Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vizsla Flashback - That Otter do it. Oh God, I am so sorry for that....

Seriously.  I actively tried to prevent myself from typing that post title.  I really tried.  I'm weak.

As part of our continuing observation of national Sea Otter Awareness weeK (n-SOAK.  You know you want to start using that acronym.) I thought that it might be germane to talk a bit about people who latch on to a particular totem animal.

Now, I'm not talking about your inadvertent animal collectors.  To quote arch-villain The Deadly Bulb (aka Pig Leg), you know how it goes - one person gives you a pig statue, and then someone else assumes you like that sort of thing and gets you another and before you know it you have no choice but to buy a hutch.

No, I'm talking about the people who actively embrace the animal in question (not literally, in the case of polar bears).  Now, on the one hand it actually makes Christmas and Birthday shopping significantly easier for these people, so it has that going for it.  On the other hand, the time necessary to set aside for dusting can be a real killer*.  And on the other hand, which is actually a foot, who are we to judge, right?  And on the other hand, which is the other foot, I personally own the entire run of Doctor Who 1963-present on both VHS and DVD (minus of course the 106 missing episodes from the mid sixties, obviously), and I actually had one further point but am out of hands and feet and everything after that gets inappropriate.

*I know... for no particular reason...

No, the real issue at hand is the relatively small number of animals that tend to get chosen.

-Polar Bears, as mentioned - So cute you might not mind being torn up and eaten
-Penguins (as seen here having a fun adventure with pirates)
-Eagles - for your patriotic and free spirited sort
-Wolves - These are much less likely to appear in statue form, and are mainly to be found in framed artwork.
-Hippos - For some reason that I do not personally understand, because hippos are frickin' mean.
-Pigs - Which I think are meant to be some sort of ironic statement.

Other than your occasional Moose or Fox enthusiast, those are pretty much your choices.

Which is why I feel comfortable with my relatively recent otter-obsession.

On that note - I present today's attempt at Origami Sea Otter.

I found a different pattern, that I feel has some pluses and some minuses.

His name is Steve.  He and Buck are friends from school.

I use this as an excuse to once again mention that the collective noun for a group of Otters is a Romp.

Tune in tomorrow for the story of the unplanned office menagerie...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Unseemly Yet Adorable Underbelly

Breaking news -

In association with standard N-SOAk reporting, we here at The 42nd Vizsla have uncovered the following sinister transcript from a recent meeting of the international affiliation of Sea Otters.

We caution you - What you are about to read is deeply disturbing.  And kind of adorable.  I mean, look at their cute little hands...

<Begin Transcript>

There is a scratchy rumble of voices and chairs being adjusted as the members of the organization try to adjust their stout tails into a comfortable position.

HEAD OTTER (OTTRIMUS PRIME) - OK, OK, we're going to go ahead and get this meeting underway

<General grumbling and the sound of someone breaking clams open on a rock with their adorable little fingers.  So human.  So human.>

OTTRIMUS PRIME - Alright, now I've been receiving your reports from all regions of infiltration, and I'm pleased to be able to tell you that so far our plans to take over the planet and subvert the human race are proceeding 

<General applause, mixed with some slight splashing noises as a few of the members in the back begin to groom themselves with water from an available pool.  Just Awwwwww.  So cute.>

SUBORDINATE OTTER A - What about the puny humans?  Surely they must have noticed us maneuvering into position for this takeover?

OTTRIMUS PRIME - They have, obviously.  But fortunately no sooner are they deciding to alert the nations of the world to the impending threat than they get distracted by the absolutely delightful way we hold hands while floating downstream together at which point they just start cooing uncontrollably and throwing us peices of fish.  The Fools!

OTTER STEVE - You mean like the way Otter Hank and Otter Bill are holding hands right now?

OTTRIMUS PRIME - Yes, exactly.  Although Otter Hank and Otter Bill - we really only ever do that while floating so that we don't get separated when we fall asleep.

OTTER HANK (Possibly OTTER BILL... it's hard to tell...) We're not holding hands for floating.  We're just holding hands.  Don't judge us.

OTTRIMUS PRIME - Hey - no judging here.  Did you see how the humans all went apeshit for those gay penguins?  You guys are gold.

SUBORDINATE OTTER B - All hail for the oncoming Otterman Empire!


<upswell of noise of tails being slapped on the floor in just the cutest way>

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As many of you are probably aware, we are smack dab in the middle of day three of National Sea Otter Awareness weeK (N-SOAk)

This is traditionally my opportunity to go on for a bit about otters.  One year I will find the inner strength to resist this urge and not spend a week compulsively discussing otters with everyone I encounter.

This is not that year.

How, for example, can I pass up the chance to mention that there is not one but four different acceptable collective nouns* for our friend, the otter?

*The term for a group of whatever the noun my be.  You know, like a pod of whales or a pride of lions.  My personal favorite collective noun is for a group of ravens- they are collectively known as an Unkindness of Ravens.  Which is a great turn of phrase, if slightly unfair to the ravens.  Insert joke about Baltimore here.

The best, and therefore obviously correct, collective noun is a 'Romp' of otters.  The other acceptable options are 'Bevy', 'Family', and 'Raft' (although that one apparently only applies when they're on the river.)

There is also, as mentioned last year, a subspecies known as the Giant Otter which is badass enough to take out alligators and adorable enough to make the alligator go 'Awwww...' while he's bashing in the gators head with a rock.

Honestly - how am I supposed to resist the opportunity to talk about this stuff?  I'm only human.

Day three of N-SOAk down.  We gather here again tomorrow for day four and all the otter-related joy it will undoubtedly bring.

Monday, September 22, 2014


It's finally here again.  That most magical holiday of the year.

Yes, I'm talking about...

National Sea Otter Awareness weeK!

Brought to us by Friends of the Sea Otter*, National Sea Otter Awareness weeK (N-SOAk) this year is September 21st-27th

*I swear to God I am not making any of this up

You can find out more about N-SOAk at their website.

Tune in tomorrow for a more in depth discussion about the event, but for now let's all just take a moment to be aware of our pal, The Sea Otter.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vizsla Flashback - An interview with my 1978 Six Million Dollar Man garbage can

This week a rare opportunity came up for us to sit down and have a chat with my 1978 Six Million Dollar Man garbage can.  Although, 'came up', might be a bit generous, as it's been sitting in the den for 36 years.

VIZSLA:  Well, first of all I want to thank you for being here.  It's fantastic to have a chance to talk with you.

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN GARBAGE CAN: I literally have not moved in over ten years.

V:  Um..... Yeah.  So.  You look great.

6:  Thanks.  I've got a little denting along the top edge, but ... you know.. what guy in his 30s doesn't.

V:  What's it like to spend most of your time filled with garbage.

6:  You'd have to ask the tea party.

V:  HA!  I see what you did there.

6:  Thanks.  Seriously though, it's good to have a function I suppose.  Could be worse.  At least I'm not one of those action figures still in the packaging languishing on a shelf, you know?  I'm still in the game.

V:  What do you say to those who would point out that having you around provides a needless anchor to the past preventing your owner from releasing childhood memories and moving on with his life?

6:  Well, I don't think there's any need to get needlessly totemistic about it.  I mean, sometimes a garbage can is just a garbage can if I could misqoute Freud for just a moment.

V:  So you don't feel like the memories of unfulfilled childhood dreams still cling to you like the lingering bottom half of a Chewbacca sticker?

6:  I kind of like the sticker.  We've been together for a very long time.  You know... eventually you just accept your imperfections as being part of who you are, you know?

V:  That's very deep.

6:  I am very deep.

V:  About 15 inches deep.

6:  Way to blow the metaphor.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vizlsa Flashback - An Important Foreword, followed by some Stuff About Bananas

First published on 9-11-13, hence all the references to the date.  I reprint it here today for two reasons -

1. Sunday is the day I do reprints of earlier columns

2. I'm mildly concerned that the fact that I went ahead with my usual frivolity on 9-11 this week might have been misconstrued as being disrespectful, and I already explained my reasoning for doing so last year


First the Foreword (by definition)

I gave a lot of thought, quite honestly, to not publishing a column today, the date being what it is.

Let me explain why.

The primary method of spreading the word about the doggerel I post here is via Facebook (and a bit through my side gig at WhatCulture.  My friends of Facebook fall broadly (with a few exceptions) into one of two camps.  Firefighters or Improvisational Comedians.

A lot of people blogging tend to take days such as this as an opportunity to discuss the event in some way, or to share their own experiences, or to - generally speaking - get real about the whole issue.  And that's great.  There's a lot of good stuff out there along those lines.

But that is not what I do.  The closest I ever have or ever will (probably) get to that sort of thing is the time I pretended to think that 90s icon Morrissey was the elected leader of Egypt.  (And to be honest, in hindsight even that has felt too close to places I don't want to go)

The other option - equally valid - is to simply suspend business on the day in question as a gesture of remembrance and respect.  That's the way I was seriously considering going.  I can easily see how just caring on with frivolous crap could be construed as disrespectful to a significant percentage of people.

But here's the thing- and this is just my personal opinion here - I really think that when someone gives their life so that you can continue living yours, the most important thing that you can do to respect that is to actually continue living yours.

So that's the way I ultimately came down on the issue.  Hence the following frivolity about Bananas.  I totally understand if you choose to come back to it another day or even skip it entirely.  This is me carrying on with doing what I do as my way of saying thank you to the people who sacrificed so that I would be able to do.

Foreword over

Some Stuff About Bananas

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with that cramp thing that occasionally happens where your calf muscle suddenly and without warning tears itself off of your leg and runs screeching around the room.

Me being me, I immediately began listing in my head the things that I could have done to prevent this, thus managing to make this a scathing indictment of my character flaws as opposed to merely a deficiency of water or Potassium.

The easiest thing to do to ward these sorts of things off, or so I have been told, is to eat more bananas or drink less wine.  And since the latter is clearly crazy talk, let's take this moment to celebrate our bananas.

Um... that didn't come out exactly right...

Some Things That Bananas are good for:

- Bumping up your Potassium level.

Potassium (number 19 on the periodic table with the Atomic Symbol K (for which you can blame the Romans.  Sort of) is an important element in our physiology as it assists in the transmission of signals through the nervous system.  Not having enough of it can cause all sorts of health problems.  Of course, having way too much of it can kill you, so maybe stop after the first couple bananas

- Replacing futuristic weapons factories

I like Bananas.  Bananas are good.

- Sex Ed.

Seriously, this is a time honored classic when it comes to teaching your young man the correct way to put on a prophylactic.  You can also use a cucumber, but only if you want to give your young man lifelong feelings of inadequacy.

- Comic pratfalls.

It's a classic for a reason, people.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Worst Party Trick Ever

Today, over the course of a fairly run of the mill, deeply inappropriate work conversation, my co-worker Sydney and I discovered what might be the most awesome, horrible game that we have so far come across*

*A more hotly contested title than you might think.  The day of 'Unhealthy relationship with biscuits' remains a pinnacle of just how dark we're both willing to go.**

**The phrase 'you can be the boy this time' came into play.  Tip of the iceberg.

While performing some legitimate work tasks we started singing dance club songs. The trick - we started singing as if we were going to burst into uncontrollable crying at any moment.

"Let's get it..."  <sniff>  "started..."  <sob>  "Ha...   Let's get it sta...started..."  <Nose blowing> "In here.....Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....

Try it.  It's enormously satisfying.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Spring Forward, Fall Over

It's recently* come to my attention that roughly half of the world doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time.

*Recently in this case meaning ten minutes ago while doing the admittedly minimal amount of research required for this article.

This is too bad, because the practice has a variety of uses which we'll get to in a moment.  First however, a quick word for those in Africa, Asia, South America, and (curiously) half of Australia.

Daylight Savings Time is the practice of adjusting your clocks to take more advantage of the hours the sun is out.  In practical terms this means that in the Spring you adjust your clock forward an hour (it gets dark later in the Summer) and in the Fall you adjust your clock back an hour (nothing interesting happens in the early morning in the winter)

It's use first dates to 1916 Germany, which means that oversleeping for a meeting in April is something that you can legitimately blame Franz Ferdinand* for. 

*No, the Guy.  Not the band.  Although God knows the band has enough to answer for.

In the US, Daylight Saving Time has traditionally* started in April and ended in October.  This means that it's a useful little alarm clock for anything that you need to remember to do twice a year.**

*Traditionally in this case meaning since the energy crisis of the early 1970s. 

**Since the Internet happened now no one knows what the difference is between Semiannually and Biannually and even legitimate sources of information have now completely given up even trying to tell people which is which.  If you look up the issue, Britannica basically says, 'People use them interchangeably to mean either twice a year or every other year.  Work your own shit out on this one, because honestly it's far too late to come bitching to us about this.  We were waging a solid defensive war while you were systematically destroying the word 'literally', so at this point you can just fuck right off.'  It's hard to blame them for their bitterness.

The most notable example of this is the campaign to remind people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors.  Twice a year to replace a simple AA battery is probably overkill, but it's not the sort of thing you want to have skimped on when you wake up in a flamey inferno, now is it.

But of course, what we're really here to talk about is drinking.

Until 2005*, as noted above, daylight savings time began in late April and ended in Late October - coinciding nicely with weather pattern shifts. This meant that it was a reliable marker for the most important of all the seasonal changes.  We're speaking of course of Gin Season versus Scotch Season.

*In 2005 then President George W. Bush changed the dates of daylight savings time to March and November.  This is by no means even close to the worst thing he did, but it's still irritating.

The schedule goes as follows -

One week before Daylight Savings time begins - Farewell to Scotch week.

The Winter is over.  The time for a 'Warmer' has more or less passed.  It's a week to really take the time to remember all Scotch has done for you in the previous six months.  Or realize that you can't remember what Scotch has done for you - it's not about judging.

The week after Daylight Savings Time Begins - Gin Homecoming.

At the end of which Gin and Scotch play a big football game.  Everyone wins.

And of course, when Daylight Savings Time ends in the fall the roles reverse. 

The important thing is to remember the reason for the season.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Always Sad to Lose a Topic Young

It may not have escaped the notice of a few of you that it has now been about a week and a half since I posted anything*

*Not even a Flashback - and come on, that's just lazy.  They're like no effort whatsoever.

While I don't entirely have an excuse for that, I can tell you that while it may be true that I haven't posted a column for 9 odd days, I have actually made several attempts to write them.

Unfortunately, they all crashed and burned like mere tiny zygote's of column ideas, withering before they could achieve viability, and that's as far as I'm going to take that particular metaphor because it's already starting to feel creepy.

So, for the sake of the public record, here is a summation of...

The Columns That Almost Were


- Ways To Describe Your Sack

A few days ago I became marginally interested in finding out what the difference was between a Rucksack, a Napsack, and a Backback.  Long story short - not much. Straps, carries stuff, hiking.  The only marginally interesting thing about it was that a Napsack and a Rucksack both specified waterproof material whereas a backpack doesn't care if your shit gets wet.

It's a shame, because I'd already thought of the above title and it seemed like a shame not to use it.

- Some reasons why I hate Matt Walsh

The douchebag online smug-factory, not the Improv Performer in the Washington DC area. 

But honestly, this one pretty much explains itself.  Still fun to imagine throat punching him though.

It's also worth noting that thinking about this topic caused me to miss my off-ramp and get lost in some backroads on my way to work the other morning, so I sort of feel like Mr. Walsh won this one.  The prick.

- A recreation of the Lincoln-Douglas debate as reenacted by a Teacup Pig and a Slow Loris 

I love the idea, and the visuals are freakin' awesome.  But then it feels like there might be a lot of research involved, so let's all just take a moment to picture the scene in our heads and move on.

Aw look... Lincoln is peeling a grape with his adorable little hands...

-A defense of why I refuse to stop using two spaces after a period no matter what the Millenials' style guides say I should do.

But after thinking about it with great indignation for some time I started kind of agreeing with them and now I might actually stop using more than one space if only to make editing my Whatculture articles a bit quicker, so now I have officially betrayed my own convictions before actually bothering to write a manifesto about them.

Which isn't so bad really I suppose, and one could only wish that Mr. Walsh had the courtesy to do the same thing on occasion.  Particularly as regards his particularly rank discussion of suicide...


Monday, September 1, 2014

That's Why There Were So Many STDs in the 70s

One of the many things that are awesome about the Movie* Guardians of the Galaxy - and there are many - is the way that its soundtrack has re-popularized some really awesome seventies music.  The soundtrack -appropriately titled 'Awesome Mix No. 1' is at the top of the sales charts at the moment, so I'm going to assume that many of you are aware of this fact already.

*or Film if you prefer to be all European about it

And while it's true that 'Come and Get Your Love', 'Fooled Around and Fell in Love, and 'Moonage Daydream'* are non-stop-awesome sauce with cuddling afterwards, the soundtrack then takes us to the guilty pleasure that is Rupert Holmes love letter to infidelity, 'Escape (The Pina Colada Song)'

*Moonage Freakin Daydream!!!!

The song, for those of you pretending to not be familiar with it, details the story of a man who is - and I'm quoting here - 'was tired of (his) lady, we'd been together too long, Like a worn-out recording, of a favorite song'

Oh, I'm sorry Rupert.  I didn't realize you were that one guy on the planet whose relationship didn't continue being non-stop excitement for its entire duration. Clearly you are totally justified in going to the personal ads and trying to find some other woman to run away with.

Which is indeed what he does.

He finds a personal ad from some woman who's looking for someone who likes pina coladas and taking walks in the rain.*

*Yes, clearly she is looking for a 19 year old female student at art college.

He responds, they agree to meet up at a bar to plan 'their escape'.

Of course, he gets to the bar in question (O'Malley's, if you were wondering) and it turns out to be his old lady who had placed the ad, herself looking to escape what must be a remarkably tedious relationship based on the actions of all involved.

They laugh about the whole thing and take joy in having rediscovered there love for each other.

OK, Im sorry, but I'm calling bullshit here.  Let me tell you, unequivicably, that is not how that conversation would go.

Best case - BEST case - scenario is a mutually civil break-up with him surrendering his house keys and arranging a time to pick up his things.  Far more likely scenarios involve shouting, throwing things at one another, and many shrieks of, 'PERSONAL ADS????  YOU'RE READING/PLACING PERSONAL ADS??????!!'

Long story short - when you begin actively referring to ending your relationship as 'Escape', you're better off just addressing the issue directly, because contrary to what Mr. Holmes tells us here, you're going to get arrested for a public disturbance.