Thursday, December 29, 2011

Of "Big Boned" Cats, "Happy Endings," and Vogon Poetry

Seymour, indicating how big his butt USED to be...
For the past few months, our cats, Francis and Seymour, have been on a diet. They are not pleased about this development, to say the least. And, believe me— it’s been even less pleasant for their owners. According to the vet, at 20++ pounds, both cats have “an acute weight problem.” I think they’re just “big-boned,” but apparently Fat Acceptance is not so much a thing in the veterinary community, as I've discussed previously
Back in September, the vet put the cats on a serious weight reduction (a.k.a. “money reduction”) diet. Unless we’re bad people who want our cats to die a horrible death in the near future, she suggests, we have to give them a reduced-calorie cat food that, for some reason, is mostly made of rabbit meat. We get this at a local "vintage shop/pet grocery" called Happy Endings. (Despite the misleading name, they do NOT offer organic cat food “with release.”)

If you’ve never put a fat housecat on a diet, it’s exactly as much fun as you would think. The cats meow in long, sinewy wails that seem to channel all the pathos in the world. It’s like listening to Vogon poetry. In the morning, they get all gangsta on me. Around 7 AM, they start batting my head with their paws, as if to say, "Wake up, Bee-atch!" If this doesn’t work, they start knocking things over until I wake up and feed them. A cat on a diet is a lot like a junkie who’s been forced to go cold turkey. Even without the diet, owning cats is a lot like living with furry little drug addicts. They lie around on the couch all day. They throw up all over the place. They flip out over laser lights, and they never manage to make rent.
Francis (the one on the left), Dec. 2011. Alas, this is the "AFTER" photo.
On the upside, I’m pleased to note that, since September, Francis and Seymour have each lost nearly FIVE POUNDS! Considering most women in America want to lose five pounds, and they are generally much larger than housecats, this is quite an accomplishment. On the downside, they’re now svelte enough that they can actually jump up on the kitchen counters, which they were too “big-boned” to do before. They use this as a weapon, knocking stuff off the counters until I relent, and feed them.

Sometimes I wake up to find Seymour standing, ominously, just over my head. He lightly rests his paw on my forehead. “I will cut you,” he seems to be saying. “Just give me the stuff. If you love me, you know you will.” So I get up, and reward his bad behavior with some ridiculously expensive cat food that is undoubtedly sold under a different label at Dean & Deluca, where they call it pâté.

My problem is that I have a hard time saying “no.” This is one reason I think I would be an extraordinarily bad parent. While an inability to say no can be very helpful when it comes to conceiving children, it’s not such a good thing when it comes to raising them. Heck, if I had kids, I’d probably just let them eat all the cat food they wanted. Their veterinarian undoubtedly would not approve. Not one bit.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I-Just-Had-Relations.com

Want to know where, when, and in what positions people around you have recently had sex—say, before you sit on that park bench with the questionable stain on it?

Now, there’s an app for that, called (cue the Barry White soundtrack) , “I Just Made Love.”

This Android/iPhone software uses GPS technology to pinpoint the location of people (read: 14-year-old virgins) who feel the need to anonymously brag (read:  lie) about the fact that they’ve just nailed some…ahem, “made luuuuurv.”  Like its parent website, this app exists at the strange intersection of Victorian prudishness and (Too Much) Information Age prurience.  Take the name, for instance. If you’re old enough to say “made love” instead of “had sex,” you’re far too old to be using this app (i.e., over 17). They’d might as well call it “I Just Had Relations” or “I Just Knew Someone Biblically, If You Know What I Mean.”

According to www.ijustmadelove.com, the site has recorded more than 200,000 (non-verifiable) sex acts. Based on IJML’s world map, the most active users by far are in Eastern Europe—mostly in Poland, for some reason. The site doesn’t offer statistics on the male vs. female posting ratios, but in my (admittedly unscientific) research, the vast majority of posts were by people who identify themselves as straight men (I know, shocking, right?!). Since more detailed demographic data wasn’t available, I created a Venn Diagram to illustrate who we all assume is using this technology:

To test out the user experience, I went onto the website and made the post below.

To decode the symbols: you can tell that I am a) female (pink icon), b) had sex in multiple positions with both two men, and—in an icon that looks like a nuclear waste hazard warning— I also had zero-gravity sex with two other women! The pink house icon means “in a hotel,” and the wee condom means exactly what you think. The opened padlock means… OMG, you guys! It was MY FIRST TIME EVER!!  ( NOTE: no actual goats were harmed or molested in the making of this anecdote.)
 
As far as I can tell, my, like, totally true declarations went entirely unnoticed by most other humans. It was an experience not unlike publishing poetry.

My problem with this app isn’t that it’s tasteless and depraved, or that it gives too much information. Rather, it’s not tasteless enough. For this to have any point, we'd need more deets. What kind of boat are you on? A kayak? A sailboat? Underneath the all-u-can-eat shrimp buffet on a Carnival cruise ship? Under “Indoors,” why not add a drop-down menu to include, “In the Bathroom at Friendly’s,” “On my Roommate’s Futon,” etc.  Likewise, for those rocking the backseat of a car, give them the option to up the ante to “On a Fire Truck,” or, Outdoors: “On the Back of a Unicorn” (hey, as long as we’re making shit up…).

Unless the punchline is always, “at your house, with your mama”—I totally fail to see the point of this technology. And I say this as someone who regularly horrifies those around her by soliciting and/or offering far too much information about sex.

Looking at all those isolated points on a graph, they seem to form a strange cartography of loneliness. We don’t know what any of these people look like, or how old they are, or under what circumstances they ended up fucking someone in a kayak, in the middle of a day, in a land-locked corner of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Now, that’s the story I want—not a visual of stick figures simulating sex acts. The stick-figures, in this context, become the symbols—harbingers, if you will—of a world with far too much information, and far too little meaning.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Surly Throw Pillows, and other Ill-Advised Gifts

When a simple "I Want to Break Up With You" just isn't enough...
I surreptitiously snapped this photo at my Local Purveyor of Surly Throw Pillows. Just in case you need a last-minute Gift That Will Make Someone Break Up With You Immediately (may I also suggest a copy of Personal Hygiene For Dummies?), this pillow can be found at a place called NuBe on Pine Street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. All their stuff is made out of “re-purposed materials” (also known as “trash”). But, seriously, it’s a cool place, and I bought some Xmas presents there. The only downside is the prices are a bit steep. For instance, a purse made out of old car tires or whatever seems to be more expensive than a purse made out of a brand new car. 

As for the pillow pictured above ($103—no, seriously; that’s what it costs), I’m not sure how I feel about my home textiles getting all up in my business about my exercising habits.

Here's how I'm afraid things would go:

PILLOW: Go to the gym, you lazy fuck!
ME: Why don’t you?  You’re pretty soft around the middle, you know.
PILLOW: Go to the gym.
ME: Why, so you can invite over that slutty Tempur-Pedic pillow for some “pillow talk”?
PILLOW: Go to they gym!
ME:  Going to the gym sucks. If you ever got up off the couch, you might realize that. Besides, I’d rather stay home with you. We could kick back, order a pizza, maybe watch some TNG on Netflix…
PILLOW: GO TO THE …
ME:  You know, Pillow, I feel like you’re not even meeting me halfway in this relationship.
PILLOW: …GYM.
ME:  That’s what I’m talking about. Every time I bring up our relationship, you change the subject.
PILLOW: GO TO THE GYM.
ME: That’s it. I’m leaving. But I’m NOT going to the gym. Why? Because I don’t want to give you the satisfaction!

Excerpted from Scenes from a Relationship With a $103 (+tax) Throw Pillow.
Original Broadway cast (Barrymore Theater): Parker Posey as Me, and Jonah Hill as The Pillow.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Best Pickles

I am resisting the urge to make any number of very obvious jokes...
Today’s unsolicited plug is for Paul and Morgan’s new podcast, The Best Pickles, all about their lives and loves “at the bottom of the barrel” of the music industry. The superlative comes into play, “because the best pickles are the ones at the bottom of the barrel.”

The podcast is a lot of fun. I especially love the “best pickles” concept. This is in part because I really enjoy deli sandwiches that come with a dill spear, and I’m a bit hungry right now. Also, I tend to like phallic-shaped foods better than all other kinds. But more to the point, there’s something liberating about the thought of those lonely, well-marinated pickles at the bottom of the barrel. The image is sure to resonate with anyone who’s ever poured untold amounts of time, effort, and/or money into an interest or passion that, at least in any tangible sense, may never pay off.

While I've never been in the music barrel, I, too, have been that fuckin' pickle (a sentence that could have a tragically different meaning if you switched only two of those words...). I've spent time at the bottom of the Mason jars of dance, writing, and cat ownership, among myriad other ill-advised pursuits.

Music in particular is a harsh mistress. She expects you to give up several evenings a week, including Friday and Saturday nights, to be with her. She always needs you to buy her a lot of expensive crap that you can neither eat nor wear. And, worst of all, she won’t even have sex with you.
This is what some bands make me want to do...
Having lived in New York, Gainesville (FL), and Seattle—all towns known for their music scenes—I’ve been to a LOT of live “rock & roll” shows. Many suck. But what never ceases to amaze me is how many truly incredible and talented Promising Local Bands and musicians are out there. For instance, I’ve really enjoyed all the bands that Paul and Morgan have been in (OMG, plugz!! Check out Kids on Fire and Steel Tigers of Death, a.k.a., the STDs!!). In Seattle alone, there are quite a few other local bands that I absolutely love, such as Bat Country, which has great songs and features an accordion (sorry, guys, but everything is better with an accordion—flashbacks in movies, Paris subways, Reuben sandwiches, you name it). Why all of. these folks aren’t super famous—whether or not that's their goal—is as much of a mystery to me as why Justin Bieber is. Maybe it’s the haircut?

Of course, I have absolutely zero musical talent (and don’t aspire to change this state of affairs), so maybe I’m just easily impressed. But I don’t think so. I know what I like, and what I don’t. Listening to some music makes me wish I were a cat, just so that I could flatten my ears against my head and hiss, and then use the musician’s guitar/piano/violin case as a litterbox.

There must be some mystical and mysterious algorithm that explains the success of any given musician or band (despite the fact that, in many cases, they suck donkey balls). It has to do with luck + talent + timing, multiplied by an imaginary number and raised to the power of God Loves Justin Bieber Just a Little Bit More Than He Loves You.

In some ways, those of us who have been the Bottom Pickles are the ones who understand [insert art form] the most intimately. When you do something for years and years without any resulting fame, success, or monetary reward, you come to understand/love/hate that thing with a depth of passion that is normally reserved for our closest relatives.

There’s a not-so-fine line between dedication and masochism. In fact, you might even say there’s an entire zip code. It’s easy to spend your whole life in this place. The question is, is that such a bad thing? I used to think so, but now I really don’t. Take me, for instance. Despite my best efforts—and against the recommendation of any number of psychiatrists, veterinarians, and Russian ballet teachers—it’s unlikely that I’m going to stop dancing, or writing, or owning cats and unwittingly over-feeding them. C’est la vie.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monroe Ficus and the Case of the Morbidly Obese Jello-Rapists


Once upon a time, in the mid-1980s—the Golden Age of the Very Special Episode—a television event took place that scarred a generation of young people. The show was Too Close for Comfort, and the episode was (inexplicably) called, “For Every Man, There's Two Women.” In it, a character called Monroe Ficus (Jm J. Bullock) was raped in a tub of Jell-o by two morbidly obese women. At this point, I should emphasize that I AM NOT JOKING. This actually happened.

For years, this episode existed only in the dim, mostly-suppressed memories of the children and coke fiends who made up the core viewing audience of the show (if you were neither a small child nor a drug addict at the time, you had no excuse for tuning in). Recently, this episode became available on You Tube, eliciting crazed shouts of, “See?!  I told you I wasn’t making that up!” all across this great nation. (Trigger Alert: The content may bring up disturbing memories of repressed traumatic events, such as previously watching this episode.) 

The episode left Little Me with a lot of questions. First and foremost, what’s up with Jm J. Bullock? Why doesn’t he have an “i” in his first name? What does he have against the letter “i”?  Did the vowel also attempt to fondle him in his swimsuit area?  Or is he on some sports team, and he wanted to prove how selfless he was by shouting, “There’s no “I” in Jm J. Bullock!”? But I digress.

Too Close for Comfort is one of those shows that make you hope to God that ours is the only so-called intelligent life form (granted, an ironic term in this context) in the universe. Aliens watching this show would have to conclude—like Little Me—that a tub full of Jell-o (“or tapioca, or shredded wheat,” as a police detective states in the episode) is somehow integral to adult human sexuality. They’ll also assume that one of the main problems facing humanity in 1985 was the scourge of morbidly obese women raping self-described gay icons in tubs of Jell-o. (Good thing we didn’t have any nuclear proliferation, or homophobia, or racism … or even rampant cocaine use among sitcom writers!)
Back in the '80s, this was the tub filling of choice for all those
Women's Libbers who went around raping  self-described gay icons..
.
In case you were lucky enough to miss the long national nightmare that was Too Close For Comfort, here’s the upshot: Ted Knight played a cartoonist named Henry who lived in a phat rowhouse in San Francisco, back in the days when people who aren’t Mark Zuckerberg could actually live in phat rowhouses in San Francisco. For some reason, his smokin’ hot adult daughters had to move back in with him, his wife, and their young son. Most of the plots centered around Henry’s attempts to keep said adult daughters from having sex. Hilarity, and undoubtedly a lot of battery use on the part of the adult daughters, ensued.

The family’s upstairs tenant was the aforementioned Jell-o-rapee, Monroe Ficus. Even if you watched this when you were too young to what gay is, it was pretty obvious that Monroe was gay. This will be immediately apparent even to the Alpha Centaurians who may end up watching this show in a thousand years.  But for some reason, this was never overtly stated, or even hinted at. (Yes… in the 80s, you could have a character who’s a single man who never has a girlfriend and who  lives in San Francisco, and you weren’t supposed to assume he might—just might!—be gay.)  I only mention this lest you think the show was in any way progressive for having a gay character, way back in the homophobic mid-80s. It was not. In fact, Too Closeted For Comfort might’ve been a better name for the whole show.

In the episode in question, Monroe comes home one morning, after being gone all night. Disheveled and ragged, he reports that two massively large women grabbed him in the parking lot of a shopping mall, blindfolded him, and threw him in a van.

“The Big One sat on me, while the Little One drove,” Monroe reports. The women took him back to their apartment, where they “had their way” with him. For some reason, this took place in a tub full of Jell-o.

This is followed by an uncomfortable family debate, in which the actors seem as confused as the audience. Henry insists that his wife and daughters “have a double standard,” because they question the seriousness of the crime relative to man-on-woman rape, in addition the questioning the logistics of how a woman can rape a man (you know, because we kids weren’t confused enough about what was going on). But let’s put that aside for a moment.

Although Monroe was blindfolded while in the van, Henry encourages him to try to remember the route they took based on the number and direction of the turns (because, you know, that would totally work). Monroe lies down on the kitchen table, which somehow allows him to access some magical, retroactive internal GPS (gaydar?) to suss out the location of the women’s apartment. Pinpointing the address on a map, Monroe and Henry rush off to confront the zaftig female Jell-o rapists.

When they get to the apartment, a 500+ pound middle-aged woman in a mumu throws open the door. It’s time for Monroe’s big laugh line. (Wait for it…)  “It’s the little one!” (You know, ‘cause she’s super fat, get it?!)

At that point, Monroe runs away, literally shrieking. The Little One then pulls Henry into the room with ravenous, lustful gesture, the way most women do when random white-haired cartoonists appear at  their doorstep. When Henry attempts to flee, the Little One physically blocks the door. “Heat up the Jell-o!” she yells out, to her (offstage) partner-in-crime.
As a child, I knew next to nothing about the potential sexual and/or BDSM uses of Jell-o (thankfully, I still don’t). But I did know a little something about the physics of Jell-o. When you heat it up, it ceases to be Jell-o. It turns to liquid.  But, whatever.

By the end of the episode, we have a brief, glimmering moment when it seems like the whole thing will be explained when Monroe tells Henry, “I learned a very valuable lesson.” (No, seriously. He actually says that.)

We all sat up. Leaned forward. Tell us, Monroe! Tell us what you learned!  You learned that it’s really creepy to make light of sexual assault? You learned the writers of this show need to go into rehab? You learned that the letter “i” doesn’t really want to kill you and eat you?

“I learned,” Monroe says, turning to Henry, “that, if anything else ever goes wrong in my life, you’ll be there for me.”

In the 80s, the abbreviation “WTF?”  wasn’t yet in common usage, but that was nonetheless exactly what we all wanted to text to all our friends on our nonexistent cell phones. At the last minute, the whole train wreck of a storyline was reframed as a “buddy plot.” WTF??
My theory about this episode? This was a time when the women’s movement was slowly making some inroads.  This plot reflected a latent cultural anxiety about women’s equality.  “If we let women have equal rights,” the plot seems to caution, “before you know it, they’ll be raping self-described gay icons right and left!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way condoning sexual violence against men. With or without Jell-o, it’s a serious, awful crime and should be treated as such. Nor do I think the subject is great fodder for comedy. (Remember—I’m not the one who wrote this episode!) Strangely, by the end of the episode, Monroe seems to be thoroughly un-traumatized by this experience, as if to diminish the weight of the crime.
Sadly, all of us who tuned in were not so lucky.  It was a little bit like America was touched inappropriately, but, like Monroe Ficus, we just didn’t want to talk about it afterwards.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seattle Fun Fact #69!

In no particular order, #69 in  the files of Things You Never Asked Me to Tell You About Seattle (and would probably rather not know...)

You’re probably going to see a lot of your friends naked. Not necessarily because you’re having sex with them, but because it’s not uncommon for people to have one or more hobbies that involve gratuitous nudity. If you ask me, this is pretty cool, and almost (almost!) compensates for the unfortunate rain situation. In their free time, Seattleites do things like burlesque (i.e., stripping, but with much better costumes…and irony!). Or they're in "clothing optional" baton-twirling troupes, or they host parties with themes like, “Come Dressed As Your Favorite Naked Person!”
In a similar vein, non-monogamy is sort of a thing. If you’re married and you also mention your boyfriend, girlfriend, and/or 24/7 sex slave, nobody will bat an eye. Don’t be surprised if you go to a party and you meet someone who describes himself as a “bi, poly, kinky switch who’s really into horse-play.”  When you first arrive in Seattle, you may not know what that means. Don’t worry. You will. Whether you want to or not, you will.
Seattle is where a chicken can live out his dream of becoming a Cher impersonator...
Tangentially, you may even find yourself wondering, as I have, what you should wear when going with a friend to deliver a live chicken to a gender-queer BDSM sex  farm (HINT: floral, brightly-colored kilts are a bad choice). (NOTE: no chickens were harmed in the making of this anecdote. The chicken in question was actually being saved from death, because he was a gender-queer hen who turned out to be a rooster, and thus wasn’t allowed to live within City limits).

Which brings me to Thing #32 About Seattle: Everyone has chickens.. I hear the "urban chicken" thing is even worse in Portland.  My next-door neighbors have about eight of them. Really.  Who needs that many chickens?