Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Painful Prose

Gerald began -- but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash -- to pee.

This could mean only one thing: The winning entries in this year's Bulwer-Lytton Contest have been announced.

Mother of the Year

One of the numerous phenomena that fascinate me is women who "didn't know" they were pregnant. The claim just doesn't seem plausible, somehow.

Try it on for size: I've always been heavy and/or had a bad stomach and/or cramps and/or crazy hormone surges. It never occurred to me that I might be pregnant as a result of the unprotected sex I had back in November.

See what I mean? Men are expert at denying unplanned pregnancies, but it's a much harder act for a woman to pull off.

This gruesome account in today's Post is by far the most extreme case I've heard of.

Something's Really Bugging Me

On the whole I don't think of myself as at all squeamish. But ever since I saw a Discovery program on parasites, this has been one of my worst fears. (The barbed one that swims up your urethra when you pee in a river ranks a close second.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Troubled History

This Guardian slide show highlights 16 structures from English Heritage's long list of landmarks at risk.

Sit a Spell

The old wives' tale had cats stealing babies' breath, but Oscar's taste is more mature.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Overheard in the Berry Patch

A military-looking dad, addressing his young daughter at a pick-your-own farm: "If you do that again, I'm gonna downsize your face with a shovel."

A Womb of One's Own

Now you can leave the world much as you entered it: in a uterus. This custom coffin was commissioned by a gynecologist.

Those fallopian tubes are really going to piss off the gravediggers. They'll be fit to be tied.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Having worked in marketing-based PR*, I'm quite familiar with the concept of niche marketing. However, I didn't realize the practice had extended to narcoleptics. Guess I was napping.

* Don't ask me what that means; I never really figured it out.

100 Degrees of Hotness

This is the most I've ever agreed with one of these silly lists. Mine would have definitely included Enrique Murciano, though.

Details Are in the God

An Indian worker prepares clay to make idols representing Hindu goddess Durga at a workshop in Kumartoli, a village of idol artists in Kolkata, India, on July 22. Idols of Durga, representing the infinite power of the universe, are worshipped by Indian Hindu devotees during the Durga Puja festival in October.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the Road Again

Say your regular car is a Volvo. It's a few years old and no one would ever call it sexy, but you've been through a lot together. Despite a few quirks, it's been very reliable ... until now.

Suddenly the engine blows and you're left without wheels. Repairs are going to take a while -- what to do?

You still have that Caprice Classic that's been collecting acorns out back, but it runs about as well as a three-legged dog. One that's ancient, arthritic, and morbidly obese. A hopeless case, you think, wishing a heavy branch would take care of it once and for all.

Enter Carlos, a mechanic who's made several improvements to the Volvo, customizing it to your particular needs. Having heard of your dilemma, he just shows up one day. After a few questions he dives into work -- and hell if he doesn't have that Caprice purring a couple of hours later. It's no Lamborghini -- Carlos is a craftsman, not a miracle worker -- but it should see you through until the Volvo's fixed (or replaced).

Thanks, Carlos! You de man. I'd already planned to make your work the focus of my fundraising appeal; now I have even more to say.

To readers who are out of the loop (or just exceptionally dim), I'm actually alluding to computers, not cars.

Seems Like Yesterday

A sign rises out of the floodwater and provides a handy resting place for empty milk bottles being collected by milkman Bill Turner at Old Windsor, Buckinghamshire. (Fox Photos/Getty Images, 1954)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Whither the Stiff Upper Lip?

What's going on in the stately tableau beleau? The friend who sent it thinks Philip cut the royal cheddar. Regardless of the backstory, the queen's expression is priceless.

(Click to enlarge.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Wisdom of Tammy Faye

"We're all made out of the same old dirt. Every one of us. There's no one better than the other. That is my philosophy of life. I never forget where I came from."

"They park police cars along here sometimes and everybody slows down, but they have teddy bears in them. I think that is so cute, to see teddy bears sitting in police cars ... and they're just parked every so often to kind of remind people to slow down. In a nice way. I think that is so cute. Teddy bears."

"[In my purse] ... I've got BreathSavers. Gum. Vitamins. Lipstick. Combs. Keys. Old Kleenex. And a Pizza Hut voucher, medium, any way you want it. I got two Allerest. And I've got three cookies."

"I've been living off cookies for a day and a half now. But there's cake somewhere here, and I want some."

"As long as I've got my Diet Coke, I guess I'll be all right."

From The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

Misreading History

David Halberstam's final essay is a typically trenchant look at what can happen when history is misinterpreted.
Despite his recent conversion to history, the president probably still believes, deep down, as do many of his admirers, that the righteous, religious vision he brings to geopolitics is a source of strength — almost as if the less he knows about the issues the better and the truer his decision-making will be....

Those who know history best tend to be tempered by it. They rarely refer to it so sweepingly and with such complete confidence.... Its most important lessons sometimes come cloaked in bitter irony. By no means does it march in a straight line toward the desired result, and the good guys do not always win....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Target Practice

It's not very Quakerly of me, but I find this quite entertaining -- especially when I "miss."

"You're a Star in the Face of the Sky"

When a stranger addresses me on a D.C. street, it's usually either a panhandler asking for money or a lunatic ranting something nonsensical. What a nice change.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Space at the Table

This one's for you, Kay. And for Dan's mother, although I don't think she's a regular reader. (I certainly hope not.)

Yesterday Dan attended a colleague's retirement luncheon, which was held at a family-style barbecue restaurant. How elegant, I thought, until I remembered that mine was in a beer hall (which tells you how very well my boss knew me).

Seated across from Dan was a man with no teeth. No front ones, anyway. What did he choose to eat? A nice tender pulled-pork sammich? Of course not. Ribs. Ribs!

An appetizing image, no?

Simply Barbra

Peach-coloured toilet roll to match her complexion, and rose petals in the toilet bowl. One hundred-and-twenty designer bathroom towels also in peach. Ten highly specified designer floor lamps....

Her list of demands ever since is as varied as it is lengthy. She once demanded staff at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas enter and leave her room backwards (she justified this with the response: "I'm simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful and driven")....
More here if you can stand it.

Looky Loo

I'll let the caption speak for itself:
Edge Designs is an all-women-run company that designs interior office space. They had a recent opportunity to do an office project in NYC.

The client allowed the women of this company a free hand in all design aspects. The client was a company that was also run by all women execs.

The result -- well, we all know that men never talk, never look at each other, and never laugh much in the restroom. The men’s room is a serious and quiet place. But now, with the addition of one mural on the wall, let's just say the men’s restroom is a place of laughter and smiles.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I'd heard about this phenomenon, but I'd never seen a picture. Yowza.

Room for Rent

David Sedaris's latest piece isn't one of his more uproarious, but he's always a good read:
From a distance, her hair looked white, but now I could see that it was streaked with yellow, almost randomly, like snow that had been peed on. If she seemed somewhat mannish, it was the fault of her clothing rather than her features. Both her jacket and her blouse were kitted out with shoulder pads, and when they were worn together she could barely fit through the door. This might be a problem for others, but Rosemary didn’t get out much.
Prince Charles takes a hands-on approach to reviewing the troops.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Helpful Hints

Somewhere in Japan is a vast repository of bizarre videos. Like this one.

Top Gut*



I always had a thing for Val Kilmer; he was such a tasty example of a joli laid. But now, evidently, he's lots o' laid and not joli at all. Maybe all he needs is my loving support.

* Val's filmography presented many possibilities for the title, including Masked and Enormous, Many Too Many, Buffalo Wings of Courage, and of course Fatman Forever. But I'm hoping this is just a phase, not forever.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs,
it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation."

Jean Kerr

Croc You!

There's no telling what will inflame people's passions.

Ever behind the times, I didn't discover Crocs until last summer. My first pair arrived the day before we left for our cruise, and boy was I glad they did. Alaska is wet and none too warm in September; regular shoes would have sprouted ferns by the end of the week. I ordered another pair -- this time without holes -- when we got home.

I like to describe myself as a shut-in, but I go out often enough to know there are lots of Crocs around. Especially at the dog park. I've never seen them worn to the opera, but that's probably because I don't go.

It wasn't until a snippy little piece by The Post's fashion critic that I realized some people were actually offended by Crocs. Girlfriend could use some ExLax, I thought. But she's not alone. In yesterday's Consumed column, Rob Walker described a pair of bustling parallel subcultures: Croc lovers and Croc haters.

I checked out both camps and found the lovers lame and vaguely sad -- not unlike, say, doll collectors. The haters, I figured, would at least be funnier and more creative, yet they were as lame as their counterparts, which was somehow even more depressing. Their entire platform is that Crocs are ugly. Granted. But they're cute-ugly
-- like shar-pei puppies, to quote the friend who turned me on to them. There are plenty of unappealing shoes on the market. It's not like Crocs are the Ann Coulter of footwear, so why the hate?

For a brief moment I got all huffy: The world is going to hell, and these people are spending all this time and effort on a pointless pursuit. But then a chilling awareness set in: I'm even worse, because I'm writing about them.

Mini-Me Meets Mega-Me

The world's tallest man shakes hands with the man hoping to be
officially declared the shortest by the Guinness Book of Records.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Noteworthy Names

The latest installment from the ever-growing list of names that have caught my attention:

(Mrs.) Pat Beaver Chafin
Elaine LaLanne
Carlos Yong-Qing Speck
Crisp B. Flynt
Angelette and Lucki Moody (sisters)
Precious Moody
Fab Camp, Jr.
Verna Holtzclaw
Annie L. Toodle
(Mr.) Babe Ruth Stone
(Mr.) Fontaine Pridgett
Mamie Puffenbarger
Mamie Mumaw
Dandy David Wiles
Rusty Schwimmer
Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey
Violet Berry
Rose Redding
Rosie Gray
Hazel Golden
Hazel Black
Lula Large
Lola Beaver
Girleese Fogle
Bo Foglesong
(Mr.) Wren Hurt
(Mr.) Billie Boy Taylor
(Ms.) Alameda T. Hansborough
Stony Frye
Honey Kudlick
Honeysuckle Weeks
Myrtle Leeks
Lona Funn
Dalyce Feemster
Lurma Rackley
Spurgeon Oglesby
Kitty Painter
Marlene Dietrick
Checkey Wines
Lacey Scango
Enda Hamm
Moe Wadda (environmental services engineer)
Vunella Blow
Essie Mae Nuttall
(Mrs.) Avalou Creech Cherry
(Miss) Charade Fletcher
James Earl Jones
Robert E. Lee deButts Jr.
Ralph Draggs Moore (uncle: Gratin Moore)
Wolf Prix
Nicholas J. Nicholson
Rhoda Booterbaugh
Lloyd Wimp
Luster Groom
Anita Head
(Ms.) Pink Peters

Special bonus: An old friend and frequent contributor sent me this link, which came close to inducing my final choking fit.

Redneck Bride

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Happy Bidet to Me

My new bathroom, if it ever gets built, will have a fancy commode. Not because I love gadgets (I do as a rule, although high-tech turlets creep me out a little), but because I'll take whatever measures I can in the futile fight for dignity. For years I've been dreading the need for ass-wiping assistance; now I'm thinking a Toto could wash away that fear. (Sorry.)

Somehow I seem to have missed the company's marketing blitz. Mark Morford, clearly, did not.

Redneck Gingerbread House

Friday, July 13, 2007

Evolution of a Slob

I'm sure this trippy video contains a profound message*, but hell if I can figure out what it is.

* Besides "No one wants to look at ugly people." I already knew that. No one wants to look at cripples either, so ugly cripples are doubly damned.

Redneck Pet Carrier

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Spare Me My Life!

Tone your body while learning useful English phrases.

Spider in a Beehive

Dear Miss Manners:

What is the proper way to inform someone they have a spider in their hair?

At an open house at my place of business to celebrate our 20th anniversary, one of our clients had a spider in her hair. This client is an older woman, not in the best of health. No one was sure how to broach the subject, since we didn't want to overtly startle her or embarrass her.

What should we have done?

So what did you do? Stare into her hair, waiting to see if the spider would spin her a hairnet?

Oh, yes, you did. Miss Manners admires your fortitude in not screaming "Eeeek!" or plunging your hands into the lady's hair unannounced. But leaving her with a resident spider was not a happy solution.

What you should have done was to say quietly, "I think I see something that has fallen into your hair. May I get it out for you, or would you prefer to go and take care of it?"


A teacher at a London school keeps a record of his pupils' height and weight. The school for ailing boys is running an experiment to prove that boys who have gained in weight and height perform better in the classroom, 1936.
(Parker/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Angel in Heaven

Living the High Life

It's only a matter of time before Kent Couch earns his Darwin Award.

Meet the Jetsons

Boeing has yet to unveil the interior of its new aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner,
but it’s doubtful it will resemble this view of air travel form the 1950s.
(Frederic Lewis/Getty Images)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lookin' Good

"Aging gracefully is supposed to mean trying not to hide time passing and just looking a wreck. Don't worry, girls, look like a wreck, that's the way it goes."

Jeanne Moreau



Unholy Unions

Exhibit A: The less said, the better.

Exhibit B: Diana smiled from on high. Don't miss the slide show for a fuller sense of the My Fair Lady theme.

Irony alert: "Mr. Solomon initially was lukewarm about the idea. The commitment ceremonies between gay couples that he had witnessed 'had been kind of kitschy,' he said."

Monday, July 09, 2007

"There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide
the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't."

Robert Benchley

The Games We Play

An interesting little piece on how we deal with cognitive dissonance
-- you, me, and George W. Bush.

Measuring Up

A recent study confirms two old truisms:

1. Thickness matters more than length -- to women, if not to men.
2. Walt Disney was right -- it really is a small world after all.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"It's hard to argue against cynics -- they always sound
smarter than optimists because they have so much
evidence on their side."

Molly Ivins

Area Consumer Succumbs

Rusty, who worked ... in a time well before the phrase
"working mother" had entered the language, hated old people, Dr. Phil, stupidity and organized religion -- not necessarily in that order.

She loved dogs, debate and the riches of the English language....

She was a hoot and a character and a bit of a crank, but she was usually right and always passionate....

This might well be the best tribute I've ever read.

The Sopranos Meet Mama's Family

You have to laugh. You have to laugh because if you do not laugh you will likely be overcome by a mad desire to stab yourself in the eye with a sharp feral cat and/or shoot yourself in the toe with a high-powered staple gun, over and over again, all while tearing out pages of the United States Constitution and crumpling them into tiny little balls and hurling them into the smoldering firepit of who-the-hell-cares as you shiver in the corner and swig from a bottle of Knob Creek and wail at the moon. Or maybe that's just me.
That's Mark Morford, of course, trying to put the Libby case into perspective.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Gross Gott(fried)

Count Gottfried von Bismarck, a decadent German aristocrat with a colorful history as a reckless heroin addict, outrageous lush, carefree dandy and debauched host of gay sex parties, was found dead Monday in his London home....

Often replete with fishnets, lederhosen, lipstick and top hats, his shindigs have twice ended in death....
I can't wait for The Times' obit.

Little Photoshop of Horrors

What do you get when you cross a celebrity with an average Joe or Joanne? An Ordinary Star.

Ann Coulter as an Amsterdam sex worker.
(Apologies to all Amsterdam sex workers.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

They Just Keep Coming

Yet another definition of irony: a quadriplegic in a Bike to Work Day T-shirt.

What can I say? It was given to me.

Exotic Leftovers

See what happens when you try to be a thoughtful dinner guest?

Last I knew, the proprietress of our dog-walking service had a dog and a cat in her freezer, deceased pets both. She didn't consider it at all strange to keep them there until she got around to burying them. In fact, she once picked up a friend's pet after it had been put down at the vet's and threw it in her freezer until the owner could pick it up. Can you imagine confronting Fluffy's frostbitten face every time you want some Haagen-Dazs?

She also thinks nothing of running sneakers and dog collars through the dishwasher. Needless to say, I've never been over for dinner.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Helpless in the Holler

I'd been putting off hiring a home aide because of the expense and the loss of privacy, which I value far more than money. But on a recent visit, my eminently sensible aunt kicked my ass gently and lovingly over those hurdles by: (a) offering to help with the cost and (b) pointing out that an aide would be almost as big a help to Dan as to me.

That was the easy part.

After more than a decade in Club ALS -- and a lifetime of aging friends and family -- I've heard enough caregiver horror stories to publish a fat, scary anthology of anguish. Yet, as I steeled myself for the inevitable, I was foolishly unaware that the headaches begin before you even hire someone. Now I know better.

So far we've had two strikes.

Candidate A came "highly recommended," though it's a little unclear who did the vouching, as her last patient had died more than a year before. Maybe it came by way of a Ouija board.

She was massively late to the interview, which should have been a red flag, but when she agreed to the duties and asked a reasonable wage, we decided to give her a try. Dan took the day off work to help show her the ropes, and things went decently -- with one graphic exception. Apparently her digestive system had some sort of major ... um, episode ... in the bathroom, the results of which she did not fully deal with, so poor Dan had to clean up after someone who was supposed to be cleaning up after me. (Another definition of irony -- one we could have done without.)

Believe it or not, that wasn't the most disturbing part of the day. As the woman prepared to leave, she suddenly announced that she wanted more money. Why? we asked. She'd set the rate herself the week before. We'd agreed without haggling and hadn't introduced any new duties since the interview. In fact, she'd spent much of the time working her cell phone and sitting on her ass. Despite her certainty that she was worth more, she was unable to express why. When Dan called her that evening to decline, she did an about-face and practically insisted on coming to work at the lower rate. It was all he could do to get off the phone politely.

Candidate B was a longtime caregiver for a friend of mine. When he died, a year and a half ago, I wasn't ready for an aide, but when I heard recently that she was available, I jumped. She came over for an interview, and we both found her warm and kind. Her greatest concern was that the commute would involve a highway, which she claimed was a surprise -- even though said thoroughfare was part of my directions. Never mind, she said, she'd give it a try and see how it went. So we crossed our fingers and Dan took another day off work.

Half an hour after her scheduled arrival this morning, I mused:
"Maybe I should check my email." Sure enough, she'd sent a very polite message at 10:27 last night, turning down the job because of her "absolute terror" of the highway and a conflict with her daughter's summer school schedule. I know fears can creep up on you late at night, but I wasn't aware that school administrators announced schedules after hours. Live and learn.

This is all inevitable, I suppose, when the situation involves crappy work at crappy pay. Maybe if I kiss enough frogs I'll get lucky and find someone with Candidate B's personality and experience but not her phobia (nor her daughter's late-breaking schedule). In the meantime I'm thinking of taking out an ad:

WANTED: Caregiver to bathe, dress & feed ugly lifesize dollbaby. Low pay, no benefits, flex. hrs. Must like dogs & be pleasant w/good hygiene. Male model type a +. No homophobes or proselytizers need apply.


Wouldn't it be awful if Daniel Craig fell in love with you?

My favorite line: "Why don't you come over and I can wow you with my fish-finger pie."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."
Ernest Hemingway

Ice Queen

A couple of years ago, when Dan's parents were visiting, I headed into town alone on Metro to meet a friend at a film festival. It wasn't a big deal to me, but Dan's dad pronounced me "gutsy" -- high praise, coming from him. This was reported to me later, and I cackled, "I'm a gutsy dame!"

I've got nothing on this gal, though.

Newly Approved

Last week UNESCO announced the latest additions to its list of World Heritage Sites, and BBC News responded with one of its great little slide shows.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ready, Willing, and Able

Finally, after 40 years, a whoroscope that fits:

CAPRICORN: You're daring and funny. But don't be irreverent about things that are sacred to other people. On second thought, that you're willing to ''go there'' might be what makes you funny. Just be careful.

Monday, July 02, 2007

"Help! I've Fallen ..."

There was a little frisson of excitement in the Holler this morning when one fire engine, then another, wailed to a stop out front. They were here for the ancient next-door neighbor*; I never figured out why.

She was an original owner when Parkfairfax went condo, 30 years ago, and God only knows how long she lived here before that. She must love the place, because I can hardly imagine a less accessible home for a nonagenarian whose hips have gone bust at least once. It's a two-story unit reached by several flights of winding steps; the only bathroom is upstairs, and even the foyer has steps. We've lived here eight years, and I've seen her three times at most.

The drama happened fairly early; I was still lounging around in my bra and panties and thus decided not to venture outside to gawk. Instead I peered out the kitchen window like the busybody I am. I think the firefighters had to break in, which is why I never lock the door (criminals take note). They hauled up a curious wheeled chair (not a wheelchair) but didn't end up removing her from the premises.

These visits happen periodically; once or twice they've carted her off, but usually not. Personally, I think she does it for the attention -- and who could blame her? A couple of the firemen were droolicious. I briefly considered staging an episode of my own but decided to save it for another day. I want them when they're fresh.

* Interesting fact: Her late ex-husband was the U.S. poet laureate in 1946-47. Maybe that's when she moved here.

Bare Bear Alert

The Discovery Channel is airing a "Man vs. Wild" marathon this Friday. At two p.m. is "European Alps," the episode in which Bear rips off all his clothes, including his adorable Union Jack boxers. You're welcome.

Evelyn Regina

Original caption from 1957: By day, Evelyn Clegg is employed as a civil servant in Whitehall, but she spends her evenings and weekends working at a dairy farm. She was chosen to be Britain's Milk Maid Queen by the Milk Marketing Board.
(Lee Tracey/BIPs/Getty Images)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Then and Now

A historian draws some interesting -- and unexpected -- parallels between George W. Bush and Britain's wartime leaders.

Little Cat Feet

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Passarge of Hamburg dresses up as a cat, complete with furry tail, and dances on wine bottles, June 1958. Her performance was based on a dream, and she practiced for eight hours every day in order to perfect her dance. (Carlo Polito/BIPs/Getty Images)