Saturday, May 31, 2008

Breaking the law, breaking the law

safe at last, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

One of the all-time greatest pleasures of a warm spring night is going to the drive-in movies. Have you ever been? It is the shizz. You can bring lawn chairs, or sit in your car, or pop the hatch and recline on beanbag chairs under sleeping bags in the back. The sheer novelty of watching a movie outside is mind-blowing for kids. The snack bar is full of delicious junk that is filthy bad for you. There are always old cartoons, and asinine 1960's intermission bits, and frequently a contest of some kind. I've even surmised that you can get away with smoking grass at the drive-in.

That's what we did last night (minus the grass, what do you take us for?). Our friends Aimee and Jim brought Friend the Girl and Juicy Boy, and we took Nature Girl along with Mao and Zhou. Loaded up the minivan with the beanbags and the sleeping bags and the lawn chairs, and headed to the Bengies Drive-in for a double feature of Speed Racer (fast, colorful and unintelligible, just like the old cartoons that we love) and Indiana Jones (kind of disappointing, though it's nice to see Karen Allen hasn't aged a day).


Every summer, the first time we go to the drive-in, we'll read the owner's handmade signs about how EVERYONE must READ the HOUSE RULES BEFORE they EXIT their CAR, and we kind of giggle. The RULES are handed to you in a four-page brochure as you enter. We'll read a few of the RULES out loud to each other and reminisce about the times we've been threatened with expulsion in the past.

That's right. We're rule breakers.

Once, when Mao was three and woke up during the second feature needing to pee real bad? I scooped him up and raced for the restroom. WITHOUT putting his shoes back on. I was stopped, berated, threatened with expulsion, and ultimately sent back to the car to put his shoes on (by then, of course, I had to let him pee in the grass next to the car - he would never have made it back to the restroom).

Once I took some pictures of the kids playing on the playground in front of the giant outdoor screen. That's right.

Once the poor kid at the gate had to confiscate the bottle of Poland Spring I was drinking, because I wouldn't pay the $7 "outside food" fee for a 95-cent bottle of water.

And last night? Oh baby, last night we FLAUNTED those rules. Let me count the ways:

Do NOT carry shoeless children.

1. I let the kids take their shoes off when they were snuggled down in the back of the minivan with me. What? They were digging into my legs!

Lift gates & doors CAN NOT BE RAISED higher than the top clearance.

2. We allowed the minivan hatch to rise above the level of the roof. In all fairness, we didn't do this until the second feature, and I made Bob walk back to the line of cars behind us and make sure that we weren't blocking anyone's view. Still.

You MAY NOT PHOTOGRAPH or VIDEOTAPE, or RECORD in ANY way on the premises. Please do not attempt to skirt this rule, the media WILL BE CONFISCATED, and you will leave without a refund. See FAQ page for all of the reasons.

This is a necessary measure for many reasons. One is my own protection from scoundrels who use them for profit. Another is simply for the courtesy of other folks around you. NO EXCEPTIONS. Do not in any way attempt.
Once more for clarity: If we see any sort of camera, video recorder, or cell phone with the capabilities of taking pictures, you and the party with you, will leave immediately without a refund. NONE of these DEVICES may be used AT this theatre FOR ANY REASON. See FAQ page for all of the reasons.

3. I brought my camera. Again! I know! I pussed out on taking pictures though, I'm real attached to my new camera and if one of those poor Essex teenagers tried to confiscate it I'd go to jail for assault and ruin everyone's evening.

Obscene language or profanity WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

4. I cussed. I did.

NO RUNNING. Go with the kids when they leave the car!

5. We let the kids run to the playground. I believe Bob and Jim even let the kids run when they were AT the playground!

And my number-one super-flagrant VIOLATION of the multicolored hypercapitalized reiterative boldface Bengies rules:

Outside food and beverages are restricted from the premises. We will offer this option: You must purchase a permit to bring outside food &/or beverage at the box office BEFORE YOU ENTER the theatre. As per conditions of the permit, You may not share food or drink with persons who came in other vehicles. PLEASE NOTE: The cost of the OUTSIDE FOOD AND BEVERAGE PERMIT is $7.00.

6. I smuggled in a bag of sunflower seeds.

And you wonder why I keep this blog anonymous!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Kind of at a loss for words

I almost titled this post "Let me lick your feet" but I know what kind of traffic that would get me. And then they'd be angry that I wasn't some kind of sandal fetishist.

Yesterday we made the cross-town trek to the giant Asian supermarket on the West side to stock up on rice wine vinegar, ramen in a bowl, and nori for Mao's lunch. Also picked up some staples for friends (seaweed salad for Sam, Pocky for poor root canaled dogfaceboy).

The nice manager gave me the ok to take a few pictures, which, take it from the only person I know to have ever been kicked out of Trader Joe's for suspected corporate espionage, is pretty unusual for a supermarket.

Compared to what we were used to in Chinatown in New York, this suburban market is huge and sparkling clean and has a massive variety of packaged, rehydrated, dehydrated, and house-made stuff, from every corner of Asia and parts of the Caribbean too. People of all flavors come from miles around - where else can you get durian, tindora, sour bamboo shoot slivers, duck sausage, fresh rambutan, jackfruit in a can, cooked dried whole anchovies, and a bucket of kimchi all under one roof?

Last night we sampled our purchases: bulgogi wrapped in lettuce leaves for dinner (thanks to Organizer Fairy's suggestion), acorn pudding for dessert. Acorn pudding? Sounds pretty weird - tastes weirder. I can't even find anything pertinent to link to. I have stumped the Internets.

Besides this lovely picture of the beef tongue and pig's feet, I didn't even take many pictures of the fresh meats and fishies, some of it so fresh that it... is.. still... ALIVE!

I may be a dedicated cook (then again, I may not be), but I draw the line at chopping something's head off myself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jose Jones told me alone his story

Bob took this picture when I was on my back fixing the old pickanick table. It's kind of a funny series of photos. And yes, I got grass clippings down the crack of my ass. I know you were wondering.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

They're kicking out in Dohini too

My parents took the kids this weekend to their place in Virginia.

This is huge. Bob and I haven't had more than about 18 hours to ourselves in going on 7 years. When somebody asked me what we were going to do with all this time, I said, "I think we're just going to sit and cry for 48 hours. Then we'll watch TV." We've been wound pretty tightly.

Anyway, Bob took the afternoon off yesterday and we had ourselves a little Baltimore photo safari. From Mt Royal Ave to the Camden Industrial Area, from the deck of cards on Wilkens Ave to the Domino warehouse, we had a beautiful day playing with my new camera. And we didn't have to worry about the kids getting tetanus, or falling in the harbor, or any of the other terrible things that can happen when you scramble around industrial areas.

If you ever have a spare sunny afternoon in Baltimore, go to Tide Point, the fancy live/work complex the Struever Bros made out of an old Procter & Gamble site, and watch the giant claw unload raw sugar from a giant ship. It smells like pralines.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can you not dig it?

pea tendrils, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

On the topic of books not read, here is a list of post-apocalyptic grownup fiction, compiled by Keir Graff at Booklist, some of which I've read (Canticle for Leibowitz, Oryx and Crake, Riddley Walker) and some I mean to.

Also, this guy is really funny describing what he's not been up to promoting his book.

Not in my head
Two things that have been bugging the shit out of me ever since I noticed them:

  1. "Elmo's World" on Sesame Street is to the same tune as the Budweiser beer jingle.

Elmo loves his goldfish (One taste will tell you)
His crayon too (So loud and clear)
That's Elmo's (When you say Bud you've said it)

  1. That Josh Ritter "Right Moves" song (which, I mean, we already have a Nick Lowe, and he's great, so does that mean that two Nick Lowe's are even better?) sounds just like "Thank you for being a friend," the Golden Girls theme song.

Not encouraging it
I was talking to my friend Christine yesterday, when we heard Zhou burst out crying. He had tripped and scraped his hand. Now, Zhou is very into quantifying things: "This dinner is two hundred and forty-four delicious!" "I like Max a lot, but Joseph only medium." "If a baby was a hundred and one smaller than a mouse baby, then you might step on it."

Consequently, he needed to explain just exactly the extent of his pain. Through his tears, he blubbered "My hand hurts almost as much as hell!"

I managed to stutter out, "Oh, baby, that's a lot of hurt isn't it? But that's a grownup word..." before the effort of not laughing made speech impossible. Christine had to walk away, doubled over, and I had to hold my nose.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Speaking of scrota

Poppy bud, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

New fancy expensive camera and what do I do? Take dirty pictures.


That picture yesterday looks like the fruits of a weekend spent castrating clowns. Don't you think? Really they're juggling balls I made for the elementary school's juggling club. Balloons filled with millet. Anyway. Here's a meme that MotherReader tagged me with. I would do it on Pink Me, but then I couldn't talk about drugs and multicolored scrotums. Scrota?

What were you doing five years ago?

2003? That's easy. Unpacking boxes while WAITING for Zhou to be born. He was born June 3 - two weeks late and induced. We moved into this house May 7. I was large and psychotic. I mowed the entire lawn with the weedwhacker because we didn't have a lawnmower yet.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

1. Roast a chicken
2. Start taking pictures with my brand new long-awaited Nikon D40 as soon as the battery charges
3. Pick up Mao and Small Batch from school
4. Shower*
5. Score*

What are five snacks you enjoy?
Flaming Hot Cheetos
Pickled okra
Real licorice
Gummy bears
The other half the bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
Buy the school a science teacher
Buy every school a science teacher
Live in Africa half the year
Not clean
Pitch in with George Soros

What are five of your bad habits?

Too much time on the computer
Being the last to get up in the morning
Getting all OCD on the dishwasher
Driving with my eyes crossed just to see how long I can do it without crashing into something*

What are five places where you have lived?
New York City

What are five jobs you have had?
Director of marketing at an insurance finance company
Artist's model
Assistant editor at a medical publishing company
Special Collections Manager at the American Museum of Natural History

What five people do you want to tag?
AH, who doesn't do these things
Heidi, who might
Lori, payback for those 106 books (which was actually pretty interesting)
mb, because I'm curious
and ACW, because I haven't had enough profanity in my day yet*

*that is a lie

Monday, May 12, 2008

Give me an issue, I'll give you a tissue

Balls, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Now, I don't review children's books on this blog anymore, after repeated complaints (Jaime, Juliet, some rude anonymous namecalling commenter) and after realizing I could maybe make a buck or two if I stuck all the reviews in the same place and cleaned up the language.

So I review all the little kiddie books, the bigger kiddie books, the books about sharing and the books about colors and numbers, over on Pink Me. I even review the books about how to deal with it when your big brother has autism. And I leave you Your Neighborhood Librarian readers to your hard drugs and your fetish behavior. You're welcome.

But this morning's crop of new books was, I thought, noteworthy even for you cynical glue-sniffing bastards. This morning's new book cart covered depression, head lice, physical handicap, cancer, and strabismus.

Strabismus! (No, it's not a new way to do anal - get your head out of... wherever... and go look it up.)


Courtesy Compu-Diva, here's a little free-association meme:

  1. Track ::
  2. Snake ::
  3. Assignment ::
  4. Blockbuster ::
  5. Bombastic ::
  6. Adventure ::
  7. First time ::
  8. Aged ::
  9. Grip ::
  10. Shortcut::

  1. Track :: shoe
  2. Snake :: skin
  3. Assignment :: desk
  4. Blockbuster :: video
  5. Bombastic :: Erma
  6. Adventure :: Indiana Jones
  7. First time :: out
  8. Aged :: hippie
  9. Grip :: death
  10. Shortcut:: keyboard

Play along here.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Your guide to famous Chinese Communists

I made an alphabet book for our youngest child, whose blog name is now Zhou. I never cared for "Mr. Four". "Mr. Three" was ok, but "Mr. Four" never made it for me, and now that he's about to be Mr. Five, yeah forget it.

So he's Zhou and the Big Man is now Mao. Deal.

I think the ABC book is pretty damn cute, if I do say so myself. You can see it for yourself on Flickr. A couple pictures will be off-limits to you because they involve underwear or real names. Deal.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

No, but at least I'm not driving around with a severed head in my car

There's a beauty school in our neighborhood - sometimes makes for some startling sights.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fug the READ poster - wishful thinking

Now that we've had a good look at some of the worst of the American Library Association's celebrity READ posters, I think it's time to offer up some ideas for making them better. After all, it's fun to poke fun at something, but until you offer constructive criticism, you're just being a punk.

When I look at the READ posters, certain things jump out at me:

Location/occupation. The typical pose in a READ poster is: standing or seated in front of a bland, colored backdrop, or, even worse, an over-Photoshopped melange (poor Tony Hawk). Often the celeb is HOLDING the book, instead of reading it.

Personnel. Skanky Colin Farrell is meant to appeal to whom, exactly? Probably not teen girls, and if in fact that's the case, get those girls the HPV vaccine, stat. William H. Macy? Very few readers of Curious George are likely to recognize him. Obviously there's not a lot of choice here - ALA probably gets the celebrities who are either involved with literacy programs (Levar Burton) or currently promoting a movie (Salma Hayek). Speaking of Salma, her poster says "LEA," Spanish for "read". Why doesn't Aishwarya Rai's poster include the Hindi word for "read"?

Book choice. The worst are the movie promotions. Do I believe that Keira Knightley reads Jane Austen for pleasure? Just look at that face - she has less patience for carriage rides to the ha-ha than I do. I am considerably more convinced that Britney Spears has read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. And Swank probably chewed through The Freedom Writers Diary, but for work, not for fun.

Here are some of my ideas to make them better:

That's Jada Pinkett Smith reading to kids.

The celeb. My system had the opportunity recently to make some of our own READ posters, and I suggested a local band (Secret Crush Society was my nominee) or members of Baltimore's roller derby league, the Charm City Roller Girls, as literacy advocates. I also thought it would be great if we could get cast members from The Wire (especially Snoop - she has her own memoir out, Grace After Midnight) or Ogun, a hip hop star from Baltimore.

For ALA, how boss would it be to get the whole cast of Battlestar Galactica lounging around on set reading books of their choice? Or the American Idol judges reading books about performance and criticism (Paula Abdul could pick whatever she wanted though - I bet she'd surprise us by reading Derrida or something). You know what I mean? ALA needs to go pop. Lil Mama. Jay-Z and Beyonce. People that young people actually recognize - none of this Ethan Hawke stuff.

The setting. It's no crime to take advantage of a celeb's promo tour for a movie... but do it right. Costume is good, but setting is better (except for poor Elijah Wood). WAAAAY back in the day, Sting posed for a READ poster, in full costume and on location, with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Click through, it's a crappy cell phone photo, but it's worth it.

The Serena Williams poster is one of ALA's best, and it's because she's standing on a damn tennis court.

A cheap way to achieve this is with illustration. William H. Macy's Curious George poster is so much better than most because the blank background is replaced with H.A. Rey-style illustration.

The success of that particular poster makes me realize that ALA is missing a trick. Nowadays, big stars are voicing characters for animated TV series and movies. Brooke Shields did Miss Spider's voice. Jack Black is the Kung Fu Panda. You could insert Freddie Highmore into some Tony DiTerlizzi Spiderwick illustrations and bingo, you've got a poster. Jim Carrey and Steve Carell are in Horton Hears a Who, fer crap's sake. For the teens and grownups, get Marjane Satrapi to draw a panel of Persepolis with a book in it.

Next, tha book. Nice try, getting hot Eva Mendes to pose for a poster. But you let her choose Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic? Right. That's what she reads for fun. (Plus, they covered up her boobs with it - a crime in any context.)

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Here's my idea: as soon as the celebrity gets to the photo shoot, rifle through his or her bag. Go out to the car. Any reading material that you find - Thug-A-Licious, US Magazine, Three Cups of Tea, even a script - bring it in, shove it into his or her hands, and point his or her face at it. J Lo Hew is amused by what she's reading in OK! magazine in this picture (plus she looks great) - I have no idea what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar actually thinks about Huck Finn in his poster.

Roger Federer as Wart from The Sword in the Stone. Photo by Annie Liebowitz.

But in my wildest dreams, the ALA READ posters would be like the Annie Leibowitz Disney portraits. Styled to within an inch of life, featuring name-brand stars shot in the most flattering light, you could just dive into them.

Rachel Weisz as Snow White, lost in a deep forest? Find a way to incorporate a picture of the book, and that's a poster that makes someone want to read. Beyonce I'd say is a little... ripe as Alice in Wonderland, but who could argue with Baryshnikov as The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up? Do those tableaux make you think of the animated Disney movies? Not me. Those pictures make me want to revisit Alice and Peter on their home ground - in their books. [Oh, screw Disney. None of the picture links will work - you have to go to the site and click on each image.]

OR: since I'm wishing, I'll wish that ALA had the money for authentic location shots. Madonna - she even writes her own children's books (although they suck). Get her in bed at home reading to her kids. Find Miley Cyrus backstage getting her hair did, reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Shoot Lil Mama in the back of the tour bus, smoking a blunt, reading Estee: A Success Story.

I especially yearn for photos that show the book in use. Take a picture of Travolta referring to a pilot's manual as he checks out his plane pre-takeoff. Show us Angelina Jolie citing precedent from a book of case law about international adoptions in some dusty Lesotho courtroom. Jet Li with The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook open on the counter as he fills his pastry bag with royal icing. Owen Wilson consulting a Chilton car repair manual as he tinkers under the hood of Lightning McQueen. Give me Seagal beating someone to death with a copy of Eat, Pray, Love.

Oh, and Johnny Depp you can shoot in my back yard, lounging in the grass reading The Once and Future King out loud to me and my kids.

Here's ALA's latest. At first glance, I'll say "better." But let's parse.
Personnel: Steve Carell - big star.
Setting: Location photo with illustration elements - good.
Movie tie-in: Get Smart - funny movie (probably). More kid interest than, say, Miss Potter, and may I say what a WASTE of Ewan McGregor!
Library tie-in: "GET SMART... @ your library" Well, not so much. Looks like a movie poster with superimposed library text. He's nowhere near a book. And he's talking into his shoe, which makes you think he hasn't learned a daggone thing since 1965. Sigh.