July 29, 2010

You're the Top!

Blog, I've been having a busy week that hasn't always gone right.  And when not everything goes right, it's time to think of something you really bizarradore!  I double dog dare you NOT to bizarradore the Cole Porter song "You're the Top." 

The words, the tune, the sentiments of two people trying to one-up each other in their compliments--how can you not be cheered by this song?  It was written in 1934 for the Broadway musical "Anything Goes," and my fave version was performed by Patti Lupone and Howard McGillin in the 1987 Broadway revival.  Just click the You Tube thingy for audio and then follow along with the smashing lyrics below....

At words poetic, I'm so pathetic
That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting 'em off my chest,
To let 'em rest unexpressed.
I hate parading my serenading
As I'll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it'll tell you how great you are.

You're the top!
You're the Coliseum.
You're the top!
You're the Louvre Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss.
You're a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare sonnet,
You're Mickey Mouse.
You're the Nile,
You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa.
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!

Your words poetic are not pathetic.
On the other hand, babe, you shine,
And I can feel after every line
A thrill divine
Down my spine.
Now gifted humans like Vincent Youmans
Might think that your song is bad,
But I got a notion
I'll second the motion
And this is what I'm going to add:

You're the top!
You're Mahatma Gandhi.
You're the top!
You're Napoleon Brandy.
You're the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You're the National Gallery
You're Garbo's salary,
You're cellophane.
You're sublime,
You're turkey dinner,
You're the time of the Derby winner.
I'm a toy balloon that’s fated soon to pop.
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're an Arrow collar.
You're the top!
You're a Coolidge dollar.
You're the nimble tread
Of the feet of Fred Astaire,
You're an O'Neill drama,

You're Whistler's mama!

You're camembert.

You're a rose,
You're Inferno's Dante,

You're the nose
On the great Durante.
I'm just in the way,
As the French would say, "de trop."
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're a dance in Bali.
You're the top!
You're a hot tamale.
You're an angel, you,
Simply too, too, too diveen,
You're a Boticcelli,
You're Keats,

You're Shelly!

You're Ovaltine!
You're a boom.
You're the dam at Boulder.
You're the moon,
Over Mae West's shoulder.
I'm a nominee of the G.O.P.


But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're a Waldorf salad.
You're the top!
You're a Berlin ballad.
You're the boats that glide
On the sleepy Zuider Zee,
You're an old Dutch master.

You're Lady Astor!

You're broccoli!
You're romance.
You're the steppes of Russia.
You're the pants on a Roxy usher.
I'm a broken doll, a fol-de-rol, a blop.
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

So, so fun, Blog!  Get out your tap shoes!  Oh, I suppose a non-corporeal anthropomorphized being might not own tap shoes.  Oh well...  I only wish there was a visual of Patti and Howard performing on Broadway, but in lieu of that, here's a video that's not too shabby in its own right.  It's Cary Grant and Ginny Simms performing a shorter version of "You're the Top" in the 1946 film "Night and Day."

Now, if you aren't as ancient as I am and are stumped by a few of the references in the song, the folks at Wikipedia have been kind enough to link to info on everything mentioned (including a few things from other versions).

So, Blog and readers, if you're looking for a way to brighten your day, tell a friend "You're the top!"  Or, try writing your own verse like I did here, proclaiming what I think about YOU!

You're the top!
You're a fresh-baked cruller.
You're the top!
You're a Bromstad color.
You're a secret code in an episode of Lost.
You're an Idol winner,
A Chef Flay dinner,
You're permafrost.
You're the Thing,
You're a cute-faced LOLcat,
You're the swing of a hot baseball bat.
I'm a hopeless drip, a plop that just won't stop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!

You know, that's not as easy as it looks, Blog....

July 27, 2010

Artist of [Undetermined Timeframe] #9 - Animator Bill Belongia

Hooray, Blog, it's time for another A.O.U.T.!  And this time I uncovered another unique one.  I found out the other day that my longtime friend Bill has a semi-secret life doing all manner of cool computer animation.  Well, "semi" because it's his actual day job at Plank Road Publishing, a local publisher of music and music teaching aids for kids.  "Secret" because I had no idea he was capable of creating such fun stuff.

But he is!  Check out the fun stuff I snagged from his website, Blog.  Everything on this post is by Bill...like little critters here from an ecard he did for Plank Road Publishing.

For starters, he's pretty dang good at drawing, as his sketch of a lovely elf here shows.  And with a computer and whatever magical software programs he's mastered, Bill can do everything from anatomical diagrams to building exteriors in 2D and 3D.  The thing I love about what he does is that you have to be adept with both your right AND left brains.  Kinda blows me away, Blog.

And then there's the Flash animations....  As a sci-fi buff I totally dig the animation of a meteor colliding with the earth.  Meanwhile, Randometer is totally enamored of the skipping flour sack.  (Those puffs of flour crack me up.)  And jazz fans, check out the singing egg.  Bill has done educational games and ecards that are really fun and adorable.  Man, I wish I knew how to do this stuff!

My favorite creations of Bill's are his music videos.  He created one for a song called "Forte Piano" by Teresa Jennings.  Well, in the first place the song is totally adorable.  In the second place, the animal orchestra does an absolutely bang up job performing it, due to the deft flash stylings of my friend Bill.  And if you have little kids, you can use this video to teach them the musical terms "forte" (loud) and "piano" (soft), along with fortissimo, pianissimo, and crescendo. 

Our local PBS affiliate got wind of Bill's video and included it on a recent broadcast of their arts magazine show, "Arts Digest."  You can go to that link and then find the 20:25 mark to see it, but there's no need because we've got it right here.  Right, Blog?

But wait, there's more!

Likewise combining the educational with the totally wackadoodle, there's another Teresa Jennings song called "Major Minor."  It reminds me of a time in the car when I was teaching some music theory to Davie about how major key music sounds happy and minor key music is sad or moody.  Well, in the video Bill's animals get downright schizoid about it.  Like the song says, "No flats, no sharps, no worries."

Bill gives a lot of credit to the animation program developed by Milwaukee Area Technical College, where he got his degree in Visual Communications.  And no doubt it's some pretty slick software.  But I have a feeling that's Bill being modest, which is another specialty of his.

Bill is available to do freelance work, and you can contact him at wbelongia @ wi.rr.com (without the spaces).  Wouldn't it be cool, Blog, if we were made of money and could hire him to do full length Flash movies of the Bloodchained novels or something?  Like that scene at the opening of Bloodchained II when the Magician is working his wiles on Kelsi and...but we digress...

We can't hire Bill to make movies of the Diana Laurence books, but we sure can brag about his talents and share them with you.  :-)

July 24, 2010

Our tiger, Kahn

Blog, we just received in the mail the papers making our adoption of Kahn official, so I can finally share with our readers about the newest member of our family, this awesome seven-year-old Siberian tiger.

No, he hasn't moved in to Magic House to live side by side with Cody, Alice and Selke.  He's going to remain in his happy home at the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Educational Center in Rock Springs, Wisconsin, about 20 minutes west of the Dells.  But we will be one of the families that contribute monthly to his feeding and upkeep.

Back story:  After our Vegas trip in January, I was thinking about the animals who are protected by Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage's Secret Garden, and their other conservation efforts.  I wondered if there might be a big cats shelter closer to the Midwest where Davie and I might visit sometime.  I was amazed to discover one practically in our backyard, a mere couple of hours away.

These are all photos of Kahn, and the one below I took myself the day we visited.  It was very hot and humid, and the cats were mostly snoozing...but most slept in easy view of visitors and checked us out drowsily. The rest of the photos in this post are mine, too...the less crisp ones taken with my phone camera when ICU's battery died at the worst possible time!

Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue was begun in 2005 by Jeff Kozlowski and Jenny Meyer, two experienced cat handlers who decided to create a habitat for homeless and abused felines of unusual size.  They have USDA licensing and 501(c)3 non-profit status.  Land was donated to them, and in less than a year they had 26 cats living in sturdy, spacious enclosures, outfitted for all their needs.  These animals are tended lovingly, nursed when sick or hurt, and not exposed to the stresses and abuse so many of them experienced in their former lives.

The Rescue takes in cats from private owners, backyard breeders, animal brokers, zoos and circuses.  In all cases the animals were abused or no longer wanted.  The shelter has conducted some very large animal rescue operations.  They saved 11 cats from a backyard breeder in Flat Rock, Indiana, and recently rescued many animals from an illegal circus in Marion County, Texas.

Sometimes Jeff and Jenny find new homes for their residents, like when they placed Tom III with the University of Memphis to serve as the school's mascot (a tiger, natch).  Click here to see a slideshow of Tom III, and beware, the cuteness is extreme!

Most of the rescued animals stay on with Jeff and Jenny.  They receive no government funding and rely on sponsors, volunteers, and contributors to provide for their large furry family.  Donations come not only in cash but in machines for the compound, vet supplies, and meat.  Different levels of sponsorship are available and entitle you to free visits to the Rescue (normally adults are $9, children 6-12 are $6 and 5 and under free) and photos of your adoptee.

Why did we choose Kahn?  I just love tigers and he is a remarkably beautiful animal.  When we told Jenny of our choice, she smiled and said Kahn is her favorite of all the cats.  He was their first rescue, saved from an Illinois zoo that no longer had room for him.  Jenny told us how she and Jeff were a bit misinformed about Kahn's size when they went to pick him up.  Since he couldn't fit in the cat carrier they had brought, Jenny sat in the back seat of the pickup truck next to Kahn for the long ride home.  She played with him a bit during his early days at the Rescue, but quickly he proved simply too large for that--one time he sat on her and all she could do was wait till he decided to get up!

Kahn, being a Siberian tiger, loves the snow, so he's happy as a clam living in Wisconsin.  In fact, all the cats enjoy the snow.  Their coats get thicker, and Jeff and Jenny provide them with extra straw for nesting, so they are comfortable even during the Midwest winter.

Blog, I hope our cat loving friends donating to Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue.  You can see photos on the website of all of Kahn's pals, like Beemer the Atlas Lion, Dozer the Black Leopard, Sierra the Spotted Leopard, and Raja the White Bengal Tiger.  And by the way, they have a new program that for anyone who provides full sponsorship for a cat for a year ($5,000) they will install a camera so you can watch your sponsoree over the Web anytime!  (Don't worry, Blog, there are levels of sponsorship for any budget, and one-time donations of any size make a difference for these sweet felines.)

And Wisconsin readers, next time you're up at the Dells during the non-winter months, pay the Rescue a visit.  They're open whenever it's not above 90 degrees or raining, and it's absolutely wonderful seeing these magnificent cats all in one place.  And say hi to Kahn for us!

Bonus!  I actually found a really adorable video taken by a visitor to the Rescue.  It's just like being there!

July 23, 2010

Post #100: Blog Interviews the Circle-Slash-Carrot Burro of Oatman, Arizona

Blog, it’s our 100th post, a HUGE occasion to be sure! Considering that your interviewee for the 50th was the Internet, I’m sure our readers are as excited as I am to see who you found for our celebration today! Take it away, Blog....

Blog: We want to welcome our very special celebrity guest, the Circle-Slash-Carrot Burro of Oakman, Arizona! Burro, glad to--

Diana: Wait, hold it, hold it. For the 100th our guest is the who?

Blog: Not The Who. The Circle-Slash-Carrot Burro of Oatman, Arizona.

Diana: Yeah, I heard you the first time, I just couldn’t believe it.

Blog: Believe it.

Diana:  The burro that daughter Katie photographed on her Route 66 trip, the burro with the circle-slash-carrot sticker on his forehead.  That burro?

Burro: Um. Is there a problem? Should I go back to Oatman? Would you rather get The Who?

Blog: No, of course not. You’re a perfectly fitting guest for this auspicious occasion, Mr. Burro.

Diana: This I gotta hear.

Blog: And you WILL, if you’ll let me get on with it.

Diana: Sorry. Take it away, Blog....

Blog: Burro, first tell us about life in Oatman.

Burro: Oatman has the zip code of 86433 and burros roam all over the town. And there are like a hundred-some people, too. And the zip code is 86433.

Blog: Burros roam all over the town?

Burro: Oatman started when some prospectors struck a ten million dollar gold find in 1915. It became a mining town, and burros were used to haul rock, water and supplies. The mining stopped in World War II, so the burros were set free and became wild. Then when Route 66 was built, Oatman became a tourist town, and the burros hit it off pretty well with the tourists. ‘Cause they had carrots. Burros like carrots better than gold. I would like some carrots.

Blog: Wouldn’t we all?

Burro: Then in 1953 they moved Route 66 and the people didn’t come. And there were no carrots either. They didn’t have zip codes back then either.

Blog: You seem pretty enamored of the zip code concept, Burro.

Burro: I would like 86,433 carrots. But I can’t even have one.

Blog: Even though Route 66 and the people have returned, you can’t have carrots. Which brings us to that sticker on your forehead, Burro. Why are you sporting a circle-slash-carrots sticker?

Burro: No one else is! The other 86,433 burros get carrots!

Blog: 86433 is the zip code of Oatman, Burro...I don’t think it’s the population of burros.

Burro: No, you’re right...it isn’t.

Blog: You seem pretty downcast--maybe you don’t want to talk about the sticker?

Burro: Oh, I’ll talk about it. It’s there to keep the tourists from giving me carrots because I’m too young to eat carrots yet.

Blog: Oh! Well, that’s not bad. When you’re a little older and bigger, you WILL be able to have carrots!

Burro: I’ll NEVER be older and bigger. The carrots will all be gone by then.

Blog: No they won’t. There will be lots left.

Burro: How do you know?

Blog: Because there are, um, 86,433 carrots! That many carrots will last, um, practically forever!

Burro: They will? Okay! I’ll just wait till then then, thanks Blog! Oh, and it’s funny, because 86433 is the zip code of Oatman, too!

Blog: The world is full of amazing coincidences, isn’t it?

Burro: Blog, I can’t see your face because you are non-corporeal, but Diana’s face I CAN see and she looks puzzled. Does she want a carrot?

Blog: She just wants to know why I picked you to interview for our big 100th post, Burro.

Burro: Do you want to explain, or should I?

Blog: Uh...sure, you go right ahead!

Burro: Diana, I know the Internet is a big, famous guy that everyone in the world knows, and I am just the Circle-Slash-Carrot Burro of Oatman, Arizona. But Blog wanted your readers to know that it doesn’t matter how famous you are, even someone like a little burro can be important too. The Internet makes a lot of people smile but so do the burros of Oatman and other burros, too. And I make a lot of people smile because I have a sticker on my head with a circle-slash-carrot on it. So that’s why, Diana.

Diana: Huh. Well, that sure makes sense to me, Burro! Well said.

Burro: Thank you. Now I’m going back to Oatman to wait to get bigger. Please tell the Internet that everyone in zip code 86433 says hi. He does know that’s the zip code of Oatman, right?

Blog: He sure does, Burro. I hope you get your carrots soon!

Burro: I would like 752 carrots, please.

Blog: I have a feeling our Randometer is your biggest fan, Burro. Readers, thanks for visiting and we look forward to bringing you the next hundred posts! We close with a lovely video of the burros of Oatman, created by Life Journey guy and featuring the nice song “Say You Believe,” by Amanda Kaletsky. In other words, our friend the Internet brings you our friends the burros. Enjoy!

July 21, 2010

How to be unprofessional

Brace yourself, Blog, I'm in total Griping Mode today. I am annoyed.  Very annoyed.  Maybe venting will help.

I am absolutely staggered by the sorts of behaviors one encounters in the workplace. I've always take my own professionalism for granted, thinking most of my work style was nothing special: just a combination of courtesy, practicality, and common sense. Apparently I was wrong about that. At any rate, observing the things I see, I find myself remarkably qualified to write a little guide on how to be unprofessional.

First a disclaimer:  To protect the innocent (myself included there, LOL), I ask that no one infer I speak of any particular person, business, or field.  The behaviors below are things I've seen done both to myself and other people throughout my time in the workforce. The occasional commission of these acts is only human. It's when they are chronic and entrenched that a company can really be affected.

So, Blog, here we go:

1. Make no attempt to be organized. Ignore your appointments calendar, lose track of paperwork, forget things you have said and done--there are all sorts of creative ways to hinder your own productivity. And bonus, you will also hinder others at the same time! Especially key is to have your email box be completely unorganized and backlogged. Why be able to find emails when you can make people resend the lost ones to you instead?

2. Be late to meetings or doublebook yourself. There's no better way to decrease productivity on your workplace than wasting the time of a whole group of people at once. But don't limit this concept to big meetings. Ask someone to come to your office, then step out to go to the bathroom or be involved in conversation with another coworker when the invitee arrives.

3. Don't take notes or make lists. That might interfere with your forgetting to do things, or help you get the facts straight! Why should you have to expend that extra effort, when you can always fall back on "I forgot." Or better still, "I don't remember that." Or best of all, "No one told me that."

4. Ignore voice mails and emails. Make other people have to track whether or not they have heard back from you, as well as take the time to repeat their communications. Never respond or supply what is needed before you've been asked multiple times.

5. Don't master the basic skills required of your job. Your ignorance is the perfect reason to make others handle tasks on your behalf, so you don't have to take the time yourself. And why go through the tutorials or take a seminar or other training when you can bug others to show you how to do things? Then, don't fail to forget what they showed you as soon as possible. Better still, get out of doing work by not knowing how, so others will have to step in for you.

6. Don't refer tasks to others that you don't have the ability to handle. Better to do a shoddy job than reveal that you recognize others are more capable of doing this particular assignment. (Does this seem contradictory to #5? Actually, it's perfectly possible to do both types of things simultaneously!) Likewise, give no particular credence to input from someone because they speak from expertise or experience. You know better than they do!

7. Diligently ignore the desire of coworkers to get work done and progress with projects. When someone is meeting with you, take business as well as personal calls, answer emails, look for things, or discuss unimportant and irrelevant matters rather than the task at hand, so they are completely unproductive for the duration. Likewise, do your best to be unavailable when your input is required to move a project forward. Be on vacation, sick, running errands, or socializing when others need you.

8. Avoid having reasonable or logical expectations, both for yourself and others. Promise to meet deadlines you can't accommodate, and make demands without regard to the actual requirements for execution. Double bonus this way: not only will work not get done when expected, but people will have to waste time, sometimes making excuses, sometimes trying to demonstrate why assignments are impossible.

9. Neglect to share information with coworkers that will help them do their jobs. It helps to assure those in charge that you will pass on said information so they assume it's taken care of and don't do it themselves. You want to make sure there's no possible way the coworker will find out those helpful facts!

10. Pretend to know things you actually don't know, and/or to have completed tasks you've actually left undone. You don't want to look bad, do you? It's much better to have people catch you in falsehoods, and lose their trust in your word.

11. Undermine the authority of others. This works best if you give someone authority to be responsible for a decision, then later tell others that the decision they made was wrong. Don't discuss the decision privately with the person first before you criticize or reverse it; much better to catch them blind-sided so they look bad in front of co-workers.

12. Give superiors false, negative information about the job performance of those who report to you. If you're caught at it by said underlings, don't correct what you said to your superiors. Hopefully the underlings don't ascribe to #11 and will be afraid enough of you not to report to your bosses!

I'm sure I could come up with a few more, Blog, but being this negative can quickly cross the line from therapeutic venting to bummer-inducing pessimism. I'll close with a more positive thought: it's amazing that so many businesses succeed in spite of all this, and I think a testimony to the undauntable power of capitalism. Meanwhile, a person can always just be glad they get a paycheck.

But I hate to think what would become of the workforce if we were all reduced to looking at our vocations that way.

EVEN CHEERIER CLOSING THOUGHT:  Our next post is the Big 100th Post for This Blog!  Dare we dream that the occasion will be celebrated with another awesome interview by the irrepressable Blog?  How could he possibly top the interview with the Internet we had for our 50th?  For the answers to these and other questions neither you nor we can think of to ask, tune in next post!

July 20, 2010

A dream of Ben, a spark of creativity

Blog, I'm here today to fulfill the A Creative Dreamer's July Creative Challenge, and let me waste no time in sharing my contribution.  First look at it...and then let me explain:

Is it an "art"? Is it a "craft"? Does it really qualify?  And what the heck is the story here?

Let us begin at the beginning, Blog.  The theme of this month's challenge is, simply, "Dream." And I have to say, that's one mighty broad category.  I've been struggling since the theme was announced to figure out where to go with it.  Some "dreamy" piece of beaded jewelry?  Some work in polyclay somehow expressing the topic?  I couldn't come up with anything that really inspired me.

Then a couple of nights ago, I was treated to one of those really vivid dreams about romance that I am fortunate to have a couple times a year.  Even though I haven't thought a whole lot about Benjamin Linus since "Lost" aired its series finale, he was the star of this dream. 

I know I have more than a few readers who understand how such a thing could have happened.

I've blogged a lot in the past about the strange but affective appeal of Michael Emerson's portrayal of this conflicted, engaging character.  There are lots of aspects of Ben Linus that strike a chord with this or that female (perhaps this or that male as well).  In my dream, Ben was more like his "off island" self, the wise and kind high school teacher, Dr. Linus.  He was some sort of college professor, and I was his intern or teaching assistant, and there was this unspoken chemistry between us.  I found myself totally, profoundly smitten with him...and much to my joy, I came to believe my feelings were returned, even though no words to that effect were expressed.

I woke up from this dream pretty dang happy.  I think if I could have dreams like that at will, I'd never get out of bed.  And within a day's time, it occurred to me that somehow I had to celebrate this dream for the Creative Challenge.

In my book Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life I talk a lot about the animus, a sort of embodiment of our desires that can manifest itself in celebrity crushes.  I discuss ways to tap into or connect with that "spirit," including writing about the personalities that so strongly attract the soul.  I also mention another approach that I've found effective, and that's to draw or paint or otherwise focus on the physical image of the animus-bearing person.

Creating this digital art of Professor Linus was that sort of exercise, complimented by my little bit of free verse explaining what the portrait signifies to me.  Doing it, I did revive some emotions I had felt in my dream.  Which I assure you, Blog, was quite fun.

Meanwhile, it's a bit of a nutshell expression of my belief that if you are infatuated with an imaginary person, then real or not, that person matters.  The importance is not really the actual celebrity or character, but rather what he signifies to you and your psyche.  So there you go.

But does this digital art--a little interpretive Photoshopping and graphic design--constitute a creative craft?  All I know is, it most certainly served as a creative way of celebrating the theme of "dream."

Well, Blog, I hope I explained myself okay in this post!  At any rate, I was probably more successful than I've ever been at explaining to my husband why I'm attracted to Ben Linus...

July 19, 2010

Let's play "Doorknock Dinners"

Blog, you may not remember that awesome Food Network show from about ten years ago, "Doorknock Dinners," hosted by UK-born Aussie Gordon Elliott. Gordon would pop in unannounced at a lucky home with gourmet chef in tow, and said chef would construct a gourmet meal out of whatever happened to be in the fridge.

Occasionally I love to indulge in the home game of this show, that is, peruse whatever I have on hand and try to make the fanciest feast possible out of the ingredients. It's more fun than playing Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock, Blog! And Davie likes it too because he gets to eat the results.

Let's take a closer look at how yesterday's round of the game went down.

Scheduled on the weekly menu was tilapia. Other than that, I had a hankering to make use of the fresh cantaloupe I had on hand, and to somehow fit bacon into the mix. Why? Because everything is better with bacon, dudes! I also wanted to enjoy some of the gourmet olive oils we recently bought from Vom Fass. Yum yum good and good for you.

After some pondering and googling, I came up with this menu:

Bacon-Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia
with Cantaloupe Basil Salsa
Lemon Dill Pasta
Crusty French Bread with Garlic Dipping Oil

Scrumpt City USA, Blog. Proceed to dig the specific recipes....

Bacon-Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia
(serves 2)

1 - 1 1/2 pound tilapia fillets (5-6 pieces)
3 slices of bacon
1 cup panko or fine breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
Salt, pepper, parsley
1 T butter
1 T olive oil

Fry or microwave bacon until very crispy; crumble fine. Mix crumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, and bacon bits till well blended. Beat egg with a teaspoon of water till well blended. Dredge tilapia fillets in flour, then egg, then crumb mixture; allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Melt butter and heat with olive oil in large skillet or griddle. Saute fillets, turning once, about 4 minutes per side or until breading is golden brown and fish cooked through. Sprinkle with parsley and garnish with lemon slices or wedges.

Cantaloupe Basil Salsa
(serves 2)

1 cup cantaloupe, chopped
1/8 cup Vidalia onion, chopped
1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
1 T fresh lime juice
1/2 T fresh basil, chopped fine
Cayenne pepper

Blend all ingredients, add salt and cayenne to taste. Chill at least one half hour to blend flavors.

Lemon Dill Pasta

This one was a bit off-the-cuff: I whisked together about a quarter cup of fat-free sour cream with about 2 teaspoons of lemon olive oil and about 1 teaspoon of dry dill weed, and a little salt and pepper. Stirred the mix into about two cups of cooked and drained whole wheat spaghetti, and voila! So delish.

Crusty French Bread with Garlic Dipping Oil

Just that!

And for those of you who, sadly, missed getting to see the show, here's a handy video:

Meanwhile, I cannot help but also share, in the spirit of the mash-up (to which of course Blog and I are total slaves), hightlights from the "Iron Chef" episode of "Doorknock Dinners." It celebrates the good old days of the original, Japanese Iron Chef, with all its campy, "oh no! Ican'teatthatit'stoocharred!" glory.

So readers, is your cupboard a bit bare today? All the more reason to challenge yourself to a round of Doorknock Dinners!

July 16, 2010

Bizarradore Mash-Up Day

Blog, I am sitting here at home waiting for Milwaukee Water Works to shut off the water main, so Bobby the Plumber can repair our broken water valve.  In the meantime, no H2O.  I can think of no better way to cheer myself up than to combine the awesome concepts of bizarradore and mash-up, making an even more awesome concept, the Bizarradore Mash-up!

First up, let's combine Easter Island Heads (which are endlessly entertaining)

with eclipses!

No, not THAT kind of eclipse.  I mean when the moon blocks the sun and stuff.  Resulting mash-up:

This gorgeous photo brought to you by Astronomy Picture of the Day.  You should subscribe, it's fantastic!

I feel a little better already, Blog.

Now for a never-fail bizarradore mash-up.  Of course I bizarradore funny pictures of cats.  And likewise, I adore putting stuff on the heads of cats.  So of course life is even better when you have several funny pictures of a cat with stuff on its head!

From the awesome folks at ICanHasCheezburger.  Again, you should read it daily, like Blog and I do.  [ADDENDUM the next day:  For a ridonkulous number of fabulous pictures of this cat with stuff on its head, see this composite. Don't forget to click enlarge if your browser requires it!]

And lastly, what modern artist is more amazing than M.C. Escher...

Meanwhile, what toy is cooler than Legos:

Therefore, your head just might explode from this:

Now that is button.  But wait, there's more!  Let's mash-up the concept above with something even awesomer, like SPACE!  Then the result is this!!!

An Escher-style Lego space station!  It's the work of Alex Eylar aka Profound Whatever, publicized by Lego fans The Brothers Brick, and brought to my attention by the fab blog Great White Snark, which you should read daily for no other reason than that it has one of the coolest blog names ever.  Except of course for you, Blog.

Wow, thanks to the Interwebs, we have had a very day-brightening experience with this Bizarradore Mash-up.  Randometer is happy, Blog is happy, I am happy...and I hope you're a little happier too.

July 15, 2010

Selke the cat and her Powervom

[Queasiness warning: this post is more silly than graphic, but do not read it while eating your breakfast.]

In the photo you see our cat Cody posing with our cat Selke, to give you a sense of feline scale.  Selke is petite, Blog.  She is really tiny, like your average bag lunch.  That's why I'm so amazed at her capacity to produce vom.

Selke is somehow capable of generating pretty much her own weight in puke after a meal.  That is why I want to officially declare that Selke's superpower, if she were to apply for superhero status, would definitely be her Powervom.

Our third cat Pookie, who is a long-haired Norwegian Forest Cat, produces the occasional hairball for which one can hardly blame her.  She is 75% fluff after all.  Cody throws up once every six months or so, completely soundlessly.  That's because he's awesome.  And yes, he's my favorite cat ever (and my family is very tired of hearing that.)

Selke is not soundless, which is a good thing, because you need to be able to track her behind bookshelves, under tables, and through piles of electronics wiring when she is in Powervom Mode.  She is not one to do the job all at once, even though sometimes the initial quantity makes you think so.

There is always more vom.

There is another great mystery about this situation, Blog:  How Selke manages to subsist on the amount she eats minus the amount she hurls.  Science would tell you she should be the size of a small gerbil by now, but this is not the case. 

I guess that's just the supernatural wonder of the Powervom at work.

And lastly, there is a third great mystery:  why we humans actually like our pets in spite of things like this.  Believe me, we are rooting for Selke to decide to turn in her superhero cape and set aside the magic of the Powervom, but until then, we continue to feed her.  Even though every time we do, it feels like a terrible mistake.

Fear not, readers, this video is not of the Powervom.  It's a nice, festive holiday video of Selke in a battle to the death with her reindeer antlers.

You do not want to be exposed to the Powervom.  Believe me.

July 12, 2010

A lesson in hotness from John C. Reilly

Hey Blog, hear our readers asking, “John C. Reilly...hotness?” Yes, that’s what I said. And I do mean that John C. Reilly, the guy you see in Will Ferrell movies acting crazy, the guy with the Play-Doh face and wild curly hair.

This is the guy I found myself really, really attracted to when we watched “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.” How could such a thing happen? Well, the easy answer is that anyone is hotter when he plays a vampire, and you won’t get an argument from me on that point. As you see in this photo below, once you adopt the blood-drinker persona, that boosts your sex appeal at once. Plus, you get to employ that timeless trick, the “looking out of the tops of your eyes” face that you see here (previously termed “the Look” on my old blog). Never fails to tweak the female libido, Blog.

But let’s give some specific props to John C. himself. Much to my surprise, the man can really work it. Here he is managing quite a smoldering expression, never mind the normally goofy face and freaky hair. How about that? In his Seminar on Looking Hot Regardless of Your Natural Endowments, John might have that as Tip #1--Ignore anything you see in the mirror and just act sexy anyway.

And our next photo provides another suggestion: Tip #2--Go for an air of mystery, perhaps an attractive facial scar that suggests a dangerous past. Hockey players have been using their facial scars this way for decades. John C. does a great job in the movie employing that irresistible blend of danger and beneficence that really sucks a girl in. He could kill you with a gesture, and yet...he seems strangely interested in protecting you.

His next recommendation is not one we women like to consider, but guys sure know it works and we have to agree. Tip #3--Hitch yourself to a gorgeous woman whose attentions prove your attractiveness. See here John C. with arm candy Salma Hayek. If she wants him, why wouldn’t any female?

The next suggestion is pretty obvious, Blog. Tip #4--Wear a long coat. Nathan did it in “Firefly,” Keanu did it in “The Matrix,” Johnny did it in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” clearly it works every time. The coat = sex appeal.  Especially if you walk with a bold, determined stride and are back lit by moonlit fog.

Less obvious but definitely true: Tip #5--Employ a delectable voice. I did see the movie version of “Chicago” so I knew John C. could sing (he was Amos and did that great number, “Mr. Cellophane”). But in point of fact in his youth he was a huge Broadway fan and did nothing but musicals. If a guy can sing, chances are he has a great speaking voice too and you just don’t realize it. When he plays a vampire, he has a great opportunity to use that voice to best advantage, intoning his lines in vampiric style. Ooh.

Great ideas all, but John C. Reilly happens simply to be a very talented actor. He did a fabulous job with this role, employing a dry, understated sense of humor, a flair for the sinister, and a low-key but palpable personal warmth. And I’m not gonna mince words about it, I found it all utterly seductive. Just watch this clip, readers, and you’ll get a bit of an idea.

I’m officially adding John C. Reilly to my “Guys Who Make Really Sexy Vampires” list. Sounds crazy, but dagnabbit, Blog, I’m hot for the guy.

July 7, 2010

Mums, buttons, Japan...random

Blog, I got in some hot water with the Randometer for yesterday's post.  Just not random enough to qualify, to his way of thinking.  So I am determined to please him today by bringing up the three randomest things I can think of.


In my blog perusals this morning I came upon a post in The Artful Crafter about homecoming mums.  It seems unbeknownst to me, there is this tradition in certain parts of the southern U.S.  In these places, homecoming mums are not the simple flowers we wore for that occasion when I was in high school.  No, they are homemade extravaganzas contrived of pompoms, ribbons, stuffed animals, etc. that to me resemble what would happen if you ate a Michaels store too fast and regurgitated a sort of crafty-hairball.  As you can see in the photo, Blog, these dealies are not tasteful nor even especially wearable.  They certainly must outweigh one's homecoming dress. 

I found this page from back in 2007 when moms in Plano, Texas were selling homecoming mums, and being the high-tech sort of Texans, made themselves a web page to advertise their wares.  "Buy your mums and garters from the Planoettes’ Bootbackers Booster Club Mum Moms in the school cafe during lunch," reads the ad.  I dare you to say that three times fast, Blog.  It also instructs "Look for the Mum Moms!"  This is all out of the realm of my Wisconsin experience, but I'm guessing the "Mum Moms" would be easy to spot.  Readers who have indulged in this tradition, do share.  I need firsthand comfirmation this is really happening.  And that the boys wear them too (?).


Readers recall when I determined to invent a new word and see that it became famous.  Well, I can't say that bizarradore has hit the big time yet.  Never you fear though, Blog...last night Davie and I came up with another idea to try.

We were watching "Colorsplash" with David Bromstad on HGTV.  At the same time, we both thought David had referred to some whimsical decor item as "button."  As in, "Ooh, that's button!"  We're both pretty sure he actually said "fun," but felt strongly that "button" would have been more fun.  So now we're trying to see if we can get button to catch on.

There are not degrees of button, so you can't say "that's totally button."  There's no opposite of button either, so you can't say, "that is so not button."  You CAN simply say, "That's button," or "I think you're button," or "This cake is button."

Think middle-class, white, middle-aged translation of the slang term "buck," and you should do fine with it.  And if we can get the rappers and krumpers to use the term "button," well...that would be button.


Davie found this video the other day on the website WTF Japan Seriously.  First of all, what could be more random than a website called "WTF Japan Seriously"?  Random, and yet justified, if you have been exposed at all to the insanity that is Japanese game shows.  Anyway, this one really takes the cake.  It is rated for mature audiences not because it's truly racy, but because the point of the game show, apparently, is to "not ram the boobs."  I mean that so very literally.  If you don't believe me, watch.

Blog, I can confirm that that just sent Randometer off the chart.  Thank you, Japan.  You have outdone Texas, and for that we say, you're button.

July 6, 2010

Let's share the covers

Blog, I think the Randometer will appreciate that today I am randomly posting on the subject of song covers. Why? I guess I was thinking how much I like covers as a concept. I mean, you start with a great song and then find a cool way to reinterpret it. That just makes for yet another great song!  What's not to bizarradore about that?

To see my love of covers, all you have to do is look at the contents of Ipo my iPod. Like I have “Jump” by Van Halen and “Jump” by the cast of Glee. I even like it when the same artist as the original artist does it. Like Ipo has both the original of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” and the acoustic version he did for MTV.

For some reason I find it uber-cool to take a song and preserve the basics of it, but transform it into a whole new sound. One easy way to do that is simply to have a person of the other gender record it. I think Joan Jett and the Blackhearts may have actually topped Tommy James and the Shondells when in 1981 they revamped the 1969 hit “Crimson and Clover.” I’m sorry, but the hotness factor went way up. If you don’t believe me, watch the video:

A similar thing happened in what I think has to be one of the best covers ever, the Bangles 1987 re-do of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1968 hit “Hazy Shade of Winter.” Well, that happens to be my favorite S&G song in the first place. So it just shows if you take a fabulous song and use the tools of your generation’s music to make it your own, great results occur. Start with the original:

And check out the Bangles:

Sometimes it works to take a song and give it a completely new spin, and both the Randometer and I love it when that happens, Blog. I had the fun of thinking about that quite a bit when I wrote my novel Looking on Darkness. One of the characters is a jazz singer who likes to do crazy covers. For example, in one scene she performs Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” as a reggae number.

In that regard I love the following two covers. If there’s anyone out there familiar with the musical “Oliver!”, you may recall one of the big radio hits from that show, “As Long as He Needs Me.” It was sung straight up as a slow, plaintive, melodramatic ballad both in the musical and by the various people who covered it. But last year my Broadway idol Jason Danieley did a cover with his band that is all jaunty and chipper but for reasons I cannot quite figure, is completely awesome that way. Give it a listen on this page.

But nothing tops the insanity of the Manhattan Transfer’s reinterpretation of the slow, passionate Righteous Brothers ballad “Unchained Melody.” If you do nothing else today, Blog, click on this link and listen to it. It’s like some nutty cowboy song or something. Who knows what they were on when they recorded it. Fantastic.

Sometimes covers are not so separated by time and style as these examples, as I will now illustrate, Blog. Last year I discovered the incredibly awesome version of “Our Lips are Sealed” by Fun Boy Three, which to my mind is eons cooler than the famous version by The Go-Go’s. Well, it seems the song was actually co-written by Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin AND Terry Hall of Fun Boy Three. And the latter version came out only a year after the former. So, it was a fascinating case of artists collaborating and then performing a song separately in their own unique ways.

In closing, enjoy it--one of my favorite covers ever.

Have your own favorite cover song? Sing out in the comments! Randometer says you must!

July 1, 2010

Blog interviews Cranny the nook

As you know, Blog loves to interview gadgets. So he’s taking over the blog today to introduce you to my new Barnes & Noble nook ereader. Take it away, Blog!

Blog: Cranny, welcome to the blog and to life at Magic House.

Cranny: Thanks, Blog. I’m really here representing both myself and my twin, Nicher, who is Davie’s nook.

Blog: I heard Davie came up with both your names. I get “Cranny,” but what’s the deal with “Nicher”?

Cranny: Well, Davie was thinking about various synonyms for “nook” and thought of “niche.” Being a French word, it put him in mind of French-Canadian hockey players. And in hockey, player nicknames often are derived by adding “-er” to the last name. Hence, Nicher.

Blog: Fascinating explanation.

Cranny: I tend to be fascinating. I’m just sayin’.

Blog: As do all ebook readers, I’m sure. So, how is Diana liking you so far?

Cranny: She says I’m easier to hold than a book, and page turning is less effort too. And she’s already excited about one day in the future having most of her personal library portable in my memory. I can hold about 1,500 books.

Blog: Pretty sweet! I like your cover, too.

Cranny: It’s functional for protection, but also expresses Diana’s fun and funky personality. Davie went for more of dignity and elegance for Nicher.

Blog: Not that Davie would claim to be either dignified or elegant, of course. But Nicher is very sharp-looking, that’s sure. Now I’m curious...Diana has waited a long time to get an ereader. Why did she finally pull the trigger?

Cranny: I’m the new Wi-Fi version of the nook, and cost only $149. That made her and Davie sit up and take notice. Davie reads tons of books and was looking both for a way to save money and shelf space.

Blog: He’s not a pack rat.

Cranny: Not in the least. So an affordable ereader seemed just the ticket. Diana reads away from home a lot and just wanted the portability. I fit in her purse easily and am really light.

Blog: Tell us a bit about E ink. That’s what makes you different from using a smart phone or iPad as a book reader, correct?

Cranny: Indeed, Blog. The Kindle and the nook both use E ink technology. That means the screen is not a backlit LCD screen like on phones and computing devices. My screen is like electronic paper: black and white and doesn’t give off light. Which means you can read me outside in bright light. And I’m easy on the eyes. And I don’t use a lot of power.

Blog: Speaking of using power, obviously you’re a green technology in more than one way.

Cranny: If everyone read their books, magazines, and newspapers on an ereader, it would save ridiculous amounts of trees. Do you know what traditional book publishing does in this regard? Books that aren’t sold in stores in a limited time typically are not returned or redistributed in some way--they are destroyed. It’s understood in any print run that a large percentage of copies will end up as trash.

Blog: I’m not an eco-maniac, Cranny, but I hate to think of all that waste.

Cranny: Digital content is so cheap to produce, store and distribute. That means older titles can stick around for decades, finding new readers.

Blog: I’m sold. But I noticed before you brought up the “K” word. Why was Diana sold on Barnes & Noble’s nook rather than Amazon’s Kindle?

Cranny: There are a ton of reasons. For a very fair comparison of the attributes of each, you can visit this comparison page on the Barnes site. But Diana’s main reason stems from her experience publishing books sold for the two ereaders.

Blog: Are these reasons that would matter to people who simply read, rather than sell, books?

Cranny: Most certainly, Blog, and I will explain. Some years back, Amazon used to sell ebooks in several formats, including pdf and Microsoft lit. Diana sold many books that way. But then Amazon decided to make their own ebook reader, and pulled all those hundreds of thousands of titles from availability.

Blog: I don’t get that.

Cranny: They wanted to control the market, so they weren’t going to sell any formats of ebooks other than the format designed for their machine. If buyers wanted to get ebooks from Amazon, they would have to buy a Kindle to read them. And if they wanted ebooks for their Kindle, they would have to buy Kindle versions from Amazon.

Blog: I’m not sure that’s the American Way.

Cranny: Happily, I have anecdotal proof it’s not. Barnes & Noble launched nook two years after Kindle appeared. They already offer more ebooks than Amazon carries, and at least in Diana’s case, they already SELL more. It’s only logical. Customers can install free B&N Reader software on their computers or smart phones and read B&N ebooks on any such device, not just the nook. And publishers can provide their titles to Barnes in simple pdf or ePub format. Diana has told me what a challenge it is producing titles in Kindle format; she didn’t even bother with one of her novels to go through the trouble. It’s the same for other publishers, which is why B&N has more ebooks to sell.

Blog: So in a sense she bought the nook for ethical reasons.

Cranny: Ethical AND practical. Which horse would you back in this race?

Blog: Gotcha, Cranny. Well, you have many reasons to be proud to be a nook.

Cranny: I have easily customizable wallpaper and screensavers, and a built in mp3 player and speakers, too.

Blog: So Diana can rock out to “Code Monkey” by Jonathan Coulton while reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest?

Cranny: Well, she could...had she not already bought it in hardcover.

Blog: Hmmm, a shame.

Cranny: It’s really good, but it would be better weighing nothing, rather than over two pounds. That’s three times what I weigh.

Blog: Even if you were loaded with 1,500 books.

Cranny: Even if.

Blog: Sweet. Well thanks, Cranny. I’m convinced the publishing paradigm needs to shift your way, and I think it will. Very exciting stuff.

Cranny: One more thing, Blog. Diana told me to tell readers that nearly all her books are available for nook as well as the-ereader-who-shall-not-be-named.

Blog: And they are damn cheap that way.

Cranny: Starting at $1.71, Blog!

Blog: Rock! Let’s get reading!

Cranny: You read, I display.

Blog: Right.