Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Get your Fred while he's cheap!

Hey, kids! The publisher has announced that the price of my ebooks is going up in the new year. So far they've been a pretty doggone awesome bargain, but that's all about to change. Alert the media!

I say, buy now and save! How much will you save? How about...

And such excellent books, too! The comedy of MacFinster! The adventure of Cobalt Agonistes! The comedy adventure of Larry and the Mascots! And the heartfelt drama of Faster & Closer! All the literary goods you could want, yours at discount prices!

And that's not all! Order today and you'll get -- well, okay, that's all you'll get. But isn't that plenty?

Here's an idea: Get a Kindle for your loved one for Christmas. Load it with Fred books. What better way to say "Merry Christmas, Herschel!" than a Kindle full of Fred novels? If your loved one is named Herschel, anyway.

Don't delay! Order today! Let nothing get in your way! And here's a few extra exclamation points if you didn't get enough yet: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Miniony Little Christmas.

These were in the store, in with the seasonal foods:

I was a little baffled, I confess. First, I didn't know Peeps was making Minions products. It's amazing how they've spread out; just a few years ago you only ever saw Peeps at Easter, and only as chicks and bunnies. Now movie tie-ins? And why now? The Minions movie doesn't open until July, and yet the Peeps site says that this product is only available "for a limited time only".

A few days later, though, it became a little more clear as I saw the first of what would prove to be a series of Minions-packaged Christmas Peeps: the others don't look like Minions, but they have the little yellow dudes on the packaging. Here's one:

Which I, being a hard-boiled reporter, felt obliged to try, in fulfillment of my mission to inform the public.

The Hot Cocoa & Cream Peep was weird, but all Peeps are kind of weird. If you don't like the taste of sugar, you shouldn't be eating a Peep, is my first note. You may have had other chocolate-flavored Peeps, and that's what the chicks are, but their little chicky butts have been dipped in a kind of white-chocolate intended to simulate cream. They could have called it Hot Cocoa & Marshmallow, but all Peeps are marshmallow, and the cream part is not; it is a pedestrian-quality white chocolate.

Still, Dave the Minion, who as you see by the label is now an Official Peeps Taste Tester, appears to approve, and I'll give it a thumbs-up. If Peeps are the kind of thing you like, you will likely like this kind of Peep.

Interesting that Just Born, the company that makes Peeps, now has Minions working for it. According to the IMDB description of the upcoming movie, "Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters." Can the manufacturers of Peeps be vile and despicable? Yipe!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Commandments for ornaments.

Decorating trees is hard. Little kids think it's easy, but then, they have no taste, no sense of composition. They just stuff everything where they can reach, and then leave when they get bored. If the Bumble had been a toddler, the star would have been stuck on a low branch, then he'd have gone off for cookie break.

I admit I like the look of a Christmas tree with theme ornaments, like all red balls or all angels or something. Very striking. But for the home I like all the sentimental ornaments, like kids' homemade stuff and family legacy ornaments, mixed in with some classic glass balls in a variety of colors, Hallmark gift ornaments, oddball items found here and there, you name it. I like a melange, an olio, a potpourri, a hodgepodge of ornaments on my tree.

Even so, there are rules to what you can have and how you can hang it. These ornament commandments are instinctively known to people with taste and discernment, but for the sake of others, I am compelled to spell them out. They are pretty simple.

1. No Mao ornaments. Anyone who did or would have killed people who celebrated Christmas should probably not be included on the tree.

2. Don't clump the ornaments in one place and ignore the rest of the tree. Silly toddler.

3. Yes, you have to decorate the back of the tree. Shouldn't be squashed up against a wall anyway. But yes, you can put the ugly, dull, or otherwise unappealing ornaments back there.

4. Keep clashing colors away from each other.

5. Avoid clutches of similar colors. A large mob of red ornaments in one spot, for example, draws the eye. You're not decorating Jupiter here.

6. If toddlers are going to be allowed to approach the tree, nothing breakable on lower branches; better yet, nothing breakable anywhere. It doesn't take a lot of yanking to dislodge ornaments farther up. Probably better to put a cage around the tree. Or around the toddler.

7. If Grandma is coming over, no ornaments that would be offensive to Grandma. What's the matter with you?

8. As with rule 5, avoid clumping a lot of very similar ornaments. Like having one spot with a lot of snowmen. Better to spread them around so they don't cause trouble. I think they may be drunk, anyway.

"I'm *hic* gonna kick Olaf's ass!"
9. For any electrical ornaments, follow the same safety tips would for the lights. And no ornaments that involve actual fire, please.

10. Put up all the kids' handmade ornaments. Adults love to see that stuff. When the kids get to be teenagers and are embarrassed by them, put them in more prominent places. We all need a little humility at this time of year.

You won't be arrested or cast into the outer darkness if you defy these rules; you'll just show a lack of taste and discernment, and maybe injure yourself or others. Hey, if these things are unimportant to you, knock yourself out.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pond scum.

Many times we have heard of people referred to as pond scum. Maybe we've referred to someone as pond scum, in fact. But what exactly is this pond scum? Let's have a look. 


Merriam-Webster defines pond scum as:
1. any of various algae (especially spirogyra) or cyanobacteria 2. a mass of tangled filaments of algae or cyanobacteria in stagnant waters
Sounds even worse than it looks, actually.

So if you're going to hit someone with a name like pond scum, they'd better be pretty bad, right? But not bad in a violent, vicious way; bad in a low way, like sneaky, or gross, or tangled in themselves like filaments of cyanobacteria in stagnant water.* Who could possibly be this disgusting?

I have some suggestions!

  • Guys who play the radio at the beach---loudly
  • Guys who drop a brick in the can and won't wash their hands
  • Guys who shoot up the shoulder to avoid traffic, or blast straight through the turning lane to avoid a busy intersection, and think they're smarter than everyone else
  • Guys who think every interaction with any female is an opportunity to hit on them**
  • Perfectly healthy guys who think they're entitled to freeload in their parents' basement until they're, like, fifty
  • Bosses who like to make arbitrary rules or even fire people to make themselves feel powerful
  • Most teenagers, to some degree***
  • Former politicians who become massively wealthy lobbyists
  • Present politicians
  • Anyone who works in the movie industry

That's just a warm-up, I'm sure. Feel free to add suggestions to the Pond Scum list. It will help idenify more characteristics of the genus.


*Pond scum are not actively evil, like people who set fire to bums; such people are more like cancer than merely gross bacteria. 

**NB: Special level of hell for creeps who engage in Thirteenth Stepping; you know who you are.

***Fortunately, this proves to be a temporary condition. Usually.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


The whole town is lighting up in that festive way that says, "We have lots of lightbulbs!" And "It's Christmas!" And, "If you're at our tiny downtown, do your Christmas shopping at the barbershop! Or the pizza place! Or the cell phone place! Or one of 15 beauty salons!"

I say, bring it on. The more the merrier. I love Christmas, and I especially love Christmas lighting, coming as it does at a time of year when we get so little sun that adults are starting to get rickets. I'm definitely one to prefer lighting a single candle to cursing the darkness, although some do disagree.

Of course, there are challenges to dealing with Christmas lights, and I'm not even mentioning the horrible wiring problems or carelessness that causes house fires, injuries, or worse. (If you are decorating, do yourself a favor and check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's holiday decoration safety tips.) No, I'm just dealing with the impossibility of reusing lights from year to year. Fresh out of the box: Lovely, uniform, exciting.

Wrap them up as carefully as you like---come the day after Thanksgiving, they're the snarl from hell. (Pro tip for mad bombers: Using tangled Christmas lights for bomb wiring will completely prevent the hero from stopping the bomb with 007 seconds left; he'll never find the right cord to cut.)

Mrs. Key is of the opinion that the smart thing to do is throw out the old strings of lights after Christmas and buy new next year---or better yet, pick up some new ones immediately at post-Christmas sales. I missed the sales last year, though, so I saved the old ones. This year they were as snarled and tangled and mangled as the Affordable Care Act. But unlike the ACA, they did eventually get untangled and they actually worked.

And I do hate to throw out lights that still work. I come from a time where Christmas meant big, fat, hot bulbs with meaty wires that got used year in, year out, until they burned down the house. And we liked it that way!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The poet persisted.

My joy over my ode to the ibex the other day has led me into a composing frenzy. Just try to get me to stop! We poets are made of sterner stuff than that. We're known for it. If it were up to the doubting Thomases, Billy Shakespeare would have quit at seven or eight sonnets. But he persisted! Now he has 154, and who knows? His career might really take off.

I was inspired by a brief couplet from another writer that incidentally combined rhyming words in an incidental singsong. You don't want that in your prose unless you have a darn good reason, so I had to take him to the woodshed. But for my poetic muse it was pure inspiration. So here comes another one!

The Unsuitable Suitor

Proposal consisted
Of favors enlisted
Morality twisted
Exotic place vistaed
Beyond her the world was so wide

The sister resisted
The mister persisted
And leering, insisted
Proclivities listed
Were what all celebrities tried

She'd hardly existed
If she were tightfisted
With love, and unlisted
But he said he'd trysted
Her type with his masculine wile

His nose she then fisted
The mister, delisted
By she, unassisted
At last he desisted
A bloody, insensible pile

In life it is better to have coexisted
Than wind up all battered and royally pisted.