Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just Hello

So, here's a picture of Shackleton and the Understudy fetchingly disporting themselves in the fields behind the Last House this PM. Sledding was Shack's idea and I jumped on it. (I wanted a Christmas card picture, so never mind that it's hunting season). A more honest portrait would have included Shack playing "Halo" on Xbox and the Understudy checking Facebook - but they look like crap in the light of liquid crystal displays... There may be a sledding video attached below here. (Blogger seems to be having trouble processing it). Don't worry about it if it's not there. You would not want to watch it unless you are a near blood relative, and even then you'll probably want to bail after the first ten seconds.

We had my Dad and Stepmother here for Thanksgiving. All very nice. We ate the usual stuff and watched endless news reports about people from the ROA (rest of America) storming the battlements of Target and WalMart etc. We shook our heads at them and congratulated ourselves for sitting in the sticks, pointedly not shopping. Well, to be honest, at about 4 PM yesterday a few of us ventured to downtown Newport, VT to the hardware store and bookshop. There were about half a dozen people shopping at the same time, so we coped OK. I thought about giving a couple of them a shove, just for good measure, but no one got close enough.

Even though I was deprived of the opportunity to circle for a parking spot or to compete for bargains, this little foray actually worked out great for us. My step mother presented us with an early Christmas present: a coffee maker/espresso machine to replace the one we got before the Flood and which recently seized fatally. (She had seen me pouring boiling water through a flopping Melitta filter into a small funnel, like the Tin Man's hat, for her breakfast coffee). She also treated us to a new shower hose and shower head. We don't have a proper shower here - just a tub with a handheld shower device affixed to the spout. I always forget to warn overnight visitors that there's a pin prick in the handle that sprays a piercing little stream of scalding water into the palm (and slightly to the west) of the bather... Whusband was polite, but I know he really doesn't want to replace the leaking shower head. (Don't ask).

I hope your holiday was happy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Best Brush With Greatness _Ever_

So, you know that altar I have built to David Sedaris in my living room? (At least the living room in my head). I just added on a new transept and apse and lady chapel because I got to meet and greet him last night with 350 of his other new best friends in Montreal. He was there to sign books - any book at all it seemed, though most people apparently stuck with Sedaris's own books. He started at 6 PM, read for 40 minutes and then signed for more than four hours! I know cause we had to leave after the reading to make a scheduled dinner with friends. We had dinner and then I asked Whusband to drop the Understudy and I back at the bookstore. Sure enough, two hours later the line was still moving along at about a person every five minutes. A lovely bookstore manager took pity on me and the Understudy (the only kid there - no school this week because of Thanksgiving) and told us to find a comfy place to sit and he would summon us when the last person had gotten their book signed. This finally happened at about 11:15...

D.S. was particularly sweet to the Understudy, which made me like him even more. She has a blog of her own these days and wrote up the whole encounter very nicely. Here's the link. Just to tempt you to make the jump, three words: "gifts were exchanged."

Watching this marathon signing session put me in mind of that Sedaris classic, "The Stadium Pal," q.v.

OK - Someone remind me to talk about the John Lennon hagiography they played on American Masters on PBS this week. I mean, we all love John Lennon, but come on! One point: the music he and Yoko played together in the early 70s was unlistenable then and 40 years and a martyred superstar later, it is no better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Steward, Where's My Pillow Menu?

This year Shack is 10 and he gets to go on a "big trip" of his choosing. His sister went to England when she was ten - not having any choice in the matter since I sprang it on her on Christmas day that year. The deal was that since he had to wait three years for his trip, he got a choice - or at least a whiff of choice. He said for a while that he wanted to go to Russia and I said, "No. No place where I can't read the signs." He said "cruise" and I said. Ycch. I didn't say, (but I thought), cruises are floating hotels for the superannuated and the vulgar (if you are a friend or family member who enjoys cruising I don't mean you, I mean the other people, the tacky, boring ones who went along with you on the cruise you enjoyed so much.).

Well... then I got thinking. What about actually going somewhere on a ship(other than the casino or the buffet or some VD-ridden trinkets outpost)? What about making that "somewhere" England? This would not be "cruising" but "crossing": this would be making the storied journey across the most no-fun highest-class Ocean of them all: the Atlantic! - and to a place where I want to go (never mind about Shackleton).

I was smitten with the idea immediately and Shack thought it sounded good too. Where's my steamer trunk! My fur coat? My cloche hat?

Oh yeah...

Not 1922 anymore.

Which means, of course,that crossing the Atlantic on a boat isn't forced on everyone, which kind of wrecked it.

Now it has to be chosen. And, I have learned, those making that choice have two options.

The only one that doesn't involve sharing deck space with shipping containers and dodgy third-world merchant seaman is the Queen Mary 2. We don't need the Queen Mary or anything, but it turns out that after one eliminates the freighters, she's all that's left.

Oh darn. I thought. Well, we'll just have to sign up for a little over-indulgence at sea. It can't be helped. In other circumstances the freighter would be the better option, but not for Shack's big trip. Once in a lifetime and all of that.

So I sent for the brochure.

If you haven't investigated the Cunard line lately you might be interested to know that they have apparently hired Hyacinth Bucket to write their copy and design their entertainments. Another change is that they have done away with steerage (drat), second class and first class - well, at least they have re branded them. Now on offer are "Britannia Club." (Read - low-rent district, at least as low rent as you can get at $250 a night) the "Princess Grill" (f/k/a second class) and "Queens Grill."

"Amenities" for the Britannia Class passengers are set out in a short list in the brochure and include (I am not making this up)"bottle of mineral water". Amenities for Princess Grill Passengers are in a much longer list and include "Fruit basket with Orchid." ("Excuse me, steward, someone has neglected to place the orchid in my fruit basket. What am I paying for in this Grill?") The Queens Grill passengers get "Butler service", "flower arrangement, fruit basket and bottled water replenished daily," "complimentary in-room bar" and on and on.

Shack and I watched the DVD that came with the brochure and did not see a single child anywhere - not in one picture, not in one frame. Lots of silver-haired attractive people in evening gowns and tuxedos having a laugh with glasses in their hands etc., but no kids, (also no oldies and no fatties which made it pretty obvious that the pictures in the brochure are all of models).

Soooo. We are getting the message that our kind aren't really wanted on the QM 2. Which, I have decided after just this little bit of reflection, is pretty much OK by me. Even if we had the cash handy for the fruit-basket-with-orchid splendors of the Princess Grill, I have a sinking feeling we wouldn't much enjoy it all. After we had a nice long gawp at the boat, I would be making fun of the minor Saudi princes, D-listers, guys who made a killing with Toyota franchises, and anybody else who could be enticed by the thought of the "Captain's Black and White Ball" or a sing-along in the Grand Lobby, "complete with lyrics."

One detail. I haven't really talked with Shack about this, after I got him all whipped up everything. I'll let you know what he says.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vermont's Golden Nights?

I need your help with a little market research for a new product I am thinking of developing. Well, OK, it's not so much a new product as one that has yet to be branded and exploited. Let me know what you think. It would be helpful if you happened to be in, say, Australia at the moment, or anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere. That is, I would particularly value opinions from those quarters.

I have noticed lately, especially since we changed the clocks last weekend, that we have a lot of darkness here in Vermont. It's fair to say, in fact, that we have been plunged into darkness. The sun comes up around 11 AM and sets at about 1:30 PM, or thereabouts.

I was driving through a dark misty afternoon this week, shortly after lunch, trying to make out the nearly invisible fog line at the road's edge, and thinking, "Gar, it sure is dark here." Then I thought, "I wonder how people in sunny places are coping with all that light they're getting now. I wonder if all that sunshine gets on their nerves."

I think you probably see where this is heading.

There must be lots of people who would love to have just a bit of a cold and pitch-black-5-PM in their unrelievedly sunny homes. I mean, how do all those transplanted northerners stand it this time of year in Arizona, or Los Angeles? And wouldn't northern daytime darkness have a certain mystery and cachet in the tropics - or the antipodes?

So, why not box it up and sell it?

The Pros: Postage would be minimal, even for a very large box of Vermont darkness. Oppressive as the dark can be around here, it actually weighs - are you holding onto something sturdy? - nothing at all!

Ease of manufacturing? Duh. Labor costs? I think I could handle taping the boxes closed and getting them to the post office. (And cashing the checks and processing the credit cards!)

I think the fact that I am in Vermont, which is, as our State marketing people will tell you, a valuable brand in itself offers me a tremendous business adavantage. Put the Vermont seal of quality, or even just the word "Vermont" on your product and you have announced to the world: "this is the best you can get". Ice cream, wool clothes, flower seeds, honey - precede the product name with "Vermont" and people in Japan will reach for their credit cards so fast that those near them risk injury. (Remember the high-end dog that Bart ordered in that Simpson's episode when he got his own credit card? The crate was marked, "The Vermont Collie.")

Soooo. Big, big upside.

The Cons

I know what you're saying now. "Sure, it's brilliant but you will need a really cool box.

The box is, I grant you, a hurdle.

Also, as an attorney, I am aware that there might be some risk of consumer disappointment if the Vermont darkness were in any way, uhm, mishandled.

I think I could deal with this, however, with a discrete, yet bulletproof disclaimer - one that provides the corporation with legal protection without spoiling the cool box. (If the tobacco people can do it, so can I.) By way of a rough draft:

Caution! Do not open your box of Genuine Vermont Brand Darkness (TM)under conditions involving ANY ambient light. The box should be unsealed only in areas of complete darkness. If you also ordered Genuine Vermont Brand Cold Air (TM), be certain to open your box in a cold room, such as a walk-in freezer. Caution! Before creating conditions of darkness and cold, remove hazards that might make it risky to move around in the dark. Also be certain that you have a way to get back out again. Vermont Environments Envoy, LLC, [just a provisional name - I'll need to convene a few focus groups] will not be held responsible for injuries caused by stumbling in the darkness or getting locked in a freezer.


Contents are guaranteed to have been boxed in Vermont and to have contained, at time of shipping, genuine Vermont Dark and Cold. Opening the box in conditions involving light, or heat, (if you have ordered Vermont Brand Cold Air (TM)), voids the warranty. Settling may have occurred during shipping.

Just a draft, of course.


What do you think for a price point?

Should various sizes be made available?

Hey - and what about expanding the product line in December with Vermont Brand Ice and Snow? Hmmm.

Shipping would be more difficult... But Rome wasn't built in a day.

Have I mentioned that I will be in Florida for two weeks in February? I'll pack some northern dark and cold for my mother and sister, who both live down there now. I am sure they're missing it already. They'll be dying for it by February.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

In Case You Couldn't See the Video...

Here's a transcript from the Saturday Night Live archives
Old Glory Insurance

.....Sam Waterson

Old Lady #1: When my ex-husband passed away, the insurance company said his policy didn't cover him.

Old Lady #2: They didn't have enough money for the funeral.

Old Lady #3: It's so hard nowadays, with all the gangs and rap music..

Old Lady #1: What about the robots?

Old Lady #4: Oh, they're everywhere!

Old Lady #1: I don't even know why the scientists make them.

Old Lady #2: Darren and I have a policy with Old Glory Insurance, in case we're attacked by robots.

Old Lady #1: An insurance policy with a robot plan? Certainly, I'm too old.

Old Lady #2: Old Glory covers anyone over the age of 50 against robot attack, regardless of current health.

[ cut to Sam Waterston, Compensated Endorser ]

Sam Waterson: I'm Sam Waterston, of the popular TV series "Law & Order". As a senior citizen, you're probably aware of the threat robots pose. Robots are everywhere, and they eat old people's medicine for fuel. Well, now there's a company that offers coverage against the unfortunate event of robot attack, with Old Glory Insurance. Old Glory will cover you with no health check-up or age consideration. [ SUPER: Limitied Benefits First Two Years ] You need to feel safe. And that's harder and harder to do nowadays, because robots may strike at any time.

[ show pie chart reading "Cause of Death in Persons Over 50 Years of Age": Heart Disease, 42% - Robots, 58% ]

And when they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free.. because they're made of metal, and robots are strong. Now, for only $4 a month, you can achieve peace of mind in a world full of grime and robots, with Old Glory Insurance. So, don't cower under your afghan any longer. Make a choice. [ SUPER: "WARNING: Persons denying the existence of Robots may be Robots themselves. ] Old Glory Insurance. For when the metal ones decide to come for you - and they will.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Monday, November 01, 2010

Happy Day After Halloween & Adele News

Note that the stone-cold killer has a toile bag for trick or treat.

Does't it seem like it should have a name? As Boxing Day is to Christmas? Tooth Enamel Memorial Day? Too long. Not catchy. Never mind.

Halloween morning dawned snowy and cold on the Vermont-Quebec border. (I took today's banner shot at the Last House mid-morning yesterday). This snow had some legs, too. It was still there when we headed off for Stowe after lunch and is probably still up there because it was cold here today. Like, ice-box cold.

Shackleton (army man) complained all the way through trick or treat that he couldn't feel his hands. For the first time in all my Halloween history we had a sit down part way through so he could have a hot chocolate at Stowe's uber atmospheric Black Cap coffee shop (couches, paintings, enormous milk steaming apparatus etc.)

I hope that your Halloween was fun. Kids agreed that upscale Stowe was less fun and had worse candy than the impoverished border town where the Last House sits and waits.

In Other News

I have to admit my main impetus for dropping by the old blog tonight was to share the good news that Adele, of "19" the Grammy Winner and one of my great favorites, has FINALLY announced that her new album will be available in February. It will be called, you guessed it, "21". It's been, what, 2 years since 19? Oh dear. But she worked on this one with Rik Rubin (a hip hop producer supposedly of genius who also did great things for Johnny Cash very late in the Cash career so there you go). Also, there is a lovely new picture of Adele on her fetching newly designed website, in case you're also interested. I guess that means I will have to leave the house for a concert next year sometime.

Off to see if San Fran has taken down the Rangers. You know I have issues with Texas...