Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fallen? Can't Get Up?

Do I have the guy for you! 

Fell while rushing to answer the phone which had fallen
behind the seat cushions of his Lazy-Boy recliner.

Sorry, I can't introduce you by name, but he does have a lot to say for himself, as you can see from the following transcript of his weekly call, provided by Xfinity Voice Mail because I may be in my elder years, but do you think I am demented enough to pick up the phone when the caller is unknown and unidentified? Let alone get sucked into the slimy vortex of a monitoring contract on a no-name plastic panic button.

Voicemail from (622) 259-8471  

"collin(?) I can't get a type of system you seen on TV. Looks like the system is been recommended by thousands of hospitals and medical professionals. Let's see says here that the systems already been paid for. Looks like you're getting the system because you do yourself a friend or family member or maybe even someone(?) you know who's experienced a fall in the past so again. It's already been paid for. So there's no cost to you whatsoever. Also says here that the shipping has already been paid f..."

If only my phone had super-spidey robo-rejecting powers!  But no. The phone line this call is coming in on is not living in the future, so we can't prevent these intrusions, and I am sure what is id'd as a "Phone Number" is just random garbage so why bother to complain. I wish I could forward the calls to "Kevin," the actual real-live nincompoop who calls here frequently to offer us power-washing services, promises to remove our number from the list, and calls again in a couple of weeks.  

You may have noticed that the transcript from Mr. Fallen is a bit, um, incoherent. It's not an artifact of Xfinity's voice recognition system which is pretty good, but having actually listened to this voice mail once, I can tell you that Mr. Fallen really does sound like he is a bit, um, in the bag.

Or perhaps it is he who has fallen and can't get up. I hope so.  I hope he lays there until he mummifies. Or maybe he already has.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Medieval Teenage Assassin Nuns

My high school summer reading list was never like this: in Brittany in the late1400's a young girl escapes from an arranged marriage to a violent lout and is taken in by the Convent of St. Mortain (yes, that is "mort" as in "death") where she is trained as an assassin and then, disguised as a courtesan, sent on missions to save Brittany from the French by poisoning, knifing, and otherwise dispatching villains who've been fingered by Mother Superior.  

My English teacher, Sister St. Sourpuss, would be having a conniption fit, for oh, so many reasons. 

And here's something else to send her into a tailspin: I don't have to lug the book around getting sand and soda pop all over it, I can stick it in my ear, courtesy of Audiobook Sync which pairs a modern Young Adult novel with a classic and distributes them during the summer, courtesy of the publisher's marketeers. I just finished listening to the recent selection blurbed above, Grave Mercy,(Volume 1 of the  His Fair Assassin Trilogy, by Robin LaFevers) which is paired with a full cast recording of Hamlet

I know that I often climb aboard my ancient flivver of doom to spew nostalgia all over the 21st century, but here's a case in which things have clearly improved.  Yes, teenage nun assassins are a bit extreme but, hey, this is actually a fairly well-researched historical novel about the court of Anne de Bretagne, and I applaud stories about young women on a high stakes heroine's journey that doesn't end with a date for the prom.  It sure beats the crap out Cherry Ames, Department Store Nurse or Donna Parker, On Her Own which were considered appropriate "free reading" back in the day.  To those gals the mystery of the missing bracelet or a bad hair day were as challenging as it got. As for the assigned summer reading which included such gems as Mrs. Mike, all I can say is who would you rather read about: a bad-ass medieval assassin girl swanning around court in fancy dress  or a Mountie's wife swatting blackflies and rabid raccoons in East Overshoe, Canada? 

Don't tell Sister St. Sourpuss, but I'm off to order the next of His Fair Assassins, Dark Triumph.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail, Do Not Pass Go,

Do Not Collect $200!"

Back in the day there were no sweeter words in the world. Your Monopoly opponent drew the dreaded Jail Card and had to sit out a turn while you gloated and scurried to advance your own agenda.

Sorry, kids, no longer will you experience that particular thrill of schadenfreude, at least while playing the updated Monopoly Empire, Own the World's Top Brands. According to Hasbro's website Mo-Emp's neatsy-keen features are:

Buy and trade the world's top brands and be first to the top!
Cool brand tokens
Fast, fun gameplay
Watch the Monopoly Empire towers rise and fall

Yes, kids, you can spend your increasingly rare free time striving for world domination through consumer products. How patriotic! And how much fun will you have watching those towers rise and fall? Lots, I'll bet, since you are probably too young to equate towers falling with the fruits of jihad. No worries, though, since we are talking fast, fun gameplay there will be no jail.  

That's right, a no-holds-barred quest for power with no pesky time-outs for bad behavior or bad luck. A dream come true.

Much as I would like remain on the soapbox about the ethical subtext of eliminating the Jail Card, I won't.  I have some sympathy for those traditional game makers who have to concern themselves with "snackability." New games, or versions of old favorites, have to be quick enough to play in the ten-minutes of downtime a child might have between etiquette lessons and vocabulary boot camp. (You can read more about this in the recent Wall St. Journal article Toys for Tight Schedules.)

Unless you owned the Monopoly set, you
 were never ever in a million billion years
going to get to use the Scottie dog or the
racing car. 

I have no nostalgia for those cute little Monopoly tokens of yesteryear, (oh, okay, maybe the iron), and even back in the day the plutocratic Monopoly Man was a bit dated.  The battle against product placement everywhere has everywhere been lost. Time-stressed multi-tasking is a way of life even for toddlers. We all live in Snack World.

But it seems a little sad that a lot of today's kids just don't have the time, even if they had the inclination, to loll about on an old blanket in someone's backyard and play Monopoly for hours. Yes, kids, there was a time when the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" meant sugar-soaked fun, when sun tan lotion was meant to attract rays not repel them, and when "Go directly to jail," didn't sound like the tagline for yet another TV show.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cute Vegetable Overload

Locavore or just plain loca

Here's how I spent high double digits on Wednesday (not including the chicken in the fridge and the scone which I scarfed down before the photo shoot and the foraged cranberry chutney which is hidden so that not just anyone can eat it right out of the jar).

Unedited, UnPotoshopped, UnInstagram'd!
Local produce from the local Farmers' Market.
Doesn't it look good enough to blog, I mean, eat?

Yup! It's summer and it's time for Veggie Pr*n ("pr*n"because of course we don't want to spell out the "p" word do we? I think I can do without comments from anyone who lusts after unseemly, albeit organic, acts with tubers, cucurbits, brassicas or deadly nightshades.)

I'm not such a curmudgeon that I want to return to the days of pallid crunchy "Cello" tomatoes or lettuce=iceberg of my childhood, but sometimes the Farmers' Market is all a bit much. I don't need my produce curated into precious little bunches, and arranged just so on the tables. I don't need the customers who monopolize the attention of the vendors with self-congratulatory questions and eventually move on, coffee in hand, without buying anything else. I really don't need them waltzing around with their vile little dogs, on leashes of course, but on leashes that are a hazard to navigation for those of us who actually want to buy something and get the hell out of there.

I have a vegetable garden and I understand there is nothing cute about the process of getting food out of the ground. Nothing cute about the heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes, the cabbage moths, the lettuce slugs. But no one wants to think about all that when they're buying a beet, and I certainly don't fault the farmers' marketing efforts. I just wish it wasn't such a tourist attraction for dog-walking idlers, and, starting this week it'll be packed with urban parents  with their binky-biters in tow explaining how K is for kale and kale is green and don't worry, I won't actually make you eat any. Bah, Potato Bug!

Bonus Vegetable Content

This didn't make it into the beauty shot, either:  a Caraflex Cabbage, a Welsh variety of the "Conehead" type. Much as I would like to claim credit for the mot, I didn't make that up.

"Tell them you're from Wikipedia."
 "Tell them you're from Wales."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy To Be An American?

Yes!  Proud to be an American? Hm-m-m-m, let me think about that one.

I am grateful as can be to my not-so-distant ancestors who emigrated from the bogs of Ireland and the beet fields of Mittel-Europa when they did, arriving in the US where they made good, enabling me to live a life of privilege and prosperity.  Mostly, I love America. I can do without the Kardashians, but they are undeniably an All-American success story. 

I won't go on and on about all there is to love about the United States, from the Constitution and the BIll of Rights  to ice cream, apple pie and hotdogs for all, from sea to shining sea, although the rockets' red glare gives me a headache.

I especially like the First Amendment even though it means hearing some mighty stupid political remarks from time to time.

But back to the question of  whether or not I am proud to be an American. Today, the answer is "not so much." Bad enough that our phone calls and emails are being spied upon continually by the paranoid and sneaky gnomes of the NSA.  Bad enough that the weasels of Washington try to convince us that all this prying is a for our own good, as though we are a bunch of pre-schoolers who don't know enough to run out and play in the traffic. But the vomit icing on the garbage cake has got to be the monitoring of the mail.  

Under the Mail Isolation and Control Tracking program the exterior of every piece of mail processed, all 160 million pieces of it, is photographed.  In addition, the Mail Covers program allows any law enforcement official to request that postal workers record all information from the outside of envelopes and parcels before it is delivered. 

All this surveillance might explain why it takes so long for a birthday card to get from Boston to Philly, and perhaps why a Priority Mail parcel sent to me on June 14 has yet to arrive, but there is something offensive about monitoring that doesn't require any oversight whatsoever.  Yes, practically speaking, I could give a rat's ass if the government records the fact that I subscribe to the New Yorker or receive too many catalogs for old-age products, but why should there be a record of what banks I patronize, what charities I contribute to, or who sends me a Christmas card?

I knew that privacy is a thing of the past, a quaint little something that we could once take for granted, but there is a difference between being generally characterized by the zip code where you live and being specifically identified by drones whose job it is to spy on its own citizens for the United States government. 

That doesn't make me proud at all, it just makes me sick.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chain Gang Grannies

A Trouserville Public Service Announcement

Fellow agesters, before you take up a life of crime, and end up as a Chain Gang Grannie or Grampy, make sure

1. you have enough marbles left to plan the caper

2.  you are still nimble enough to make a clean getaway

3.  that if you are going to steal a car, choose one that is large enough for your baggage

Don't follow the sad example of the fellow in Australia who, after purchasing a knife at Kmart, went into the parking lot and held a young woman up at knife point, but couldn't make a getaway before the police arrived because he couldn't get his walker and groceries into the car in time.

Oh, dearie me.  He's 0 for 3.

Here's another couple of tips:

4. If you are going to drive around stealing porch plants and garden gnomes, don't assume that your victims have poorer eyesight than you do, or at least rub some mud on your number plate.

An elderly man on a crime spree in Canton, Ohio, drove around taking things from people's porches and lawns, until one of his victims saw him in the act and wrote down his license plate number.

5.  Don't scoff the law in Great Britain.

According to an article in The Daily Mail, police there arrest 40 senior citizens a day for such heinous crimes as "overfilling a wheelie bin" or rollerblading to endanger.

6.  If all else fails, follow the example of the elder statesman of crime, Boston's own Whitey Bulger:  Don't trust anyone, and if you are caught just keep lying and laughing.