CrowBiz

…funk for the old soul…

Archive for May, 2009

The First (and Last) Bank of Etsy

Posted by crowbiz on May 29, 2009

 

Shake it, baby!

Shake it, baby!

That’s it, I’ve officially declared myself as having “been around.”  Not that around, the other around.  No, I can’t play longer-than-thou on Etsy with any clout, like all those “I remember when there were just the four of us back in 2005…  Oh, remember how great the fall of 2006 was before all those (thinly disguised pejoratives) were signing up every day?”  But having ground out a hard-won 20 months, I’m a veritable geezer in Etsy world.

 

It’s working OK for me.

Why it may be working or not working for you is an apple to my orange.  Or melon, if you don’t mind.  

There is no “key,” so stop looking for it.  But there are about 1000 keyless entry doors you’ll have to go through, some that lead into little worlds of warm, fuzzy successes, often temporary, and some that open over a precipice down which you will plummet like Wiley Coyote.  Stop obsessing and make decisions.  Quit microanalyzing the frigging Google Analytics and make something.  It might be an object, or a phonecall, or a difficult decision (yeah, that crocheted thingie is bone ugly).  There will be failures.  Try some stuff.  It’s your issue to figure out.  And it does not matter why someone in Texas visited your site 12 times yesterday between 2:00-3:00 am.

I’ve said this many times in forums when I can pull myself away from eavesdropping on catfights or things like the “hair disc” thread:  Etsy is not an ATM.  Yeah, it sounds crabby, like a jaded old-timer who isn’t willing to help a newbie, but friends, that’s the simplest, most helpful thing you might hear all week or all month as you spend hours of your life trolling the forums looking for “the way.”  It’s your business.  Maybe it’s your hobby, in which case, you’re probably not annoying the world with your worries, and I thank you very much.  For many people, it starts as a hobby, then becomes an obsession once a little money trickles in.  Dangerous territory.

If I see one more of those tv or magazine “Great Way to Make Money” plugs that mentions Etsy, along with medical billing, stuffing envelopes and inventing a market-sweeping new gadget, I may or may not audibly groan, but I will shake my head a little like that old timer sitting next to the pickle barrel, and keep on slowly rocking.

Oh, and just a reminder:  did you know it’s actually Etsy’s site, and you are allowed to do business on it?

What Crow needs to do is take some B vitamins, drink some iced tea, and lay off.  Eventually.

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Posted in Business & Etsy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Door of My Discontent

Posted by crowbiz on May 28, 2009

It’s over now, but I can’t shake it.  In a fit of home reno, we hired someone to refinish all the floors on the first floor of our house.  The upset began about two weeks ago with short notice that Floor Man would be coming, so we’d better clear the decks.  It’s like moving out, but with nowhere to go, so for those who know us, imagine all our first floor “possessions” jammed upstairs, in the kitchen and assorted other spots around our already overaccessorized home.  For those who don’t know our house, suffice to say, there’s a lot of crap piled up with a lot of other crap, all over, under and about.  The 3/4 life size St. Anthony statue got a couple rides on a dolly, which is the most excitement he’s seen in centuries.  We can open the refrigerator door about six inches, which means that watermelon in there is spitefully doing a swan song, laughing every time we look in and re-lament that we can’t reach or remove it.

I can’t even mention the dust without breaking down in a most unattractive way, so I’d better be brief.

Our hero the Floor Man had to remove only one door, a big, solid one, when tackling the last area – the dining room and foyer.  He propped it in the kitchen, and after applying the floor finish, curiously repositioned it to block access from the kitchen to the dining room, as we have kids who don’t listen, and a dog who does (but with a smaller receptive vocabulary).  It was leaning upright against an open swing door, eerily disembodied.

Not right

Not right

 

 

It put me over the edge.

You wouldn’t think there was anything particularly troubling about it, but after a week of noise, dust (I have to bite my lower lip), moving, removing, the stench of polyurethane, power fans at night, and all five of us being confined to a few rooms, the door absolutely did me in.

Look at it and you can immediately appreciate that it signifies wrongness.  It’s like something straight out of a bad dream:  “Hey, there’s a door, let’s see… but it’s not really connected to anything…is it?  I want to go through it, but I can’t, yet I can see beyond it.”  (flickers of panic begin)  “Why?  Wha… is this MY house?  That looks like my dining room…can’t get there… floating door….aaaahhh!”  This is where I start breathing as if I’d just run the Kentucky Derby and usually thrash a few times until I wake Mr Crow with a flailing arm.  Atmospheric music consists of something Kurt Weill-esque on an untuned harmonium.  There is unattributable laughter, fading in and out, loud and quiet, like when a kid plays with the volume knob.

 

Yes, that's a garden hose in the kitchen.  Life's like that these days.

Yes, that's a garden hose in the kitchen. Life's like that these days.

I’m sweating just writing about it.  Well, the floors are finished and look fabulous.  We’re not rushing to move anything back, not because we like consuming foods and beverages less than six inches wide, but because the floors are so smooth, pretty and silky that we’d rather just stare or roll around on them.

 

What made the floating door worse than all the other typical reno hassles is not clear.  It’s back now, but I’m not.

Make it go away

Make it go away

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Good Luck, New Wife

Posted by crowbiz on May 27, 2009

 

To Have and Hold

To Have and Hold

How children develop their sense of adult institutions is a complicated mystery.  Careers, relationships, mortgages, the ability to choose your own diet and bedtime – kids have an off-kilter take on all of it, and mom and dad, naturally, shoulder most of the blame.  When you have your first baby, you harbor all sorts of laughable if noble ideas about how you’re going to carefully, deftly and properly mold this child.  A few years and/or children later, your parental aspirations sadly degrade from “crafting a fine human being” to “avoiding irrevocable damage and resentment,” and even that can be a challenge.

 

When SonWon was about six, he was philosophizing in the bathroom while Mr Crow showered.  “Dad,” he asked, “If Mom died, would you want to go on dates?”  Mr. Crow, knowing I was within earshot, answered in cue-card fashion, “Why-no-honey!  I-don’t-think-I’d-want-to-go-on-dates.”  Son pondered this for a second and said, “Well, if I had a wife and it died, I’d probably want to get a new one.”  It.  One.

He seems to have had the goldfish model in mind; after flushing the dead wife down the toilet, he’d be free to pursue others.  One imagines the Wife Shelter, where dozens of potential wives are waiting in little fenced cubicles, available for viewing and short supervised walks.  Posted on each pen is the reason for ending up at the shelter and other special instructions:  “owner could not care for,”  “allergic,”  “moving, could not take with,”  “stray,”  “should be only wife in household,”  “separation anxiety,” and for many, “needs meds.”  After choosing one and checking out, a guy could drive home in excited anticipation of the new relationship while the New Wife lies curled up on a blanket in the back seat.

 

Another Option

Another Option

The boys are in that hazy stage where marriage is a far-off, far-out concept that has fringe appeal to other people.  Kind of like people who eat deep-fried animal testicles;  it may be their thing, but it ain’t for me.  They often assert their desire to remain unmarried, which I tell them is fine if that’s how they feel when they grow up.  “I don’t want to have to get married,” they proclaim, “I could be like (so-and-so).”  Inserted are names of various never-married or divorced adult men we know.  That almost all their models of bachelorhood are gay has yet to be addressed, but the good news for them is that marriage is not an inevitable entity like death and taxes.  Yet at other times, they offhandedly refer to their future family, wife and marriage.  Alternately, they claim to want the freedoms of marriagelessness, then in another breath, express pity for those poor guys with no wife – no one to talk to, play with or drive around with.  Bummer!

 

 

SonToo may be reconciling himself.  He’s past the age of wanting to grow up and marry Mom; he’s shifted his nuptial goals to something that’s probably more realistic and socially acceptable:  our dog.  I haven’t the heart to tell him that, given her projected lifespan, he’ll have to be a mere teenage groom to a geriatric bride with a grey muzzle and “leakage” problems.  But it’s a positive sign that he’s warming to the idea of connubial commitment to something.

As far as parent-child talks go, we cover a lot.  While out on a special weekday lunch, my boys began pondering life if Mr. Crow and I were to divorce or if one of us were to die.  Not surprisingly, it was an unpleasant idea for them, but almost worse was the prospect that either parent would remarry.  Like a good sport with sleuthing skills, I managed to elicit plenty out of them, though the way they blared their opinions (for most of the restaurant to hear) made my work easy.  They were particularly concerned about Dad getting himself a new partner.  Sample sentiments included “He’d listen to her instead of us!”,  “He might like her more and take her side!”, and other dad-siphoning, us-against-her anxieties.  Did they envision a dad zombified in the New Wife’s presence, failing his progeny while doing Her evil bidding? It was in all our best interests to prevent this from happening, which brought to mind various “Parent Trap” techniques (she wouldn’t last an hour on one of our camping trips).  SonWon, older and marginally more worldly, articulated each point, while SonToo repeatedly shouted “Yeah!” in between fries. What about me? I queried. What if I married a different man?  Interestingly, despite their objections, they didn’t voice the same worries.  They were not overly vexed about my potential bamboozlement, but viewed the New Husband more as a general and unnecessary intrusion into our lives.  

I got them ice cream cones on the way out.

Posted in Bunkbed Confidential | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Old Things, Corny Things, Good Things: Part 3: Canned Bread

Posted by crowbiz on May 26, 2009

B&M Canned BreadYes, that reads canned bread, also known as brown bread.  How many people have even heard of it?  Have you ever eaten it?  If so, why?  How did this get on my list?  This one I can blame on my kids.

One of my many parental failings is a propensity for allowing my boys to watch hair-raising amounts of SpongeBob SquarePants.  There, I’ve said it.  It’s not easy to admit publicly, and neither is that I find SB SP inordinately hilarious.  If you’re a fan (don’t even pretend you’re not), you know the characters and their idiosyncrasies.  My favorite character is Squidward Tentacles, probably because I identify most closely with him both physically and psychologically.Squidward  Squidward is the centerpiece of my favorite episodes, including the one in which, fed up with SpongeBob’s antics, he moves to an all-squid, gated community.  There, he is free to pursue his life’s joys:  riding his squeaky bicycle, joining an interpretive dance class, playing in a clarinet band, and buying canned bread.  (There is a moral here.  Ultimately, all the predictability and like-minded squids get to be a drag on poor Squidman, and he finally cracks, going berserk with a leaf blower and wreaking havoc through the squid community a la SpongeBob.)

Before I had ever seen this episode, I overheard my boys mention “canned bread” and wondered hard how in the world they’d ever heard of it.  Evidently, it shows up in SpongeBob somewhat regularly.  Imagine their surprise when I told them that canned bread is not just a twisted cartoon comestible, but a real thing you can buy and actually eat!  So off we went in search of it.  It wasn’t easy, but we unearthed it in Wegman’s.  They thrilled as I unloaded it, rippled with machine indentations, out of its can shell and cut into it.

An earnest product, canned bread comes out can-shaped, much like canned jellied cranberry.  It’s dark brown.  It’s flecked with…something.  It’s vaguely sweet.  It’s dense.  It might be the Spam of breads, but like a lot of things, when you think too much about it, you ruin it for everyone. When I was a kid, there were rare appearances of canned bread which we ate with a thin layer of cream cheese or just butter.  Afterward, someone would always say, “Who eats this stuff?”, apparently forgetting that we just had.  Anyway, my boys dug it with a little butter and amazingly, the whole “loaf” eventually got polished off.  If I were some kind of journalist, I’d have looked up the ingredients and provenance of canned bread, but this is the internet age, so you can do it yourself.  What I do know is that it hails from New England and has fittingly unfancy, Puritan qualities about it – plain, dark, heavy, not exactly sweet, and rejecting of anything but the missionary position.  Thou must harken yon blog and try some.

For four of the last five years, we have vacationed on the Maine coast, and necessarily drive through the small slice of New Hampshire between Massachusetts and Maine.  Just next to the highway is ground zero for our brand of (and best known) canned bread – the B & M Factory!   It’s an exciting moment when I spot it, since we’re usually about eight or nine hours into the grueling road trip, and I call out to alert the boys.  With eyes widened and lips rounded into silent “whoa”s, we gaze upon it as the pious view Lourdes, craning our necks until we’re too far past it.  Mr. Crow, not sharing our enthusiasm for canned bread nor Squidward, keeps his eyes and attention on the upcoming toll plaza.

It’s cheap enough, so go get yourself some canned bread.  If you don’t care for it, its consistency makes it easy to cut into amusing shapes, so you’re likely to have greater success moving it among the kiddie crowd.  Just don’t explain too much.

Posted in Old Corny Good Things, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Just Clowning Around

Posted by crowbiz on May 20, 2009

 

Also available in teal, orange and mauve

Also available in teal, orange and mauve

Before beginning this story, you might want to find a huge rubber bicycle horn and slip into some size 30 shoes.

 

Years ago (isn’t everything?  Nothing kooky ever happens to me anymore), I had a college job in an office on campus.  It was the perfect antecedent to “The Office” staffed by middle-aged, middle-American, middle-hair-parted civil servants, and a couple wise-ass college kids like me and my dear friend who I met there.  We saw no end to the entertainment available by just observing the daily drudgery and goings-on while fulfilling our duties, which we did far better than the time-wasting, Xerox-jamming state-issued “servants” (Later, I was asked by our new director if I’d please consider staying and taking a permanent position in the office. As if remembering too late that I was headed into grad school, he looked embarrassed and answered himself with, “No, I guess you have other things going on.”  I thanked him anyway.)

While I could fill a few Oxford Dictionary-sized volumes with episodes and character portraits from this three or four year period, I’d like to focus attention on one amusing, if disturbing aspect of the office atmosphere.  In our employ were not one, but two men moonlighting as “professional” clowns.  It was never clear if this was just a statistically improbable and horrible coincidence or if the two jokers somehow got into the scene together;  I do know they worked separate gigs, which could be a facet in the Code of Clown Conduct or some other secret clown tome that we straights are not meant to know.

One of these men was a very sweet, corny older fellow and deserves no abuse.  I think.

The other (cue the minor chord), was the polyester-clad spokesman for middle-age lechery and general asshattery.  Not only did everyone have to endure his wince-inducing bad puns and stabs at humor, but his leering, roving, watering eyes as they unabashedly played over any female form within range in the large open office.  Said eyes were stationed behind smudged glasses with thick dark plastic frames.  Do I even need to mention he was mostly bald, save for a few friar-style strands, had a big 70s stashe and topped out at about 5’3″?  Even without the unwelcome humor and harassing looks, he was a tool.

 

That endless hankie gag is hot!

That endless hankie gag is hot!

Sit down now, because I’m going to lay on some serious information.  Did you know that clowns have to “take” their professional name?  You don’t just go calling yourself BoBo or Twinkles and start the show – you somehow (again, secret clown code) apply for and “become” your Clown Alter Ego.  This probably works something like a DBA, with the additional step of a clandestine ritual involving a spritzer bottle and a rubber chicken.  I wish I could say this was a joke, but there is a clown who occasionally visits my kids’ school named PeePee.  I guess PooPoo, CaaCaa and WeeWee must have been taken.  For your enjoyment is the Clown Name Generator, which deemed me “Perky van Wannino.”  I’m not displeased.  Go ahead, get your clown name, but don’t go buzzing it all over town, or the real clown posse, 29 of them in one Smart Car, will come and deal with your kneecaps with a rubber bat.  

 

The antihero of this story was…………   Ding-a-Ling.  Yep, he had the business cards and stationary to prove it.  We know the depth of it because my friend and I used to raid his files when we’d “work” later than everyone else.  Clown correspondence, notes on good and bad gigs, good props for different age groups, etc, and a troubling series of letters about not using the Giant Comb trick with kids, as it once led to a lice epidemic.  Boo, Ding-a-Ling, booo!  

(Raided his files! you gasp.  State property!  I reply)

Now then, if you were in Ding-a-Ling’s huge shoes, and you worked with 24 overweight older ladies and two zippy little college gals, where might you direct your sexual energy in the workplace?  Without going into the years-long build-up, let’s jump to the season when D-a-L curiously turned up the flame and started cornering my friend and me whenever possible, sometimes physically, and always with a sexual mal mot of the corniest order.  Sample:  if we coughed or cleared our throat, he’d imply that we’d caught a cold from too much XXX-ing in the back seat of the car at night with our beaux.  He’d waltz into the mailroom and ask if he’d be needed to perform a hickey check.   Gave neck and back massages whenever he could justify getting behind one of us. Innocently questioned how much of something might fit into our mouth.  Suggested my friend’s aching back was due to her (clumsily described) front.  Yes, we call this sexual harassment, but it was so hokey as to first inspire more disbelief than outrage.

My friend, a self-confident young woman with little tolerance for bullshit, politely and firmly told D-a-L to stop the comments and behavior.  Alas, it only fueled his fire and the stakes were raised;  he came out full-force, with virtual pancake makeup, rubber nose and armed with his squirting boutonniere of perversion.  For being confronted, he said something to the effect of, “I’m not mad, I’ll just get even.”  And lo, the antics worsened, deepened, got meaner.  My last straw came when, in clear view of many coworkers, Ding pinned me to a filing cabinet, bum-to-bum, and started doing the twist against me…er, my back…uh, side. 

Later that same day, my friend and I marched into our old director’s office to complain.  That this man was himself only a few atoms of restraint less lecherous than D-a-L was not encouraging, but as director, it was his mission to officially do something.  Something ended up as having to put Ding on file with Human Resources and to issue a stern, private “talking to.”  Certainly, their talk amounted to a comparative analysis of my friend’s and my breasts, but at least we’d done our bit.

Wooo boy, was old Ding-a-Ling pissed!  You see, this was the 80s, and sexual harassment was a fairly new concept even to sensitive people, much less archaic deviants like Ding, who likely thought that a good slap on the ass was a useful way to both encourage your “girl” to file faster and keep her spirits up.  He made a big point of glowering at us whenever possible and avoided having any of his work pass through our hands.  His most eye-roll-worthy tactic was a slapstick 3-foot leap out of our path every time we would pass in the hallway, mailroom or file area.  Hey, a clown’s gotta be a clown; the weekend is never enough.  Without the grease paint and spotlight, it was getting harder and harder (no pun intended) to call attention to himself, until one day I witheringly asked without bothering to look up, “How would your wife feel about this?”  I can’t recall anything about Ding from that moment on.

Flash forward to a couple semesters ago when I was teaching Abnormal Psychology.  While discussing phobias, someone offered loudly, “clowns!”, and I simply had to synopsize the Ding-a-Ling travesty.  The class was veritably rolling, and many a teary eye was wiped before we settled down.  I ended up using it as an extra credit question:

In a personal story related by Dr. Wannemacher, what was the name of the “professional clown” coworker implicated in the sexual harassment case?  a)  Spanky  b) Humpty-Dumpty  c) Ding-a-Ling  d) Wee Willie Winkie  e) Gropo  f) Noodles

Almost everyone got it right, except for that slacker in the back row.

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

When Photos Meant Something

Posted by crowbiz on May 18, 2009

 

 

My parents, Pat & Elmer, on their honeymoon, 1947

My parents, Pat & Elmer, on their honeymoon, 1947

Here’s an experience that is rapidly disappearing:  holding a photo in your hand, and then having to put it somewhere, that is, finding a place to keep it.  I’m not in any way photo-literate enough to do a thoughtful essay (already covered by many experts and others, and filling many volumes and web pages) about how our relationship to photography has changed over time.  I’ve got just a regular person’s love-hate thing with photos, and to boot, I’m old enough to remember Instamatic cameras, four-sided disposable flashbulbs and how to load a roll of film (film-using cameras have been deemed one of many “vanishing” items in America, along with alleyways, maple syrup, pit toilets and others).

 

 

Remember, a frame of film was a single entity that you had one and only one chance with.  You had to pick your shot very carefully so as not to waste film.  Life’s footage was carefully measured out in 12 or 24 shots, or if you splurged, maybe 36.  Vacations were extra tricky, since you had to bring enough film with you.  Uh oh, you blew five shots trying to catch that deer at your campsite, so now you have only two left for the Grand Canyon.  It made you have to THINK and PLAN.  Sometimes you had to wait a while to use up the whole roll of film in the camera; there was that looong stretch between the summer picnic and Christmas when, according to any available photo records, it seemed that all life had just ceased.  Then you had to send the film to be processed, which could take days.  Eagerly, you’d rip open the pack of finished photos to find – goddamn it all! – Grandma had her eyes closed!  Or, your F-ing thumb was in the way in three shots!  Either way, you’d usually keep every photo, every Grandma Blinker and thumb dud, and arrange it into something.  A sticky photo album, a shoe box, or maybe plasticy sleeves.  In the old days, photo albums were substantial, important seeming things of black paper, with photos held in at their wavy edges by little black photo corners.  Photo corners can still be purchased – at the suburban big-box craft stores where all types of products are available to create an ersatz past (don’t forget to glue the chipboard “Memories” embellishment to the cover of your fake old-fashioned album, just in case you aren’t sure what photos are).  Polaroid cameras offered instant gratification, but they were rarer and the film was expensive and came in even smaller units, so it was a heavy trade-off.

Nowadays, we snap with abandon, which is a fine thing.  It’s for good reason that I did not categorize film as an Old Thing, Corny Thing, Good Thing, because frankly, using film in older cameras sucked for a lot of people, plus I like having second, third and fourteenth chances.  Photographer friends, you are free to take me to task about this later, but wait until I have a drink in my hand, and remember that I’m a average dolt and I wear corrective lenses.  

However, I sense a funny gap wherein our photo sensibilities have not quite caught up with our photo abilities.  We take lots of shots. Lots. Digitally, you can save or trash immediately – so why don’t people get rid of more?  No need to save Blinky Granny, flashed-out faces, thumb-blocks and blurs.  So how the heck do they end up all over the web?  Every- and anyone with a camera posts online now, and a quick tour of any website, blog (ahem), MySpace, Flickr and what have you will show that people simply cannot self-edit.  We already know the loss of this skill is endemic in our culture, otherwise television programming would dwindle to M*A*S*H re-runs and the weather report, not to mention blogs (ahem, a little something in my throat this morning) would barely exist.  Could you at least pretend that you have only 24 shots and you have to pick which of your 725 from this weekend will make the cut?   

It would seem that people still feel the need to keep photos, somehow, as we did in the old days, as a priceless reminder of something.  Because it happened and because you were there.  Too bad the rest of us have to stumble on them so often. The first person to whine, “No one’s forcing you to look at other people’s photos, so if you don’t want to see them, you don’t have to go online and blah blah blah” gets sprayed in the face with a power washer (look, if I’m going to be a voyeur, I at least want to see stuff worth voy…ing).  It’s as if we haven’t recognized that we have the fabulous ability to document as much as we want, then – strike the gong of empowerment – choose!  

I’m very glad to have a few photos of my parents as little kids in the late 1920s.

Are you very glad you have a shot of the back of your friend’s head in a dark, fuzzy room full of people you don’t know at that boring party you were just leaving?

Self-promo Alert!

My often neglected Flickr stream.  Yes, there are photos of trash and feces.  Imagine that in grandma’s album.

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dog Is My Co-Pilot

Posted by crowbiz on May 15, 2009

 

 

Rarin' to go

Rarin' to go

You’ve seen the bumper stickers, which do nice double duty expressing one’s love of dogs and skewering sticky-backed religious proclamations all in one (a favorite of mine is “Jesus would use his turn signal”)  However, this post isn’t meant to promote misty-eyed sentiment about all the joys that dog companionship brings;  those who love or have dogs already know this in full measure, and those who don’t like dogs have deeper problems than I care to entertain right now. What I aim to consider is how Dog Maintenance is a useful and potentially dangerous tool for one’s productivity.  In the right measure, it can provide mental lubrication and inspiration, but if employed carelessly, can become a day-long unfolding conduit to procrastinatory guilt.  

 

 

Let’s tackle the latter.  Dogs need stuff.  Food, walks, more or less grooming, playtime, toys, cuddling, other dog time, more walks, chances to get into a little trouble, and whatever else you may provide, which is your business.  But don’t let this be your excuse for an unavoidable time-suck when deadlines loom and unpleasant tasks await.  Need to start cleaning the basement?  Well, you could just take the dog out for a little walk first, get that out of the way….  Is there a dreaded phonecall to be made?  You know, you are supposed to check between your dog’s toes for ticks, and even if you don’t live in the country, you’d feel mighty bad if you were negligent here.  By the way, did you remember to put the heartworm pill sticker on the calender from April through November?….  Have a stack of papers to grade (ahem)?  Oh, that’s going to take a long time, so I ought to give the dog some attention now to hold her over for a while….  Don’t kid yourself.  Whenever unenjoyable or daunting work needs to be tackled, it’s never a better time to (choose up to eight):

– organize five years worth of photos

– call your friend who sent those reprints found in the photo pile

– walk the dog

– google that vexing term you keep meaning to get to

– play with the dog

– deadhead flowers

– decide this would be a good time to wash the dog’s bedding

– more menial jobs that could fill 17 more pages….

** Warning!  Cat people, do not try to substitute your cat for this story.  It isn’t intended to apply to cats for various reasons.  No, I’ve got nothing against cats, or not much.  I had cats for approximately 30 years; I like cats; I’m over cats. Anyway, cats and blogs are a toxic mix.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, read a few, but don’t say I didn’t warn you, and don’t come crying back to me.  **

On the other hand, having a dog around is a great way to enjoy companionship during work time without the downsides of humans.  Those of you who work from home, raise your hands.  It’s fine to talk jibberish out loud when with the dog; in fact, he prefers it.  Want to belt out a song at 9:48 am?  Try that in your cubicle. At least at home you have an appreciative audience who would actually like more.  Dog Presence is like having a silent, nonjudgmental coworker around, and you feel slightly accountable to some entity, albeit furry, so you’re likely to get some things accomplished.

Long walks are the clincher for me, and all the more justifiable with a young, high-energy dog.  We both get our exercise and I get to casually inspect people’s yards and houses from an acceptable distance (hint:  pretending to adjust the dog harness is a great way to stop and try to look in people’s houses from the sidewalk.  I won’t name names, but you there on Chapin Parkway, that’s a really ugly lamp in the front window.)  The less obvious but sizable benefit is that this is my mental exercise; many people use their daily workout to think things over, brainstorm, compose, problem solve and all those other cognitive functions we can’t manage when required to pay attention to other tasks of the moment.  Insecurity prevents me from revealing my own dog duty mental miracles, because it would be easy for the outsider to say, “You walk three miles through the city and can’t come up with something better than that?”  But without the walks, I wouldn’t even have that.  Plus, unlike being in the gym, you can still talk jibberish during the walk!  The late, great ZuZu did a fine job getting me on this path 12 years ago.  Stella continues the tradition, and oddly, seems to poop less, which cuts into my mental time less.  Does the dog make me a better person?  That’s too hokey to answer, but I’ll say it helps.

It’s not a one-way street, though.  Sure, there is the occasional squeaky toy pressed insistently into your left buttock, or the rare whine-in-your-face, sometimes accompanied by a Frito-scented paw on your leg, but none of these distractions actually require you to think.  The interruption can usually be cleared with a few human noises and hand gestures to dismiss the dog – if only kids and coworkers responded so quickly and easily.  And the dog still loves your lousy singing.  

Every dog is just a four-legged Carl Rogers, so if you have one, start self-actualizing.

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Lemonade Stand Mistakes for Etsy Sellers

Posted by crowbiz on May 13, 2009

This is a parable about some really bad ways to start your business.  If you can’t uncover the parallels, you might want to compress your head in a sliding glass door for 30 minutes, then come back and try again.  One of my favorite sayings is, “Look within.”  

Growing up, I lived in an odd, remote semi-suburban, semi-rural compound that could be called a neighborhood.  It was a small arc of a “street” containing exactly 18 houses, with another six facing the busy roadway from which our lonely road sprang.  We were bordered by the busy road on one side, and large tracts of woods and farmland on the other three.  We had ditches in front of our houses. The road was not paved, but was made up of an unappealing oil, tar and chipped stone mixture.  Summer fun sometimes involved popping the tar bubbles that swelled up, and since we had no traffic except for the few, not-very-on-the-go residents, a kid could actually sit in the middle of the street doing something as mindless as popping tar bubbles. Every eye from every house would widen and follow any nonresident car that happened along the street.  

Luckily, I had several friends around my age, so childhood life went along almost normally, except for the strange themes that we developed because of our isolation.  We were rather like specimens on the Galapagos Islands, following the general rules of life, but evolving our own bizarre mutations.

Thus is was that we decided to open a stand to sell something.  Something.  I don’t recall what the actual stand was – an appliance box, perhaps, or a piece of hand-me-down fort from neighborhood boys?  Whatever its form, the physical stand was the impetus for opening shop, though we had no plan.  We lacked supplies for lemonade or Kool-Aid .  So after straining our collective brains a bit, we came up with a suitable alternative:  salad dressing.  Into the blender went a load of ingredients, a pinch of this, a 9-year-old’s fistful of that, until we whizzed up what we thought was a perfectly acceptable concoction.  It tasted salty, so that was good, and it was a loud green color.  

Great as a marinade, too!Now, to marketing.  The name we agreed on (by a committee of four) was “Grople.”  Pronounced GROPE-uhl.  Like Snapple, but with Grope instead of Snap.  And way before Snapple was invented.  Say it a few times.  Mmmm.  We kept the Grople in a large plastic container and planned to dispense the customer’s portion into a paper cup, the kind you’d use for, oh, lemonade, say.  We expected them to run right home with it, eager to try it out, so we wouldn’t even bother with a lid.  Or perhaps we thought customers would rush our stand with their naked salads and use the cup to dip the lettuce in.  Our target market consisted of street traffic.  If you’re not sharp, you may want to reread the second paragraph.  It was a sweltering summer day.  All systems were go!

Let’s spare ourselves the grueling details of the grand failure and just skip to the part where we disband later in the day having sold not a drop of Grople.  What happened? we asked.  How could this have bombed so badly?  Were we not shouting loud enough to attract people?  Did we set up the stand too far away from the street?  Were our signs hard to read, or written too small?  Was it the economic climate?  It was a blend of mystery and disappointment for all of us.  Not only did we not make a penny, we had wasted a good summer day sitting there minding the stand, had shouted ourselves hoarse, and had a gallon of spoiled green oil and spices to deal with.

Have you started looking within?

When you’ve grown close to something, it’s hard to see its faults with a clear eye.  Your project, your product, is your baby, just like our Grople was to us.  After a session back at the drawing board we crafted some important changes and vowed we wouldn’t go down in retail flames again.  Several weeks later we reopened another shop with new conviction.  Our sweeping changes?  The salad dressing was now lighter green, and we’d rechristened it Grople II.  If you can’t guess what happened, you probably should have just left your coat on.  The bus will be coming soon.

Sweet mother of invention, we can be thankful there was no public outlet for our distress.  Nowhere to ask, plead and beg for answers about why we weren’t selling.  No one to hear us lament, “OMG, the kids in that subdivision a mile away are copying us!  They’re selling liverwurst in ceramic mugs…that’s food, that’s cups… It’s so unfair!  How come our parents won’t do anything about it?”  No one to ask, “How long did it take to sell your first cup of hot, green salad dressing?”

Don’t be a Grople Wanker.

Posted in Business & Etsy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Old Things, Corny Things, Good Things: Part 2

Posted by crowbiz on May 12, 2009

Today’s recommendation:  AM radio stations that play musicRock-n-roll Radio

The enormous warning that I’ll throw up front is that I do NOT mean any stations doing talk radio.  Talk radio should properly induce dry heaves in any sentient being.  Furthermore, those programs are common and I regard them as I do so many tattoos on so many college students, since they share many of the same properties;  they are enjoyed by the less independently thinking masses, are almost never original, are typically not well-executed, often reflect amateurish taste, and do not age well.

Back to the music.

Who actually listens to the radio at all?  In this age of extremely portable and convenient music technology and highly idiosyncratic musical preferences, radio listenership should by all estimates be dead by tomorrow afternoon. Sure, we can find a few reasons you might run into radio now and then:  the workplace where everyone must agree on a common auditory denominator, or the retail location that is too cheap to buy into a demographically specialized playlist for its clientele.  House painters and roofing crews usually employ one.  But otherwise, why the hell would anyone tune in to hear songs programmed by someone else interspliced with what must be the world’s most annoying form of advertising?

Serendipity.  Control can be overrated.  Don’t you get sick of being master of your universe every moment?   It’s exhausting.  You spend 12 minutes dictating the exact specifications of your morning coffee to the barista-du-jour, agonize over paint swatches, choose from 84 varieties of deodorant (good god, what if you make the wrong choice?), and organize your iPod into dozens of moment-specific playlists (“Dinner with Close Friends Mix” versus “Dinner with People We’ve Known For Less Than a Year Mix” versus “Driving Home from Work on Thursday Mix” versus “Ball-Scratching Beer Blast Mix”…  OK, so a little separation is alright…)  Can’t you %&*#  loosen the grip here and there?   Give it up, turn on the AM – if you can find a radio – and see what happens.

Note that I mean only AM radio, because it’s the last hold-out of any independence on the air.  The FM band is almost entirely corporately-owned by a few media giants.  Dismiss it and move on.  Some AM stations are still locally owned and produced, which makes them the airwave equivalent of local cable access television stations.  Saying they are not slick is laughably unnecessary, and that lack of sophistication is a perfect antidote to a culture that has made irony a religion.  The advertisements that are produced in-house are paragons of earnesty.  A recent one I’ve heard is an announcer-narrated recitation of a local restaurant’s sub and take-out menu, peppered with stock phrases like “truly satisfying” and “great value.”  Behind the narration is the instrumental part of the “Laverne and Shirley” theme song.  It made me want to eat there.

Another joy of AM is that you can discover ethnic programs, sometimes in the native language.  Polonia hour, the Native American beat, the Portuguese program…. dial around and explore, my friend.  Adding to the effect is the tinny, unpredictable quality of AM transmission, particularly for the smaller, independent stations.  Having to shift your radio around to get better reception shows your commitment.

As far as the music you may find, well, that’s best left for you to discover.  Below is a sample of what recently transpired over the course of an hour cobbled from a couple stations I visit now and then.  These are in no particular order, which is the point:

“Fly Me To The Moon” by Frank Sinatra

“Muleskinner Blues” by The Fendermen

“Trains and Boats and Planes” by Dionne Warwick

“Bongo Rock” by Preston Epps

“At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama)” by the El Dorados

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen

“When The Red, Red Robin Comes a-Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along” by Al Jolson

“Tammy” by Debbie Reynolds

“Brown Eyed Handsome Man” by Chuck Berry

Rather than view this as an embarrassing indictment of my musical tastes, I see it as a showcase of the possible.  You could spend hours scouring your digital trove and not come up with that mix, though it’s extremely unlikely you’d have any of the raw material in the first place.  It’s a gamble – you’re not supposed to know if you’re going to like what’s coming.  If you can’t give that a go, then you deserve to waste hours of your life making espresso decisions.

A few AM stations available in the Western New York region to check out:

1400 Solid Gold Soul (does not stream – link is just to the website)

1440 WJJL (does not stream; priceless, and perhaps the last of its breed anywhere)

AM740 (streams; out of Toronto; was good before being taken over by corporate interests, but what the heck; has some good specialty programs such as the 40+ year running “A Little Breath of Scotland”… come on!  Beware – lots of mattress and hearing aid ads) 

Toronto has many specialty and ethnic stations, but they are difficult to pull in, so best wishes.

If you have any other suggestions, add them in comments.  The world needs more AM.

Posted in Old Corny Good Things, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Old Things, Corny Things, Good Things: Part 1

Posted by crowbiz on May 8, 2009

Here begins a new series, because there’s simply too much to jam into one post.

I’m a gal out of time and not particularly embarrassed by it.  If, like me, you  feel your sensibilities lie in some other decade, century or millennium, you may find a new old, corny, good thing to add to your anachronistic life.  

Warning:  if you read the above paragraph hoping that I’d be a good recruit for your anti-gay-marriage ning group or some such old-fashioned construct, take a hike.  Swear words are old, corny and good, too.

Today’s item:  Fels-Naptha Soap

The bar that never closes

This, to me, is the smell of “soap.”  It’s meant primarily for laundry, not skin (save for its reputed use to treat contact dermatitis from poison ivy, oak, etc.  Poison etc can be nasty.)  Takes out stains fairly well when rubbed on before washing.  Yes, it’s made with chemicals!  So is your toilet paper, unless you went back to using corn husks.  The name “Seventh Generation” toilet paper  makes me not want to use it, if you get my drift.  Organicphiles can beat me senseless, but I’ll not give up my Fels.  

This – from the godsend to the lazy – Wikipedia:

“It should be noted that using Fels-Naptha as a punishment for foul language is considered highly dangerous.”

Here’s my ho-ho-homemaker’s recipe for quickie, cheapie laundry soap.  This is a soap, not a detergent, and it will not gets sudsy, so don’t keep adding more to the water, thinking you’re not getting enough to suds up.  Grate 1 bar of Fels-Naptha, add to 2/3 cup of borax and 2/3 cup of washing soda (Arm & Hammer).  Shake it around to mix and keep in a tub or jar.  About 2 heaping tablespoons will do for a regular sized load of laundry.  

For the best effect, hang the clothes outside to dry.  Line-dried clothing — that’s another post.

Posted in Old Corny Good Things, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Wide Margin of Error

Posted by crowbiz on May 6, 2009

Fat CellsAt a recent family gathering I had some reason for recounting to my niece this Halloween story from many years ago ~~ insert blurry flashback ~~~

Mr Crow and I made a last minute decision to attend his brother’s Halloween party a few blocks away.  We were told it was indeed a “dress up” party, and without having planned anything, we took action that still haunts.

Now, hold my hand here and pity my middle-age.  Remember the old Wide-Ends skit from Saturday Night Live?  Astoundingly, there is nothing to which I can link – no You Tube clip, no still photos, nothing (that is, nothing worth spending more than 8 minutes digging for).  Just imagine a family with bodies scaled normally from the waist up.  From the waist down, they flair out to hilariously inhuman proportions, a gag that despite its seeming cruelty, was saved by its sheer ridiculousness and physiological improbability (though never say never, I contend).  If anyone can unearth a clip, do contact me.  The yuks predictably revolved around the Wide Ends getting stuck places, blocking access to things, and assorted one-offs, such as the ability to project a film on an expansive behind.

Fifteen minutes before a party, this could be construed as a good, no-cost idea for a costume.  In order to accommodate the enormous amounts of padding we’d need, we wore loose clothing, something we wouldn’t be caught dead in at a party, e.g., ’80s sweatpants.  Mine were… pink.  Away we stuffed with every pillow and cushion we could get our hands on, which surprisingly, was a lot.  Bed pillows, throw pillows of every size, the bolsters off our couch…it all went in till we were packed like we had a sumo wrestler in each pant leg.

Somehow, we drove to the party;  since it was close, we endured the ride with our heads touching the car ceiling and we crouched to look through the windshield.  These were the days when we’d also drink pitchers of margaritas and ride two to a bicycle, so the driving arrangement seemed reasonable.  Outside the party house, we did a last minute check.  We poufed each other’s titanic asses and thighs to suitable fullness, shored up the sweatpants, and climbed to the third floor with difficulty, hoist-swaying up each step for momentum.

At that time, our host – my brother-in-law – was in art school, and as federal guidelines require, also in a few arcane and highly ironic bands.  His friends, though always an eclectic bunch, happened that night to be entirely of the painfully art schoolish and arcane band variety.  In we walked, sideways, through the door and let loose with hearty laughs of self-mockery, hoping others would appreciate what magic could be wrought with fifteen minutes and several cubic meters of pillows.  But we didn’t walk into a Halloween party, exactly; it was an art-school-hipster-painfully-arcane-band party that just happened to be on October 31st. For historical reference, remember this was the late ’80s/early ’90s era, when art schoolishness was influenced more by Post Industrial Berlin Angst rather than the later-developing Socially Conscious Grungeism.  It was a sea of black clothing and asymmetrical haircuts, anorexia, black eyeliner and a miasma of European cigarette smoke.  This could be revisionist memory, but I believe the music stopped dead the moment we entered.  All black-lined eyes turned toward us in disbelief.  Several dark red lips dropped open on faces of art school pallor.  Did I mention I was wearing pink sweatpants and had an ass the size of Missouri?

To his credit, my brother-in-law nonchalantly steered us through the crowd, introduced us to a few people and politely fled.  Eventually, the music began again (Bauhaus, surely), but the mortified looks of contempt never faded.  I heard a wraithlike artiste whisper harshly “…his brother.. the sister-in-law…”  Only one other person at the party was in any way costumed; a carefree soul had wrapped his ear in a fake bloody bandage and dyed his goatee orange to channel Vincent Van Gogh.

Unlike some other times gone wrong, this adventure did not have a twist that turned us into surprise hits, nor did it lead to new friendships.  In fact, I had no conversations at all.  Eventually, our largeness became a burden, so we unloaded the stuffing to aid our movement.  Rather than giving us a sense of normalcy and freedom, it had the reverse effect of intensifying my self-consciousness, because now, instead of being a pathetically misguided Halloween character, I was just a hanger-on wearing pink sweatpants at UberHip Central.  A turd in the guacamole.  While Mr Crow managed to blend in (his sweatpants were dark blue) and chat it up with a few people he knew, I retired to the kitchen.  There I remained for the excruciating duration of the drearier-than-thou affair, feigning interest in a soundless version of “Atomic Cafe” playing on a tiny black and white television propped on a kitchen chair.Bauhaus

One could hypothesize that this was the cosmic penalty for making fun of disabling obesity, and that we’d endured a lesson.  As far as I’m concerned, one would be wrong.  Honestly, I’d revisit those pillow-packed sweatpants in a heartbeat if I thought I could get the right audience.

My niece, herself a 24-year-old art school student and current hipster, enjoyed the story and showed genuine empathy for our sour experience.  It’s comforting to find many modern day arty types and hipsters showing a kindness and global tolerance unfathomable in the old days; such characteristics in fact, have become nearly de facto.  Were we to appear at such an event nowadays, we would suffer the contempt of political incorrectness, not uncoolness.

Her final analysis was thus:  “You should submit that to ‘This American Life.'”

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Hey Stranger, why DO you want to be my Facebook Friend?

Posted by crowbiz on May 5, 2009

* This was posted in the Etsy Forums a little while back after I had a minor wave of shameless  spammy Etsy Facebookers hitting me up *

OK, I’m posting in Business, as FB is batted around as one of the marketing “tools”…but if you need to kick my flimsy thread somewhere else, I understand.

Now then, I’m not a big social networker. The term makes my skin crawl. Sure, I joined Twitter and dropped it like a hot rock not long after, but Twitter is the cheap one-night stand of social networking, so I have no regrets. I even paid for the drinks. Once in a while I give it a friendly call, but it knows I’m just teasing. But I find Facebook to be more personal, yes, despite that my mug and my kids and my dog and my inane comments are there for the world to see. I use my *real name* and you can see some of my *real live friends* on there. So how the heck did you dig me up, stranger? How many gazillions of people with a passing reference to Etsy did you have to friend before reaching ME?

Do you know who I am….not? Anything about me? No? Many people in the forums don’t even know if I’m a man or a woman. OK, you can play the odds and get it right, but some folks remain unclear unless I say something like “that time my bra got caught in the document shredder…” (which is ONLY an example and needn’t be mentioned again)…. What are you seeing in me?

If this is for some ultimate business-growth & casual marketing gain, and not just a spiral of love, lemme set you straight. Believe you me, miss & mister, I’m your weakest link in the social network. What’s worse, I get peevish. I rashly confirmed a couple unknown-to-me Etysians and now the floodgates have opened. Now I can’t find my friends’ updates for all the unrelated baloney that clogs up the “news feed.” Just like on Twitter; I somehow inadvertently tapped into a well-spring of angry, pimply teen Goths who followed me. Cripe, you make a skull magnet and next thing you know you’re getting invited to online Marilyn Manson-themed funerals.

A few things you might want to know:
As an avidly non-religious curmudgeon, I don’t want to hear how God gave you the grace and guidance to crochet a “Starbuck’s Saves!” hot beverage sleeve. But I’m happy that you’re being productive. I won’t be bringing 3-bean salad to the “Hot Gluers for Jesus” virtual potluck.

Sending me things on FB? Don’t – every blasted app on there causes my laptop to cough up a lung. 
Sending me a drink? Really, if I want a drink all I have to do is climb up to the top pantry shelf and guzzle some Johnnie before getting the kids off the bus. Any day. Any day I want.

Sending me some flair? Please, people mistake me for being Amish, so your flair is falling on plain ears….er, clothes.
Inviting me join a cause? Wait, my eyes just rolled out and under the table…. ergh…ah, there now.

Am I just a grumpy asswipe destined for a lonely death in a pool of soil and regret? Not really. I like friends – I even have a few. Here are a few questions to consider for friending anyone, not just me with my cranky elitist, exclusionary standards.

Have I ever responded positively to your comments in a thread? Have I said “haha”? That’s a good start. Even better is “hahahahaha” or “woo boy!” 
Have we ever had a private convo, that is, one that didn’t end with either of us saying “please stop convoing me or I will contact administration” ? There’s another good start. Can you name ONE thing about my personal life? Know my name? Age? Marital status? Family? Pets? Past events? Failed attempts with musical instruments? Embarrassing jobs? Secret crushes? Shameful food cravings? (the filet o’ fish is another thread)…. Got anything? Even one thing is better than no thing.

(on my knees now:) Please, let’s think before we friend. Putting me in a position to have to “ignore” is so…so… something. 

Happy handiworking, folks!

To see the whole thread and some of the usual suspects’ comments, go here.I just don't know what to make of it all

 

Now then, since it’s my blog, I can shamelessly direct you to my biz fan page, where you will find a quiet group of fans who could be described as the sort who are kind enough to always buy the fundraiser candy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »