- Cooking spray is not an effective alternative to furniture polish.
- If you dream that Rerun from What’s Happening has a side business as a yacht captain/puppy salesman, you are probably lactose intolerant.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make lousy throw pillows.
- The gunk living up inside your electric toothbrush probably isn’t black mold, but it’s not supposed to be there.
- Using hair as a napkin is unproductive and attracts bees.
- Darting outside to get the mail in your PJs and zit cream is a gamble not worth taking.
- Chewing 17 pieces of gum in a row is surprisingly unsatisfying.
- Pets need to be fed every day even if you don’t feel like it.
- Moving your dead plants indoors during a freeze to alleviate your guilt won’t bring them back to life.
- If your spouse purchases the extended warranty for your new laptop, it doesn’t mean he can’t trust you around technology. It means he can’t trust you around gravity.
My good pal, Julie Gomoll, recently introduced me to a cover version of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, The Sound of Silence (video below). This unexpectedly beautiful interpretation by heavy metal band, Disturbed, took my breath away. I’m not a huge fan of metal, but this haunting version was worthy of multiple listens, which triggered a memory I’ve kept stored in a cardboard box since 1983.
My 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Khouri, was a cool cat whose unique superpower was his ability to make poetry interesting to a room full of angsty teenagers—no small feat. He treated us like adults and earned our respect by speaking to us in language we could understand; sometimes that language was music.
Since a thoughtful investigation into the deeper meanings behind Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher seemed inappropriate, we went back in time to find a song resembling poetry. To a bunch of 15-year-olds, anything further back than 1980 was as distant as William Blake, so Mr. K had plenty of options. He decided The Sound of Silence was a worthy challenge and asked us to interpret it. (If you’re into trite student essays, scroll down for a real treat.) Thanks to my mom’s excellent record collection,* I was already familiar with the song but hadn’t really considered its meaning.
This morning I dug up that assignment and was surprised to find a prophetic, if overly dramatic and awkwardly written, paper. Embarrassing melodrama and repetitive content aside, the thing that sticks out most is how weirdly current it seems. It could have been written by a technology-savvy kid today (hopefully one with a more extensive vocabulary and fewer clichés).
Keep in mind, I wrote this before cell phones and Facebook. Tweeting was bird-speak, and the library card catalog was years away from being replaced by Google.** When we weren’t in school, our parents had no idea where we were or what we were doing, unless we checked in by payphone—a hazardous act akin to French kissing the outbreak monkey.
My question is this: What technology was I referring to in my paper? Touchtone phones? VHS recorders? The Space Shuttle…? And if Teen Weenie’s interpretation of The Sound of Silence is accurate, what technology were Paul and Art referring to in 1964? Color TV? Cassette players? Valium…? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe I’ll ask my mom.
Next time on Weenie Writes: Ilene reflects on her essay about George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. (No, I’m not kidding. I still have that one too, and it’s just as bad… maybe worse.)
*For any youngsters who may be reading this, a record is like a very large, round iPod that spins on a DJ’s turntable—only without the DJ or ecstasy-laced lollipops.
**Again, for the Millennials: A library card catalog is basically the Internet in drawers.
The Sound of Silence, by Disturbed:
Embarrassing 9th grade essay (two pages, click for larger versions):
You know those life moments when you have the sudden realization that you are a stupid asshole? I recently had one of those moments, and it was a doozie.
A little backstory…
After college, I spent a couple of hazy years living in Vail, Colorado. Like a lot of young locals, I held multiple jobs in order to make ends meet and afford a ski pass for the season. In addition to several positions in the service industry, I was a graphic designer for The Vail Daily. This was back when graphic designers did pasteups the old fashioned way—with actual paste. I did everything from producing ads for local ski shops to laying out the Sunday comics with a ruler and hot wax (a project worthy of its own blog post).
One of my assignments was to design a feature graphic for a story about a cartoonist who was visiting the area at the time. I assembled a montage using various characters from the artist’s comic strip but was too busy monitoring the snow report to bother reading the column.
I wasn’t trained as a illustrator and certainly had no intention of becoming a cartoonist, but sometimes things happen and you find yourself alone in the dark trying to draw a poodle in a bee costume.
I’m often asked if my cartoons are hand drawn. Since my hand has evolved into a mutant gripper claw, capable only of wrapping itself around a computer mouse or coffee cup, I am forced to create my cartoons on the computer with drawing software. The beauty of the software is it allows me to recycle elements quickly and easily. Once I finalize a character/object/facial expression, I can cut and paste that sucker all over the place.
Most folks forget there was a time when the state of Texas wasn’t such a punchline, but lately a cowgirl can’t cross the road without stepping in a political cow patty.
Lowlights of the past few years include the cop who violently broke up a suspicious swimming ring and that city manager in Austin who hired a trainer to school staff on how to deal with women and their crazy math issues. Speaking of crazy, let’s not forget everyone’s favorite defenders of women’s rights, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry.
In the wake of my grandmother’s death, many of the comments on my Facebook page offered this traditional Jewish condolence: “May her memory be a blessing to you.” Less than 24 hours after her passing, Grandma Shirley’s memory is already a blessing; a very well dressed, outspoken blessing. And it’s pushing a vacuum cleaner.
As a kid, my relationship with Grandma Shirley wasn’t so much a loving bond as it was a battle of wills: She willed me to behave, and I responded with willful disobedience. If Shirley was the hammer, I was that annoying little nail, forever slipping out of grasp and bending sideways—impossible to control.
When we were very young, my little sister and I would drop off our “babies” at “daycare” with my mom. Then we’d go to our women’s lib meetings, where we marched around the living room, raising fists and chanting, “Women’s… women’s… womennnnn’s… WOMEN’S LIB!” There we were—two little Jewish girls holding a fascist rally for feminism—while our mom sat in the other room with our dolls, laughing her ass off.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thanks for making me into the weirdo I am today.
I was having a discussion over on Facebook about the complexity of mangoes. I get the distinct feeling I’m doing it wrong.
My mango-eating kit includes a damp cloth, dry towel, paper towels and dental floss.
A while back, Tolly Moseley sent out a tweet that really hit home:
Few things are more horrifying than the thought of someone going through my search history. Nobody needs to know of my morbid fascination with people who hide bodies in their homes.
Like many humans in the digital age, I spend a lot of time online—usually looking for answers to questions I wouldn’t have bothered asking before the internet was invented. It’s not that I didn’t have questions in the past; I just wouldn’t have cared enough to go searching for answers.
How to Squander Your Life Away in One Easy Step:
Here are a few examples from my search history to illustrate just how thoroughly I’ve wasted my time on this planet so far. In order to keep my blog PG-13, these examples are more uninspired than horrifying, but they serve to reflect the sad state of affairs inside my mind.
- Baby Rage
- How to say Happy Hanukkah in Portuguese
- How many people have died on K2
- How to pronounce Hermione
- Cow hugging device invented by that autistic lady
Finding answers used to be hard. Really hard. You had to know somebody, maybe make a few phone calls or (god forbid) go to the library. What would happen if rather than reaching for my phone or iPad to look something up, I paused to ask myself if I would bother researching this topic if I had to do so the old fashioned way. If I were to stop using my laptop as a Magic 8 Ball, I’d estimate a productivity increase of approximately 40,000 percent.
So what does this mean for the big picture? It means that over the past 12 months alone, I could have written a couple of books, produced daily content for all of my blogs, read several dozen novels, learned Japanese, exercised, cleaned my house and earned a degree in astrophysics.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for less technology—that would be crazy. Technology is today’s key to discovery, and I like to consider myself the Nikola Tesla of useless knowledge. That being the case, if the technology for instant gratification didn’t exist, would I really take the time to research urban sinkholes and narwhal mating habits?
You bet your ass I would.
In 1998 I moved into a questionable neighborhood to shack up with an equally questionable guy, in a house almost as shady as the street it sat on. Yet despite its beach towel curtains and unidentifiable odor, Squalor Manor had potential (and as it turned out, so did the guy).
One thing I forgot to consider before moving in with my future husband was the level of noise inherent to city living. Rush hour traffic, sirens and a neighborhood rooster, along with the creaks and groans of a 75-year-old house, created the urban equivalent of a Philip Glass marathon—and much like Philip Glass, it was unbearable. I was relieved when the racket finally began fading into the background, and the only sound left to break up the static was a train’s whistle.
Fast forward a few years, and our neighborhood has grown so hip, even the property taxes are ironic. Our streets are virtually hooker-free, and the coffeehouse to porn-shop ratio has begun to even out. These days, people pay alarming sums of money to live down by the tracks.
There’s a railroad crossing less than a quarter mile from our house. It can be a minor inconvenience during day, but at night the distant sound of approaching trains is comforting. Each time a whistle blows, my husband or I will ask, “Where should we go tonight?” Sometimes it’s New Mexico or Colorado; other nights we take the long haul up through western Canada to Alaska. It’s a silly little tradition, but it is precisely this type of thing that makes a relationship special. Because let’s face it—lying next to a middle aged man with a Breathe Right Strip across his nose isn’t what they promised in the bridal magazines.
I recently learned of Austin’s Railroad Quiet Zones project. Train engineers are no longer required to sound their whistles in a new zone which includes three nearby railroad crossings. At the risk of sounding like a fist-shaking grandma, I have to question a person who moves into a house by the railroad tracks and then calls the city to complain that trains are noisy. I feel Darwin owes me an explanation.
Gene pools aside, this isn’t about gentrification or city policy—nor is it about an old house in an old neighborhood with new neighbors. It’s about imaginary adventures on imaginary trains and building new traditions while learning to live on the quiet side of the tracks.