I have no intention of writing a novel in one month, so I’m co-opting that NaNoWriMo thing and re-purposing it: one blog post a day for the month of November. Just to get the bloggy juices flowing again.

It’s already November 5th, but that’s okay.

boogie pasta

Philadelphia to Celebrate Mediocrity Via Parade


NOVEMBER 8, 2013 (PHILADELPHIA, PA)–The 2012-2013 Philadelphia Phillies have banded together with the Gin Blossoms, M. Night Shyamalan, the discarded “C” mascot of Commerce Bank, flavored Wawa coffee, Paul Giamatti, and the entire state of Iowa to defend the decent name of all things mediocre. “If dead fish rise to the top of  the fishbowl, we would land squarely in the middle,” explained Rubin Amaro, the most mediocre general manager in all of professional sports.

The parade will take place on Front Street (deemed the Most Adequately Paved Street by the Philadelphia Metro in 2006). It will feature a rare performance by Altoona, a distant runner-up to the brass band that ultimately joined the band Chicago.

The Phillies plan to defend their position in 2014 by signing disgraced Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “What we lose in talent, we will make up in vowels,” said Amaro.

Secret Cinema and secret ballots

Secret Cinema
It’s not very secret if there’s a webpage and a mailing list. But check out Secret Cinema’s Friday night Halloween-grab-bag lineup:

  • The very first Twilight Zone episode from 1959
  • Who’s Out There: a short about the possibility of life on other planets (with Carl Sagan and Orson Welles)
  • The Old House: a vintage haunted house cartoon
  • Weird Women: a 1944 film based on a horror radio program. Lon Chaney, Jr. is a university professor whose career is aided by his wife’s voodoo rites.
  • Other surprises!

All that, and you get to bring your own snacks! Thanks to Sassy J for rounding up the troops.

In completely unrelated news, the soulless office park is currently holding a mock election. We keep running out of ballots, and the office manager keeps printing up new ones, so I suspect that some tomfoolery is afoot. I asked boss-across-the-hall if I could sit in the break room and be a neutral poll monitor, but he said no. Well, don’t come crying to me when the legal department has to come over and sort out the election fraud.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Last night a few of us had free tickets to Philadelphia’s premiere of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I’m never on the list for anything, so I get excited about things like free movie premieres, even when the only giveaways are Disney stickers, a Strasburg Railroad pamphlet, and a bag of low-fat blueberry mini-muffins. Hitchhiker’s Guide isn’t as good as the book, of course–the key is to know that beforehand and just enjoy the movie for what it is. The film alternates between summer blockbuster fare, complete with gratuitous romantic storyline, and a smart, quirky spoof. It doesn’t succeed in either category, but it was a pleasant way to pass a few hours, and I enjoyed seeing how the book translates to the big screen.

Special thanks to Type E for the passes. Other Philly webloggers in attendance were Dave the Lunabomer (who gave the movie three out of five bananas) and Scott Blankbaby (who gave the movie a thumbs-up).

UPDATE: Almost forgot–Marvin, the clinically depressed robot, was excellent in this film.

A Thanksgiving scenario

Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if you were at a Thanksgiving celebration with smart and cultured people like college professors and opera singers and writers and astronomers, all of whom are connected to the best friends of the parents of someone you’re dating, and you accidentally sent a huge hunk of New Zealand cheddar flying across the living room, where it landed at the feet of a Department of Homeland Security employee who is probably adding you to a list of very dangerous people even as we speak?

Arts pick: yellow scrawl

water fountain
In celebration of the spring weather, today’s arts pick is an outdoor installation. One’s natural tendency is to decipher the image being presented. Do the bold, yellow strokes represent an abstract piece, or is there some underlying symbolism (perhaps the artist’s initials)?

This question is irrelevant. Far more important are the placement of the painting and its medium, both of which illustrate the eternal role of art in the human experience. The work is cleverly placed close to the rim of the water fountain, ensuring that it cannot be seen unless someone approaches for a drink. Because this fountain is located in a recreational area full of joggers and bikers, many people arrive and lower their heads to the source of replenishment, only to be shocked by the yellow scrawl. And it’s this encounter that the artist is seeking–a way to link his painting with the most basic of needs.

The theme of art as necessity is also reinforced by the medium. Long after the water has disappeared down the drain, the yellow enamel remains, a reminder that physical nourishment is fleeting and must be accompanied by nourishment of the spirit.

This piece is on display near the Kelly Drive grandstand (Philadelphia).

Fourth of July in Lititz, PA

Lititz fireworks

Lititz fireworks

In Lititz, PA the Fourth of July is a very big deal. Forget Christmas—Fourth of July is THE social event of the year in Lititz.

Volunteers organize several days of festivities in Lititz Springs Park. The Lions Club puts on the all-American small town parade. College students home for the summer reunite with high school friends. Parents tow wagons filled with babies dressed in red, white, and blue . This is Americana at its finest.

2011 marked the 200th July 4th celebration in Lititz (194th if you track by continuous years).

Friday night was the Independence Day Parade. My favorite part was the Rajah Temple String Band from Reading, PA.

Rajah Temple String Band

Rajah Temple String Band

Most kids are wise to the candy situation and bring bags to collect the loot.

parade loot

parade loot

After the parade, we all head down to Lititz Springs Park to do the Twist and the Hand Jive along with Flamin’ Dick and the Hot Rods, the popular, traditional pre-Fourth oldies band.

Saturday is The Big Day, starting with the National Anthem and Bell Ringing and ending with one of the best fireworks displays you’ll see anywhere. Seriously.

Actually, The Big Day starts at 8 AM, when people in the know begin hauling chairs and blankets into the park.  You can set up, leave, and return later in the evening, knowing your stuff will be untouched and waiting.

early bird chairs

early bird chairs

If you’re in the Park early, you can see a “before” glimpse of the upcoming candle display. At 8 AM, the only evidence is some wood over the stream and a few disgruntled ducks.

early morning in the park

early morning in the park

By early evening the candles are in place.

candles ready to go

candles ready to go

The lighting begins after the ultra silly Queen of Candles pageant.

lighting the candles

lighting the candles

This year’s schedule allowed for ample time to admire the candles before the fireworks started.

Type E photographs the candles

Type E photographs the candles

When men with leaf blowers come around to extinguish the flame, it’s time to find the folding chair or blanket you set up at 8 AM and wait for the fireworks.

waiting for the fireworks

waiting for the fireworks

In recent years, the always-spectacular Lititz fireworks have been kicked up a notch with the addition of sound. After all, Lititz is home to Clair Brothers Audio Systems, and they do it up right. Because 2011 was the 200th anniversary of the celebration in the park, the Clairs added even more speakers. Fireworks with surround sound!

Lititz fireworks

Lititz fireworks

Though there could have been a few more patriotic tunes, seeing fireworks perfectly timed to Bohemian Rhapsody in surround sound is pretty impressive. And the grand finale was Sousa—can’t argue with that.

Happy Fourth of July!

Cognitive Therapy

Soulless office park got you down? Are silly internet quizzes ruining your self-esteem? Pants making your butt look big?

Hey, maybe you need a shrink! Who out there couldn’t use some good, old-fashioned therapy? I’ve been thinking about shrinks because NPR’s All Things Considered recently profiled Albert Ellis, a psychologist who was very controversial back in the day. Ellis cooked up something called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which laid the groundwork for modern cognitive therapy.

Basically, Ellis advocates controlling “despair as a result of fundamentally irrational expectations.” In other words, don’t get depressed because back in ’99 you invested your life savings in a company that sold bikini cream on the internet. It’s all about dealing with reality. If you want to turn that frown upside down, I’d like to recommend my neighbor Em as your new shrink. She’s actually a junior high art teacher, but based on a recent conversation, I think she’s got a future as a cognitive therapist:

EM: You know when really bad shit happens? Like, it’s so bad that you can’t even believe it’s happening?
ME: Yep.
EM: Well, you better just fucking believe it’s happening.

Em accepts most health plans. The co-pay is one (1) beer.

Boss-across-the-hall update: comprise versus compose

He is busy making a PowerPoint presentation for Important People. We had words.

Boss-across-the-hall: Please review these slides.
Me: [5 minutes later] Technically, what comprises the e-mail system is incorrect. The whole comprises its parts. The parts compose the whole.
BOTH: Really? Well, I like the way comprises sounds. I’ll keep it.
Me: What about The e-mail system comprises the following items?
BOTH: Nah.

SkyMall catalog: consumer whoredom at 50,000 feet

The SkyMall Catalog. It’s one of the few constants in today’s uncertain airline industry. The carriers can reduce the number of blankets and take away the meals, but travelers can always count on the SkyMall Catalog, a beacon of consumer whoredom, to be waiting for them on the plane, conveniently located in the neighbor’s seat-back.

Imagine every silly catalog you’ve ever received aggregated into one lifestyle-enhancing meta-directory. Do you have problem areas in your yard? Sore calves? Insect bites? Small mailbox? The SkyMall Catalog can help!

It all makes sense at 50,000 feet. Flying is so surreal, with the constant drone, the lack of cell phone chatter, and the people in navy blue demonstrating emergency oxygen procedures before passing out little bags of peanuts, that it doesn’t seem strange to consider spending $895 on Mombasa, the eight foot tall garden giraffe. “Your neighbors are sure to be surprised when Mombasa moves in!”

SkyMall rules, though it does lose some of its luster once the plane has landed and you’re safely back to reality. Below are some fascinating items I discovered on the trip to Montana. Next week, we’ll learn about the “As Seen on TV” store.

From Femail Creations: a glow in the dark pillowcase.

By night the pillowcase glows with empowering messages like; Dream Big, Have Courage, Girls Rock.

From the Ex Officio section: insect-repellent clothing:

Protect the whole family from mosquitoes, ticks and UV rays.
BUZZ OFF Insect Shield Insect Repellant Apparel by Ex Officio is the only insect repellant clothing registered by the EPA. BUZZ OFF apparel gives you the protection of insect repellent spray without having to keep reapplying oily chemicals to your skin.

From the Diversions Catalog: Presidential figures. Collect all six!

At the push of a button, each president’s oral history comes alive with one of 25 authentic phrases in their [sic] actual voices (except for Lincoln).

From Plow and Hearth: the infamous Mock Rock.

Hide unsightly or problem areas in your yard with the Mock Rock. Lightweight and durable, the hollow design is a great solution to pipes, meters or landscaping problems.