Good Clean Time-Wastin’ Fun

December 6, 2016

Because mental gymnastics helps to pass the idle moments, doesn’t contribute to your carbon footprint, doesn’t exploit anyone (at least not so they find out about it) and keeps you sharp into your old age. That last is what I’m told.
This is how you play the Ghostess’s Amazing and Amusing Title Change:
Take a title. It can be a song, a book, a movie, a TV show or a game. Add one word (the, a, an don’t count as a word so you can use them as needed; also and and but, I guess) and see how the whole concept of that book, song, movie, etc. can change dramatically and hilariously. Some of my very own examples:
“The Scarlet Letter Sweater.”
“Catch-22 Viruses.”
“Dog Ate the Bounty Hunter.”
“Polka Band of Brothers.” (Oom-pah, oom-pah!)
“Charlie and the Tainted Chocolate Factory.”
“Gone With the Wind Chimes.”
“Sesame Street Snacks.”
“The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’s Gin.”
Fun!

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Kitchen Korner

November 29, 2016

Who doesn’t love celery with peanut butter?
Actually, quite a lot of people don’t, so forget I asked. If you don’t love celery and peanut butter, just stop right here and go do something else. But if you do …
Try the Ghostess’s Labor- and Time-saving Kitchen Trick! It’s really quite simple, and it’s delicious and good for you too!
Rather than patiently spread peanut butter into the hollows of celery ribs, a task made difficult by the hollows’ narrowness and the fact that the ribs tend to want to skid around on the work surface, and the fact that peanut butter does not enjoy being spread in confined spaces, try this:
A peanut butter and celery sandwich! Spread the PB (I like crunchy best) on your bread of choice (my choice is white bread; so sue me) which is of course quite easy, and then lay on as much celery as you like. Cut or break the ribs to fit the size of the bread. Then schmear more PB on the other slice of bread (don’t be stingy) and put it all together. Press the top slice down firmly and the sandwich will hold together just fine.
There, aren’t you glad to know that?

Chew On This Awhile

December 12, 2015

As we watch the circus that is Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, I bring you today’s Thought Provoker, courtesy of Wilmington News Journal columnist Harry Themal, quoting anti-Nazi clergyman Martin Niemoeller:
“First they [the Nazis] came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist; then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade unionist; then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The Ghostess’s Book Recommendation!

November 22, 2015

Presenting “It Seemed Like a Good Idea” by Meghan Rowland!
I usually don’t find blog-based books to be all that great, (God knows I don’t think even my own amazing blog would make for a good or even vaguely cohesive book; but if you do, and you’d like to payridiculous sums of money for it, well, the customer is always right, and I aim to please) but I took a chance on this one and am glad I did!
In clever second-person POV vignettes, we learn the potential pitfalls that await us when we make what seem at the time to be perfectly reasonable or at least not unreasonable decisions.
It seems like a good idea to get nostalgic and hitch a ride with a trucker named Carl, hoping to see the USA as the hippie generation saw it …
… until during a needlessly heated game of States and Capitals with Carl, you Stand Your Ground about Anchorage and Carl, in a cold fury, detours thousands of miles out of his way to drop you at the Capitol Building in Juneau to prove his point.
It seemed like a good idea to play mini-golf …
… until you realize that the cute Camelot-themed obstacles at the course are fiendishly difficult, and you throw a fit when your ball lands in a “wishing well” and when you try to retrieve it you overbalance and end up head-downward in the well, much to the delight of the Gonzales family playing behind you, who film your meltdown and share it with your local TV station, so that the entire viewing area can have a good laugh as the anchorman likens you to Baby Jessica all grown up with a potty mouth and a lacy thong.
It seemed like a good idea to travel all around the world …
… till you decide to cool off in northern China by taking a dip in the Yalu River, which gets you picked up by the North Korean authorities and imprisoned, where you eventually adapt to captivity and are allowed to take part in the Portrait Dance for Kim Jong-Un’s visit to the camp; you’re part of the shirt collar.
It seemed like a good idea to get a tattoo during a bachelor party …
… and you pick out a nice one that looks to your beer-fogged eyes like crosshairs, which is nice symbolism, because, like, life has you in its crosshairs, man. But once you post a picture of your new ink on Facebook, everybody starts to hate you, and finally, after being approached and thanked by a shaven-headed guy in the subway station who inexplicably points forcefully at something behind you, you learn that your “crosshairs” design is actually the infamous Odin’s Cross, beloved of skinheads and neo-Nazis far and wide. So you have it removed, and the doctor congratulates you on your courage and puts you in touch with a support group for former hate-group members, and your story is picked up and disseminated, and you are famous! And then a “friend” gets mad at you and spills the beans about how you really came by that dumb tattoo.
And 98 other ideas seemed just fine, until suddenly they aren’t anymore.

Full of Beans

November 18, 2015

Coffee beans, that is. By now, everybody, their brother, their brother’s chiropractor and said chiropractor’s dog’s first cousin once removed by marriage who lives in Cleveland has heard of the Starbucks Conspiracy.
You know, the one that posits that Starbucks hates Jesus and Christmas and that’s why they don’t have Christmas-specific cups this year?
There is no Starbucks near where I live, but that doesn’t stop locals from foaming at the mouth like the head on a cappuccino. They are pitching grande venti hissy fits about it.
What does the Ghoestess have to say about the issue? So glad you asked!
To people who fancy themselves to be People of Faith: if your faith was truly secure, you wouldn’t feel so threatened by someone else’s lack of faith, or their lack of demonstration of that faith. You would not need to have your faith reenforced by the design of throwaway cups at some overpriced cafe. In fact, if you were so reverent about Christmas, you wouldn’t want the sacredness of that holiest of holidays cheapened even more than it already is by yet another billion-dollar corporation.
The Ghostess sez: Anybody who’d routinely pay $5 and up for a cup of coffee with strange flavorings added is just the type to get fixated on the disposable cup it comes in.

A Stormy Anniversary

August 30, 2015

It’s been ten years since a hurricane named Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Lives were lost, homes destroyed, and nothing will ever be quite the same as it was before the storm.
But as Matthew Albright, writing in today’s Wilmington News-Journal so eloquently puts it, there is healing and there is hope. Here he is, in his own words:

What I learned from watching a beloved city die Matthew Albright, The News Journal

Weeks passed before we could get back to my grandparents’ house after Hurricane Katrina murdered New Orleans.

There was a scar above the windows that showed the high-water mark. The trees looked dead. There was mud on every square inch of everything, forming a scaly crust on the roads and the sidewalks.

Things were even worse on the inside. The house took on six feet of water, so almost everything got muddled into sludge. Socks, tissue boxes, picture frames, everything got shoveled into the insatiable maws of garbage bags I didn’t know they made them that big.

We smashed furniture into small enough pieces to fit through doors or windows. We duct-taped the fridge shut and tossed it out. Wearing masks to ward off mold and other filth, we took sledgehammers to the walls.

It all went into a Big Pile on the side of the road that was taller than me. The Big Piles sat on the streets of New Orleans for months.

My grandparents lived in that house for 50 years, raising four kids. Imagine shoveling a muddy sludge choked with half a century of memories onto the side of the road.

Since I’ve moved to Delaware, a lot of folks have asked me what Katrina was like.

“I was lucky,” I tell people. “I wasn’t really affected. It wasn’t that bad for me.

That’s not really true, but I start to feel guilty if I say much more.

My Katrina story is relatively painless. My grandparents evacuated to Baton Rouge to stay with my family. All things considered, they came out OK.

Back home, newspapers and TVs and kitchen tables are piled with Katrina memories, and many of them focus on far more tragic stories than mine.

I didn’t lose a childhood collection of Goosebumps books, like my cousin did. I didn’t spend my senior or junior year of high school in exile, like some of my friends did. I didn’t wither in the heat in the Superdome while civilization collapsed, or see my whole town simply vanish, like those in coastal Mississippi did.

The ghosts of the drowned dead do not haunt my family tree. So I feel guilty telling someone how bad Katrina hurt.

Let me tell you something else I feel guilty about.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, a dark, angry part of me was grimly satisfied for a moment.

I remember that then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was quoted saying New Orleans looked like it should be bulldozed, and it didn’t make sense to rebuild. I remember watching the plastic self-righteousness of televangelists who dared proclaim that God killed New Orleans for its sins.

I remember hoping God would smite those men on behalf of my devout grandmother. I wanted to see them shovel their lives into a Big Pile.

But Sandy brought me no satisfaction. I knew as I read and watched that it was not heartless politicians or false prophets who suffered, but mostly folks like my grandparents who worked hard to build lives that got washed away.

Which brings me to the other big lesson I learned from Katrina: things break, but people heal.

I know New Orleans died. I walked its mud-choked arteries, and I listened for its heartbeat of brass and drums and laughter and heard nothing.

But I also know New Orleans was resurrected, because I’ve danced the Mardi Gras with my cousin and uncle and aunt the ones whose house got flooded.

Healing, Katrina taught me, happens best when it is active, not passive.

You’ve got to smile, even though your eyes are red from crying. You’ve got to dance, even if your back aches from shoveling. You’ve got to laugh, laugh, laugh, even when you feel like you’re drowning.

The first reaction to loss and tragedy is to lash out, to make others feel your pain. But don’t let the hollow men on TV or the unthinking goons on social media scab your emotional wounds. Anger will do nothing for you.

Instead, wrap yourself in family, in friends, in other people.

Cry. Mourn. But when the time comes, don’t hesitate to laugh, to dance, to sing.

There’s no better place to do that than New Orleans, if you want to go.

I Wish I’d Said That

July 1, 2015

Yes, I know it’s been nearly a year since I posted anything. I’m doing a lot more posting over on http://www.goodreads.com; come visit sometime, how ’bout?
Anyhow, sometimes another person says the very thing I wanted to say, only they say it better. Such is the case for the couple who wrote a Letter to the Editor which was published yesterday in the Wilmington (Delaware) News-Journal. I’ve left out their names but otherwise I have not altered their letter:

In a recent article about �Georgetown museum� keeping the Confederate flag, Jeffrey Plummer of the Delaware Grays says, �The blood of a lot of American ancestors is on that flag. � Indeed there is and continues to be. How much more must be shed?

It is appalling and sad to see many so-called patriotic Americans fighting so vigorously to retain the symbols of homage to those who defiantly fought against the United States of America. The Confederacy and all of its actions were seditious and treasonous. Somehow, we seem to forget this. The Confederates were traitors who demanded that those who wanted to preserve this great nation would be forced to shed their blood.

The Confederates chose to betray their country to perpetuate a way of life that considered human beings as property. Confederates chose to shed blood for an institution that is so heinous and diametrically opposed to the principles espoused and cherished by America.

Why would anyone want to laud and salute such an egregious insult to the United States? Why would we think it is acceptable to honor those who betrayed our country? Why should we continue to suffer this affront to our beloved nation?

Exactly what I wanted to say. But they said it better.

An American Tragedy

July 23, 2014

Kathy and Bob Martin and their two adorable children, Tommy and Jenny, lived in Commercial Village, where all those people you see in commercials live. They lived there until budget cuts forced them to leave and set up housekeeping in Oak Acres, Illinois.

The adjustment was rough. Bob was unaccustomed to doing any real work; he was used to going to his office, having a humorous tussle with the copy machine, and then hanging around the water cooler comparing notes on health insurance. Having to actually prepare reports, deal with neurotic coworkers and be generally unappreciated and unvalued was exhausting. He was so exhausted that his ever-important golf game suffered.
Kathy found that actually cleaning house was a lot more work than simply spritzing a miracle cleaner onto something and giving it a quick wipe. Doing that in Oak Acres didn’t magically erase all the dirt. She had to scrub and scrub and scrub, and the “fresh pine and lemon scent” suddenly seemed noxious. She was also distressed that sometimes when she flipped pancakes they tore apart in the middle, and she was more shocked than she should have been to find that flipping them by giving the skillet a toss no longer worked.
Their Oak Acres carpet, touted as “stain-proof” didn’t live up to expectations. The very first day in the new house, little Tommy, as was his custom, dumped a bottle of Chocolatina syrup (which, incidentally, tasted not the least bit like real chocolate) onto the living room carpet. The carpet did not seize up like their Commercial Village carpet, forcing the syrup into a neat little blob that could be easily picked up, leaving no trace behind. It took some hard scrubbing and the rental of a steamer (which was fiendishly hard to operate) before the carpet was even superficially clean.
Both kids suddenly seemed to lose a lot of their charm. When they caught colds, which they seemed to do approximately two days after they’d gotten over the last cold, they didn’t just have a few cute sniffles. Their noses leaked copious amounts of variously colored slime unlike anything Bob and Kathy had ever seen before, and they learned to whine and talk back. Their backtalk wasn’t even witty as it used to be.
The Martins’ dog, Rocky, had changed too. He got into everything, forgot how to talk and dance, and there was more. Bob and Kathy scoured the supermarket (which was crowded with cranky customers and incompetent employees) and bought the most expensive gourmet dog food they could find. It was billed as “A luscious feast of free-range chicken, wild rice, Gruyere cheese and a touch of organic watercress.” It sounded so appetizing that Kathy and Bob made half-jokes about eating it themselves some night. Rocky ate it up with gusto and the Martins were proud of themselves, until later that night when they found out via an angry phone call that Rocky had knocked over the neighbors’ garbage cans and eaten the disastrous remains of a Hamburger Helper casserole.
It went on and on like that. Repair people didn’t arrive cheerfully on the doorstep thirty seconds after an appliance quit. Bob’s miserable work days were not brightened by the antics of a talking camel. When Kathy got a job for herself (for they found that a family of four plus a dog simply could not live comfortably on Bob’s salary alone) she didn’t get to drink huge foamy coffee drinks at her desk, her lipstick did smear, and her nylons ran like crazy. Their car mechanic turned out to have served multiple prison terms for vandalism and fraud, both of which he happily practiced on their temperamental car. Their cereal didn’t stay crisply afloat in the milk when they took a break from breakfast to watch a beautiful sunrise; it turned to mush. The kids refused to eat anything not brightly colored and/or coated with sugar or salt, and their table manners were nonexistent. All their toys ran on batteries, and those batteries either ran down after two minutes or never seemed to die. The louder and more annoying the toy, the longer the batteries lasted. Tommy’s Space Warriors Assault Vehicle has had the same batteries for six months of daily use and it’s still going strong.
Worst of all, Kathy and Bob found out the hard way that nobody cared about their medical complaints. They couldn’t just go into a store and strike up a friendly conversation with the overworked pharmacist about their constipation. Kathy didn’t make any BFF’s trading girl-talk in the feminine hygiene aisle. And nothing ostracized Bob from his fellow office workers faster than a water-cooler revelation about his dry scalp.
The Martins have entered the world of Reality, and it isn’t agreeing with them.

Poetry Corner

July 17, 2014

I confess without shame that I am not much on poetry. In fact, if the truth be known, I haven’t progressed much beyond the wacky verses of Shel Silverstein, a true genius. I like my poems to rhyme and become perturbed when they don’t.
A particular style of poetry I enjoy is known as “The Little Willie” poems. These first gained prominence in the late 19th century, and there was actually a craze for them, with newspapers and magazines running contests to see who could produce the best Little Willie poem.
The format is simple: a fairly short, humorous poem about a little kid, often but not always named Little Willie, who comes to some grisly end due to his own bad behavior or insatiable curiosity.
Anybody who thinks that The Good Old Days were a kinder, gentler time of high-minded literature, I recommend they look up some of the classic Little Willie poems. Their great popularity lay in their dark, irreverent humor, and while they may have had the side benefit of being cautionary tales, that was not their primary intended purpose. Their primary purpose was simply to amuse and entertain.
Here’s what some claim to be the prototype Little Willie poem:
Willie saw some dynamite.
Couldn’t understand it, quite.
Curiosity never pays,
It rained Willie seven days.

And here’s one of my own creation; I’m kinda-sorta working on a collection of poems for not-very-nice children, and several Little Willie-style poems will be included:
Little Willie, on a dare,
Pushed his grandma down the stair.
Gram descended with a clatter,
And at the end her hip did shatter.
Mother, alerted by the cries,
Scolded, “No TV if Granny dies!”

Note that the parents of the Little Willies often react in this blase manner to their offspring’s outrageous antics.

What’s It Worth To Ya?

July 12, 2014

A recent discussion with a friend started me thinking about boycotts. (“What the hell kind of friends do you have, Ghostess?” wonders Statler, or maybe it’s Waldorf, in the balcony. Answer: “Friends that start me thinking about boycotts.”)
Anyway, boycotts have been around since before they were called boycotts, and there’s no doubt that they can be a powerful force for change. One of the cornerstones on which the American civil rights movement took shape was the Montgomery Bus Boycott, when thousands of black Alabamans quit riding the city’s segregated bus system. These riders made up a majority of the bus system’s regular passengers, and without their business, there was little choice but to desegregate the buses.
But lately I hear the concept of boycott being tossed around and rendered almost meaningless. Case in point: PETA encourages people to “boycott” the circus due to what it calls inhumane treatment of elephants and other animals. Now, whether circuses are inhumane or not is a perfectly fair question, and of course the answer varies according to the viewpoint of who you are talking to and which circus you’re talking about. But what exactly does boycotting the circus accomplish?
Think about it. The circus comes through town once a year. You either go or you don’t go. Then it leaves town. There will always, always, always be enough people who do attend so that the circus doesn’t lose too much money. This doesn’t mean that people who feel strongly about the treatment of circus animals should just give up and keep quiet; it only means I think that a boycott is innefective and sort of like taking a lazy way out.
The dictionary doesn’t say anything about how to be a true boycott, the people doing the boycotting must somehow be inconvenienced or endangered, but from where I sit, the most effective boycotts do pose hardships for people besides the business or organization being boycotted. Back to Montgomery and the bus boycott; at that time, few black people could afford cars, but they still had to get to work and to the store like anybody else. When they decided not to ride the city buses, they now had to think up ways to get where they needed to go; few employers (usually white employers) would have been very understanding about late arrivals or missed workdays. So people rode bicycles, walked, formed carpools, and made do. Add to this that such a bold gesture of defiance didn’t sit well with many whites in the city, some of whom were willing to resort to violence and intimidation to maintain the status quo, and you can see that the Montgomery Bus Boycotters were really sticking their necks out. Kudos to them all!
Now let’s fast-forward and talk about Chik-Fil-A. Chik-Fil-A is a Christian-owned company whose non-support of gay marriage has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. So there was a lot of talk about boycotting Chik-Fil-A.
I see several potential problems with that. First of all, as is usually the case when we’re talking about franchises and large corporations, the first people to suffer due to a lack of customers, for whatever reason, are not the head honchos being targeted. No, the first losers are the lowly individual franchise owners and their employees, who, we should keep in mind, do not have a say in company policy, much less in the political or religious views of the folks at Headquarters. Doesn’t seem fair or egalitarian to punish the Little People for the perceived sins of the Big People, does it?
Now, if a particular Chik-Fil-A was using discriminatory practices in hiring employees or serving customers, boycotting that particular outlet would possibly do some good. But that apparently wasn’t the issue here.
Also, I heard a lot of people on the Internet saying things like “I never go to Chik-Fil-A, but now I’m definitely never going to go there!” They said this as if we should congratulate them on their sacrifice, their bravery, their Social Conscience. No dice, hipsters; you get no points for effort. All you’re doing is what you’ve already been doing, the only difference is you’re making more noise about it.
There is a word for people who do this kind of thing, and I am going to use it even at the risk of sounding like a pundit for Fox News. The word is slacktivist. A slacktivist thinks he’s being a pioneer for change even when all he is doing is passing along chain emails he gets warning “Send this to ten friends! Hurry! People are dying of malaria!” and thinks that his passing along of this spam is somehow a mark of his concern for people with malaria. Or he self-righteously declares that he will never eat at Chik-Fil-A “again” despite the fact that 1. He never eats there anyway. and 2. There isn’t a Chik-Fil-A within two hours of him.
A boycott should be like hot pepper sauce; use it sparingly and in the right circumstances, or you risk burning the wrong people or numbing everyone’s pain receptors.