Monday, October 5, 2020

Requiescat In Pace, eh?


Well, October is here and for the first time in simply ages I'm not spending it as a Canadian.  Which is too bad, because access to socialized healthcare would be great just at the moment, wouldn't it?

To explain:

A few years back an old friend of mine got in touch with me regarding a job.  She was coordinating haunted bus tours in Saint Paul, MN, and needed tour guides.  That is to say, it was a tour of sites that were haunted on a bus which - to the best of my knowledge - was not.

A few fun facts about Saint Paul, MN:

1: It's actually the State Capitol of Minnesota, although nine people out of ten think Minneapolis is.  There's another interesting story nested inside that involving Pigs, the University of Minnesota, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, but we're already in a digression inside a digression inside a digression, so let's just leave that for now.*

2: There's a statistically significant number of sites in the City of Saint Paul that can make a reasonable claim to  being haunted.  

(A lot of this can be traced back to one small modernist hotel being built in the heart of the super rich area on Summit Avenue** back in the mid 1900s, which everyone got SUPER pissy about.  This led to a whole series of by-laws regarding how no one was ever allowed to change anything about any of the buildings in that neighborhood ever again without a personal note from God, and even that was likely to be appealed by the HOA.  The net result is that that stretch of Summit Avenue has the longest continuous run of unaltered Victorian mansions in the nation.  And Victorian Mansions accumulate ghost stories like R. Kelly does urine-porn. Allegedly.)

So, at the risk of getting back to the point, I was invited to come and be one of those guides who stands at the front of a bus-full of people for two hours at a stride relating ghoulish tales of spectral phenomena that occurred right outside your drivers' side windows or your door side windows.

But there was a complication.  The guides needed to be spooky costumed characters, because - you know - haunted bus tour.  And while I, like all right minded people, recognize Halloween as the only good holiday, I only had one Halloween costume on hand.

A Canadian Mountie.

Not the most terrifying figure looming over our All Hallow's Eve iconography. 

How, you might ask, did I end up with a Canadian Mountie costume.  Years earlier, after years of making fuzzy animal costumes for Halloween and somehow not ending up as an object of sexualized desire, I decided that maybe cute fuzzy animals did not immediately lead to thoughts of sex***, and that I should, perhaps, try something with a little more intrinsic sex appeal.  

The obvious answer was a uniform of some kind, but I wanted to also make sure to also be something a little more unique so that I would stand out.  At this point I happened across an airing of the 1980s film 'Revenge of the Nerds' in which one of the mean frat guys is at a costume party dressed as a Mountie and I thought 'Yes.  That is my answer.'  And then I thought, 'WOW does this movie not hold up in any way.  Yikes.  Just yikes.'

But still, the frat guy looked pretty good in it, so I made myself a Mountie costume, took it on a trip to Halloween in Key West, and absolutely, comprehensively, proved that the fuzzy animal costumes had NOT been the problem.


But back to the story.  So there I was with a tour guide job whose existence relied on my making a reasonable claim that the Canadian Mountie counted as 'spooky'.

Then, in the early waking moments one fine September morning, it came to me.  It would work.  And - more importantly - it was amusing to me.  SO I went to the home base of the tours and presented their new guide - 

Deadly Do-Right.

 Spirit of Canadian Vengeance.

Pictured, hopefully with permission, in background - Nurse Hatchet.  Who got me the gig.

And so a legend was born.  And for many years afterward my October nights were spent in an orgy of gratuitously drawn out long 'O's and attempts to work the words 'Zed' and 'Alluminium' into the stories as often as I possibly could.  Eventually I became aware of Letterkenny, and the next couple of seasons became an extended game of forcing fans of the show to identify themselves through the simple expedient of beginning each ghost story with the words, 'How're ya now?'

Good times.

All done now, alas.  Thanks to COVID, this season Deadly Do-Right rides no more, and the organization that does the tours is closing permanently in November.  It was a good ride, and I'm proud to say that more than twenty years after I bought them, I could still fit into my jodhpurs. Although they were, admittedly, sometimes tighter than others...

And so, I give you all one last time my introductory spiel from the start of every single tour.  Sing along if you know the correct pronunciation of 'house' and 'about'.

"Hello.  How're ya now?  My name is Deadly Do-Right, late of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  I was betrayed by my partner for the cost of a Tim Horton's Doughnut****, and ever since am cursed to roam the world as the Canadian Spirit of Vengeance. Which is the politest form of vengeance currently available.  And if you are not pure of heart, I will break into your house in the dead of night... znd leave a sternly worded note."

Good night, Deadly.  It's been fun being you.  Hopefully we'll meet again.


*In 1858, when Minnesota became a state, there were two big cities and so the compromise was that one of them would be the home of the State University, and the other would get to be the State Capitol.  Minneapolis got the University.  Unfortunately, the other City was named Pig's Eye, and had to go through some enthusiastic rebranding as 'Saint Paul' in order to make everyone not feel foolish.  Pigs Eye gets mentioned a startling number of times in the Little House on the Prairie books, which might raise some eyebrows as its primary industries were meat packing and prostitution.  Or, to put it another way, meat packing.

**When Tom Waits mentions in the song 'I Don't Want to Grow Up' that he doesn't want to live in a 'big old tomb on Grand Street', this is literally the neighborhood he's talking about.  He lived here briefly in his teens.

*** One inadvertent outcome of all this was when, after a decade of wondering where I'd put it, my old Squirrel costume showed up as the official 'Rally Squirrel' of the Saint Paul Saints baseball team.  I only have the vaguest of theories as to how it ended up there, but it's nice to see that it's aged well.

**** For a beautiful, short lived period Timmy's expanded internationally and we actually had them here, so people knew what I was talking about.

Friday, January 25, 2019

It's exactly like Go Ask Alice, but with Diedrich Bader instead of Peyote

So, the most amazing thing happened this morning, I...

I'm sorry... what?

2 and a half years...?


Oh. Yeah.  About that...

It's fairly obvious to the casual observer that I'm not a bold user of social media.  This is for the fairly obvious reason.  I'm old and change frightens me.  Also, those kids keep walking across my lawn.

So, in addition to things like, say, forgetting about having a blog since the US had a functioning President*, I'm also not heavy into social media.  I have accounts with Twitter and Instagram, and was signed up on Tumblr until a few weeks ago when they stopped allowing pornogr a free exchange of ideas. But I rarely, if ever, look at or post on any of them.

*Seriously, who would have imagined that we'd be looking back at 2016 with longing regret?  We'd just lost Prince, Bowie, and Alan freaking Rickman** and I still think of Summer 2016 as that last moment before hope died.

** In hindsight, I wonder if the universe wasn't just politely sidling up to sufficiently cool and deserving people at the time, having a quiet word in their ear about upcoming events, and then discretely asking if they'd like to consider settling their check and making an early evening of it.

 So, there I was, pleasantly settled into curmudgeonly ludditolitry - if I might coin a phrase - when for some reason this last week a bizarre and unexpected transformation began taking place.

I started actually looking at my Twitter feed.

It's actually down to the fact that for the last couple of years I've been writing reviews for, and they're very on top of their twitter game.  Every time I post a review of something a tweet goes out notifying the world (and me) that said review exists, and provides a helpful link to read same.

So, because I'm drawn irresistibly to things with my name on them, I've gotten into the habit of  looking at other, non-me-related things on Twitter while I'm there.  It's a slippery slope, people. 

So, having gone from a person who has signed up for Twitter and resolutely ignored it, I'd become one of those people that reads things on Twitter.  And actively checks Twitter for said things to read.

At some point Twitter suggested that I follow Diedrich Bader.  I'm not sure exactly why, but I totally recommend it.  He's got a nice line in a kind of charming 'just another guy hanging out in the garage' vibe that leads me to believe that if you were hanging out with him and he suggested stealing a fire engine to drive to Mexico, then you'd totally do it because it sounded like such a reasonable suggestion at the time.*

*If you and Mr. Bader do attempt to steal a fire truck, be aware that they generally start with an ignition switch instead of a key, and you have to engage the battery first.  Also, they can be kind of a pig on gas, so expect to have to fill up again by the time you hit Rochester.**

**If you're starting in Minneapolis or surrounding suburbs.

Diedrich Bader, if the name doesn't immediately ring a bell, is currently playing Greg on the sitcom American Housewife, but if you Google him with your image search on you're pretty much guaranteed to go, 'Oh, him.  He was <that guy> in <that thing I liked>.'  Seriously, dude's been in a lot of cool stuff.

So, this morning he tweeted (see, I'm adopting the vernacular now) about a very amusing dream he had involving Allison Janney and Idris Elba, and something came over me.

I responded to his tweet, which I know is different from retweeting, and I don't think has a separate name for it other than 'responded', but it might and I don't care, because a few minutes later Diedrich Bader freaking 'liked' my tweet and responded (possibly another word) right back to it!.

And I have no idea what's happening to me now, but I swear to freaking God it was like I just unwrapped the Barbie I'd been hoping for all freaking year and I totally want to be a social media icon now!!  I want to tweet clever things now!  I want to please a clamoring pool of followers!!  I want to learn how to check and see if I have any followers!!  What exactly is a Youtube deal, and how do I get one??  Instagram - that's the one for pictures of food, right??  How does Tumblr's financial model not fall apart once they factor in the drop in usage that inevitably goes hand in hand with banning pictures of... you know what, we're not talking about Tumblr right now.

I get it, social media.  I have taken my first hit of interactive messaging, and the rush is heady and sweet, and I want me more.

I'm through the looking glass here, people.

For more 42nd Vizsla, follow me on... one of those...  app... things.  Just as soon as I figure out what my name is on them...

Monday, May 16, 2016

The business plan took a grim turn there...

So here's a conversation I had today over the work messaging system...

Would you go eat at a restaurant called Two Bunny Brunch?
Assume that the waitresses are drag queens
Not Me
10:54 AM
I would eat there everyday
Is this an option?
10:55 AM
A Facebook friend mentioned this morning in a comment that he'd interrupted a hawk's two bunny brunch while out running, and now I'm compelled to open a restaurant to use the name
There will be burlesque shows during your meal
Not Me
10:57 AM
as long as no bunnies are hurt, I'm totally in.
Pasties with my pastries!*
10:57 AM
Oh... we will be starting each meal with a ritual bunny sacrifice at your table.
A bunny, killed by a drag queen while you watch
it's a lot of our overhead expense to be honest
plus PETA is SUPER pissed
Not Me
11:00 AM
well, im honestly kinda into a drag queen crushing a bunny's neck
11:00 AM
the really weird thing about it is that it's a totally vegan restaurant
Not Me
11:01 AM
Dude, for real, lets go into the restaurant business together
11:05 AM
"And now, while I get your drinks order, Mis Toulittah Pepsee will strangle a rabbit"

Yes.  This is exactly what they installed the messaging system for.

*Pasties and Pastries is still available as a name for that stripper operated bakery you've always dreamed of opening.  You're welcome.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Once Again, the Forensic Sciences Ruin Musical Theater

For reasons that aren't completely explained, I completely missed the show Bob's Burgers for the first five years of its run.*

It's still running now, for the record**

**Unless you're reading this in the far future and this is all just an historic record of some kind***

***Btw - just out of curiosity - Jetpacks? Did that ever happen? 

If you, like me, were living in a yurt and are unfamiliar with Bob and his burgers, here's the basic upshot- Bob's Burgers is a cartoon aimed for adults* that airs on the Fox network. It follows Bob Belcher and his family, who own and operate a hamburger restaurant and get into what can loosely be described as 'wacky hi-jinx'.

*In the sense that it features simultaneously more intelligent and occasionally cruder humor, not in the sense that there are boobs everywhere. Although it does score major points by showing Bob's older daughter, Tina - a girl just beginning puberty - taking her fear of zombies and overcoming it by making a conscious decision to objectify them sexually, which is - if nothing else - not the sort of thing you're going to see on just any show. So... you know... Suck it, Walking Dead.**

**Not literally.

One particular wacky hi-jinc (Is that the singular for hi-jinx, or is hi-jinx both singular and plural?  You know... like Sheep or Moose.) involved a school project about Thomas Edison and an elephant named Topsy

Now, it should be acknowledged that this episode, upon further research, contained more than a bit of slander (or possibly libel.  The courts are split in an interesting way as to whether broadcast television counts as written word or spoken.) Specifically, a big chunk of the plot is based on an apparently long standing belief that Thomas Edison was involved in the electrocution of an elephant named Topsy as part of his campaign to prove that the new Alternating Current was more dangerous than his own Direct Current*

*It turns out that this isn't actually true.  Yes, there was an elephant named Topsy that was electrocuted for being 'Bad', whatever that means to an elephant at the turn of the twentieth century, but Edison himself had nothing to do with it.  The confusion probably stems from the fact that the electrocution was recorded on a camera that Edison had patented. Seriously, the footage is still out there and VERY findable on the web, but you're probably happier not having seen it.

So in the plot of the show, Louise, the younger daughter and amusingly borderline psychotic*, is assigned to do a project about Thomas Edison.  Because the teach in question super LOVES Thomas Edison, she of course frames the whole thing as both a hit piece and (less expectedly) a musical.

*From the wrong side of the border...

Except of course that things get a bit carried away and instead of a musical about Edison electrocuting an elephant we end up with a musical about Edison and an elephant falling in love with one another.  To quote the show itself on this subject - 'If it's not man on elephant love, it ain't worth singing about.'

And so, in a very catchy and singable riff, we begin with a thoughtful Topsy the elephant musing about her own mortality with the line, 'They'll say Awww, Topsy... at my Autopsy...'

Which is very touching and whistful... until you remember that it's only called an autopsy when performed on human beings.  On an animal it's called a Necropsy.

It still rhymes, but it's not as fun and clever. Sure, there's some wiggle room to argue that the capacity for self awareness and love (not to mention being able to sing a soulful musical number) might justify bumping Topsy up to a human-like standard in order to justify using the term autopsy, but still...

Stupid science.

Here's the closing number.  Yes, that is Kevin Kline as the voice of Thomas Edison.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hakuna Matata, Asshole

I doubt that I'm alone in indulging in the occasional bit of freeway Schadenfreude*.

*On the off chance - it means 'The delight you take in witnessing something bad happen to someone else.  The fact that the German people felt the need to coin a term for this specific emotion probably says a lot about them, culturally.**

** I kid, Germany. You know I love you

Case in point, the other day I was merging onto one freeway from a different freeway when I witnessed a driver ahead of me stage an act of open defiance against the Zipper Merge*

*A curiously heated point of contention in American Freeway etiquette. The basic premise is that when merging onto a freeway there is usually a special lane of traffic on the side from which you're entering** which goes for half a mile or so before it tapers off and ceases existing, at which point you're expected to have become part of existing traffic. The question that really gets people worked up is - at what point during that half mile should you get your act together and actually merge into the existing traffic lane. One school of thought is that you should immediately merge into the permanent lane as soon as physically possible, as waiting until the last minute means that you're rude and inconsiderate. 

That school of thought is, of course, completely 100% wrong.

The correct school of thought is that you're intended to go all the way up the half mile of side road and then take turns with the existing traffic, alternating from either lane - exactly the way a zipper closes. You can tell that this is the correct school of thought, because THE FREEWAY DEPARTMENT FREAKING FLAT OUT SAID SO.  REPEATEDLY.  The point being that they made the entire half mile stretch of road because they actually wanted you to use the entire half mile stretch. If they wanted you to only use 50 feet they would only have made that much.

Regardless of that clear and obvious truth however, almost without fail you'll encounter some asshat who feels like it's his personal mission in life to deliberately block other cars from merging into traffic, zipper-style, and the principle that they know best.

**It's called an acceleration lane.  This might be considered a clue as to why stopping in the middle of it is just bone-headedly wrong.

So the other day I witnessed a pickup truck go out of his way to run someone off the road rather than let them merge into existing traffic, only to have the exact same thing happen to him when he had to merge into the next lane of traffic a mile or so later.

I immediately thought to myself, 'Hakuna Matata, Asshole', because at some point the details of the Lion King became vague enough in my head that Hakuna Matata sort of means 'Circle of Life' to me, regardless of the fact that it's a totally unrelated song and means nothing of the sort*

*You totally just hummed, 'It means No Worries', didn't you.

Fast forward to the following day, when I observed in the parking ramp a smaller car parked completely centered between two parking spots.*

*More on this vehicle another time, because the story doesn't end there

Upon my return to the parking ramp, I was somewhat pleased to see that the ramp management had left a stern note on their windshield castigating them for parking over the lines and threatening to have them towed if it happened again.  No sooner had I begun to bask in my righteous pleasure at seeing them justly struck down than I got to Lucille (My truck) and discovered that I had received the exact same note. On inspection it turned out that I was, indeed, about half a foot over the line on the passenger side (Lucille's a big girl).

Stupid Circle of Life.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Please Stop Hacking

There's an unfortunate tendency on the internet lately.*

*To be fair, there's an argument to be made that the internet is made up entirely of unfortunate tendencies, but this one stands out at the moment.

I refer of course to the unfortunate groundswell of vaguely interesting ideas being described as 'Life Hacks'

At this point any even moderately interesting new use of... let's say a dust pan for examples' sake... is getting tossed out in some endless parade of clickbait articles titled something along the lines of 'Genius Life Hacks That Will CHANGE YOUR WORLD!'

At first this was moderately amusing turn of phrase, but at this point one thing needs to be made abundantly clear to the earnest young bloggers out there...


That needed to be said.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

See, Adam Baldwin, This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

For the past week or so my Internet search bar has sat on the top of my screen looking like this-

Now, at first glance this might seem like sort of an odd question, since it's probably reasonable to assume that either you're already aware of why you don't like Adam Baldwin, or you don't don't like Adam Baldwin and don't particularly care about why others do don't.

To understand how I got to the point where I had to ask the question, it's important to understand a fairly fundamental point-

I tend to be completely oblivious about a lot of things going on in the world that other people seem to care a lot about*

*Seriously... I only just this last week discovered Archer.

So, the first Thing I Wasn't Aware Of-


I expect there are a lot of us out there who were unaware of the existence of MovieBob until fairly recently*

*I also expect that there is a much larger group of people who still are completely unaware of MovieBob's existence for that matter

For those who are still unfamiliar, the short version is - MovieBob is the guy that did that online review of the movie Pixels that everyone was passing around on Facebook a few weeks ago.

The longer version - MovieBob (real name Bob Chipman) is one of the many people making their living these days reviewing movies (and other things) online. Until recently he worked producing fairly amusing video reviews for a specific online 'culture' site which I will not name here.*

*Mostly because I don't yet know how rude I'm going to be about them and don't want to get sued, but also partially because they appear to have treated Bob pretty unfairly.

The review of the movie Pixels (If you haven't listened to it) is a delightful profane rant about the recent Adam Sandler movie that uses a zesty mix of invective and reference to biological fluids in a way that I simply have never heard before. It's well worth seven minutes of your time if you aren't bothered by that sort of thing.

Having listened to this, I started tracking down other of his reviews to listen to, because I liked his style and enjoy listening to that sort of 'cultural critique' thing. In one of his other pieces he made the observation that he felt like Joss Whedon was the right person to direct The Avengers because at the end of the day The Avengers was going to be about the group/found family dynamic and that is clearly the sort of thing that Joss Whedon does Very Very well. The way Bob phrased this was that Joss Whedon was so good at this sort of thing that at one point he had even made 'Sentient piece of Human Garbage Adam Baldwin likeable for like a minute'*

*Not an exact quote, but pretty darn close.

The Second Thing I wasn't aware of-

Apparently We Don't Like Adam Baldwin...?

Prior to hearing this, my knowledge of Adam Baldwin was -

  1. He played Jayne on Firefly, which was awesome
  2. He was some guy on the last season of Angel, which was pretty good but not as good as Gina Torres had been on that show the previous year.
  3. The second act of Full Metal Jacket has always felt a little formless to me (although I think that might be kind of the point).  Oh, and..
  4.  He once lost a fight with a manatee

So hearing him referred to as a sentient piece of human garbage by a man who's opinion I was coming to respect in a, 'Hey, you've said a lot of stuff online that I broadly agree with' kind of way gave me a moment of pause. And so I did what any sensible person would do in the circumstances and googled it.

The Third Thing I wasn't aware of-


To be fair, I was vaguely aware that this was a thing.  My sum total of my knowledge about it was pretty much summed up by, 'A bunch of anonymous guys on the Internet found an excuse to justify* threatening women with violent rape while distributing said women's personal information.' It's all done in the name of 'ethics', apparently.

*Justify to themselves, obviously.

It turns out that any research about why we don't like Adam Baldwin is irrevocably linked with Gamergate, which has unfortunately led me to having to learn more about the whole thing. For example, I eventually googled 'SJW', as I had no idea what it meant and people kept insisting on using it in sentences.  (It turns out it means 'Social Justice Warrior(s)', and appears to be a catchall phrase for 'Shut up, I don't want to think about that.') The reason that the whole thing is so intertwined with Adam Baldwin is...

The Fourth Thing I wasn't aware of - 

Adam Baldwin Coined the Phrase 'Gamergate' (allegedly)

No, I'm not going to put the hashtag on it.  This whole thing is dangerously searchable enough as it is, and while there's very little that Gamergate enthusiasts could do to my credit score that I haven't done myself already there's no reason to push it.

Not only did he (allegedly) coin the term, but he seems to spend a lot of time and effort using it as a hashtag on twitter. Which sort of brings us to -

One Thing that We All Already Knew 
Joss Whedon is a Better Person Than You.

Or me. Or anyone else not named Joss Whedon.*

*There's a case to be made for Jane Espenson...

There's an easily findable interview with Our Joss in which he addresses the Adam Baldwin question. Essentially, the question he was asked was - 'Is working with Adam Baldwin weird since the whole gamergate thing?' to which he said (and I'm paraphrasing here) 'You know, Adam is a hardworking, decent guy that always came to work ready to work hard and do his best. That's the Adam I like to think about, not the Adam who sometimes shouts down me or Felicia Day on Twitter'

That there is pretty much the definition of a classy answer, and it goes some way toward again confirming why Joss is so beloved not just by his fans but also by just about everyone who's ever worked with him.*

*Although am I the only one who gets the feeling that there's some sort of weird vibe between him and Sarah Michelle Gellar?

This, in a big circular way, eventually led me to the answer to the question I was ostensibly researching in the first place.

One Thing We ALL Should Know Instinctively

It Is Not - EVER - OK to Attack Felicia Day

Not even verbally.

Not even on Twitter.

Not cool, Adam Baldwin.