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Buffalo Snowy Day

Posted by crowbiz on January 28, 2010

Home Snow Home

Depending on your experience with winter, file this under either “So What?” or “Oooo.”  Much as I dislike winter, I’ve been waiting for a good old-fashioned snowy day for a couple weeks now, if for no other reason than to justify life in this cold, windy, forsaken land.  It was only several inches, but still, it was good for covering up the dirty crap.

The boys were off at 7:40 am.  The bus was on time for SonToo, and SonWon decided to walk with his buddy (a one mile slog ; we ain’t raisin’ no wimps).  I got to shoveling out Mr Crow’s car and carving a little path out of the house.  Notice the cheerily blue sky; it’s nature’s ruse, as we’re set to get another five inches by dinnertime.  As I write this one hour after the photos, the skies have darkened and wave #2 is coming in, and will likely reach its worst exactly when I’m out running errands.

People think the life of a world-famous blogger and entrepreneur is a whirlwind of expense account lunches, fast-paced production sessions and prepping in the green room for my monthly appearances on the Today Show.  Not so – there is unglamorous work to be done!  I chose to out myself before I end up on one of those “celebrities without makeup” websites, so here I am in my $16 Target snowpants (Girls’ Dept.), the requisite Sorels and assorted winter gear carelessly grabbed from the front hall.

Someone visiting Buffalo once oohed and aahed over a measly few inch snowfall and asked “what it means” when we get, say, a foot of snow.  I thought for a few seconds (it would have been shorter, but I was waiting for her to say more… like, a foot of snow in three hours) and said that getting a foot of snow in a day means that you might be five minutes late to hockey practice.

Dig it!

This begs the question: "Do these $16-Target-girls-snowpants" make my butt look big?"

Lexington and Richmond

"I'm Queen of the Drift!"

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Upgrade Your &@$# Language

Posted by crowbiz on June 3, 2009


and think

and think

We really need to brush up our insults. (Or, in one of the most dreaded phrases I often encounter when grading ostensibly college level papers:  “We as a society need to brush up our insults.”  Usually there’s a meaningless, bloated follow-up sentence about “helping” children or the mentally disabled, even if it’s a statistics class.)


OK, let me say it this way.  If everyone is a fucking moron, then no one is a fucking moron.

Call me a nit-picker, but I require some specificity.  What kind of fucking moron?  The kind who goes through stop signs in residential neighborhoods?  The kind who leaves their toddlers home alone when running out on an errand?  Or the kind who uses a hair dryer in the shower?  There are oh so many ways to be a fucking moron, so you must clarify. It would be as if, when someone asks what you do for a living, you reply, “I’m a worker.”  Fucking morons like that throw the words around carelessly, dilute any impact, and blow it for the rest of us.

I still do this unfunny ploy to my students when urging them to proofread and shape up their writing.  With fake-earnest excitement, I announce that there are two great new tools that can drastically improve their writing – instantly!  I talk it up for a few minutes, saying how easy these wonder products are to use and that they will change their writing, and if used properly, have the potential to make it better permanently.  Their eyes grow bigger, the silence deepens as they wait for my big announcement.  Some are thinking how much they will have to shell out.  Some wonder if they can download it before the paper is due.  Some even stop texting.  

Then the denouement… “They are called a ‘dictionary’ and ‘your brain.'”  Faces of puzzlement.  No one even scoffs at me or laughs.  Not even an eye roll.  A few will write it down.  Most go back to texting.

Along with our friend the dictionary is our pal the thesaurus.  Very soon it will become mandatory reading in this household, as I’m so weary of hearing the brotherly insult, “You’re a poo.”  It would be music to my ears if someday I could even overhear, “You’re an encopretic emmission.”  Just once.  

Growing up, my siblings and I got in our share of insults, but strictly verboten in the Wannemacher household were insults to intelligence.  Words like stupid, dummy, idiot, and the like had Mom reaching for the soap (woe if she was within striking distance of the Lava instead of the Dial).  Those insults are mean, but their greater fault is that they are achingly common, and Mom, a ninja crossword puzzler, probably found the latter more objectionable than the former.  I try to make the point with my boys that if you’re going to use insults or complaints, don’t be prosaic, and more importantly, don’t embarrass me by public uses of plebeian language.  

Particularly rankling to me are occurrences of “butt” and “butthead.”  “Bum-cephalic” is fine, as would be “tete de derriere,” but change like that is hard to come by.  For a while, they came up with “cashew” as an all-purpose curse, as in “What the cashew’s going on in here?!” but it fell out of favor quickly.  It has a couple of the hard sounds of “fuck” or “shit,” but the image of a little, beige, curved nut sort of ruins the angry emphasis. 

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not in any way pleading for cleaner language or avoiding the use of all fuck-derivatives, or intellectual slanders.  Sometimes you need to employ them;  I’m just advocating more creativity.  Instead of the boring lament, “Dude, that sucks” you might try, “Dude, that’s a shitwurst sandwich.”

So cast aside your fucking morons, unless you’re an addle-brained frat boy, in which case, you probably have a medical excuse from your neurologist.  And next time that mother-copulating decorticoid speeds down my street, I’m going to shout it from the porch, if I can get all the syllables out before he blows the stop sign, too.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.'”

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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.

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Wait – I wanted more than 15 minutes

Posted by crowbiz on April 30, 2009

As mortifying as our fame-craving culture is to me, I take great glee in providing you a link to my latest venture into the airwaves.  Because, you know, it’s always fun to deride something until it happens to you.  Then you want to ride it like a mechanical bull until you run out of change.

This news story focuses on the relative health of mom-n-pop stores in my city neighborhood, the Elmwood Village, in Buffalo, NY.  This was aired on our public station, WBFO, run out of the University at Buffalo.  Quite handily, the reporter had scads of leftover audio from a previous interview which aired on NPR’s Day To Day in March.  If we’re lucky, maybe we can cut and paste another five interviews out of it, and I won’t have to risk stepping into any more oratory poop piles.

People have been kind enough to send sweet hurray notes to me, butpage31a this expose has not been without its critics.  After I sent the link to Mr Crow, he replied via a terse email: “Awesome plug…I can hear your cough on air.”


Dig it!  CrowBiz speaks!

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Posted by crowbiz on April 28, 2009

Skeleton's Love AppleThe fabled and little-known Crow Chronicle is back, like a punch-addled fighter, for a second round in blogville.  My mummified corpse is rising slowly, shakily from a shallow and nicely padded grave, though I’d have to say my state of decay is less advanced than I feared.  It’s just a little melasma.  

Imported for sentimental pleasure are my old posts, back when I couldn’t even score the right blog name.  Pah!  Let’s see Sheryl Crow fans (a hypothetical entity), soft-core porn operators and that Australian cleaning company snag THIS CrowBiz away, huh? 

Open for business.

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A Reenacted Life

Posted by crowbiz on May 22, 2008

Just like I don’t want to have my own restaurant, I don’t want to be an actor. My job, of course, already entails acting; the usual schedule is three performances, three days a week, before audiences comprised of undergraduates in various states of interest, indifference, stupefaction or slumber. I do it all without much of a script, no special lighting, rarely any sound equipment, shockingly little make-up and a questionable wardrobe. I’ve considered getting a $29 dollar laugh track and applause machine that can be operated by foot pedal (sold as kiddie props for puttin’ on a show!), but the downtime for laughter breaks might seriously cut into my lecture time, and we can’t have that.

What I could really dig would be gigs as a Reenactment Actor for different history and real-life story TV programs. This is the easy street of thespianism if ever there was one. Think of it – what’s called for are regular people in regular roles, with little or no dialogue! You need absolutely no special characteristics other than a free few days to repeatedly play dead in a recreated peasant village, or run hysterically through the house as the “tornado” approaches. The people you see in these shows are just like you and me, and the neighbor, and the guy at the mini-mart, and the lady who walks her dog every day at noon, and your high school gym teacher, and on and on. Their very regular-ness is what is valuable. You don’t picture Angelina Jolie as Displaced Visigoth #17 on the History Channel or George Clooney as Blizzard-stranded Insurance Agent on the Weather Channel’s “Storm Stories.” You picture Chuck, the guy who rotates your tires.

Oh, I have no delusions about landing plum roles such as Attila’s Concubine, or Thomas Edison’s mother, or (dare I say it?) Madame Curie, or Caligula’s sister, Drusilla. But I’d be a damned servicable nomad, bystander, housewife, victim. Considering my age and the demographics of most periods of history, I’d be fated to play matrons, not maids. No matter. I’d relish every moment where the menacing Roman soldier approaches me and evidently asks for directions… I stop grinding meal but keep my eyes averted as I sheepishly point a direction for him. Of course, the narrator and various experts provide the voice-overs and all we actors need do is pantomime. No blowing lines! Sure, the exasperated director might yell “Cut! No, no, you have to look MORE sheepish. OK, let’s take it from the meal-grinding again…”, but otherwise, it’d be a sweet run.

I would particularly love to do scenes of tragedy or disaster. “Animal Miracles” would show me as the Lost Hiker, hammishly dragging my body along with two broken legs, covered in stage blood. My big moment would be my one line, uttered as my collie comes to save me, call for help, and drag me the remainder of the five miles. “Sadie! Good girl! Good…girl….Sadie…” For Haunted Reenactments I could run around in a panic mewling “Who’s there?! Is anybody THERE?! Just STOP!” (which rather resembles my real life, except my real life lacks the poltergeist).
My wildest dream, though, is to be a peasant mown down in some kind of uprising or pillage scene, or felled by plague. How satisfying it would be to collapse clumsily onto some straw, my crudely woven basket of root vegetables flung from my grasp, my coarse burlap shift flopping loosely around my soon to be lifeless body. Fake blood, again, would be essential, and some festering bubous would just about take the cake.

That right there is a pretty compelling reason for me to love something I wouldn’t want to do.

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

Adventures in Restauranteering

Posted by crowbiz on May 16, 2008

Loyal fans, I’d love to have all of you over at one time to sit at my kitchen table, but I’ve been busy and unable to attend this site. It’s a heavy job grading papers, making up final exam extra credit questions based on the lyrics of Queen and replying to students who “didn’t realize” the final was (fill in date).

You know how so many people say they dream of one day opening their own restaurant? Are they retarded? “My cousin’s girlfriend really liked my 7-layer taco dip, so I’m taking out a home equity loan next week….” While I’ve never harbored these aspirations myself, I have thought it would be fun to have a down and dirty diner or similar low-rent hangout – less a place to eat than a place to get out of the rain that happens to have food inside.
Many people remember my ideas for an all grilled cheese restaurant (surely there are several already pocking Manhattan) and a few even remember my Ring Toss Diner business plan. Upon entering, instead of a menu patrons would be handed a few rings and directed to toss them onto a large pegboard. Each peg signifies something different – some good, some bad – and you have to abide by the peg during your visit. Free Lunch. Liver and Onions. You Pay Twice. Decaf Only with Meal. Bus Your Own Table. Free Muffin. Sit Next to Restroom. I envision a small but loyal clientele, one both daring and determined enough to improve their motor skills in their spare time. But alas, the days of fantasizing about opening “Cheeses Christ” and my combo Mexican-Greek “Hey Zeus” are long gone.
In light of our increasing paranoia regarding food-borne illnesses, I’ve left restaurant conceptualization to others and decided to focus on naming. Oh wait… maybe it’s “branding”…? Damn me for not getting an MBA! It would be SO incredibly useful now! Anyhow…
here is a partial list of up and coming hot spots:

. . . ecoli (pronounced EK-oh-lee, and yes, all lower case is mandatory)
. . . Cafe Listeria
. . . Sam’n’Ella’s Deli
. . . Mama Botulisma’s
. . . The Tow Main Grill
. . . Giardia Tratorria (specializing in “wild-caught” waters of the world)
. . . Kholera Kountry Kitchen

The list could go on, but I’m quite busy. I’ve got to go set some food out in the sun.

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »