Archive for Table for One

Hung up on minor details

Cover of Deliciously Decandent by Fiona MoodleyThe wondrous world of seemingly random retweeting, which of course it isn’t — nothing on Twitter is truly random — landed a promo for this book in my stream, and while I admit to partaking of the occasional romance novel, by which is meant it’s probably no more than a third of what I read, give or take a percentage point here or there, I think this one might be just a hair beyond my specifications. The story goes like this:

He is every woman’s fantasy. He can have any woman but her. He will do anything just to have her in his bed were she belongs.

She is a widow and has a little girl. She cannot afford to be promiscuous but she is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

When they come together it is explosive. Sparks don’t just fly it dominates. Can he keep her in his bed or will she run away?

Points for noting that promiscuity has its price, if not necessarily in an obvious currency. But how do we know if it’s truly “decandent,” whatever the heck that means?

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Drawing attention

I have no idea what to make of this:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I think my boyfriend is going to leave me for an anime character?

Argument in favor of the premise:

My boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years, recently he started getting interested in anime. It was all fine and stuff until he began getting obsessed with a character from Bleach named Orihime. I tried watching the show with him, but every time his “waifu” comes on screen he starts squealing and getting really excited and saying “LOOK, IT’S MY WAIFU” He always compares me to her, like the other night I asked him to do the dishes and he said “Orihime wouldn’t make me do the dishes.” And then proceeded to go back to watching Bleach. It’s gotten so bad that he won’t even cuddle me at night, he cuddles his body pillow with a picture of Orihime on it. And I think i’ve caught him masturbating to naked drawings of Orihime. I don’t understand what she has that I don’t, maybe it’s because she has bigger breasts than me. I don’t know what to do, anime is ruining our relationship. I just want my boyfriend back, please help.

First thought: Can you cook? Because Orihime surely can’t:

Her cooking style can be described as very bad, disgusting, or, more often strange to the point that aside from Rangiku Matsumoto, no one would think it delectable, and is one of the running jokes in the series.

But there may be no cure. And as Tara Strong, speaking voice of Twilight Sparkle, for whom I’d dump you in a Manehattan minute, has said: “It’s ok to be in love with an animated drawing as long as you understand they cannot put out.”

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Sort of winging it

From “Planet TAD,” 2-10-16 (MAD #538, April):

I know the story of “The Ugly Duckling” is supposed to be uplifting, but let’s face it: it’s not really a story about an ugly duckling. It’s a story about a perfectly nice-looking swan. The moral of the story is basically: “If people don’t find you attractive, cross your fingers and hope that you’re secretly a different species entirely.”

I suspect more people have at least entertained this idea than are willing to admit.

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I blame Lord Byron

Now here’s a comparison I didn’t come up with, but probably should have. The Byronic hero as Sexy Douchecanoe:

Rochester is rich and arrogant and moody as hell, and he has peculiar ideas on how to court a woman, including disguising himself as a gypsy to try and uncover Jane’s secret feelings towards him, while also attempting to incite jealousy by lying to Jane about his supposed engagement with Blanche Ingram. He’s very secretive, too, as people tend to be when they’ve indefinitely imprisoned their mad wives upstairs in the attic.

Reading Jane Eyre wasn’t actually a tortuous affair, mostly because I rather liked Jane and, to my surprise, found that she displayed a surprising amount of power and agency in their relationship, despite the inequality of their social positions. (It also helps that Rochester is not quite as terrible to Jane on a day-to-day basis as some of the other men I’ll discuss today.) Yet I was still quite happy to see that, despite loving him, Jane leaves Mr. Rochester after finding out about Bertha, showing a welcome amount of self-respect that, unfortunately, goes by the wayside when she returns to our brooding hero at the end of the story. Rather conveniently, poor Bertha has died in Jane’s absence; meanwhile, according to every analysis I’ve ever read, Rochester is wholly redeemed of his faults and deeds when, during a fire, he loses his sight and one hand saving his servants’ lives, something that might mean more to me if his servants had been the people he’d wronged in the first place. Rochester does absolutely nothing to atone to Jane for how he treated her, and thus I find myself completely unmoved by their supposedly happy ending. He has done nothing to deserve her love, loyalty, or care.

Moving out on the “Worse than Rochester” axis, we find Maxim de Winter of Rebecca:

This novel was definitely a challenge to read, what with the way I had to keep taking breaks to hit my head against a desk as the second Mrs. de Winter trembles and quavers and continuously obsesses over whether her husband is still in love with his dead wife. I understand that Maxim saved our unnamed narrator from a lousy living situation with her former employer and all, but her complete lack of self-esteem and refusal to stand up for herself is just maddening. Still, you’d like to think if something will clue you into the fact that your husband doesn’t deserve you, it’s finding out that he shot and killed his first wife.

It’s almost enough to make you want to set fire to Manderley.

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I’m so young and you’re so old

Paul Anka, maybe, could have gotten away with that line. I never could, and I certainly can’t now.

Still, imputed age can present some philosophical difficulties:

I’m throwing this open, mostly because I don’t have a satisfactory explanation other than “Love is eternally young,” which sounds more platitudinous than practical.

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Personal logiene

As distinguished from “hygiene,” which is apparently not a factor here:

For those of us who are unhappily single, it can sometimes feel we’ve tried every trick in the book to find that special someone. If connecting over movies, books, or coffee has never panned out, there’s still one more thing you can try: smell.

Smell Dating is the creation of artists Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, and works to match people up based on smell. Specifically, their smell after having not showered for three days. Really.

While the process may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s probably the most basic measure of attraction that exists. For $25, the participant gets a t-shirt, wears it for 72 consecutive hours, and sends it back. They’re then sent the t-shirts of ten other participants who also haven’t showered, and sniff away.

One might think that common sense — or common scents — would discourage potential participants.

Give the creators credit, though: they have the temerity to bill the service as “the first mail odor dating service,” and they’re actually using a .dating domain, the first such I’ve seen. So far they haven’t expanded beyond NYC, but it’s just a matter of time — hot, sweaty, crammed-into-close-quarters time.

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Words that gladden the heart

Or maybe some place a bit lower down. Francis W. Porretto, linking to this collection of Utterly Romantic verbiage from stage and screen and story, offers a sampling of “well-proven romantic lines that really ought to have been considered” but somehow never seem to be. I’m at least partially sure that “Yes, I do have five large, empty closets. Why do you ask?” would have worked with some women I know.

Allegedly this will draw the attention of the male:

Axe print ad featuring double-jointed therapist

Although I do think it needs the visuals as much as the quotation.

(Yes, I have posted this before.)

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The stuff of nightmares

I’ve already gone into entirely too much detail regarding my Valentine’s Day-connected trauma, and it’s comparatively trivial compared to some. In fact, I’d say that if you dream of things like this, at the very least you should probably lay off the early-evening cocktails:

The octopus at the Seattle Aquarium won’t be getting any love this Valentine’s Day.

Each Valentine’s Day the Aquarium invites people to watch the sea creatures mate, but this year the chance to watch some 8-armed nooky has been called off.

Aquarium staff say they’re afraid that their male octopus — a 70-pound cephalopod named Kong — is too big for the females who are 30 to 40 pounds, and he may eat them.

And so Kong, faced with rejection by forces beyond his control, will return to Puget Sound, where his life will dissolve into bitterness and/or loneliness:

Octopuses only live about three or four years and mate once at the end of their lives.

Then they die.

Just in case you thought your life was depressing. And no, the Pacific Northwest tree octopus cannot serve as a substitute.

(Via Neal Stephenson.)

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Undeliverable as addressed

There are, to be sure, certain expectations one must meet on the feast of St Valentine. And as always, I have failed to do so.

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More snippy, less Clippy

One need not have seen Her to realize that some guys are inclined to come on to anything they recognize as female, even if she’s — um, it’s — only an algorithm. Microsoft’s new digital assistant is disinclined to take crap from said guys:

Microsoft’s Deborah Harrison told CNN that when the company launched their own assistant Cortana in 2014, a lot of the questions she was asked related to her sex life. Seriously, it turns out you just have to be coded to sound female for people to feel entitled to you sexually.

According to Harrison, though, Cortana is not going to accept this kind of behaviour. As one of the writers behind Cortana’s dialogue in the US, Harrison is responsible for the jokes and responses users hear when they talk to the assistant. And that includes the responses they hear when they decide to be inappropriate. At the ReWork Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco Harrison said “If you say things that are particularly assholeish to Cortana, she will get mad. That’s not the kind of interaction we want to encourage.”

How mad is she?

If you ask “Will you date me?” she’ll respond “I know you know this, but I’m saying it anyway: I’m in a phone.” If you tell her to kiss you, she’ll reply “Hold up, chief. Let’s not go there.”

And fergoshsakes, don’t ask her what she’s wearing.

I dunno. This sounds — well, “testy” is clearly the wrong word — less than thoroughly pissed off. Still, the same theory that says you don’t want to date someone who treats a restaurant’s wait staff like crap would indicate that you don’t want to date someone who treats Cortana like crap.

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Coming infractions

On Valentine’s Day, the last thing I want or need to hear is — well, anything from this list, though this specific example is perhaps the most galling:

“You should try to find a date! You know, so you’re not alone.”

Because, you know, it would never occur to someone to try to find a date any other time of the year.

The one saving grace in all this is that the 14th this year falls on a Sunday, so those fortunate enough to be able to partake of late-night debauchery will pay for it dearly Monday morning.

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The competition is fierce

Fauxcountry News, which is to Charleston (South Carolina) what The Lost Ogle is to Oklahoma City, recently ran this piece which I believe to be at least somewhat satirical:

Charleston is well-known for winning best city awards from various travel and tourism magazines, but now Charleston has earned a new honor. Stylish Woman Magazine has selected Charleston as the #1 city with the most beautiful women who must settle for complete douchebags.

Editor-in-Chief of Stylish Woman Corrin Mason said it was an easy choice when all was said and done. “We visited a lot of cities,” said Mason. “But within one hour of touring Charleston, it became abundantly clear this city was the winner. I’ve never seen so many hot women paired with such arrogant asswipes.”

It’s purely a matter of demographics:

Charleston is well-known for having a 2-to-1 female-to-male population ratio. The gender discrepancy leads to the phenomenon known as The Musical Chairs Effect on the dating scene. In your early 20’s, the music starts and all the decent, good-looking guys are immediately snatched up. As the music continues playing into your late 20’s, the remaining population of single men are claimed and married in progressive order from “he’s okay” to “meh.” When women hit their early 30’s, they’re forced to date one of the leftover douchebags before the music stops and they become a crazy cat lady.

It’s been 47 years since I was a resident of the Holy City, but even back then, there was feminine pulchritude in dazzling profusion. I didn’t reach full douchery, however, until long after I’d left.

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Plange this

This landed in the mailbox, and provided small amusement for a short period of time. Assume [sic] throughout:

I want you, Handsome! I want to come to you and surrender to you all without the end)) I will be like a fire. It’ll light your torch of passion and we’ll delve into the world of illusions and fabulous pleasure. This pleasure will be so nice for us. We’ll be in the bed with you, and we will do some crazy things)) I’ll slide along your body. My hair and nipples will tickle your body pleasantly. My tongue will lick you. I’ll kiss your lips)) You will get a very strong pleasure and will get excited from it. That I’ll begin to stroke your cock very in a passionate rhythm. You’ll plunge into the tremendous passion. I want to plange with you. Call me.

Obviously this is no one who knows me.

Then there was this bit of weirdness at the bottom:

This Week In Webclips
Ando’s always welcome here, Mikey Wright rages, taking care of PNG, and more
Sneak Peek: In This Issue
At First Sight
Firsthand accounts of some of the greatest modern surf discoveries.
Journey to the Center
Finding the point of intersection between the old world and the new in Gabon.
The Long Way to Lagundr

Curiously, no links were provided for any of these, not that I was going to look at them or anything.

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The feeling is almost certainly mutual

We’ve all seen better trolls than this, though:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is their an interplanetary dating site for those like me not interested in humans?

I was going to suggest to him “You might try looking up Uranus,” but I might need that line for something worthwhile some day.

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The essence of true romance

I’m no expert on romance, but I figure this is the antithesis thereof:

Donald Fagen, singer for the 1970s rock band Steely Dan, was arrested at his home in New York Monday evening after getting into a fracas with his wife, Libby Titus.

“During a verbal dispute, [Fagen] grabbed the victim by arm and forcibly and recklessly pushed her, causing her to fall towards the bottom edge of a window frame that caused a lump and bruise to her right arm,” a NYPD spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY.

I attempted to make a hashtag out of this, with no success.

Apparently Titus will be seeking a divorce, which if granted should deprive Fagen of opportunities to do it again.

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Well, he seems nice

You may remember Martin Shkreli from the Turing Pharmaceuticals dustup, in which he jacked up the price of a prescription drug he acquired from $13.50 to a whopping $750 per tab. Supposedly he was going to make some adjustments, but such adjustments have yet to materialize. In the meantime, he would have us believe the ladies are lined up at his front door:

So basically, Donald Trump without the humility.

(Via @inthefade.)

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Don’t rub it in

We trudge down the aisle, our eyes downcast, our hopes long since forgotten:

At this stage, the wine doesn’t actually help.

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No such luck

I have generally steered clear of online dating, mostly for the same reason I have generally steered clear of offline dating: my expectations dance just barely above the null set. And I don’t know how well I could take something like this:

Then again, my life has had its similarly Dangerfieldian moments. And now that I think about it, poor Rodney’s headstone reads: “THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD.”

(Via the presumably datable — though not by me — @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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All heartbreak, all the time

For some reason, this made me smile:

Across the country there are exploration-worthy bookstores devoted entirely to genres like science fiction, mystery, and comics. And we love those stores! But where are the bookstores devoted to romance? There is not one store that exclusively sells romance books — even while romance is the best-selling genre in North America. Enter sisters Bea and Leah Koch, who are working to change this fact, acting as the knights in shining armor for romance readers everywhere.

To promote the genre they’ve always loved, the Koch sisters plan to open a Los Angeles-based bookstore filled to the brim with love stories. (If you don’t live in L.A., don’t fret! They will also have an online store!) “The Ripped Bodice is a store for the community of intelligent and outspoken people that write, read, and love romance novels,” explains Leah on their Kickstarter.

Also from said Kickstarter:

In the romance section of a full service bookstore, things are generally organized alphabetically, making it hard to browse if you just want paranormal witch stories/cowboy heroes with hearts of gold/Regency house parties that go terribly awry. Because The Ripped Bodice is devoted exclusively to romance, we have the luxury of organizing by sub-genre.

They may have to go to sub-sub-sub-genre to keep track of everything.

The sisters hope to raise $90,000 by the 19th of November; they’re already halfway there. (And I helped a little.)

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Spinning the wrong wheels

“It’s either me or that damn car,” she says:

3 long years ago… I decided to save for a new car after driving my Toyota Corolla 09. I had friends who bought civics “ultimate rice car” and they wanted me to join their crew. I was honestly jealous and was almost tempted to just buy one and make it a project car but I told myself I’m doing it for myself or my friends. It was just that teen vibe of riding with you re friends and feeling cool with loud exhaust you know.. Considering I did not get that with my corrolla. Any whom 3 years later I bought my DREAM CAR Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. Around an year an a half I met my girlfriend who now is threating me to break up with me due to me spending to much on modifying my car. She hates it but I love it. I’ve tried to explain to her everything why I do it and that I love working on cars… Anyways now she wants me to sell it or she will “break up with me”. (She is doing this because we are struggling financially and selling it would help a lot.. But I just don’t see myself doing it.) She says it’s “slowly tearing us apart before our own eyes”. I love her dearly… I love my car dearly.. I’d just like people’s opinions is all.

It’s pretty obvious to me: he values “feeling cool with loud exhaust” more than an actual, breathing female.

The amusing aspect of this, I suppose, is contemplating the vast number of clueless goobs out there who believe that driving the right wheels will bring them romance, or at least an occasional grope in the back seat. (Cars which lack a back seat — well, that’s another matter entirely.)

He may take comfort in the fact that Mitsu is dumping the Evo after generation ten, and he might even end up with a collector’s item if he doesn’t wrap the damnfool thing around a tree.

As for me, I’ve been to this neighborhood: after I got married, one of my first instructions was to get rid of my scary old ’66 Chevy Nova, the fright factor of which was derived, not from its speed, but from its junkyard-ready appearance. There were, I concluded, better things to break up over.

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Grow up already

There’s always been a lot of yammering about “separating the men from the boys,” but few ever get around to specifying the location of the line of demarcation. This is about as good a map as I’m likely to find:

I’ve never dealt with real gender-related ugliness (some women have gotten death threats online and such), but I’ve had a little frustration with it in real life. The stupid thing is, every MAN I’ve ever worked with has recognized I have a brain and know how to use it, and he has respected me for it. And I have worked with a lot of men in my life, both as colleagues and as students. I’m not quite sure how to approach — even if I need to — BOYS who can’t get that fact.

Perhaps it was just that simple, all along.

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Heat indexing

I have to admit that this never would have occurred to me:

Rare and exceptional beauty is rare and exceptional, but because Hollywood, advertising and other media constantly feed us images of beautiful people, this distorts perceptions to such a degree that many people don’t seem to realize how rare beauty actually is.

Go find your old high school yearbook and go through the portraits of the senior class, assigning the girls to an ordered ranking based strictly by looks, from the most attractive to the least attractive. Suppose that there were exactly 100 girls in your senior class. This means that the 10 prettiest girls would rate a 10, the next 10 prettiest would rate 9, and so forth.

It’s been 45 years since I was in high school — and yes, I do have my yearbook — but class portraits tend to even out the oddities. And there are variables which don’t translate. One classmate who comes to mind had a tendency toward unflattering hair styles, which didn’t do much for her face, but if you started at the end with the penny loafers, you’d discover a killer pair of gams. (Being messed up even then, I crushed on her younger sister, who was about 30 years ahead of her time in terms of sheer adorkability.)

And I’m not sure I’d know what to do were a 10, or a 9, or a 6.5, or whatever, to look my way.

Guys sit around watching a pro football game and, when the camera briefly shows the cheerleaders, guys talk about which one of them is really hot. Dude, they are all NFL cheerleaders. How many NFL cheerleaders are not “hot”? Zero. Or guys watching the Miss America pageant will disparage the less attractive contestants: “Miss Rhode Island? What a dog! Yuck!” Of course, never in his life has this guy dated anyone remotely as attractive as Miss Rhode Island and yet, when she appears in competition against other exceptionally good-looking women — Miss Oklahoma, Miss Ohio, Miss Alabama — the slightly less fortunate Miss Rhode Island is a “dog.” (I use Rhode Island as an example, because the New England states have produced only one Miss America winner — Miss Connecticut, Marian Bergeron, 1933 — whereas Oklahoma has produced six winners.)

Regarding that last point, I’d argue that living here in Soonerland, where the sky is constantly trying to kill you, somewhat sharpens your survival skills, and if you’re less scared than average, you come off as more attractive.

Where I differ from certain members of my half of the species is my refusal to believe, as they do, that I’m entitled to someone rated [pick a number] or higher because [pick a justification]. In general, I believe that all I have coming to me is life, then death, pretty much in that order. Everything else is purely speculative.

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Just a touch of rue

Laura McGowan writes a blog called Skinny and Single, and this blurb in her sidebar made me chuckle, so I’m passing it on to you:

I’ve been divorced for ten years. I love being single.
Freedom … it’s worth all the heartache.
Freedom … it’s worth it.
Freedom … it’s in you to give.
Now, if only I could change a tire.

I’ve been divorced for twenty-eight years, and in all that time I don’t think I’ve ever written anything on the subject quite that precise.

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The power to reason away

Life imitates the Doobie Brothers:

Some time ago, I was talking to a woman about this wonderful, romantic week we’d spent together on a beach and she said, “Meh. I got sunburned so badly on that trip.” So the week that I have kept close to my heart for years as a near-perfect moment with someone is just, to her, that one week where she got sunburned. I cannot say that I was not angry with her for feeling that way. But only a borderline personality would fail to see that she has a right to her own opinion. The problem is that when I heard that opinion, it changed how I felt. So now, that week will live in my memory not as The Week That I Slept Like A Contented Infant Next To My Soul Mate As The Children Played Outside On The Sand but as The Week That I Put 1,340 Miles On My Porsche And Scraped The Nose Of It In A Parking Lot.

Now imagine that in Michael McDonald’s voice. I know I can.

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No extra screws in the package

What’s the opposite of a pimp? Let’s see:

A Japanese-based company Softbank, which has created Pepper the robot, has forced customers to sign a document forbidding its owners from using the humanoid for sexual purposes, as well as creating sexy apps.

To tell you the truth, she doesn’t do a thing for me:

“Pepper is a social robot able to converse with you, recognize and react to your emotions, move and live autonomously,” the developer’s website states.

Well, some of your emotions, I suppose. The phrase “I am not programmed to respond in this area” comes immediately to mind.

Pepper is now available for use at home, though people have found that communication is really her only asset, as her domestic skills, such as cleaning or cooking are severely lacking.

Who’s buying this humanoid?

Currently Pepper is available for purchase for Japanese residents only and they must be older than 20.

And they must have the yen equivalent of $2,000 US, and perhaps an indulgence from the Space Pope.

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Tingless

There is the physical, and there is the mental, and some of us try to keep the two discretely, even discreetly, apart — to our eternal humiliation. Not even Frank Sinatra can help us.

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So much for Extra Lean

Vegans may want to click on something other than thisanything other than this — right about now:

Location based dating apps like Tinder are great for assessing prospective dates based purely on their looks and proximity, but sometimes you can’t help but feel like it would be nice to know a little bit more about this person before you swipe them into your life. Sometimes you have want the answer to some deeper questions, like “do you prefer turkey bacon or pork bacon?” If the answer to this question is make or break in your prospective relationships, you might be interested in Oscar Mayer’s new bacon-based dating app called Sizzl.

Possibly the most ridiculous but admirable marketing product of all time, Sizzl will allow you access to a network of bacon lovers, which makes your chances of finding that perfect someone look pretty good.

There are people who love bacon even more than I do, but they’re probably wearing the stuff already; it hardly seems necessary to develop an app to find them.

There is, of course, a subtle form of discrimination afoot:

Right now Sizzl is available exclusively on the apple store for free on versions iOS 8 and later, so sorry Android users, it looks like you’ll have to eat your bacon alone this evening. We feel a bit left out.

It’s always something, isn’t it?

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Now don’t be a species-ist

About three years ago, I wrote an overly long short story about a man and a unicorn and the love they came to share. The reception it got was better than I had expected; still, I concluded from this experience that inter-species romances of this sort were not ready for prime time.

But that was then, and this is now:

Becky is a young woman living in the Los Angeles area in the 2015 TV series The Muppets.

Beginning with the pilot, she is dating Fozzie Bear, and introduces him to her parents for the first time. Holly and Carl have a hard time understanding how the relationship can work, questioning how they’ll raise their children.

At San Diego Comic-Con 2015, Bill Prady stated that Becky’s relationship with Fozzie would continue to be explored in the series.

Becky will be played by Riki Lindhome, the taller half of Garfunkel and Oates, and it occurs to me that this might make some sort of sense after all: in the all-but-forgotten Hell Baby (grossed about $5000 total), Lindhome has a brief (three minutes) scene with Rob Corddry, who looks a bit Fozzie-esque, or at least would if you put a hat on him.

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Staring blankly

The Male Gaze, to hear some people tell it, is about a quarter of a tick, if that much, short of Actual Sexual Assault. If you think about it, this stance trivializes physical assaults: if everything is rape, then it’s no longer possible to take a rape charge seriously. I don’t think anyone, with the possible exception of the serial rapist, really wants that.

Some gazers, inevitably, are more annoying than others, particularly if they’re trying to engage the gazees. How to foil them? A sharp rebuke ought to be enough, but there’s something to be said for reducing the potential payoff as well.

In 2001, writer Larry Young and artist John Heebink put together a four-part comic-book story called The Bod, about a young woman rendered invisible by an accident with special-effects gear. Her newly acquired state gains her fame and fortune; it also brings out her worst qualities.

And it essentially deprives her of the ability to say “Hey, jerk, my eyes are up here!”

Panel from second episode of The Bod

Still, this might work better as a meme.

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Quote of the week

Alexandra Petri explains Manic Pixie Dream Girls:

They don’t have personalities. They have quirks. They wear rain boots and call coffeepots “elf beaneries” and talk about how the stars are God’s daisy chain. They descend on nebbishy male writers in search of muses the way seagulls descend on a French fry.

Their hobbies include but are not limited to: running in the rain, dancing in the rain, listening to better bands than you in the rain, playing the ukulele in the rain (it sounds no worse), coming up with twee nicknames for household objects in the rain, and breaking up with nebbishy male writers for reasons that said writers find completely impenetrable, sometimes also in the rain. And then, as the writers sob over their departure, they realize that this heartbreak was just the impetus they needed to create That Elusive Masterwork That Was Always Lurking Just out of Reach.

They’re catalysts. They are airy free spirits who, since the dawn of manuscript time, have come waltzing into the lives of nebbishy male writers to urge them to Get Out and Experience Life. They generate plots.

Unfortunately, all the plots are about the same: A young girl sparkling with life, often but not always with erratically colored hair, comes pirouetting into your humdrum existence and teaches you how to feel, love, and throw away whatever medication is keeping you from alarming the neighbors. But then the relationship ends, and you transform your whimsical, credulity-straining romance into a classic work of fiction, and the plaudits come pouring in from all corners.

At the very least, Petri should send Woody Allen — and Joseph Gordon-Levitt circa (500) Days of Summer — a bill for her investigative work.

Source: A Field Guide to Awkward Silences (New York: New American Library, 2015).

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