The Burdens of Diversion

I miss being entertained. Passive entertainment, I mean: escapist movies, mindless television, pulp fiction, shopping therapy. Although I frequently lament how little people actually think, there is something to be said for actively not thinking, if only for an hour or two.

I haven’t been able to fully enjoy a movie since I started worrying about their political implications and to whom the profits flow. Some I will boycott altogether, but I actually sat through every ghastly moment of Apocalpyto hoping against hope that Jaguar Paw would not only escape from his pursuers but leap over the camera and slash out the heart of the director. (When I was a kid, I managed to get through the Indiana Jones movies without worrying too much about the motivations of the cannibals, but every inaccuracy of the Mayas’ portrayal was like a blow-gun dart in my brain.) When not staring at James Bond’s ass, I worried about whether his spy agency was involved in faking the justifications for the Iraqi invasion. The other night, when Rob and I watched one of our Lord of the Rings DVDs, all I could focus on was how they did the special effects.

Television is worse. The reality shows like “Project Runway,” require too much personal investment. It takes a great deal of energy to pick and mercilessly defend a favorite, as well as to pick apart everyone’s performance as compared to what I would have done in their place. But there’s no escape in shows like “Battlestar Galactica” or “Ugly Betty,” either; anything with its own podcast is just asking for too much outlay. And then one must contend with hearing about what its outspoken fans think about every plot twist. Rob introduced me the “Jam Shippers,” which sounds like a harmless labor union but is actually a group of radical sitcom activists waging an obsessive crusade for getting Jim and Pam together on “The Office.” I now can’t get through an episode without worrying about the official position of the Jam Shippers and whether they will resort to suicide bombers if Jim gets together with that brown-haired woman.

I can’t look at websites without getting distracted by headlines and politics. I can’t buy a crappy novel without worrying about whether it comes from an independent bookstore. I can’t buy clothes without obsessing over sweatshops and pesticides.

The sad thing is, most of this is stuff I would (and always do) advocate for. Thinking about stuff. Taking responsibility for your choices. Researching things that interest you. Taking a stand for what you believe in. But on the whole, it’s exhausting, almost crushing, when combined with my other obsessions and compulsions.

I do shoulder on, trying to save both society and my sanity with my every choice, but the truth is, I could sort of use a vacation.



I rarely feel compelled to write about my work because I like to keep the many spheres of my life separate. Wait, I am lying; there are only two spheres in my life, and one of them is more of a hemisphere than anything that could actually roll down a hill. But they are separate, goshdarnit. Although sometimes, something happens at work that is just too delicious not to describe for you, my little peanut butter sandwiches.

On Tuesday, I received a phone call from a Crazy Sounding Person asking if I had received some literature he had mailed to me. Now, I get two kinds of mail: “literature” and bills. The bills go into my accountant’s inbox, and the literature, if it was not sent by Shakespeare or Saki, goes unopened into the recycling bin. So I said no.

The Crazy Sounding Person lamented what a great tragedy this was and asked if he could come by and drop some more off. “Will you be there tomorrow at three-thirty?” I was all, like, whatev. I never promise anyone I will be at work at any specific time, which makes it easier to hide in the alley when they show up.

I immediately got another phone call from a different Crazy Sounding Person, this one also sounding somewhat Stern. “Did you just make an appointment with [first Crazy Sounding Person] for tomorrow at three-thirty?” the second Crazy (and Stern) Sounding Person demanded.
“Well, I wouldn’t call it an appointment. He said he was going to drop something off.” The second crazy sounding person asked if he could confirm my address. I hung up and forgot all about it.

On Thursday at noon, I was told that the first Crazy Sounding Person had arrived to see me. It was an older guy in a suit with the most shocking amount of hair coming out of his ears. Really, you have never seen such a thing, like curly black earmuffs. Why would you even bother to put on a suit when you’re wandering around with curly black earmuffs? There are no answers. The Crazy Sounding Person introduced himself as the one I had spoken with on the phone and apologized for not having shown up the day before at the specified time. “I have no idea how that appointment got made. I was sick yesterday and didn’t know anything about it until this morning.”

Since both of the people I had spoken to on the phone had mentioned this fabled appointment, I just stared at him blankly. He took this as his cue to launch into a spiel about the services he could offer to businesses. Apparently, the crazy sounding person was a representative of a huge corporation that makes millions of dollars offering services to small corporations. It was very difficult to pin down exactly what those services are. When I asked him, he told me about how he used to own a greenhouse that got run out of business by Wal-Mart and the Home Depot and was so depressed after that that he moved to a desolate area of Virginia to become a crab fisherman who sold his catch on the Internet. This was before being diagnosed with ADHD and mistakenly put on a medication for bipolar disease, which ended up giving him a mini-stroke that caused him not to remember anything anymore. “Next week, I won’t even remember I talked to you today,” he said. Like Sofia on “Golden Girls,” his mini-stroke seemed to eradicate his ability to censor what he said, because there was a great deal more to this story, involving his mother crashing a car into a telephone pole and the changing technology of web sites.

He then went on and on about how his nonspecific services helped dozens of thousands of businesses every year. Helped them how, he could not precisely say, but the point is, they were very helpful, and they would be more than happy to help me, too.

I told him I would think about it. (Translation: no.) He told me that when I decided to say yes, to call him directly. “You’ll get a call in a few days from some other guy checking up on me and offering to send in one of our consultants. You just tell him, no way! I’m working directly with [crazy sounding person]. Those guys call around and check up on my every move. They mean well, but they aren’t going to help you like I am.”

No. No, they aren’t.

I forgot to tell you that at one point I had to interrupt our “appointment” to go out and put money in the parking meter. The Crazy Sounding Person’s response was: “Oh, you’re supposed to put money in those?”

I have the utmost faith in his business services.


Highs and Lows

I got to climb up on our roof yesterday for the first time. Now that I have a ladder, I suppose I could do this whenever I wanted, but yesterday was a special occasion because the roof is leaking and the cute roofing estimator came over to inspect it. The view from up there is not quite breathtaking, but it’s much better than that from any of our windows. The only problem is that there are a lot of weird chimneys and fans and pipes up there, and you could also fall and have your bones shatter into a million pieces, which is statistically less probable at the basement window.

Besides the roof, the cute estimator was very concerned about the brickwork on the front of our house, which I am told needs repointing. He said it would be a nightmare job, I suppose because there are a lot of bricks and getting enough people to come over and point at each one of them would be an effort. That’s probably what illegal immigrants are for.


Written Yesterday, Discovered Amongst My Effects

The carpet cleaner is on the way over to eradicate all of Goblin’s precious smells, and she is in a tizzy. If the vacuum is her archenemy, the carpet shampooer is the Beast. She was warned of its imminent arrival this morning by a portentous squirrel that danced in a circle and jumped over her head, and has been sulking ever since. I mean Goblin has been sulking ever since; I have no idea what the squirrel has been doing.

UPDATE: The carpet cleaner is here. Goblin has donned a black veil.

UPDATE: The carpet cleaner is gone. Everything is wet and squeaky clean. And slippery. I almost broke my neck walking down the stairs.

UPDATE: A squirrel’s head has been embedded on a pike in the corner. A black-robed choir of Boston terriers just went past singing “Kyrie Eleison.” Something is up…


It’s Hippotastical!

Does he love me? I want to know. How can I tell if he loves me so?

Well, he might just decide to make an elaborate board game—complete with box, board, game pieces, and rules—based on my blog.

And thus we have The Most Fabulous Birthday Present Ever®.

Upside-Down Hippo: The Board Game is a fantastical journey around and around a board that teems with life. My life, to be exact. And Goblin’s. Your game piece, called a “FOG” or Friend of Goblin, will land on a Chupacabra or a Kraken and pay homage to my cryptozoological fascination; it may also land on the Prius, Vitamins, Broccoli, the Gym, Quaker Meeting, Mommie Dearest, bluehouse, one of the foreign vacations where I either got pneumonia or couldn’t find anything edible . . . and many of the other topics of this web log.

These spaces direct you to either gain or lose turns, gain or lose “kibble,” which in true Boston terrier style are the tender of the game, or pick a card that has more elaborate instructions. The last kind of normal space is the “Brainpan!”, where you pick another kind of card with a random topic on it. If the other players can guess what specifically you’re thinking of based upon that topic, you both get a “treat.” (This is based upon Rob’s and my frequent admonishment “Stay out of my brainpan!”, when we both think of the same thing at the same time.)

Things really crank into gear when you call “Upside-Down Hippo” on someone. That means you can trade places on the board with anyone else unless he or she is able to roll “Hippo Eyes.” To indicate that the game is in “Upside-Down Hippo” mode, you must turn the hippo avatar onto its head. (Hint: the best time to do this is when your opponent is about to pass the “Are You Hungry?” square and get a scoop of kibble.)

The game ends when the players don’t feel like playing anymore, and the winner is he or she who had the most kibble and treats in his or her bowl (which is the collection vehicle for the kibble, played here by black beans). Here we see the hippo on the loose in a bowl of kibble, a situation that would not normally occur during game play.

Lastly, we see Goblin Foo Uvula posing with her “FOGs.” What we do not see is all of the dog toys, dirty laundry, and lint that I Photoshopped out of that picture because it’s easier than actually cleaning my house.

The game is fun and addictive (as fun and addictive as anything associated with my life can possibly be), and so visitors to our home will be forced into whirling a few times around the board as a piggy, a yellow cat, a bunny, a panda bear, a koala bear, or a polar bear. Winners do not get to keep their kibble, but they will cherish a few licks from Azalea Snufflebutt, Anesthesiologist to the Stars (former name: Goblin Foo Uvula).

As my blog comments are still not working, to reserve your space around the Upside-Down Hippo board, or to laud my husband’s brilliance, you must send me an email!


Only 352 Shopping Days Until Christmas

Happy New Year! It is such a beautiful summer’s day here in Mobtown that I thought I would post some photographs taken in the dead of winter, two weeks ago when we celebrated Christmas. Yes, I’m calling it that instead of Secular Winter Holiday because I lost a skirmish in the War on Christmas and ended up getting a tree-actually my first Christmas tree as an adult-which we decorated with Rob’s and Rindy’s family ornaments.

This photo is the least blurry of the ones I took on Christmas morning.

Somewhere, Martha Stewart is cackling with glee, for we also made traditional Christmas gingerbread persons, seen here shortly after disembarking from their spaceship.

Rob and I also lavished our daughter with festive presents, such as the Pink Bunny With Five Heads That Grabs Her Face and the Decomposing Pig’s Femur That Made Her Vomit In The Alley (both by Milton Bradley).

Lastly, as a belated Christmas gift to a world that did not seem to appreciate me as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Demon, here is exclusive footage of a certain Ms. Goblin Foo Uvula (new name: Sparkles Snodgrass, Maytag Repairman) taken just about six years ago. The cat is her estranged sister, Monster Foo Foo. (Hey, Mom, click on the arrow to play the video!)

Tomorrow: Photos of The Most Fabulous Birthday Present Ever