December 11, 2013 § 33 Comments
So last night, while failing to go to bed early, I happened upon the Victoria’s Secret fashion show on TV. I just caught the end, but from what I could tell, it was basically a bunch of buttcheeks dressed like snowflakes having a holiday parade. Pretty festive, I guess.
As a feminist, I think I’m supposed to be offended by that show, but honestly, I don’t really care. My only beef with Victoria’s Secret is that they don’t carry bras that suit me. Whoever designs their Dream Angel Super Uplift Fantasy Titcatchers seems to think that anyone under a C cup wants their bra to come pre-stuffed with a fistful of padding in each side. Maybe I’m in the mini-boobed minority, but I really don’t like my bras to have a bunch of stuff in them. *I’m* supposed to be the stuff in them.
So I buy my lingerie elsewhere. Sure, the good stuff is expensive, but I’d rather have one fabulous, artfully constructed little glory than three cheap ones that look like flotation devices. Besides, if you really get creative and efficient about it, you can get your money’s worth by using a fancy little bra for many purposes. For example:
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- Dish For Small Snacks
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2. Cap for Baby on Chilly Days
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3. Eye Patch For Your Pet
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5. Bedside Catch-all
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6. Backpack for Oft-Used Items
Then, if you divide the cost of the bra by the number of times and ways you use it, it’s practically free.
December 4, 2013 § 68 Comments
Forgot to move the elf? Got busted for regifting? It could be worse.
If you ever feel like you’re shitty at holidays, please allow me to make you feel better. In fact, I want you to bookmark this story and pull it out over the next few weeks whenever you’re having a bit of guilt over acting with less than perfect holiday spirit. If you think you’re not doing Christmas right, just tell yourself that at least you’re not this bad. Here you go:
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Where we live, there was this one Santa in town that EVERYONE went to for decades. I’m talking about a traditional, legendary, local custom kind of thing. A few years ago, when my kids were itty-bitty, that Santa passed away. He was old; it was time. It happens. And of course, it was in the news, because he was a beloved public figure of sorts.
[Here comes the part where you can feel better about yourself because you're not me. Get ready!]
At that point in our lives, my kids were not yet old enough that they really made an effort to listen to things I said to other people in front of them. They were more concerned with poking each other in the eye, singing the alphabet, and trying to eat things they found on the floor of the car. So it didn’t even occur to me that they’d overhear when I said to a fellow parent at the park one day:
“So. Did you hear Santa died?”
Let’s run that line back one more time, just for impact:
“SO. DID YOU HEAR SANTA DIED?”
Yes. I said that. Out loud. Around children.
I’ll let you imagine all the backpedaling, explaining, and creative myth-adjusting I had to do after one child piped up, “Santa?” and another, “Died?” and then a bunch of others crowded around, chirping “Santa? Died? Santa died? Dead Santa?”
The point is this: When you’re feeling bad about yelling, “GODDAMMIT, WHO ATE JESUS?” when the dog chews up the Holy Infant from your tabletop Nativity*, just remind yourself: At least you didn’t tell a bunch of kids Santa died.
(* That also happened at my house.)
Ho ho ho, friends.
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Many thanks to the gang at YeahWrite, who plucked this shameful little tale from here and popped it into their grid of weekly stories.
November 29, 2013 § 13 Comments
There’s some exciting stuff at the end of this post, so feel free to scroll on down… But if you have time to lounge around for a while, here’s a question that came in from a reader:
Actually, that’s 6 questions. But it’s been a year since The Random Penguins were born, so we might as well celebrate with a Q&A before we move on to the big news. Here goes:
1. Do you drink heavily first?
That’s a completely reasonable question. No, I actually am sober about 90% of the time I’m working on The Random Penguins. Every now and then, I scribble one on my iPhone screen while tipsy; but like most things I do after several drinks, that rarely turns out well.
I do sometimes write in my sleep. I keep a notepad by my bed (so that when I sleep-write, I can reach over and scribble safely instead of wandering across the room and into a wall looking for a pen). Last week, I awoke to discover the very first sleep-penguin I’ve ever done on paper:
2. Do you start with the eyes?
Nope, I start with the body. It’s a simple little jellybean shape, but I have to get it just right if the penguin is making a gesture or doing anything other than standing straight up.
After I have the body-shape, I do the eyes and the beak, which are the only elements I have to work with for facial expressions. The eyes are always the same shape – just a dot – but where they’re placed on the face makes all the difference. The beaks are hard. I often have to do three or four tries on those to get the expression right.
3. Do you have an idea?
You mean, before I draw? Yes. Most of them are based on people I have encountered in the world. Or occasionally myself. So I start with an idea of a situation or person or feeling. (Embarrassment is a common theme, because I seem to feel that a lot.) If I come across someone who’s being a real asshole, it’s safer for me to go home and draw a penguin of that person than to yell, “HEY, YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE” and risk being punched.
4. Do you have any backup penguins?
I have penguins that I’ve drawn and not captioned, and some that I’ve captioned and not drawn. They sit in a little folder off to the side on my iPad mini (which is where I draw them, with my fingers).
5. What if your model doesn’t cooperate or show up?
That’s the beauty of inventing my own models. Bad ones just get erased.
6. Are they like flightless divas?
They’re more like magical parasites that show up in my brain and hang around until I draw them.
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OK, that was fun. Now, ready for the big news? Here it is: PENGUIN MERCH, BABY. Click the bolded links above the photos for some things you can throw in the ol’ stockings this year…
First — For a limited time, get HOLIDAY CARDS from the card shop:
(PS: If you happen to do your holiday shopping in Atlanta, stop by Saks Fifth Avenue at Phipps Plaza and look for the Spotlight on Art collection. You’ll find these cards with special packaging and pricing.)
But the holidays don’t last forever — so I made some NEW YEAR-ROUND CARDS, too:
OK, are you ready to start really freaking out now? Good. Because there’s ALL KINDS OF OTHER STUFF, TOO.
You should drink your coffee out of THIS RIGHT HERE:
There are LOTS OF MUGS, in fact:
And since you can’t be naked all the time, because that’s both illegal and chilly, there are A VARIETY OF SHIRTS FOR DUDES AND LADIES:
You can even put penguins ON YOUR PHONE, ON YOUR LUGGAGE, ON YOUR DESK, AND ON YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE:
So to summarize: If you’re one of the folks who’s been asking when you’ll be able to wear The Random Penguins, I hope you find all the penguiny stuff of your dreams in THIS SHOP and THAT SHOP. If there’s something you’re just dying to have and you don’t see it, let me know.
(By the way — Do you make things, too? If you are an artist or author or creative person of some sort, feel free to post a link to your things in the comments. No one will even have to leave this page to do all their shopping.)
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PS: Many thanks to The Toast for running a series of penguins this week! This was one of them:
November 21, 2013 § 49 Comments
Before we jump into what’s to come, let me just point out that the past week has been kind of a blur. Work is busy, home is busy, wacky side projects are busy, friends and family are busy… That’s the context here: much wailing and gnashing of teeth over deadlines (fun ones, but still) and long lists of things to do.
Keep that in mind, OK? OK. Now keep reading.
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So. The other day some friends were commenting on all the Elf on the Shelf nonsense — how you have to move the elf every night and there’s all that pressure to make the elf do creative things — and how some couple decided screw that, let’s invent a new thing, and came up with “Dinovember,” where you move toy dinosaurs all over your house or something.
It looks pretty funny, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing. Which I’m not…
OR AM I?
It occurred to me that you could really take ANY object and pose it all over your house and make it a thing. Take, for example . . . a cork.
Naturally, since there were 7 billion other things I should have been doing, my brain decided to latch onto that concept and not let go. So without further ado, allow me to show you how I spent my time yesterday:
It started out pretty basic -
Then things got a little silly -
Then it all just kind of got out of control -
OK. So remember what I said about being swamped? Right. But how did I choose to use my time for much of a morning this week?
I dressed a bunch of corks up in costumes. I threw those sonsofbitches a tiny little green picnic. And I photographed it.
We all cope in different ways.
* * *
In other news:
Funny thing: No matter the day, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything here, if I check the search stats, there are always several people who land here because they searched for some variation on “ann patchett dog essay.” It’s been that way ever since a year ago, when I posted an excerpt from her lovely piece in Vogue, “The Sense of An Ending.” Well, whoever you are, out there searching for it, you’ll be delighted to know that the piece is included in Patchett’s latest collection of nonfiction. This Is The Story Of a Happy Marriage is not, as the title might imply, just a book about marriage (although it does go there a few times). It’s a dazzling medley of her best short essays, speeches, and articles — so dazzling, in fact, that I think it would make the perfect gift for just about anybody. So I wrote about it for Book Riot, in “All-Purpose Gift Book.”
PS: In case you don’t believe me… Look — I just did a screen grab of yesterday’s search stats. (Hi there, person looking for “needle.” Also, person searching for “bruce springsteen dog names”? I love you.)
November 6, 2013 § 30 Comments
You’ve seen this, right?
That’s a product that was popular back in the day. (I love the “gee” and the quotes — so goony.) You can still spot it in old TV and movies and the occasional shampoo commercial spoof. Speaking of which…
If you can sell a product based on what people would say to you if you used it, could you also market a product based on what people would say to you if you needed it? For example, what if, instead of “gee, your hair smells terrific,” it was “gee, your hair smells like that time my dog had an ear infection”? Wouldn’t that work? I mean, if I knew my hair smelled bad, I would definitely want to wash it, so I’d probably pick up some shampoo.
Anyway. Along that line of thinking, here are 7 products that tell you the truth no one else will, then offer the goods to fix the problem.
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1. Makeup Remover
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5. Wrinkle Cream
6. Party Lashes
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7. Waxing Kit
Just think on it, Proctor & Gamble.
* * *
In other news:
Back when I started using Twitter, I didn’t understand how it differed from Facebook. Specifically, I didn’t realize that on Twitter you don’t have “friends”; you have “followers” who might be complete strangers. (Duh.) So when I first noted the hilariously weird comments by some guy named Rob Delaney being retweeted by my friend Turner, I was like, “Wow, Turner. Your friend Rob is super funny.”
Fast forward to now, and I get it: Rob Delaney is an international comedy superstar (who was also named Comedy Central’s “Funniest Person on Twitter“). It was my pleasure to interview him last week for the Barnes & Noble Book Blog.
Our conversation published here omits the part in the middle where we discuss my favorite part of his stand-up routine — because that bit is so hysterically obscene as to be unsuitable for some readers (not to mention difficult to describe without gestures). It seems a lot more suitable after a shot or two of tequila, though, so hit me up for it in person. Or just go see Rob perform.
October 30, 2013 § 36 Comments
While I’m not really wild about Halloween, I do love a good costume party. Preferably at other times of year and for other occasions, but if there’s one thing I kind-of, almost, sort-of like about Halloween, it’s the dressing up.
Which is not to say I’m good at it.
Here are three of my worst Halloween costume efforts, in chronological order:
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1. Murder Clown
When I was little, about 7 or 8, I dressed as a clown. It was one of those pre-made, all-in-one, cheap-ass costumes that you just step into and zip up. Pretty flimsy.
At trick-or-treat time — that most holy of occasions when candy is allowed in massive quantities — I ran from house to house like a maniac. As is my way when I am on foot for any period of time, I tripped. But because it was dark, I didn’t notice that my costume had ripped open at the knees when I fell. And because I was high on mini-Snickers, I didn’t realize there was blood streaming from both my kneecaps and splattering all over my shoes. I did sense that something around my knees felt funny, which is why I must have reached down to touch them a few times, which is how I managed to then cover myself in BLOODY HANDPRINTS.
I couldn’t see myself, though, so I didn’t know that at the time. The only people who knew it were the ones who could see me — the adults who opened their doors and saw a tattered, gory, chocolate-toothed midget clown, standing under their front porch light, grinning and holding out two bloody hands. Happy Halloween, folks. I’ve come to eat you alive.
* * *
2. Libyan Dictator
OK, this is horrible. When I was 11, I dressed as Muammar Gaddafi for Halloween. The costume: a liberal dusting of bronzing powder, a khaki/camo outfit, aviator sunglasses, boots… and a very real-looking fake gun. Which I carried to school. My sweet little all-girls, Episcopal school.
What the SHIT was I thinking? I don’t know. I remember thinking the irony of scrawny little me going as an anti-imperialist, militant revolutionary with ties to terrorists was riotously funny. And I know it fit my (extremely dorky) pattern at the time to base a good bit of my elementary-school comedy routine on current events I saw on NBC Nightly News, which I watched religiously because I was in love with Tom Brokaw. (Still am, Tom. If you’re reading this, email me.)
Anyway, I decided that’s what I would be, and NOBODY SUGGESTED THAT IT WAS A BAD IDEA. Not parents, not teachers, NO ONE pointed out that my costume was about a dozen kinds of offensive, kind of racist, and totally inappropriate for an 11-year-old and for school. The 80s were a different time, what can I say.
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Several years ago, when the costumes-must-be-slutty thing was juuuuust picking up and wasn’t yet totally overplayed like it is now, I was invited to a Halloween party with a very fashionable crowd. They, of course, were right on the cutting edge of the sexy-everything costume trend. I, however, was stuck in my “witty puns make great costumes” phase.
So you can imagine my entrance when I waddled through the door of the party dressed as… White Trash.
Seriously. Not sexy white trash. Just white trash. I found it hilarious when I first thought it up. I devised a suit of white Hefty-bags for my arms and legs and a huge one full of crumpled paper for my body, with paper towels sticking out of the top around my neck in an Elizabethan collar of sorts. Meanwhile, the first people I saw when I walked in were a Sexy Cheerleader (wearing what basically amounted to a ruffle around her buttcheeks), a Sexy Cowboy (chaps and vest), and a Sexy Bumblebee (various little striped scraps). And there I was, wearing a crown made of paper plates and Q-tips.
I like to think I really pulled it off, though.
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Anyway, I’ve learned that I do better with costumes when I am given a theme or some specific instructions to follow — not when it’s just a free-for-all, come-as-anything kind of affair. That’s too much room for error — I mean, creativity.
Be safe out there. And keep your eyes peeled for murder clowns.
* * *
In other news:
Many thanks to the Queen Latifah Show for featuring The Random Penguins. The birds will be popping up periodically throughout the end of the year in a little holiday-themed series. This was a lot of fun to work on! Here’s the first one.
Enormous thanks to Barnes & Noble and the folks at Touchstone / Simon & Schuster for inviting me to interview Allie Brosh, whom I would absolutely adopt if she were just a few years younger and I were a few years older and I could possibly pass her off as my own.
Other than the bit about bananas (she’s such a good sport), my favorite part might be the “best advice” she passes on. And I have to agree with her 100% on the word “blogger.” We need a new word. Anyway, click on over to the interview if you’d like to read some of her fabulous answers to my goony questions. Thanks!
On that note, I really enjoyed this NPR article about the impact of immediacy in storytelling: “Present Tense: Allie Brosh, Donald Glover, and Hurting Right Now” It mentions comedian Rob Delaney, too, who’s quite the pleasing mix of intelligent and nuts and whom I also had the pleasure of interviewing this week. (More on that later.)
Oh, and Parcheesi finally died. Without question. Totally dead. Just thought I’d keep you posted.