Time for a Vacation

All right.  I’ve been a bad Madeleine, absent for yea, this long time.  But I’m still here.  I’m checkin’ in, right?  And look!  I brought you something.  ::rummages around for embed code.::  See?   

Feel better now? Of course not. You have cholera!

We Gotta Get the Latest Sh–Stuff, Right?


Okay.  So this is vulgar.  This is profane.  This is is funny.  Cause when it comes right down to it, don’t we  love our shit? Don’t we all want to have the latest shit? And don’t we all swear as we’re trying to get the goddamn technological shit to work the way the commercials and shit have led us to believe it would?

This made me laugh.  The fact that it was sent to me by my husband, the original Shit-O-Phile, made me laugh harder.

Play Like the Big Kids

It’s an actual toy.  The Playmobil Security Checkpoint*. Probably made to work with the Playmobil airport (now with extra delays and no in-flight meals!) and the Playmobil terrorist detaineecenter.

Actually, they do have a Playmobil Police Checkpoint and Playmobil Safe Crackers advertised on the same page.

I don’t know which is scarier.  The fact that this exists, or the fact that they’re charging $62 for the set.  I realize that Playmobil toys don’t come cheap, so maybe I shouldn’t fret about that.  But the fact that we’re now elevating All Fear All The Time to the same bracket as playing grocery or school makes me queasy.

But don’t just take my word for it.  The Customer Comments on this page are to die for.  Just note how many people have tagged the product under “Facism!”

*Found via Making Light

Soylent Green is Angelfood

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m into cake decorating in a big way.  It’s an expensive hobby, but not as expensive as cocaine or skiing, so I indulge myself within the limits of reason and my budget.  But I’m not yet good enough to do something like, well, this:

That’s right.  Courtesy of cakewrecks.com, my favorite morning giggle, it’s–wait for it–a cake brain.

Cakewrecks also shows a kidney (rather squarish to reflect my understanding of anatomy, but hey…) and a seriously gorgeous, gory heart with all the wiring and veins and stuff.  Also a set of intestines.  But you’ll understand why the brain is my fave.

Now, where’d I leave my spork?

Dog Without End

My first dog was Fiorello LaGuardia Robins of blessed memory.  My father had a swell, deeply neurotic German Shorthaired Pointer named Nellie (as in “Wait Till The Sun Shines”).  We currently rejoice in the company of Emily the leaping hound.  I love, or have loved, all three.  But I wouldn’t want to clone them.

What I find fascinating is the human story (of course).  Lou Hawthorne, whose company cloned his mother’s dogs (after his stepfather invested heavily in the procedure) is awed by how similar MissyToo and Mira are to Missy, the dog from which they were cloned.  He owns Mira, about whom he waxes rhapsodic.  But Hawthorne’s mother, to whom he gave the other cloned dog, MissyToo, doesn’t like the new dog at all, and sent it off, like an unloved Victorian orphan, to live with “handlers.”  She had already adopted a puppy after Missy died, and says “I already have a dog — a real dog.”  Evidently she doesn’t understand the Velveteen Rabbit theory that one becomes real only by being loved into it.

Poor MissyToo.

Christmas Text

A.A. Milne is the author of my very most favoritest Christmas text, better than A Christmas Carol, better than “The Night Before Christmas.”  Maybe because it’s about a social misfit who, somehow, regardless of his self-involvement, gets what he really wants.  So I had to come here and share it with all the Brainiacs.

 King John’s Christmas

by A.A. Milne

King John was not a good man —
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air —
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon …
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And fortune in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They’d given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John was not a good man,
He lived his life aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing up the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack:
“TO ALL AND SUNDRY – NEAR AND FAR –
F. CHRISTMAS IN PARTICULAR.”
And signed it not “Johannes R.”
But very humbly, “JACK.”

“I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don’t mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man —
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to his room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
A prey to hopes and fears.
“I think that’s him a-coming now,
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
“He’ll bring one present, anyhow —
The first I’ve had for years.

“Forget about the crackers,
And forget about the candy;
I’m sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don’t like oranges,
I don’t want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man —
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell a waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,
King John said grimly: “As I feared,
Nothing again for me!”

“I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts.
I haven’t got a pocket-knife —
Not one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all…
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!

AND OH, FATHER CHRISTMAS,
MY BLESSINGS ON YOU FALL
FOR BRINGING HIM
A BIG, RED
INDIA-RUBBER
BALL!

May you all get your hearts’ desires this holiday season.  And may we all have healthier, safer, wiser and more loving years ahead.

Baby Wants Cake

Growing up in Kearney, Nebraska, my mother knew a boy named Royal. Not an uncommon Victorian-era midwestern name (I didn’t blink when I heard this, because I’d read about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s brother-in-law, also named Royal). What was unfair to poor Royal, who likely went through life as Roy, was that his last name was Jester.

Yes, Royal Jester. Rumor has it that his father perpetrated this outrage as revenge against the world that had named him Courtney. Unless he went through life being called Bud or Butch or Sonny, that means he was referred to as Court Jester. Which leads one to ask: what were their his parents thinking? I grew up with a slightly unusual name at my time/place, and I got shit for it. I can’t imagine how a kid named, oh, I don’t know, Moon Unit or Frankincense or Apple or Bat Guano negotiates the playground these days.

Which brings us* to the curious case of a cake for Adolf Hitler Campbell. When the toddler was turning three, his parents ordered a birthday cake from their local ShopRite. They wanted his full name on the cake, and the bakery refused, saying it seemed inappropriate. So they took their order to WalMart, where they complied and wrote Happy Birthday, Adolf Hitler on the cake, and the three year old was made happy.

Let me say first off that I’m a fan of cake. And birthdays. And three year olds. I don’t blame the parents for wanting a cake for their son. But Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, who the paper mentions as (among other things) Holocaust deniers, seem to be in denial about a whole bunch of other stuff. Like what’s going to happen to their children when they go to school. Cause it’s not just little Adolf who’s going to suffer the slings and arrows of schoolyard politics. His sibs, little Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Campbell, aren’t going to get a free ride either.

The parents don’t see it like that, of course:

The Campbells have swastikas in each room of their home, the rented half of a one-story duplex just outside Milford, a borough in Hunterdon County. They say they aren’t racists but believe races shouldn’t mix.

The Campbells said they wanted their children to have unique names and didn’t expect the names to cause problems. Despite the cake refusal, the Campbells said they don’t expect the names to cause problems later, such as when the children start school.

Uh huh. The paper quotes a child psychiatrist to dispute this idea, but you don’t have to have a degree to think that naming your child Dracula Chan or Idi Amin Schwartz is going to get the kid some negative attention.

There are swastikas on walls, on jackets, on the freezer and on a pillow. The family car had swastikas, Heath Campbell said, until New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families told him they could endanger the children.

The swastikas, Heath Campbell said, are symbols of peace and balance. He considers them art. “It doesn’t mean hatred to me,” he said. Deborah Campbell said a swastika “doesn’t really have a meaning. It’s just a symbol.”

Um. The swastika does, in fact, go back as far as the ancient Greeks. But just a symbol? The whole point of a symbol is that it symbolizes something. And most people who see it associate it with the Third Reich, and again with the negative connotations.

Heath Campbell says he doesn’t force his ideas on his children and wants them to be nonviolent. ‘Kay. I’ll be interested to learn, when little Adolph is ten years old, what the kids at school call him. Bud, maybe. Or Butch or Sonny. Maybe even Dweezil. But at home, I’m sure that he’ll be Adolph, and every year, as long as WalMart cooperates, he’ll have a cake with his name on it.

* I got this story via the fabulousness that is Cake Wrecks, my favorite food blog.

 ETA: Keith Olbermann covered this story tonight (Wednesday) on Countdown.  I feel so, like, ahead of the curve!

Doghouse

I love a good commercial.  You know those compilation shows where they show you the best of the ads from the last year?  Or the Clio awards?  I’m their target audience.  Maybe it’s because I grew up surrounded by advertising and design people, or maybe I’m just a sucker for a good punchline, but…I love a good commercial.

Like this one.  Yes, it’s a bit long, but it’s funny.  And it makes me feel so much better about the guy I’m married to.

Just In Time for Christmas!

 

It’s the Dismember Me Plush Zombie!  Just one of the nifty zombie-centric products in this season’s Think Geek catalog.  In addition to our cuddly falling-apart guy above, there’s also an RC Zombie:

Zombie appreciation:

For those who fear our Zombie Overlords, there’s advice:

And protective coloring: the Brain Gelatin mold allows you to make a lifelike brain and eat it, so passing zombies will think you’re part of the in crowd, undead-wise.

You know you want one.  Or maybe two.  For friends.  Or fiends.

And finally:

If you’re planning on making treats for your friends this holiday season, why not invest in a fetus cookie cutter?  Be the first one on your block to bite the head off an unborn baby!  (Mommy, where do Baby Zombies come from?)

Oh, Look! Story!

Looking for something good to read?  A screenplay by Ursula K. Leguin, maybe?  Novels by Brenda Clough, Susan Wright or Vonda McIntyre?  Or maybe a handful of short stories to while away that wait for your much-delayed flight home from Kathmandu (now that we can look forward to a new and different president)?

Check out Book View Cafe, a nifty new website featuring work by over two dozen women writers working in SF, horror, fantasy, YA, and related genres.  We (disclosure: yes, I’m one of the roster) have banded together to make the site a place where we can bring our out-of-print work back, republish short stories, and show off new and experimental fiction.  Much of the work is free; there will be some available for subscription, and some for a nominal fee.  Read on screen, or download a PDF to your computer to take elsewhere.  And right now, since we’re in the roll-out phase, everything is free free free!

There’s also the Book View Cafe blog, with brief posts on divers topics by BVC authors.  I know, another damned blog.  But there’s stuff in there runs the gamut from comics to Camelot.  You know you’re curious.

I don’t know if Book View Cafe is an entirely new publishing paradigm, as the big kids say, but it’s at least on the leading edge.  And there’s really good stuff in there.  Come check us out!

I’m a Statistic

If I seem a touch distracted these days I’ve got an actual reason.  I’m looking for a job.  That’s right.  In this economy.  But income from writing has been, um, erratic lately, at a time when steady and predictable would be the preferred thing.  But I’m not here to today to talk about the vicissitudes of the auctorial lifestyle (hey, prospective employers, see how I toss those big words around?).  I am here to talk about How Jobsearching Has Changed.

The first time I looked for a job I was a wee-tiny Madeleine, living in Cambridge, Mass. with a former college roommate, in an economy we thought was pretty piss poor.  Hah!  Those carefree, giddy days when I was poor, unfettered, unmortgaged, and you got a job by looking through the paper, going to the HR departments at local universities, and taking typing tests.  It took me two and a half months but I found a job I loved, running continuing ed and summer programs at a university (of which Cambridge has a bunch–you may have heard of some of them).  Even eleven years ago, when I was downsized out of my job editing comics, it was essentially the same procedure: answer ads, sign up with employment companies that advertise as loss leaders (Oh, y’know, that job isn’t available anymore, but we have this terrific opportunity making angels dance on pins that would be a great match with your skills!), network (what used to be called “asking around”).

Not so much any more.  Yes, the papers have classified sections, but those are often for the kind of jobs I can’t afford to take (or for jobs that are so stratospherically out of my league that they must be advertised broadly so that the search committees can be sure they’ve done their due dilligence). Now it’s online.  UCSF and UC Berkeley and SF State have websites where you upload your resume and cover letter, establish a “profile,” and apply to whatever jobs take your fancy.  You can get them to send each week’s new listings so you can keep shooting off that profile to them.  Of course, there’s an unnerving sense of casting your bread the void; at least with a paper resume and envelope someone had to open the envelope.  No, on second thought, maybe they just dumped ’em into the trash can.  So this might be just as good, or better.

Then there’s networking.  I suck at networking because I was badly raised.  “Don’t put yourself forward, don’t be beholden to anyone, you should do it all on your own, no one wants to help you.”  But now, through the miracle of LinkedIn, I have millions of contacts: people from jobs I’ve held, schools I’ve attended, organizations I’ve belonged to.  I’ve been recommended by people I’ve worked with.  People on Facebook suggest things.  People on my Livejournal email me with possible work.

Nothing has panned out yet, of course.  Job hunting takes time.  Avocado, who has no memory of me with a full-time job, keeps saying “when are you going to get a job?” as if I had some control over the process.  What I keep telling her is that it’s like taking a car trip somewhere you haven’t been before: you know you’ll get there, but you don’t have familiar landmarks to tell you how soon you’ll reach the destination.  You just keep driving.

Just One Thing to Do

Vote.

No, that’s not some charming Edwardian medical procedure.  That’s a suffragette being force-fed to end her hunger strike.

Okay, you know the drill.  People–male, female, black, white, old, young–died to secure the right to vote.

If you haven’t already done so, vote tomorrow.  Vote for the future you hope for.  Vote for the people who fought and died and were force-fed or hosed down or arrested to keep them from voting.  Vote for your kids, your parents, your partner or spouse or your grandma.  Vote for all the people in the world who have no say in what their government does.  Vote for yourself: it’s a little like giving blood, it makes you feel good.

And don’t forget:  Starbucks is offering free coffee tomorrow afternoon to everyone who’s voted (so is Ben and Jerry’s, I think, but they’re not as ubiquitous).

Go ahead.  If nothing else, you guarantee your right to complain for the next four years.

As If You Needed Another Reason

I got this in an email.  Pretty certain the gas prices are photoshopped in, but also pretty certain that they’re accurate.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my traditional Election Day exhortation to vote or else, but in the meantime–go fill the tank, why don’tcha.

I must also add that my Father designed that Arco logo sometime in the sixties.  Nice to see it’s still in use.

Seeing What Cannot Be Seen

No, it’s not a fire-breathing human.  It’s a cough, caught on film through something called  “schlieren photography,” and discussed in today’s New York Times Science section.

Schlieren is German for “streaks”; in this case it refers to regions of different densities in a gas or a liquid, which can be photographed as shadows using a special technique.
The process involves a small, bright light source, precisely placed lenses, a curved mirror, a razor blade that blocks part of the light beam and other tools that make it possible to see and photograph disturbances in the air. In the world of gas dynamics, a cough is merely “a turbulent jet of air with density changes.”

What I find cool is how like art some of these images are: the black and white photo of a gun shot, the plume of a gas leak or the curl of heated air from a candle flame.  In these trying times I make an effort to remember that there’s, like, beauty all around us.  It’s an uphill climb some days, but The Times helped today.