Let’s blog a parade! (2018)

Went to bed late, barely slept. But I have my blessed Mountain Dew and a freshly baked (last night) pumpkin muffin. Did I buy the right chocolate chips? No! Did I find out before pouring the minis into the dough? No! But we soldier on and find out later if it worked out. Let’s do this! (Oh, forgot to mention: this is live, so keep refreshing.)

Right from the start we have a weird Broadway-style opening number with a boy that I assume has something to do with an upcoming or ongoing show. It’s not working. It’s like a parody of a Broadway number. Kid has pipes, but… no.

Where’s Matt Lauer? (Hahahaha! Just kidding. My mean streak comes out when I don’t have caffeine yet.)

And now the opening lineup. Kelly Clarkson, Diana Ross, John Legend, Martina McBride (ugh, country), Sugarland (ugh), Leona Lewis (ugh—not country but ugh), Pentatonix… gads this is going too fast. There were more good and bad names on that list. I recognized a surprising number of them. Didn’t recognize a ton as ones I’d go out of my way to see, but that’s just me. The last single I heard from Kelly Clarkson was amazing but mostly because her band blew the roof off the place. Pentatonix is usually pretty good. Also there’s a musical about Donna Summer—the one tolerable part of the disco era, which I suspect will be intolerable in theatre form.

Lego Movie 2 commercial! Huzzah!

Man, I miss when Mandy Moore was a blonde. And a recording artist. I don’t watch This Is Us; I was surprised just now to learn she’s on the show. No that doesn’t change my mind about watching it. But I like this whole Thanksgiving memories segment they’re doing.

Let the musicals begin! Al says we get a classic first, and it’s My Fair Lady. Hey, that is a classic! And I like it! Okay, so this isn’t Audrey Hepburn visiting us via a time machine, but I’m cool with it. Gads, now I want to watch the movie.

Okay, the mini chips worked out okay.

Just caught an ad for Mary Poppins Returns. I saw a poster in a theater a few months back so it didn’t come as a complete surprise but this is the first I’ve seen of it. Will it work? I really want to hope so, but there was a whimsical, carefree magic in those old Disney movies that I don’t know if they can recapture or not. Part of it is the way the generations have changed. Will this have the same heart? If it does, will it capture the love of millennials and their kids?

Next musical is The Prom. I’m not sure what I’m seeing. This is.. weird. The costumes are a little too varied, even accounting for making things larger than life on the stage. Eh.

So we’re into this Summer musical now, and they’re doing the song “Hot Stuff”. It’s not terrible, so it’s meeting expectations. Ah, but this is apparently a medley with different versions of Donna Summer as she ages (I think), and now we’ve got the ultra-disco “Last Dance”, which is terrible. Which also meets expectations. Ah, the accursed era of my birth.

Holy crap, they’re doing a Lego Jurassic World special next week. I’m so in. After that are some local ads. One of them has camping in it. I’m so out!

More Thanksgiving memories; definitely a good segment. I saw Tom Turkey from overhead but no sign of who’s on it. Anyway now it’s Kelly Clarkson time. New song. I can’t hear the horn section of her band and that’s disappointing: “Love So Soft” lived and died by them.

Hobbes has decided it’s lap time. That makes typing very difficult, but I can’t keep him on my lap for long because he has a tendency to fart when he comes up on my lap. I could live with that but sometimes it isn’t a fart. I don’t want to do last-minute laundry.

Commercial for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I’ve heard good things. I have a list of Netflix and Amazon shows I still need to get to. Also I heard Amazon is doing Ringworld and Snow Crash. Can’t wait.

Ooh. America’s Got Talent is doing a championship edition in early January. Interesting! On the other hand who wants to deal with live TV in January?

I see the parade in motion and approaching Macy’s, with Al Roker in that motorcycle sidecar. The hosts are having a visit with Tina Fey. Time for another musical, which she wrote with her husband and someone else. Oh, it’s a musical adaptation of Mean Girls. Wait, where’s Lindsay Lohan? (Hahahaha. Just kidding. The Mountain Dew isn’t doing enough yet. Also I just looked up Lindsay to verify how to spell her name, and good gads, when did she get so much lip filler? I feel like all her DUIs were less of a mistake.) So this song is called “Fearless”. The singing seems to work; the dancing less so for me. It’s a lot of leg kicks and it’s not far off from what the prom number did earlier, nor the opening number for the whole parade. Broadway is phoning it in.

New polar bears commercial for Coke, with a bird (is it supposed to be a penguin on the wrong pole)? Adorable as always. I miss when they did new ones all the time.

Just got a shot of the Toothless balloon from How to Train Your Dragon. Love that one. But first, here are the Rockettes. Pretty soon the parade proper will begin. I don’t think I like those mustard yellow outfits at all, or the 1920s-style (have to start getting specific on ’20s) things on their heads. They put in some amazing work, as always, for a precise performance. I know one of the secrets behind it is they have an extremely narrow height range. Still this is one tradition I’ll hate to see go away. Frankly I’m astounded the PC mob hasn’t come for them yet.

Google is pushing their new video-screen home hub. Lately Facebook has too, for theirs. I’ll take Tech Giants I Don’t Trust with My Data for $600 billion, Alex. (I do have an Amazon Echo Dot, but… I feel a lot better about Amazon.)

Ah, the Rockettes are forming a human gate (Hoda’s words) in front of the parade instead of the traditional ribbon-cutting. I approve.

Right up front is Tom Turkey, and this year riding it is… aww, no Food Network celebrities? I know Sandra Lee overstayed her welcome but with my culinary hero Alton Brown bringing back Good Eats, I was really hoping to see him there. Pity. Behind Tom is a marching band from Columbus, all brass and percussion from Ohio State—rival to my brother-in-law’s football team.

The first balloon is a puppy called Chase from Paw Patrol. I don’t know a thing about Paw Patrol except that I’d like to keep not knowing a thing about it. Sadly I now know the lead puppy is named Chase. Also sadly, they said Sugarland is coming up so we’re about to break the no-country streak going an hour strong now.

Dodge Ram is literally the platform for Tom Turkey this year and now we have a commercial where they really want us to know it. Also Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: I’m not sure what to make of that. I never knew the story of the Nutcracker, and still don’t, so this isn’t pulling any strings for me. I’d like to hope it’s a magical experience, but it’s not one I’ll pay to see in the theater.

They had a fun montage of TV shows and movies mentioning the parade, most of them great and one of them Ghostbusters 2016. And on a similar note of disappointment marring a great event we have our first country song of the day. Which… okay, disappointment isn’t the right word because the little part they did wasn’t so country. It was kinda almost passable.

Here’s the Pillsbury Dough Boy balloon, and the Green Giant float behind him. Wait, aren’t they out of order? You don’t get dessert till after the green beans.

Oh crap, the Green Giant float has another country song, with hardly a breather after the last one. And this is countrier. I like that it has a good melody, but then I’ve always appreciated that about country; I just wish we could bring melody back to pop. For attribution I’ll mention this artist is Carly Pearce.

Grants Pass High School (I think—kinda missed part of it while complaining about the country song) sent a marching band, but that moment of their appearance was super short. Behind them, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid balloon.

GAH! Elf on the Shelf balloon shot! I wasn’t ready! I wasn’t ready!

Wait, what? You pay Facebook for their Portal device? Considering the trust level I have here, shouldn’t they be paying us? I mean we’re the product. You knew that, right?

The Sesame Street float is here. I have no idea who Anika Noni Rose is, but she’s leading the group song. It’s not a memorable song, because it’s a more modern (read: wrong) take on melody that isn’t very melodic. Remember how the old Sesame Street songs could get in your head and kids could actually remember them? And they actually taught us stuff? Yeah, the millennials really missed out on the golden age.

Another balloon just went by. It was a plane from a cartoon I don’t know. Brynn Cartelli, who apparently won The Voice (this year?) is doing a song on top of another float. I missed the name of the float but it says “Universal Kids” on the front. I’m not hating this song, called “Walk My Way”, but I think it’ll play better as a radio single with the music propping it up.

We have a sort of mini-balloon setup with a rainbow and a weird-looking way-too-anime cloud behind/above it. It’s from a contemporary art collective whose name I missed. Not sure I care.

XBox had a great ad with a bunch of kids running to watch another kid about to win a game using a special controller to accommodate a disability. I liked it. Followed by the classic with the little girl giving a college lecture on neurobiology, when she’s really playing with Barbies and Barbie is doing the lecture. Adorable.

John Legend is performing on the Build-A-Bear float. Gotta say he’s never clicked with me, but he really has a nice voice. He’s doing a Christmas classic, and it almost makes me want to buy his Christmas album. He has a TV special coming up next week with his wife. Less sure about that, although she’s hardly unpleasant to look at.

Toothless! And they say a third movie is coming up in February! So is the Lego Movie 2! February is gonna be awesome for movies, and when has anyone ever said that?

Another marching band now, performing “I Got Rhythm”. This is James Madison University and they’re doing a fine job. Not very Christmassy or Thanksgivingish, but it’ll do. Behind them, Entemann’s has a bake shop float, and Pentatonix is performing that song “Where Are You Christmas?” from the live-action Grinch film. Truth bomb: this song sucks. Not their rendition of it; the song itself. I just never liked it.

Commercial from Allstate thanking first responders, especially regarding the most recent California wildfires. My heart goes out to everyone who got caught up in that, again, but gads, if I lived in California and I’d lost a bazillion dollar house to wildfires I’d be leading a pitchfork-wielding mob going after the idiots whose lousy forest management policies keep making that happen. Hey stupid! Most of California is a desert and naturally wants to burn, and you need to prepare for that by clearing the undergrowth. Gah.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios just did a bit of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in front of Macy’s. Fun stuff. Gads I miss Fred Astaire.

An NHL (I think) float is here now. We have a “singer” called Bazzi—no, dude, I do not accept. You did not earn the one-name treatment. His voice is heavily processed and the song sucks.

At least Ronald McDonald is here now to raise the mood, and so is his balloon. Real talk: the triple breakfast stack McMuffin is amazing. Also real talk: I ordered it five times in the first week after I suddenly saw it on the menu (don’t judge me), and all five times the staff had trouble figuring out what the heck I was asking for. Is training not a thing? Anyway love the sandwich.

They mentioned pop star Rita Ora was coming up, and I was like, “Who?” Well she’s on top of a float now, and the key detail they left out was British pop star. I don’t hate this song either. She can’t lip-sync for crap though. Still I wish she’d displace some of the garbage that’s on the radio.

Al Roker is among a giant bowling ball and bowling pins for some reason. Apparently there’s some group trying to remind us bowling is fun. Which it is, but this didn’t make the case. Behind that, Ashley Tisdale (hey, she’s still a thing!) is on the Kinder float. Also not hating this pop song. Yay! We have actual semi-bubblegum pop for the first time in years!

Good ol’ Charlie Brown has his balloon behind her, but once again I wish it were Snoopy.

HOLY CRAP! The Cicero-North Syracuse high school marching band is behind that. That’s my people! Literally the neighborhood I live in. How cool is that?

We finally have a Grinch commercial that isn’t a commercial for something else. Actually I think there was one earlier but it had a Minion in it, so it didn’t count. I still say that flick looks like hot trash. I wish it didn’t, truly, but it does. Remakes don’t bother me. Remakes with a lot of stupid filler bother me.

How about some sweet Latin sounds? Gah, how about not? Not a Latin music fan. I did like “Despacito”. This Bad Bunny guy on the Sour Patch Kids float is horrific though. It doesn’t help that I don’t understand the lyrics, but there’s no melody or rhythm here at all. His “singing” sounds like “DUH bla duhda ba buh” like he’s trying to sound stupid. No, I’m not making fun of his accent or the Spanish language in general. That is literally what he sounds like. There are amazing Latin singers out there even though I don’t care for most Latin music, and I tell you this man is not one of them. Never thought I’d see a train wreck in the middle of a parade.

I am not an anime fan and I have a hatred of anime that borders on legendary, but I do love the Pikachu balloon. And also that Detective Pikachu film with Ryan Reynolds looks hilarious.

Behind Pikachu, the TMNT float. All modern iterations of the Turtles are crap. I said it. This one from Neckelodeon looks worse than many of the others. Duo Jack & Jack (I think) are singing the Jonas Blue song “Rise”, a tale of obnoxious millennial angst that makes me want to slap a 20-year-old.

There’s a Dragonball balloon. I think it’s Gohan. Did I mention I hate anime?

Johnny Orlando & Mackenzie Ziegler are on a float singing a song called “What If?” More I’m-not-sure-it’s-good-enough-to-be-bubblegum pop. But hey, I’ll take it. It’s not country and it’s not more of Bad Bunny’s DERP DERP DUH DERP. Yes I’m going to keep complaining about that.

Spirit of America Cheer is performing in front of Macy’s now. That’s a lot of hot pink and neon green. They did a good job, but I’d like to have a word with someone about color coordination.

On the Shimmer & Shine float, Ally Brooke (formerly of Fifth Harmony) is singing Last Christmas. I don’t mind her vocals on this, but the weird shrieky thing they’re doing with the background vocals is really annoying.

We have a Trolls balloon, and they tell us a TV special is coming up. I missed the movie. On purpose.

And now we have Macy’s Great American Marching Band, performing a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Approved! Still not holiday themed, but long live the Queen.

Wow, it’s after 11 already. This next float is from the Girl Scouts. On it is one of the youngest country stars, they say: Tegan Marie. Ouch. This is the countriest country song yet. My poor allergies. But the actual songiness of these songs is compelling; why can’t pop have that anymore? Why?!

Ah yes, it’s perfume commercial season. This one that I’ve been seeing everywhere is for Dior, and it features the song “She’s A Rainbow” by the Rolling Stones that’s in like nine other commercials too. To say I’m sick of this song would be an understatement so great, my sleep-deprived brain can’t think of a good enough analogy to compare. But after that they showed a commercial for a Netflix movie where Kurt Russell plays Santa Claus. I’m down with that. If he played Jack Burton playing Santa Claus, I’d be foaming at the mouth with excitement.

This Kalahari float is interesting. British “phenom” (hosts’ words) Ella Mai is singing on the deck. I just heard feedback so I think she might actually be singing live, so props to her. But I’m really hating this song. I think I’ve heard it on the radio too, and I didn’t like it any better there. Still better than Bad Bunny.

Another band is performing in front of Macy’s, and darn it I missed the name. Oh, it’s Marching Tigers. Thanks, hosts! The Spongebob balloon is right behind them, and he’s always worth a smile.

King’s Hawaiian has a Hawaii-themed float (naturally) with the Barenaked Ladies on top. I thought they broke up. No matter. They’re performing “One Week”, and I love it. That song’s more than 20 years old now, and that I love rather less. I feel old.

Baby dinosaurs are in front of a dinosaur balloon from Sinclair Oil. It’s cute. The South Dakota Department of Tourism has a float for their only landmark (you know the one), and country singer (ugh!) Kane Brown is singing on it. This one doesn’t have a sense of rolling flow to it like the ones before, but boy is it country. In other words, this is deeply painful.

Behind that, here’s the red Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger. They said it’s one of the most watched and longest-running kids’ programs, but they came after my time and even trying to take an open-minded look I can’t see the point.

Hee hee. Bank of America is trying hard to convince us they’re all about solving problems and making the world better. Baaahahaha!

There’s an Elf on the Shelf float, and apparently now there’s an animated special where they enlarged the creepy cast to include creepy pets. And of course here’s the creepy balloon. At least this time I was ready. But good gads. I hate this guy. Hate.

Leona Lewis comes next. She’s doing a Christmas song, so that’s a nice change. I think this is the song I heard from her last year on the radio that I liked. Yep, same song. I was genuinely surprised because I didn’t think I could like a Leona Lewis song. She’s all about the riffs and reaching for the big notes instead of holding up the song directly; that style has always bugged me.

Woodland Heights Marching Band is in front of the store now, performing “Ode to Joy”. Now after I watch My Fair Lady I also want to watch Die Hard. Fun fact: that’s gonna be on the big screen at the Movie Tavern, and I’ve never seen it on the big screen. Less fun fact: not till after Christmas.

Aflac! They really hit it out of the park with that mascot.

There’s a Peanuts float next, with Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy in mascot-type costumes. Still would rather Snoopy was the balloon and Charlie Brown was on the float.

And here’s a commercial for Ralph Breaks the Internet. I’m totally on board, right after I see the next Fantastic Beasts movie. Maybe even literally right after, if I can talk my wife into a double feature.

The Today hosts are doing a tribute to Jean McFadden who led the parade for many years and passed away this year. That was sweet.

Keller High School Marching Band (did I get the name right?) is in front of Macy’s now. Loving those flags with the big snowflake designs. Olaf’s balloon sees them off, chasing them down with warm hugs. They’re telling us there’s a Frozen musical coming to Broadway next year. Hope I get to see a performance from that in next year’s parade.

Man I love this Balsam Hill float. Martina McBride is aboard, but thankfully she’s singing Christmas music. She’s doing a straight (which is to say not country) rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. I’m relieved.

Netflix has balloons this year, and they’re elves from that movie with Kurt Russell.

It was my wife who pointed this out, but I can’t un-think it now: That Ford commercial where they talk about how they meticulously design their trucks unlike how Santa’s presents magically appear, then talk about how elves have nothing on them. You can’t have it both ways, guys. Either you go with the non-canonical explanation where the elves do nothing, or they’re hard workers who make a great product. Pick one.

Another marching band with awesome flags. That blue and white with the swirls is amazing. Lafayette High School, I think they said.

Next is the Nutcracker balloon. I’m surprised Disney didn’t jump all over that with their movie coming up.

Wow, we are closing in on noon fast. The Hallmark Channel has a float. Weirdly Lacey Chabert is not aboard. Diana Ross is, though, performing “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime”. Hey, I like this version! I don’t mind the original either, but let’s not pretend there wasn’t room for improvement.

The Grinch balloon follows that up, and it’s the new Grinch from the upcoming movie, not the classic Grinch, because we can’t have nice things. I still can’t believe Benedict Cumberbatch voices him. Not from the previews I’ve seen.

And behind that, the Macy’s Christmas Tree float which is a multi-layer tree like a wedding cake made of tree, but with singers on it. They’re doing a rather pretty choral song. I wouldn’t mind hearing this on the radio. Will I? No, but I’ll definitely hear Band Aid’s execrable “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” 400 times before December is out. Not 400 times all the way through of course, because I can change the channel. Replace it with this song and I’ll be very happy.

This Macy’s commercial with the astronaut video-chatting with her family at Christmas is heartwarming, but boy is it stupid. Ain’t no way NASA would be on board with letting loose a bunch of foam pellets like snow all over the space station. Can you imagine what would happen once the static electricity built up on all those things? It’d stick to every panel, everywhere, forever. The only thing worse would be glitter.

Spirit of America Dance Stars is performing in front of Macy’s, and I swear this confuses the crap out of me every single year. Why are there two different groups called Spirit of America? Just pick one. They’re doing a jazzed-up version of “Winter Wonderland”. I like the silver-blue-on-fuzzy-white costumes.

Oh man, is it time for Santa already? It’s three minutes to noon!

Here the big guy is, with lots of paper streamers subbing for snow and a jingly, bouncy song. No sign of the kid from the beginning. It’s a Christmas miracle! They say this is the record coldest parade ever, which doesn’t sound right. Is it really? It doesn’t look that cold out there.

But the hosts are signing off and so will I. As always, incredible gratitude and warmest wishes to our troops who are away from their families today. We appreciate everything you do. And thanks too to all the emergency workers who staff the hospitals, police stations, fire houses, ambulance corps, and so on to keep us safe. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving too.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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The night before

The full moon is shining on the snowy ground, pumpkin bread and muffins are in the oven, and I’m nearly ready to go. My annual Macy’s parade live blog commences at 9:00 AM tomorrow!

Quick update on all the rest: I got stuck last weekend on my book but I think I’m over the hump, and now I’m working to catch up. Obviously today and tomorrow are a bit hard for that but I think over the weekend I can get back to where I need to be.

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Pointless controversy: the new Grinch movie looks like crap on a plate

With Americans so divided in politics these days, let us come together on something we all ought to be able to agree on (but, knowing us, we probably won’t): the new animated Grinch movie that’s coming out is a train wreck.

I grew up with the old classic TV special, albeit cut to ribbons even back in the ’80s. I didn’t see the unabridged Grinch until I was an adult. How sad is that? But it’s a timeless masterpiece that holds up, especially thanks to Boris Karloff’s voice and narration.

The live-action film with Jim Carrey was… all right. I enjoyed it, but I wanted it to be better. To me it stepped on the story in too many ways. The Whos were in many cases every bit as shallow and materialistic as the Grinch believed they were, and had to be convinced to come together at the end. On top of that, Carrey’s over-the-top clowning, while amusing, detracted from the character—although he did counterbalance that by showing off the Grinch’s anger, bitterness, and capacity to hold a grudge.

But then we have this new version, and I can’t get behind it one bit. Every single preview scene I’ve witnessed has been entirely wrong. Some of it might be that the film is commercialized to death with tie-ins to a million unrelated products. But what’s really been bugging me is that we’ve seen what appears to be mostly filler material unrelated to the story, and it’s terrible. All of it is silly and plays up the Grinch himself as silly. Remember the funniest moments of the original special? Those were when the Grinch ran into a snag as a result of his passionate hatred overtaking good sense, or when physics (such as it was) got in a few laughs at his expense during his ill-planned race down the mountain—never because he was being silly himself. But this new Grinch is silly; it will play well with kids, but it’s a dishonor to the spirit of the character.

Some of what was getting me in these overly silly gags was that the voice acting didn’t sound serious enough. This lacked the gravitas of the Grinch. Imagine my shock when I looked it up—literally just minutes ago—and discovered he’s voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch! This is a man who can do serious voice roles. Perhaps it’s a testament to his skill that the Grinch doesn’t sound like Benedict Cumberbatch, but the flip side of that is he appears to have lost all of Cumberbatch’s presence. At least that’s true of the scenes I’ve been shown in umpty-thousand commercials.

In short, this is a Grinch who is playful rather than malicious or vindictive. It doesn’t fit. Sure there’s room to explore more under the surface of that anger, but if I want to see the playful side of the Grinch it’s the side he showed in the original TV adaptation: where he took so much joy in doing his job of stealing Christmas so well.

The Grinch of old is a curmudgeonly hermit, deeply cynical and seething with hatred at a joy he does not understand and cannot share. He thinks the Whos are spoiled, grasping, and vain, and only the shock of discovering they are not moves him to his Dickensian transformation. A hardened heart, so sure it understood the world in its own terms, comes face to face with reality rejecting its every premise, whereupon the Grinch needs to truly understand how it could be so. And in really trying to understand someone else, he finds in himself the capacity to grow.

The new guy looks like his moral compass could blow over in a stiff breeze. Not an entrenched, miserable crank, he appears to be a mere shadow of those aspects thinly painted on an unserious core. In all the ads you’ve seen, and you’ve seen many, has he ever once come across as mean, vile, with a heart like a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots? Or is he Stock Goofy Animated Guy playing villain with his dog and a fat stupid reindeer? Because the problem for me is, when Stock Goofy Animated Guy sees the true meaning of Christmas come through, it’s not that big a revelation; he thinks no deep thoughts, carries no abiding pain that drives him, any more than a car dealership inflatable can fathom the meaning of life. Can he reform and become a new man? Of course he can, because he’s Stock Goofy Animated Guy, a very literal blank slate that can be covered with any outer semblance of a personality as long as it has no depth.

I wish I could keep an open mind about this. But when the filmmakers themselves go out of their way to convince me many times a day that their movie is a disaster, how can I disagree?

But count me in for the second Fantastic Beasts movie and the Wreck-It Ralph sequel.

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Back on the NaNoWriMo bus

It’s November, and that means NaNoWriMo is underway again. True to my word I’ve taken up the baton and I’m having at it for a third time, with the third installment in the Paranormal Curio series: The Pembroke Engine.

So far I’m still at a place in the book where things are warming up, and a huge “holy crap!” moment hasn’t come up except for the opening scene, but I’m working on getting there. Trying to get villains introduced as quickly as I can, but it’s a tough job.

I started late night Halloween, after midnight, and did a pretty impressive amount of work that night to get started—but I realized the very next day I had started off all wrong, with a scene that was much too dull to kick off the book, and what I really needed was to start with the scene I’d envisioned many months ago that would set the real WTF hook for this book. I didn’t scrap what I wrote, not entirely, but saved it until I could reincorporate the good parts later. That’s slowed me down a little but it was worth it.

Also I found out I couldn’t set the book in Vermont, because it turns out nobody lives there. I mean it’s not Wyoming, but I decided to move the action to Connecticut where a fictional city of the right size would be more plausible.

This is the opening line:

Until a dead man interrupted breakfast, Seth thought this getaway was going to be pleasantly uneventful.

That’s right, I have yet another protagonist for this third book, who was a side character in the last two. Technically it’s two protagonists, since the Gable twins are a matched set, but I’m sticking with Seth as the viewpoint character.

Trying to keep the humor upbeat, I’ve already gotten in some fun scenes even in the opening chapters, and I want to give Seth and Ian a lot of good solid geeky banter. So far this includes a brief discussion on why the weirdest thing they’ve seen so far definitely cannot be explained by a parallel universe, and I had fun with that because I got to reuse an idea I had on that subject years ago. (Basically, the events of The Well of Moments proved one thing true that is completely incompatible with the idea of universes diverging due to random events.)

The Mad Scot is in place, criminally under-utilized in the last book (my bad) but ready to liven up the action in this one. I knew I’d have to bring him back; he came in so late last time, all he really got was a nice hook to set him up for a bigger role this time around.

I have not yet dealt with the development at the end of the previous book. I’m still working out what to do with it exactly but whatever it is, it’ll be a surprise. To me too, apparently.

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We can’t have nice things (because nobody sells them anymore)

I’ve mentioned before about how when I become a supervillain, one of the departments under my benevolent reign will be the Ministry of Resurrected Products, bringing back items from the past that are sorely missed. But what I’m ranting about today isn’t a dead product, merely one I can’t find anymore.

I’m talking about paper plates.

I know what you’re thinking: There are paper plates in literally every grocery store. This is true, but for the most part, they suck.

My wife and I favor a specific kind of paper plate: mostly flat (they have a fluted area around the edge), plain white, grease-resistant. Simple. No foam, because you can’t microwave that. Although we never buy the artsy designs I have no objection to them if they’re cheap, but I just want something plain. We also definitely do not buy the plates with lips. I get the point of lipped plates, that if you’re eating outdoors it keeps food from sliding off, but for our purposes the lips are just a waste of space. Also, I’ve found that when you heat up a plate with a lip the lip tends to become less stable, costing the plate structural attributes it relies on and ultimately making it easy for the thing to bend down too far and spill crap if you hold it just by the edge.

To date, we have solved our plate needs with three different stores, because yes, no one single store sells more than one of the sizes we use. For little plates (7″) we go to Tops. For medium (9″), Walmart. The big ones (11″ if I recall correctly) we buy at Rite-Aid. It’s a complicated mess but it gets us the plates we want.

Unfortunately, Tops just switched to a different brand for their simple cheapo plates, and the new brand’s small size is 6 inches. Do you know what a 6″ paper plate is good for? Nothing.

A 6″ plate is more than 25% smaller than a 7″ plate. That difference matters.

In hopes of finding a solution, I went on safari today. After Tops wasted my time, I tried Target, which I’ve never looked at before for paper goods. Big fat nope. The only thing even close to what I want is in the lipped variety, and I’m telling you those plate just plain suck. I tried Walmart again, and struck out. Wegmans does not carry anything remotely appropriate for our needs (although I do buy paper bowls there).

So then I thought: Amazon. They have everything!

Good gads was I wrong. The closest I found was a brand that, again, only does 9″ or 6″. Oh, and for funsies Amazon likes throwing in wrong sizes into the search results. The paucity of choices was shocking, considering Amazon has built a reputation on being able to find almost literally everything there.

I have no idea where we go from here. We don’t want to stop using small plates, but I refuse to spend money on a plate as useless as the one I saw in Tops. Buying a 7″ plate with a stupid lip is idiotic, because the part without the lip is only 6″ as well. It seems like the product I’m describing should exist somewhere else in the universe besides a single grocery chain that has suddenly stopped carrying it in favor of a stupid, stupid replacement brand.

I hate it when stores and/or brands pull this crap. This also means it’s unlikely I’ll do a lot of shopping at Tops in the future. Morons.

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Attack of the big-ass trash bins

So this weekend we got a letter from our village explaining that they’ve awarded a 5-year contract to a new company for waste hauling. The new company uses semi-robotic trucks to grab the bins and dump them with a special arm rather than have guys riding on the side of the truck to do it. We get one dark bin for trash, one neon green for recycling.

They say it’ll save a great deal of money, which I don’t doubt for a minute. Funny how not having to pay a bunch of people works in your favor like that. The only mention of this that I’ve found online is an embarrassingly insubstantial article in the newspaper that quotes them saying how people just don’t want to do this job anymore. To which I call BS. Sanitation is an unskilled job lots of people would love to be able to get, so don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining, buddy.

Anyway the new automated system comes with a lot of rules. I don’t like this, but I was grudgingly accepting of it. They have special new bins for us, which have to be placed no less than a ridiculous five feet apart. That means we can’t use our own bins anymore, just the company-provided ones, and in the event of damage or theft we’re on the hook for a replacement. But it gets better! The new bins arrived today and they’re FRELLING GINORMOUS. They look like they could handle the waste load from a small pop-up carnival. People are gonna start making jokes about how many clown cars you could fit in each one.

This is a problem.

We don’t use the front door of our garage, that is to say the actual garage door. I’m not certain it works anymore, but it’s certainly not anything we want to tussle with in winter. Yet the bins don’t fit in through the side door of the garage; these things are wide enough, albeit not tall enough, to be refrigerators. Not kidding! I had already despaired of finding room for these things in the garage as it was, but now it turns out that not only will finding room for them be a whole lot harder, it’s completely moot because they can’t fit through the friggin’ door!

We’re not the only ones on the street with this problem. People have been putting these bins in front of their houses because they have no idea what to do with them. It’s an eyesore. And it was an avoidable eyesore.

Unfortunately the insane size of these things is going to radically complicate our upcoming winter. Let’s count the problems!

  • Since they can’t go inside, they’re gonna get buried in snow. Also ice.
  • Damage from ice/snow falling off the garage and house roofs is a real possibility. Which, again, we’d get charged for.
  • In Syracuse we have a thing called snow. Plows go by and great big mounds of the stuff end up on the side of the road. Next to the driveway, the mounds are also built up by our driveway plow guys. It was a difficult task to get trash bins out near the road in winter before, but now they’re gonna stick out further and be highly susceptible to plow damage because they’re so big.
  • Oh, and navigating those bins through the driveway is gonna be a blast. Sometimes the passage between our cars is unnavigable because of snow buildup, but we find a way to manage with our current bin. With these: not a chance.

I can’t imagine I’m the only resident pissed off by the change. I was willing to work with this even though I wasn’t happy about it, but now that I’ve seen the bins close-up those dimensions we got in the village notice really take on new life. These bins are each double the size of the full-size trash bin we already have. The only upgrade: they don’t have a busted wheel.

Nobody thought this through. The sad fact is that although heck yeah I’m gonna complain, and I know I won’t be alone in that, we might be locked into this disaster for the next five years anyway because of that asinine contract. I sure hope the village had some kind of escape clause put in, or something that would let them modify the terms later if an epic disaster erupted, because boy howdy is this one. I realize of course any modification or move to smaller bins might put out the hauling company because they shelled out for all these giant bins, but screw those idiots for even thinking this would fly.

There’s a village board meeting Thursday. I think this might be a good time to get more involved in local politics. Maybe remind the mayor his term is up in June, and a winter of dealing with this crap is not gonna make any of us happy.

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I might be a bad person: Doll in the Hall, escalated

So my sister posted on Facebook about a creepy October version of that stupid Elf on the Shelf crap called “Doll in the Hall”. The idea is you take a creepy doll that already seems haunted and move it around the house each night. If the kids throw it out, you put it in bed with them.

My first thought was: How could I make this worse? Then I thought of some ways.

  • Leave the doll in place; change its clothes.
  • Leave everything else the same, but different doll.
  • Keep identical backups if one gets destroyed.
  • Deploy a remote-activated sound box, hidden near the doll’s location.
  • Suddenly: two dolls.
  • Pose the dolls like they’re plotting something over the course of several nights. It should look like they’re playing regular games, almost, with something a bit “off” like scissors sitting on a Monopoly board or Jenga tiles arranged like a pyre.
  • Then go back to normal but with a secondary doll, leaving the primary’s whereabouts a mystery.
  • Set up a fake phone contact and have someone send a message from the first doll. (Doll in the Call!) The message should be totally innocuous.
  • Now no dolls, for several nights.
  • Multiple dolls, all staring at the bed from different places around the room.

This would actually be funnier if you did it to an adult.

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