Sunday, August 31, 2008

If The Bandit's Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right.

"Lift your skinny fists like antennas to heaven!"

That's what elhansonET posted as a comment under a YouTube compilation clip of images from "Smokey and The Bandit" three hours ago. Not three decades ago, hours. From Germany. (Go ahead. Do it out loud with the German accent. You know you're dyin' to.)

Meanwhile, back in the States, it's dirt track date night at Casa de Lefler. What are we screening? You guessed it. The 1977 tire-smokin', Coors-haulin', hammer-stomping classic that some (a.k.a. "cousins") have called "the best car chase movie ever made." (Please don't go all culture snob on me and start waxing poetic about "The French Connection." Apples and oranges, particularly in two crucial respects. "The French Connection": sorely lacking in both banjo picking and Basset hound. There, I said it.)

There's just so much to whoop about, from Burt Reynolds' mustachioed grin to Jackie Gleason's bug-eyed infuriation to Jerry Reed's masterful theme song: "Eastbound and Down."

Here are some family activities that go great with this classic film:

The Name Game: Have a son? See if you can convince him that you came this close to naming him Cledus. (Works best if everyone on the sofa keeps a straight face. Doesn't work at all if son actually is named Cledus.)

The Career Counselor: Are your teenage kids dragging their feet filling out their college applications? Try leaving brochures for trucking school in strategic locations around the house. (Careful with this one - it can backfire on you depending on how much your teen bonded with the movie.)

Lightning Vocab: Hit the pause button at key times during the movie and see who's first to define critical redneck terms of art such as: choke-and-puke, bootlegging, rocking chair and Texas bubblegum machine.

For the Life Imitates Art file: I am living - living - for the day when one of my kids raises a hand in class and asks for the hall pass so they can go "ten one-hundred."

Parent-teacher what?

That's a big ten-four, good buddy, and remember: keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Flashback Friday!

Somewhere in Southern California - 1982

(If you don't already have a Go-Gos song running in your head, you can get one here.)

Yes, that's my paycheck.

Note barely suppressed ecstatic glee after checking out my take-home for the week.

Note burnt-orange polyester ensemble that would make Kate Moss look like a bag of doorknobs. (I actually am wearing the mandatory hat that came with the uniform, but it is so unnaturally hideous that it does not show up on film.)

I think Donna Summer said it best. So hard for it, honey.

Showcase memory evoked by this photo: Frustrated cluster of teens in burnt-orange pantsuits stealthily appropriate loathsome assistant manager's bicycle and, while creating gripping distraction in lobby with errant Filet-O-Fish sandwich, stuff said bicycle into industrial-sized trash compactor behind building, later presenting said assistant manager with dense, bicycle-ish metal cube roughly the same size (and weight) as a Big Mac.

Good times.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What's Up With Wordle?

Okay, this rocks. I recently came across the website Wordle and have been fascinated with it ever since.

Here's what you do: put a bunch of text (anything you like) into a box and the site turns it into, well, a wordle. What's a wordle? It's one of these: Word art! And you can manipulate the colors, etc. right on the site. Don't get me wrong - I didn't align all the words and turn them on their sides and choose the font and all that. The site does that automatically in just a few seconds.

Don't like what you see? Just keep hitting the "randomizer" button until one pops up that suits you.

You can also plug a URL into the box on the site and it will generate a wordle based on what it finds there.

Here's one based on this blog:

(Note to self: stop using the word "like" so much.)
And here's the same URL in another form:

There are lots of ideas on the site, as well as a gallery of wordles that other people have created. If you're like me (sorry for that), you're already thinking of the things you can do with this little website, such as kid projects, logos, cover art and, of course, break-up notes.
Like this one:

Need to send a brief note to a colleague? Wordle's there for you:
Hey, no one said art was painless.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What's Up With The Crunchiness?

It's Saturday and things are a bit crunchy around here.

There's a nice gentleman named Hugo in the dining room right now, fixing our chandelier. It has been hanging over our heirloom dining table by a single screw for, let's see, four years now. (What can I say? I have a very long to-do list and, I'm sorry, but "buy sassy fall shoes" edges out "get chandelier fixed" every time.) This is, as they say in hushed Olympic tones, Hugo's second attempt. The first attempt was about a month ago and it ended, after a valiant effort on Hugo's part, in a draw. But he's back...and this time it's personal.

My office is directly above the dining room. More specifically, my right sneaker is directly above the drill bit that keeps giving Hugo a violent kick back each time he fires up his power tool. I fully expect my shoe to be permanently bolted to the carpet under my desk before the afternoon's out. Hey, if it holds up the dang chandelier, I'm all for it.

In other Saturday crunchiness, the shower knob came off in my hand, one of our lawn chairs tried to consume the husband whole, our cockapoo has a double ear infection and there's something growing inside my right cheek that, frankly, scares me.

You see the kind of day we're having here. Not a bad day, exactly. Just crunchy.

Contrast this with last Saturday, when we were all in Palm Springs, chillaxin' on a little family getaway. Oh, man, it was great. We got a wild hair and rented Twin Palms, Frank Sinatra's former home out in the desert, for a long weekend.

(Background note: in deference to our two puppies, we skipped our regular summer vacation this year, opting instead to hang out at home. This gave us more time to ply them with offerings like expensive throw rugs and sheepskin snuggle beds that we welcomed them to destroy if it would please them and, in turn, STOP THE BARKING. They cleverly sniffed and accepted our gifts, then learned how to jump on the table and steal food the minute we turned our backs.)

Built in 1947, Twin Palms was one of the pioneering homes in mid-century modern style. Frank lived there with his wife Nancy and their children toward the end of their rocky marriage, then with Ava Gardner during their even rockier subsequent marriage.

[That's Frank's original sound system, still intact.]

For someone (like me) who loves mid-century architecture, the desert (specifically Palm Springs), Frank, his friends and his was the perfect storm. The whole time we were there, the same kinds of thoughts kept running through my head. I'm sitting in Frank Sinatra's piano-shaped pool. I'm sitting in Frank Sinatra's (kind of weird-shaped) bathtub. I'm sitting on Frank Sinatra's circular driveway. (I do a lot of sitting on vacation.) I told our daughter with great excitement that she was likely showering in Sammy Davis, Jr.'s shower. "Who's that?" she asked. Geez, where do I start?

So I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that we're all suffering from PPD (Post-Party Depression) after a great getaway. At least we're not jet-lagged, right?

Oops, sounds like things have reached a crisis point downstairs. Time for me to slip out of my shoe and go see if Hugo needs back-up.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What's Up With Book Lagniappe #1?

[For most people in the United States, the French/Creole word lagniappe - pronounced LAYN-yap - is unfamiliar. As a native (if relatively short-term) New Orleanian, though, I grew up with this delightful Cajun term for an unexpected gift to a stranger or customer. Watch out, now...Cajun expressions burrow into you just like chiggers. I just know you'll be using this one at work sometime soon.]

Book Lagniappe #1 is THE NEW YORKERS by Cathleen Schine.

I really enjoyed this novel. (I promise I won't lay any lagniappe on you that I didn't really enjoy.) If you'd like to read my "review" of it on GoodReads, it's right here. (It's not an official review, you understand, but rather my comments on why I liked the book, etc.)

If you'd like to check out the book's listing on Amazon, it's over here.

So here's where the lagniappe comes in: If this sounds like a book you'd like to have for yourself, then be the first to post a comment below and I will mail you my copy of the book. That's right - for keeps. (I have the trade paperback edition, in excellent condition.) And, yes, I pay all postage and handling. (If you'd like extra handling, please note that in your comment.)

Maybe you'll love the book and keep it on your shelf for years. Maybe you'll love it so much you can't keep it to yourself and you pass it along to someone else. Maybe it's not your cup of tea but you hand it off to someone who can't put it down.

One way or another, someone's going to get some happiness out of this deal. (I'm starting to suspect that's why we're all here in the first place, yes?)

Have fun and watch for Book Lagniappe #2 coming soon!

Note: If you're posting a comment in order to win the lagniappe, please make sure to include your email address, etc. so I can follow up with you and get your mailing address. Fear not - I won't divulge your info.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What's Up With The Plug?

Just an aside latest post on LA Moms Blog got picked up for national syndication. Everyone here in the LJKGW complex is pretty psyched about it.

(Except for Noreen in Accounts Payable but that's just because she's never gotten over the fact that I said - to someone else - that the Apple Brown Betty she brought in for the last Easter potluck repeated on me. Hey, I'm the victim here, Noreen.)

Anyway, if you'd like to read about what a lousy parent I am, you can do so here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's Up With The Laziness?

I won't lie to you. Things are slackish around here these days. I've seen slumps before, but never like this. We're spooky lazy.

I blame summer. It's mid-August and the entire organization has been infected with slacker fever, from Luigi "Fettuccine" Alfredo, our office factotum (who, in spite of his very misleading title was not, in fact carved from a tree trunk by Native Alaskans) all the way up to, well, me. Even Gisele Alschuler, our intern from Van Nuys with loose morals but surprising upper-body strength, is too apathetic to wear her usual Wet Seal cocktail attire to the office, showing up instead in a wifebeater, bejeweled flip-flops and rolled-up sweatpants with the word "PINK" appliqued across her heinie in 4-inch letters.

I took a stroll with my Big Gulp and cherry donut down the hall yesterday toward the far end of the LJKGW complex where we keep the human resources ladies with their Grand ol' Opry hairdos, frosty white toenails and squeaky vinyl pocketbooks. (We keep the accounting folks down at that end of the building, too, but we like the accounting folks. They cut expense checks.) Apparently, even the soulless and the damned (sorry, I already said HR, didn't I?) have a summer slump in August, because I found a cluster of women parked around the break room table, each clacking away on some version of a hideous yarn afghan. Yeesh. I shuddered at the thought of the poor bastard who soon would tear through kitten-and-daisy-encrusted wrapping paper to find a fluorescent mustard and puce "throw" whose highest purpose is as a full-body exfoliation device. I hurried back to the Executive Suite with such haste that I squirted a blob of cherry filling onto the Berber carpet in the elevator lobby. (Note to self: call building maintenance and schedule carpet cleaning while subtly implicating the sales staff.)

Even with the productivity plunge, I do love deep summer. It seems to be the only time of the year when we give ourselves permission to truly unclench. There's a golden intermission before it's time to begin the official back-to-school stress-out, when we can almost convince ourselves that, yes, we can flip over in the hammock as many times as we like and keep dozing off and when we wake up, it will still be summer with its dragonfly drone and grass-clipping aroma.


Enjoy it while it lasts, because any moment now the mailman will be slipping catalogs into our mailboxes that feature snuggly hearth scenes laced with pine boughs, glowing candles and frost-kissed windowpanes and we will stagger forth, our thighs ripe with the recent imprints of webbed lawn chairs, reluctantly awakening to the fact that we are once again, somehow, behind.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What's Up With The Bookworms Carnival?

[The Bookworms Carnival is a cross-blog, themed event hosted by a different volunteer blogger each month. The August edition is being hosted by my friend Florinda at her personal blog and this month's theme is You're Never Too Old - Children's and Young Adult Literature. I am very happy to contribute this post, which will be linked to the carnival on her site. Thanks, Florinda!]

I associate books with trees. Not because books are made from trees (at least, some of them still are), but because I grew up reading in a tree. Actually, I did all kinds of things in my tree in the front yard of our house in Houston (homework, daydreaming, stealth reconnaissance of our neighbor Mrs. Jackson who, feigning innocence, would stand in curlers and caftan on her front porch while Pierre, her ill-tempered Shitzhu, would leave unwelcome deposits in our front yard), but reading was at the top of that list of things. There was a perfect little seat formed where two limbs came together, with another more slender limb below for a footrest. I can still feel the silver smoothness of the bark under my calloused palms, still smell the pistachio-colored meat underneath where I scratched a branch with my fingernail.

What could be better than being comfortably perched in a friendly tree, shielded from view by thousands of bright green leaves, reading a great book?

I read constantly, burning through The Wind in the Willows, the complete Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew's adventures and The Hobbit. Then there were the series that I loved so much: The Borrowers, Paddington, all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and Edward Eager's tales of magic. I could go on and on with a list (I know I'm overlooking many gems here) but there's one book that stood out from the rest for me and that I read over and over: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.

I never tired of escaping into Harriet's world, which centered around her home on East 87th Street in Manhattan. To a girl with my experience at the time, Manhattan, with its skyscrapers and bustling sidewalks, might as well have been Mars. I remember asking my parents and other grown-ups what an egg cream was. (An egg cream was Harriet's soda fountain treat of choice.) None of them knew, and even though it sounded potentially gross, I wanted one.

Harriet carried a notebook everywhere she went, along with her belt of dangling spy gear (flashlight, extra pens, pocket knife, etc.). She had a regular spy routine, which involved making observations of both strangers and friends and scribbling them - along with her vivid commentary - into her notebook. You see, she was going to be a writer when she grew up.

When her friends found her secret notebook and read her blunt - and hilarious - commentary about them, Harriet's carefully ordered world was shaken. In the kid world, she was left to stand alone and face the repercussions of her unvarnished notebook entries. In the adult world, she was faced with the departure of Ole Golly, her beloved nanny, sage and fixture in her household.

I think part of what fascinated me about Harriet was that she was a very intelligent girl who was trying to understand how other people worked - why they did the things they did and said the things they said. In other words, she was trying to understand life by chronicling it as she saw it.

I related to Harriet's need to have some kind of control - or at least understanding - of what she saw going on around her, on both the kid and adult fronts. I also was inspired by Harriet's self-possession. She was her own person in every situation and I admired that. Harriet, as well as the other kids and adults in the story, were real in a way that I had never seen in a kids' book. I didn't think about any of this at the time, but looking back now, I see that Harriet the Spy was a supremely sophisticated, subtle and grown-up book...that happened to be written for kids.

I recently was cleaning out the top shelf of my nine-year-old daughter's closet and ran across the copy of Harriet the Spy that I overzealously bought for her long before she was able to read it. I made a point of buying an edition that had the identical cover art to the dog-eared Yearling book from my tree-reading years, and when I pulled it from the shelf, I found myself smiling at the illustration of the girl in the holey jeans, baggy hoodie and her father's lensless glasses. My smart, brave, dear old friend Harriet. I think it's time to introduce her to my daughter.