for Tomorroween, we could ask the stores to keep their mitts off our Holidays. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

Squirrelly in the Punk’in Patch

Silver Linings

I’m the eternal optimist — even in the realm of contemporary politics, where optimism is as out of place as an oyster on an ice cream sundae. So while my friends agonize over which political party will have control of Congress come January, I like to point out that, regardless of which way things turn out, this election will almost certainly result in a number of positive trends:

  • Gridlock: I’m one of those people who prefers the executive and the legislative branch to be held by opposing parties — a philosophy has been thoroughly vindicated in the last four years, dont’cha think? And while Democrats may not take the Senate, one thing is clear: Bush will no longer have a rubber stamp at his disposal, drawing this chapter of Ideologues Gone Wild! to a close. I know many would like the Democrats to spend the next few years investigating and impeaching members of the Bush administration, but that’s the wrong way to go: the solution to polarization is not further divisiveness. And, anyway, I think the Dems would get clobbered in 2008 if they went this route. Worse, Bush would view prosecution as persecution, and settle comfortably into his role as a martyr. Better to simply frustrate his agenda for the next few years and let him serve our his term an impotent lame duck. I mean, look how cranky he became when he couldn’t gut Social Security — seeing his frowny, petulant face on the news every evening filled my heart with joy.
  • The Democratic Party Will Have To Cough Up An Agenda: The only reason the Dems are poised to make gains this go-round is because the Republicans are imploding. But the electorate, having Thrown Out the Bums this year, will cheerfully elect shiny new Republicans in 2008 and 2010 unless the Democrats offer some sort of compelling vision. Best of all, without Bush to run against in the next presidential election, Democratic candidates will have to do more than just walking around in a t-shirt reading “I’m Running Against Stupid.”
  • Republicans Will Again Welcome Actual Conservatives: The biggest fallout from this campaign for the GOP isn’t the loss of congressional seats or governorships, but that the whole “Republicans are the party of conservatives” has been exposed as the fraud it’s long become. Democrats have adopted the rhetoric (and, let’s hope, the mantle) of fiscal responsibility, and unless Repubs want to become known as the party of “big government,” they’re going to have to fend off this encroachment on what had been one of their signature issues. In a perfect world both parties would compete to outdo each other in economic rectitude and we’d have this whole deficit squared away by the time the last Harry Potter book is released.
  • Third Party Candidates: I’m not a fan of Lieberman (I can’t look at him and not remember his crowing about being “in a three-way-tie for third place,” possibly the most pathetic declaration in a presidential election rife with wince-worthy moments), but I’m all for more people running as Independents.
  • The Course, It Is A Changin’: The White House has chosen an eleventh-hour “Change The Rhetoric, Stay The Course” gambit in regards to the war, but I have no doubt our Iraq policy will finally be changing. For one thing, James Baker’s report is going to drop like a hammer; for another, Bush is going to have a hard time backing away from his promise of “benchmarks.” Plus, see point one: Gridlock is a a cynical word for “Oversight.” I don’t pretend to know what we should be do in Iraq from this point forward, but I know that “same old same old” ain’t doin’ the trick.

The Bad Review Revue

School for Scoundrels : “To call it slight is to slight the word ‘slight.'” — David Elliott, SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE

Man of the Year: “Many actors were paid to pretend Williams is still funny.” — Chris Hewitt, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS

Employee of the Month: “It’s simply too depressing that people sat in a boardroom, read this script and said, ‘We’re ready to go!'” — David Gilmour, GLOBE AND MAIL

One Night With The King: “Dear Lord, why must Your most ardent followers unleash such bad movies in Your name?” — Josh Bell, LAS VEGAS WEEKLY

Flyboys: “If the current legroom in economy class doesn’t make you resent the birth of the Wright Brothers, Flyboys certainly will.” — Michael Booth, DENVER POST

The Grudge 2: “Likely to induce deja vu. Not the cool, eerie deja vu, but the ‘Hey, isn’t that exactly what happened in the first movie?’ deja vu.” — Michael Ordona, LOS ANGELES TIMES

The Covenant: “Movies like this are why we have eyelids.” — Colin Covert, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE


Apparently I have been “tagged” with an “Internet” “meme.” I don’t generally do these, but the tagger, Mother Reader, was kind enough to play along with my silly little game, so I feel obliged to reciprocate.

Five Little Known Things About Me

  1. Upon taking the first sip of carbonated beverages, my body responds with a little hiccupy-spasm. When I was young and still getting used to this quirk, I would routinely take a swig from a Big Gulp and then do a Jack-Tripper-like spit take, spewing Pineapple Crush onto all nearby. Now I take a small sip and wait out the reaction before quaffing the rest.
  2. I refuse to watch trailers for movies I intend to see. If, while in the theater, they show a trailer for an upcoming movie that I have the slightest interest in, I will turn my head away from the screen, stare at the floor, and aggressively think about Catherine Keener in an attempt to avoid hearing the dialog. I have, in my travels, met two other people who also do this, and we cannot figure out why the rest of you don’t. “Who’d want to see the best scenes before the movie comes out??” we ask each other rhetorically, and then sadly shake our heads.
  3. I do not pronounce my Ls correctly. I make the sound in the back of my throat, rather than by touching the tip of my tongue to the roof of my mouth. I was given speech therapy as a child but, as with the soda spasm, I eventually just figured out how to work around it, and when it got the point where no one could tell the difference they stopped trying to correct it. Still, it has a few practical ramifications: when choosing names for our child we steered cleared of those that contained Ls. Curiously, I make the L sound correctly when singing, reading aloud from a book, and shouting “Devil! Devil! Devil!’ at passing cars on the corner of 5th and Pine.
  4. I think hate crime legislation is stupid. If one guy punches another it’s assault and should be treated as assault — I don’t care what words he was saying at the time. More to the point, hate crime legislation pegs the severity of the punishment to what the assailant is thinking at the time he commit his crime, and I don’t think the government should be in the business of regulating thought — even the thoughts of ignorant idiot assholes. This fact is “little-known” about me because, whenever I mention it while around my liberal Seattle friends, they’re heads tend to asplode. And that’s a total drag, as most of my clothes are dry-clean only.
  5. Speaking of assault … (Fun fact: all the best stories start with the phrase “speaking of assault”). I have only once, as an adult, punched a guy. Except, I didn’t. I was in my early 20’s and working on a Conservation Corps crew. We all gave each other copious amounts of shit — heaping slander and slur upon each another in the name camaraderie — and no one ever took offense at anything. But one time my coworker Paul said something that made me see red. I don’t recall what it was — in fact, I can even imagine what it could have been, given the stuff I do remember simply laughing off at the time. Whatever it was caused me to go berserk: and I took three quick steps toward him, cocked my fist back, and started to throw a punch. But then the tiny part of my brain that was still rational pointed out that this would almost certainly result in the loss of my job, and not having a job seemed like a bad thing at the time. (What can I say? I was young and foolish.) So I arrested my swing and, instead, kicked him in the shin like an petulant, eight year-old, be-ponytailed-girl. And Paul, who could have easily kicked my ass (did I mention he was an ex-con?), looked down at his shin for a moment, dumbfounded, and then looked at me, and said “Dude, what the fuck?” And I was, like, “Whoa! I do not know what just happened to me there!” And then we laughed and went to work. Because, in the best of worlds, this is what young men do.

Analogies Bush Has Drawn Between the Iraq War And Assorted Punctuation Marks

“I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, [the current violence] will look like just a comma.”

“Our commitment to a free Iraq must end with an exclamation point, not an ellipsis.”

“The overthrow of Saddam was an apostrophe, indicating possession of Iraq by its long-oppressed people.”

“The only way to stop the sectarian violence is to find a bridge between the Sunnis and Shiites, a hyphen that will join the two separate party into one compound nation.”

“We have enclosed the insurgents in parentheses, marking them as little more than an interruption to the rise of democracy that can be ignored without changing the overall meaning of the region’s struggle for liberty.”

“Though Saddam and Al Quada had no direct links, their relationship was that of a semi-colon, joining related but distinct proponents of terror.”

“Setting a timetable for withdrawal would be like starting a Spanish sentence with an inverted question mark, a signal that all that follows is uncertain and conditional.”

“When I sent my Secretary of State to the UN to make the case for war, I jokingly referred to him as Colon Powell, as he served to introduce an itemized list of our grievances against the Iraqi dictator.”

“Victory is still possible in Iraq — albeit a victory enclosed in scare quotes and followed by an asterisk.”

Senior Song

Do all graduating high schools classes have a “senior song?” Or is this just something we did out in the suburbs to compensate for the lamentable fact that were we raised in the suburbs?

My buddy Matt and I lobbied hard for “Road To Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. But, in the end, the popular kids convened a secret meeting and chose this.

I’m not bitter. But I would like to point out that our selection has proven to be more considerably accurate than theirs.

Ice, Ice baby

When a friend of mine saw that they were selling tiny yetis at Burger King, she thoughtfully picked one up for me.

(Let me take a moment, here, to interject a rather shocking announcement: I don’t give a rat’s ass about yetis. Or abominable snowmen. Or bigfoot. Or even Sasquatch, native to our region though they may be. Honestly, I just picked this site’s name out of the ether, not out of any love of or interest in cryptozoology. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate it when you send me links to yeti ornaments or yeti flash games or yeti bicycles or yeti, the knowbot or yeti@home, but only because it’s nice to occasionally receive email that doesn’t have a forged paypal.com return address. If you guys keep giving me yeti stuff I’m going to eventually wind up like The Lady At The License Renewal Place Whose Cubicle Is Filled With Tigger-Related Paraphernalia. And nobody wants that.)

Anyway, I did what I do with all unwanted gifts: coated it in catnip and threw it at my kitties. But at some point The Squirrelly’s must have got a hold of it, because a few days later it resurfaced in his room.

If I’d known then what I know now, I never would have let this fall into the hands on an innocent child. Yesterday, while picking it up from the floor, I noticed for the first time that it had a tag on the back.

Star Wars?, thought I. There were no yetis in Star Wars. Only then did I realize the truth. This was no yeti, this was a Wampa Ice Creature, the creature that savagely attacked Luke Skywalker on the planet of Hoth, nearly killing the young Jedi and snuffing out the hopes of the fledgling rebellion.

My god, what are we teaching this generation of children? First we have the prequels, portraying Darth Vader as the kind of sensitive romantic more likely to join a boy band called “Ready 4 Cuddles” than the Sith, and now the Wampa Ice Creature is being recast as an adorable, pocket-size moppet? Where will it end? Grand Moff Tarkin getting named “#1 Grandpa?”

Why don’t we just tell them that the terrorists are the good guys and be done with it?

Didn’t See That Coming

I’m going to write a psychological thriller for the blind. It’s not all plotted out yet, but I have a great, surprise ending: the last Braille letter will be replaced with a thumbtack.

Tips On Parenting My Toddler, Supplied By Dylan, A 13 Year-old Relative, During A Recent Visit

Has he seen the Lord Of the Rings movies? He should see them because they will make him want to read books like the Harry Potter books.

If you keep kissing him so much you’re going to make him gay.

If you keep throwing him in the air like that he’s going to get like a brain injury.

He’s probably too young to play [the name of some absurdly complicated trading card game that I didn’t quite catch] but there are easier games like Pokemon and he could learn to play that. I could loan you some of my Pokemon cards since I don’t play it any more, but I would just be loaning them to you, not giving them to you, because some of those cards are worth a lot of money, like a hundred dollars for one card.

You know what would be really cool? If instead this baby music you played Eminem.

When he falls down and cries you should just tell him to be tough because then he’ll learn not to fall.

If you keep hugging him so much he’s going to be gay.

If you bought him an Xbox then he could play it while you did stuff around the house. Also then when we come here I won’t be so freaking bored.

Look Away

I was walking down a long hall at the gym today, and a flusteringly attractive woman was walking toward me.

I never know what to do in these situations. Obviously, given my druthers, I would just stand there in slackjawed amazement and openly gawp, but apparently this is considered “uncouth” in some quarters. An alternative is to resolutely stare to one side of her, as if a friend I’ve not seen in decades stands at the end of the hall, or drop my gaze and focus on my feet as I pass, but this makes me look like a zombie or an introvert respectively, and that’s not the impression I want to make.

So, instead, I took a keen interest in the walls, scrutinizing the fliers posted on the bulletin boards as I sauntered past them, and craning to peer around the corners of intersecting hallways. This, thought I, squared the circle rather neatly: it kept me from looking directly at her, and also gave the impression that I was the intelligent, sophisticated sort, always studying my surroundings with curiosity and inquisitiveness.

MEMO TO SELF: Members of the fairer sex will not think you intelligent or sophisticated if one of the “intersecting hallways” you peer down is, unbeknownst to you, not a hallway at all, but in fact an open doorway to the very women’s locker room that the person you are trying to impress is destined.