Flower Power.

You may remember my awesome neighbors. I've written about their "interesting" taste before, in this post about their bedazzled mailbox. As predicted, chunks:

Granted, it took longer than I expected, and most of it is still hanging in there like a persistent rash, but that's OK because the wrought iron baby buggy, robot cat and dog, and reflector posts took a lot of the focus away from the mailbox:

The best was yet to come. A little while ago, a wrought iron bird cage (with two fake canaries), a section of picket fence with a yellow ribbon on it, and a pair of wicker chairs made the scene. It was getting a little crowded out there.

Hey, to each his own, right? We get a kick out of it when we drive by, but sometimes we can't help but wish they stuck to the chainsaw-carved bear they started with.

Their latest addition takes the proverbial cake, however:

Yep. Giant, fake, pink flowers in a milk jug. Totally awesome, right? Every time we drive by, it reminds me of this. I cannot figure out what they are thinking. It's like they are a couple of stoners instead of retirees.

I never claimed to have great taste, but here's what I built in our garden today:

I might add some giant pink satin flowers.

One more completely unrelated thing -- if anyone has one of these they want to sell, please let me know. Thanks.


2 more things I will never need.

The other day I was surfing the web looking for new hiking boots that aren't made in China, and while I was at it, I figured I'd pick up a nice three-wolf moon t-shirt. As I was reading the reviews to make sure this was the three-wolf shirt for me, (you have to read the reviews) I stumbled on the answer to my prayers in an adjacent ad:

Well, maybe it would be more accurate to describe it as a book about the answer to my prayers.

Prayers that were, unfortunately, duly ignored.

So really, stumbling on this book is probably more of a cruel cosmic joke than anything else. I like to think of it as just another well-placed brick in the wall of my agnosticism.

On the other hand, if the person who wrote book this is actually making money on it, I salute him for his brilliant idea. Seriously, it could be blank inside and I'm sure he'd still sell quite a few of them as jokes.

The funniest part for me wasn't actually inside the book though. It was this:

This hurts my head. Who out there is thinking, "You know what would go perfect with this book about how to live with my giant crank? A terra cotta Obama with a green afro."

I would have guessed the answer would be "nobody," but I would have been wrong.

Apparently, there are enough people out there who want a Chia Obama that they sell them in two poses -- which are labeled "determined" and "happy."

When I look at them, I see something entirely different:

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone. Please remember our fallen troops.


Total Recall.

In an ongoing effort to make my blog both fun AND useful, I've decided to keep you up to date on current consumer product recalls. Not all of them, of course --just the ones that made me laugh for some reason. That's another way of saying if the grill you bought explodes, you're on your own. Unless, of course, said grill is made of gold and goes over your teeth, in which case you totally would have read about it here first.

With that introduction out of the way, here are some recent recalls I think my readers should be aware of.

This first one I'd like to file under the category of "Unfortunate Company Names":

Children's Hooded Sweatshirts with Drawstrings Recalled Due to Strangulation Hazard

Name of product: Hooded Fleece Sweatshirts
Units: About 450
Distributor: Dysfunctional Clothing LLC, of Irvine, Calif.

Hazard: The jackets have a drawstring through the hood which can pose a strangulation hazard.

Apparently, I am not the only one who can't really understand how you could kill yourself with your own sweatshirt. There are a ton of clothes companies who just got fined for "failure to report drawstrings" on their sweatshirts. So while the topic of strangulation isn't funny, I still laugh when I think of the company president of Dysfunctional Clothing, LLC sitting in his office thinking, "Why? I'm an idiot, that's why! What made me think that name was a good idea?"

[edited: Jess, Marbles --holy crap, I had no idea little kids getting killed by drawstrings was that common. How did we ever survive the 70's? No helmets, strap-on rollerskates with metal wheels, drawstrings on our clothes ... ]

This next one goes in the file folder marked "Irony."

Skull-And-Crossbones Necklaces Recalled By Spencer Gifts Due to Risk of Lead Exposure

Name of Product: Skull-And-Crossbones Necklaces
Units: About 8,400
Importer: Spencer Gifts LLC, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J.

Hazard: The skull and metal clasp of the necklace contain high levels of lead.

Let me get this straight: They sold 8,400 of these things? What sort of lead product were these people sucking on before? I mean, something had to make them think a skull and crossbones necklace was a good idea to begin with, right?

This next one I file under the heading of, "Things that make me simultaneously cross my legs, bend at the waist and cover my crotch with both hands while breathing in sharply between clenched teeth."

Under Armour Recalls Athletic Cups Due To Injury Hazard

Name of Product: Under Armour Athletic Cups
Units: About 211,000
Importer: Under Armour Inc, of Baltimore, Maryland

Hazard: The cups can break if hit, posing a risk of serious injury hazard to athletes.

Incidents/Injuries: Under Armour has received five reports of cups breaking/splintering, including an injury involving cuts and bruising.

Yeah, that's what I want covering my junk. A futuristic codpiece that explodes into razor-sharp shards when it's hit with something. It's safe to assume that they did no product testing on this at all. It looks like kevlar/carbon fiber body armor (or maybe a super villian mask), but apparently it's made of untempered glass.

I don't even know where to file this last one. Under "Things that make you go "Ewww," maybe.

Target Recalls Dive Sticks Due to Impalement Hazard

Name of Product: Dive Sticks
Units: About 365,000
Importer: Target, of Minneapolis, Minn.

Hazard: The recalled dive sticks could remain in an upright position, posing an impalement hazard to young children.

So they're telling me that kids are actually getting impaled on these things? They throw them in the pool and then jump on them, and because they're sticking up in the water they get impaled? I find that hard to believe. OK, maybe once, but what are the odds? I feel bad for the manufacturer on this one. It's not like they have jagged edges like that cup up there. They're round and smooth, for god's sake. What they should do is recall them, jack the price up to ten times what it was, re-label them as "Sexx Stixx: Sensual hot-tub fun for everyone." and sell them exclusively through Adam & Eve.

See, Dad? My marketing and advertising degree didn't go to waste, regardless of what you're always telling me.

So until next time, beware of any street corner cup deals that look too good to be true. I mean, usually you're fine buying that sort of thing out of the trunk of someone's car, but you can't be too careful these days.


They say 24% of California's air pollution comes from overseas.

A friend of mine sent me this article today. It's a story from India, so needless to say, it's very effed up. Also, I have questions.

Indian dad avoids washing for 35 years

NEW DELHI (AFP) - - An Indian man who fathered seven daughters has not washed for 35 years in an apparent attempt to ensure his next child is a boy, newspapers reported.

Kailash "Kalau" Singh replaces bathing and brushing his teeth with a "fire bath" every evening when he stands on one leg beside a bonfire, smokes marijuana and says prayers to Lord Shiva, according to the Hindustan Times.

"It's just like using water to take a bath," Kalau was reported as saying. "A fire bath helps kill germs and infection in the body."

Kalau, 63, from a village outside the holy city of Varanasi, outraged his family by refusing to take a ritual dip in the river Ganges even after his brother died five years ago.

"I still don't remember how it all began," he said in Saturday's edition of the paper. "I just know it started about 35 years ago."

Kalau's hygiene regime has taken its toll on his professional life.

The grocery store that he used to own closed when customers stopped shopping there due to his "unhealthy personality" and he now tills fields near Varanasi airport.

Kalau, who wears two pullovers all through the Indian summer, said his pledge not to wash was a commitment to the "national interest."

"I'll end this vow only when all problems confronting the nation end," he said.

But his neighbours in the village of Chatav said there was another reason for Kalau's washing boycott.

"A seer once told Kalau that if he does not take a bath, he would be blessed with a male child," a man called Madhusudan told the paper.

Most Indians prefer sons, who are typically regarded as breadwinners, while girls are seen as a burden because of the matrimonial dowry demanded by a groom's family and the fact that their earnings go to their husband's family.

Where to begin? The first sentence is probably a good place. Not washing for 35 years is supposed to guarantee him a male child? First off, I think that for the last 34 years, 11 months he has not been able to get within yelling distance of another living thing, let alone an actual woman. I am guessing that does little to help the whole procreation process. Also, I feel bad for his daughters. Can you imagine? I thought my dad was embarassing to me when I was a kid.

"It's just like using water to take a bath." No, it is not just like using water to take a bath. In fact, it's just about the direct opposite of using water to take a bath. One, it's not a bath, unless stewing in your own sweat counts, which it does not. Two, how exactly do you brush your teeth with a bonfire? That's like saying you can comb your hair with a car. Three, while I can understand you smoking weed in an attempt to dull your senses to the point where your own putrefaction doesn't make you vomit, wtf does standing on one foot have to do with anything?

And here's a news flash -- people didn't stop shopping at your store because of your unhealthy "personality." They stopped shopping at your store because you sell food and also have small chitenous creatures living off your body. They probably couldn't bring themselves to breathe in the same air you just exhaled. If you're going to do this kind of thing, move to Bombay. The air smells like raw sewage there most of the time anyway.

And as for ending your stank-ass protest when "all the problems confronting the nation end" -- know this:

You, my crusty, malodorous friend, ARE one of your nation's problems.

And Shiva? I am betting he is glad he has those extra arms. That way he can cover his eyes, plug his nose, and still have two hands left over to smack the shit out of you. I would also bet my paycheck that your neighbors and your family are also wishing for some extra arms right now.

Here's some unsolicited advice. Take a fucking shower and find a new seer. After 35 years, I think it's safe to assume that the old one isn't working out for you. Or for anyone else.


Open (Closet) Door.

I might as well grab the bull by the horns and tell you a story about Paul's memorial service/wake.

It was incredibly hard to be there. There was a slideshow video running through all these pictures of Paul growing up, us backpacking in college and sitting in his parent's finished basement when we were teens. I didn't know she was going to do it, but his sister had enlarged my blog post and it was sitting on an easel next to the table that held his urn. The post and the picture from it were surrounded by other pictures of Paul with his friends. One of our finished swords was sitting on a sword stand next to the urn.

It was a hard thing to see, but I'm glad she did it. If there's one thing I'm not, it's a public speaker, and there was no way I was going to get up there and say anything in front of a crowd.

The deal was that from 5-6pm it was just friends and family, then from 6-8pm it was open for the general public to pay their respects. We had arrived at around 4:30 to help get everything set up.

Earlier in the week Paul's wife had asked me to put together a CD of a song or two that he had liked, so I did. I made a CD of 4 songs, and I figured they'd be playing them in the background during the wake or something. Turns out, that wasn't the case.

Instead, she had asked all of his friends to bring a song that was special to him. After the minister gave his sermon, he invited us one by one to get up and speak if we wanted to, and after each person was finished speaking, the funeral home employee manning the CD player would announce the title of their song, then play it. Apparently, since I had provided a CD, the minister had assumed that I wanted it played even though I wasn't speaking.

Unfortunately, my CD wasn't clearly marked by song. I had just quickly scribbled "Paul" on it with a sharpie right before I left the house. There were four songs on it, as I mentioned. When the minister said, "Here's a CD from JV entitled 'Paul,'" I quickly decided the song I wanted them to play was the 4th song -- "Rivendell" by Rush. Paul was a huge Tolkien fan and a serious scholar of Middle Earth, so the song seemed fitting.

I looked at Paul's wife across the room, who I assumed was sort of managing the song thing, and held up 4 fingers to indicate the fourth song. I found out later she took that to mean there were 4 songs on the CD. Instead of the song I wanted, the CD player guy queued up the first song. It just so happened that it was a song called "Open Door" by Genesis. Here are the lyrics:

There's the morning light
Shining in your hair, and in your eyes
And just a little way behind that smile of yours
I see another one, oh so far away
If only for one second, I could hold you close to me
When the Master calls for me again
There's nothing I can say, or I can do

Goodbye, my love

Time has come to say farewell
I hear the call again
Goodbye to the world
I've sheltered for so long
Oh there's so much my love, that I can never say

And in a little while, in a little while

There's nothing left to see

As the years go by and I have not returned
And the night has come, falling all around
Ooh, if you count the stars you'll know
How many have gone out

And when the Master calls for me again

There's nothing that I can say Or I can do

Stand in the sun

Shut your eyes and feel the world
It's changing every day

Goodbye my love

Each day will seem so long
Ooh there's so much I feel, that I can never say

I can't see you

I can't feel you anymore
I've just a memory of that open door

So while it's a hauntingly beautiful song that both Paul and I loved, it wasn't quite what I had in mind.

The song ended.

The room was totally silent.

I sat there for about 5 seconds, then applied the JP rule of humor which states that if something is at least twice as funny as it is inappropriate, then you are morally obligated to go for it.

I took a deep breath and announced:


Most people thought it was funny, although think I may have pissed off a relative here or there. It doesn't matter though, because I know Paul would have laughed his ass off.

As for the ghost story, here it is. Keep in mind that I've never had any supernatural experiences in my life. I've never seen a ghost, I've never seen a UFO, I've never witnessed anything weird first-hand that couldn't be explained away by logic. I consider myself more or less an agnostic. I don't *not* believe in a creator, or an afterlife -- I just figure I don't have enough facts either way to make an informed decision. Paul and I used to joke around and say that whichever of us went first had to come back and let the other know if there was anything after.

On the dresser in our bedroom, there's a cast resin candle holder that looks like a round castle. It's been up there for maybe twelve years, (I know, I should clean) but it was an early gift from my wife when we first got married so it just sort of moved with us from place to place, and I never had the heart to toss it or store it away. It also happens to have a music box mechanism in it that plays Camelot. Since Paul died, there's been a picture of him leaning against it.

Two days ago, early in the morning, it played very slowly for about 5 seconds.

Here's the thing: It hasn't been wound up for at least ten years.

*not that there's anything wrong with that.