october 2002

click here for permalink October 23, 2002

Okay, I stand corrected... not surprisingly, it seems that the problem lies with me. Mr. Pink was on Jiffy Pop detail last night and — sure enough, just like in the drawing on the package — it puffed up into a giant, silver dome...

...and produced a perfect batch of buttery, tasty, popcorn... no burned, unpopped or stale, charcoal-flavored kernels to be found. I guess I really can't cook anything more complex than toast — which is fine, but never fails to amaze me when it's demonstrated so dramatically.

Actually, this is not the most dramatic demonstration of my inability to make popcorn. There was one time, a couple of years ago when our microwave was not only working but holding the MVP title in our little family of appliances (oh, wait... that title goes to the capuccino machine, without which we wouldn't be in the game at all!).

Anyway, it was a "movie night" and Mr. Pink was rushing to make the video store by drop-off time to return a movie from the night before, which left me with the seemingly brainless task of microwaving a bag of popcorn. Well. I was listening carefully to the cacophony of pops and waiting for them to slow to one per second, in accordance with the instructions. Around the halfway point to the magic three minute mark, I noticed that the bag wasn't inflating...

....now, the microwave used to sit on top of our refridgerator, which puts it just out of my line of vision, so I had to stand up on tiptoe to peer into the little window and try to determine the problem. I could see from this vantage point that the corner of the bag had been wedged up against the side of the microwave and the little turning plate thing wasn't turning anymore.

So, I opened the door and reached in to recenter the bag (it was still popping away, after all) and that's when I noticed the hole in the bottom. Its was all black and charred around the edges and widening before my very eyes and before I could react, it began spewing black, buttery smoke and scorched popcorn in every direction.

Of course, that's when Mr. Pink walked in and time froze to dutifully allow every detail to be recorded for posterity; the cloud of smoke filling the kitchen, me, on tiptoe, with a look of complete shock and partial embarrassment on my face, the angry popping sound coming from inside the microwave as it rained hot, blackened kernels down onto the floor and into my eyes and down my shirt like some crazy slot machine in White Trash Hell...

It was all very funny and picturesque — and maybe I should have been embarrassed but I'm convinced it was a random case of bag malfunctioning — it could have happened to anyone... and it did get me out of even the most mundane kitchen duties for a long, long time. Ahhh... good times.

click here for permalink October 22, 2002

Our microwave broke down a couple of weeks ago and due in part to laziness and in part to my mother's repeated comments about their flavor- and nutrient-sapping qualities, we've decided not to replace it...

... there's also those unsubstantiated yet logical arguments against eating anything that's been bombarded by radiation. Hell, I'm against bombarding things with radiation, period... well, except the skin, of course... tanning beds are perfectly fine. Heh...

It's been fine so far; I've learned how to make my staples, wraps and — uh, well, leftovers — in the oven. The only problems so far have been in the areas of coffee reheating (I have a mental block against finishing any beverage, hot or cold, before it settles at room temperature) and popcorn preparation.

The first of these two problems was solved with the application of a little added vigilance during the reheating process... because there are few things that lose their charm faster than coffee that's been brought from room temperature to a boil in a small sauce pan while you were "too busy" watching "V.I.P." on "The New TNN" to stand guard at the stove top. So, I learned my lesson on the third try.

The second problem area, popcorn, hasn't been so easily resolved. In the spirit of nostalgia and, well, having popcorn at all, we bought a couple of skillet-shaped Jiffy Pops and, amidst a profusion of protests that I was not the man for the job, I took a crack at popping one.

It failed, miserably and predictably. The several-inches-high foil dome of our shared cultural memory (and the illustrated instructions) failed to rise into more than a slight bulge. This, when tentatively ripped open at the presumed cessation of popping sounds, revealed an equal proportion of unpopped and burned kernels. The few that had been cooked to perfection were decidedly dry and, although not technically burned, had taken on that nasty, distinctive burned popcorn flavor nonetheless.

I told Mr. Pink — and I stick to this opinion despite his vehement insistence to the contrary — that the Jiffy Pop mystique is pure, nostalgic fiction; a fabrication of the mind, patch-worked together from rose-tinted memories of sugar-coated Saturday morning commercials during cartoon marathons (where the silver dome was at least triple its real-life size) and those iconic, junk-food-fueled, sleepless sleepovers of our youth. We still have one and Mr. Pink is on stove top duty next time.

click here for permalink October 21, 2002

Working at home for the last two years has had some excellent benefits — which, for the sake of those of you still employed in fluorescent-lit, air-conditioned office buildings, I will refrain from listing here...

Well, since one does not a list make, I'll just say that my predictable-as-clockwork two colds per year immediately dropped to one in the last two years. Hah! Take that, pharmaceutical companies! (Heh, just kidding... never can be too careful...)

Which brings us to the one detriment that I've experienced since becoming homebound in earnest; I've become a terrible recluse. Truth be told, I didn't have far to go... I've always been shy, preferring to magically attract to my side friends with charm and charisma to spare — and to supplement my lack thereof.

(That system, believe it or not, has worked beautifully, even (miraculously) these last two years. I have somehow managed to land two contract jobs without actually applying, or even supplying a resume, and I've met some of my closest friends while accepting just a handful of invitations to the outside world... I've even met a very few without leaving the house at all.)

But all this reclusiveness has a detrimental side, as I was saying. Lately, I've noticed myself growing less and less comfortable with strangers staring at me or trying to talk to me. I've never been crazy about those things but I was better equipped to tune them out before, when work required that I spend at least eight or nine hours of my day in the outside world — much of that time surrounded by strangers.

These days, I immediately assume the worst when I notice someone staring at me; Is my zipper down, I think, immediately self-conscious and paranoid. Is there something in my hair? Or (after subtly swiping my hands through my hair and across my face), is my lipstick all over the place?

Of course, I don't have these thoughts every time I detect a glance in my direction. I mean, it's not like I've lost my mind. I've just lost the ability, to some degree, to tune out the flotsam of psychic contact that occurs when people make eye contact with me. I can't read their minds or anything — and I pray that they can't read mine — but I feel... intruded upon... somehow, and I can't help thinking, What are they looking at?

Ugh! Which reminds me! As I was struggling to hail a cab during rush hour on a busy street outside my local grocery store, I ran into that annoying single guy, again! I was carrying eight grocery bags and wearing a loaded backpack over a 100% PVC jacket that fails to "breathe" in warm weather (October "daytime") or block the wind and chill of cold weather (October "evening").

I was tired and had been out in the world for far too long when this fucking guy stopped almost in front of me and said, "hey, we've met before! What's your name?" As if by divine intervention, a cab approached the crosswalk I had just stepped into and, as I struggled to lift a hand towards it and the guy rushed to keep up, I brusquely said in his direction, "can you hail that for me?"

He waved at the cab and persisted, "but I've met you before," as I reached for the door. "No, we haven't met," I barked, shoving my eight grocery bags into the seat and following them as swiftly as possible. As I slammed the door I could hear the guy insisting, "yes, we have..!" I don't envy the cab driver who had to listen to me swear and rant half the way down the hill... but I did begin by thanking him for his impeccable timing.

click here for permalink October 18, 2002

Apropos of nothing: celebrity mug shots... you gotta love 'em. First niece Noelle Bush is one of the latest inductees into the Celebs Behind Bars club, the members of which are lovingly categorized for your viewing pleasure in The Smoking Gun's Mug Shot Archive.

The names on the list are all those you'd expect — the usual suspects, as it were — but the photos offer some surprising revelations about their subjects. Take Frank Sinatra's youthful 1938 entry, for example; a reminder that once (before the decades of red meat, martinis and Las Vegas made him fat and cranky) he was a skinny, shockingly cute little punk. Now I see what all the fuss was about when Harry Connick Jr. first appeared, the spitting image of a lost icon in his prime.

But perhaps the most shocking, to me, was this fresh-faced smiling boy, captured in a moment of supreme grace under pressure decades before he sold his soul — and stopped going out in the sun, apparently.


There are some really good movies coming out this week, including "Punch-Drunk Love," the Cannes Festival favorite that boldly seeks to unite moviegoers who loved "Happy Gilmore" with those who thought the frog scene in "Magnolia" was one of the most brilliant demonstrations of directorial bravery since... well... since having your main character beat the crap out of beloved television icon Bob Barker.

And then there's "Bowling for Columbine," Michael Moore's cross-country documentary that explores America's more-bizarre-than-we-imagined obsession with guns. Does anyone else look at Michael Moore and see Kevin Smith with a social conscience? Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I loved the story he told on "The View," between the semi-automatic fire of Joy and Star's interruptions, about taking a group of Columbine massacre survivors, one of whom still caries a bullet lodged in his spine, to meet K-Mart's top corporate executives. The very next day, K-Mart announced that they would no longer sell ammunition of any kind and proceeded to pull every round from the shelves of every store in the country.

And let's not forget "Knockaround Guys" — which may or may not turn out to actually be good — but, with a cast that includes Seth Green, Vin Diesel, Dennis Hopper and John Malkovich, in accordance with the Stone-Tarantino Act of '94 (Section IV), by default, it has to be good.

click here for permalink October 12, 2002

How pathetic is this? I'm updating today just so that I don't have to look at my last entry, which has been sitting here for almost a month, anymore... Oh yeah, and to say Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to everyone...

I'm serious — one lousy paragraph is all I can do today and I know it's pathetic. I have a good excuse today, though, as we're on our way out to the suburbs for Thanksgiving dinner... have a lovely weekend, everyone...