Friday, August 17, 2012

Step No. 25 - Build a house with alternate means of going up and downstairs

This is not as absurd as it sounds. In lieu of building stairs into your dream home, install climbing ropes like in gym class, 'rock' walls with ledges like those indoor climbing walls, large spiral slides for going down levels or, if you live in a very narrow space, fireman's poles. This certainly isn't something one should attempt if children are a concern. It would only take one slip to send one of the kiddies to the hospital. But, if one has the means, one can make the house look like a real life game of chutes and ladders.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Step No. 24 - Always take advantage of crayons and restaurant placements

The fresh placemat.
It awaits my blunt Crayola.
When I was elementary school-aged not many restaurants entertained the idea of creating placemats that served the dual purpose of providing entertainment for the wee ones and protecting tabletops from spills and stray ketchup splashes. One never saw crayons at the table unless brought in by the parents. Increasingly I've noticed that many family restaurants have their own paper placements to be colored with crumbly communal crayons contained in short battered cups, often stored by the cash register.

You win this round, placemat.
I'll see to you later.
While on a conference trip in February, I frequented a diner that included both coloring placemat and crayons. The server didn't so much as flinch when I picked up my juvenile art accoutrements. I stared at my menu quickly, picked the first thing that looked appealing, and turned my attention back to staying within the lines. My food arrived before I could finish my objet d'art, so I took it with me and purchased a pack of Crayolas at the nearest dollar store. I swore an oath to the placement, "I promise to return to you. I'll honor you with every last iota of my fine-muscle control."

I kept dear placemat in my bag over the course of the conference and looked at it briefly, if longingly every time I reached in for a pencil, notepad, or business card. It wasn't until days later when I got on the train to go back to Toronto that I returned to my unfinished project. The gentle sway of the train posed only a small challenge to staying in the lines; however, I finished the task with aplomb and cemented my self-inflated esteem as an expert crayola-wielding coloring master.

Says the Placemat to Anthony,
"You complete me." *shucks*
The moral of the story (I'm not sure that morality was an issue here, but I like how it sounds): never stifle your urge to grab the crayons and placemat to keep yourself amused while at a restaurant/café/bistro/tabehodai. Chances are your dining companion(s) has the same impulse. Should the server raise an eyebrow, have a friend relate an elaborate narrative about art school, etc. Or, as I hope you'll do, be proud and own your inner adolescent. Command the crayon do your bidding, and let the world know that if you want to make the princess's hair blue then blue hair she shall have.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Step No. 23 - Stage elaborate dramatic scenarios with your dinner veggies

One of the most horrifying threats levied against me when I was but a wee lad was, “You’ll eat your dinner now or you’ll have it for breakfast. If you don’t eat it at breakfast you’ll have it for lunch.” The thought of tough, bland slabs of meat; starchy, hardened mashed potatoes; and mushy broccoli made all the worse by the refrigerator’s chill was usually sufficient to scare me into finishing my dinner, however reluctantly. Breakfast for dinner = perpetual awesomeness; dinner for breakfast = perpetual misery. Imagine getting meatloaf burps at recess time on the playground.

Such lush greenery.
Broccoli as forest
I don’t remember being on the receiving end of that threat very often, as I was usually pretty quick to finish dinner anyway. It was only the odd time when Mom had to work an evening shift that Dad resorted to mashups (literally) of whatever food scraps had the misfortune of occupying the shady parts of the lower fridge shelves. These infamously awful mélanges of foods unknown were tough on everyone’s palette, even Dad. It was only then that I ever resisted… and also canned peas. I still hate canned peas.

I realise many of my contemporaries had similar issues and were often accused of playing with their food, usually vegetables. It didn’t help that most suburban housewives in the 1980s learned from their mothers how to cook vegetables, which is to say: bland, mushy, and with the colour nearly boiled out of them. The usual suspects: broccoli (always!), brussel sprouts, spinach, or fiddleheads (a wild fern and Maritime delicacy). All these veggies have in common the colour green. Super-tasters everywhere cringe at the thought of these bitter culprits and, to paraphrase Kermit the frog, “it ain’t easy eating green.”

To return to the topic of this post, how does one make the leap from dinner plate to (very far) off broadway? Don’t just futz around with the fork, let your imagination and materials inspire your gustatory impresario:

Broccoli looks like trees, so one may be tempted to enact the forest scenes from Robin Hood lore. Use lima beans or french fries as stand-ins for Robin Hood and Maid Marion. 

Think of broccoli as nuclear mushroom clouds in miniature photosynthetic terms. In lieu of broccoli, one can also use raw mushrooms; the thought of eating fungus is as ucky to me as radiation poisoning. In the atomic scenario, construct fallout bunkers of mashed potatoes to shelter your plate’s tender morsels of protein. Ooh! How about using boiled carrot cross sections as the ‘big, red nuclear armageddon button’ that’s always within reach of the American President’s thumb? Yeah, that would be cool.

"Take me to your feeder!"
Alien brain or small cabbage?
Getting into the greens, what does one do with spinach? Therein lies a perennial challenge. It’s not firm enough to stand in for anything concrete and ‘real world,’ but it is sufficient to use as some sort of sludge or slime. Recreate the Labrea tar pits and make your steamed tofu sink to the bottom like so many unwary explorers.

Brussel sprouts, if cooked improperly (which they usually are in most homes) closely resemble miniature alien brains in an instant allusion to 1950s Hollywood B-films like  ‘Attackers from Planet X’ or ‘Blood beast from beyond.’ One may also model a Frankenstein lookalike from mashed potatoes and transplant your brussel sprout brain there.

Fiddleheads. Well, all you inland kiddies can be grateful you were never exposed to this seasonal affliction. Fortunately for us salt water children, and unfortunately for the curly fern of our parental palettes’ pleasure, fiddlehead season is as fleeting as they are bitter and gritty. Most commonly boiled, buttered, and dashed liberally with vinegar, fiddleheads make the ideal candidate for theatrical representations of the octopus tentacles that threatened Captain Nemo’s Nautilus with certain death. The fiddlehead more closely resembles festered tendrils than anything fetched gleefully from the green-belt out behind the house.

"Yar, Captain. We de-tentacled that
pesky octopus. Yar."
I’ve noted above a few scenarios in which mashed potatoes play a significant role (stand-ins for humans, nuclear bunker, Frankenstein, etc.). The potato really is a category of theatrical device all its own. You will never find a more versatile vegetable. The mighty white tuber graces tables across the globe and is, to a large extent, the most prominent offender in showdowns between petulant children and desperate parents. It’s also a contentious side dish for the carb-phobic and those whose lower G.I. tract gives them no end of trouble after consuming our starchy friend. Verily, the sulfurous winds doth blow. Let the naysayers say their nay; the potato should be admired for its malleability and should be regarded, by and large, as the dinner plate’s answer to Meryl Streep.

Take heart, dear readers, my long suffering peers now control the contents of their dinner plate and, in some cases, the contents of their children’s dinner plates. Yes, we can play with our veggies no matter the stern looks or verbal rebuke; Yes, we can present our children with pre-sculpted theatrical veggies; Yes, we can eat write, produce, and direct our veggies on our own terms!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Step No. 22 - Have fun with bubble wrap on an industrial level

What's better than playing with bubble wrap and feeling the joy that comes with every 'pop'? Finding that there are several sizes of bubble wrap! The variety is incredible, really. Like most people I enjoyed even a small sheet whenever I could get my hands on one.

Now I have friends in high places, high industrial places with heavy machinery at their disposal. I'm also a grownup so I've the fiscal wherewithal to buy bubble wrap on a large scale. Combine the two and you've a recipe for a brief, but gratifying orgasm of bubble wrap popping. Imagine bursting hundreds or thousands of bubbles simultaneously? Another fellow beat me to the punch (see video below), but now I've witnessed someone else's joy and it gives me something to shoot for. I hope you'll be inspired as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Step No. 21 - Start a Twitter meme about modified opera names

File this under juvenile. Often while in my teens one of my brothers and I amused ourselves modifying music lyrics to be kind of dirty. We did the same with movie and book titles. Now that we're grownups we can work to modify other titles. We've a whole life of experiences with wordplay and assimilating the (somewhat) mundane opera culture in music school.

Recently I issued a challenge on both Twitter and Facebook to modify opera titles to make them more 'boring.' Take up the challenge with your cultural product of choice.

I've included the complete list of boring opera names after the jump.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Step No. 20 - Practice ventriloquism with a study buddy in a quiet library

Which one's the 'dummy'?
Many baby boomers might claim that I'm too young to remember Edgar Bergen and his woody sidekick Charlie McCarthy, though growing up with Muppet Show reruns and Ed Sullivan Show retrospectives I was privileged to witness the glory of good ventriloquism. Of course, Shari Lewis and Lambchop made a middling comeback in the late 1980s with a series of direct-to-video specials and later the PBS series "Lambchop's Play Along." The tape "Shari Lewis 101 things for kids that are fun" was such a favorite in our household that I think we actually wore the tape to the point of disintegration. The sudden popular culture interest in 'voice-throwing' instilled in me a desire to learn this dark art. Alas, even with lots of practice I could never even get past "bottle of beer" without my friends calling shenanigans.

I call on you, dear readers, to take up the challenge where I have failed so many times. This post is inspired by the countless hours I've spent writing in a quiet university library. While sitting next to a study buddy (mutual accountability is a great work incentive) affect your best cartoonish voice and try out your most ambitious ventriloquist act. The more outlandish the better. Watch your friend recoil in horror as everyone in earshot looks his or her way. Feign shock and ignorance to protect yourself from rebuke.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Step No. 19 - Choose banal blog design themes

In an effort to put off actually working on my dissertation I started evaluating my current blogging efforts and decided that the old theme just wasn't 'adolescent' enough. It took a bit of hemming and hawing looking through a lot of themes, variations, and patterns to come up with something satisfactorily tacky and adolescent, perhaps childish.

I suggest you all do the same (as long as you don't want to be taken seriously in which case you should carry on as per usual).