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Mind Over Matter

Gravy, glorious gravy

Nothing writing-related this time. Just gravy, that wonderful substance that deserves a food group of its own.

In the eyes of a true Southerner it must be argued that potatoes in any form are really nothing more than a Gravy Transportation Medium (GTM). Any GTM that can hold a copious quantity of said gravy thus is a requirement for a Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter repast (or any repast, really).


In my own misspent youth, when the potatoes were gone I was known to slather two pieces of homemade cornpone with turkey gravy, let it sit and soak for a minute, and then eat the pone with a spoon. It died happy.


In truly dire circumstances, when even the pone had all disappeared, I'd simply upend the gravy boat into my gaping maw and swallow it in rapturous gulps (eliciting squeals of laughter from my younger brother and screams of dismay from my mom).


Fun times ...

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They're here ... and they walk among us

Notes from all over--




We had to have the garage door repaired. The Sears repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a 'large' enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one Sears made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower. He shook his head and said, "Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower." I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4. He said, "NO, it's not. Four is larger than two..."

We haven't used Sears repair since.




My daughter and I went through the McDonald's take-out window and I gave the clerk a $5 bill. Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her a quarter. She said, "You gave me too much money." I said, "Yes I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar bill back." She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me to repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the quarter, and said "We're sorry but we cannot do that kind of thing." The clerk then proceeded to give me back $1 and 75 cents in change.



I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the DEER CROSSING sign on our road. The reason: "Too many deer are being hit by cars out here! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore."



My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for 'minimal lettuce.' He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg lettuce.



I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."




The stop-light on the corner buzzes when it's safe to cross the street. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged co-worker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?" She was a probation officer in Wichita, KS.




I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the sake of her life, couldn't understand why her system would not turn on. A deputy with the Dallas County Sheriff's office, no less.




When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "It's open!" His reply, "I know. I already got that side." This was at the Ford dealership in Canton, MS.




When I left Hawaii and was transferred to FL, I still had the Hawaiian plates on my car, as my car was shipped from Hawaii . I was parking somewhere (I can't remember) and a guy asked me "Wow, you drove from Hawaii to here?" I looked at him and quickly said, "Yep. I took the Hawaii/San Francisco Bridge." He nodded his head and said, "Cool!"


STAY ALERT! They walk among us... and they vote.

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Well worth it

Fifteen years ago a freak wind storm knocked out power to Cincinnati for nearly a week, and one of the first things we bought when we were able was a 3500-watt portable generator. In the following decade-and-a-half we only fired it up a couple times a year to keep the seals fresh ... until two weeks ago. This time Cincinnati was hit by an ice storm that obliterated power to nearly a hundred thousand people. So there my wife Barb and I were, in a dark house that was rapidly getting colder, but this time we pulled out Old Sparky for real.


We gassed him up, and for the next twenty-four hours--and as long as we kept him fueled--we had enough juice to run a couple of space heaters and a floor lamp (we could even unplug one of the heaters long enough to fire up the microwave when needed; which we did). Between the heaters and our fireplace there was enough to keep us relatively warm, and if the outage had kept it up, we could have shunted power to our refrigerator and upright freezer long enough our to keep from losing anything.


Moral of the story? If you live in an area with an iffy climate, you could do worse than spending a couple hundred bucks on one of these bad boys.


Thus endeth the lesson.

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bad, REALLY bad movies

Have you ever walked out on a bad movie? For that matter, have you ever sat through a bad movie and then you WISHED you had walked out? For Barb and me, the latter would be a tossup between A Clockwork Orange and All That Jazz.



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It's funny. A person can live their entire life the right way and then something unexpected happens, leading them to a bad decision. And that one wrong choice--that one single lapse of judgment made in a split second--changes it all.


So consider: should that person be judged for their last bad act, or should their life be viewed as a totality, and they be given a second chance? 


Something to think about, no?

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The machine stops

For a great piece of proto-SF, download a copy of The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster. Written a hundred years before the invention of teh intertoobz, it perfectly limns a society so introverted its inhabitants can only interact with each other over television screens. And then it tells what happens when ... well, when the machine stops. Chilling.

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A Halloween to remember

The Halloween when I was eleven, my folks were as broke as Job's turkey, and my younger brother and I knew we were on our own for costumes. He picked the venerable sheet-over-the-head with the eye holes cut out, but I wanted to be an alien (the Outer Limits TV show was my favorite).


I found an old ping-pong ball in my dresser drawer, which I meticulously cut in half with my Cub Scout pocket knife. Then using the same knife I cut a dime-size hole in each side, drew red squiggly lines on them, and inserted them into my sockets like monocles. Bingo, bug-eyes. Then I took an old eyebrow pencil I fished out of the den wastebasket and drew scales on my face. So far, so good. But what about a ray gun? An alien needs a ray gun. I scoured the house, and finally found an old turkey baster in a drawer.. I taped a wooden handle to the bulb end and glued some blue buttons down each side. Finally I was ready to unleash havoc on the hapless planet.


My brother and I left to make the rounds, but as we did, a strange thing happened. As we went to each house, every woman who answered the door would point at me and laugh helplessly like a lunatic, even going so far as to get friends in the room to come over and take a look. That ticked me off to no end. Wasn't I scary? wasn't I intimidating? Stupid Earthlings.


Two hours later my brother and I were done and home. I was in the process of sorting my loot on the floor when my mom walked in.


"How did you make out?" she asked.


"Not bad," I said. "I even got a couple of popcorn balls from old Mrs. Toomey. Those are always good."


Then my mom stopped dead in her tracks, and with a trembling finger pointed at my gun, her face ashen. "Where ... did you get THAT?"


"This?" I replied airily. "It's just an old turkey baster I found lying around."


Only she told me it wan't a turkey baster. It was her ... woman's tool ... that she used to clean her nether regions.

I hadn't even known such a thing existed, and wouldn't have touched it if I did. No wonder all the neighbor ladies laughed.


Needless to say, that was the last year I went out.

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"But mom, they only show just a little blood!"

Got to thinking about movies the other day (as is my wont), and the subject of ratings--and their history--floated by. The idea of categorizing films was the late-60s brainchild of one Jack Valenti, then head of the Motion Picture Association of America. It was Jack's plan to come up with a rating system so the studios could begin experimenting with darker and edgier stuff without making families nervous.


When the system was first birthed the order went "G-M-R-X", meaning General Audiences, Mature Audiences, Restricted Audiences ("no children under 17 admitted without a parent or adult guardian"), and X, which is... well, YOWZA. I even remember the radio ads trying to sell the concept to the masses, with a nerdy guy saying "Gimrix? What's Gimrix?," to which a smooth-voiced guy would explain it all. It seemed to work, with the G solidly separating the M ("yes, Junior, you can watch the Disney movie, but not that awful one where everybody gets shot … and no, I'm not taking you to see M*A*S*H! That's R!!").


As I said, the system was perking along fine when suddenly one day the MPAA folks switched from M to GP. Why? No one knows (or will admit to it), but the change really muddied the waters. A lot of people thought the acronym stood for General Patronage  .. which it most assuredly didn't. The confusion was rampant, and within a year the GP was switched to PG (parental guidance) and then in the early 80s with Red Dawn the PG-13 rating was added. And then several years after that a new rating between R and X was added, NC-17 ("no children under 17 admitted" ... at all, one would hope).


Anyway, now you know. Go forth and bloviate at length about the checkered history of the movie ratings system. Impress your friends! Win prizes!

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From bad to verse

I'm going to address something near and dear to me: scam houses and shady agents, because here is a true and incontrovertible fact: unless someone is already a household name (and maybe not even then), publishers won't come looking for a writer. They don't need to; they already have more on their plates "than they can say grace over," as my Granny used to say.
No, getting an "offer" from a slick talking, pay-to-play yahoo--especially if it's unsolicited-- is worse than useless, because many times it's worded in such a way as to play on a writer's vanity. "Your prose is superb," the mustache-twirling villian crows. "Priceless, they are. Golden. Why waste time with other houses? We'll put you on the fast track to publication."
Why indeed? I'll tell you why. Because at the end, all the scribe will find that's been "fast-tracked" is the emptying of their wallet, and the shame of being rooked.
Another good indicator of a shady operator is their placing of Google ads. Right now I type this, on another site are side-by-side come-ons from two of the worst scammers in the business. One's a supposed "publisher" (actually a reverse-vanity printer who charges on the back end, and offers a contract on literally everything they receive before close of business on a given day). The other's an erstwhile "agent" who's continuing to post his slow winking come-hithers even as the Florida attorney general is squaring him up in her sights. That's indicative of a man in possession of steel balls, utter cluelessness, or hubris on a breathtaking scale.
However you want to put it, these guys deserve a go-around. A big go-around. A serious writer deserves better than a short road to oblivion. "Here there be dragons," and all that.
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Marketing Minefield

When I was a wee lad of nine, one of the Kentucky State Fair sideshow exhibits that year was called "The Pygmy King and the Deadly Serpents." The poster outside the tent … well, you can imagine. It was probably done by the same Fletcher Hanks-esque artist (look him up; you'll be stunned at his story) who did most of the lurid displays at carnivals across the country. Anyway I begged, wheedled, and generally pestered my folks all afternoon until they finally relented and we went in.


Once inside, instead of dim lights and slithering danger a-plenty, what we found was a bored African-American little person sitting on a wooden stool while he puffed away on a foul brown stogie. As far as the "deadly serpents," he was surrounded by what appeared to be a dozen non-venomous black and king snakes drooping on top of each in such midday summer torpor it was like they'd been shot. And that's when I first realized the first of life's hard lessons: many (if not most) things are not what they're advertised to be.


So it is with marketing. There are a lot firms out there who'll promise you the moon and the asteroid belt … for a fee, of course. Many time what you'll get is a handful of dust, and not the lunar kind.


Caveat emptor.

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