Friday, July 30, 2004


Working here at SupaDupaSoft, we receive--and distribute--a lot of swag, the corporate-logo-emblazoned giveaway crap that's common to conventions and team-building pep-rally stuff. Mugs and mousepads and key rings and great bales of t-shirts and pretty much any gewgaw you can stick a logo or product name on, you can find in my desk or someone else's. Today I went into the kitchen on our floor and found a yo-yo, touting one of our technologies and abandoned (?) by the recycling bins. Losers weepers; I snagged it immediately. Not only was it an excellent yo-yo, nicely balanced; at the apex of its loop, it both lit up and made an irritating sound. Mine! I strolled yo-yoing back to my office, and bumped into Mike and my boss in the hall.

"Yo-yos are for boys! You're supposed to play with jacks," Mike said.

"You have some gender issues, don't you?" asked my boss. (He does--tsks all over the place when one of his female colleagues cuts her hair short or crumples her petticoat or whatever.)

I round-the-world-ed it close enough to his skull to make him duck. Hee.

Anyway. This started a discussion of toys and games and playground fads, whatever craze or chant would suddenly sweep over the schoolyard in the primary grades. Yo-yos were like this for me; when I was in about 4th grade, some...professional (?) ...yo-yo-ists came to a school assembly and performed amazing tricks, spinning and popping and twirling little orbs all over the gym while we sat cross-legged on the floor, awestruck. They gave away four yo-yos to kids in the audience as prizes. The next day, every kid on the playground had a yo-yo, I swear to god. Within 48 hours, a good percentage of us had accessorized the toy with a black eye or fat lip or at least one tender goose-egg rising on the scalp. Within 72 hours, Mrs. Eskenazi had developed a pretty magnificent yo-yo collection in her desk drawer. I wonder if she still has them?

Somehow, I picked up a few tricks over time. In addition to terrorizing Mike with my yo-yo's orbit, I Rocked the Baby, and Walked the Dog somewhat ineffectually on the office carpet. Lucky thing it's annual review time, eh?

What else? Mike suggested "clackers," another nosebleed-inducing toy of the past: plastic spheres on either end of a string that you slung up and down so that, if you managed their parabolic arc perfectly, they'd clack against each other with an irritating sound. If you managed the arc imperfectly, well, later you might have an interesting scar. I never had much affinity for jacks, and marbles were ehhh for whatever reason in most of my childhood, but I remembered jumping rope, both "Chinese" (a loop around two participants' knees, that you hopped in and out of) and regular, with all the chants and ditties. My boss got a sort of "fuzzy memories" look on her face. "Can you still..." she asked, and then simply raised her hands and pantomimed a little hand-jive in the hall. Why, I'll be Miss Mary Mack--I do remember!

It brought up an old fascination of mine...where does that stuff come from? I mean, we all learn it from other kids, the bigger kids...but where did they learn it? Where did it start? I mean, we didn't have the Internet to spread this around. What accounts for the slight regional differences?--I sing, "See See Oh Playmate" and the next kid insists it's "Say Say." And I remember parodies, too, of our own little folk jingles. What little wise-ass came up with this?

See see oh enemy,
Come out and fight with me!
And bring your [something something] three,
Climb up my [uhh...sticker bush? something dangerous]
Slide down my razor blade [my adult self says, eeeeeauuugh]
Into my dungeon door...

When I retire from the software industry and become that goofy senior citizen bothering everyone else in the American Studies PhD program, this is totally my thesis.

Of course, it's been done: One Potato, Two Potato looks like an interesting treatise on the topic. Or you can just start Googling and see where it gets you, which is how I found Julia's blog entry and comments (which alternate between two topics: babymaking, and playground jingles from all over the globe, an unanticipated combo). Plus, there's always the Harvard Dialect Survey; they're no longer taking new entries, but you can look at the results and the maps and it's absolutely fascinating.

This all reminds me of a lifelong burning question--just what were Paul and Julio doing down by the schoolyard?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Wait up! Hey, you guys, wait up! Hey!

One of the televisions at the gym is perpetually set to ESPN, which has been playing coverage of the Tour de France in the early morning hours while I'm there, slugging it out on the elliptical trainer. It sort of motivates one's lazy ass (or shames it), to be treading blankly in an endless loop, flipping through Entertainment Weekly while the fittest cyclists on the planet ride bikes up a freaking mountain, say.

Anyway. Trek Bicycles is apparently sponsoring a Ride With Lance contest, commercials for which air during the coverage; you can sign up to win a private ride with Lance Armstrong. Logically, I know that I am not the target audience for this contest. I have a mountain bike that I lug out of the garage maybe twice a year; I'm a dreamy cyclist who flinches at traffic and is not so much with the balancing. Imagine if they paired me with Lance, he of the freakishly long femurs and A HEART THE SIZE OF A HAM. What could go wrong?

"Hey, Lance, wait up! A bug flew in my ear! Lance! And I rode off the trail into this ditch! And all the sammiches fell out of my basket! LANCE!"

He would not hear me, of course, because he would be two miles away at this point.

Monday, July 12, 2004

No my first name ain't Baby

Almost forgot--a graffiti tag I saw yesterday in the University District, that I enjoyed muchly:

Mr. Shit Eye

You might want to work on that handle, son.

Jump back!

Well, it wasn't allergies; turns out I actually had some sort of summer cold/flu thing. I spent the first part of the holiday weekend snuffly and feverish and generally irritable.

But. What did I do in this clammy, grouchy state, you might ask? Well, one night when I couldn't sleep, I sat up and watched every last minute of Footloose on VH1's "Movies that Rock."

And...huh. I seem to remember this movie being deeply awesome, when I was 14. Kevin Bacon! So...squintily tortured, as he leapt emotively about the abandoned warehouse! The kids, they just wanted to dance! DANCE! As I did, prissing around my room to the soundtrack album. I was secretly choreographing a figure-skating routine to "Let's Hear It for the Boy" by Denise Williams.

That sentence says more about my early adolescence than anyone should probably ever have known.

So. Age had not been kind to one of us, and I like to think that I've outgrown at least the most visible dorkiness. Footloose did not fare as well. Honestly, what were they thinking? What were WE thinking? A chicken race...on tractors? To the wailing of Bonnie Tyler? "Holding Out for a Hero," all oooh-oooh-Oooh-OOOOOOOH! in the background? And the tight, tight pants for both sexes--however did we walk around like that? Surely putting on jeans so narrowly pegged defied the laws of physics. And the dancing itself! Man, if you busted out that poppin', lockin', western-line-dance crap at the prom today, I imagine the other kids would simply turn on you and kill you.

It's sort of puzzling, too, because there were good actors in this movie. I am always happy to see Kevin Bacon, the hardest working man in show business...but John Lithgow, as the scary preacher who'd banned the sinful gyrations of dance? Dianne Wiest, his wife? Li'l Sarah Jessica Parker, as...the funny best friend? What did they all bring to the set, I wonder? Did they take it seriously? Did they think they were delivering an important cinematic message about oppressed youth, and the freedom to express oneself in a strangely ceaseless storm of glitter?

Finally...was this movie always SO GAY? I don't mean that in the purely pejorative sense; I'm talking about what the TWoP folks call the HoYay! I realize that Kevin Bacon gamely lampooned himself on "Will and Grace" a season or so ago, even doing that freaking dance...but somehow I had completely missed the thunderous homoerotic subtext blasting from every frame of this movie. Mr. Bacon and whichever nice Penn boy that is rassle, and dance, and cuff each other in the head fondly, and should just kiss already for crying out loud. Gayer than the gayest gay in Gaytown, I'm telling you.

Still, though. The climactic, absurd prom scene, all the kids kicking and stepping and doing the splits and backflips and the Robot and whatnot (um...if dancing's been outlawed for years, how did you all...oh, never mind), Kenny Loggins kicking off his Sunday shoes, all balloons and Christmas lights and Jesus, how much glitter IS that? Shit, y'all. That's fun. Any movie where the lead character's last line is to scream, "LET'S DANCE!" ...well, it gives you a little bit of ants in the old pants, it does.

It can't be just the fever.

* * * * *

I should mention that I myself can get to Kevin Bacon in four moves, if you fudge "in a movie with" slightly to "worked with." As teenagers, my sister and I worked in the same local gift shop for one Christmas. Later, in her first major graphic design job, she worked on a Clint Eastwood filmography CD-ROM and got to meet the man (a photo of the team luncheon shows the designers and computer dorks, hilariously paralyzed by awe, and Clint at the head of the table). Clint Eastwood was in "The Bridges of Madison County" with Meryl Streep, who was in "The River Wild" with...Kevin Bacon.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


While I was writing that last post, I heard the ice-cream man tinkling and tootling through the neighborhood. ("A Bicycle Built for Two," very GBC!) I feel so lousy, and a simple orange popsicle would be so so good right now. The tootling got closer, and I actually jumped up and grabbed a handful of change off the hall table and flung open the door...

...Christ on a pony, man, slow the fuck down! I'm not gonna RUN.


Sneezing; linkage

Having another Allergy Blast! of some sort; feel like crap. I'm taking next week off work--24 hours til vacation, and I can hardly even appreciate it. I don't have any original thoughts of my own, so here's a buncha links to other people's. Eventually I'll migrate them over to the list on the right.

Abbie the Cat has a posse...and a blog. It's strangely poetic, moving, and oddly convincing. For a blog written by a cat. It also features the occasional post from the Other Cat who lives there, Martha. I find it fascinating that not only do they have distinctive voices, but Martha seems to be a better typist. Abbie's more the artist, I think. He's been under the weather and the bed, lately, so send your love.

David Wong was my prom date and first boyfriend. He would probably be appalled that I'm telling you that. At any rate, his global adventures are always interesting and frequently funny. "Pandemic Cookie" is the name of my new band.

Heather B. Armstrong at Dooce writes about life and new motherhood with insight, humor, and a filthy dirty sailor mouth, which I think is completely appropriate. Babies? Cute, but they make a fucking MESS, man.

Seth has suddenly posted a flurry of updates to Eminent Romaine, which is good. I think he sometimes blames his preoccupation on his baby. I dunno, Dooce seems to hold it together. But he has my esteem for purchasing To the 5 Borroughs and Sinatra at the Sands on the same day.

Linda is simply a genius.

Well? Go on, then.