Kitten, Fear My Wrath!

I was sitting in a lawn chair reading Nero Wolfe, and Louie was skulking about my feet. Louis is technically an indoor cat, but as long as someone is keeping an eye on him we let him nose around the back patio.

The sky had been growing increasingly dark, and I felt the first few spatters of rain. “Okay, Louie,” I said scooping him up. “It’s time to go in.” I tossed him through the door and went to fetch the chair. As I returned to the house, Louie dashed between my legs and back outside.

Louis,” I said in my Ominous Voice. “You know better than that.” By way of response, Louie looked away, flicked his tail in the air defiantly, and went a few feet further out onto the patio. Then he glanced over his shoulder to see what I was going to do.

I opened my mouth; Louie braced himself in anticipation of my holler. But before I could make a sound there was an enormous clap of thunder, the likes of which we rarely get in Seattle.

Louie’s eyes trebled in size, his legs turned into Roadrunner-esque circles of blurry motion, and he reentered the house as if he’d been shot from a cannon.


Someone Needs A Smiting

Overheard on the bus.

Guy 1: Did you hear they made gay sex legal?

Guy 2: Yeah, disgusting.

Guy 1: [Surprised] What do you care?

Guy 2: I care because it says in the Bible that gay sex is a sin.

Guy 1: The Bible says all sorts of stuff is a sin. It says you’re not supposed to shave. It says that masturbating is a sin.

Guy 2: Yeah, but … you know. <shrug> I don’t think there’s anything wrong with masturbating.

It’s My Job … To Freeze You!

The Queen had an engagement yesterday evening, leaving me with the house all to myself. So I did what any wild-at-heart, red-blooded male would do, given a night of unexpected bachelorhood:

  1. Had Grape-Nuts and beer for dinner;
  2. Watched Logan’s Run on DVD.

Matthew Baldwin: married but not domesticated.

I was surprised by how good it was. The beer, I mean. Logan’s Run was a calamity. I picked it up after a few people expressed mystification that I had never seen it. When I mentioned this to The Queen, for example, she reacted as if I had told her I was missing a lung. Everyone emphatically urged me to correct this historic oversight. “It’s just so, so, so very, very, very bad,” they would say. “You must rent it immediately.”

And I did. And I watched it. And I learned some astounding facts about the future.

  • We will live in a domed city, which, judging from the opening shot of this film, will be seven inches high and surrounded by Hi-Ho Train Model trees.
  • Criminals will try to escape the law by going to the most public place in town and hiding behind a potted plant.
  • We will be so technologically advanced that, every seven minutes or so, loud “Bee Boo Boo Beep!” noises will echo throughout city.
  • Even the most mundane conversation will be filled with exposition:

    A: I wish I knew who my seed-mother was.

    B: What’s wrong with the Incu-droids? And, besides, you know that even thinking thoughts like that is will get you in trouble with the Conformity Council.

    A: I know. But I’m 29 years old, and since all citizens of Galatropolis are killed at the age of 30, what do I have to lose?

  • Apparently the whole “Death with Dignity” movement will have collapsed by 2274, since shuffling off the mortal coil in Logan’s Run entails the wearing of Stupidest Costume Ever, flying into the air, and exploding.

Even the credits of this movie are bad. I mean, if you made a motion picture predicated on the idea that all people die at 30, would you put “And starring Peter Ustinov as Old Man” in the opening? Um, spoiler, dude.

And don’t even get me started about The Robot Scene. Oh brother, The Robot Scene. Where did that come from? Still, I can’t say that I wasn’t warned. Last month some friends and I were discussing 80’s Ending, and I said “my favorite part was how they stuck that robot scene in there for no reason.” And then my buddy said, “You mean like The Robot Scene in Logan’s Run?” After I confessed that I had never seen Run, he said “It’s this bizarre scene where … well, they must have really wanted to get a robot in there somewhere, right? So they filmed this robot sequence that doesn’t have anything to do with anything? And then just spiced it on in there.” I said that I though that was a pretty good idea for any movie, frankly, and that I wanted to start a business that took mainstream movies and turned them into movies about robots. Like, you know how porn movie guys take popular films and remake them into adult pictures like Terms of Inrearment and For Your Thighs Only and E-3: The Extra-Testicle, where they use the plot outline from the original movie to string together a bunch of sex scenes? Those are the kind of movies I would make, except that instead of sex scenes it would have robot scenes, and the movies would have titles like My Big Fat Greek Robot or 2 Fast 2 Robots or West Cyborg Story or Saving Private Ryan’s Robot or whatever.

ANYway! I did like the ending of Logan’s Run, simply because it was exactly the same as every 70’s-era science-fiction movie ending: somebody blows up the computer by making illogical statements. You can’t beat the classics. It’s a shame they don’t use that any more. Wouldn’t it be awesome if that’s how the Wachowski brothers ended Matrix Revolutions?

The Source: Your journey ends here, Neo. I am The Source, the self-aware synthetic intelligence that controls the Matrix and all of mankind.

Keanu: Up is down! Black is white! Cats are squirrels! I can act!

The Source: D0ES N0T C0MPUTE <crashes>

I’d pay nine bucks to see that.

The Hulk Looks Totally Fakey!

Saw a sneak preview of The Hulk last night. I have to agree with the critics who say that he looks fakey. Plus, you can, like, totally tell where they photoshopped him into a scene.

Worst CGI Ever

Research Day: Gypped

I received email questioning my use of the term gypped, and apparently I’m not the first. I have used the word “gyp” both as a noun (“What a gyp”) and as a verb (“You got gypped”) all my life to mean “a fraud” and “to be cheated”, respectively. I don’t recall where I picked it up, but at my elementary school the term was ubiquitous and used to describe everything from Star Wars Trading Card transactions to unexpected pop quizzes.

After using the word once in college, though, someone told me that it was a racial slur against Gypsies. Lacking large populations of Gypsies in the Pacific Northwest, this had honestly never occurred to me. And I was still skeptical. After all, I was told this at The Evergreen State College, Washington State’s stronghold of Political Correctness, where you can’t say anything aloud (“I like peanut butter!”) without someone announcing that you’ve just inadvertently committed ethnic slander of some sort or another. But soon thereafter I overheard someone using the word “jew” as a verb in the same sense (“He jewed me out of twenty dollars”), and that so clearly struck me as pejorative that I reconsidered my use of “gyp”.

These days I rarely say “gyp,” mainly because, having used it a lot in third grade, I tend to regard it as a “kid’s word” on par with “lame-o”. But I do still employ the term on occasion, so I guess I’d better find out the truth once and for all.

First stop, the dictionary. Merriam-Webster makes no reference to Gypsies in the definition (which it gives as “noun: FRAUD, SWINDLE; verb: CHEAT”), but does cite its etymology as “probably short for gypsy”. Tally: one vote for “derogatory”.

Next we head over to World Wide Words, where we hear from someone who’s had an experience exactly opposite of my own: all their life they thought “gyp” was derogatory until someone told them that it wasn’t. Michael Quinion responds, “It seems highly probable [that ‘gyp’ came from ‘Gypsy’]. However, direct evidence is lacking, and the term arose in the US, where gypsies have been less common than in Europe.” He goes on to mention that “gyp” also means “a college servant” (this was also listed in Webster’s), and suggests that this might have been the source of the “cheat” connotation. He also states “Even if the verb does come from gypsy, most people who use it probably don’t link the two ideas.” Tally: Half a vote for “derogatory against Gypsies,” half a vote for “derogatory against college servants,” one vote for “not intentionally derogatory in either case on the presupposition of ignorance”.

Truth me told, despite all my research I never found anyone convincingly link “gyp” to anything other than the word “Gypsy” — even the alternate meaning of “gyp,” denoting a college student, seems to be an abbreviation of Gypsy. So, in that sense, I guess “derogatory” carries the day. However, I will personally vouch for the fact that many of the people using the word (at least around here) make no mental connection whatsoever between the term and people. This morning, for example, I asked The Queen if she used “gypped,” and she said that she did; when I told her about the possible “gyp = Gypsy = racial slur” link, she looked rather aghast at the revelation.

Although my Googling found lots of people asserting that the word “gyp” is offensive, I didn’t find a single instance where someone said that they, personally, were offended by the term — except insofar as they were offended because they assumed that the word was offensive to others. A similar thing seems to have occurred with the word squaw, which many people (myself included) think of as a racial slur, even though the people it’s allegedly slandering don’t have a problem with it. All of which raises a vexing philosophical point: can something be offensive without actually offending? And given that “Gypsies” aren’t even “Gypsies” anymore (they prefer to be known as the Roma), what’s the statute of limitation on stuff like this? Would it be okay to say that that you’d been “Aztec’d out of twenty dollars”?

The comments are open, and I’m interested in hearing what readers think. In particular (a) do you use the word “gyp,” (b) is its usage prevalent in your area, (c) were you aware that it is considered offensive by some, and (d) are you personally offended by its use?

Previous Research Days: Hotel California, Daylight Savings Time, Odds n Ends.

Everything Was Fine

A women already on the elevator was relating a Tale Of Woe to another person when I boarded. Between the fifth floor and the ground floor I didn’t hear enough of the narrative to really know what had happened, but I did hear this key phrase:

“Everything was fine until it got out on the Internet.”

I wonder how many contemporary Tales Of Woe contain this exact line. All of them?

Over The River & Through The Woods

Last night I visited Grammy. Grammy lives in a very pleasant Assisted Living Facility on the outskirts of Seattle, and I often zip over there after work to join her for dinner. Last night was Sloppy Joes Night so, obviously, I made a point of attending.

Joining us at the dinnertable was B., a woman I had met before and found utterly charming, owing to the fact that she is a delightful conversationalist despite being unable to hear a single word you say. As I sat down, we had this exchange:

Grammy: B., this is my grandson, Matthew.
B.: Hello. How are you?
Me: Just fine, thank you.
B.: Did you just graduate from college last week? Is that why you’re visiting?
Me: From college? No, no, I’ve been out of college for a while now. I’m just here for dinner.
B.: My grandson graduated from Western [Washington University] last week and visited me yesterday. Were you going to Western?
Me: Ah, no, I went to The Evergreen State College.
B.: So, you must be looking for a job now, huh?
Me: Well, actually I have a job. I’ve had it for a few years now.
B.: It’s a tough job market right now.
Me: It sure is. I’m lucky to be employed.
B.: Well, good luck with the job search. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Me: Okay, thanks. I appreciate that.

Also joining us at the table was W., a amicable curmudgeon (who Grammy later referred to as “a little pill”) who spent the dinnerhour giving me The Unabridged History Of W., 1942-2003. Whenever W. would mention someone in his narrative, he would introduce them by citing their name and something terrible associated with them, such as, “… so then I moved in with my cousin Martin, who later drowned, and my Uncle, who once got robbed at gunpoint.” When W. made reference to other people in the dining hall it was the same thing: “That’s E. who had a stroke” or “have you met C., with the arthritis?” It was as if, to W., the defining characteristic of a person was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. I had just realized this fact when he cracked me up by announcing, out of nowhere, “I have two daughters: one got diabetes and the other moved to Spokane.”

After dinner Grammy and I went back to her pad and watched Knight Rider, followed by two episodes of Golden Girls back-to-back. It was a pretty great evening.


After years of forking over $30 every other month so that strangers could make my hair look bad, I finally realized that I could make my own hair look bad for free!. So I picked up some clippers from Target, handed them to The Queen, and told her to go nuts. This is the result. (And, for purposes of comparison, this is what it often looked like before.)

It looks as good (read: not very) as the professional cuts, my shampoo usage has plummeted, and I won’t have to get another cut for months — win-win-win!

I’ll freely admit, though, that I got a little nervous when, in the midst of shaving my head, The Queen started whistling Sinead O’Connor.

Natalie Merchandise

Exchange from about 10 years ago that inexplicably popped into my head a moment ago.

Me: Yeah, I just bought that new 1000 Maniacs CD.

Wiseass Friend: One thousand? I hope you didn’t pay full price because, if you did, they gypped you out of 9000 maniacs.

Great Ideas A Go Go

Here are some Million Dollar Ideas I have come up with recently but am too lazy to do anything with.

  • Combination Cell Phone / Electric Shaver: Now men on their way to work can engage in two of the most dangerous while-driving activities at the same time! Woo!
  • Caffinated Pens: If instinct is going to impel me to chew them, I might as well get a buzz.
  • Hummus Deodorant: I loves me some hummus, but I am disinclined to eat anything that smells like hippie. That’s where Hummus Deodorant would enter the equation. “Strong enough for a man, but made for a traditional Middle-Eastern spread.”
  • Condensed Movies For Old People: If there’s one thing old people like, it’s condensed stuff. Well, okay: if there’s only one thing old people like it’s buffet-style restaurants, granted, but if there’s two things old people like it’s buffet-style restaurants and condensed stuff. Digests full of condensed magazine articles. Books full of condensed novels. Condensed milk. So they should make condensed movies for old people. Condensed movies would be just like full-length movies except two minutes long. They would contain all the best special effects, action sequences, and jokes from the film, and a voiceover would give a quick summary of the plot. (“In a world … full of violence … one man lives on both sides of the law …”). They could show maybe seven or eight condensed movies before the feature presentation. Best of all, theaters wouldn’t have to make any changes, since modern “teasers” pretty much show you the entire film already.

    Narrator: … and you’ll never guess the shocking finale!

    Female Lead In Film: I can’t believe that you, my husband, are the murderer!

    Male Lead In Film: It’s true. And look, here comes our dog, the one we thought was killed in the first half an hour of the movie!

    Female Lead In Movie: I am a man.

    All theaters would really have to do is (a) start charging old people $8 to see the trailers and then (b) roust them from the cinema before the actual film starts so that they can go to Royal Fork instead of sitting behind me and hollering “WHAT DID HE SAY?!” to each other after every line of dialog. Win-win!