Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"Craft 'til it hurts!" It hurts.

It's final - there are too many channels, all of which have to try way too hard to get you to watch. Today I stumbled on evidence of the above thesis: Craft Corner Deathmatch. This is real - as real as anything found on the Style Channel.

The premise of Craft Corner Deathmatch is to match two amateur "crafters" against each other in a contest to make something crafty out of a pile of craft resources. If you insist on a "meets" analogy, it's Martha Stewart Meets Iron Chef. With a touch of the wacky "anything goes" goofiness that has been seeping over from Japanese game shows like Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.

In the show that I watched today (yes, I watched the whole half-hour show, get off me. I just got back from the gynecologist. I deserve some veg time...), the contestants were challenged to build a wind chime with a pile of kitchen utensils, silverware, and some string. They had 10 minutes to work while the host nattered on distractingly. The time was mercifully edited for television. The resultant chunks of barely hanging metal were then rated by a panel of judges.

In the second round, the contestants were invited to embellish jeans with fusible webbing and assorted material. The big surprise thrown in half-way through the 10-minute round? They had to use material from the host's pants, which he gleefully ripped off to expose clowny boxers in a flag motif. Are you laughing uproariously, as I was? I didn't think so. Oh, well.

It's hard to tell why some game shows work and some don't. Iron Chef is pompously ridiculous, but it's slightly riveting television, at least enough that you find yourself rooting for a favorite and imitating the giggling actress/judge. Craft Corner Deathmatch, I'm afraid, does not reach such a height, as less-than-dazzling as that is.


Host: Although the host is loudly wacky, he is not funny. If you're going for wacky, it's important to pull it off. Otherwise, you end up being loud and obnoxious instead. Ouch. Hard to watch bad funny.

Contestants: The contestants for this show were rather personality free. For such a loopy-ass concept show, they have managed to track down some of the most stone-faced and humorless crafters imaginable. They begin by saying that they are the zany type, but then forget to pull it off. To make up for the seriousness of the craft-letes (you like my new word? thanks!), the host tries to dial up the goofiness single-handedly, with predictable results.

Lovely assistant: They have tried to infuse the show with a little boho irony with a "lovely assistant" whose character motivation could best be described as Pouty Goth Girl. On another show, it would have been clever and lent the glue-gun-and-pine-cone atmosphere a little cool, but here she just seems to have wandered into the wrong studio and is really pissed off about it.

Iron Chef Wanna-Be: The winner of the first two rounds gets to go head-to-head with the Craft Lady of Steel, an homage (I guess) to the Iron Chef, of which the show cribs more than just the Unsmiling and Formidable Super Chef. For the Craft Lady of Steel, they have kept the Unsmiling part, but seem to have jettisoned the Formidable part and replaced it with Scary, which the Lady so casted doesn't seem to be able to pull off. She seems a nice enough lady, who has been instructed not to smile so as to seem Scary.

Judges: Three judges - I suspect they have more wit in their collective pinkies then all the rest of the studio occupants. Collectively, they got to speak about a dozen words.

One of the wacky witticisms heard from the Host: "Craft 'til it hurts!" Well, it hurts.

Will I watch it again? Probably. I have no will power.

Bonus question: So, Janice, what is your favorite game show? The original Match Game, of course. Duh.

Cover That Up! Except Now.

I feel like I cheated on my family doctor today.

He always encouraged me to schedule an annual exam (gyno-euphemism for sticking a spatula up your vagina and poking around). He knew it had been several years since my last "annual," but I kept putting it off. Reason? Well, I suppose my three top reasons would be that, (1) see blog title. It's hard enough for me to pick up the phone, let alone for an uncomfortable medical procedure, (2) there is virtually no chance of my having contracted the Human Papilloma Virus, the main precursor to cervical cancer (the main reason for the spatula), and, (3) ick. I like my family doctor and all, and I know that I need to get checked and that there are more reasons to have an annual exam then just the pap smear. But I've managed to put it off for years nonetheless.

I finally decided that if I was going to be a responsible grown-up and not run the risk of dying of a treatable disease, I was going to have to find a way to make myself an appointment. I determined that if I couldn't do it through will power alone (I can't do much of anything through will power alone), I will have to find a way to remove a few road blocks to the goal.

Turns out, one big road block was all I needed to remove. Any guesses? Yep. Gender. Removing the male from the equation was immediately freeing. I made a call to a new gynecology office staffed by two experienced female doctors and made an appointment for today.

The office was new - barely out of the box - but it was warm. Literally, it was warm. I noticed the thermostat was set on 75 degrees. A tough temperature to deal with walking in from the street in sweat suit and rain coat, but extremely thoughtful once sitting around in a paper shirt and a paper towel lap robe. It was also very female. Not a male in sight unless you count the visibly uncomfortable husband in the waiting room.

This was unexplainably soothing - maybe not so unexplainable if you consider the portion of the anatomy being studied in this office.

We spend all our lives trying to protect our girl parts from the boy tribe. Then later on, you are told to open up and let a man look inside you - right through your most protected girl hole. Well, ick. Thank God for female gynecologists.

Today's experience wasn't fun, but it was as comfortable as can be expected and quicker - and with less organ squashing then I remember - from previous experiences, and I learned a few things.

The bad news: I've been made to set a mammogram appointment for next week. Oh, Lord.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I'm the one

A little confession, because I'm so tired after a long day at work and the gym that I've lost my ability to edit myself: I'm the one at the gym that bobs her head to the music, pumps her feet to the beat, and dances with her ipod on the elliptical machine while all the other, more self-controlled, gym regulars look on with either bemusement or undisguised pity.

Well, let me just tell you: I know what I am doing. I have control over my limbs (mostly). It's just that, well, without the music it's hard to get my feet moving at all and the couch at home starts to call to me. With the music, it's hard to stand still. And, I figure, if I am going to have to do this stupid workout at this germy gym with all these people I don't even know just to keep the fat at bay, well, let's just give them something to talk to their wives about when they get home. Why hold my head still and not sway back and forth violently, and not skip? I'll feel better, I will get a better workout, and everyone else will feel superior. It's a win-win situation, I say.

So if you would rather dance on the treadmill, or skip on the elliptical while listening to, let's say, Walk Idiot Walk by The Hives, you just go ahead. I'll bet it's better than the stuff they play in the step aerobics class, and you don't have to follow the leader. And you, and your gym mates, will all feel better as a result. Although my knees kinda hurt.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Random Road Thoughts

Although our week-long road trip produced some serious back-ache and a little digestive irregularity (as they say), it did not produce any blog-worthy breakthroughs. It did, however, leave me with some random thoughts.

  • On the way down to Mojave-land, we stayed the night in a Reno casino, in a room that is best described as a small cell in a people warehouse.
  • In the morning, we spent more money in the casino coffee shop (two coffees, one muffin, an order of french toast and a three-dollar glass of orange juice) than we would have if we would have moo'd our way into the buffet with all the cow-shaped people. Although we didn't save any money, I suppose we saved ourselves a few thousand calories.
  • It's a good thing, too, because I happen to know of a great bakery in Carson City (just south of Reno) and used all the calories I saved on cookies for the road.
  • Why does sitting around in a moving car make me crave snacks? It's not right and it's not fair.
  • Okay, living makes me crave snacks.
  • I learned that there's a place worse than Ridgecrest, California, which sits on the edge of a dry lake bed in the middle of the Mojave desert. It's called Trona. Trona would be a spectacularly bad place to choose to live, especially if you were not required to live there to work in the only (legitimate) industry in town - a mining venture that scrapes the adjacent dry lake bed floor for the borax and other minerals it gleans. This mineral sorting activity produces, along with a constant dry,white dust that coats the town and all its inhabitants, an odor that is sulphur-foul and chemical-sour. Turns out it's a great smell to camouflage the cranking out of a lot of crank, the other industry in town. This town is so soul-achingly ugly and smelly, it's almost endearing. Almost. I feel sorry for the inmates of Trona High School.
  • Yes, on account of all the rain in Southern California this year, it is an outstanding time to visit Death Valley. Since I've never been to Death Valley before, it was a little difficult to gauge the amazingness of the vegetation and wildflowers blanketing the valley floor. Since I'm not sure how death-y it is normally, I don't think I can fully appreciate the undeath going on right now. But I can assure you, it is as unnatural as the warm, dry winter we continue to experience back here in Portland/Vancouver. On the valley floor, 282 feet below sea level, where there should be dry beds of salt baking in the concentrated heat of a sun bouncing off the steep sides of the big basin, there are actual lakes. There was even some dude paddling around in a canoe. Freaky.
  • I can now say that I have seen the dreaded pupfish of Death Valley. Cute as a guppie, but I understand it's much more interesting to fish people. Lives in a pretty hellish bit of hot, trickly water most of the time, I guess. This year the pupfish is living large.
  • At the Scotty's Castle gift shop, we played our usual game of looking for the tackiest souvenir possible. Rules: no rules, but you get extra points for: (1) use of plastic, (2) sparkliness, (3) use of the name of the attraction, and (4) pointlessness. Oh, and there is no real counting of points, and often, no consensus on a winner. However, my choice for winner this day (although the competition was abundant and varied) was a fake railroad spike with a tiny miniature choo-choo glued to the top, sprinkled with some sparkly mica (I guess to look like Gold Rush gold) and the name Death Valley stamped on the side.
  • There's no accounting for taste.
  • Drew told his little niece that there are fairies and Ewoks living amongst the trees in Vancouver. He's gonna have some 'splaineen to do.
  • On the drive home, we upgraded our room. We felt much less warehoused and I found a new thing to aspire to: a jetted tub.
  • Every time I go for a long drive, I remember why I hate long drives. I shall redouble my efforts to avoid them in the future.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

This is about my cat, but read it anyway.

My son just popped his head into the office to deliver these reassuring words: "I just thought you'd like to know that I just attacked the cat."

My response: "Thank you."

This winter I was feeling sorry for the cat because my son was spending the winter in the New Zealand summer, and there was no one around to treat her harshly and give her the occasional sound thrashing, just like she likes it.

My cat (legal name: Coco, although never addressed as such. Known as "Kitty" or "the cat") will occasionally sit on your lap, but she makes it clear that she is there only because you have either (a) the only soft afghan in the room, or (b) her favorite fuzzy sweats on. She is not there to share affection or unnecessary touching. She may purr, but it will be a sort of quiet, involuntary sort of sound that fades away once she becomes aware of it. If you really want to make her purr, you must cause her some pain. Yes. She's a masochistic kitty. Masokitty.

Her favorite game in the morning is to get up on the table and flop down on the newspaper so that I am forced to throw her off. The rougher the throw the better. It makes her grin from ear to ear. Repeat twenty times and you get the morning coffee routine at my house. She is not allowed on the table if we are eating, so once breakfast is on the table, the game is over. She works hard at getting as many annoying newspaper flops in as possible before the toaster pops up. I believe she plays a game with herself, where she gets more points for landing on the very paragraph I am reading. She loves it and can't wait for morning to come, so she can (a) get breakfast and (b) destroy my morning news.

None of this newspaper fun escalates into the kind of trouble that she's looking for. I am no good in a fight. And no matter how much she purrs, I can't be mean to a cat. Drew will rough-house with the cat, which she enjoys blandly, but he doesn't have the sadistic imagination, or frankly, the time to spend to make her truly happy.

Dean, however, is different.

Dean will spin her in circles on slick surfaces. She purrs. He will pin her on her back with his hands in the strangle position, exerting just enough force to keep her claws from swiping at him (even if she is free to swipe, it's a pretty half-hearted effort - just enough to keep him in the game). She purrs. He will ambush her and flatten her to the chair, leaving her looking like an animal pelt. She purrs so loudly it's sometimes not clear whether it's her or a passing truck.

Her favorite mode of transportation is jumping up onto Dean's shoulders and riding through the house like a haughty, yet fluffy, black parrot. She loves Dean. She loves all men (and feels equally indifferent towards women - even the one that feeds her every day and keeps her litter box clean - lousy tramp), but she has a special place in her heart for her sparring partner.

That's why his three-month trip to New Zealand was so hard on her - no beatings for three months. I'm sure it was a long winter for the cat. Upon Dean's return (after a momentary shock, and then an obvious "is it really him?" second look), she was right back to her old ways, looking for trouble, inciting violence, and riding in true pirate style.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

See You Next Week

I'll be traveling starting tomorrow and ending up back here a week from now (3/11 or 3/12) and will not be posting from the road. But when I get back, I will have gone places and seen things so will have plenty to talk about. See you then.

That's Tillamook Cows: One, The Man: Zip.

It just makes me feel like hugging myself with a goofy, satisfied grin on my face when the little guy takes it to The Man.

In this case, The Man was played (in a great casting choice) by mega-chem money mill Monsanto, already well-known for their anything-for-a-buck ways of selling designer seeds and agro-chems to farmers worldwide like thuggy drug dealers hooking farmers on the high-yield habit (ouch! so hate-y! and kind of early-Dennis-Miller-y! sorry. If you want more information, you can try a couple of these links: or or or ) Anyhoo, the folks at the Tillamook County Creamery Association (the folks who provide the Tillamook Cheese people with their main ingredient, cow juice) recently voted down the interests of Monsanto Co. by confirming their decision to ban the use of Monsanto's milk-boosting hormone cocktail by Association members.

Yay! Monsanto had trotted out their lawyers, who tried to pit the few farmers who had been hooked on the stuff against the majority of the farmers who came to realize that the price of the hormone shots, together with the cost of the higher incidence of sick Bessies, and the increasing skepticism of the public of Monsanto's claims that hormone juice is probably not harmful, was not worth it in the end.

The Oregonian ran a gorgeous close-up picture last Sunday of a group of girly cows obviously hamming it up for the camera (or flirting with the camera man). They were all wearing their little plastic ear tags with their number on them. That's how they keep track of who produces how much milk and who is slacking off - their numbers.

If I were a dairy farmer, I would also have cows with pierced ears. However, I would not use plastic tags with numbers on them. I would give them all names (why not? why would names be any more difficult to keep track of than numbers? I ask you). Then I would make them nice silver ear rings with their names elegantly but legibly engraved on them. Imagine how they would glint in the sun while they are out munching in the pasture...

I'm all for efficiency and expediency and all that, but one also needs beauty. The cows might like it better too. Maybe a cow with better self-esteem gives more milk - or just better milk. If any of you dairy farmers want to give my ideas a try, feel free. I consider this as a kind of public service.

You're welcome.