CrowBiz

…funk for the old soul…

What Do You Call a Call-Out Outer?

Posted by crowbiz on June 9, 2009

 

You wish

You wish

As a rule, I avoid participating in the spit-spat stuff of the Etsy Forums, as long as you don’t count intermittent comical asides I insert to break up the longer paragraphs of peoples’ vitriol.  Much as I hate confrontation, I’m not above cheap voyueristic enjoyment of it, plus, nothing riles a flamer – or pops their balloon – like the suggestion that other people are having a grand time at their expense.  Requesting “Orville Redenbacher in Thread 3, please!” or dropping in lyrics from smaltzy 70s love songs is more my style, but nevertheless, I do read a lot of the back-and-forth to get of sense of where people think they lie in the Big Crusade.  After a particularly irritating thread I saw recently, I thought I’d post (I had no choice!)

 

These commonly degenerate into an I-may-be-wrong-but-I’m-righter-than-you smarmfest, and always, someone is wrong.  You can usually tell in the OP’s opening salvo that they are just dying to blow in some perceived wrong-doer, but they need enough agitation to go ahead and give the damning info.  Usually it’s something we can all backtrack easily enough, which is known as… CALLING OUT.  Did you know?  No, the OP did not give a name or serial number, but unless you are six years old and just signed up on Etsy yesterday, you and everyone else will be able to pinpoint the OP’s target du jour. 

Here is a sample of Etsy-rip, and see if you can find the item and seller:   “I’m so mad at this seller who makes an item that copies so bad!  I’m about to loose my mind!!!!!  They are something with frogs, which is that I have been selling my frog items since October of 2008 and not only but my friend’s shop has green magnets that this so unscrupled person is also selling, so both me and my friend are getting ripped off and COPIED.  I will not name names, but convo me if you want to know!!!”

(Regular readers, do not worry that I hit my head.  I was writing in the Etsy colloquial.)  

Did you locate the offending item?  In my shop?  In about four seconds?  Did I do a good job calling myself out without mentioning myself?  Newbies make this mistake often, but the shocking thing is that I’ve seen buckets of threads like this by what look like seasoned Etsians.  

The worst, however, are the posters who go around in alternating modes of justice and self-defense, digging the purported “offender” and whirling right around to clamp their hands over their own asses before eventually (cartoon sproingggg!), calling out another Etsian by name.  As a visual person, what I immediately see is a cornered rat snapping, retreating, lunging, trying to adjust its halo, and playing dead all in one pitiful episode.  The named-name call-out is almost invariably preceded or followed by a disclaimer of the “I didn’t want to have to do this, but..”  or “since you made me…” type, which, if the world were more perfect, would be paired with a 220-volt shock to the genitals.  Also eligible for corporal punishment should be, “I know I’m calling out, but…”  (And I’d like to trace the evolution of the word “but” as a useful conjunction to a magic word that turns a wrong into a perceived right – that’s “right” in both senses of the word.  “I know I shouldn’t call you ugly, but it’s just that you have that really bad skin and hair.  I’m just saying.”)

Get this:  When you call out, do not imagine that you are the renegade star of “The Legend of Billie Jean” – possibly one of the worst movies ever created (thank you again, Lazypedia).  It should be required viewing for every person who intends to post in a forum.  If you haven’t the the time or the stomach for a mid-80s mind-bendingly bad teen flick (with Christian Slater, no less), here is the nutshell.  Teen gal and younger teen bro are victimized by some bad characters (theft, attempted rape, etc) and the law, and subsequently have to break a lot of rules to enoxerate themselves and expose the bad guys.  But they are innocent, man, ’cause they had no choice!  It was the only way!  By trying to bust an Etsy offender in the forums this way, you are not doing a righteous, if unpleasant thing.  You’re doing a wrong thing, since you are not Billie Jean, this is not MTV, Etsy administration is not a byzantine system of crooked cops, and that seller with the mistagged vintage item for $3.00 did not try to rape you behind the scooter shop.

Get your sorry ass back to your workspace and get busy on your own concerns.  You might make a killing by selling reclaimed wood, handcarved shit-stirrers.

By the way, I really like Etsy Call-Out.  Call me crazy, call me complex, just don’t call me out.

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Posted in Business & Etsy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Peeves: Self-Showcasers

Posted by crowbiz on June 8, 2009

 

If the bauble fits....

If the bauble fits....

Today’s gripe is the person who offers a coy apology for some characteristic they actually wish to show off.  Where to begin? 

 

Self-showcasing takes many forms, perhaps the best known being the Holiday Letter, which runs through a laundry list of accomplishments, accolades and adventures like so many Comic Sans ornaments on snowflake glitter stationery.  On whole, though, these aren’t so bad, since they’re a mockable genre unto themselves.  Recipients are used to giggling at them and we can read between the lines anyway.  You can keep your agonizing decision between the Juilliard and Harvard and the zany mishaps from your two weeks at the villa in Barbados.  My family had a blast with the remote-controlled fart machine on our camping trip.  The Mr and I like to shout out quotes from those letters whenever the mood strikes – usually in the middle of an unpleasant chore or hyper-mundane daily moment such as trash duty or realizing that we’ve run out of Ziploc snack bags.

The more irritating self-showcaser is the one who, whenever possible, worms their creds, with phony backpedaling, into ongoing proceedings.

“Oh, I hope you like a lot of tarragon in the vegetables.  Sorry, I just do it automatically since we used to do it that way at Le Cordon Bleu.  I don’t even think!”

“I wish I had finer hair like you!  I can never get mine to do that – it’s always so crazy.  Must be from my Native American heritage, or maybe the Gypsy, I’m not sure which!”

“Oh, IQ tests are so meaningless anyway.  I mean, I tested at, like, 158, but who knows, that’s probably so bogus.”

“Looks like rain, so don’t forget your ‘brolly.  Oops, I mean umbrella… I’m not in London anymore!”

“Ever since that Habitat For Humanity project, I just really like a malt liquor with lunch.  No, no, it’s crazy, but really good.”

“Don’t mind me, I’m always using ridiculous, big words like that!  Grad school turned me this way… god, I’m such a nerd!”  No you’re not – you’re an asshole.

What about the Outright Bragger in all this, you may wonder?  The O.B. is a different breed, and I argue, the Self-Showcaser has much greater annoyance potential.  The so-called braggart is happy to share their world, sometimes loudly, and wants to give you all the information up front.  You can take it or leave it as you wish.  I’d rather hear someone talk with gusto and passion about their experiences.  I’d love to hear about your year in London, or the recipe you got directly from Ferran Adria, or the details of your MBA program (ha, just kidding on that one!), but tell me with feeling.  An added benefit of the boaster is that they tend to be relatively affable and more tolerant of back-slapping, rib-poking call-outs on the blowhardiness.  Sometimes, paradoxically, the boaster can be a good listener, too, since some of the same qualities underly their self-disclosure and their enjoyment of others’ worlds.  Life in large bites.

The sly self-showcaser, though, presents an obligation.  They drop their teasers and hope that anyone within earshot will follow up.  You’re expected to take the tidbit and “pry out” the information they are so aching to reveal.  Not my cup of organic rooibos tea grown on your friend’s farm in South Africa.  I guess because outright boasting is a social faux pas, some people try to do it in a self-depricating way. OK, you needn’t brag, but it doesn’t mean you have to be an annoying feinter.

Many of us lapse into the self-showcasing subterfuge, so be careful before you point and deride.  I like two-dollar words just as much as the next high-IQ world traveling artistic gastronome, but often, words like “poo” and “stink” are just what I’m looking for.  And remember my maxim about “looking within.” 

I’m not even going to include the winky icon.

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

A Day in June

Posted by crowbiz on June 5, 2009

Nothing smarmy today!  I’m posting some pics of the back yard as a favor to all you nice folks who post pretty pics and lovely thoughts.  After sampling the usual Etsians’ blogs, I feel like a crabby troll and wish to dispel the notion that I live under a cold, scratchy rock.  Without further ado:

 

My favorite clematis of our current five.  As it grows, it will do a better job hiding the neighboring plastic beige house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The not so slim shady garden

The not so slim shady garden

The “shade” garden that lost its identity after the October 2006 storm removed all the shade.  Doing better than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sailboat weathervane found by my brother-in-law.  It’s even oriented correctly.  Goes nicely with the pot-bellied woodchopper whirligig nearby.

 

 

Poppies!  Poppies!  Woo, I’m feeling sleepy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not bad for a roughly 20′ x 50′ rectangle.  Carefully edited out are the playhouse, which the boys and Big Daddy plan to turn into a 5000 square foot electrified boy-man hang, the compost bin, and the poop piles.  Happy June.

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

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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Ma Barker Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me

Posted by crowbiz on June 1, 2009

Recently, my first-grader was composing sentences for his weekly spelling words, a task he normally completes on his own or with minimal assistance.  One of his words was “pay.”   He jolted me to attention when he shouted out, “Mom, I know one:  ‘Pay up, sucka!'”

After complimenting his quick thinking, I gently suggested he generate a different sentence, one that would be less likely to evoke visions of our household as Little Gangland on the Prairie.  He knew he was being funny, but only a bit.  Mainly, he was echoing similar statements I make when poring over the orders and accounts, sending out the polite but clear emails and reminders about “following through.”  Given my wordy nature, I get more wrapped up in it than I intend, then become exasperated and just blurt something like his sentence above.  At first I felt a wave of embarrassment, like when you hear your toddler saying “How many times have I told you…?” to his stuffed animals.  Then, while steering him toward a more appropriate homework sentence, the shame was replaced with a kind of dark pride that my kid was on my side and could potentially be my mouthpiece.

 

Ma sent us

Ma sent us

Would they go to bat for me?  Would they go to the mat for me?  Would they (cliched sports analogy) if I gave the word?  Maybe I could make use of them one day, not too far off, and send them to do my dirty work.  Well, nothing I do is particularly “dirty,” but I bet they’d love to be charged with some of my business dealings, especially ones that could require weapons.  “Boys!”  I’d holler through teeth clenching a stubby cigar, “Git down here.  I got some work for youse!”  There at our dimly lit table, I’d rifle through some manhandled unpaid invoices and shove a few into each kid’s grubby, waiting hand.  “Take care a’ these, how ’bout?”  They nod because they know what that means:  come home with the money and maintain mama’s approval.  She’s too old to do the face time anymore; gotta protect the old broad;  she gave us life, dint she?

 

Boys loving their mommies is a universal law that makes it good to be queen.  Unless you’re a pretty rotten mother, you’re safe, and I’m sure I haven’t slipped that far yet; it’s a long way to go before your boy-child, whatever his age, rejects you.  If you don’t believe me, refer to Russell Crowe in the film 3:10 to Yuma.  Though bound and seemingly powerless as a captured outlaw, he somehow manages to kill a man who insinuates that his mother’s hygiene and morals are sub-par. “Even bad men love their mamas,” he summarizes.  Unfortunately, their willingness to kill for you does not ensure that they will pick up their wet towels or remember to put their bikes away when told.

 

 

Trouble with a capital G & R - "GRouble"?

Trouble with a capital G & R - "GRouble"?

As anyone can clearly see, these boys do not inspire much fear.  Rather than apologetically fork over the dough, anyone confronted by them is more likely to say, “Honey, tie that shoe.”  Ah ha, but that’s the beauty of it – you’d be sadly mistaken, for their powers are great.  They need no weapons, they require no arm strength, they can dispense with threatening statements.  They just need to show up.

 

 

SonWon:  SonWon is almost constantly happy.  And chatty.  He’s clever and quick, and would likely talk and charm you out of anything he came for.  It’s worth repeating that he’s chatty, because therein lies your downfall.  While inquiring about your day at work, singing, and trying to recount the plot of all seven Harry Potter novels, he’d be able to pick you clean and depart with one of his shoes missing, leaving both of you smiling.  He’s so confident, that soon after his friendly deception, he’ll come back and ask if you’d like to play a game of chess, and he’ll kindly point out when you’re about to make an unwise move.  Unconcerned about being found out, he’ll probably still have your wallet and important papers stuffed into his pocket with candy wrappers and a few bottle caps.  Chat you up a little more.  Just for being so winsome, you’ll want to give him a little something for the candy store, but when you reach for your wallet, it isn’t there, and neither is he.  Wherever he’s gone to will be a mystery, since SonWon forgets everything at approximately 30-second intervals, and the odds are poor that he can find his way home.  But he’ll be happy, whatever the outcome.

SonToo:  If, by looking at SonToo’s hair, you cannot gain insight into his character, you are not very perceptive.  He does not need many words, and the ones he chooses, while not eloquent, cannot fail to be heard.  This is the “Pay up, sucka!” that you ignore at your peril.  I can still pick him up like he’s a monkey in candy-striped undies, but he has the force of an F5 tornado and the subtlety of 20 fingernails down the chalkboard. Don’t even think you’re going to outlast him – just plan on giving in and making your life 72 hours better.  SonToo will chew rocks, split your ears, and sit out in the rain, but he ain’t going away.  During all this, however, he may ask you to adjust his socks, because he just can’t stand feeling that little thready thing on his third toe, and it could lead to a lot of tears.  A laser beam on fine-tune, he’s a meticulous, relentless machine.  With a lot of tears.  And shouting. At 7, he routinely wins at poker against adult men who are not throwing the game. One of his more cheerful ruses involves quickly snatching the enemy’s dinner plate when he/she is up from the seat (a constant occurrence at our meals), and placing it on the chair.  He zips back to his own place and waits for the victim to return and sit on the pot roast and asparagus.  Casseroles are favored for this ploy.

If these two show up together at your front door, it’s been nice knowing you.

 

Misunderstood Ma

Misunderstood Ma

My original intent was to portray myself as a modern day Ma Barker as described above.  Turns out, after a cheap online search that I would scald my students over, the myth done got busted good.  Bible of the Lazy, Wikipedia, tells us that Mrs Barker was no more the engineer of a criminal empire than she was a Supreme Court nominee.  It seems she just happened to be the mother of a couple of gun-slinging, society-defying, ham-handed miscreants, and like most mothers, was not eager to turn her babies over to the law, no matter how stupid or wayward they were.  Time, a lack of instant media outlets, the feds, and a public hungry for lurid romanticism turned Ma into the pistol-packing mother of villainy we think of, when really, she probably just did a crappy job raising her sons. 

 

I can only dream of such a snazzy revisionist misunderstanding, even if I do get shot dead in the end.

Posted in Business & Etsy, Life In the Mod Podge Lane | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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.

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.

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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.

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 »