Friday, April 29, 2005

Fallen Idol

OK, I'm going to talk about "American Idol." I started not to write this blog, because I don't think any of my tens of viewers actually watch the show. Then again, the dishy Michelle blogs about "The Apprentice," which I wouldn't watch on a bet, but I certainly enjoy reading her recaps.

Now, here's the thing about American Idol (with which I'm dispensing quote-marking from here on out). I don't necessarily like it, but I'm hopelessly addicted to it. I hate everything it stands for, I generally hate the contestants, the music, the judges, the band, the audience, and the host. No, let me correct that. I don't generally hate the host. I specifically hate the host. Seacrest Out indeed. Give me a fuckin' break.

AI starts out with a shitload of people auditioning for and being ridiculed by the judges, and a select few will go on to Hollywood to be ridiculed some more, until 12 people make it to the Big Live Portion of the show. Now, these first auditions are where we see the really bad people. The William Hungs and LeRoy "Can You Dig It" Wellses of the world. This is where Idol gets evil. And that pisses me off because I still laugh and therefore I am evil. I've been corrupted and have bought into this whole spirit of meanness that AI perpetuates a couple of times a year.

How mean is it? Well, let's look at it this way. In each of the 6 or so cities where these first auditions are held, as many as 150,000 people show up. So you know they're auditioning for other people just to get to the Big Three, Randy "Dawg" Jackson, Simon "Cruel But Fair" Cowell, and Paula "Talent? Never Had It, Never Will" Abdul. And that means that the producers are pushing really horribly awful people through just to get them in front of the judges and on TV. For us to laugh at. And sometimes I do. And I'm sorry. Really, I am so sorry.

As an aside, one of this year's jokes, the above-mentioned Leroy Wells, was a particular favorite of mine. A chemically altered young fellow who was a shrimp boat operator by day, Leroy couldn't sing, couldn't dance, probably couldn't read or write, and certainly couldn't speak any form of understandable English. But Leroy was a star, man! He just jumped up and down, waved his arms, pointed at people, and said, "Can you dig it?" And well, yes, I guess I could, because I found him very enjoyable. I mean, there's a place in the world of entertainment for a chemically altered young fellow who can't speak intelligently - isn't that why they have rap music? However, the judges, sadly, could definitely not dig it and not only was Leroy excised from the auditioning process, but it was later reported that he had to watch his national TV debut from the old Vertical Bar Hotel, where he was doing a little time.

Anyway, after the mean-and-ugliness of the first auditions and we're whittled down to twelve, that's when the Big Live Show starts. And the viewers get to vote. And as we all know, when the American Public gets involved in voting for anything, it's gonna get ugly. And so has it been with Idol.

As of this Tuesday's broadcast, only half of the remaining Big Twelve remained. Let's do a brief Mouseketeer Roll-Call, if you please.

We have Carrie. Carrie is the odds-on favorite to win it all. She's blonde, she's bland, she's from the country, and she's everybody's girl-next-door. She leans towards country music and has a voice as big as all outdoors. She smiles a lot, and needless to say, I hate her.

We have Bo. Bo's from Alabama and looks like his personal style evolution ended in 1974. He wears a beard, leather pants and has straight hair falling past his shoulders. He's the oldest guy in the competition, and, going against all my AI principles here, I like him. I like Bo, simply because he's the Anti-Idol. Anybody who gets up there while everyone else is singing Beyonce, Celine, and Barbra and does a blistering version of "Whipping Post" is someone I'm going to align with. And I've aligned with Bo.

We have Anthony. Anthony Federov, who my sister and I simply call "Federov." In quite the same way Seinfeld used to say "Newman." He's the "tug at your heartstrings" candidate. Born in the Ukraine, he came here as a child, had some sort of bodily birth defect that required surgery, and the doctors said he'd probably never talk, and could surely never sing. And as far as I can tell the doctors were about 90% right. Still, he's cute, in a stray dog kind of way, earnest, and benign. He just can't sing. And he has a big indentation in his throat where whatever surgery that was took place.

We have Vonzell. Vonzell is the black lady du jour. Well, that's not fair, because she does have a little-more-than-average voice and seems to be a nice girl. But that's really about all you can say. She wore boots and a cowboy hat one week, and it wasn't even country music week. I guess you could say that about her too.

We have Constantine. Constantine is the other "rocker" in the competition. In fact, early on, cameras followed him to tell his bandmates (who've since been signed by the same record company that signed William Hung) that he was headed to Hollywood for AI. They were pissed, to say the least - told him he'd sold out. Well, the rule is usually you can't sell out if you're not holding onto something in the first place. That's pretty much Constantine. Not a horrible singer, just a horrible poser. Thinks he's a rock star. And if being a rock star is pouting, swinging one's hair, looking doe-eyed into the camera, and making kicking movements at the camera man, well, by damn, he is a rock star! His singing is passable, but it doesn't matter, really. The girls love Connie. I mean, screaming, swooning, panty-throwing love. Probably the only real competition for Blonde Carrie.

And finally we have Scott, possibly the most hated Idol wannabe in the history of the show. Scott's a big old white boy from Cleveland, but I guess that's not his fault. However, what is his fault is that he fancies himself some kind of gangsta-badass-homeboy. This is the contestant who's been arrested for domestic abuse, beating up the mother of his baby. He comes out onstage, all menacing, and begins to sing - and there's the high-pitched voice of an angel coming out of this rough exterior. A very tone-deaf angel. The man couldn't sing a straight note to save his ass. Couple that with his badass attitude and you've got a recipe for a quick trip back to Shaker Heights.

One would think, anyway. And that's the point of this whole blog. Week after week, or should I say week after weak week, when the results are read, there stands Scott, menacing mug leering out at us here in TV-land. Every week you can go and check the online polls - who should get the boot? - and overwhelmingly, all those polls are saying, "Get Scott the hell out of there right now."

And yet, when Ryan Seacrest stops preening himself long enough to announce who's going home, it's never Scott.

So back to this week. Now, without going into too many of the ins and outs, because if you're not a fan of the show you don't care, and have possibly already quit reading by now, when it came time to send someone home, it was fan favorite Constantine. And not only did Scott get to stick around for one more agonizing week, he wasn't even in the bottom three vote-getters.

And as unfortunately begins to happen to me, I started to think. And at the end of my thinking, here's what I decided: The fix is in on American Idol.

This is the third year that, at about this point in the proceedings, a shoo-in for the top two or three amongst the contestants has been "shockingly" ousted while a long undeserver gets to stand up there waving to the crowd for yet another week. And the controversy swirls and people discuss it and it's in the press and Ryan Seacrest preaches to everyone at home how this was all their fault because they maybe only voted 240 times for their favorite instead of the recommended 300.

And nobody would dare miss the next week's episode, just to see that undeserving rat go this time. But the rat sticks around. For yet another week. Yet one more commercial-filled week.

I want to see the fine print of American Idol. I'm sure there's a tiny little codicile in there that says "Producers of the show make final decisions and can alter the outcome of the contest." I'm sure of it.

Will this make me stop watching? Probably not, not this season, not at least until Bo goes away, which could well be next week since news of his prior drug use has become big in the past few days. (Like you could look at a guy like Bo and not know he uses drugs?)

I don't know if I'll care next year, though. It's already waning. I didn't laugh nearly as much during the "mean portion" of the show this year as I have in the past. Or maybe I'll keep watching, just knowing it's fixed.

Like I said, I don't even like the damn show. It's just an addiction.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* By the way, just to set the record straight, I don't actually vote for these guys. I'm not that big of a geek; give me a little credit here.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


It's been what we call in the vernacular one of those days.

There I was enduring an excruciatingly boring day at TheCompanyIWorkFor. And so I did what I normally do under such circumstances. I hit the internet.

Remember how I blogged about (and read about on the radio, no less) TheCompanyIWorkFor and their "restricted" sites? You know, the ones that give you the Red Screen of Death - "Attention! This site is restricted and you can not access it, and furthermore, we now know you've tried to be here and we're telling on you, nanny nanny poo poo." Or words to that effect.

Well, guess what's now restricted by those TheCompanyIWorkFor bastards? Blogger sites!

No more checking my comments, no more "Query Letters I Love," no more "Random Dumb Thoughts," no more "Bitterspice," no more "Flipsycab," no more "Squeeze Reader."

How can I work under these conditions?? Bastards! Bastards all!

After what seemed to be a 12-hour day, finally the pteradactyl crowed and we all slid down the brontosaurus's tail. And we were all finally happy and cheery as we walked out the back door and to our cars.

That's when I got into my car, started it up, backed out, and *crashbangptooooie!* I was ass to ass with another car.

Another car driven by Kath, who works with me.

It was just one of those things. I was backing out turning left, she was backing out turning right, neither of us saw the other, and whammo. She was in Miss Amigo, so her only damage was a tear to her wheel cover. The trusty stalwart podmobile wasn't quite so lucky.

Ouch indeed. (Right you are!)

Well, in the grand scheme of things I'm sure it could have been a lot worse, and I handled it exquisitely, seeing as how it was my buddy and half my fault, and we both just said, "Well, fuck" simultaneously and laughed a lot. Look at that red piece of tail light on my bumper. It stayed there the whole way home!

Anyway, that pretty much sums up my Wednesday.

Betland's Olympic Update:

* Home from band and now heading to watch the tape delay of "American Idol." Paula seemed to sober up this week, guess the gossip's gotten to her. She even criticized two people last night. I liked her better stoned, when she almost fell off her chair.

* Folks, I just need to make an announcement here: My kitchen floor is clean. No, I mean clean. I spent Tuesday night on my hands and knees scrubbing it with amonia water. It's amazing. I'd always thought the graying of the linoleum was just age. Boy, was I wrong.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors....

Yep, I've got to get it off my chest. Again. It's time for more commercial alerts.


I didn't discover this one myself, it was pointed out to me over the weekend by Mr M. Here is a commercial for the famous (is it famous?) fried chicken and biscuit place with a famous (is he famous?) quarterback at the drive-thru, and he's hurling items out of the window and beaning people in the head. And that's basically the commercial.

So first of all, what's the damn point of this commercial? It doesn't advertise the fried chicken and biscuits, it doesn't advertise anything. Are we supposed to believe that there's a big-time pro quarterback working at the Bojangles drive-thru? Is that what pro football players do in the off-season, work at fast food joints, their little microphone headsets securely in place as they wing the food out to the customers? Is this supposed to make us want to go there and buy fried chicken and biscuits, and possibly have those fried chicken and biscuits give us a concussion?

And second of all, who the hell is this guy? They don't tell us. They don't show us the back of his jersey so we can see. I guess who he is is who Bojangles fried chicken and biscuits could afford. But I sure don't know him. Maybe that's it, the point of the commercial. Maybe we're actually two or so years in the future when this hoo-hah, who had no skills other than an arm, footballed himself out and Bojangles fried chicken and biscuits is his life now. In which case, I hope someone kills him soon. Or better yet, kills the dumbass who made came up with this commercial.


Ahhhh, Ditropan. Ditropan and its sister product Detrol. The anti-pee drugs. Detrol is the "Gotta Go, Gotta Go Right Now" pill, and though their commercials are annoying, at least they came up with a cute little anti-pee jingle to amuse us with.

The Ditropan commercials are a little different, a bit more serious. It's a bunch of women telling us their True Confessions. "I can't believe I'm saying this. But sometimes I don't make it to the bathroom." Well, thank you so very much for that information.

I don't want to know that women pee their pants. I know they do it, we've had two women do it right in the offices of TheCompayIWorkFor. But I'd just as soon live my life and go through my days not concerned that women with wet droopy drawers are in my general vicinity. So if you can't make it to the bathroom without pee running down your leg, keep it a secret, OK?

And that's really not even what bothers me about these commercials. In all the anti-pee commercials, have you noticed the women who experience "bladder difficulties?" They're young, they're attractive, they're well-dressed and well-spoken. Some appear to be in their forties, but some appear to be as young as their twenties! I thought the only reason women in their twenties peed their pants is because they were drunk. Well, color me informed.

I notice there's not one single woman on any of these commercials that looks like Miss E, one of our office peers. About 80, with stark white hair, blood red face, a muu-muu-wearing pepperpot of a woman who walked on a walker. I've yet to see one walker in those "I can't make it to the bathroom" commercials. And in fact, wouldn't being on a walker be a great excuse not to make to to the bathroom?

"Damn this walker!"

"Do what I did, Marge - take Ditropan! Now I can take all the time I need maneuvering to the toilet!"

Please. Ditropan. Detrol. Give me one old wrinkled crone who pees her pants. It's not too much to ask.

(And while I'm at it, anti-pee drugs have one of the longer lists of side effects - dry mouth, light sensitivity, blurred vision, dry eyes [I guess everything gets dry], decreased sweating [see?], flushing, upset stomach, drowsiness, fever, fast pulse, heart palpitations, restlessnes [restlessness and drowsiness?], seizures, difficulty urinating [isn't that the point?], hallucinations. Hallucinations? Of what, the desert? )


OK, now I'm the first to admit that I've been a large person for a long time, and I generally hate any product, any corporation, or any individual who promises me I'm going to lose some weight. But this commercial gets on my wick in two separate ways.

The first is that damn woman in the bikini. If you're not familiar with the commercial of which I am speaking (and if you have BBC America, you have to have seen it), it begins with some goon pricing items in a store. And by him walks this woman who's pushing a shopping cart. And the woman just happens to be clad in the tiniest of bikinis, set off oh-so-beautifully with a pair of spike high heels. And of course the goon ogles her as she walks by and the woman exudes an air of happiness that says to the world, "Look at that goon, he's ogling my body. Tee Hee."

Turns out this isn't a model. This is a client, one of the women who does testimonials for the commercial. "Everyone told me, 'You look great to have had three kids,' well, I didn't want to look great for having had three kids!" And so there she is in her bikini, pushing shopping carts and letting men ogle her and shaking her wares for all its worth. "See, everyone? I became small enough to completely exploit myself!"

I'm going to make you a solemn promise right here and now, my bloggers. I don't care if I lose another hundred pounds. I don't care if I lose my entire body weight. You're never going to see me pushing a shopping cart through the Food City in a bikini. Yes, you can have that in writing.

The second is another woman, not in a bikini, near the end of the commercial. She's telling us about how Nutri-System changed her life and how happy she is about it all, and concludes with, "I love being f - thin."

F - ? What? She was going to say something else first, and changed her mind!

And I cannot stand seeing this commercial because of that f - . Was she going to say, "I love being fit?" And then realized, oh these people don't want Nutri-System to be healthier, they just want to be skinny. Was she having a lapse of memory and was going to say, "I love being fat?" Or was she just so damn happy she was getting ready to say, "I love being fuckin' thin," and caught herself at the last minute?

And here's the big question - why the hell didn't the Nutri-System people just edit that out and make her say "I love being thin" all over again without the slip-up? Were they out of money? Had they spent everything on a bikini and heels and taking that first damn woman out somewhere where she could be ogled?

I don't give a shit about the glycemic index. I want to know what the f - meant.


OK, no bitching here. I generally like the Vonage commercials. They're the ones that use the Rock-a-Teens' "Woo Hoo," recorded in the fifties, discovered by Mike and Me, then by Quentin Tarrantino, and now by these guys. I don't know about the Rock-a-Teens or Mike, but I've not seen a penny of royalties.

These commercials show, with "Woo Hoo" blaring in the background, home movies of people doing really dumb things. And that's fine; I like knowing there are people out there doing dumber things than I am.

The latest of these deals with two guys shooting off a rocket in the desert. I won't go into all the details except to say the launch does not go swimmingly, as you might imagine, and turns into a great comedy of errors.

It makes me laugh. I like it. Two thumbs up.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* One more quickie: those commercials for GM and On-Star. They're annoying, sure. But when the music starts and it's supposed to be "Push It" by Salt n Pepa? They're not saying "Push It." They're saying something else that sounds really really dirty.
* We have acrowinners! So, what did the guy really want to say to David Dickenson?
Honorable Mention goes to Flipsycab, with "Egotistical, disgusting, abhorrent, repugnant, overweening dipshit!"
Runner-Up goes to LilyG, with "Eschewing drama, abjectly replied "oh, dear"." (That British reserve.)
Winner goes to DeepFatFriar, with "Every day, Anitques Roadshow outdoes David."
Thanks to all for playing!

Monday, April 25, 2005


Welcome to everyone, that's everyone in the world, yes, all of you are welcome right here to come to my blog for another pee-your-pants-with-excitement round of Acromania!

This week's topic was inspired by something I saw on TV Friday. As you know, one of my two great TV pleasures (along with BBC America's "Cash In The Attic") is BBCAmerica's "Bargain Hunt." Two teams of two get £200 and an hour at a flea market, buy some stuff, then it goes into auction and they see if they can make a profit on their investments. It seldom happens, but when it does it's orgasmic excitement, let me tell you.

Well, Friday one of the teams was a husband and wife. David, the host, was asking the husband about his hobbies, one of them was collecting old and rare whiskeys, and the other was playing the bagpipes. So David said, "Come on, give us a sample," and the guy produces his pipes and starts the wind.

And let me tell you. It was bad, even for the bagpipes. So after about 12 seconds of this atonal air, during which David had his hands over his ears, David says to the guy, "I think you should stick with the whiskey."

And the look on this man's face was priceless. It was - well, I don't know. It was a combination of shock, hurt, and anger that almost would have made me cry had it not been so funny. He never got to reply, they just cut away and straight into the game.

So this week's topic is, "What Did That Bagpipe Player Want To Reply?"

The other rules are the same, everyone gets three entries to try and come up with the perfect acro to this week's topic that also matches the letters below, drawn from a rather windy himself acrobasket. He's Scotch, you know. I'll be judging tomorrow night around 10pm est, and the winners will not get to make a speech. However, the losers will have a chance to tell me exactly what they think, a chance the man on TV never got.

The topic is "What Did That Bagpipe Player Want To Reply?" The letters:


"Amazing Grace," anybody? Or would you rather just acro?

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I've spent a very cold and windy evening watching the nephew play baseball. May I just make the following announcement: His team sucks. He's OK, but his team sucks. There, I've gotten that off my chest.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Picture Sunday

And here I was lamenting about not bringing my camera along with me this weekend. Heh. I still have a buttload of pictures.

So, how did everyone's weekend go? Mine was a good-bad one.

Bad because I spent Saturday at a baby shower. Now, let's be frank here. I hate showers of any kind that don't involve lolling under a stream of hot water. They're dumb, and that's it. However, this one was for someone I know well, the daughter-in-law of my friend San, and a wonderful young lady in her own right, and so I was committed to go.

Good, however, because I won a prize! The first game played was one where you had to match 18 baby names with their meanings. I scored a grand total of 2 on that one; however, since the winner (who happened to be my sister) won with a grand total of 5, I guess I shouldn't have considered it a total washout. But when they got the next game, I knew I was In like Flynn and was gonna Win. It was 10 or so questions where you name kids from movies and TV shows. And true to my word, I got them all right and won a very pretty pair of candles. So there; don't ever let anyone tell you being addicted to pop culture will get you nowhere.

Bad because I woke up Friday morning with what can only be self-diagnosed as a case of gout. In my pinky! I told this to Mr M Saturday morning and his answer was "unlikely." Until the man himself, who is no stranger to gout, you'll remember, took one look at my pinky and said, "Yep, that's gout."

My pinky is currently red, swollen, painful, and looks not unlike a Vienna Sausage, that most unfortunate of processed foods (which my dear nephew, when he was about 4, called Viennable Weenies). It also won't bend, won't hang with the rest of my fingers, and sticks out quite like one of Pippi Longstocking's pigtails. Here's picture one of the poor little fella.

And in case that doesn't give you the full effect, look above. See that ring, there on my ring finger? Well, look what happens when I try to fit it on my pinky.

Ouch. And that hurt. And my pinky is all hot. Mr M says that's because it's inflamed.

Good because look what was waiting for me when I got to Mr M's Saturday. Chocolate Shermans, anyone?

Now are those cool? Mr M and I got a mold on Ebay with several of the Bullwinkle characters. My friend ESP made the actual chocolates, as I'm told she was toying with some ideas for her Passover seder. Hmm, I didn't know Dudley Do-Right was Jewish....

Good because Mr M played in an orchestra concert Saturday night that was, if not long, quite enjoyable. And more good because he gave me (or did I take it?) the "Presentation Tulip" he got from the orchestra after playing. But bad because - well, look what happens when you carry a tulip around in 30 degree weather for an evening.

Oh, dear. That reminds me of something. Something that maybe is best not said.

Yes, let's remain on that "bad." Here it is April 24th in Betland, and I drove home today with snow whirling around me and whapping my windshield as if to say, "Hey, looky here, dipshit! You thought it was Spring, didn't you? HA-ha!" It killed my daffodils, which, to be fair, were on their way out anyway and I'm not at all bothered because I hate the little fuckers and can't wait to pull them up yet again (I must not be getting the roots) to plant something else in their place later on.

Good because even though it's cold, I tried something vaguely creative. Since I was sick of that same old wreath I've had on my door for months, I zipped by (really folks, I zipped) a craft store and bought a few things and made my own damn door arrangement.

So, it's not much. But I like it. Anyway, I bought the stuff, spent a whole half-hour putting it together, and it's staying up there, at least for a while.

And finally, good because it's time for the final card in the current set of recipes du jour. I've got three sets left, and next week will start set number one of those the fair Jellybean sent me. So what does this set end with? A bigass Pizza!

OK. Now I know you won't believe this, but my mother has actually made this pizza! Remember (if you're my age, which none of you are) in your childhood days when there were no pizza places and every pizza you had at home was made out of a box? Well, sometimes my mom would get all creative and make a square pizza, or play around with the toppings, and I'll be damned if she didn't make a green-pepper square pattern, at least once. Could my mom have had these cards??

As this is a set-opening card, there are no serving suggestions on the back, but hell, when you have pizza what else do you need, really? Except Maalox, of course, if you're my dad.

Happy week. Important update below.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* A great blog update: This concert Mr M played in Saturday. At the dress rehearsal Friday, one of the flute players approached him and asked if he'd like to play a concert in a couple of weeks with her daughter's orchestra. Seems that this past Wednesday, with but two rehearsals to go, the clarinestist walked out on them. I'll give you 3 guesses as to who it was and the first 2 don't count.
* I watched "DiG" today for the umpteenth (or was it the eleventy-twelfth) time, since it's now out on DVD. And I got Mr M to watch it! I was sure he'd hate it, but I think he enjoyed it in a "every single person in this movie is a complete idiot" kind of way. And he even got a few belly laughs at the stagefights.
* Oh, yeah - good because I found out the problem from last week with my pictures. Somehow I had it set to centimeters instead of inches for pixels, and fixed it.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

You are a Folkie. Good for you.

What kind of Sixties Person are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

OK, can I interest anyone in a rousing chorus of "The Times They Are A-Changin'?"

Friday, April 22, 2005

What Kind of Fool Am I, or The Second Non-Event of the Week, or Tender Mercies

Sometimes something can come along and hit you in the face, ruining an otherwise happy day. And sometimes something can come along and hit you in the face, thus adding to an already rotten day as one more burden upon your person.

Wednesday what hit my own personal face was of the former type.

It was a slow afternoon at TheCompanyIWorkFor, and the three of us who remained after the boss left were sitting, talking, swapping stories, and generally having a good old hen party. It was about 3:30. And the phone rang.

It was for me. It was Nervous William.

He began his conversation with, "I need a better umbrella, it's raining salt." Nervous William is famous for beginning conversations with sentences like this.

Earlier in the week, one of our local people died. He was just 38 years old. He was an ex of NW's, they lived together for some time. Brought up in one of the most prominent and wealthy families in the area, he led a miserable existence for a long time. He and William were perfect for each other.

Nervous William was calling me to ask me to go to this fellow's wake with him. He had no way to get there, seeing as how he's either lost his driver's license, or is just without wheels from where he set his own car on fire in a rage last year.

And I said, "No, I won't go to the wake with you, but I will drive you there and back."

And I know what you're all thinking at this point. Why in the fucking hell did you say that?

And the answer is simple. Because first and foremost, I am a fool.

However, I'm nothing if not a fool with a good heart. And I knew that this person meant a lot to NW, at least at one time in his life, and that going to the wake was important to him. And that it was me, or he didn't get to go.

The knots in the stomach started almost immediately, especially since he mentioned going out to eat afterwards. Would I make excuses about being terribly busy that night, or would I do as I've done in the past and say simply, "no," or would I finally get the guts to tell him what I really feel about him?

And so as happens with me, I began to think. Too much. Wednesday night gave way to Thursday, and by about Thursday noon I was in knots. I couldn't eat, I couldn't drink.

Then about 4:15 the phone rang and I picked it up. It was William. He thanked me for my offer, but said he wouldn't be needing my services tonight. There was something going on. He was in the definite "down" phase of whatever bipolar thing goes on with him. I don't know if he psyched himself out of going or what.

All I know is that a world of worry flew off me like so many white doves.

I kept telling myself that was my reward. I did something nice by saying yes to the request, and as a reward, I ended up not having to do it after all.

But it's a fleeting relief. Because I know that by offering something this time, I've set myself up for the next time he wants and/or needs something. Hopefully when that day comes, I'll be able to, as I have in the recent past, say, "no," give no explanation, and hang up the phone.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* My nephew now has his actual permanent driver's license. I saw him today, driving around by himself. Damn.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


One of the funniest things I've ever personally witnessed happened just a few months shy of 20 years ago. And though it's certainly not something I dwell upon, every once in a while it'll creep into my head and still give me a good case of the giggles.

Back in 1985 when the World's Fair came to Knoxville, TN, I, my cousin Jacob, and five other folks decided to go down and check it out. We pooled our money and rented a house which turned out to be this huge and beautiful farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere. It had a luscious patio, pool, stables, and loads of bedrooms.

We'd go for a few hours and check out the Fair, inevitably get bored, and head back to the house for drinking, swimming, and basically hanging out having a good time. And believe me, folks - these people we were with? They knew how to have a good time.

So there was me, and Jacob, and G & C, they were a couple back then; R, JW, who could make me break into hopeless fits of laughter with as much as a raised finger or a roll of the eye, and TM. TM was a big, fast-talking, animated teddy-bear of a fellow, country as cornbread.

One afternoon we'd spent a respectable amount of time by the pool sunning and getting sloshed. Then the clouds rolled over and a huge rain and thunderstorm washed us all inside to the dark-paneled and spacious den. We took up residence on the various couches and chairs and talked, giggled, and had an all-around good time.

Then TM got to telling us a story. What was it about? Couldn't possibly tell you. All I know is that he was talking and waving his arms, still in his swim trunks, but with a blanket draped over him. At one point in the story he rose from the couch to start walking towards us, and - one foot got hung between the blanket and floor and poor TM was thrown, whap, face down into the floor.

There were several things that made it so funny, but mostly it was how animated TM was when he was getting up off the couch, and the quick, rude, hard manner in which he was thrown to the floor. I'm not kidding. It is best described as being hurled out of a catapult, but instead of reaching maximum trajectory, being flung down flat in front of the machine. As happens sometimes.

It was a fall not many Hollywood stars could have done better. It was a fall of Keatonish proportions. It was a fall worthy of cartoons.

I don't know if TM was hurt. He was so good-natured that he laughed along with the rest of us and continued his story.

Cut to this past weekend.

I was sitting alone in the dark on the big comfy (comfier than my not-quite-as-comfy couch) burgundy leather sofa at Mr M's. It was about 2:30am, and I was enjoying a clove smoke and that really dumb follow-up they show after "The Antiques Roadshow" where they have segments about missing masterpieces and "Ooops, we were wrong when we said this was priceless, it's actually worth $17."

Suddenly I realized that there in my winter flannelly pj bottoms I was getting pretty hot, and so I got motivated enough to go over to the front door and open it to let some cool air in.

And in a stunning movement of deja-vu, I indeed got my foot caught in the green quilt I had there beside me on the sofa. And as I rose to open the door, I went hurling flat into the floor with a splat. I was holding the remote control, it went flying. My hand landed with a thud against the two VCRs and one DVD player Mr M has stacked against his living room wall.

I stayed there for a second, all sprawled out on the carpet. "Shit, I fell down," I said, almost out loud.

I stayed there a bit longer, then, realizing that nothing hurt, got back up, opened the door, and went back to the sofa. And didn't really think another thing about it.

I wasn't even thinking about it Sunday afternoon, when for the first time in about a year my hand went numb while playing the clarinet.

I didn't start thinking about it till I noticed in the car almost back in B'field that my pinky hurt. And it was still quite a bit later than that when I actually looked at the pinky.

It was swollen to about twice its size, and it was all purple. I actually hurt myself!

It was sore for a couple of days, but now the pain is gone, the swelling's gone, and it's only slightly mauve.

So it was a non-event. Except - except it got me to thinking about that afternoon in 1985 and how hard we laughed at TM when he went hurling to the floor. And I've thought about it many times since.

And that, my friends, was worth a swollen purple pinky.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Well, folks, we have a new Pope. Benedict. It's no Clement or Innocent, but it ain't bad. He may or may not be related to the guy who played Cliff on "Cheers," and he's as far as I know the first Pope who was also a member of the Hitler Youth. But he swears he was forced into it. I hope he's telling the truth.
* We have Acrowinners! So why are we so afraid of taxes?
Honorable Mention: Flipsycab, with "Republicans possessing our bleak earnings."
Runner-up: DeepFatFriar, with "Regular people, often broke, extorted."
And this week's winner: Stennie, with "Refund puny, only buys envelope."
Thanks to all who played! You've all done very well!

Monday, April 18, 2005


Hello lads and lasses, hims and hers, boys and girls, and everyone in between, and I think we all know who we are, right? It's time for another Oh-Joy-Monday's-Finally-Over round of Acromania!

Well, aren't I just the little accomplisher this week? The cabinets are done, the faucet is in, the movie list is updated, and in a stunning move, yes, I finally managed to file my state income taxes. I've been hedging and hedging on them. I got the federals done around the 23d of March, but just couldn't make myself go the extra mile and do the states. (We have till May 1st here.) And it's just plain dumb, because I'm getting a refund. I just wasn't ready for the hassle.

So tonight I girded my loins and hit the computer to e-file. It took a total of 16 minutes. Totally quick and painless and not a single tear shed. Boy, don't I feel silly. Then again, when do I not feel silly?

So in honor of me, this week's acrotopic shall be, "And Why Are We So Afraid of Taxes?" Lots of possibilities there, as people can be afraid of anything they want for any reason they want. This is almost like a freebie!

The rules are the same as always. Everyone gets three entries to come up with the best acronym they can that matches the topic and the letters, which are drawn from a recently audited acrobasket. (He often cheats on his taxes, doesn't declare the true letter values and such.) I'll be judging tomorrow night at about 10pm est, and announcing the winners, who'll be rewarded with large refund checks, and losers, who'll be sent directly to debtor's prison.

So remember, the topic is, "And Why Are We So Afraid of Taxes?" The letters:


Wow. When you rearrange those letters you get "probe." Which is exactly what the Tax People do. Eerie.

Now, start itemizing!

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Imagine my shock and horror when I turned on an old episode of "The Avengers" today and saw Steed and Emma Peel sucking each other's faces off. Was there something between them I hadn't known about? Turns out it was all a harmless farce when their personalities were switched with another couple's in a homemade mind-meld machine. Ohhh, that. That happens to me all the time.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Picture Sunday

And a jam-packed Picture Sunday it is, let me tell you.

Weather in Betland was wonderful this week. Spent Saturday and some of today in B'burg, where today saw the arrival of - Herschel!

Herschel is a woodchuck who has a small apartment on the grounds of Chez M, aka Poderosa East. He's Sherman's friend. Their friendship started quite adversarially when Herschel attacked Sherman's gardening hoe. But they soon became fast friends, and he's been waiting all winter for H to make his return appearance.

It's funny, because we've discovered that Herschel likes clarinet music. Must be, anyway, because every time we played, there he'd be, up on Mr M's deck. He was up there a good four times during the duets today.

Speaking of my little boy, let's get to Picture Number One of which shall be many.

Wednesday night was band practice, of course, and since we'd just completed our successful Spring Concert, there were some Band Awards given out. Some were for attendance, some were for people who went above and beyond the call of duty for the band. But at one point they called me to the front of the room.

I knew I hadn't done anything special for the band, and due to my April 2005 absences I didn't have stellar attendance, so I was a bit surprised. Imagine my complete bliss when I was given an award for - the smallest instrument. Sherman's clarinet. I accepted gratefully on his behalf, and The Boy was chuffed he was mentioned.

Now, to the big news. I'm tired.

But why am I tired, you ask. It's because I've been cleaning up my kitchen.

Cabinet Hell is complete! Yes folks, it's been, what, four weeks? But it's done, it looks good, and I couldn't be happier. You waited patiently for these (much more patiently than I did, that's for damn sure), and now you shall see the results.

First of all, pics of the old cabinets.

Now, and without further ado, may I proudly present, and believe me folks, I know you're going to like them, and maybe they were worth all the heartache, my new cabinets!

But wait! Don't pee your pants, but there's more. Now, I know this picture isn't going to mean a lot to you, but mere words cannot express what it means to me.

Along with finishing up the sanding on the cabinets, Mr M, aka Captain Asshole, aka my personal superhero, replaced my faucet.

Now, I don't think I've told you about my faucet. It was bad. It was very bad. It was so bad that, well, OK. Spit. No, go ahead, spit. There. What you just spit? It was about four times bigger than the stream of water that came out of my faucet. It took approximately 10 minutes to fill up my coffee pot, and it's only a four-cupper. Filling a regular sized pot? Well, days. In fact, the only way I could wash dishes was with the hose attachment.

So imagine my utter bliss when the new faucet was up and going. And also imagine my undying grattitude when I got out of bed Saturday morning and coming upon Mr M, once again flat on his back in the kitchen floor, fixing the tiny leak the pipes had the night before.

Now, how's that for perseverance?

And finally, I can't let you go without the recipe du jour. And it's funny, even though this one's been in my "to go" pile for some time, I kept passing it over because it's so bad I was sure I must have published it already. But I checked, and no go. So here it is for your retching enjoyment, the superb Creamed Beef.

Maybe it's so familiar to me because it has that stalwart of recipe card ingredients, the ever-popular dog's vomit. Right there over the beef. On the biscuit. And looky, there's a big pepper on the asparagus. When I first saw it I thought, "Holy shit, they've left the rubber band on the bunch of asparagus!" But it's all decoration.

The card says it's the chipped beef, biscuits, asparagus, and some ambrosia, which is evidently hiding in the oh-so-fashionable coffee pot. Tell you what, just skip the beef and dog's vomit, give me a large coffee.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Face update: Still bad. Saturday morning was so bad I cried when I got up and looked in the mirror. I nursed it all day and most of today, but during movie time this evening I lapsed. It's bad again. I guess I'm going to have to cut my hands off.
* Well, this is certainly odd. Look at how little all my pictures are! I made them all the same size I normally do. Blogger must be doing something weird. Oh well, hope they're still big enough to enjoy.
* Bleh. They're blurry, too. And that creamed beef was so exquisite.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Well Manicured Lawn

I really wanted to blog tonight, but realized I don't have much to say. But then again, when did that ever stop me before?

After two really good nights' sleep, insomnia struck again last night. Well, that's a lie, actually. It didn't strike so much as I induced it.

I had to get up yesterday at the crack of dawn for a TheCompanyIWorkFor meeting. There's just something unnatural about getting up when it's still dark outside. It's wrong. Therefore, to ensure my arrival in A'don without falling asleep at the wheel, I drank a jumbo cup of coffee. On an empty stomach. Never a good idea for me.

I was so fuckin' wired the entire day it was almost embarrassing. I was talking like a meth addict. I was even telling my friend a story about a client we have - and the story had a point, there was a reason for it - but I went into such a description of why this was my favorite client that I completely forgot why I was telling the story. A brain fart of such huge proportions it scared me for a minute. I think my friend knew I "wasn't myself," but was too nice to say anything.

Then it was the 2 hours back to B'field, pick up a horn, and the hour and a half to B'burg for band. I almost didn't go because it was cold and rainy and I was tired, but I'm glad I did. We sightread a bunch of stuff in the folder, I played moderately well, and I like hanging out with those band folks. They make me happy.

Afterwards it was to Mr M's for, yes, two more cups of coffee. OK. So how dumb am I?

Anyhoo, after a couple hours sleep, finally, it was time for work today. I'd been asleep so little I couldn't even get my contact lenses in, and had to spend the day in glasses.

So on my afternoon off instead of doing all the things I had planned, I went to the grocery then had a four hour sleep in the Comfy Chair. It's OK, though. I needed it.

I've realized I haven't told you my mowing story. As you all know, I lost my dear, brave, valiant, stalwart Mowing Boy to the Navy. I'd planned on letting the nephew be the new mower, he'd expressed interest, but in my heart I know that's not a good appointment because he's into so much else, and knows I'd never say anything to him if he was lax in his duties. So I have someone else now instead.

It is - Mowing Dad.

The other week at work I got a phone call from Mowing Boy's dad, who's also a client. As you know, he sometimes came along with Mowing Boy to edge or weed-whack. He said that he was thinking about keeping some of Mowing Boy's yards if people were interested, and was I. So I went ahead and said, sure. I mean, sure, he's no Mowing Boy, but he's related, right?

So after I finally woke up enough today to get my wits about me and start moving, I went to the kitchen sink to wash up my coffee pot. It was just starting to get dark. And I looked out my window and noticed that my very shaggy yard was now all mowed and trimmed and neat. Mowing Dad was here!

So I went to the door, but didn't see his truck. I did, however, notice that the front yard was also done. That meant Mowing Dad had already finished the job and left.

Now, my car was in the driveway all afternoon, and I had both my front and dennette doors open. I can only imagine that he came to the door for payment when he was through and never woke me up. I find this extremely hard to imagine if he rang the bell, it's very loud. And if he came to the front door, then I'm sure he saw me there asleep.

I don't know. Maybe he saw me there asleep, and didn't even try. Or maybe my sleep was so deep he did try, to no avail.

Embarrassing, sure. But at least I didn't meet him at the door in a towel, like I did his Boy.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Well, tonight I got the new shoe rack up. The old shoe rack, which I had to painstakingly put together, broke about a week after I had it, and all my shoes kept falling off it. This one was a no-assembly bag-type thing, and holds as many shoes. Hopefully it'll last a little longer.
* That Gael Garcia Bernal's a looker, isn't he?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

(Don't say I didn't warn you.)

And A Surgery Blog You Shall Have

Last week, while I was handling and hinging and sniffling and snotting and punching my garbage bag into submission, and tearing the skin off my face and feeling abandoned and then feeling guilty for feeling abandoned, I passed something of a milestone.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005, was the one-year anniversary of my surgery.

I celebrated by, well, actually, I didn't celebrate it at all. I celebrated the day before by dropping almost $200 on some summer clothes. But now that I'm more back to my old self, I'm kind of sorry I didn't celebrate. With a drink, or a movie, or, well, even a blog.

The day before said anniversary was the day of my one year medical checkup. That's the day I got to meet my new surgeon. Well, wait. I don't guess he's my new surgeon, since my surgery's over. He replaced my old surgeon, who retired in October. He's my new doctor. Specialist. Whatever.

New Dr was OK. He was friendly and personable, and not mean or rude to me. He was just no Dr Davies. I can say with reckless abandon that Dr Davies was my White Knight. I love him in a way you can only love a man who's held your intestines in his hands.

I knew from the start the New Guy was not Dr Davies because I had to wait. See, Dr D was an ex-military man. When you had an appointment at 10:00, he was there in your face at 10:00. My appointment Monday was for 1:15. The woman who came in behind me had an appointment for 1:30. It was about 1:45 before I got to see New Guy, after waiting on a tissue paper-covered table by myself without even a picture of "The Doctor," starring John Cusack and US Grant, to keep me company.

And like I said, he was nice. He was talkative and cheery, and seemed to be happy with my progress. To a point. It was something like a TheCompanyIWorkFor meeting. See, any compliment that comes from the corporate weasels at TheCompanyIWorkFor is followed by a "but." There were several years of work where we in the office thought our names actually were But; "You're doing a good job here, but...."

And so I got my but.

He liked my weight loss, and to be honest, I did too, because for the first time the office scales did me better than my scales at home. He liked my blood pressure. He didn't, however, like the fact that my exercise has reduced to approximately zero. (I say "approximately zero" because they don't allow negative hours of exercise.) As I mentioned in my surgery blog, my only sin there was the sin of honesty. I would have loved to have said I was up to 3 miles a day, but I have this habit of being exceedingly honest when I don't necessarily want to be. And so I got the big lecture. In a friendly way, of course.

Then New Dr told me his personal theory about this surgery. Which was this. It's his theory, and it's his, Dr New Guy brackets. Ahem. Ahem. This is his theory: that we should forget the accepted notion that after a year or so, the rapid weight loss ends and the slow steady weight loss begins. He told me there's no reason I shouldn't lose just as much weight in the coming year as I did in the past year. He also said the accepted notion that surgery can be considered a success if a patient loses 70% of his/her excess body weight is bullshit. (Well, he didn't say bullshit, but I got the general idea.) He said, his words, not mine, that if a patient doesn't end up at his/her ideal body weight, the surgery can be considered "a failure."

Hey, that's encouraging!

Well, actually it is encouraging - if you get to pick your ideal weight. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

So I asked New Dr exactly what he meant by "ideal weight." And he started doing some figuring. He wrote down how much I'd lost, and what my "ideal" weight was, and how much I should still have to go.

My ideal weight? 110 pounds.

My ass! I weighed 110 when I was in the fourth grade! (Sorry, I guess that was too much information.)

Sooooo...not only am I supposed to lose yet another person (I've already lost one), but do it in the next year. And if I don't my surgery will be considered a failure. Wonder if that means I can get my money back?

Anyway, he ordered me to keep a 7-day food diary and when it's through to go have another consult with the dietician, who's really nice and I like her a lot. I'm only on the second day of my diary, and I can already tell exactly what she's going to say about it. (Hey, the expert mindreader has no "off" switch.) 1) I'm not getting in enough water. Plain and simple. I already know that. 2) I'm getting too much of my protein from "fake" sources, ie protein bars and drinks, instead of food. Don't know why, I just think she'll say something about that. 3) I have no variety whatsoever in my diet. Instead of having a meat and vegetable and salad, I just have one thing. One cup of soup. One scoop of tuna salad. One crabcake. That's a meal. I'm woefully short on vegetables. I'm big on "monomeals."

I also, the day I meet with the nutritionist, have to have a shitload of labwork done. But that's a good thing, I guess, seeing as how I really haven't had any done since my surgery. I'll be interested to see what all of my levels are at this point. Even if I know that it's going to be expensive, and let's all remember that I do have the Never Pay insurance policy.

So that was the clinical side of my one year. How about the "me" side?

At my doctor's appointment, my total of weight loss for the year was 124 pounds. I've gone from taking four different prescribed medications daily to taking none. (Which is not to say I'm not always popping pills. I take calcium, and vitamins by the handfulls. ) I've gone from having constant knee and foot pain, and occasional back pain, to having none. I've gone from having no energy whatsoever to enjoying getting out, walking, doing things, shopping, et cetera. I like buying new clothes and jewelry. And shoes. I like not feeling every second like I'm going to die. No, let me correct that. I love those things.

And yet, I feel like I'd be dishonest if I didn't say this - it's not all hats and horns. I get sick sometimes. Not often, I've been really lucky in that respect, but enough. I don't like going out with people and having to go puke in the restroom. I don't like pulling over and puking out the door of my car. I don't always like having to think about what I eat. It's odd, because I'm really pretty adaptable about it all, I can find something to eat in almost any restuarant you'd take me to. But rather than just put my brain on autopilot and head to the nearest fast food joint at lunch, I have to make myself think about who has what that I can safely eat. And at the end of the thinking I just generally go home. And yes, there are foods that I miss. But so far, I haven't missed any enough to try them again and risk being sick.

And most important? Something I knew going into it all. I was told, but I still already knew. Having surgery and losing a bunch of weight will not, and did not, solve my problems. It hasn't made anyone love me, or even like me. I'm still a slob. I still have an exceedingly low opinion of myself. I don't write better, or play the clarinet better, or do anything better because of a weight loss.

Maybe all that sinking in has caused my most recent depressive phase. Or maybe it's the little irksome things, like having occasional heartburn, and hot flashes, and acne. Maybe it's that for 10 1/2 months I was feeling so good that now when little things happen, they hit me harder. Pre-surgery it would have all been par for the course; now, when something happens it's like, "Hey. I'm healthy. I'm not supposed to be this way."

Maybe. Maybe it's something else altogether. I'm not sure I know at this point.

And maybe I'm not supposed to know at this point. All I know is that it's a year out, and I feel good. I even feel better about myself. I even feel I've accomplished something.

Happy birthday to me. Even if it is belated by a week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Commercial alert: Why is it that on television, whenever someone gets something dumped on them, they don't flinch. I noticed today in that awful DishTV commercial that ends with the wife dumping a bowl of popcorn on her husband's head. Then I got to thinking about it. On TV, no matter what's dumped onto a person, they just sit there and let it drip.
* We have Acrowinners! A small turnout, but nine great acros, any one of which would make a fitting royal winner. Results:
Honorable Mention: LilyG, with "Prince took his beloved. Very ho-hum." (very true)
Runner-Up: DeepFatFriar, with "Princely twit, horney bitch vow haphazardly." (also very true)
Winner: Mike, with "Pity the hired band: Van Halen." (not true, but priceless)

Monday, April 11, 2005


Hello to all in acroland. After a little absence, guess who should come back like the bad penny he is? That's right - it's acrmania.

I have a topic for you this week. Actually, it's the same topic as I had for you last week when acro went on hold. But it's still relatively timely, I suppose. The topic this week is "The Royal Wedding." Yes, get ready to start making acros about everyone's favorite, Prince Charles, and his new horse - uh, bride, Camilla.

The rules are the same as always. Everyone gets three entries to come up with the best acronyms they can that match the topic and the letters below, which were drawn from the hoplelessly regal acrobasket. Then tomorrow night at 10pm est, I shall judge the entries and pick the winners, which will receive a week-old piece of royal wedding cake. The losers will be taken to the dungeon to await beheading.

So, the topic is "The Royal Wedding." The letters are:


And now....acro!

Betland's Olympic Update:
* The thing I hate about full-blown warm and sunny spring - it's 100 times harder going in to work on Monday mornings. Boy, did I want to play hooky today.
* My movie-watching seems to have come to a standstill. Someone kick my ass, please.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Picture Sunday

Hello, hello all my friends. Yes, it's Sunday yet again, they roll around way too quickly, and that means it's time for another mind-numbing edition of Picture Sunday.

However - the question begs - how do you have Picture Sunday if you have no pictures?

First of all, the cabinets are done. Well, almost. They're hung, but most have to be resanded, and some handles re-lined, and there's been no cleaning up on my part since the night I punched my garbage bag into submission. So there's no way I'm going to print pictures under those circumstances. They will come, though. I keep telling myself that, anyway.

And the thing of it is, I even had my camera with me this weekend. But only one picture was snapped, and that wasn't even by me.

So in the tradition of Nightly News, and with a tip to the Michael Jackson trial, tonight you're going to get artist's renderings of Picture Sunday. Maybe on down the road some we can take a cue from Court TV and take pictures of some actor re-enacting my weekend.

Anyway, the Community Band's annual Spring Concert was Saturday. I was more than a little worried. Several very difficult songs, and a huge potential for disaster. However, we stepped up to the occasion and the concert went extremely well. Some of the songs had me very surprised. Everyone was on their best playing behavior, and we not only sounded good, but had a good time as well. (Sometimes the two don't mix.)

Mr M had a solo piece Saturday night. It's a number he's done with the Sauerkrauters, and Ed decided he should do it with the Community Band. It's a funny little German song called "Immer Kleiner." Immer kleiner means "always smaller." So as you might guess, as the song goes on, he takes a piece off his horn till he ends up playing only the mouthpiece. It went better than he's ever played it. But the real treat for me was the introduction.

See, when we're in SK Band, there's all kinds of opportunities for schtick. Not so a fancy concert. Mr M & Ed were both at odds as how to handle it all. So at the last minute, as he was being introduced, Mr M decided to just do what he does best - be himself. So he came out and was a total asshole, kept saying he was late and had to get somewhere after all this and would Ed please stop jawing and let's get things on the road. It was hilarious. The crowd as well as the band were in stitches, and I think he may have missed his calling as a comedian.

I was truly proud of Mr M.

Anyway, had you been there to see us Saturday night, we might have looked exactly like this.

Or not.

Then today, I can say to you all that I did something I've never done in my entire life.

My friend ESP asked me if I wanted to go to an archery shoot with her and her son. I really hedged at going because I was sure I'd make a colossal fool of myself, but in the end I wanted to get out and we hadn't seen each other since last week, so I said "why not."

She fixed us lunch (baked apples with brown sugar Sweet n Low - how good does it get?), then we headed out to Virginia Tech for the thing. It was just some people who like to shoot bows and arrows, shooting at styrofoam boards. Everyone was very nice, and a lady gave me a bow and some arrows and finger protection things and told me what to do.

Wow. I seem to be aiming quite low. Which, of course, can only lead to disaster.

OK, OK. I didn't hit a single person while I was there. In fact, I kinda felt like I was starting to get the hang of it by the time it was all over. I never hit the rubber toy hippo or the styrofoam piece they put on top of the board (I liked the hippo, I really wanted to hit him), but I also hit the boards several times, and all of my arrows went outwards instead of just flopping at my feet, which is what I was totally expecting.

Hurrah for doing something new.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for - a real picture, the recipe du jour. Hold on to your hats, it's apple dumplings!

This looks like a perfectly fine apple dumpling. In fact, it looks exactly like the kind you buy frozen in the Sara Lee department. But who cares about the dumpling. Look above it. Look at that sausage! That is so totally pornographic I'm almost embarrassed to publish it in my blog.


Bon appetit, so to speak.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Hey, looky below what I did. I changed my blogger user name. I got so sick of commenting in yall's blogs as EK and figuring you wouldn't know who I was, so adding "Bet" afterwards. So I just went ahead and changed myself to Bet. However, I shall remain "anonymous" if I'm commenting from TheCompanyIWorkFor.
* Speaking of which, that weasel Ken Jennings. Wins $2.5 million on "Jeopardy" and is now pulling down some more endorsing every product known to man. The most recent being an insurance company. TheCompanyIDon'tWorkFor.
* OK. So I took some liberties with the self-portrait. I haven't lost that much weight.

Friday, April 08, 2005

(Disclaimer: Not only is this probably the longest blog entry I've ever published, even longer than the "Barbie" posts of some years ago, but it also contains a blog-within-a-blog. Two blogs for the price of one! Sorry for the length. Can't you see I'm venting here?)

Going Postal, or The Return of Roberto, or Can You Believe The Nerve?

So. I told you I'd let you know about what's causing me to climb from the depths of my numbing depression. I'm still not all the way out, but I'm working on it - and you know, I just realized I said a mouthful when I said "numbing." Cause that's what it's been basically. I've just been numb. But not to worry, friends. I shall survive.

Anyway. Does everyone remember that I play the clarinet? OK, good, got that out of the way. Remember that a while back I was groovin' in a clarinet quartet that was me, whiz-kid MP, Mr M, and, well, for the sake of this blog we'll call him Roberto. Then quicker than you can say *pbbbt!* quartet was over. It ended with a whimper, which was odd considering that there was a huge bang right before the eventual whimpering.

The dissolution of the Never To Be Named Clarinet Quartet was very upsetting to me. I liked playing in it, and it was doing me a lot of good in the musicality department. And so just like a distraught woman in old movies would sit down at a piano to play away her emotional pain, I sat down and wrote a long blog about the end of quartet. But I didn't publish it. I didn't publish it out of respect to Roberto. I sent a link to it to a few close friends, but I didn't publish it for the world to see.

Well, here it is. Any respect I had for Roberto is long since burned away like a thousand hot suns, and I've got to tell the story. If you were one of the few who read this the first time round, please feel free to skip ahead. I won't mind. The only difference in the original is the omission of the man's real name. It was written February 6, 2005.

The Decimation of Clarinet Quartet

I should have known it was coming. Mr M did.

It's an odd thing. I'd known R for quite some time. He played in Community Band for a while, played first clarinet and all the solos. He was never happy though, and when he left the rumor went round that he'd given up the clarinet. He came back a few years later, but not for long.

It was a few years later that I started hearing The Stories. Apparently R was a piece of work, musically speaking. An otherwise nice guy who went totally schizoid when playing in any type of musical ensemble. Had basically been shunned from any musical organization he'd ever been involved with. And it all seemed to stem from the fact that 1) he's a good player, but not nearly as good as he thinks he should be, and 2) he's a good player, but can't understand that not every musician in the area is as good as he is.

He was also, so I'm told, blackballed from Sauerkraut Band. This was after he walked off the stage three times during a performance, not being happy with the way it was going.

And then, just as he was leaving another community band in another city, R met his match in the name of one Mr M. It was one of those "sizing up" things. R had been hearing of Mr M around town, that he was an excellent player who'd played professionally and in orchestras. They were on the same clarinet mailing list, and started sending some emails back and forth. And Mr M, who was getting sick of the Community Band setting and looking for something new, finally said, "Hey, why don't we get together and play some duets."

And don't think Mr M hadn't heard The Stories either; he had. He's just the type who judges for himself, and musically he can match up with anybody out there.

So the duets began, and then the quartets followed. The first quartet was Mr M, R, Another Guy, and me playing a very shaky bass clarinet. Then Another Guy, who was never much into it to begin with, bailed on us. So R, Mr M, and I carried on as a trio till MP came along, a whiz kid high school student who's an excellent bass clarinetist.

Now, let me just interrupt myself here to tell you something. R was hinky, there's no doubt about that, but I found him to be a nice guy. He was friendly, and although he didn't seem to enjoy a laugh quite as much as I do, things were OK, you know?

Except when it came to music, R clearly needed professional help.

He would constantly talk about sound. And air. And his reed. And his embouchure. And how everything was supposed to mesh this way or that. And he talked a lot about other ensembles. Every clarinet quartet or quintet that've ever recorded a performance, he'd heard it. And he couldn't understand why we didn't, or couldn't, sound like that. And we tried to tell him! These guys are seasoned professionals who record in big studios with filters and equalizers and everything else. But that meant nothing to him.

I guess probably the first inkling of R Behavior came during an early practice of the quartet. See, we always have a nice big pot of coffee nearby. And we'd just played a piece, hit the last note, and finished before the second movement began. I made the mistake of reaching over and getting me a drink of coffee from the table.

"Betty (why he called me that I've no idea), we're playing, not drinking coffee," R barked, horn up to his lips. I looked at him, and him at me. He wasn't joking. I apologized and lost the coffee pronto.

After our first performance, we all went out and had Mexican. We sat around laughing about the concert, our music kept falling off the stands, and all of us squeaked, and I even got a little lost at one point. But we were playing at a retirement home, the audience thought we were very talented, and as Mr M says, "nobody died."

R waxed philosophical though, about our sound and how it should be airier and able to surround us. "They're old people! They're deaf!" I wanted to shout, but didn't, nice person that I am.

Then came the emails with sound files attached of this quartet or that. "I think we should model our sound after these folks," he'd say. I was too embarrassed to say they all sounded alike to me, four schmoes blowing into licorice sticks.

About a month or so ago, there was a rather tense moment in a practice between R and I. First of all, we played a song that, frankly, I find very hard. It's kind of atonal, with lots of interacting parts and weird time signatures, and he started ragging on me. I wasn't playing right; I was dragging. I finally told him I was playing at the tempo his head was bobbing, so if he thought I should be playing faster he needed to bob his head faster.

The next number we played was sightreading. I was having a problem with one section, and yep, it was all me. It was my melody and I was just flat-ass having trouble reading it. After the first read-through, we went back and tried it again.

I had trouble with the same section, just as before. From the corner of my eye I noticed R rolling his eyes and making a hand gesture. A gesture of, "See? She's doing it again!"

It was at that point that I stopped playing and said, "What!" And he told me I wasn't playing it right, or too slow, or something, and I just yelled, "Excuuuuuuuuse me!" And I went on to explain how I had trouble with sightreading and he needed to have a little more patience, and he got up and started walking around the kitchen, and well, like I said, it was tense, but I apologized for yelling and said let's get back to playing, I want to try again.

Cut to last week, the week I referred to in my blog as "blowing all to hell."

See, I left it at that because R has read my blog on occasion. And I certainly didn't want to rehash the story of what happened there where he could see and get angry, or embarrassed, or depressed, or whatever.

I personally think it all started that week when he brought his very fancy and expensive new recording system to practice. He was going to record us so we could listen to ourselves and critique. And that's fine with me, I like doing that, it's a good technique to use, and anyway, I put up the sound files on my blog.

Well, he was just obsessed with the system, the mic, having everyone seated in the right area, this won't go where I want it, why won't this do what I want it to.

We sightread one piece which I thought went very well, actually. Mr M played while bouncing around in his chair. I laughed. I could see the hairs on R's neck start to stand on edge. Then we did the song again to record. Then we did the same with a second piece, read it the first time, and the second, set it on record.

We were three songs in. I was worried about weather conditions and getting antsy to play some more so I could get home. Mr M started making dinner for all of us at the stove.

And out of nowhere - and I mean it, folks, out of fuckin' nowhere - R just went friggin' ballistic.

He started railing on our playing. We weren't paying enough attention to the notes, we weren't playing musically enough, we were walking all over each other, and we weren't paying attention to dynamics. And you know what? He was right. But it was our first fuckin' time playing the songs! Isn't that why you have practice?

He got up and started putting his horn away. I asked, "Is that it?" and he replied it was for that night. Then I made another mistake. I said, "Well, you know, I don't know about you all, but the only reason I'm here is to have fun. And if it's not fun anymore there's really no reason to do it."

I may as well have said we should cook and eat a baby.

Apparently to R there is no fun in music. If one wants to have fun they need to take up needlepoint or something. (Only that wouldn't work because he'd find a way to take the fun out of that too.)

Then, out of nowhere, R walked over to where Mr M was making dinner. And he - I still shudder - got right in Mr M's face and started ragging on his playing. About all the air in his head, and how he puffed out his cheeks when he played, and how he didn't understand how anyone could expect to play well like that.

I was waiting for Mr M to punch R in the face. I certainly would have. I guess Mr M proved that night he really is a pacifist.

R walked off, MP and I looked at each other with the helpless giggles, and Mr M hurled a wooden spoon into the sink. R had the audacity to try to make a joke about "flying utensils," but it went nowhere fast.

Now, while I was walking back and forth to the bathroom (a gesture of pure helplessness), I heard Mr M corral R and calmly - but firmly, believe me - say to him that he wasn't angry, but he's played for a long time and the last thing he's going to put up with was R trying to become his "teacher," he didn't want that and he wouldn't stand for it.

And I thought that was an excellent time for me to go take my things to the car.

And so I put on my coat, and loaded up. And when I came back, R was a little calmer and started to express regret at his behavior. I hugged Mr M goodbye, as I always do. Then I went over to R and hugged him. And I said to him, actually meaning it at the time, "R, please relax. You're going to have a stroke, and we all love you and don't want that to happen." Then I hugged MP because, well, why not? And I went the hell home.

A few days later, we all got an email from R. It contained a link to his website where he'd put up a bunch of sound files. They were pieces in our folder - with him playing all the parts, mixing them one on top of the other with his fancy new equipment. Letting us know how these pieces "should" sound.

It was the most hilarious thing I've ever heard. I contacted Mr M immediately - "R's found the perfect quartet!! He plays all the parts!!"

And still, I should have known….

There almost wasn't a practice today; I forgot my folder. Got all the way to B'burg before I realized it. I made the decision to go all the way home and back again to pick it up so we could practice.

Mr M had told me he was going to have a private word with R before practice. He sent him an email. In it he said simply, R, you know, we're not professionals, we have MP, a good player who happens to be in high school and has never played in this kind of setting, and we have Bet, whose level of playing isn't up to either of ours, who doesn't practice much and likes to cut up (well, he didn't tell me exactly what he said about me, but I'm sure that was included - and rightly so, it's true), and me, who both my eyes and my fingers are not what they used to be. But I've had my time in the musical spotlight, and personally I don't care. So we need to start playing together with all of our strengths and weaknesses and you really need to lose the idea that we can sit in my kitchen and make sounds like professional groups who are recorded in professional studios. It's not going to happen; hell, not even they sound like that out of the studio. We care about you and want you here. So let's not start fighting, etc, tomorrow.

And back came the email from R. If that's what the quartet is going to be, people not having any regard for the music, dynamics, not listening to each other, not striving for the best sound they can possibly have, then he had no choice but to "walk away." "Yes, I'll walk away and remove myself from this situation." Oh, yes, thanks a lot R, aren't you the noble one, removing yourself from our situation and subsequently leaving three people in the lurch.

Thanks a fuckin' lot.

Mr M emailed him back. It wasn't pretty. It was all true, but not pretty at all. And even in blasting him for this approach he decided to take, he left the door open. "If you want to come back and play with us, you may do so and none of this will be mentioned." But he won't. He knows he's peed in yet another musical chili that he can never go back to.

You all know how in love I am with this movie "Dig!" the documentary about the maniacal Anton of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. There's a quote from another of the band members that Anton thought the perfect Brian Jonestown Massacre would be himself on all the instruments and the vocals. Sound familiar? Who would have thought that the Never-To-Be-Named Clarinet Quartet actually had its own Anton?

It's very funny. And yet, it's not really funny at all. But I'll find a way to laugh over it.

As Johnny Rotten said, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
OK. Cut to the relative present.

Believe it or not, the three of us who remained were actually mulling over letting Roberto back in. Mr M was at the forefront of that; for all his crumudgeonliness, he's basically a letting bygones be bygones kinda guy. I'm not. And yet, I hadn't closed the door on things either. I'd just set my foot down firmly that before one note was played, R and I were going to have to be able to talk. He talked to Mr M. He apologized to Mr M. He kept the lines of communication open - with Mr M. MP and I were just so much musical chattle to him. And frankly, that pissed me off.

Then a sad thing happened; a local clarinet guy was sick and dying. Roberto wanted us to play at his memorial service when the time came. Mr M committed himself to it. I stood firm that I wasn't playing until I could talk to R. Out of the blue an email arrived from him to me explaining that his friend was a nice guy and this would be a good thing to do. And that's all. So in the interest of fairness, I replied, saying that, yes, I did think it would be quite a nice gesture, but before any playing between us took place again, I wanted to talk to him. Not to yell or throw tantrums, to talk. I said we could do it via email or messenger if not face to face. I left the door open. His friend passed, as did the memorial service. (Mr M didn't play.) I never heard one word from him.

Until Tuesday night. An email appeared from nowhere. It was titled, "Yo, Mr M." I wasn't quite sure of why, but it was sent to Mr M and copied to me. Nothing to MP. In it he reminded Mr M that he'd given us all a little "reality check" about our playing that day and we couldn't handle it. And that he'd apologized for what he'd done, but it "wasn't good enough for you or your companion. Whatever!" I could just see him there, making the "W" sign with his thumb and forefingers, a la Amber in "Clueless."

That was really only the part that pertained to me in any way. The "companion."

Anyway, here's the real meat of the email. Right after quartet fizzled out, Mr M (who remember, was still speaking to Roberto), agreed to try and sell some of his clarinets for him. R buys expensive clarinets like they were candy bars, always ending up unhappy with their performance. Imagine. Mr M would try and sell them, keep whatever profit he would make, and everyone would be happy.

Yeah. Sure.

In this email, Roberto was unhappy because he hadn't been given any money for these clarinets. This is because the clarinets weren't selling. Of course, Roberto didn't think of that possibility. Instead, he demanded his instruments back, adding that, of course, Mr M could have taken the instruments, denied any possession of them, sold them on his own, and pocketed the full amount. With a cute, "But you wouldn't do that, would you?" as an addendum.

OK, now I was mad. I crumble like biscotti if you insult me, but I'll fight back if you insult my friends. And so I emailed Roberto.

I basically got out everything I wanted to say in my email. How sure, he'd apologized for his outburst - to Mr M. How I'd wanted to talk to him and possibly even play again - but he didn't think enough about me to even reply to my request. How he needed to learn to work and play well with others - a futile plea, I'm sure. And how Mr M, MP, and I were still playing trios - maybe not like the Grand Renowned HooHah Clarinet Quartet of Amarillo, Texas, but I'll bet we have more fun.

But at least it's over. I have Roberto out of my system now. I have closure.

Mr M took the still unsold clarinets back yesterday - and left them at a music store both he and Roberto frequent. As Mr M said, he didn't want to see Roberto's mug under any circumstances. I told him that was probably a good idea, given R's particular personality flaws.

Plus, he works for the Postal Service.

Oh, well. Thanks, Roberto - at least you got me off my ass here.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* And so The Pope was finally laid to rest today. I'm sure it was the first time I've ever heard applause at a funeral. I think I'm going to have a written request for it at mine. Though it may well happen spontaneously. Along with a chorus of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye."
* It really was long, wasn't it?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Blog, Sweet Blog

OK, it's been way too long since I blogged. So sue me. I also promised an acro for Monday and pictures later in the week. So sue me. My imood still says "sad" and I'm still tearing the skin off my face. So sue me.

It's funny though, how just when you're in that really comfortable place where you've sunk into depression, an odd thing will bring you out of it. That happened to me last night. But more about that later.

Let's see, let's see. The past three weeks. Well, I still don't have complete cabinets, and my house is still in total upheaval. The process is going, oh, approximately the pace of a snail doing the backstroke through molasses. It was supposed to have been finally completed on Monday night, after we realized it wasn't going to be completed Saturday night nor Sunday afternoon, but as luck would have it, and the gods of fate who hate me so would deign, Monday morning Mr M woke up with a raging case of gout, rendering him basically footless. So no finished product Monday. I spent that evening putting on handles, some of which had badly measured holes. I don't know if that was because it was before we started using a template, or it was a crooked template, or what. Anyway, a little creative re-drilling took care of that, and I moved on to hinges.

I only got a few hinges in on Monday, so I finished those up on Tuesday night, when the gout was still raging and my depression was still swirling. Mainly because I became determined to finish the job by myself. It was not possible - the size of the doors, the way the hinges are made - I just cannot do it by myself. So I ripped through the kitchen throwing away every piece of plastic, newspaper, and general refuse I could get my hands on. I took out the frustrations of not being able to hang the doors by myself upon the garbage bag, which I punched into submission several times. Then I went to the Comfy Chair to cry, smoke, watch "American Idol," and tear the skin off my face. Typical evening at The Pod.

We're projecting a Thursday finish. Just like NBC projected an Al Gore win in Florida.

(By the by, we won't even mention the fact that in taking up the masking tape, several strips of my green paint have come up along with it, and there's no way in hell I'm ever going to be able to match that green again to repair it. I'm thinking of maybe a kitchen fresco of some sort. Maybe a "Guernica"-type thing showing the battle of the cabinets. But like I said, we won't mention that.)

So, what else has been happening while I've been away? Oh, yeah. That. People seem to be dropping like flies. Terri Schiavo died, without the dignity she'd hoped for. However, just when things started getting ugly, who should step in but the Pontiff, whose deathwatch took all the press and rubberneckers out of Florida and sent them squarely to Vatican City. I thought that was very gallant of him, actually.

Thing is, I was one of those papal rubberneckers. I spent all of Friday evening and all of Friday late-night, Saturday wee-morning, and Saturday morning-morning (don't you just love insomnia?) staring at that live shot on CNN, the one of The Pope's apartment there in the square, where the deathwatch was going on. Those two lights shining through the windows. I kept watching, fascinated, listening to a thousand talking heads but focusing solely on the two windows. I kept thinking there'd be a big metaphorical "the lights going out" kind of thing, where when he passed, off would go the lights and the assembled throng would breathe a sigh of acceptance.

However, I kept waiting and it never happened. Saturday afternoon Cabinet Hell began, so we shifted our attentions away from TV, and wouldn't you know it, that's when JPII left this mortal coil. And I don't mean to make light of anyone's death, and I'm not making light of his, but dammit, I watched all that time and I missed the actual announcement. I felt cheated. I didn't get to see the lights go out in those windows, if in fact they actually did. When I snapped on the TV again after a phone call interrupted Cabinet Hell, they showed the apartment - and an extra light was in a third window! I was waiting for lights to go out - who knew they actually turned more lights on?! Wow, this whole papal white smoke/black smoke/bell ringing/light turning thing has really got me flummoxed.

So anyway, the weekend brought more insomnia, so I laid on the couch at Mr M's watching them carry The Pope around. I was honestly worried he'd slide off that slanted slab they had him laid out on, and I started having Ayatollah flashbacks. Remember when the crowds got so rowdy in Iran they knocked the Ayatollah off his slab? Damn, talk about your religious fervor. And now The Pope's resting there in the Basilica, sans coffin, still on the slab, where a million people have seen him laying there looking, from that "shot from the feet up" angle the camera seems to like so well, amazingly like Father Christmas.

I liked The Pope. I thought it was cool that he was Polish, and wanted to be an actor, and escaped Nazis. I thought it was cool he named himself after the poor guy before him who died 34 days into his reign. I thought it was cool he visited his would-be assassin in prison. (And wouldn't it have been more cool if they'd let the guy come to the funeral? Come on, what a story.) And I thought that he really truly did love people, even if he didn't want you to be gay, or have an abortion, or take The Pill, or be a priest if you were a woman. So I try to use that "grandpa" logic - you know, your grandpa was a great guy, but just so old he was out of the loop.

Anyway, even with all that, I guess I'll remember John Paul II most for originating the Popemobile. If that's not the coolest thing a pope ever did, I'll eat my cabinets.

I'm taking bets the next pope will name himself John Paul III. I personally would like to see another Pope Clement or Pope Innocent in my lifetime. Or maybe Pope Todd.

And now Prince Rainier has left us. Dammit to hell. The man who stole Grace Kelly from Hollywood. The man I always thought looked a lot like Chris Difford from the band Squeeze. I hope they keep him on ice till the Papal funeral is over with - he deserves a little of the limelight, too.

And the final irony of all this? The Pope died, The Prince died - and Jerry Falwell lived. Sorry, it's cruel, but there's no reason not to be honest here.

And Peter Jennings has lung cancer. Made those few Djarum Blacks not so fun to smoke yesterday, for some reason.

Death and sickness, death and sickness. This blog is turning into a phone call from my Mom. All I have to do is mention the weather where you are, and I'd have it. Maybe I should sign off.

Tomorrow if I make it here I'll tell you about the event that perked me out of my depressed state.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Be prepared for a surgery blog coming soon. This is a preview or a warning, however you want to take it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Note To My Dear Readers

No, I'm not dead. I'm not really even depressed. Much, anyway. It's just that there's a whole lot going on here at the Poderosa at the moment, and I've had nary a moment to blog.

I decided to let you know, because now there won't even be a Picture Sunday this week - I forgot I won't be in town Sunday night. However, I promise that when I get back on Monday I'll do an acro for you all, and there will be a Picture SomeOtherNightOfTheWeek.

Upon that note, I bid you adieu.