Monday, October 31, 2011

The Pumpkin Stays in the Picture

I grew up on television. (Shocking, I know.)

I grew up watching TV back when it consisted of a mere handful of channels. I watched on a medium-sized black-and-white screen that teetered on a rolling metal stand and atop which was perched a pair of wilted rabbit ears. One of the rabbit ears always had a tin foil appendage springing out from it at an impossible angle, giving the whole set-up the air of a feeble, irritable robot, doing its best to flip off our family with its lone, Reynolds-Wrap digit.

Of course, this TV had no remote. I had heard of TVs with remotes, but had never seen one. Certainly no one in my neighborhood had such a fancy rig. If you wanted to change the channel, you heaved yourself off the sofa, fought your way through a couple yards of shag carpeting and flipped the dial with an audible thunk. Of course, if the other channel was at commercial, you stood there and waited to find out what showing. As a result, one of the biggest factors that determined my young viewing habits was laziness. A show had to be really awful for me to go to the trouble of getting up and changing the channel, which explains why I still can quote large passages of dialogue from “The Rifleman.”

Once every so often, though, something magical would happen on that little screen in the family room. It always began with the urgent pounding of kettle drums, followed by a clarion crescendo of French horns. This fanfare heralded one thing and one thing only: A CBS Special Presentation. Everyone in the house would run to the family room like travelers responding to a airport gate change announcement.

Regular programming has been interrupted! Something is about to happen!

And, if it were about this time in October, the CBS Special Presentation was “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

From the downbeat of Vince Guaraldi’s signature score to the last “Good Grief,” it was the perfectly satisfying Halloween treat. It was for me, anyway. I sat each year on the floor in front of the TV, arms wrapped around my knees, absorbing every moment and nuance of the show until it became imprinted on me like a farmer on a duckling. Keep in mind, this was decades before the DVR. I got to see the show once a year. Period.

It sure stuck, though.

I watched it through elementary school’s jumpers and knee socks. I watched it through junior high’s breakouts and retainers.

“All I got was a rock,” Charlie Brown moans. I know how you feel, I think.

I watched it through two cross-country moves, during which we bought a new TV set and the Peanuts gang blossomed from shades of gray into color. I watched it through the heartbreaks and discoveries of high school, never failing to find comfort in Charlie Brown’s enlightened acceptance of the rock in the bottom of his trick-or-treat bag and his relentless refusal to believe that that was all he would ever find there.

Keep ringing those doorbells, Charlie Brown, I think. Maybe next year.

In my adult, pre-mommy years, the show became Halloween for me. If I got any trick-or-treaters at my West Los Angeles apartment, they were long-gone by the time I got home from work and dropped by briefcase inside the door. I could curl up on the sofa, though, and, through the miracle of my VCR, spend Halloween crouching among the vines with Linus and sharing his zealous hope that this was the year his pumpkin patch would be recognized as the most sincere.

Life has changed quite a bit since then, just as television has changed. We have hundreds of channels available and the technology to record multiple programs automatically then view them later at our leisure. Already my children have watched a number of Halloween programs – animated and otherwise – that they’ve harvested from the DVR.

The kettle drum and French horn fanfare that electrified my household in the 70s would be lost among the thumps and shouts of today’s crowded kid-show marketplace. That’s all right, though, because my children know that each year there will be one evening, very close to Halloween, when I will reach into the back of the closet and pull out the same, single DVD as the year before. Then, feeling very much like a kid myself, I will light a spooky candle, turn down the lamps and pull my children close to me on the sofa, so happy that my dear, old friends have become theirs as well.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Calls May Be Monitored...

...For Quality Assurance

As part of our ongoing commitment to customer service here at Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder, we are offering this intrepid [note to self: look up "intrepid" before hitting the publish button and make sure it means what we think it does] questionnaire in order to better meet the unreasonable demands address the ever-changing needs of today's aggressively chic and actively non-average LJKGW reader.

And so, we hope you'll take 35 a few minutes to complete this comprehensive and super-sensitive data-collection instrument that not only was designed by an outside consulting firm that totally gouged us on their bill but also has been guaranteed to soak you for all kinds of information you won't even realize you're divulging.

But enough about science! The bottom line is:

Your Opinion Matters!

Let's get started, shall we?

1. I have been a loyal LJKGW reader...
a. since the day I was born

b. since I was incarcerated

c. for almost 25 minutes

d. define "loyal..."

2. I discovered LJKGW...
a. in my grocer's freezer section

b. while scanning Craigslist for a used roto-tiller

c. hidden in the back of my teen's underwear drawer

d. during a routine self-examination

3. LJKGW is my primary source for...
a. hard-hitting investigative journalism

b. limericks

c. things to do while in Tulsa

d. simple exercises to tone and firm the buttocks

4. I think LJKGW should be published...
a. once a week
b. once a month
c. every hour on the hour
d. sporadically, to keep the element of surprise

5. My favorite thing about LJKGW is that...
a. the posts are exactly the right length for my Segway ride to work
b. it makes me feel...
mighty real
c. I find the wood paneling oddly calming
d. once you pay off the initial membership fee, it's practically free!

6. My least favorite thing about LJKGW is that...
a. the crossword is too hard
b. it's always trying to "be funny"
c. the delivery boy throws it into my rain gutter
d. it often smells like Parmesan

7. In future editions of LJKGW, I would like to see more...
a. Esperanto folk songs
b. quick 'n easy desserts made from Vienna sausage
c. real-life adventures of "Dr." Betty Stanka - Self-Taught Podiatrist
d. guest posts from funnier bloggers

8. I would be interested in submitting a guest column on...
a. "A Relaxed Chicken is a Prolific Chicken"
b. "Overcoming Procrastination" (flexible deadline)
c. "The Ins and Outs of a Healthy Sex Drive"
d. "Poncho!"

9. Which potential Special Edition most appeals to you?
a. Millard Fillmore Exposed!
b. Iambic Pentameter Month
c. Oral Hygiene Essay Contest
d. Lint: The Silent Killer

10. Overall, I would describe LJKGW as...
a. vague
b. misguided
c. insouciant
d. moist

Thank you for your participation in our customer satisfaction survey!

We invite you to submit any additional suggestions or critiques in the specially designed "comment box" below.

In the meantime, you can take comfort in the knowledge that your responses will be logged, tabulated and shredded discussed at great length at the next meeting of the editorial advisory board in Stuckey's the LJKGW Memorial Conference Room.

YOU ARE MY ONLY Launches Tomorrow

The much-anticipated latest from Beth Kephart will be released tomorrow! YOU ARE MY ONLY is a taut psychological thriller that centers on the kidnapping of a young girl and artfully explores the themes of loss, imprisonment and freedom regained.

I've already pre-ordered the crap out of the book Kirkus Reviews calls "Intense and lovely" and describes as "A pint-sized powerhouse waiting to be devoured."

I can't wait to dive into this one!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Official CHICKtionary Book Trailer!

(Yes, They Make Those Now)

I am so excited to share with you the premiere of the official book trailer for The CHICKtionary!

Filmed and directed by the amazing Lisa Rae Rosenberg (author of one of my all-time favorite blogs - Smacksy), and edited by the delightful Craig Vandeman (husband of another favorite - Lee Vandeman), this project was a blast from beginning to end.

(Well, it was for
me, anyway. Come to think of it, the last few times I called those guys, it went straight to voicemail. Hmmm...)

Anyway - here it is!

[If you can't see the video player, just click here to be magically transported to YouTube Land.]

By the way, The CHICKtionary is now shipping from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and can be pre-ordered from IndieBound. The book will also be in stock at brick-and-mortar bookstores by Halloween. Spooky, huh?

Thanks for watching and I'll have information about events and appearances - and more! - in upcoming posts.

(Pssst... Don't worry, though - I promise I'll talk about other stuff, too. I mean blahblahblah, right? I get it.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Missed "Gunsmoke" for This?

(One of) My Secret Shame(s)

I'm a major listmaker. My lists can be found on the kitchen island, in the crevices of my purse, in drifts on my desk, even next to my bathroom sink. Lists help me get a grip and feel like I'm in some kind of control of the endless improv skit that is life here on earth.

So I was intrigued when I met the folks from this summer at BlogHer San Diego. (After I pelted them repeatedly with custom foot sanders, they finally came out from behind the escalator bank and talked to me.)

SkinnyScoop is a website made entirely of lists. (I know.) There are all kinds of "cheat sheets" there with things like recommendations for summer reads and activities for toddlers.

I ask you: who can resist information that is presented in bullet-point form? I sure can't.

Naturally, I was compelled to add my own, which I call "Ten Signs of an Impending Girls' Night Out FAIL":

Feel free to chime in, won't you?

[Hint: If you can't see the embedded list here, either hit the side of your monitor really hard OR click here.]

Also, for those of you who are wondering, this is not a sponsored post. I just think the list format is a lot of fun and lends itself quite nicely to le comedy. That's not to say, however, that I can't be bought. For the right amount, I'll direct you to my Swiss bank account, which - I recently discovered - is not located in Ohio, but rather some effing cold place in Europe.

Wanted: Marinka's New Book!

You heard that right: Marinka - of Motherhood in NYC fame - has written a book and it is now available. It's called WANTED: CAT and, even though my two (you heard me) copies have yet to arrive, I can say without hesitation that WANTED: CAT will rule.

Marinka's blog was one of the doorsteps I found myself shivering on when I first stepped off that Greyhound bus and onto the mean streets of the blogging world. She took me in, gave me a double latte with a slug of vodka in it and let me warm myself by the fire of her hilarious and singular comic voice.

Then, when I was a little stronger, she gently let me know it was time to move on by stabbing a small hole in my inflatable guest bed with a Bic pen.

As she waved goodbye from her stoop, she wished me luck with a traditional Russian blessing, although when I looked it up later, it seemed odd that a blessing would have the word "freeloader" in it.

Anyway, special times. *sigh*

Wait, where was I? Oh, right! Click on over to Marinka's brand-spanking new website to find out more about WANTED: CAT!

[Do not be dissuaded by the fact that, according to the Amazon page, people who viewed WANTED: CAT also viewed an apparently real book with the title Crafting with Cat Hair. After all, everyone knows that, in today's publishing marketplace, it's all about cross-selling!]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Are You Sure That Wasn't You?

Remember That Time... did your Shirley Bassey impression onstage at The Hollywood Improv?

Heh. Man, you sure looked like a--

Wait...that was me.

(If you can't see the video clip, please click here.)


Thank you to both Melinda L. Wentzel and Lisa Tognola for laying the Versatile Blogger Award on me! As they say in France, "ShaBAMsky!"

And (Part Deux)...

Here at the LJKGW corporate multiplex, we are gea
ring up for the insanely exciting festivities that the party planning committee has come up with to mark the forthcoming release of The CHICKtionary (known around the water cooler as "my book").

I hope you'll join us for these fun and decidedly non-educational activities, if only for the free crullers and deeply discounted massage-chair rates.

We're in countdown mode here, people! (Full disclosure: we're not sure of the exact date we're counting down to. Nevertheless - COUNTDOWN MODE!)