A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

24 April 2009

Stalwart? Not Walmart.

I don't typically write about my trips to Walmart - but this one just stood out more than the others, so I thought I'd share...

I needed to pick up a few things like a battery for my nifty pedometer I've never used (but am intending to), some sunblock, some Epsom salt, and some soda. So, I pack up my daughter and head on over to the Walmart down the street a ways.

First on the list: Get the Epsom salt before I forget. But first - pull out one carriage. Defective. A second. More defective. A third...worst of the lot...go back and get the first carriage. Yes, I know I only have to get a handful of things...but I will undoubtedly forget one of them...and buy 18 more I didn't come in for - therefore I need the carriage.

I go on over to where I figure they'd stock Epsom salt. The part of the store where they have band-aids, aspirin and soap. I walk around - I walk around some more - and sure enough I spot it. Right next to this lady who works at Walmart talking to another lady who works at Walmart. Epsom salt - bottom shelf...about inch from the one lady's leg.

Now I'm not invisible the last time I checked, but wouldn't you know it - I must be invisible today! Usually when someone comes within a radius of say a foot of your personal space, most people will take notice. Nope...not these two ladies. Even with me saying "Excuse me" - they didn't even pause in their conversation to each other and neither took notice nor moved. I had my face literally at crotch level to the one lady - and seriously, it really wasn't where my head was today...nor where I wanted my head at today. Even with me saying "Uh...I need to get the Epsom salt here"...she didn't flinch a muscle. She apparently had no problem with me being close enough to be able to read the manufacturer of her zipper; I, on the other hand, did. I reached over with my arm as extended as it could go and snatched up an Epsom salt and promptly left, remarking again very loudly to my daughter "You would think they could have moved over a TINY bit so I COULD HAVE GOTTEN IT!" Hey, since I was invisible today and all...I figured I should take advantage of it and be a little jerkier than usual.

Next stop: The battery.

I need a replacement battery which goes by the name of "LR43". It's one of those round watch-types; a seemingly easy to spot kinda dealie ...but all the round ones are pretty much round and vary by 1/1,000th of a micrometer in diameter or width or circumference or whatever...and they make a LOT of them and I'm figuring with the luck I've been having lately they discontinued this exact size ages ago or just sell them in the UK.

Now had I known that this would have been like looking for the needle in the proverbial haystack I would have sought out some help when I first saw someone pass by...but I'm a big girl and I can surely find where they keep the batteries in Walmart, right?

Wrong. While I might be a "big girl" - the store is much, much bigger than I am. There's also no real rhyme nor reason order to it. Let's see...batteries right next to the muffins? Yep...sounds like there was some master planning here. Heaven knows I like to pick up some batteries when I'm buying a tasty muffin...but not this time...I needed the round kind - everyone knows the batteries they sell next to the muffins are only the double A, triple A, and C kinds. Duh!

My daughter then makes a grand assumption. A pedometer is kind of like an electronic thing - round batteries just might be in electronics? Right? Sounds logical to me. So we wheel our wonky carriage on over to the electronics aisle where we scope out the batteries and find a very small display with more empty slots than batteries and sure enough - the only round ones there were LR44s. While they look the same - I'm sure it would cause my pedometer to blow up...so I'm not going to chance it. I decide to ask the guy behind the electronics counter who looks to be a whopping two years older than my daughter. He proceeds to tell me that they are on the other side of the aisle...where again...only LR44s. Close - but nope. And they really didn't have a wide selection of any batteries there to start with. Have you seen the size of a Walmart lately? I mean they are ginormous. Surely I can't be the only person in this town to ever need a battery. These two lousy displays AND the muffin battery assortment wouldn't serve the population of Mayberry let alone Wetumpka.

Okay, let's get the soda - I know where they keep that.

Much to my chagrin there's no batteries next to the soda. What a really lame store. We'll have to look elsewhere.

Now, I vaguely remember, once upon ago, when I needed another such round battery for something - they had them where they sold the jewelry - where I initially thought of going, but was reluctant as I spied no watches there...plus after the "Epsom salt incident" I wasn't too keen on asking another woman Walmart worker anything. But she was behind a counter and my fear of getting up close and nearly personal with this one was thus alleviated. I asked her.

As luck would have it - no LR43s. She was, however, helpful and directed me over to the pharmacy where she thought all the other round batteries were kept.

They only had a couple kinds there - most were super tiny...so again, I'd have to go away empty-handed. This was getting old. We gave up the battery search.

So, we shuffle off, still pushing our incredibly wonky carriage (I'm 100 percent certain Walmart doesn't own a carriage that isn't defective in some way...all Walmarts, not just this one) to go and get sunblock. It's the last on my list after all...I am not even going after the 18 other items that I don't need this time. I just want to grab the sunblock and get out as fast as humanly possible.

We look around and around and around. Up and down all the aisles in the pharmacy-area department. Not by the hair dye, not by the body wash, not by the tampons, not by the vitamins. I was beginning to think maybe they kept sunblock next to the muffins...but I didn't go back to check. I reluctantly (whenever I ask someone in Walmart...it's always my last resort) decided to ask someone behind the pharmacy counter as both "Epsom salt" ladies were nowhere to be found. A guy was talking there forever so we decided to look some more. We found a tiny one in the "tiny things to take on trips" aisle...but I couldn't believe there'd be less choice of sunblock than there was batteries - but it didn't look good.

Back to the pharmacy window...the guy was still there. Then another lady behind there popped over and asked if she could help. "Things are looking up" I foolishly think to myself. I asked her about the sunblock and she proceeds to tell me, "I don't know - maybe it's in the outdoor gardening section." "Yeah? MAYBE???" I reiterated "MAYBE???" to her...quickly followed by "I've been all over this store for the past forty-five minutes...couldn't you PHONE someone up to let me know where they keep it instead of just 'MAYBE' it's somewhere? Maybe it's somewhere - maybe it's not?" I didn't even wait to hear her reaction and we took off down the aisle towards the outdoor section...all the while I'm muttering under my breath, "I don't work here, she works here...she's got a phone, she could have asked someone where it was. I can't believe no one in this whole store knows where anythi..." ...then I spotted it: A huge section of the aisle across from the pet food, but well before the outside department, chock full of sunblock paraphernalia. How could I have been so stupid NOT to have gone directly across the pet food aisle to look for sunblock? Just what the heck was I thinking??

Oh, I'm sure that next to the Bedazzler and knitting needles there's a whole battery section I never knew existed. THEY don't even know it exists. Next time I'm in Walmart I'll be sure to check.

(By the way, in case anyone was wondering...Walgreens stocks LR43 size batteries.)

11 April 2009

"X-planation"...no wait..."'splaination"...no...um...oh just stop explaining it to me already, okay?

"Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!"

Sure, Ricky Ricardo said it often...and poor Lucy would sometimes accommodate him by trying to conjure up some far-fetched explanation for her silliest of lame-brained schemes. Now, the joke was usually on Ricky as he, continually, was the one in the dark while, we, as the audience knew what Lucy had been up to all along. Of course this was really Hollywood and we all knew better...but...Hollywood still has a lot of 'splainin' to do - and to them, we're all a bunch of Rickys to their Lucy.

Picture if you will...a dilemma of sorts. How do you interject complicated phrases which are commonplace to, say...a doctor, a lawyer, the FBI, the crime scene investigators, a brilliant scientist conversing with another...and well, you get the point by now I'm sure...in your movie or show but still get the point across to the lay person?

Certainly words that are way beyond most people's scope of reasoning are bantered about by people who know what they mean all the time. You wouldn't expect a doctor to explain to his colleagues each time he rattles off a chain of ten dollar words. You wouldn't expect the DOD to stop using acronyms ASAP just because their ASCON and their ASD can't figure out what their GORP over in CE is saying. You wouldn't expect there's a lot of explanation on film...but...if you delve deeper into the script you can tell that Hollywood must take us for a bunch of popcorn munching morons.

Without sounding condescending...let me explain...

...I really started noticing this quite a few years ago but I didn't think too much of it. But ever since I rented the entire nine seasons of "The X-Files" back-to-back and played them episode after episode, night after night...I began to see a common thread.

What normally would occur one week to another as the series aired wasn't exactly obvious - but when viewed in this repetitive fashion, I noticed something which was cleverly laced over like the so many layers of dialogue which made this show such a hit. Whenever Scully (the female FBI agent) would be doing an autopsy on some poor misfortunate soul who lost his life battling a Chupacabra or some bile-sucking creepazoid...she would say to Mulder (the male FBI agent) a whole string of very technical sounding jargon. Then Mulder would innocently ask, "You mean her flesh was literally being dissolved by this fat sucking vampire like a spider dissolves his prey before he eats it?" Of course, that's not the exact wording (far from it)...but you get the idea, right? Chances are good if she just mentioned something clinical about lipids and amino acids and recombinant DNA and whatnot - the whole point would be lost on the majority of the viewing public...and we'd pretty much be staring at the screen shaking and scratching our collective heads going "huh?"

Now, you do get what I'm trying to say, right? I mean, I wouldn't really have to simplify it further for you at this point...but apparently - when you slap something on film...even the most elementary of dialogue tends to be dumbed down in this way...sometimes to the point of comic proportions.

I don't know how many of you have ever watched the show "NUMB3RS"...but when I watched it the first couple seasons (I had to...long story) it just didn't have the finesse that "The X-Files" had. It was painfully obvious the whole premise was...pretty much astronomically impossible to take seriously. The show centered around a math genius with a whole slew of inept FBI agents who didn't even know what the words "triangulate his location" meant - and without this one agent's math-whiz brother to solve case after case on his blackboard in the father's basement...well, the entire FBI would just be a bunch of bumbling Inspector Clouseaus hopelessly trying to find the way out of the building each nite.

Then you have the extreme "duh" factor...where the movie industry clearly doesn't think we are as smart as any fifth grader. Not only do they insult us by clearly defining what a word is...but they take it one step further...they clearly insult us by making us believe the character being spoken to doesn't have a clue either.

Case in point: Most of us have probably seen the Spiderman films. Who wouldn't? They are fun - Spiderman's fun...there's nifty CGI effects, geek turned hero to save the day, bad guys get their comeuppance...just a fun time for all...right? Well...aside from Mary Jane screaming her face off each time and whining "boo-hoo, no one loves me as an actress in New York City" where you only have 20 billion people all sharing the stage with you, most of which have connections, are better actresses, or have a resume longer than you can hold that sustained eardrum-bleeding banshee yell of yours...it goes a bit silly with the characterizations. Peter Parker aka Spiderman...is supposed to be a brilliant guy. He was shown to be superiorly intelligent in the first film...his diametrically opposed, 'superiorly stupid' best friend's dad, who just happens to own a business where he can become an evil maniac on the side...covets him as a future employee. In the second installment he expounds exponentially - bouncing mind-boggling theories of infinitesimal knowledgeable know-how off of this prominent, world-reknown scientist ("Doctorpus" as I call him) who also has the wherewith all (and unlimited funds) to be able to build his own maniacal evil-doer side business at the drop of a hat as well. So, it is now established...Peter Parker is quite the intellectual...he knows his stuff. He could beat pretty much you and me at "Trivial Pursuit", especially those green Science questions. He'd whoop our butts at "Jeopardy!"...but...he doesn't have a clue what a symbiotic relationship IS in the third film...as this dialogue which takes place ensues:

Professor: "Don't let any of that get on you..." (pointing to the black
jumping threadlike blob under the glass).

Peter Parker:

Professor: "It has the characteristics of a symbiote...which needs
to bond to a host to survive..."

Now, I don't know about you - but I knew what "symbiotic" meant back in - well...a LONG time ago. My son knows what it is...my daughter knows what it is...if my cats could talk...THEY'D know what it was. How on Earth did they not realize good ole Spidey-boy would, too?

So, in one fell swoop (Spiderman pun clearly not intended - but highly suggested) not only do they insult our intelligence...but they insult poor Parker in the process. This is inexcusable in my opinion. Hollywood didn't used to do this. Did the witch in "The Wizard of Oz" explain to the flying monkeys why the poppies will make them all sleep? Did "Citizen Kane" have to whack us on the head to get us to know this story clearly was written about William Randolph Hearst? Did Dickens need to have the three ghosts come back twice in order to get the message across to Scrooge? I think not! They didn't need to do it back then in film and they really don't need to do it now. We're really not THAT stupid...the ones who are...well, there's always the opportunity to Google it when they get home IF they can remember that far into the future. For the rest of us...stop doing it!

"But, why?" they'd undoubtedly ask...because heaven knows it always, always, always needs to be explained even further. Because...well...frankly, my dear Hollywood...we do know a damn.

05 April 2009

"B" Rating Okay; Berating Not Okay

I was glancing over the "news" stories they feature on AOL's main page the other day (by now "the other week"...as I've sat on this idea for a while) and happened upon one which piqued my interest: Doctors Seek to Silence Online Reviews . Honestly, I'm reluctant to click on any of AOL's "news" links because chances are I'll be shuffled off to some guy's blog who apparently knows someone on AOL to get the prominent front-page link-up...

...but, I was a bit intrigued as it spoke to me in a language I have recently begun to be far too affluent in: medical.

It seems some doctors are so miffed about all those "Rate Your Doctor" sites readily available to even the least adept Googler, that there is now a service (or probably a few by now) where, for a fee, your physician can pay some "company" to troll those sites and report all the "bad" findings back to them.

This apparently was enough for some doctors to get so bent out of shape over that they've added yet another form for you to sign when you fill out that ever-growing stack they hand you when you get there: Basically, a promise that you will not go to any of these sites and rate them in any negative or derogatory fashion. Oh, and it doesn't stop there. You also cannot mention anything against them on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or even on your personal blog. You are, in essence, being stripped of your First Amendment rights in order to receive medical care from these doctors. And, if the trolling service finds you have indeed breached this contract with your doctor, you are then - terminated. Plus they can also then bring legal action against you. Nice, huh?

So, we are now being told that not only "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" - but also public criticism. This is absolutely ludicrous - it is censorship at its most base level.

I am not aware how many of you have used these ratings sites...or even know of their existence - but I have done so, for obvious reasons. (I have some medical issues for those of you who don't know.) Not that I would use them for any "make or break" decision device as I'd wait to "rate" my doctor after a face-to-face visit. But, I do like having at my disposal, the opportunity to peruse the credentials of a doctor whose name is the only thing known to me. You see...he had MY whole history splayed out in front of him to pre-judge me...way before he opens the door after that obligatory "two-knock" custom they must have learned somewhere between Pre-Med and Residency...and he has it still.

Certainly you've seen it, haven't you? Oh, surely I can't be the only one to sneak a peek at what's inside that mysterious manilla folder they gaze at, and up from, whilst talking to you. You know the one I'm talking about...that one they leave open...enticingly within arm's reach of you - when they are called out of the room for a moment.

Haven't you ever been curious about what's inside that thing? For sure it has lab reports and a little synopsis of your current and past ailments - but aren't you at all just a little interested or even a bit more than nosy to know what else they keep in there? It is, after all, YOUR folder - I've read and signed those disclaimer sheets I spoke of earlier...we are entitled to view it. So, recently, I've taken it upon myself to investigate just what my doctors say about me - you see...this is the stuff they never share - other than between themselves.

At the risk of implicating myself even further than I already have, let me toss out a few things I've surreptitiously gathered about myself during my "I spy with my little eye - super quick-like before the doctor comes back in" waiting game. (Thank goodness for that "two-knock" warning.) I have mastered the art of stealth equivalent to a James Bond Ninja - I can leaf through it - photograph it with my "super memory", return it to the original page and pop back on that papered "couch" with the agile ability even "Grasshopper" from that "Kung Fu" show of the '70s would have envied. Then to complete the whole effect - I don my "mesmerized by the circa 1980s 'worn at the edges from the cheap thumbtacks' human anatomy posters" facial expression. Trust me - I've got that whole dance down to a science - I AM poetry in motion - bad poetry...a Haiku perhaps - but nonetheless, I've yet to be caught.

But in a way I feel like I have been caught - I am that unruly child whose school folder is stamped "TROUBLEMAKER" and passed from one grade's teacher to the next - labeling me before I ever sat in that classroom chair. I have been classified, in the medical community, as "neurotic". I've seen my "medical report cards" - words like "worries unnecessarily", "convinced she has..." and the dreaded "reads WebMD" crop up here and there in my introductory referral letters.

So, while I am allowed to be "rated" and passed from one doctor to the other, I'd like to be afforded the same opportunity as these physicians who are demanding their patients NOT rate them. I DON'T want to be rated either - other than my condition, thank you. Keep your opinions of me to yourselves - you are already swaying the opinion of my next doctor before he ever sits down and talks to me himself. I don't need him coming in with some attitude that I'm going to be a neurotic head-case or troublemaker - calling him for everything I have, might have, or have "convinced" myself through WebMD that I must have. Trust me, like little Johnny in Kindergarten who might have pulled Amy's hair - don't label me because someone "tells" on me - give me the benefit of the doubt...perhaps I'm really not that bad.

And to all you doctors out there thinking of subscribing to (or who have) this "service" which really is a disservice...stop pre-judging your patients - you certainly don't like it when it happens to you. Remember, you took an oath to help people...and it wasn't "The Hypocritical Oath".