04 December 2009

01 December 2009

Donating to Greyhounds Only

Dear friends, family, and supporters,

I finished!!

I am so exhausted I can hardly see, and I'm so sick of my own voice that I can't compel myself to add even a single word more to my NaNoWriMo novel, not even to round it up to a nice even number. Final wordcount, according to the Official NaNoWriMo Wordcount Validator, is 50,261! Could I write just 39 words more, just to get my wordcount up to a tidy 50,300?


I'm going to hit CTRL+S one more time and close this document forever. Or.... until a few months from now, when I have fresh eyes & a big red pen.

When I started this project six weeks ago, I had no idea the timing would be so perfect. A few weeks (and thousands of words into my NaNo novel) we got this message from Greyhounds Only:
11-18-09: Dairyland Track To Close
The Dairyland Greyhound Track in Kenosha, Wisconsin will be closing its gates forever on December 31, 2009. As a result, about 300 dogs will be in need of homes, and soon. For Greyhounds Only, the closure will bring significant financial and logistical challenges, but it also promises a unique opportunity to bring new people into our organization's fold, and raise awareness about this extraordinary breed.

Many of you have expressed interest in helping us meet our goal of ensuring that as many dogs as possible find homes. There are many ways that you can make a difference. First and foremost, have you or someone you know been considering adopting a greyhound? Now is a great time to take the next step, or encourage your friends to do so. Another great way to help is to provide a temporary foster home. Even if you’ve never fostered before, we can give you the necessary information and support to take a dog into your home until it finds its own. Financial donations are also deeply appreciated. The extra dogs we take in will require extra expenditures for medications, vet work, boarding and so on. Please check with your employer about matching gifts -- your contribution might be doubled or tripled.

How exciting was it to know that I was already raising money for greyhounds, at that very moment? (Or at least I was when I stopped procrastinating by checking my email and went back to writing my novel....!)

Thanks to the wonderful Grinnellians who inspired (aka "challenged" or "bullied") me to take up this ridiculous project, and huge, incredible, amazing thanks to each and every one of you who has pledged me!!

With your help, I've raised well over $1,500 for greyhounds this month!! A full list of pledges (in case you've forgotten) can be found on my blog: http://mollybackes.blogspot.com/2002/11/2009-nanowrimo-for-greyhounds.html
There are three ways to donate money to Greyhounds Only.

1) By check. All checks should be made out to Greyhounds Only, and sent to:

Greyhounds Only
335 E. Geneva Rd. #173
Carol Stream, IL 60188

**Donating by check means that Greyhounds Only gets the full percentage of your donation.**

2) Through paypal. You'll find a link to GO's secure Paypal site on their website, www.greyhoundsonly.com

Again, thank you all SO much for supporting me, my writing, and the gorgeous greyhounds!

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments section.

And now I am going to go catch up on my sleep!!


30 November 2009

29 October 2009

National Novel Writing [To Raise Money For Charity] Month

In high school, we used to play this game called the Stick Game, which went like this: So, I'm holding this stick, see, and I'm thinking of a word. And you have to guess the word I'm thinking, and if you guess wrong, I get to hit you with the stick. Now, I know what you're thinking: that's just TOO easy, right? So to shake things up a bit, I can change the word at any time....

In retrospect, it's amazing that we played this game as much as we did.

I started thinking about this game again when I decided to do National Novel Writing Month this year. I've done it a few times before, once - and most notably - with a bunch of middle schoolers, and I know exactly how hard it is to write 50,000 words in a month.

But I decided to do it anyway. Why not, I thought. I need a break from my current work in progress, and I could use a few weeks of crazy intense marathon writing.

Now, I know what you're thinking: 50K in 30 days? That's just TOO easy, right?

So a week or so ago, a good friend of mine offered to pledge $2/thousand words to a charity of my choice.

Shoot, I thought. That means I actually have to take myself seriously.

About five minutes later, another friend jumped on the wagon. And then another. Suddenly I was up to $5/thousand words, and I hadn't even chosen a charity yet.

So, okay. I guess I was doing it. For real. I was going to write a NaNo novel for charity.

Even though it would probably be more thematically appropriate to use NaNoWriMo to raise money and awareness for a writing and/or literacy charity (for example, the excellent Open Books), I decided instead -- for this year at least -- to write for the greyhounds.

Greyhounds Only is the organization through which we adopted Zia. For each dog that goes through the Greyhounds Only adoption program, GO pays an average cost of $761. Every contribution helps a greyhound on his or her journey from the racetrack or farm to a forever home. Part of their mission is to deliver medical care to as many greyhounds as possible so that they will not be put to sleep and can be placed in permanent homes. GO pays for medical costs for all dogs that go to the kennel prior to their permanent placements. Most of the dogs only require routine care; however, they also receive dogs with racing injuries (like Zia), for which they absorb the cost.

$1,000 = repair of compound or multiple fracture
$200-$400 = repair of a simple fracture (Zia had a hairline fracture in her back leg)
$139 = spay/neuter/dental of one dog
$35 = shots and heartworm treatments

More information about greyhound racing & treatment (not for the faint of heart)

If you'd like to pledge me for the month, drop me an email & I'll add you to the list.

I'll be writing for the whole month of November, so you can pledge anytime!

Wish me luck... and if you see me between now and December, tell me to get back to writing!

30 September 2009

Fame 2009 or Fame 1980? A Quiz

Last weekend we went to see Fame (the 2009 remake) in the theater. I was really excited about it, because the 1980 movie (and even moreso, the TV show) were so influential in the world of Young Molly Backes. A school where you get to be a total diva, wear legwarmers, and dance on top of taxis? Sign me up!

Woo, leg warmers!

So, first of all, I have no idea what I was thinking. Remakes are never as good as the original. You heard me, Lindsay Lohan Parent Trap. Never. Secondly, I somehow thought I wouldn’t really need a plot if there was enough singing and dancing. Right? Who needs a plot when you have jazz hands? The original movie didn’t really have a plot, and it was still awesome. Third, I apparently forgot to factor in the differences between teens in 1980 and teens today: the strange, dangerous, secretive, and usually about to knife you teens of yore vs. the sparkly, witty, talented, and injecting much needed cash into America’s limping economy teens of today.

Fame 2009: Cleaner. Brighter. Airbrushed.

It’s not that the remake of Fame was that terrible, really, if you consider “whitewashed, sterilized, and PG” to be “not terrible.” It’s just that the remake represents an entirely different America than the 1980 version did. There’s a place for each, I suppose. And to help you figure out which version of Fame is the place for you, I’ve created this handy quiz.

Do You Belong in Fame 1980 or Fame 2009? A Quiz

1. New York is:
a) exciting! Bright lights, big city, the Great White Way! I know I’m going to make it!
b) dirty. Full of junkies and prostitutes.

2. Your performing arts high school is:
a) a great opportunity to achieve my dreams!
b) kind of junky.

3. The weird kid likes you because:
a) he can see your true talent shining through.
b) you supply him with drugs.

4. When you get offered the gig your friend wanted, you:
a) refuse the gig. Friends come before career, guys.
b) shrug. Sucks to be her! You’re going to be a dancer!

5. When your friend gets offered the gig you wanted, you:
a) leave in a huff, trusting your friend to follow. Friends first, guys!
b) yell: “Well f*ck you, Leroy, this was my audition, remember? You’re not into high school, this was my audition. We were rehearsing to get me into this school, not you, you f*cker! It’s just not fair! I didn’t want to come here anyway. This school sucks! You done me a favor, shithead! You saving me four f*cking years from this ass licking school! You looking at one happy lady. Who wants to go to a f*cking school to learn how to dance anyway?”

6. At lunch, you:
a) perform a highly choreographed interdisciplinary routine, giving ample time for each student to shine.
b) jam. About the lunch ladies.

7. This teacher keeps hassling you because:
a) he just believes in you so much, and you’re not willing to let him in.
b) you can’t read. And you DON’T WANT TO LEARN.

8. When things get rough in class, you:
a) run away to the auditorium, where you discover that the cute shy girl has an amazing hidden talent.
b) go smash a bunch of shit.

9. The problem with your analyst is:
a) um, what’s an analyst?
b) you’re in love with him, thus exposing your latent homosexuality.

10. The problem with your mother is:
a) she told you you were talented! She believed in you!
b) you haven’t seen her in months and she neglected to furnish the apartment in which you live, alone, with your one mattress, Indian print blanket, and guitar.

11. But seriously, the real problem with your mother is:
a) she won’t stop taking pictures of you! She’s just so proud of you!
b) she refused to take your little sister to the doctor after she got raped. Church? She needs to go to a doctor, ma!

12. The problem with your father is:
a) he just wants you to be a classical cellist!
b) he attaches speakers to the roof of his cab and drives around the city blasting your music.

13. When you take to the streets:
a) um, we don’t do that. But we did have a very nicely choreographed and expensively decorated circus-themed Halloween dance!
b) it’s because YOU HAVE TO DANCE! There’s a dark, violent edge to your dancing, not to mention a general societal mistrust of teenagers leftover from when all the teens went wild in the sixties and seventies – only a few years ago! – not to mention the fact that half the kids are on drugs these days and who knows what else! Get the police in here to stop this riot!!

14. You decide you’re just too boring and vanilla to be a real actress, so you:
a) unbraid your hair and start curling it instead.
b) change your name to Monique, start sleeping with your boyfriend, smoke pot, go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, take off your shirt, and dance in front of an auditorium of strangers.

15. Potential failure and inability to achieve your dreams is symbolized by:
a) your super hot teacher, Megan Mullally, who’s still really pretty and has an amazing voice. But she’s old, so it’s not too upsetting. Plus, now she’s a teacher, and she gets to go to clubs and do karaoke with us!
b) the most promising young actor from PA who was a senior when you were a freshman. Now he’s a sad waiter. Look into your future, kid.

16. When an older dude tried to use your naiveté and desire for fame to seduce you, you:
a) pushed him off with chaste outrage and ran out of the trailer.
b) took your shirt off for the camera and cried.

17. After you got kicked out of PA because you’re not talented enough to make it, you:
a) stuck around and supported your friends anyway!
b) disappeared from the movie.

18. The only thing standing between you and your career as a professional dancer is:
a) your pesky boyfriend. God, did he SERIOUSLY think you would choose him over your career?
b) your pesky unborn baby.

19. When things get rough, you:
a) cut to a dance sequence!
b) drink too much, do too many drugs and try to sever all ties with the people who love you.

20. Your music teacher tells you:
a) that you’re so talented, he’d like to hire you.
b) to stop holding your violin like a dick.

21. By the end of high school, your chances at success are:
a) hello, awesome! You already HAVE a job as a professional actress/singer/dancer!
b) uncertain, but probably pretty slim.


If you answered mostly a):
Fame 2009! What up, Millennial? You’ve been told since before birth that you are more special than every special special special kid around you, and that has instilled a deep sense of entitlement in you! If you have a dream, you will probably achieve it! Like, in the next half hour! And if one person tells you that you’re not good enough, well, you can always go home to Iowa and take over your mother’s dance studio as the Number One Dancer in Cedar Falls!

We respect personal space in 2009!

If you answered mostly b):
Fame 1980! You will do anything to achieve your dreams, no matter how much coke you have to snort, how many producers you have to sleep with, or how many abortions you have to put on your Master Charge. You’re going to make it, dammit, and if anyone tells you otherwise, you will go crazy in a way that may involve dancing, but will more likely involve a bunch of shattered glass.

Baby, Remember MY Name!

19 September 2009

She-Ra Defeats the Evil Whores

God bless Hulu.

So it's Saturday afternoon and I'm doing laundry while N's at the theater. In a former life, I used to wait until Kate & Alley was on so I could fold my laundry to the comfortingly mild hijinks of Jane Curtin and Susan Saint-James, but lacking a TV, I have more control over what crappy TV I get to watch while I'm folding towels.

Okay Hulu, I say, gimme your best shot.
Yeah? Asks Hulu.
Yeah, I say.
And Hulu says, How about SHE-RA, PRINCESS OF POWER?

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR, HULU. You have to understand, in a childhood of very little TV -- I remember a lot of getting lost in cornfields, building bridges across cowponds with sticks, lining rocks up in order of prettiest to ugliest -- we chose to spend our allotted TV hour on two shows: He-Man and She-Ra. My favorite episodes, of course, were when He-Man and She-Ra COMBINED FORCES to save the universe from evil, similar to when Jamie and Paul Buchman would suddenly show up in Central Perk and mistake Phoebe for her evil twin Ursula. Oh, the hilarity!

So yes. I sat down with my clean, warm laundry to watch the pilot episode of She-Ra, Princess of Power. And it was awesome.

And so, so, so much gayer than I remembered.

The credits are like Electric Company plus GLITTER plus power 80s music. Along the lines of Star Wars, they tell some story about something something universe, evil guy... whatever.

And then She-Ra and all her friends stand under the rainbow, because only THEY can save the universe from the HORDES of EVIL. (Which, mind you, I was about halfway into the episode before I realized they were saying "Hordes" and not "Whores.") She-Ra's Rainbow Coalition to Fight the Evil Whores.

So once upon a time, in a Castle Greyskull far away....

a bird-woman was having a very bad dream. She dreamed that a snorting skeleton-pig-fish man was stealing a baby. "You may have won this time, Bird Lady, but you'll never see this BABY again!"

She woke up from her terrible dream, only to see a sword appear in the air and blast open a door that she'd NEVER THOUGHT TO OPEN HERSELF, revealing a magical portal to... somewhere!

Meanwhile, in a Jetsons-type colony, Prince Adam is stirring up a batch of his super special spiced bread, while his giant kitty looks on, Scooby-Doo-like, whining about how hungry he is. Adam explains patiently (sounding suspiciously like Casey Kasem, but apparently he's voiced by John Erwin, who incidentally also voiced Babe the Gallant Pig) that a work of art like his secret spiced bread requires patience.

No, I'm serious.

Suddenly, Adam hears a voice in his head, and utters my favorite line of the entire episode: "Shhh! The sorceress is speaking to me by telepathy!"


BY TELEPATHY. That means she is IN MY HEAD.

The birdlady in Adam's head tells him to rush to Castle Greyskull RIGHT AWAY. So despite all the nonsense he's just given his cat about how much time and patience his special bread takes, he drops everything, and runs to the castle, where the Bird Woman shows Adam the portal, gives him a sword that looks just like his, except for the gem. ("Hey! Except for this jewel, this sword looks EXACTLY LIKE MINE!") Bird Woman, that saucy minx, then demands Adam go through the portal to look for the person to whom the sword belongs, but she won't tell him WHO. "ADAM, ADAM, PLEASE STOP ASKING QUESTIONS," she whispers girlishly. "JUST GO THROUGH THE DAMN PORTAL AND FIND A MYSTERIOUS PERSON NO I CAN'T TELL YOU ANYTHING ELSE! I HAVE A HEADACHE!"

And she pushes him and his kitty through the portal into a Seussian wonderland. Luckily, Adam fits right in with his violet tights and purple Uggs.

Adam and his kitty do what any characters in a children's show would do upon entering a strange land: they go to a bar.

Where, as it happens, Tom Selleck is sitting with his Rainbow Owl, drinking alone. As usual.

Moments after Adam and the kitty burst in, shocking the locals with his Lilac Uggs ("So 2003!" they whisper), three robots burst into the bar and demand that the harpist "Play something good!"

When the bard fails to play the appropriate music, the robots go crazy, forcing Tom Selleck to unveil himself.

Tom's name, as it turns out, is BEAU. As in "Adam's Handsome New" Beau? Adam hopes so.

The rainbow owl, as it turns out, is as much of a coward as the kitty, and they become besties under a bar table.

Adam and (his) Beau fight the robots together until the bitter end, where they slam them headfirst into matching pink planter pots.

Meanwhile, at the Spider Castle, The Snorty Skeleton speaks to his Evil Whores. You can tell they're evil because they're so sexy. Well, the ladies are. And the dudes are all sea monsters.

I recognize Cat-Ra because we still have her action figure at my mother's house. In fact, N pulled it out of a drawer under the TV last weekend when we were looking for the remote.

Her friend the dementor is the only legitimately scary bad guy. I remember being scared of her when I was little, too. What I didn't realize then is that part of her threat is in her starting-to-sag evil boobs. LOOK INTO YOUR FUTURE, LITTLE GIRLS.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Gayest Ride in Cartoon History is happening:

No comment.

So Adam and Beau and the kitty and the rainbow owl and the pink horse all go to the Whispering Woods, where they meet up with the "rebels" who are composed of like eight farmers with hoes and led by a pink-haired sweetie named Glimmer.



Their meeting is interrupted by this Wacky Witch whose eyelids are part of her hat and Her Wacky Broomstick Sidekick who come to tell them that the Evil Whores are imprisoning all the townspeople and sending them off to the Slave Fields.

Glimmer takes a stand. "Golly gee, we can't let them get away with it!"

Now this next part is the only one I find remotely scary, and that's when the Evil Whores are rounding up the townspeople to work in the slave mines. What's interesting is that this was 1985, so all the bad guys should be Cold War Era types -- you know, trying to convert Glimmer to Marxism or whatever -- but instead, they seem to be taking a page from the Nazis. Maybe there's just a finite number of ways for Evil Whores to be Truly Evil, and no one did it better than the Nazis. I have to wonder, though, if my very first understanding of the Holocaust wasn't directly in relation to THIS EPISODE: "Ooohhh, I get it! It's like when the Evil Whores rounded up all the townspeople and sent them off to work in the slave mines!"

And that's what truly scares me.

Anyway, so there's a battle, and the real shocker is that PRINCESS AURORA is EVIL. She is! They keep calling her "Force Captain Aurora" or something, and she is SHOOTING A GUN AT HE-MAN, who we know -- but he doesn't know, and she doesn't know -- oh, delicious dramatic irony -- IS HER BROTHER!!

Also, she isn't wearing pants.

Meanwhile, (her secret brother) Adam runs away, calls on the power vested in him by Castle Greyskull, and turns into He-Man.

And then he shoots his sword at his pet tiger, and it FINALLY turns from being a trembly, hungry, foolish figure (with a voice eerily reminiscent of Brian Close) into the supremely awesome BATTLE CAT I remember from the action figures of my childhood. And yes, we played with He-Man figures along with She-Ra.

And then a battle ensues, in which He-Man tells a very butch-sounding Scorpion Lady to be more ladylike. Seriously, He-Man? With your Violet Tights and your Beau who wears his heart on his chest, and your pet kitty, YOU feel the need to instruct other people on appropriate gender behavior? The nerve.

Then Glimmer gets her ears sucked by a sea monster.

And then He-Man is knocked over by this other sea monster's "Balance Distorter Ray." I'm not making this up. The sea monster can knock you off your balance! Oooooh, how EEE-VIL!

Of course, the battle must finally come down to He-Man and Force Captain Aurora, who are actually brother and sister -- not that you'd guess by their extreme matching Minnesota Blond thing -- and they have a showdown which involves He-Man pulling out the sword (the one that's "except for this jewel, exactly like MY sword") from Bird Lady, only to see....

Aurora's face IN THE GEM!


But she doesn't care! A robot appears and knocks He-Man over, leaving Aurora to pick up the sword WITH HER OWN FACE and stare at it...


Except I'm not going to continue to recount the entire second half of the episode to you. Not that I won't watch it. On the contrary friends; I still have laundry to fold. It's just that it's so hard to write with the closing themesong ringing in my ears: "For the honor of love... we have the power, so can you!"

How very Colbertian of them.

24 July 2009

My Beautiful Pomeranian

Excessively genial insurance salesman: Hey, that's a beautiful dog you have!

Me: Thank you!

EGIS: So, she's some kind of mix, huh? What kind of mix?

Me: No, she's actually a purebred.

EGIS: Oh yeah, a purebred! So she must be a... what, a pomeranian?

Pomeranian: Tiny. Fluffy.


EGIS: Pomeranian? Is that right?

Zia: Not tiny. Also not fluffy.

Me: Um, she's a greyhound.

EGIS: Oh yeah, of course! A greyhound!

Me: Yep.

EGIS: I've never seen a greyhound that looks like that before!

A bunch of brindle greyhounds: look exactly like Zia.

I wanted to say: Hmmm, well, that's what they look like.
or: So actually, you've never seen a greyhound before.
or: A pomeranian? A POMERANIAN?? HA HA HA HA HA!
or: Please stop talking.

I said: She doesn't like men very much.

17 July 2009

Questions Zia Has Refused to Answer

Who's a dog?
Who's a good doggy?
Who's a good girl?
Who's a pretty girl?
Are you a dog?
Are you a doggy?
Are you a good dog?
Are you a good doggy?
Are you a nice dog?
Are you a nice girl?
Are you a good girl?
Are you a pretty girl?
Are you such a pretty girl?
Are you so pretty?
What's your name?
Why are you so pretty?
Why are you such a pretty girl?
Why are you such a good doggy?
How did you get to be such a good doggy?
Is that your friend?
Do you love your friend?
Is that your baby?
Do you love your baby?
Why don't I want to work on my novel?
What's your take on the Sotomayor thing?
Are you so excited about today's Friday Feature?
Can I come take a nap with you instead of working today?

Questions Zia Has Deigned to Answer:
Do you want to go outside?
Do you want to go for a walk?
Do you want some foodie?
Is it time for dinner?

06 July 2009

Welcome Home, Zia!

Zia, Week One:

First of all, she is absolutely beautiful. She has gorgeous liquid brown eyes, deep amber in sunlight (just like Zeke's were, when I first met him), and lovely black lining around her eyes. Her fur is striped like a tiger, and she can camouflage into our living room rug pretty tidily. She folds her paws daintily when she rests, and has a very pretty prancing trot when she walks. At different times she looks like a fawn, a horse, a giraffe (it's the neck), a wolf, and some sort of swimming creature, possibly a mermaid. She has a sleek, waving way of moving through the air like it's made of sea. And of course, she always looks like a queen. Last night we had people over and Zia held court from our bed, letting people come in and admire her and pet her without deigning to join the sweaty masses.

She's not like any dog I've ever known. She prefers inside to outside, to the point that we sometimes have to fight her to get her in the backyard to go potty. Even stranger, she loves going for walks; she just hates going into the backyard without a leash on. She doesn't know how to play, doesn't have much of a prey drive, and spends most of her time snoozing. She sleeps a lot.

She's very shy but not really anxious; she won't approach you but she also won't pee in fear or bolt when approached by strangers. She's very patient when little kids hit her and when puppies jump on her. She stood absolutely still when I wanted to clean her ears with q-tips, but was not down with the tooth brushing. Her passive resistance rivals Gandhi's. She's very polite about it, but if she doesn't want to do something, she won't.

Her fur is soft like a bunny's. She likes to be scratched on the neck, right behind her ears. Sometimes when she's sleeping you can see her bottom teeth. She really likes hot dogs but in general is the least food-motivated dog I've ever met. I have a hunch that any time spent with Grandma will change this. She is careful to take every single step going down, but is very nervous to do stairs in the dark. She already feels completely at home at StoryStudio, where she has a big poufy bed to sleep on, right next to my desk.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, we'll wake up to find her lying on her back with all four legs in the air, completely dead to the world.

The end of her tail has a little tuft of black hair, like a lion's tail, or an elephant's. She has a matching pink collar and leash, but strangers still call her "he," probably because she weighs 65 pounds of pure muscle and her head comes nearly to my waist. She likes to look out the front window, especially when N leaves for work. We both go to the front window then, and watch until she's out of sight.

She's a tidy eater and a sloppy drinker. Her nose drips when she's nervous. She's not particularly interested in toys, but sometimes I come home from work to find her curled up with a stuffed bunny in her crate. She puts herself to bed between 8 and 9 pm, and if we're still up she'll come into the hallway every half hour or so as if to ask, "Um, are you guys coming to bed, or what? Because it's bedtime."

She's sleeping in my bed right now, stretched out with her head resting delicately on N's legs, waiting for me to stretch out alongside her and run my hand along her long, soft neck, until we both fall asleep.

15 April 2009

Sea Turtles, An Ocean Full of Garbage, and Us

Ever since I saw an article about how one-third of sea turtles have plastic in their digestive systems, I've been eschewing plastic bags at stores. I've felt gross about plastic bags ever since I first learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch last summer, but for whatever reason, the article about sea turtles really pushed me over the edge. I guess the sea turtles put a face on the problem? Like before, it was "Oh my god, gross, there's a floating island of garbage the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific ocean, ugh, humans are awful." And now it's "SEA TURTLES! They just want to eat some jelly fish! STOP DUMPING PLASTIC IN THEIR OCEANS!"

When I think about sea turtles, I always think about my favorite Roald Dahl book, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, which has a story about a boy who befriends a sea turtle. Maybe I wish I were that boy, whispering to sea turtles, riding them out into the waves, disappearing into the blue horizon. Notice how this story doesn't include a part where the magical sea turtle eats a Walgreens bag and dies?

Also, sea turtles remind me of Zeke. They're just these peaceful monsters with crappy eyesight who live to eat yummy food. In his later years, Zeke would sometimes appear like Jaws and slowly shark down on your hand, hoping it was full of food (or maybe hoping you suddenly had steaks for hands). I imagine sea turtles the same way: coming across a floating plastic bag, thinking "ooh, jellyfish!" and chomping down. (Jellyfish, by the way, are bastards. I am strongly in favor of anyone who wants to eat them.)

Anyway, so I'm done with plastic bags. And I encourage you to be as well. This morning I stopped at Walgreens to pick some things up and because I couldn't fit it all in my purse, I bought a $0.99 cloth bag to carry everything. The lady at the counter asked me if I wanted to bag everything in plastic before putting it into the cloth bag, and I looked at her with horror. What? NO! Are you on crack, lady? Do you not understand the point of a cloth bag?

Last week I told someone at the grocery store that he could keep his plastic bag. "They kill sea turtles!" I said. He looked... politely interested, maybe? Bored? Worried I'd jump across the counter and strangle him? I'm not sure. "There's a floating island the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific ocean, and it's made almost entirely of plastic!" I said. "I did not know that," he said, channeling the guy from Wayne's World. I'm sure he didn't actually care. But I do.

14 March 2009

The True Meaning of St. Patrick's Day, or: There's Nothing Irish About That Jagerbomb

In the years since I traded the safe and happy bubble known as My Wisconsin Childhood for the cold and cruel existence known as My Iowa New Mexico Illinois Stressful and Expensive Student-Debt-Ridden Tax-Paying Adulthood, I have learned a few lessons about the wide world. Never pass up an opportunity for free food. You don't really have to wait an hour after lunch before you go swimming. Showing your boobs can get you shiny beads and free beers, but not out of speeding tickets. And (shockingly) St. Patrick's Day is a much bigger deal to our family than it is to almost everyone else.

This last one I learned first when I lived in New Mexico, where the holiday registers just above Casimir Pulaski day on the radar. I remember about falling out of my chair when someone explained that she didn't like St. Patrick's Day because of the pinching. "Who ever thought of a holiday all about pinching?"

Pinching? PINCHING??

St. Patrick's Day is not about pinching, my friends. It is not about pretending you're Irish just to get kisses. Contrary to what this city will tell you, it is not even about being falling-down-drunk by noon while men dressed as giant leprechauns try to roll your drunk ass into the neon-green river. (And no, random drunk guy in cab, I will not make out with that pole. Get back in your cab and take that ridiculous hat off. You're not "Chirish," you're just an alcoholic.)

St. Patrick's Day is about food. Delicious, delicious food. St. Patrick's Day is the Thanksgiving of spring, and like Thanksgiving, it's a holiday about family and togetherness and abundance and gratitude for these modern days when our potatoes aren't rotting in the fields and we have career options beyond cop and barmaid. We gather our friends and family and feast on corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions, and loaf after loaf of gorgeous secret family recipe Irish Soda Bread. We add love and tears and generations of irish-catholic guilt, and cover it all in butter. We listen to The Chieftans and we commune with our ancestors and if we happen to cut ourselves and bleed into the bread, all the better.

We do not butter our Irish Soda Bread.

We do not put caraway in our Irish Soda Bread.

If you refuse to try our Irish Soda Bread because you "don't like raisins," we will mock you. Preferably until you cry. Just try the damn bread! You'll love it. I swear. No, you don't need to butter it! Jesus! JUST EAT THE BREAD!

Last weekend, my mother overheard my end of a cell phone conversation with my sister in which we outlined many of these rules in increasingly agitated fashion. When I yelled, "BUTTER? What's wrong with you??" my mother snorted diet pepsi through her nose and said, "I'm so proud of my children!"

In my family, we do not paint our faces green and use our Holy Feast Day as an excuse to get piss drunk with a bunch of frat boys. (Because who needs an excuse? If you need an excuse to drink, you're probably not Irish.) [As I was writing this, my friend Jeremy was twittering an Irish snarkfest. "Yeah, I'm listening to the Pogues. Do you know who that is, Green Shirt?" and "No matter how drunk you get, there will never be ANYTHING Irish about that Jagerbomb." I love him.]

We do not pinch. We don't play tricks or dye our beer green. My dad usually does tell thematically appropriate stories (including, but not limited to: "How A Leprechaun Stole My Backpack In Ireland" and "The Old Irish Farmer Who Was Possibly A Leprechaun Who Messed With Tom Dunne's And My Head In Ireland," and of course, "I Kissed The Blarney Stone And That Means I Get To Lie All The Time"). We wear green, sometimes. If we feel like it. We listen to the Chieftains and the Waterboys and Van Morrison and the Cranberries and the Pogues and Sinead O'Connor and the Dubliners and Cousin Kathy.

We make corned beef so good our friends get hooked and start shooting it straight into their veins.

We make soda bread so good the entire county demands their own loaf, and we turn our kitchens into soda bread factories for one week out of the year.

We feast. With friends, with family, we gather and serve it all up with love and gratitude and this amazing horseradish sauce. We feast.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! (Except you, drunk guy. Get back in your cab and take off that hat.)

19 February 2009

Prioritizing Writing, Or: At Least There's One Good Thing About This Crappy Economy

Every now and again I actually scrape together enough time to blog at work, and then post it here to create the illusion that I actually do sometimes update my own blog, aside from all the youtube videos of ladies singing about grammar and Jesus singing about gays. Of course, if I were really diligent about posting videos, I'd direct you to KITTENS! INSPIRED BY: KITTENS! which is both funny and terrifying.

Prioritizing Writing

30 January 2009

One Billion Trillion Units(?) of Deliciousness

In other words, The Greatest Snack Food Stadium Ever Built:

One billion trillion, dude. One billion trillion.

On a similar note, and in case you've been living in a Bacon Cave (or would it be a vegan cave? A bacon-hatin' cave? Anyway, you know what I mean), the internet's crazy for the Bacon explosion!! Almost as popular as that goddamn Snuggie.

Happy Superbowl!

15 January 2009

Baby Got Good Grammar... Back

Sit back and allow Sistersalad to tell you a little something about grammar, with a little help from Sir Mix-a-Lot.

12 January 2009

Oh, Aunt Basil!

Cross your fingers and send good wishes to my mother's dog Basil, known for many years as "your little brother" and also answering to: Beez, Beezil, Weez, Weezil, Waz, Wazzil, Beezer-Weezer, Beezil-Weezil, Weenie Boy, Baz, Bazzy, Spazzil, Beefaroo, Pony Boy, Hobby Horse, Sits-Like-a-Person, Aunt Basil, Beeazulbub, Buddy, Bubba, Nancy Boy, Wild Nancy, Princess Basil, and "Shut up, you crabby old queen."

Basil has a mast cell tumor on his right shoulder that will be removed & biopsied next week to see if it has metastasized. Poor Bazzy. It's been a tough year for Backes Dogs, and it's definitely too soon to go through another cancer dog grieving process.


Plus, even though Aunt Basil is indeed a crabby old queen, though he's punched through two windows, left rabbit legs in Mom's purse, vomited a turtle in the back yard, and got cracked out on turkey and bit Natalie, mostly he's a nice freckle faced boy, and he's got a good number of years in him. We hope.

10 January 2009

Biking, Blogging, and Barfing: A New Year's Round-Up

So apparently writing a blog is not much like riding a bike. Which is actually a good thing, because the last time I rode a bike I nearly got hit by a Netherlandian bus. I was in Amsterdam at the time, which explains the presence of the Netherlandian bus. I mean, it would probably be a better story if I were biking in Madison and got hit by a Netherlandian bus, because then you’d be like, Where did that Netherlandian bus come from? and I’d be like, I KNOW! What the hell! and you’d say, A Madison bus would never hit a biker! and I’d say, I KNOW! but a Chicago bus would, because one drove over this lady just last year, and that’s why I haven’t ridden a bike since –

Actually, you know what, I take that back. The last time I rode a bike was in Madison, when I lived on Rodney Court, and it IS a better story, but one my attorneys have advised me not to share publicly. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you sometime.

Also I used to ride on Lisa Otte’s tandem bike in college, but that mostly involved me putting my feet up and letting her pedal us both.

The point is, you’re supposed to be able to ride a bike forever once you’ve learned, but clearly the same isn’t true for blogging, because for the last six weeks I’ve had no idea what to write about. None. Though obviously telling stories about biking is a rich vein to mine.

So, last six weeks, in brief: My sister came to visit for Thanksgiving! and introduced me to the delight that is Hacker-Pschorr. I had to work the whole weekend, but she played with Natalie and then helped me move a podium to StoryStudio, where it is already much beloved. I made the rounds of the usual 10,000 holiday parties, missing only Kate’s birthday because I was sick (happy birthday, Kate!) but making it to Jere & Erin’s tree trimming party, Chris’s Festivus party, our own Annual Cookie Exchange Party (now with more 100% more Circles of Celebration!), StoryStudio’s holiday party, StoryStudio’s Open House, Dan & Kelly’s Christmas Eve LOTR marathon (straight after working xmas eve at the dogstore; I ate some turkey and promptly collapsed into a snoring heap in the papysan chair), and finally Natalie and Molly’s Quiet Christmas Morning Tiny Party, Guest-Starring Mamabackes. And in the middle of all those parties, I also managed to buy a few xmas presents (including some awesome art & a lobster shirt from Threadless, who live in the same building as StoryStudio and are pretty cool), dyed my hair black just because I always had a hunch I could pull it off, worked a million retail hours at the dogstore, bought myself a new sweater (it's blue!), managed to land a position as a poet-in-residence with the wonderful Hands On Stanzas program (and no, regardless of what my father may have told you, I am not the Poet Laureate of Chicago), got a promotion at StoryStudio (Assistant Director, woo!), and even read a few books.

And then the New Year came, and with it came the ebola. I lost a week of my life – one fifty-secondth of the new year – to a hideous death flu contracted from my mother, the birthday girl. It was ugly. Let’s not speak of it ever again, except in reference to “the sickest I’ve ever been,” and hopefully told only as legendary war story, as in, “You think this is bad? This is nothing compared to the 2009 Death Flu,” and NOT “wow, I’m even sicker now than I was with the Death Flu of 2009!”

Anyway, so this is exactly what I’ve been trying to avoid these last few weeks: you’re so good to come back to my mostly defunct blog, checking in on me to see if I have anything interesting to say to distract you from whatever boring task you’re trying to avoid, and all I can give you is a long list of randomness and then a story about barfing.

But since you've been such a good, diligent reader, and because you've been so kind to overlook my sloppy and excessively parenthetical blogging ways, instead of the very predictable, pedestrian conclusion-with-a-half-assed-promise-to-do-better-in-the-new-year, I offer a picture of the present I bought myself today. Because I’ve coveted it for months, and because it’s adorable.

Happy new year!

09 January 2009

Wordle my nerdle

Zeke Wordle

Given that my primary obsession from about 2000 to 2003 was the problem of making visual art out of words, how is it possible that I didn't know about Wordle? The site allows you to enter a web address, body of text, or del.icio.us user name, and from there generates a random word cloud based on the number of times certain words appear in the text. I used the text from Teacher's Pet to generate this one. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)