Monday, March 31, 2014

The Man in the Teddy Bear Hat

Innocent teddy bear....
One afternoon last fall, Seth and I were perusing the wares in one of our favorite stores, Tractor Supply, enjoying their displays of gleaming salt licks, lamps in the shape of western boots and sack upon sack of assorted animal feed when Seth spotted it.

The second I saw it, my heart sank just a little for, based on the sparkle in Seth’s eye, I knew it would be coming home with us. Sure enough, he pranced right over to where it hung with dozens more just like it. Fleecey and weird, it was the perfect odd hat to catch the eye of a man who not only loves all hats but seeks warmth at the cost of fashion.

This hat, a strange combination of felt and faux fleece, was designed to keep the eccentric wearer's neck and forehead toasty while simultaneously -- with its ear flaps that unintentionally (I assume) look just like two furry little ears  -- making whoever had the poor judgement to wear it, look just like a teddy bear. 

I could not talk Seth out of this hat...he wore it on the way home and it quickly became his favorite.
...not so innocent teddy bear...

The hat became the cornerstone of his cold weather wardrobe and, since in the past year, Seth has taken to walking for exercise, it became a familiar sight in the neighborhood. 

Normally sedentary, my husband, in an attempt to build up his childlike calves, manage the stress of his job and keep his blood pressure in check, now does at least four brisk revolutions on the oval that encompasses our road and one other.

There have been many perks. He's feeling a lot better, has met some really nice neighbors, knows the names of all the dogs walked daily and not only learned what a clematis is but suggested I plant one around the mailbox. As for the hat, it has become part of his persona. It's the only thing that sets him apart from being a completely normal dude out for some exercise since he looks just like a giant teddy bear as he strides along.

So, maybe it's the hat that explains why, last week, somebody called  the police claiming he was peering into parked cars with possible malicious intent. Apparently, they thought he was a dangerous teddy bear.

...kinky teddy bears.
The police were very pleasant, saying not one word about the hat, explaining themselves as they requested ID. And Seth, I think, was a little pleased that anyone may have thought that he might have been up to something naughty. 

After all, when you are repeatedly mistaken for a teddy bear, it's kind of exciting to be thought of as threatening.  Allow me to assure you that Seth had no ill intentions as he made his rounds. Nor was he looking into cars except, perhaps, to admire the hat's reflection in their windows as he powered by.

He is guilty of a few things, however: trying to improve his health despite pizza for lunch almost every day, enjoying the brisk weather, watching for signs of spring and reporting back on them, admiring your gardens and home improvements and, in general, keeping an eye on the neighborhood in only the most positive ways.
You knew I'd sneak
a cat in somewhere.

So, do not fear the man in the teddy bear hat. 

He means no harm and has no intention of breaking into your car despite the little fleece "ears" that obviously have caused some concern. 

We assume that whoever called the police was not a local and, therefore, hasn't seen Seth and the hat walking every single day (except in heavy rain--he's not crazy, after all) but if you do reside in the neighborhood, don't worry--all the man in the teddy bear hat wants is to enjoy the fresh air and get his blood pumping. And soon it will be warmer and the hat will retire until next year, anyway. 

Happy spring, everyone.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Squirrel Called "I'll Kill You"

I have always enjoyed my backyard birds --the finches and sparrows, round-as-baseball cardinals and the occasional misunderstood jay looking for love in all the wrong places, squawking from my deck rail.

This year, however, I refocused.

Instead of filling the feeders when I remembered, I adhered to a strict regimen of maintenance. My stupid sons may no longer need mommy…but the birds do. 

Aiming for a variety of birds, I bought better seed and hung a large tray feeder right outside the kitchen window.  As a result of my diligence, I reveled in an amazing showcase of bird interaction just inches from where I typically stand (to both peel potatoes and question my place in the universe) in my kitchen.

All season I’ve enjoyed good times with my flying friends, often marveling at 6 or 7 eating from a single feeder with neither bickering nor one-up-man’s-ship as they flutter and peck. In my winter isolation, they became a metaphor of harmony--a veritable model for my wish for unity among my own kind. They would have thought I was insane if they knew that, in them, I had imbued so much hope for my own species.

Oblivious to the cold, I filled feeders, swept hulls and replaced suet and was rewarded by constant activity. I watched happily as I cooked and puttered, living for for the brilliant flashes of crimson as cardinals swooped about, settling ornamentally in trees between perching to snack.

One morning very recently, dreamily washing dishes and gazing out upon "my" birds, it happened. 

Hearing an odd scritch-scratching outside the window, a pertinent little face suddenly stared right at me through the glass. It was a squirrel who, not unlike Spiderman, climbed the shingles and leapt onto the feeder outside my window. The birds scattered and, with the feeder swinging wildly, he hung upside down and gulped seed at an alarming rate.

My reverie dispelled, I roared "I"LL KILL YOU!!!" at the intruder but he neither heard nor saw my bulging eyes as he gobbled, inches from my face. The birds, interrupted yet ever polite, sat in the trees and watched their lunch disappear. Opening the kitchen window, I scared him away only to have him reappear minutes later.

I had a pair of kitchen tongs in my hand and, without thinking, again bellowed "I'll KILL YOU!!," thrusting them through the screen, tearing a large hole in the mesh. Stopped by the glass, the tongs had no effect on little I'll Kill You who kept on chomping, tail above his head, beady eyes focused on his nom-noms.
Smart ass.

Thus began the war. 

I devoted every free moment to the defeat of I'll Kill You. On some level, I admired his moxy, his superiority over the rock-eaters of squirrel-dom who stared wistfully at the feeders while I'll Kill You took action. The snow might be covering the nuts he buried but here was his meal ticket and he would not be denied.

So I bought I'll Kill You some corn cobs and placed several outside only to count nine squirrels on the deck the following morning. "No more corn," said the husband, waving his tiny hands.”Squirrels are rodents, they will invade the house and kill us!"

So, to the internet I went: the experts agreed that hunger and the evolution of what was clearly a super squirrel was, likely, unstoppable. Determined, I eventually discovered a feeder that offered to centrifugally hurl I'll Kill You into oblivion if he so much as put a whisker on it.
Hold on a minute here...

Discouraged by my respect for I’ll Kill You as well as the price, I found other “guaranteed squirrel proof” feeders. One, called "The Tipper," caught my eye.

Was it possible? Could I still enjoy my daily avian comraderie yet thwart the disruptive I’ll Kill you by humanely tipping him to the ground?

How "the hurler" works.

This feeder,less costly than “the hurler" now hangs outside. 

I have not seen I’ll Kill You for two days. Nor have I seen a single bird. 

They have to get used to a new feeder, of course, but I’m worried. Buzzy and I both take great joy in our almost constant flow of birds-- Buzzy, as he dreams of eating them for breakfast and I,invisioning the lessons we might learn from they who care not about their differences as they spit seed and preen in the winter sun. Plus,they are damn cute.

If no one shows up soon, I may have to abandon the new feeder. If any of my dear readers has a suggestion regarding I'll Kill you, I welcome it. I also have to get a new screen.

Yes, you creepy weirdo, it did.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Snarky as Ever: My Review of the 2014 Academy Awards

Anybody hungry?
I am actually shocked at myself for saying this as I am a die-hard (...or so I thought, having been raised watching award shows with my mother) but I might actually be getting fed up with the Oscars.

I love movies...being entertained...losing myself in a good story acted out by beautiful and talented actors and actresses but, somehow, the self-congratulatory nonsense of last night was irritating. But why? What changed?

One answer might actually have been the absence of the time limit on acceptance speeches and the music that, in the past, would well up, ultimately drowning out the protracted babbling of many a long-winded recipient.

While, in the past, I have been outraged that the music cut off the winners, last night I realized that I don't necessarily want to actually hear their speeches, prepared or spontaneous. I found myself longing for something  to just put an end to some of those endless thank yous that seemed outwardly humble yet were subliminally swollen with consuming ego and personal aggrandizement.
Cute, shut up.

Case in point: I'd forgotten that Matthew McConaughey, who has undeniably become a superb character actor in the past few years and was deserving of his win for the portrayal of an AIDS vicitm in "The Dallas Buyers Club," is, as himself, a rambling slightly bizarre dude who plays up his accent and tells too many stories about, guess who---himself. 

I did not care that he is is own hero or whatever he was blathering about up there. Thank your mother and get the hell off.

But a lot led up to Matthew's win for best actor.There's a lot to talk about.
Kind of scary but don't be rude.

To start, Ellen Degeneres was mean to Liza Minelli.

Has Liza had way too much plastic surgery? Absolutely. Has her personal life (she marries lots of gay men) been a bit quirky? You could say that. Has she struggled with addiction? Sure. But has she won 4 Tonys, an Oscar, 2 Golden Globes, an Emmy and a Grammy? Yes, she has and that's worth a little respect, no? 

Not to mention, it could not have been easy being the daughter of a true Hollywood legend like Judy Garland. Complimenting her for being the most amazing "Liza Minelli impersonator" she'd ever seen and calling her "sir" was hurtful. And Liza looked hurt. 

A host should not insult her guests. That's a basic rule of hospitality.
The famous selfie.

No, we don't want any freakin'
pizza, Ellen.
I also thought that Ellen's extended schticks -- walking through the audience chatting up uncomfortable looking nominees surrounded by awkward silence, taking that stupid selfie and especially the ordering and distribution of pizza to the front rows (imagine getting sauce on your $100,000 designer gown before you had to go on stage?) were neither entertaining nor funny and, therefore, a waste of precious time.

Angelina needs a cupcake.

As for the presenters, it's time for Anne Hathaway to stop trying to appear relaxed and actually relax. Zac Efron and Jared Leto were prettier than anyone there with exception of the gorgeous Penelope Cruz who won not only for being the most beautiful woman in attendance while, at the same time, managing to look the most like an insect. And, why did the Academy pair their two most frail stars--the emaciated Angelina Jolie and the aged but still elegant Sidney Poitier? If either one of them had fallen over -- which looked like a distinct possibility for both-- the other would have been totally helpless in assisting the even more unsteady presenter to his or her feet. 

Javier Bardem's and an
entomologist'a dream.

Jim Carrey was, as usual, both hilarious and scary and Harrison Ford should gets huge kudos for presenting an award despite having passed away earlier in the night....probably during the selfie-taking or pizza ordering portion of the festivities.
As she once was.

The most memorable presenters made major impressions but not for good reasons.

Kim Novak stunned the universe by showing up looking as if her entire face had been reconstructed from cadaver parts and then sutured shut. Between her plastic, molded cheeks, her whittled nose, her extended chin and her total inability to move her mouth, I am sure she made everyone in the audience think twice about having "some work" done. 
Last night.

Now, at the age of 81, all that is left of her is the throaty voice and the status of having starred alongside some big names and being directed by, among others, Alfred Hitchcock.

Never a great actress, she was known for her beauty. In Hollywood, however, "legend" status is bestowed if you are still ambulatory after a certain age and played in the big leagues, despite your batting average.

For me, the most memorable presenter of the night was none other than John Travolta. 

Once the adorable Vinnie Barbarino, the sexy, brash yet vulnerable Tony Manero and the charming Danny Zucko, Travolta is no less a characature than Miss Novak...mostly thanks to his hair. What was happening on his head last night was epic both in color and design. Plus, he is a shining example of the failure of scientology, which promised to cure his dyslexia, as he introduced the lovely Idina Menzel as Adele Dazeem. This confused no one more than the clearly befuddled Menzel. I actually find the name Adele Dazeem to be very nice....I wonder if she can sing.

As far as fashion went, I long for the days before everyone hired stylists to dress them. Long gone are the exposed ass cheeks of both Barbra Stresiand in the 60s and Cher in the 80s, replaced, this year, by drab yet tasteful no-color strapless dresses and standard issue Harry Winston chokers. The men sported the trend of short suit pants that exposed a colorful slice of sock and Pharrel insisted on wearing a black version of the enormous hat he sported at the Grammys. 

Before stylists: Cher as a presenter, then as a recipient...
and yes, those cheeks were bare, too.

Whoopie Goldberg chose a re-configured version of the habit she wore in Sister Act and Jennifer Garner must have been between stylists because her fringed flapper dress did not fit. And, please, Mrs. Baz Luhrman-costume designer, as you dug your acceptance speech out of your cleavage, don't claim that keeping things of importance in your underwear is an Australian thing to is a Brooklyn thing to do. I have been keeping Jimmy Hoffa, the missing Water Gate tapes as well as my Costco card and cash in mine for decages.

As for Pink singing "Over the Rainbow" 
Pink in red.

I love Pink. She appears on my Spotify play list many times and I always enjoy when the change falls out of her pockets during one of her aerialist routines but that song needs to be sung by a wistful and sweet voice.

Pink, despite her talent, could have beaten up Dorothy as well as Uncle Henry and Auntie Em with one hand tied behind her back. Plus, she always seems a bit belligerent. After Ellen crapped upon Liza Minelli in the early moments of the broadcast, they should have bungeed Pink up in the parking lot and let Liza sing her mother's signature song.
You have to pay your dues to be
a member of the club, J-Law.

For me, the best parts were Pharrell's red sequined high tops, the frequent thank-yous and blown kisses to all the mommys of the winners and the commercial for a new Mercedes that brags of the abiltiy to emit the owner's favorite "smell" into the car as they drive (potato pancake for me, please).

And, while Jennifer Lawrence is refreshing and spontaneous, I would like to remind her that she is still very young and has yet to earn the right, despite last year's award, to behave like such a seasoned insider. When she took the stage to present the award for best actor, her smart-mouth challenge to someone in the audience fell flat, received no laughs and made me want to run outside and roll in the snow.

So that's it until next year, friends. Last night's Academy Awards left me with little more than a craving for pizza and a continued aversion to scientology (not capitalized for a reason).  Congrats to all the, get over yourselves.
But Tom Cruise is a member.