Zelda Brown passed from this world just before 10 a.m., Saturday, June 4, at Hill Country Animal Hospital. She was 2 years old.
For a creature who produced several metric tons of allergens, Zelda was loved by all who knew her and made a practice of wooing those who were otherwise wary of her species. Her gentle spirit and myriad, progressively bizarre noises won over even the most cantankerous soul, most especially her stepbrother, Snoopy. Zelda cooed like a pigeon, ooked like a chimpanzee and still made time to purr at greater volume than her petite 4 pounds should have allowed.
Zelda’s hobbies were vast in scope, but primarily included: vigorous early-morning meowing, spreading litter from the bathroom to Hays County, staring at interesting walls and competitive not-moving with her stepbrother, Snoopy. She was also a connoisseur of fish broth and both a constant companion and obstacle to those who wished to read.
Zelda will be remembered and missed by her family forever, which, coincidentally, is how long they’ll be finding bits of litter among their belongings. She could never be replaced in the hearts and minds of those who knew her. Whatever awaits her in the next life, we hope it’s filled with stinky food and soft blankets.
Zelda is survived by her father, Thomas Brown, and stepmother, Nicole Hill, as well as a sister, Midna, and a stepbrother, Snoopy. Her extended family includes her grandparents, aunt and uncles, and several canine cousins, as well as her biological father, who was a cad and a rogue. She was predeceased by her biological mother, with whom she was not close.
To honor Zelda’s memory, her family asks that you consider donating to the Austin Animal Center from their Amazon wish list, or to the animal rescue organization of your choice.
Zelda proved the theory that coconuts migrate.
Zelda and her stepbrother, Snoopy, bonded quickly over their shared loved of not moving.
Zelda’s brilliant blue eyes brightened even the coldest of winters.
There are three constants in this world: death, taxes and the ability of humans to degrade even the purest forms of existence.
Which brings me to to The Muppets. (Gird your loins: I’m about to spend 900 words talking about the Muppets like they’re real people — because they are.)
A new Muppet-centric TV show should be an occasion of great joy. And it was. Until I watched ABC’s drained, draining revival of a beloved group of hand-puppet misfits. Now, I don’t just feel bad; I feel sorry. Sorry for us, sorry for Jim Henson, sorry for The Muppets themselves.
But let’s begin at the beginning. Just as they poked fun in The Muppet Show at the past-its-prime sketch comedy show, The Muppets make their heralded return to the boob tube in the pseudo-documentary sitcom style of The Office, which was past its prime long before its run actually ended.
Maybe this is where it goes wrong, straight from the concept. The Muppets ABC tosses our way are tired, jaded, world-weary and cold. The hands up their innards might as well be Dunder Mifflin employees. Sure, the muppetational hallmarks are there: Bunsen Honeydew uses a taser on Beeker. Fozzie tells some terrible warm-up jokes. Piggy is an overbearing diva. Kermit is at his wit’s end.
While all those things could be said of any Muppet property since their inception, there is a difference here. The spirit of the Muppets has always been goofiness, unabashed and congenial — a zaniness that borders on mania, but never manages to lose its playfulness and its sincerity.
None of that warmth is present in this new show. Producers seem to have memorized the gags without paying much attention to what actually makes them work: the personalities that turn felt, ping-pong balls and a dude’s hand into a sentient, feeling being.
Bunsen Honeydew has tormented Beeker since he first got the idea for exploding pants, but he never did it maliciously. Here, he electrically shocks his angular assistant deliberately to call a meeting to order. You’ve turned a nutty professor into a maniacal melon monster.
Likewise, Fozzie has always been the worst ursine comedian this side of Jellystone Park, but his inner struggle — his understanding of his failings — was what made him compelling and realistic. Fozzie always knew he was a loser, but he got up there and tried anyway. Here he’s just Andy Richter in a tiny hat, irritation brimming behind that limp bowtie. His fury when confronting his human girlfriend’s family is an unnerving out-of-character moment of rage.
And Piggy. Oh god, Piggy. I’ve never particularly cared for Kermit’s chosen swine, mostly because she reminds me of every person I’ve ever disliked, but what the writers have done to her is egregious. Piggy has always been temperamental, one karate chop away from a one-way walk out of HR. But she’s always cared. She had a heart.Setting up her as a late-night host should be a great device (and a hopeful premonition for the future of nonfictional late-night TV). Instead, she’s been turned into an unfeeling, hardened, calculated shrew.
How could you ever feel a pang of regret about her breakup with Kermit, when there’s not a soul left inside he porcine body? That’s not even to speak of Kermit, who’s so worn down from his “bacon-wrapped hellhole” of a life, I was worried he’d take a long walk off a short sewing table. Kermit gets exasperated, sad, nervous, anxious, but never depressively defeated like this.
Maybe his dismay stems from his new relationship. Denise, yet another pig, is Kermit’s new dead-eyed paramour. Let’s be clear about one thing: Denise is as much a Muppet as a tuna sandwich to which you affixed googly eyes. In fact, she’s worse off. She’s hit a certain number of basic principles, but the tuna sandwich has the advantage of at least having once contained life.
Janice is a yam with undercooked spaghetti for hair and she is more believably lifelike than Denise. (As an aside: I’ll register my dislike of David Rudman’s versions of Janice and Scooter now. They sound like they’ve been regurgitated from a Trump casino or a correctional facility.) Denise’s Southern accent is pretty awful in its own right, but she never stood a chance. She’s inherently flawed. Here is where you should Google Jim Henson’s “magic triangle” and a get a good grip on constructing Muppet facial features, because this chick ain’t got the magic.
When it comes down to it, though, I have but one question: WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND DECIDED WE NEEDED WORLD-WEARY MUPPETS? The splendor, the sheer enjoyability of The Muppet Show was derived from one central principle: The Muppets brought their human guests to their level. It was the puppets who behaved abnormally, non-adult-like, sometimes absolutely insane. We were treated to a separate reality only made possible through these little nut loafs. The Muppets does the opposite: It dumps the thoughts, feelings and neuroses of human adults onto these fragile felt shoulders.
And for what? Does this make them more relatable? Who ever said we wanted them to be relatable? The Muppets are escapist entertainment in its purest form. They provide a safe place for Peter Sellers to dress up like a Viking Queen Victoria and play chickens with his armpits. We needed them to do this, because only Muppets could do this. Now, we’ve crammed them into a show that could star flesh-and-bone actors to the same results. If we’d wanted a puppet episode of 30 Rock, we could have had a puppet episode of 30 Rock.
Maybe the second episode proves me wrong. Maybe it’s just a half-hour of Sam Eagle reciting FCC regulations. Maybe we’ll resuscitate men and women who can write a decent zinger for Statler and Waldorf. Maybe Walter, the Wesley Crusher of Jason Segel’s The Muppets, shows up and injects an ounce of earnestness to the proceedings.
But if none of that happens, I blame Disney, who’s spectacularly good at marketing its own properties but has never quite understood the ANIMAL, ANIMAL, ANIMAL it was dealing with in Jim Henson’s creatures. I blame the creative team whose shortcut to “edginess” was a string of winking (and dull) references to Muppet sex lives. And I blame us for turning these characters into The Muppets our sad-sack century deserves.
I am from Oklahoma. I love being from Oklahoma. I love its people. I love its grand land. I love its Oklahoman-ness.
But boy howdy, the state doesn’t make it easy on me.
Now, I normally don’t comment on the comings and goings of the worst thing about the state of Oklahoma, its Legislature, because it’s an exercise in futility. The state Capitol is a psycho ward whose only redeeming quality is its ability to self-sabotage, thwarting its own ambitions with astounding pettiness, hubris and disregard for, well, laws. What more is there to possibly say?
Well not this time. This time they’ve gone and cooked up a flamebroiled triple-patty dungburger smothered in awful sauce. This time they’ve messed with the nerds. This week, a legislative committee, comprised of honest-to-god elected officials, decided that those darned intellectuals were at it again. The House Common Education Committee, presumably chaired by one of the Smothers Brothers, voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. history classes because, and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s of the devil and President Barack Obama, who to most of the Legislature are the same entity.
Their stated reasons for doing this offer insight into a worldview so dystopic and warped it would make M.C. Escher toss his cookies. First, and this should be no surprise for a conversation that included the esteemed Rep. Sally Kern, these fine servants of the state have conflated Common Core with AP curriculum, which I guess is as easy to do as confusing a democratically elected head of state with the overlord of eternal torment. (My favorite part of this is where Sally Kern says nonrequired, privately created AP curriculum is “similar” to mandatory educational framework Common Core, and thus null and void in a state that repealed the latter. Similar! They are alike! They involve books!)
(By the way, Oklahoma legislators hate Common Core not because of any of its actual failings, but because it is a standardized national curriculum. We do not want our pure heartland spawn learning the same thing as yankees.)
(I apologize for the excessive parenthetical thoughts.)
The other objection offered to allowing our students access to rigorous courses that prepare them and advance them on the path to secondary education? It makes America look bad. Criminitly, Trigger! You people aren’t going to be happy until you’ve got a flag lapel pin the size of a silver-dollar pancake, are you?
Quick fact check: The lib’ral academics behind AP curriculum (from free-wheeling, hippy-dippy institutions like Florida State University) didn’t make America look bad. America has been more than capable of doing that on its own through the years. Just like every other country on this planet. It’s history. If it were all sunshine and kitten kisses, we wouldn’t be teaching it. We’d all be frolicking naked in fields of tulips celebrating another consecutive year without the CNN breaking news ticker.
It’s probably important to note here that the patriot who deployed this “emergency” bill to cut off the head of the essay-test Hydra, Rep. Dan Fisher, is a member of an organization called the Black Robe Regiment, which has the distinguished honor of holding the website that disturbs me the most of all the things that are things. And which I won’t link to here because it scares me, but Google and you will find nuggets like this:
“The time has come that we must now arise and awaken to the danger of this hyper-progressive agenda that so permeates every aspect of our political, legal, and educational systems.”
Look, I went to one of the pretty good school systems in Oklahoma and still wound up with an uninterested assistant football coach teaching high-school AP government (U.S. and world). So let’s stop pretending the College Board has infiltrated America’s education system and installed pagan foreign Communist jihadi wood elves in positions of power. Not even rebel forces want to work for the pittance Oklahoma legislators deem appropriate pay for teachers.
I managed to have to read Hatchet three times in the course of three grades because of the stellar system we’ve concocted. And if I hadn’t switched to AP English in eighth grade? Who knows, maybe I could have slogged through Robinson Crusoe Lite once more. If a rebel alliance has assumed the role of propagandists for Oklahoma’s youth, good for them. I bet their system’s more efficient and less repetitive. They’d probably only make you do one project on their anti-America flag-burning manual.
But, of course, I did switch to AP English, and then managed to partake in a veritable buffet of AP courses, collecting them like badges on a Girl Scout vest. Because I was fortunate. I was fortunate to attend large schools with ample opportunities to earn college credit, the idea being I could then increase my efficiency at the university level, and maybe — just maybe — expedite the journey to a nice, fat taxable income.
I’m told efficiency and profit are big among the conservative community in my cherry-red home state. Isn’t it amazing that it took a bunch of pinko educational oligarchs to make it happen?
I never thought I’d pine the for those halcyon days of last week when everyone was talking about Jack White’s guacamole.
Now that the buzz of the champagne has worn off (kidding: the bubbly’s in my fridge on the reg) and our collective hope for a better future has faded once more, I figured it was time to start thinking about my New Year’s resolutions.
The ones I might actually accomplish.
Because don’t fool yourself: The resolutions you make in December are delusions sparked by mixing a year’s worth of disillusionment with eight slices of bundt cake and four moose-head glasses of Aunt Sally’s spiked nog. They’re never going to happen.
Instead of pipe dreams, why not sit back for a few days and let the euphoria of buying that new calendar wear off. Then you can think clearly about what you can accomplish in the upcoming year.
Here is the list of aims I have arrived at. May the Force be with me.
I had my first experience with fostering a dog over Thanksgiving. Lacey was an angel with a gentle spirit and the backside of brood sow. My Snoopy is very much like me and very much used to being mostly an only child. Sharing is caring, and he’s not good at either.
But not only did we give Lacey a nice temporary home for Thanksgiving (she’s since been adopted!), she taught us a few lessons: in flexibility, how to bull-rush your way anywhere and, mostly, in the benefits of being kind.
Snoopy and I felt good doing good. And we hope to do more of it, or, more accurately, make it more fully a part of day-to-day life. And maybe in the future, the laces on my houseshoes will survive the ordeal. So, in a week, if I haven’t turned in the library volunteer application that’s been collecting dust on my table or taken the mound of donations in my closet to Goodwill, someone publicly shame me.
Innovate, or The Great Chipotle Caper
If I’ve discovered one thing during my first few years in the workforce, it’s the sensation of your brain oozing out of your ears.
When I crawl home to my lair at the end of each day, I feel worn or dulled. I’ve been ON for 8 to 9 hours, and now I want to turn OFF. So I sit and I vegetate and I look up and I’ve watched all four seasons of Dinosaurs. (Newsflash: There were four seasons of Dinosaurs!)
This is not healthy. I am a person with ideas, or once was and can be again. It is time to act, and to do so, it makes sense to start with the problems that are staring you in the face. Which brings me to Chipotle.
I am what you’d call a frequent flier at Chipotle — a veritable VIP of its fine build-your-own wares. (Attention, Corporate, the Archer Road establishment in Gainesville, Florida, is my Cheers bar and they always have my clementine Izze waiting for me at the register, so promotions may be in order.)
That said, Corporate, we need to have a talk about cheese. Namely, its placement in the assembly line, an astonishingly efficient — if, as you’ll see, slightly flawed — process that, I’ll grant you, Henry Ford would have given his left lug nut for.
For the pagans among you, the manufacturing order at Chipotle goes something like this, from left to right:
The ingredients run from the essential hot base to the cold toppings, and reasonably so. But there seems not to have been enough consideration about the place of heat-affected ingredients: namely cheese. When you layer on cheese on top of your salsas and sour cream and corn, it cannot fully make contact with the piping hot beans and sustainably raised meats. It cannot melt. You are missing out on mouth pleasure. Whereas if you’d just move the cheese ahead of pico de gallo, it might stand a fighting chance of bonding with your barbacoa and creating a more perfect bowl.
I said last year was the year of the YOLO, because the long-awaited trip to New Zealand finally happened. But my resolve petered out by the end of the year, and all I could muster were tiny out-of-character moments, like somberly performing the theme to Fresh Prince at karaoke. That’s how little stamina I had for that YOLO life.
Well not this year, damn it. I’m going to live. I’m going to do things that excite me even when the rest of the world scratches its collective head. I’m going to wear what I want. I’m going to throw raging parties. I’m going to sign up for the GRE. I’m going to try to suck less at arts and crafts.
To be honest, I’ve already bought a new bedspread. So how hard could the rest of living dangerously be?
This may sound rich from someone with a journalism degree, a personal blog and a blogging side gig, but I don’t write enough — nonfiction and fiction, personal and professional. I miss the days when I churned out long feature stories weekly (and it doesn’t help that every day I read some of the best feature stories around for a living); I aim to weasel my way back to doing that this year, somehow. Of course, that tends to involve more brainstorming, and for that, see earlier entry on brain oozing from ears.
Oh, and my novel? Let’s not speak of it, or the epic failure of motivation that was NaNoWriMo. I’ll just let my submission to the “Worst Sentence You Wrote Today” forum speak for itself: “Their daughter had the natural grace of a dog on its back in one of the sofa’s valleys.” That’s not even to speak of the abandoned short-story-ideas file on my desktop.
Any and all ideas on how to make time to let the creative juices flow are appreciated. 2015 has to be the year of the pen, because I’ve already ruled out all other creative outlets, like doodling, as viable.
In addition to writing for work and pleasure, I’ve become incredibly lazy about keeping up with my loved ones, largely because Facebook messaging is Sisyphean torment. It’s a chore, when communicating with your dearest friends should be a joy and a privilege.
So, folks, be my pen pal. Let’s bring back the art of letter-writing, the personal, deliberate, thoughtful act of informing others of your goings-on and learning of theirs. Plus, it gives me the chance to use these puppies.
You’d think this wouldn’t need to be an item on an agenda, wouldn’t you? Tell that to Big Internet — and apparently Big Science. A cursory search for “happiness” on HuffPo turns up 604,000 results, including “This Is What Happiness Looks Like, According to Scientists,” “20 Ways to Choose Happiness,” “This Is Scientific Proof That Happiness is Choice” and “This Is the Mathematical Formula for Happiness.”
Shoot, happiness requires math and science? It’s remarkable I’m not the cover image on a Maxine greeting card.
You really would think it wouldn’t take a listicle to remind you to be happy. It should come naturally, without work, without a degree, without much in the way of resistance. Of course, it doesn’t. Happiness can be hard to bottle, and no matter how much you manage to suckle from the teat of Life, you can never get enough.
But it doesn’t mean we should stop trying. This year, I’m setting out to acquire some happiness any which I can, whether it’s finally buying the glow-in-the-dark stars for my bedroom ceiling that I never got as a child, or learning something — the banjo! ceramics! ancient Mayan! how to end a post! — or not reading the comments section on any article on any website ever, ever again.
Let’s all be nice in 2015. You do you, and I’ll do me, and everything will be beautiful, and nothing will hurt.
Reports of this blog’s death have been mildly exaggerated. A mere two months ago, I extended an offer of editorial democracy, opening a vote for my next post. It’s only taken me a changing of the seasons, but here I am to make good on that promise.
Eventually, I hope to get to several of the options, as well as a few write-ins, but for now: the Craigslist ad for the perfect trivia partner.
First, however, we’re going to talk about trivia. This weekend I had the unfortunate experience of my second trivia-related dream in as many months. In this one, my subconscious actually formed questions — apparently from the ether — to torment me. Among them:
1) What is Pink’s best-known song?
This is incredibly subjective and unfair, especially considering that since at least I’m Not Dead (if not before),every Pink hit single has followed the same catchy and successful formula, which can be summed up easily: phonies < people who are OK (i.e., people who buy Pink records) < Pink.
Right now, I cannot mentally conjure the track list of Funhouse, but Dream Me did and argued vehemently, after running through every song on the album, with Ghost Dream Trivia Team that the answer was clearly “So What.” Which is completely correct if you go by Billboard’s rankings. (I woke up seething over this, because my Dream Team opted for some fictional track from Missundaztood, and I had to prove them wrong.)
2) Which famous bicyclist did Abbott and Costello send to northern India to comment on that country’s caste system?
I’m not kidding. From my mind’s diaspora came this random assortment of words strung together into what would be an incredibly interesting film directed by George Clooney. I Googled every aspect of this too when I woke up just to make sure I wasn’t accidentally a genius and had retained this awesome fact.
I am not a genius, though I’m thrilled I woke up before we could get to more questions about Golda Meir’s favorite brand of soap or lists of the world’s most famous defenestrations performed by circus clowns.
That said, I can piece together why I am dreaming up questions to stump myself. Because I spend 1-2 nights a week with this motley crew of characters on our endless quest for self-love gratification and trophies.
As a result, I may be losing my mind. But before I do, let me leave you with what I consider the perfect addition to a trivia troupe.
Seeking Trivia Partner Slightly Smarter Than Me
Looking for a new member for an ensemble of grizzled bar trivia veterans. We play competitively most nights at an advanced level. Other nights, we crawl to the door in sheer embarrassment of living. Hoping to round out the rotation with someone with knowledge in the following areas: late ’80s music, early ’90s non-children’s cinema, astrophysics, recent studies on human sexuality, the nuanced politics of world conflict in the early 20th century, obscure candy varieties, comics.
As you might have noticed, I am of the female persuasion. I also happen to be lucky enough to live in a period of history in which the weaker, fairer sex is allowed to disseminate thoughts, opinions and troves of animated GIFs on the Internet superhighway.
What a time to be alive.
With those facts now established, let us come to the point. I am disturbed. I have been disturbed since this flashed across the screen of my computing machine. For those who’ve maxed out their free New York Times articles for the month, allow me to sum up, using words smaller than “lesson in semiotics”: Feminism, laden with decades of baggage bestowed on it by both genders, is a frightening term that has spooked some young womanly famous persons back into their hidey holes.
Coming on the heels of #YesAllWomen, this is troubling to me. It troubles me that there are childbearing humans who object to a descriptor of a movement designed solely for their benefit. Because to be clear, let’s just pause to define feminism.
1) the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.
2) organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.
That’s straight from Merriam-Webster, which in these fractured times, I believe, is the only institution besides Bruce Springsteen whose judgment we still universally trust.
That is feminism’s definition, but it is not its connotation, which has become so burdensome its invention and evolution needs a Morley Safer expose. No, no, to a certain troublingly ample segment of the population, a feminist is as follows: a bra-burning, man-hating fembot bent on nothing less than the singular destruction of all that is holy and Hooters’ chicken wings.
Some women just want to watch the potpourri burn.
After much research, reflection and analysis of hyperventilating Internet commenters, I have come up with the completest picture possible of the image that the Statler and Waldorfs of social causes conjure up when presented with the term “feminism.”
Picture it: Season 1, Episode 9 of the defining sitcom of our ageBoy Meets World. In “Class Pre-Union” Mr. Feeny is up to his unending-torment hijinks again when he asks the class to come up with what their life would be like in 20 years. The A plot is all about Cory vs. Feeny on his failure to plan ahead. The historical and sociological importance of this episode, however, comes from Topanga, as always. Here, kooky, pre-hair-straightener Topanga has shown up in a toga and declared herself president of a more utopian United States. Why? “We moved all men underground and use them just for breeding.”
This is the Faustian bargain implied: the rise of women must mean the demise of men. For we can make toilets play music and wild animals pick winners of our sporting events, but it would be impossible to conceive a world in which both halves of the populace were given the same shot at a college education or a modest, middle-class income without instituting quotas or relying on funded STEM initiatives. It’s probably because of boobs. Everything always is.
Heaven help us if those crazy broads ever get the vote: they might just start electing their own kind. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahaha.
Are you ready to discuss what self-identifying as a feminist actually means? Sure, feminists are people who Lean In, but also people who Recline, who Totter, and those of us who coalesce under the banner of the Prone Woman. Notice I said people. Straight men are people and can be feminists too. In fact they should if they want to be considered dateable. (Gay men are, by and large, bra burners without my nudging.)
Feminists can get married (to whomever they choose in some states!*). Feminists can have babies (if they’re a female feminist or Arnold Schwarzenegger!). Feminists can even operate motor vehicles. All feministy women desire is the right to make decisions about our lives with the same freedom as our male counterparts. It would also be nice if mechanics deflated the dollar signs twinkling in their eyes when we walk in; I know my car does not need that much service. And maybe fewer cat calls, too. That’d be great.
Here is where, if I had any, I would respond to some fan mail. Instead, I’m going to respond to the comments section of this pearl-clutching (yet worth listening to because we respect opinions that are punctuated correctly) piece from National Review. Shall we?
“… female liberation is defined as guiltless promiscuity …”
I believe you’re mixing up the concept of “female liberation” with “the whole of human history.” If I’m remembering my methodic watching of The Tudors correctly, Henry VIII broke off the shackles of his papal imprisonment so he could wed, bed and ultimately destroy (mostly not in that order) as many women as he pleased. Dude had like 87 concubines and more than one decapitated wife. He was a man.
Julius Caesar? “Liberating” people right and left. See also: slut. Aaron Burr? Shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, shtupped everyone. Why shouldn’t Catherine the Great have the same opportunities with some stable boys without worrying about being stoned to death, beheaded or thrown into destitution? Fair is fair (is a veritable smorgasboard).
Next comme — No, never mind. I can’t bring myself to go down the rabbit hole. So I’ll just end it here.