Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day Sunday.


This peaceful moment brought to you by the last big weekend of summer. "Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces."

Of course, I'm not on this spot as I write this. I am at home, working all weekend on end-of-the-month deadlines.

Even so, all is well. I like home. As Thomas Hood wrote,

Peace and rest at length have come
  All the day’s long toil is past,
And each heart is whispering, “Home,
  Home at last.”

I love our home. I just sometimes wish I had the time to enjoy it. And that it were, like, in this picture.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Teen wolf.

My dog is now a teenager.

He's gone from being a cheerful nut who obeyed most of the time to an unpredictable jerk who obeys when he feels like it. The biteyness that made his early days so action-packed has returned, with a much longer and stronger mouth. He'll be affectionate and playful one minute, needy and whiny the next, and growly sometimes in the middle. He's making me crazy. He makes me feel like a failure.

I thought that his little operation would prevent this. I thought wrong.

I'm told that this is a phase, as it is with human teenagers; that fortunately, in the case of dogs, it only lasts about three months, so we're already halfway through.

I hope so.

The teens are a particularly icky time of life for teens and those around them. I did not enjoy my adolescence overmuch. I am not enjoying the dog's now.

The mystery about all this is not why dogs would behave the same way people do at hormone-spurtin' time. I guess it's how we become our own creatures, not just a part of the pack, which dogs and people and I guess cats do, but not your lesser mammals. No, the mystery to me us why more people don't murder their teenage children. Adolescence lasts a hell of a lot longer in children than in dogs, and dogs can't make smartass remarks.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gentlemen, start your burners!

Come on, boys, let's hit it!

Holy Mambajamba, it's MEAT!

It's the last hurrah, the big roundup, the final hours, the end of the line, the last rodeo, the last picture show, the stop sign, the red light, roadblock, bridge out ahead. Labor Day Weekend! Summer's almost gone! EAT MEAT!

I love my grill, but it's not a big grill like the one pictured above. And I'm just fine with that. You know, it's not what you got, it's what you do with it. I'm perfectly comfortable with my small, yet potent, grill. Yes, I can say I've never had a complaint about... well, actually I have had complaints about my cooking. And my, uh, meat.

Forget all that. The real issue here is that summer is supposed to be over. Why? Because the kids are back in school? Like parents consider that a bad thing? Every parent I know has been playing taxi driver all summer. It'll actually be easier to have the kids in school.

Because it's cooler? But we still have three weeks or so until the autumnal equinox.

Because vacation season is over? But most people I know couldn't afford to go anywhere anyhow.

And yet it feels like it's all crashing down.

Still, seasons always end before they end. Fall ends when Santa shows up at Macy's, even though fall continues until around December 21. Whether March comes in like a lamb or a lion, it's supposed to come in with spring, although it's mostly winter. And June is the first month of summer, even though it's actually the third month of spring. It just feels like an extra ripoff this year, with Labor Day landing as early as it possibly can.

I guess it's too much to expect me to fight the zeitgeist by myself with my little gas grill. But if we all keep the BBQ fires burning, maybe we can push the summer needle a little past Labor Day weekend for a change.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Can't LEGO the past.

Saw The Lego Movie a few days ago, and am compelled to share my thoughts. Stop me! Stop me before I share my thoughts again! 

Ha! Too late.

First off, it was a lot of fun. I don't know much about the creation of the film, but it was clever of them to do an anti-consumerism movie for a consumer product. Talk about hanging a lampshade on it! Also, the filmmakers clearly had fun with the project, start to finish. It was astounding to see a movie made for kids that did not have one poop joke---or if there was I missed it; the jokes were flying pretty fast. It was the only time we'll ever get to see Gandalf and Dumbledore in the same place. And Superman gets to treat Green Lantern like a nerdy kid brother, presumably because the movie Green Lantern flopped and Man of Steel made a ton.

Mark Mothersbaugh, who began his career writing infuriatingly catchy technopop songs, wrote the infuriatingly catchy technopop music, especially "Everything Is Awesome," which will probably win an Academy Award for best song. If that pimp song could win a few years back, I'm convinced there is nothing that can disqualify a song for nomination anymore, and there are far too few musicals to provide a competitive field.

I enjoyed the voice work, from some surprising quarters. Morgan Freeman made me laugh for the first time since he was Easy Reader. Chris Pratt, who looks like a JV Kirk to me in the Trek movies, was perfect as the unlikely hero. But I am sad that there's so little work for pure voice actors anymore, guys like Mel Blanc and Paul Frees in the old days and Larry Kenney now. I'm told that average workaday thespians can't even get gigs doing audiobooks. Everything is celebrity.

My philosophical problems with the film begin with the fact that hanging the aforementioned lampshade on a problem doesn't make it go away. It's still as much a movie-length commercial for a product as any Care Bears or Barbie movie is. I can endure such a thing if it's entertaining enough, just as I can watch an ad that's entertaining without feeling like I've burned 30 seconds of my life. This movie passed that test. (It had me at the "I just wanna go home!" gag during the first big chase.)

My other problem is with, well, people being made of Lego* blocks. I ran into this with the Batman game for the Wii a couple of years ago, when Robin gets his head knocked off, and Batman pops it back on and Robin's fine. Yes, you can do that with Lego toys, but it kind of lowers the stakes, you know what I mean? (Inconsistently, in the movie one character does "die" following decapitation while another character does not. Maybe in the Lego universe, decapitation is only fatal if you don't get your head plugged into some blocks quickly enough.)

I think what annoyed me most, though, is that Lego has been selling these complete scene sets for years, where they supply all the pieces for a castle, a Western town, a city block, or whatever, and you just build them to look like the picture on the box---and this is what we're supposed to rail against in the new film? That someone puts the sets together the way the manufacturer sells them? Lego has given you a set with everything to make a specific scene... and now they want you to screw around with it so you don't end up like Will Ferrell in the movie.** It's like selling a paint-by-numbers kit and then ridiculing the person who paints the picture, insisting that he ignore the outlines and numbers and just paint whatever he wants. Hey, Lego, that Western town was your idea!

When I was a kid, back in the Holocene Epoch, the Lego set didn't even come with people. The only special piece I remember was the window. You could put a Lego window in a wall. That was it! I don't even think there was a door. Maybe. Now everything is a special piece, but back then we had just Lego bricks of different sizes and had to make them into our own things.

I remember taking a huge pile of them and making all kinds of little sculptures (little houses, dogs, larger houses, people, horses, more houses, whatever) and putting them out on tables with little tags like an art museum. My mom forced herself to go through it and ooh and aaah, God bless her. It didn't look like much, but it was a lot of fun, and made me into the world-famous sculptor I am today.***

That's sort of the play Lego wants you to do with its sets, although by supplying the pieces to be used in particular ways they hinder you from doing exactly that. What do you want from me, Lego?! And apparently you shouldn't ever glue the blocks in place to save your creation, not ever. So it's okay to dismantle things at Legoland or at the Art of the Brick exhibit. Go ahead! It's fun!

Anyway, on the bright side, The Lego Movie makes a tremendous amount of fun of the tropes of the modern adventure film, and for that I have to give it high marks.**** And it gave Abraham Lincoln a rocket chair. Who doesn't love that?

But any parent who watches the movies knows the real bad guy in the Lego universe is the brick that waits in the hall, or on the stairs, for your naked feet in the middle of the night. That guy is a bastard.

* As an editor I have wrestled in the past with others who want LEGO to be all caps, as in the company nomenclature, for news stories and the like. But the word Lego is from the Dutch leg godt, or play well; it's not an acronym like IKEA. Remember, kiddies, when you're copyediting, just because a company insists on funky punctuation or spelling does not mean you have to play along. They want you to write (as an imaginary example) joSEph?ne"Z B..eaUty PROdUct!s in text because they know you'll ID the company name immediately by the stupid way it looks, but for the benefit of your reader (and your sanity) just write Josephine'z Beauty Products. 

** A good thing to not end up as in any of his movies, actually.
*** Not really.

**** They have a sequel slated for 2017, but it's hard to imagine they'll capture lightning in a bottle twice. This movie has the feel of a one-off, a nonpareil, a lovely experience that can't be forced to repeat. I guess we'll find out. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

East side, west side, all around etc.

Saw a guy in a T-shirt that said, I Miss the Old New York.

Not sure which one he's talking about. The old New York that built a wall at Wall Street as a fortification between the white settlers and the natives? The old New York of the Gilded Age, with its Astors and Coopers and big hotels and elevated trains?

This one?
One suspects that he and others like him mean the old darker, grittier one where everything was falling apart and everyone was broke and Times Square was packed with XXX movie theaters. I was a kid back then, but even I knew that you could pick up venereal disease just following Broadway up through Times Square in those days. The New York from the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

If that's what they miss, they're in luck! The city's rookie mayor is cut of the same cloth as previous New York politicians who have let crime run rampant, instituted confiscatory taxes, and used the whip of social engineering to drive businesses and the middle class out of the city. When you have no middle class, you have to suck up to the rich, because they're the only ones left with any serious dough. When you have no middle class, and you have nothing to offer the rich, you have to get money out the poor, and the easiest way to do that is by appealing to the lowest possible motivations---booze, drugs, sex, violence.

A lot of people hate the prettied-up chain-store-driven Times Square. A lot of people have short memories.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blank stairs.

Sometimes I like taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Down, anyway. Up is a lot of work, you know. 

Most office buildings have lots of carpet around, or some kind of mild, decorative flooring. But stairs are not part of the official expected-use area. Unless they're part of a sweeping entrance or act as a funky floor connector, stairs are part of the secret bones of a building. They're tucked away behind barely marked doors, sometimes sealed off with the threat of automatic fire alarms. It's a shame because they're kind of cool. 

Stairs are usually seen in action movies, because if you're being chased you can't wait for the elevator. So you run down them, slide down them, fall down them; you get shot at from one flight to another, especially if it's a stairwell with a big empty space for the stairs to curve around so the bad guy can see you. The camera can watch you from above or below. Stairs are almost a distinct character in films like The Third Man.

The stairs can get all scary and bendy, like in Vertigo; you can fall down many, many stairs like Groucho Marx in A Night at the Opera.

Stairs are paradoxical. They are part of the structure, but they imply movement. Stairs lead, stairs run, stairs access; no one lives on stairs. People on stairs are always going someplace else.

Unless you're on the landing, panting like your lungs are trying to escape your chest. Stairs are great exercise.

So thank your friendly neighborhood stairs. Without them, architecture would never have gotten off the ground.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Is we Geting dummer?

"Are We Becoming More STUPID?" asks the, to which the initial response could conceivably be, "Well, we're reading your Web site, aren't we?" But I actually do give the Daily Mail credit for covering non-PC stories. Its American online edition will go after stories that the American press---too busy giving each other awards for their courage---is too chickenspit to cover.*

The thesis of the stupidity story is that we reached peak smarts a while back but have been dumbing down in the last decade. The "Flynn effect," wherein better nutrition and living standards are linked to higher IQ, did all it could from the 1930s to the 1980s, but now we're settling in for a long winter's duh. Perhaps it is coming attractions for Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" and Judge's Idiocracy, wherein dumb people keeping having a dozen kids while smart people have few or none, so the human race devolves into universal dumbassery.

But is this study what it purports to be? We are told that IQs have been declining in the UK, Australia, and Denmark. Although I am unable to parse the actual data, which is behind a paywall, I would like to make some observations and thoughts, in order of increasing importance:

1) The UK, Denmark, and Australia have had unprecedented immigration over the last two decades, primarily made up of people from countries that had inferior infrastructure and education, causing an anti-Flynn effect, if you will. Which leads us to...

2) The longstanding battle over how to measure IQ that controls for education. Intelligence quotient is supposed to be able to determine native intelligence, not how much you've learned in school (fluid intelligence vs. crystallized intelligence, to scrape the tip of the iceberg), which, despite the researchers' best efforts at controls, may be telling us nothing more than that the British, Danish, and Australian school systems suck eggs.

3) The most important thing may be that the culture is declining. People who believe in nothing see little reason to get ahead; people who don't value education don't exercise their minds. Hard work is a sucker's game; doing well in school is playing the toady; faithfulness and family are barriers to the expression of delightful me. What happens when these attitudes are widespread? Hordes of drunken yobs hurling on street corners in every town in the UK that isn't overtaken by Muslims, if you read Theodore Dalrymple. When there's no faith in the decency of society, no desire for self-improvement or even willingness to tolerate self-improvement in others, no belief in morals from an unimpeachable source, no value in self-command, no love for anything but the self (however vile), and no shame in the able-bodied living off the government dime, how smart are you going to bother to be?

I mean, XTC's "The Mayor of Simpleton" is considered not a sweet song of irony now, but rather a career option.

Learning is hard and even painful; the smartest kid on the block is going to be a dumbbell by any measure if everyone around him is a dumbbell too. If this report of decline in intelligence is accurate, I am certain that the main reason is a decline in our society. Once again we are surprised that when we saw off the legs, the table does not float.

* Fear of losing access in Washington is one reason; dishonesty for fear of giving their ideological opponents an advantage may be worse. Then there's the PC stuff, the terror of terrorists, and so on. There are obvious and even tragic examples of real press courage, of course, but almost never in domestic news coverage.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On the topic of seasons again...

This is an unpublished cartoon from my youth, when every spring brought George Steinbrenner back to New York like the daffodils, only the daffodils were prettier; but like the daffodils, once George opened up, he never shut. We still used to "rent" "videotapes" in those days. And the South Street Seaport was a going concern, a major tourist destination scene of massive Friday night drinking, instead of the troubled entity it is now. But obviously, many things have not changed.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Paging Dr. Tralfaz.

As I've noted several times, our dog Tralfaz is a total rockstar. He has great coloring and lots of fuzz, and despite being a big guy he is still a puppy and exudes happiness and bonhomie. Mrs. Key has even suggested that he would make a great therapeutic visitation dog, going around to hospitals and old-folks' homes, spreading doggie cheer to those in gloomy circumstances.

I think he'd be great at it... eventually. After a lot more training and a good deal more maturing. Elderly Mr. Vogelscheuche, 102 years old and 101 pounds in his Depends, does not need a 100-pound dog jumping on him. Not if he wants to live to see 103.

Then again, Tralfaz may have some innate health benefits.

After fighting my way home from the city last night, through the traffic of approximately 18 billion people going to the Giants-Jets preseason game, I was shot. I slumped over the kitchen counter like the dead body in the opening act of an episode of a crime drama; the only thing missing was a six-foot assegai sticking out of my back.

Tralfaz came over and started licking and nibbling my hands as they dangled. Fine, I'm a chew toy. Then the giant puppy tongue slapped across my face like a three-inch paintbrush. I popped up like toast.

"Amazing revival powers!" said the Mrs., or words to that effect.

I thought that might be helpful at with the elderly.

Nurse: "We lost Mrs. Murgatroyd."

Doc: "Let Tralfaz have a shot."

Tralfaz: [Sniffs, leaps up on bed, licks face]

Mrs. Murgatroyd: "Hey! What the hell was that?"

Doc: "The slobber of life, m'am."

I know the dog would like it. People at that age are often incontinent, and farting is the best way to get this guy's attention. Did you do THAT? That's GREAT! I LOVE your work!

Anyhow, much better Tralfaz volunteers in the hospital or nursing home than with the fire department. He's eaten right through through the supposedly indestructible chew toys made of fire hose material. Mrs. Key says he'd turn all the fire hoses into lawn sprinklers. "Well, your house burned down but your grass will look great!" Good thing he's not a dalmatian.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Just a reminder.

For those of you in northern climes...

We've really been enjoying a spectacular August, as I mentioned the other day. Very few miserable days, very little rain, hardly any high noons that make you feel like a Poppin' Fresh Grands being baked by a novice cook who thinks the key to quick biscuits is "the hotter, the faster." 

Normally at this time I am dying for fall. It has not meant "back to school" to me in decades, so I no longer have that "fall = suck" sense that many kids have---no, young'uns, eventually that goes away because the misery of work does not take a break for summer, by cracky. Normally I desire September because I'm sick of being melty like cheese on a Pizza Hut commercial.

But I haven't been this year, and I'm certainly not looking forward to shorter days. Then, yesterday, the humidity crept up and the thermometer followed behind, and suddenly August felt like August. And I'd prefer everything felt like June again. Failing that, I'll take September.

My mother always advised me never to wish my life away, which is good advice, but when you're six and it's a WHOLE WEEK until your birthday, it's hard not to wish that week could go on fast-forward. I try to be more patient now. Especially since I know that coming right behind that refreshing autumn is...


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

That frosty mug guilt.

It was a discussion about the Sonic burger chain on the Lileks Bleat site that reminded me of my thievery. It was not at a Sonic, though, that my villainy occurred, but rather at an A&W.

One hot summer day, many years ago, my parents and I pulled into A&W to get dinner. I don't remember where the rest of the family was; unusual that it was just me and the folks. It really was a miserably hot day and Dad had no air conditioner in the car. He believed the vent window was all you needed. Which was okay, if you weren't standing still, and didn't mind ashes blowing back at you backseat denizens. Why we decided to go to a drive-in restaurant when it was hot and the car had no air, I do not recall. But we all loved A&W.

We each got two frosty glass mugs of root beer, that's how hot we were, how cold their root beer was. Those hefty glass mugs weighed like a pound empty, so beautiful with that ice dripping down the outside, oh so glorious on an evening as relentlessly boiling as the day had been.

It was fun, I remember that. No one was fighting; no one was mad. I wish I could remember what had been going on. I was at an age when you feel like you're a porcupine, quills always at attention, but there was none of that. It seemed like we were all happy to have some awesome root beer, and happy to be together, no matter how hot the car was.

My dad handed me the second mug after I'd drained the first, and having nowhere to put the empty, I just placed it in the well. In the fuss of burger wrappers and napkins and all I must have accidentally kicked it under my dad's seat. After we ate, we got all the debris loaded onto the tray, pressed the button for service, left a tip, and off we went.

That was more than twenty-five years ago and more than seventy miles away. That A&W is gone. The car is gone. Mom and Dad are gone.

Here's the mug.

That was not the last time I ever went to that A&W, but it was the last time I saw glass mugs handed out to the cars. Sorry, everyone. I feel like I need to confess, like Raskolnikov, like my inner Sonia is urging me, "Go at once, this very minute, stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, ‘I am a mug stealer!’ Then God will send you life again."

When we found it we didn't quite know how to return it. My folks didn't think it was a big deal. I didn't swipe it as a souvenir or hold on to it in the hopes that someone would invent an Internet and an eBay and I could sell it for a gazillion dollars. It really was a dumb mistake via automobile. Petit larceny auto.

I've used it many times since. It is one tough piece of glassware.

I'm sorry I accidentally stole the mug. But I'm glad I have it nonetheless, to remember a hot summer evening in a really hot station wagon, with two of the people I love best, two people whom I miss the most.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fred's criminal mind.

Mrs. Key enjoys watching the TV series Criminal Minds. Which, if you are not familiar with the crime drama, is the most relentlessly skeevy and twisted crime series on network television.

I used to feel like I had to protect her from revolting entertainment involving killing and death. Somewhere along the line I got wimpier and she got bloodier. I think we passed each other.

But I have to admit that Criminal Minds is a well-made show. One reason is Thomas Gibson's portrayal of Aaron Hotchner, who is the kind of no-nonsense detective that would have fit perfectly into the non-ironic days of Dragnet. After the boy toys and whining crusaders that pass for law enforcement officers on other shows, it's nice to have a serious show with a serious crime-stopper at the heart of it.

My main problem comes when the characters start profiling the unknown subject---the serial killer du jour. They usually say things like...

"The UnSub is a middle-aged male, white, who finds himself alienated from a lot of people around him."

"The UnSub has a strong sense of responsibility, but also a strong desire to take a hatchet to everything. His desire for goodness in the world stymied, he lashes out by embracing badness."

"The UnSub probably drives a nondescript SUV, and is a creative male who feels frustrated in his inability to sell more books than your average White House pet. This makes him want to kill anything that moves."

"The UnSub is a middle-aged white male who probably ran a feeble humor blog as a means of expressing his inner desire to rip people's spleens out. Now he's going for the real thing."

"The UnSub likely has an old-fashioned name like Edgar, Jerome, or Fred."

"The UnSub is probably losing his hair and fights with his pants every morning."


Maybe I ought to study that show more closely.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Princess Interviews: Part II.

A couple of weeks back we began our series of Princess Interviews, wherein we interview prospective princesses from Brothers Grimm stories, looking for one that Disney can co-opt into one of their animated movies. We like to help out in our little ways, and we think Disney could use a boost. At the rate they're going, they'll be raiding the Mahabharata for princesses soon, and that could get sticky. 

Today's candidate comes to us from the story "Lily and the Lion." This could be a winner---our eyes lit up with the idea of a singing lion pal.

Interviewer: Good morning, Lily. Now, how long have you been a princess?

Lily: Oh, it was after I married the enchanted prince. He was only a lion by day, you know. Him and his whole court. The rest of the time he was my sweet baby nookums. 

Int.: Sounds a little Beauty-and-the-Beasty.

Lily: Well, sure, it starts off like that, with the whole fear of being murdered by my future husband, but that's only the beginning of the story. It's much more sophisticated than that dumb ol' Belle's fairy tale. 

Int.: You get married in the end like Belle, right? We like a nice wedding.

Lily: No, no; I get married at the beginning, in the seventh paragraph I think, after my future husband decides to be nice and not eat me. 

Int.: Well... we don't really go for stories about married women.

Lily: But this is such a great story! Lots of adventure. I get to smite a dragon!

Int.: That's promising.

Lily: And the dragon is an enchanted princess, who reverts to human form but steals my husband, but he's not a lion anymore, actually he'd been cursed and turned into a dove, but that was kinda my fault but not really, I mean who makes the rules on curses anyway? 

Int.: To be honest, I don't---

Lily: Yeah, he was this dove because some torchlight fell on him, which would have been okay because I was a little tired of the lion bit; lions shed a lot, you know? And the butcher bills! But he was a dove all the time, not just during the day, and he was forced to go flying all over the world, and I had to follow him, and this went on for years! And we had a little kid by then! So I talked to the sun---

Int.: Whose son? Yours? 

Lily: No, silly, the sun in the sky! 

Int: You talked to the sun in the sky.

Lily: He was so nice; he gave me a dress. And I talked to the moon, who gave me an egg, and the east wind and the west wind, but they were no help---

Int.: About this dragon you smote...

Lily: Yes, well, that hussy was going to steal my husband, but I sneaked up to his night chamber---

Int.: Whoa, there!

Lily: And I tried to talk to him, but she'd knocked him cold with a roofie, and---

Int.: Well, Your Highness, it's been---

Lily: Oh, I didn't tell you about the nut!

Int.: I think you may have.

Lily: We had to make our escape on this griffin, see, but it wouldn't be strong enough to fly over the sea without resting, but I had this magical nut that would turn into a tree, so---

Int.: Whoops! Look at the time! Thanks again for coming in.


Keep tuned to this blog for future installments of the Princess Interviews!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Look up!

Friday morning was as gorgeous a summer morning as you will ever see in New York. 

By mid-August we're usually ready to die, or kill someone, or at least move in with Santa Claus so we never have to endure blistering heat and swampy humidity again. But these last few days have spectacular. Low humidity, pleasant temps, blue skies with puffy white clouds that only look like duckies and horsies

And within a block of the subway I almost got slammed twice, by two women staring at their phones as they walked along.

Put down the phone! Look around you! You're in one of the world's great cities on a fantastic morning! And there's trees and things! And it's FRIDAY! You can text your idiot boyfriend or crush that candy later! WAKE UUUUUP!!!!

I was never big on walking the streets with earbuds in or sunglasses on. I wanted to hear and see the things around me. There's a little self-preservation going on there---you never know what's sneaking up on you when you purposely block your senses---but there's also a lot of wonderful things to enjoy outside the self-made cocoon. 

Maybe they didn't have the Sesame Street album with "Nearly Missed"* on it:

While lookin' at my feet at a crack in the sidewalk
An old tin can by the side of the road
I nearly missed a rainbow
I nearly missed a sunset 
I nearly missed a shooting star going by

Enjoy the world around you. Or at least stop walking into me!

Susan's version, not the one Rosie O'Donnell and Elmo did before they both went insane.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A nose by any other name...

A few months ago I noted that Tralfaz has been acquiring names like crazy. I'm amazed he has any idea what his actual name is.

Since then it's only gotten worse. Just in case you're keeping score at home, I thought I'd pass along some of the other nicknames that have come up. Bear in mind he's a gigantic eight-month-old dog---essentially he's a toddler with teenager hormones in the body of a lumbering, muscular 12-year-old, whose idea of fun involves grappling and mouthing.
  • Buddy
  • Bud
  • Buds McKenzie
  • The Nose Strikes Again
  • Cupcake
  • Knot Head
  • John Henry Was a Steel-Drivin' Dog
  • Mr. Cow
  • SheepEtr_13
  • Dog Mountain Dean
  • Rusty McGates [for his yawn]
  • TralSpaz
  • Loon
  • Slobber King
  • Fuzz
  • Junior Fuzz
  • Babycakes Fuzz
  • Babycakes Johnson
  • B.C. Johnson
  • Sheddy
  • Shedmaster 2000
  • Allergen-Free [following his li'l operation---get it?]
  • Return of The Nose
  • Knucklehead
  • Knucklehead Smiff
  • Dummy
  • How You Like Five 'Cross Yo Lip, Dummy?
  • Kissy-face Fuzz
  • Sweet Baby Fuzz
  • Killer Croc
  • Shark Week
  • Pal
  • Pally
  • Einstein
  • Picasso Puppy [weird shapes formed by his position while lying on floor]
  • White Fang
  • The Nose Strikes Back
  • Junior
  • Junior Varsity
  • JV Dawg
  • Whine Country
  • Cry the Beloved Puppy
  • Monster Pup
  • Michael Strahan
  • Big Giant Puppy
  • Hugh Jepuppy
  • Boogaloo
  • Back Off Boogaloo
  • Wall of Teeth
  • Phil Spector's Wall of Teeth
  • Squirrel Killer [tore a squirrel chew toy up in ten minutes]
  • Swine Killer [tore a piggy chew toy up in five minutes]
  • Barbarian
  • Visigoth
  • Sheddy McShedsalot
  • Big Boy
  • Bob's Big Boy
  • Joker-Face Puppy [when he's laying down chewing something he looks like he needs a caption: "Why So Serious?"]
  • Chomps
  • Chomps McGee
  • Needy
  • Mr. McNeedy
  • Speedy Delivery from Mr. McNeedy
  • Danger Dog
  • Adventure Dog
  • The Dog from K.A.P.E.R.
  • Hairy Lump Lump
  • Useless
  • Sweetheart of Sigma Chi
  • The Rockstar
  • Friend to Those Who Need No Friends
  • Galoot
  • Darlin' Dog
  • I Am Death, Slayer of Toys
Feel free to use them to confuse your own dog all you like. Keeps them on their toes.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fantastic Voyage not covered by HMO.

I was thinking about the rising costs of medical care and the largely urine-sample-poor job of bringing down costs that insurance companies and---God help us---the government has done.

One problem is that medical advances are always expensive, and while we want everyone to have access to everything, no power on earth can afford to give everybody access to everything. Ultrasounds are still costlier than most of us would want to pay for out of pocket; CT scans even more so. There's an economy of scale and a cheapening effect over time on new technologies, but they can only go so far. It's going to be a long while before the local CVS has a tube where you can pop in and have yourself scanned for free while waiting for your bottle of oxycodone.

Another great example comes from the 1966 science fiction classic Fantastic Voyage, wherein a team of scientists is shrunk down in a submarine and injected into a VIP to break up a blood clot in his brain.

How much do you think it will cost to send a molecule-size Raquel Welch into your bloodstream? The HMO ain't gonna touch it. How would you like to be one of the people on the Independent Payment Advisory Board death panel who has to turn down access to the "shrinkerizer treatment" because no way can we pay for everyone to get this thing?

In the case of the movie, the guy they have to save has technical knowledge that's key to the shrinking process and so is the focal point of the Cold War battle over shrinkerizing. Not ones to shrink from danger, our teeny weeny scientists risk their lives to save his. This inspired me to come up with...

The Fantastic Voyage Scale of Importance

Under the assumption that if you're going to have five human beings with advanced degrees injected into you (at taxpayer expense) you have to be very, very, very, very important, we can extrapolate that the kind of care you're going to get is directly related to your personal importance. Here's the scale; where do you fall?

Title: Top Dog
Importance: Your life may win the Cold War for the forces of freedom.
IPAB says: Will shrink down Raquel Welch and inject her into your bloodstream.

Title: Second Banana
Importance: President of the U.S. or wealthy founder and head of a company that gives a lot of dough to the president.
IPAB says: Will shrink down some people and inject them into your bloodstream, but no one good-looking.

Title: BFD
Importance: Beloved celebrity; speaker of the house; Veep.
IPAB says: Robot version---the Raquoomba---shrunk down and sent in; at least we can say we tried.

Title: Well-known for Being Well-known
Importance: Celebrity on an old TV show; sales quota achiever; governor with good poll ratings; mayor of a big city with a strong political machine.
IPAB says: Balloon angioplasty or something. Tell the doctor not to go nuts. Show poster of young Raquel Welch in office.

Title: Local Hero
Importance: Local mayor; business leader; cute little kid; veteran (honorable discharge).
IPAB says: Nothing outside of the PDR please; we're not made of money here. Poster of Donald Pleasence.

Title: Schmoe Six-pack
Importance: Someone's dad, maybe.
IPAB says: Inject something. Whatever's lying around the doctor's office. The PA can handle it. Tell 'em Raquel says hi.

Title: Who?
Importance: Family pet; homeless bum; writer.
IPAB says: Don't waste a needle.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chopped pork.

Chef Aarón Sanchez is primarily known, at least in this house, as one of the regular guest judges on Food Network's show Chopped. Now he's coming to your refrigerator. 

Found this in the store and had to give it a try. "Authentic Mexican dishes my from kitchen to yours," he writes in his own handwriting on the package. He probably runs through a dozen Sharpies a day.

Would it be too fiery hot for us, though? We're kind of wimpy at the Key ranchito, and we were a little scared. Sanchez co-hosts another TV program called Heat Seekers with Roger Mooking, essentially a show about two jamokes who run around to spicy-food restaurants and torture themselves with horrifically hot foods. Mooking generally can take the pain a lot better than Sanchez, as I recall, but still. Carnitas from A.S. himself are going to be butt-whupping hot, right? The kind of thing you barely get down, then you blast fire into the toilet twelve hours later.

Nothing to do but get a load of cheese and sour cream in, and devil take the hindmost!

So I nuked it up, brought out the tortillas, and served it wearing safety goggles and Ove Gloves. And it was...

Bland as a lump of dirt. Dull as a Nerf home run derby. Fatty as the first guy on line for the cruise ship chocolate buffet.

Maybe that's authentic Carnitas for you. I hear there is some variation in the seasonings used for the dish, but I expected this to have more than salt.

Chef Sanchez, the entree you served is exceptionally fatty and disappointingly flavorless. We were expecting Lupe Vélez; we got Lawrence Welk.

I'm sorry, Chef Sanchez: You have been chopped.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mow down.

Mowing the lawn in August is a most unrewarding task.

I've waxed philosophic on lawns many times. I've waxed philosophic on lawns more often than I've ever waxed cars or waxed floors.

Mowing in the late spring seems to come around every two days, but when you're done everything looks great.* In August? Unless you've got a sprinkler system---or one sprinkler and a tiny patch of grass---and you don't might large water bills, by mid August the grass has pretty much packed it in, it's dormant, it's dead, it's done, it's gone on holiday and is singing "See You in September." But the weeds are humming right along. So August mowing is a matter of leveling the weeds so they are the height of the dead grass. When you're done stick a toothpick in yourself and if it comes out clean, you're done too.

My next house is going to have one sprinkler and a tiny patch of grass, and I'm going to hire a guy with a lawn tractor to mow it while I sit inside and loll about like Rich Uncle Pennybags. Tractor Guy can paint my white picket fence, too.

*For two days.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thank God it's Tuesday!

Boy, I couldn't figure out what was wrong with Mondays until I saw the poster for Inside Edition, the syndicated TV news show.

"The Stories You'll Talk About Tomorrow," eh? But it only runs on weekdays!* You know what that means?

It means that on Sundays and Mondays, we got nothing to talk about!

We just have to stand around looking at each other!

Couldn't we ask them to put together a weekend edition? There must be a way to make this happen. How are we supposed to handle Monday without conversation fuel, without stories like the woman whose cat attacked her cleavage or the doctor who got ripped off on a fake designer bag? Mondays are bad enough.

Maybe the president could sign an executive order or something to make the show run every day. He likes doing his executive order thingie.

Come on, Obama, make yourself useful.

*Worse, it runs in New York City at 2:30 in the afternoon on Fox affiliate WNYW, so many of us have to miss it anyway! (Although actually it also runs at 10:30 out of Jersey on WWOR, but I'm not sure if we're allowed to watch that.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Thoughts on Yellow Submarine (the film).

Yellow Submarine was one of my favorite movies of all time, one I've seen more often than any other I can name offhand. Now I'm kind of meh about it. What happened? Let's enjoy the Thoughts below and see if we can understand why.

The style of the art is terrific; it was unlike anything in animation at the time, but was much imitated afterward. I always thought psychedelic artist Peter Max was inspired by it, but many people believed the reverse; Wikipedia tells us: 
The animation of Yellow Submarine has sometimes falsely been attributed to the famous psychedelic pop art artist of the era, Peter Max; but the film's art director was Heinz Edelmann. Edelmann, along with his contemporary Milton Glaser, pioneered the psychedelic style for which Max would later become famous, but according to Edelmann and producer Al Brodax, as quoted in the book Inside the Yellow Submarine by Hieronimus and Cortner, Max had nothing to do with the production of Yellow Submarine.
I was a Beatles fan in my youth---although they'd long broken up when I got into them---so I enjoyed the music. The dialogue was full of puns, which I liked, and I often think of the insanely imaginative scenes in the movie. When I've been through any difficult time and am asked about it, I have to urge to describe it as "'Arrowing," plucking arrows from myself (as happened to Ringo in the Sea of Monsters). (I suspect Rick Riordan got the title for the second Percy Jackson novel from the film's Sea of Monsters, by the way.)
It's loaded with neat ideas, like the various seas, which are bizarre in very different ways (Time, Science, Holes, Monsters, Green), and has a lot of fun with the public perceptions of the individual Beatles---Paul comes out of a room where all the women are cheering and throwing flowers, for example. The side characters are great, including Jeremy, the crazed Chief Blue Meanie, Max, and the Mayor. Naturally I loved that the captain of the submarine was named Fred, even if he couldn't make his soap float. The various forces of the Blue Meanies were distinct and nefarious, including the Apple Bonkers, Storm Bloopers, Countdown Clowns, Butterfly Stompers, and of course the Dreaded Flying Glove (shudder). 
But I have some small quibbles and one huge objection, and the huge objection has rendered it unwatchable for me. Spoilers ahead, as they say.
1) Ringo is Billy Shears, damn it. When, during the climactic concert, Billy Shears is introduced (at the beginning of "With a Little Help from My Friends"), John takes off his Sgt. Pepper disguise to start singing. What the hell? Ringo is the heart of the movie; it would have been perfectly in character. Still sore about that. 
2) Real-life Liverpool is painted as a terrible, depressing place at the beginning of the movie (complete with "Eleanor Rigby"), but Ringo's friends live in a weird, fantasy building full of wonders and delights. Not so bad after all, is it? Seemed too much like the magic worlds waiting on the voyage ahead.
Huge Objection:
I recent heard columnist Jonah Goldberg say on a podcast that gun culture is one place where movies are conservative: "I've yet to see an action movie where the protagonist... vanquishes the enemy with a wonderful poem about peace." Well, Mr. Goldberg, I do know of such a movie, and this is it. And now it is a problem for me.
Like a lot of young idiots, I once thought that our parents were dim bulbs about confrontation and violence, that reacting to violence with violence only perpetuated violence. War was never the answer. In this movie, the Beatles and their allies are victorious with the twin powers of music and love. In the end everyone becomes friends. Why, the Chief Blue Meanie even admits that his cousin is the Bluebird of Happiness!
This works great, provided your enemies hate love and "shrink from the sound" of music, the way the Meanies do. Then love and music work well, but not because they're so awesome, but because they become weapons. I enjoyed the ultimate battle of John vs. the Dreaded Flying Glove (to the wonderful poem set to music, "All You Need Is Love"), but nothing in life has ever led us to believe love would do anything against humans who want to kill other humans. Nonviolence works fine against people unwilling to commit mass atrocities, but oh so many people are. And I reiterate that the Beatles won the battle because to their enemies, love and music were the equivalent of violence. 
So the film's message has lost all resonance with me, especially after September 11, 2001, when we Americans got an education in how much others really want to kill, how little they care for our most sincere overtures of friendship, how little love they have for anything beyond tribal affiliations. The Taliban does despise music, but sadly they do not get knocked senseless by it---they just ban it and jail musicians
It is not that the movie is not entertaining; it's that the lessons it wants to teach are foolish. It tried to lift more weight than it was capable of bearing. For much too long, I believed it could, too. You can say "It's just a cartoon, for Pete's sake! Lighten up!" But the Beatles were serious, or wanted to be taken seriously, with the antiwar "All You Need Is Love" stuff, and I respect the filmmakers enough to believe they were too.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Deworming = worming.

Tralfaz got himself another routine worming, or deworming---apparently this is like one of those inflammable/flammable things where people think the word (worming) means the opposite of what it means (getting rid of worms), so they use or remove a prefix that makes it the opposite (de-) and wind up with two opposed words that mean the same thing. Whatever it is, Tralfaz got it, in spades.

As I say, it was routine, meaning we had no symptoms of actual worms in him before treatment or after. But the possibility of those revolting parasitic worms attacking our sweet giant fuzzball is more than I can tolerate.

However, there seem to be side effects.

Three doses of Panacur over three days have left all of us wiped out. The stuff seems to act on him like a triple espresso with a Red Bull chaser in a time-release capsule. He's hardly slept. I've dragged him all over the neighborhood and worn out the backyard trying to tire him. And he will crash, for five minutes, then POP! back at it. If no one's around to play, it's Whine Country.

I'm sure Panacur is great at killing the little worm bastards that can destroy an animal, so this is a small price to pay. It's actually used for cows and pigs and horses and turkeys too, and for all I know everything else that came with your Fisher-Price Little People Fun Sounds Farm Set. Nothing I've seen says it makes the animals freak out---not sure you could tell with the turkeys anyway---but it sure seems to get to this guy. So did the other wormer we tried, Drontal Plus, which also had the fun bonus of diarrhea. Maybe it's just him.

Hey! What about the dog?
Just to give you an idea: Between that last paragraph and this one I was dragged to the floor and had to wrestle my way back to the laptop. Ten minutes gone. This dog is ka-RAZY right now.

The name of the drug seems to come from pan, meaning all (as in pandemic) and cur, for cure---not for what it turns your dog into. It also sounds like panicker, which may be a little unfair---Tralfaz is unmanageable, ungovernable, and loopy, but he's not running around scared.

The vet thinks we're nuts when we tell her about this. I guess the prescribing information does not say anything about such adverse effects. There's some reassurance from the Internet. We go online and see other dog owners share the same experience. But the Internet being what it is, if I said a wormer turned my dog green for three days and made him poop cotton candy, someone would say "Yeah, mine too!"

Anyway, we're all wiped out now, and thank God he's old enough to not need another treatment for at least six months. Wake me in February, okay?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A piece of cake.

More strangeness from M&M's.

Birthday cake flavored M&M's candies. 

What in hell is going on at Mars?

The Impulsive Buy site gave these candies a favorable review, unlike some of the other variations of M&M's we've seen lately. ("I was disappointed by Pumpkin Spice, puzzled by Gingerbread, and grossed out by Red Velvet.")

I'm not sure when birthday cake became a flavor, anyway. I first saw it in Birthday Bash, a flavor of Perry's Ice Cream, at the ice cream stand. "Birthday Bash?" I asked the girl, reading from the menu. "What's that taste like?"

"It's SOOOO good!" she said, with a sincerity one usually only finds at football games. 

"But what does it taste like?"


I could therefore deduce that the flavor is: A) birthday, and B) good. So it might be like licking high-quality gift wrap? As you can imagine, my curiosity forced me to buy some. 

Well, it was so good. And it tasted like a vanilla cake with icing. Not necessarily birthday cake, but the kind of cake generally served on such occasions. "Wedding Bash" would have been dry cake with blah fondant. 

Even though we know the associations, "birthday" is not a flavor, and things that are not cake ought not to be flavored "cake." And yet, I knew exactly what the Birthday Oreos would taste like before I ate one, so I can't say there's no data connected to the descriptors. But what weird chemicals compose the flavor "cake"?

As for the M&M's, each candy is a larger than normal M&M, and they only come in three bright colors: yellow, blue, and red. I guess the chocolate does have some kind of cakey flavor, and the candy shell is a little more icing-like than normal. But they're not going to make me switch my chocolate habits. They'd be useful as a fast way to decorate a birthday cake or birthday cupcakes,  though.

My prediction for the next variant: Girl Scout Cookie M&M's. They didn't save Crumbs Bake Shop, but they would sure move a lot of M&M's.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dog walking and the limits of book learning.

Bear with me on this one.

I've been reading a famous essay by the late Michael Oakeshott called "Rationalism in Politics"---reading may be too strong a verb, as working through may be more accurate. I have absorbed this much: that Rationalism is different from Logic, although both spring from the well of Reason (Man's capacity for deduction and inference). Rationalism produces what Oakeshott calls technique, the insidious notion that by reducing human experience to a technological experience is it easily taught and absorbed by intelligent people. In other words, that you can learn anything from a properly crafted book of instructions.

Oakeshott takes great pains in disabusing us of that idea, but I knew all about it in grammar school. I was going to a birthday party in a bowling alley and had never bowled before, so I got a book out of the school library about bowling and read it. I couldn't wait to demonstrate my skill. Got down there and threw balls straight into the gutter all day. (There were no gutter bumpers for kiddies back then.)

We think of technique as the mass of little skills an individual develops at a task, but Oakeshott used the word in almost the opposite sense---of the most basic requirements to performance. All woodcarvers had to know X to carve wood competently; X is the technique. Y is everything the woodcarver really needs to know to do a decent job. It is the sum of knowledge in the field, developed from experience and tradition, and is essentially unteachable in books.

Like how to not throw the ball into the gutter when you're seven years old and you've never held a bowling ball before. I still know the technique of throwing a hook, a curve, a straight ball, but they seldom go where I expect them to.

Knowledge is complicated, and anyone who says he can reduce all you need to know to an easy-to-learn system is a liar. That's why we have a learning curve -- and why it is so steep, it sometimes feels like a perpendicular wall.

Take dog walking. Logic might say that walking three dogs is three times as difficult as walking one dog. But experience teaches that it depends on a million things. These guys in the picture were all older dogs, well trained, good disposition, familiar with the terrain, and were led by a lady who knew what she was doing.

Whereas my puppy is bigger than all three of them combined and would have been fighting every inch so he could sniff every bit of the street. He has a great disposition but he's crazy for fun and forgets what he's learned when he gets excited. When it comes to dogs, I have been a fly on the windshield of my learning curve.

Oakeshott's upshot in "Rationalism in Politics" is that we're being led by people who think they can read a book and govern a great nation, generally beginning with the idea that everything that has gone before must be cleared away so a great new era of grand new ideas may begin. How's that working out for ya?

Interestingly, Oakeshott died in 1990, a year before the first of the long-running "For Dummies" series of books was published. I wonder if he knew they were coming, and that's what killed him? I wonder if a bunch of our elites in D.C and its environs have copies of Governing for Dummies shoved under their mattresses?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bride of crap knock-knock jokes.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Joe who?
Joe Kerr. Why so serious?

Don't you know caps lock is rude?

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Ann who?
Anarchy! [Busts down door, shoots everybody]

Knock knock.
Who's there?
It's the plumber. I've come to fix the sink.
Beat it. You're in the wrong joke.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Big fat cheeseburger with a side of french fries and a chocolate milk shake.
Come in, gorgeous!

Knock knock.
Why's there?

___ ___.
I can't hear you when you use the balloon knocker.

Knock knock.
Welcome to the Pearly Gates. Who's there?
Saint Peter, lemme in! You know me!
Yes, that's why you're on that side.

Konk konk.
Ow ow.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knick knick.
You'll be lucky to win 35 games this year.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Guilt, shame.
Come in, Mom.

Knock knock.
Whose their?
Thank you for keeping us editors in work.

Knock knock.
Whoz they're?
Now you're just trying to make me feel good.

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
Exclamation Point Man!

Who's there? Hey! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The lost poop.

0500 hours--Captain Poopy of Dawn Patrol reports for doody.

"What's the problem today, sir?"

"Look at this map of the front yard, captain," said the major, waving his pointer briskly. "We've identified targets here, here, and here."

"Yes, sir, Major Crapper. We can pick those up before the sun is in the sky."

"See that you do. Now, here's the problem, captain. We know for a fact that there was a big one dropped somewhere in this vicinity." The major circled an area on the map with his pointer. "But intelligence has lost the trail. We need to get this before first light, captain, but there's very little to go on."

Captain Poopy chuckled. "Frankly, sir, the whole area is apparently something to go on."

"Not funny, captain. You know what happens if we don't get this taken care of."

"Sir, I am aware that it's trash day," said Captain Poopy, all business. "We'll make that pickup, I promise."

The captain saluted, and moments later was off to get his trusty Consolidated B-98 Depooperator fired up and in the air.

0530--Poopy patrolled the yard, his steely gaze quickly spotting the three known targets in the dim predawn light, his trusty scooper eliminating them with deadly efficiency. But the location of the lost poop was still a mystery. Visibility was poor---time to cut the grass!---and sunup was in less than twenty-five minutes. Then the garbage men would follow.

With a grim smile on his face, the captain swooped lower. He was exposing himself to greater risk this way. It would be easy to walk right into a trap. And these were new shoes.

Just as the last star winked out of the moonless sky, just as the captain thought he must break his promise to the major, there it was! His keen eye snagged the final target---the lost poop! In seconds he had swooped in and removed the target.

Captain Poopy turned his Depooperator toward the porch, toward home. There was still time to bag it and drop it at the curb. It was another successful mission for Dawn Patrol.

"Promise kept, major," the captain muttered to himself with a small, tight grin. "Looks like it's going to be a beautiful day."

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Princess Interviews: Part I.

Disney's current crisis has nothing to do with money or bad movies. No, Disney is running out of princesses, and we need to help.

Walt started raiding the Brothers Grimm back in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, his first feature-length film, from the story "Snow White" (or "Little Snowdrop," depending on your translation). Pretty good movie.

Since then the Brothers Grimm have been provided Disney with some Disney princesses ("Briar Rose" was Sleeping Beauty), as has Hans Andersen (considering what Disney did in turning "The Snow Queen" into Frozen, we may as well drop the Christian). Other sources of princessery are less reliable: They've tried to force Mulan into the princess family, although she is not a princess; Pocohontas, although it's outrageous to use a real-life historical figure as a stinking cartoon princess; and the wholly inappropriate barbarian Pixar princess Merida was shoehorned in. They had to promote Rapunzel to princess standing, although she was not a princess in the original Grimm story. I'm almost willing to overlook the breathtaking means by which they made a princess out of an African-American girl in the reworking of The Princess and the Frog, because it was cleverly done. Good thing for Tiana that it is not illegal for U.S. citizens to hold titles of nobility.

I'm surprised they didn't make Jane Porter into a princess by virtue of her marrying Tarzan, King of the Jungle.

Gotta move the merch.

The thing is, there are other princess in the Grimm oeuvre that have not yet been exploited employed as Disney heroines. Today, and moving forward, we examine these remaining princesses to see if any of them can be made to work.

Our first interview is with Goose Girl, star of the Brothers Grimm's "The Goose Girl":

Interviewer: So, Goose Girl, you have a real name, I trust?

Goose Girl: Yes, although not in the story. You can call me Brittany. 

Int.: All right, Brittany. Now, you have a longish story in Grimm. Does it have a big wedding at the end?

GG: Oh, yes, I marry the prince and the villain is punished and everything. 

Int.: Great! And there's magic, right? We need the magic.

GG: Yeah, I have a magical lock of hair for protection, but the evil servant tricks me and I lose it and then she makes me switch places so she's the princess and I'm a yucky maid.

Int.: Good, good. Could be a problem with a servant being the main bad guy, you know, too much sympathy for the oppressed. We don't want to see Occupy Magic Kingdom. But we'll give her some backstory to make her motivations impure. It's fine. And you have a sidekick, right? A talking animal of some sort?

GG: Yeah, a fairy gave me him. Falada. He gets a name and I don't, right?

Int.: Is Falada a goose? 

GG: Nah, I'm called "Goose Girl" because they make me help the goose boy, Curdken. Who also gets a name and I don't. No, Falada is a horse. 

Int.: Better and better! Wait, you really love this Curdken guy, I'll bet. Is he the real prince in disguise, or--

GG: Goose boy? Are you nuts? He's a punk who manages the geese!

Int.: Okay, we'll call in rewrite. Tell me more about the magical horse sidekick. 

GG: Yeah, he gets his head cut off, which is kind of a bummer. But it's all right, because the head still talks.

Int.: Wait, what?

GG: Yeah, they nail up the head and it keeps talking and the old king overhears---you could give the head a song! I bet--- Hey, are you all right? 

Int.: Sorry, I just had lunch.

GG: Well, don't worry, because in the end the fairy reattaches the head and Falada is okay. 

Int.: That's enough about the horse for now. Please tell me the evil servant gets her comeuppance without a lot of bloodshed.

GG: Oh, yes! It's no problem! She gets crammed into a little cask with big nails hammered into it and dragged around by four white horses until she dies. You won't need to see a thing!

Int.: G-great. Thanks so much for coming in.

GG: So, when do we start filming?

Int.: We'll be in touch.

To Be Continued....