They grow culture in a petri dish.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What's the Word?

Recently, I've been eating a lot of lunches courtesy of the Gator Dining store at Little Hall. Along with my yummy Mediterranean wraps, I've been buying the baked Lays potato chips or corn chips. A few days ago, I was perusing the bag of said chips and made an odd discovery: at the bottom of the bag, the manufacturer assures the consumer that these chips are "naturally baked." This particular wording gives me pause (and I'm a person who had to think through the whole "Real Cheese" Wording Debacle of yore). What, pray tell, does "naturally" baked mean, and what is the alternative that (I assume) other manufacturers are employing?

Let's think about this for a minute: when something is "baked" by nature, it is usually left in some sunny place for some amount of time, yes? I'm thinking here of cars in parking lots, lizards on hot rocks, and me when I go to the beach. But how does a potato (natural) or a corn chip (unnatural?) get baked naturally? I mean, if you just left a potato out in the sun for a long time, you'd have a naturally...baked potato. But, the "chip"-ing process by which we get said crisps seems pretty artificial already. To naturally get chips, you'd have to have something like potatoes rent by jagged tree limbs that had been struck by lightening. Then left in the hot, hot sun. Of course, this progression of events seems not only improbable but wildly inefficient given America's current chip demand. What's more, the potato chips shown on these bags seem pretty darn artificial. I'm guessing they come from potato batter cut to look like sloppy squares (don't ask me why).

Switching gears, when I think about the term "artificially baked," I'm not reassurred, either. What are other companies cooking with? Plutonium? It...the idea just makes me queasy.

In the end, I'm not sure what to think. One wouldn't want to ask for the whole truth from the Lay's people; it might read something like "genetically-modified, MSG laden, and artificially-processed protato product baked safely." Instead, I think I'm more partial to the no-nonsense version: "Baked. For a less fat tomorrow."

Friday, March 27, 2009

I Adapt to Adversity by Making Pithy Comments and then Running and Hiding (Possible Autobiography Title Number...?)

Don't you hate it when you subscribe to a blog, and the blogger never posts? Yeah, I hate that. Well, I haven't written in quite awhile, and I'm not sure I have anything of substance to say today but--what the hell, right?

This Demotivator reminds me of a line from the movie Get Shorty in which Chili Palmer is telling b-movie producer Harry Zimm that he'd just gotten out of loan-sharking. Harry asks him, "What? The pressure get to be too much for you?," and Chili answers, "Pressure? I'm the one who applied the pressure." Well I, for one, am not the one who applies the pressure. And, if I am, then whatever I'm pressuring tends to break. (See? This is the problem with asking a crabby person to write a blog entry: they'll probably just bitch...)

So, yeah, I'm sort of feeling the pressure and not really coming up diamonds. Ideally, I'd take a two-week vacation right about now and go stay at the beach. I'm a firm believer that there's nothing that a good beach vacation can't cure. Sun, sand, lots of walking, lots of swimming, reading, and the pleasant mind-numbing repetition of the waves. (Oh yeah--and seafood!) An alternative would be to take two weeks off and refinish furniture. I have an itchy sander-trigger finger and a rainbow of stain swatches arching through my brain. Ok, revise that ideal vacation: what if I could refinish furniture at the beach? It''s almost too beautiful to imagine. Of course, I'd probably be doing this in an iron lung. (Those of you who remember my last endeavor sanding furniture might also remember the 4 or so bouts of bronchitis I suffered that fall.)

Instead of wading through the Atlantic surf, I've been wading through the necessities of work. This morning, I've been working on an article that I've been trying to retool since before spring break. I finally teased out a thesis, and now I just need to do a bit more research and a lot more writing. Two of my classes are going really well--my American literature students are interested and engaged with the literature, and the students in my team-taught composition two course are bright and ask important questions. My solo comp two class students? Not so much. I tried my Hail Mary project, and, for the most part, it worked. Even so, I think that my relationship with those students is irrevocably broken.

While this class is a pain in's the other issues that are making me sing Bowie. My roommate just announced that he doesn't want to renew the lease for the fall--a reversal of his earlier stance--and my parents seem engaged in a subtle battle of one-ups-man-ship in terms of medical issues. At this point, I start thinking that I can't be all things to all people. I can't--I know that; my folks understand it, too. But, at times like this, I need somebody to care for me. Right now, I'd rather be one of two pearls in an oyster than a diamond in the rough.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Through his Subtlety of Wit and Deadpan Humor, Charles Brockden Brown Makes Washington Irving Read Like an Early-American Andy Dick

Happy Fourth of July! For this fourth, I've decided to launch a holiday-associated "Love Your American Authors" series. (I know, I know! Too incredibly exciting!) At any rate, a few days ago, I finished Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland: or the Transformation: an American Tale, and let me tell you, it was one of the most exciting boring books I've ever read. Scholars list Brockden Brown's novels in the gothic genre, and, I must say, the man has quite a way with suspense. Following his approach to a narrative cliff-hanger, one must not simply dangle off of the metaphorical cliff, one's hands must be nailed to said cliff. In this manner, the suspense goes on...and on...and on... But I think that people may be overlooking the humor in Brockden Brown's stories.

So (you may be asking), what happens in Weiland? Well, the story centers around the Weiland family who live by themselves in the woods. Wieland, his wife Catherine, their children, and his sister, Clara, enjoy a simple existence and each other's company. Over time, they meet a man, Pleyel, who joins their little society. Pleyel and Weiland are well-matched in their arguments about the importance of faith and one's belief in God (Weiland) versus rational knowledge of the world and a reliance on empirical fact (Pleyel).

One day, Clara meets an odd-looking man who intrigues her. Pleyel recounts his relationship with said man, Carwin, who occasionally visits them as well. But, it seems, members of this group are having problems. For example, Weiland hears Catherine's voice when she can't possibly have been present. Others start to hear voices and start to accuse one another of uncharacteristic actions. Of course, Carwin is to blame—he impersonates the Weilands to escape detection in certain situations and, at times, to flatter his own vanity. Eventually, Weiland hears voices (which he attributes to God) and obeys their dictate to kill his family. Oh Charles! How droll!
So, through this synopsis, you can see how Brockden Brown builds the drama. But what I really loved in this book was the (possibly unintentional) humor. Case in point: seeing Pleyel approach Clara's house, Carwin throws his voice to impersonate Clara as if she were in flagrante delicto with him. Though Clara has been nothing if not wise and chaste, Pleyel believes his ears and confronts her. During this confrontation, he confesses that he has suspected Carwin to be a thief and a murder but has withheld this information from her because—get this—he did not think that she would be in danger. Um, Player? You invited a possible thief and a murder into your circle of friends: your bad. Of course, Pleyel also accuses Clara of being a slattern, which she vehemently denies. Later, Pleyel sees a newspaper report in which details police efforts to capture Carwin. Though he fears for Clara's life, he must verify the report through two sources before going to rescue her (the hilarity continues!). So, to recap, Pleyel bases his knowledge of Clara's promiscuity on her voice (without visual confirmation), but he must independently verify the newspaper report of Carwin's crimes. Twice. In a time of potential danger. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Golden!

Anyhow, back at her house, Carwin has indeed cornered Clara in her room, but he indicates that he has only come to confess. Not to rape her. Even though he could. Um, dude? By throwing your voice, you've already kind of ruined her reputation. Too little, too late. As it turns out, Carwin is responsible for all of the voices that the Weiland family has been hearing except the ones telling Weiland to kill his family. (Tee-hee.) Even so, he saves Clara from being killed by Weiland by throwing the "voice of God" which intones that Clara should be spared.

In the end, Weiland is imprisoned or goes to the nutfarm (I forget). Carwin escapes, and—wonder of all wonders—Clara finally ends up married to Pleyel. The guy, if you will recall, who accused her...of promiscuity. Priceless! So, for those of you familiar with early American literature of the Rip Van Winkle or Sleepy Hollow variety, I think you'll find an engaging and largely unlauded talent in Mr. Brockden Brown. Far from simply making us laugh at our self-constructed fears, he plumbs the humor from our most horrific and shocking moments.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My Favorite LOLCats

Boy, you can tell how slowly your summer is rolling by when you decide to post about LOLCats. At least I can. I'd be tempted to make one of these myself, but my current cat is not mischevious enough. Also, I'm not sure where I put that picture of my last cat rifling through my books—that was pretty damn funny. Eh. Without further ado, here are my top top three favorites thus far:

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mad Interpersonal Skillz, Yo?

So, I should probably relate some highlights from my Summer '07 social calendar. Because, you know, I have some mad skillz when it comes to relating to others. If I were a superhero, I'd be "Polar Girl"—one who has the power to elicit responses from others that are completely opposite from those responses that one desires. Cases in point:

1) I attempt to make a Borders barista adopt me as his fake sister.
Apparently, walking up to some stranger and telling him that he looks just like your brother does not ensure that he'll be willing to act like said brother. Even though you miss said brother, who has moved to New York (love you, Jake!). Admittedly, the adoption of fake family members works much better with fake moms, perhaps because a woman invests years of her life in trying to nurture a fulfilling mother/daugher relationship, and it doesn't always work out biologically. I've had at least two "fake" moms.

2) I scare a toddler to language.
So, lack of experience in the "child" department does not make me entirely useless when it comes to hanging out with them. At a party at Jan's, I met someone's cutie-pie toddler, Silas. We were getting along pretty well, playing a game involving knocking one's head on the floor and hiding behind a blanket (go figure). At one point, I got bored and saw one of those rainstick things. Thinking that young Silas had never seen one, I turned it over. His first response was "guarded curiosity" which bloomed into "full terror" on a second rainstick turn. As crying proved insufficient, he reached out to his mother and uttered a definitive "MAAAAAA!" Fortunately, his mother was so happy with this statement that she overlooked the fact that I'd inadvertently traumatized her child.

3) I try to make a bum go away.
I was on my way to get some pizza at Leo's the other day, and I wanted to get an Alligator, too. There was a bum at the bus stop in front of the newspaper dispenser, and, for once, I thought "what the hell—go ahead and get a paper." When I approached the dispenser, he gives me the "Can I ask you a question?" to which I cut to the chase "Do you need some money? I can give you a dollar." He gets up and starts following me during which time he hugs me for the money. That's right: I got hugged by a hobo. It's cool, I know hobos need love, too. I'm just not sure that I want to be the one to dole it out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I was tooling around eBay the other day in my endless hunt for the Holy Grail of handmade purses, and I came across this curious offering. Admittedly, it's not my type, but I like it marginally better than any of the cloying Vera Bradley offerings. What is truly alarming about this purse, though, is the way the maker is attempting to market it. S/he has it listed as (and I quote) "RETRO, PUNK, EMO FLOWER POWER PRINT FABRIC PURSE, BAG." Wh-HA? While I'm no music scholar, I'm pretty sure that "punk" and "emo" have their own distinct sounds and, I am guessing, styles. And, to the best of my knowledge, neither of them involves "flower power." Moreover, I feel confident in observing that "retro" is a gesture to an earlier style of either fashion or music, but, again, I'm not sure that this crafter was going for either "retro" punk or "retro" emo (whatever that would be at this point). I have...a headache.

With appologies to MC Lars, perhaps it would behoove us to have some official benchmarks for fashion associated with music. Here are my ideas for fabric (and flowers!) that can help us distinguish between musical styles:

Punk: Tartan plaid (100% cotton); black bog rush
Reggae: Unbleached muslin; marajuana leaf
Ska: Gaberdine; pink carnation
Hair band: Black or silver pleather; rose (w/thorn)
Metal: Acid-wash cotton (for jeans/jackets); flower? What flower?
Old School Rap: Kelly green satin (quilted); dandelion
Boy Band: Rayon (a la New Kids); pansy
Grunge: Flannel; piper's harebell
Gangsta Rap: Jersey cotton; an jewelry-type flower made entirely of "bling"
Emo: too-tight cotton-poly (brightly colored); daisies
Whatever Tool is: hell if I know

Monday, June 25, 2007

For the Love of all that is Holy!

I'm not sure what's happening here, but I'm thinking it rhymes with "mermoids". Wh...wh...just why!?! Ok—given—"lanky" Carrot Top was a little offputting. But "bulked-up" Carrot Top isn't doing it for me, either. He looks like he's all oiled up in addition of having busted out of his picnic-tablecloth v-neck—not good. I can't honestly think of an event where this might be appropriate. Well, maybe a WWF tournament but not at any event related to an academy.

On a related note, I have the dirt on why the young gent is no longer allowed into see movies at the Enzian...