Monday, May 18, 2015

Rave review for 'The True Meaning of Smekday'

So Kelly and I saw the newish kids' movie "Home" twice, and it's hilarious and sweet, with Jim Parsons' dorky Sheldon voice just perfect as the oddball alien, and Rihanna and J.Lo surprisingly good in their parts as well.

Turns out it's based on a children's chapter book called, "The True Meaning of Smekday" by Adam Rex, which is awesome and worth a purchase and read in its own right. Kelly and I were reading it aloud last night and Rob kept overhearing lines and laughing out loud.

Don't think if you've seen "Home," you've read the book. It's very different from the movie--same general plot, but the book goes off in so many wonderful different directions and has so many hilarious jokes. The character voiced by Parsons is called Oh in the movie, ("I have been given this name by my many, many friends," he brags, as they cut to a montage of other Boov moaning "oh...." in disgust as he shows up.) But in the book, he announces that his Boov name cannot be pronounced by humans who don't have two heads, so he selects the name "J.Lo." Which makes the fact that J.Lo ends up playing Tip's mother ("My-mom!") all the funnier.

The main character, Tip, writes it as a series of essays telling future humans about the Boov invasion ("Smekday" is what they rename Christmas, after their leader, Smek.), and that format helps make it so delightfully quotable.

Examples: "At the time, I lived in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was on the eastern side of the United States. The United States was this big country where everybody wore funny T-shirts and ate too much."

"I had learned to drive our car short distances by nailing cans of corn to my church shoes so I could reach the pedals. I made a lot of mistakes at first, and if anyone was walking on the sidewalk at 49th and Pine after dark on March 3rd, 2013, I owe you an apology."

If your kid is anywhere in the 6-11 age bracket, read this to them or with them, whether or not you see "Home." You will want to come into the out now.

Dog gone it

Got to have a special sunny afternoon dog at Chicago's Superdawg with good friends a few years back. The founder died this weekend. There are a lot of regional treasures in America, and Superdawg is certainly one. Sorry, New York, but I think Chicago has the best hot dogs in the world.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

If only I could drive a forklift

Look, I am unemployed. I live in Seattle. I should get this job, and then turn it into a series of crime novels.

I mean, in every cop show ever, doesn't this job just fall to a cop? Who sits behind a barred window and rolls her eyes when our star comes and tries to wheedle a look at the bloody glove, or whatever? If only I could drive a forklift...

Friday, April 03, 2015

Punch that card!

Spotted this today at Kelly's school library. Copyright 1996, but looks more like 1956.

Did not know Abraham from "Walking Dead" was a mainframe technician.

A farerwell to Europe as lost as Atlantis

Don't miss this stunningly sad eulogy for Europe that appeared in the NYT after WWII.

"Mr. LaFarge gives us a last look at a continent as irretrievably lost as Atlantis. Only if Europe could have at least a half-century without the threat of war could it hope to restore its housing to the 1939 level of comfort. Who thinks this is possible when past wars have been only 20 years apart and each more terrible?"

Oh, ye of little faith..Makes me want to hop in a time machine just to tell them that .Europe will rise again. And Tokyo, Berlin and Rome will once again become such fast friends that it will be impossible for future generations to view them as enemies. We'll find more enemies, we always do -- and they'll be doozies.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fake text can be fascinating

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

That's filler text, and if you've done any kind of journalism, design or layout work, you know it well. (If you're lucky, you never forgot and left it in a document and had it published live.)

But do you know what it means, or why we use it? Read on.

Poor Cicero sure had a bloody death and aftermath, huh?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

PEET-sa? What is this witchcraft?

If you think everything in your life has always been around, think again. My parents were full-on adults before they'd first tasted pizza, and Mom always reported that my dad took one bite and spat it out. 

If he'd had this 1947 recipe, I kind of understand. Biscuit mix, cold cuts, sliced cheese and ketchup! 

They also have to tell us how to pronounce "peet-sa," much like Taco Bell in the 1980s actually had pronunciations for "taco" and "burrito" on their menu boards. ("Tah-COH?")

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Captain America Goes to War Against Drugs

I have a pop-culture book room in my basement, and you never know what's in there.

I found this, and have no idea where it came from. It's dated 1990 and has no price, so I suspect it was some kind of freebie given out by schools. Let's take a look, shall we?

What do we learn from this cover?
--In 1990, it was apparently OK to wear maroon and brown clogs with a scary pink miniskirt that is decorated with a merkin.
--A kid with a '60s bandana around her head would certainly boast an '80s ghetto blaster, '50s saddleshoes, and the flag of Honduras as a shirt.
--Rainbow coalition! You'll want a red-haired girl to represent Ireland, an Asian girl who's giving the peace sign for no apparent reason, an angry black kid in a fuschia sweater vest, and a doughy-faced guy with hypertrichosis of the fist.

According to this awesome Cracked article, this comic is just 1 of 2 issues, apparently the first. I can give you the summary of my lone issue. Cap crashes through a skylight into some drug den (all the best drug dens have skylights, improves the resale) and the drug lords, who look like middle-aged dads on a fishing trip, start shooting him with their automatic weapons. But nothing can penetrate Cap's shield, so he saves the day and the FBI has to suck up to him big time,

"Demery"? "Kathleen"? Maybe this is explained in the other comic, but those names feel too specific to be made up. I feel like some comic artist fulfilled a birthday obligation by getting his girlfriend's name in here.

Now pages of backstory where aliens want to conquer earth, blah blah, gonna be tough, bleep bloop, but we humans have a fatal flaw, which is buying small bindles of drugs from crew-cutted dudes wearing headphones and Yale letterman sweaters.

"You couldn't get into Harvard, Yalie!"

Meanwhile, somewhere in an enormous house in the Hamptons (guessing...), Keith Wilson, a member of the Teen Brigade (let's just pretend this is explained in the other comic) whose room is plastered with posters of Captain America, is writing an email to his hero. (They must've both had Prodigy, it was 1990.)  You see, Mitch, on his baseball team was a great baseball player, back in high school. He could throw that speedball by ya, make you look like a fool, boy. But Mitch isn't passing up the speedballs, apparently, because Keith saw him talking to a cowboy-hatted dude and is convinced he's ON SOMETHING.

Which he is, kind of. Powdered Red Bull, or crushed Pop Rocks, or Pixy Stix, who knows? It made him feel better, briefly, and then he felt worse.

Off to the next day's baseball game. Mitch sucks. Some kid that they're all chanting "no batter" at (me?) hits a homer. Then Mitch beans Ricky in the temple and the other team is about to kill him when "some nut in a Captain America costume" shows up.

Then comes the absolute best panel in the comic, where the cops hear the argument and decide "protect and serve my ass," and are just going to ignore it until Captain America almost decapitates them in their patrol car with his shield. Cracked correctly dubs them, "a pair of cops who apparently have no idea what cops do for a living."

Mitch confesses he was high. An ambulance takes Ricky away. The incompetent cops do nothing. Mitch's parents and coach realize that Mitch's personal failures are all their faults for being jerks.

Mitch finds the drug dealer who sold him the Pixy Stix and pops him one and his face awesomely breaks off, BECAUSE HE'S A SPACE ALIEN. And apparently instead of space aliens just transmorgifying into human form, they have to wear those ceramic masks like your grandma bought in the hotel gift shop in New Orleans that one time and hung on her wall forevermore.

But Mitch's troubles aren't over. Turns out Ricky's entire team has somehow changed into street clothes and put those weighted donuts on their bats and are just striding around alleys looking for the guy who beanballed their teammate. They smack him lamely in the stomach and then Cap shows up. Blah blah you can't stop us old man I'm on the school boxing team (1990 schools had boxing teams?), blah blah Cap shows them what for, blah blah they run off in their stylin' puffy purple vests.

AND NOW THE BIG FINISH. With blood pouring from his nose, though he was struck in the belly, Mitch rants that he's heard all the drug speeches. But he hasn't heard this one! Cap tells him that "we're on your side," and that "drugs just destroy the gift you have." Feeling down and unhappy is normal, so suck it up, boy, because you're not gonna be happy 24-7.

Of course it works. Mitch takes all responsibility for using drugs a whole two times and he's clean, even though he tells Cap it was an "alien monster" who gave him the drugs.

SNORT. Cap decides the kid should write science-fiction. "Space monster drug pushers, what an imagination..."

And then he finds grandma's broken mask from Bourbon Street, and you can hear the sad trombone TOLD YA! back on the alien's home planet.

Well, I wouldn't believe Mitch either. He's a drug-using idiot.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Between the crosses, row on row

Now this, people, is a book dedication.

It's from Frances Parkinson Keyes' wonderful "Came a Cavalier," which I'm now reading, and though it's out-of-print, you can buy it for all of one penny (plus shipping) at Amazon.

Here's just one Amazon review:

"Some books are destined to become timeless from the moment they are written. Came a Cavalier is one of them. Having read this as a pre-teen, it has stuck in my mind all these years. I often tried to remember the name of it but was so young when I'd read it that I had no idea the author was so famous for her books. I often tried to find it, but had little details other than "a young American nurse in WWI", which immediately made people say "Never heard of it" thinking perhaps, that WW I had been so long ago, they couldn't possibly have read anything about it. However, I lucked out when someone recognized my few details and led me to the title and author. I immediately went to Amazon hoping that they could get it for me and lucked out again. I sat down and re-read the entire thing in 2 evenings, lost back in the lives of Constance and Tristan, the terrible losses they incurred, the deep devotion for each other and their home and the far away days when I myself was only a young girl enjoying a "grown up" book. The story line itself is filled with every human emotion, the characters so true to life that each one you will already recognize as someone in your own lives; their habits, their foibles, their attitudes are familiar to all of us. Ms. Keyes makes stories come to life and the events of World War I may now only seem to be a few lines in history books, but the cruelties, the horrible loss of men, the leading up to World War II and the atrocities committed against the people of France, the traitors, the heroes...they are all here in this wonderful book. If I had a daughter I would see that she read this for simple enjoyment and received a lesson in history at the same time. Thank you Amazon for carrying not only the "new" authors, but the well loved and long enjoyed ones too!"

You may also find reading about the author to be pretty fascinating -- I did. (I keep pronouncing "Keyes" as if it's "keys," but apparently it rhymes with "skies.") I find a certain peace in the older books, reminding us that our ancestors came through world wars, and surely we can get through our own issues, big and small. Now I want to read all of her other books as well.