It’s Raining Ramen

There’s something to be said for knowing how to do things yourself. You know, not just knowing how to sharpen your kitchen knives, catch a moose, house-train said moose, make the moose your friend … you know, as one does, but things like knowing how to iron a shirt, sew a button, change a fuse. Especially in this day and age, when everything is Googleable and we’re all carrying in our pockets these little crystal balls we call smart phones.

No longer do we need to memorize exactly how to house-train a moose. And if you find yourself one day lost in the middle of the woods in the night, starving, drenched in the rain, your feet squelching through the mud, and you do find a moose (no, really, bear with me here) you can whip out that trusty smart phone and ask it “How do I catch moose” and sure enough, you’ll find a YouTube video tutorial explaining the entire process. You can then ride the moose home. Provided that you’ve mastered the “make the moose your friend” step. That part is crucial.

That’s where technology might come in handy. Assuming of course, that you have a waterproof phone and battery and an actual moose.

As for deliberately getting lost? Hmmm … just don’t look at your phone. Easy-peasy, trust me.

Sometimes though, I wonder if we’ve gone too far in turning to YouTube for all our DIY needs. I mean, where do we draw the line?  You might have seen, for example, videos of people fixing things with Ramen noodles. Dry Ramen noodles, that is. Not cooked ones. That would just be gross, and I imagine, incredibly difficult. But seriously, repairs are being made with dry Ramen noodles. Tables, chairs, kitchen sinks, toilet bowls, you name it … apparently, it can all be fixed with Ramen noodles.

Yes, everything.

What kind of a spoiled, entitled society have we become where we actually use the things we’re supposed to eat to fix the things we now use to dispose of the things we eat? This is just getting silly, if you ask me.

Ramen noodles are meant to be eaten. Aren’t they? Right? I mean, I think we can all agree on that, yeah? At least that’s what I grew up believing. So what if they’re not good for you. They’re still a food product. Not a DIY repair-all tool.

Yet, here we are, browsing the interwebs, watching videos of people using noodles to fix everything, and it makes you wonder … how do the noodles feel about this? If I were a noodle, I’d be downright offended. Something dating back to China’s East Han Dynasty sometime between A.D. 25 and 220 deserves a bit more respect than ending up as part of your toilet.

My point is, are we just that bored? Are we really so desperate for novelty that we’ll actually use noodles for fixing tables and toilets? The answer is apparently a resounding “yes.”  Along with a shit ton of professional-grade solvents! Can’t imagine that’s good for us or the environment.

Seriously though. Noodles?

No, I don’t want green Ramen and ham.

And I don’t want Ramen noodle chairs either, Sam I Am.

What’s next? People will be asking you if you want your Ramen soup on a Ramen table in a Ramen bowl?

“And where’s the toilet?” you’ll ask. “Oh, the Ramen toilet?” they’ll reply. “Down the Ramen hall and on the Ramen right.”

You may as well be in a Ramen boat with a Ramen fox eating green eggs and ham (because of course, there’ll be no Ramen left to actually eat, everyone’s using it to fix things).

So how do you fix a table or a toilet without ramen noodles? Ahhh … therein lies the problem. You see, no one knows anymore. We’ve all been turning to YouTube for anything and everything for so long that we now just trust it blindly.

But listen, this where it backfires.

Have you heard of something called ants? What about roaches? Wasps? Weevils by any chance?  Before you go fixing everything around your house with Ramen noodles, just remember: there are plenty of creatures in the world that still like to eat Ramen noodles whether you’ve glued them onto your bathroom sink or not.

One day, you might just come home to find a moose in your bathroom eating your toilet bowl. And you haven’t even gotten to the YouTube video series “Make that Moose Your Friend” yet, so basically, you’re screwed.

No. It stops here, I tell you. Just eat your freakin’ Ramen noodles.

And call the plumber already. The toilet’s leaking.

Please.

Laborious Labor Day

Labor Day here in the U.S. is on Monday… but gluttons that we are, many Americans tend to start celebrating sometime late on Friday.  Keeping that in mind, I want to wish all of my U.S. followers a very happy, enjoyable, and peaceful Labor Day weekend.

Now with that said, I must confess that Labor Day is one of those holidays that has always confused me… mainly for its contradictory nature.

I mean on Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers and gift them with the present of doing nothing all day (not that many mothers get away with actually using the gift).  Father’s Day is the same way. We encourage fathers to do “their own thing” on their special day. The effects of most holidays coincide with the original purpose behind said holiday.

But not so Labor Day.

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Now, one would think from this description that workers should have the day off to relax and reap the rewards of the labor they’ve given to their employers and to society as a whole. And indeed, many employees do in fact have the day off. However, many of the hardest working people do not. On this day of celebrating their contribution to the world as we know it and to the workforce in general, they are instead forced to work.

Retail workers bear the brunt, just as they do at Thanksgiving and Christmas, given all of the sales that crop up on Labor Day. But they’re by no means the only ones. Military, police officers, firemen, food service, paramedics, convenience store workers, gas station attendants, all manner of hospital employees… to name a few.  And yes, many of these good people are essential personnel and life is much better and much safer (for the rest of us) with them in their respective jobs, even on holidays, and God love them for it. Others not so much. Retail, food service, convenience stores, grocery stores… there’s no reason to not let these people enjoy a much deserved day off except… except… that it cuts into profit.

So when all is said and done, Labor Day has been turned into a perverse contradiction of its original meaning and rather than truly celebrating the worker, it has devolved into just another way to take advantage of those who cannot afford to lose their jobs by protesting a holiday shift.

Such is America.

click pic for origins of Labor Day (including quote above)

Beauty is as Beauty Does

I think YouTube’s beauty community tends to be a bit underappreciated. Underneath the drama and obviously forced collaborations lies a community that inspires me. No, seriously.

It’s easy to forget that the talented young people on YouTube do more than apply makeup under carefully positioned lighting. These influencers run a business. Although it looks like fun, I imagine that they work hard. I’m not sure if it’s worth multi-millions a year hard, but still. I can’t even get my life together to buy groceries and gas in the same week, and here these people are, figuring out contours and crafting the perfect cat-eye all while maintaining cosmetic sponsors worth more money than I could ever hope to have … and that includes my “win the lotto” retirement plan.  And have you seen the ones that can curl their hair WITH A FREAKIN’ FLAT IRON? I didn’t even know that was a thing. It’s impressive.

I can’t do makeup for shit. I’m horrible at it. But I do find myself giving the tutorials a try from time to time. Is it always a successful recreation? Ummm, no. Is it a hell of a lot of fun to try? Absolutely. Well, mostly. Okay, usually. Fine, if I’m being completely honest, it can be almost as frustrating as driving in heavy traffic, and we all know how I am when I’m driving in heavy traffic. One side of my face ends up tolerable and the other side, well, it turns out different, shall we say.

I still like watching the videos though. The whole thing with social influencers profiting from these beauty tutorials is a relatively new phenomenon.  Back in the day, if you wanted to learn how to do makeup, you experimented with a best friend (makeup… yeah, we’re talking makeup here…sheesh, get your minds out of the gutter, people!). Or had a visit with your friendly Avon or Mary Kay representative – and the pushy sales pitch that went with it. The lovely Elizabeth Arden coined the phrase “makeover” and provided the service in her salons with many others following suit. However, this was – and remains – an unattainable decadence to many, if not most. Now all you need is a WiFi connection and boom! you’re on the road to a perfectly contoured and highlighted night out on the town.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that a lot of you are rolling your eyes right now. YouTube in general, and especially the “influencers,” are an oft-maligned group. However, much like the song lyric sites that save us all from embarrassment during our daily mobile concert commute to work, online tutorials (makeup or otherwise) are changing how we access information and learn new things… and they’re making this information available across the board. And given the fact that the individuals who do these sorts of things have managed to snag jaw-droppingly lucrative sponsorships as recompense for their time, I can’t help but think this younger generation has got it all figured out.

Libraries, am I right?

Okay, so I know that I said I was off my book kick, but well, to put it bluntly, I lied. Although to my credit, this is more about libraries than books. Yeah, yeah, fine, I know. It’s about books.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the local library. Shocking, I know. The same can be said for when my kids were young readers. Quite honestly, nothing has changed. Walking into a library is heaven for me. It brings a sense of tranquility and excitement, if that makes sense. I do it as often as possible.

I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who don’t even own a library card. I mean, WTF? It’s free for goodness sake … free knowledge, free entertainment, free escapism. The question shouldn’t be, why do you need a library card, but rather, why don’t you have a library card?

They call the internet the information superhighway … well, the libraries had this down pat long before the internet was thought into existence. I’ve always thought that the idea that you could walk into an information storehouse and take as many books as you want home – for free – was just too good to be true. From self-betterment to the opportunity to explore new and exciting worlds, libraries are valuable.

In what might seem like an unrelated statement (but trust me, it’s not), if you’ve never seen 1994’s, The Pagemaster, I highly recommend it. Yes, I know you’re all adults. So what? It’s an awesome movie. I first watched it with my son and it soon became a favorite for us both, and then my daughter as well, when she came along. It brought to life, literally, the books we already loved so much.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve been known to watch it just a *cough cough* time or two in recent years.

The Pagemaster is focused around a ten-year old boy named Richard. Young Richard bases his perception of life on statistics and figures and risk assessment, resulting in a fear of… well, just about everything. Upon getting caught in a storm, Richard takes shelter in a library to wait out the nasty weather. A fantastical adventure ensues as Richard encounters the Pagemaster, three books – horror, adventure, and fantasy – who seemingly come to life (horror, bless his heart, is my favorite … I know, typical, right?), and various fictional characters from beloved classics. To avoid spoiling the entire movie (I will reiterate that I highly recommend you watch it yourself), Richard gains a new sense of confidence and fearlessness by the end of his adventures.

It would be easy to say that The Pagemaster is a metaphor for the way books offer excitement, adventure, and a new perspective on life that we can carry with us forever, because it’s true. But it’s more than that. Books let us explore worlds that we never knew existed while helping us to be more present in our own. They quite literally feed our imagination to keep our sense of wonder alive, and this movie captures it all. An homage to libraries everywhere, The Pagemaster captures the importance of books and the impact they can have on young minds (though old minds could benefit from a book or two as well!).

So, while it might seem a little odd to recommend a movie in order to encourage reading… that’s exactly what I’m doing. I mean, let’s face it, today, now more than ever, we need books (and the libraries that safeguard them) and all they have to offer.

Would You Like a Side of Hypocrisy with That?

Every now and then, I come across a story that absolutely blows my mind. While I shouldn’t be surprised by some people’s tendency to do things that make no sense, some things just get to me in an extra special “are you freakin’ kidding me” kind of way. I recently heard about one of those very things.

When I think of animal welfare groups and farm animal sanctuaries, a very specific image forms in my mind. I picture groups of people with an unrivaled passion for the protection of animals ranging from the casual to the devoutly committed to the downright radical.  Fanatics aside, I can’t help but admire the conviction one must have to make an issue such a large part of their lives. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be hypocrites everywhere these days.

What do I mean?  So glad you asked!  And remember, you asked. This rant is on you.

Well, a certain farm animal sanctuary (which will remain unnamed) decided to hold a fundraising event with some very interesting food options on the menu – meat. All kinds of meat. I’m going to repeat that for the people in the back.  This farm animal sanctuary served meat at a fundraising event for the protection of farm animals. Meat. To fundraise for farm animals. You know, the animals who usually end up as… MEAT. This is a true story. I’m not kidding.

This makes literally no sense to me and, frankly, pisses me off. You could probably tell by my excessive use of bold lettering in the previous paragraph. But seriously – how can you, in good conscious, serve steak, let’s say, at an event raising funds towards the protection of cows… the very same animals now sitting, medium-rare, on the potential donors’ plates? Well, not the very same animals, different cows, but still cows. One would think that this choice directly contradicts the non-profit’s so-called mission. I mean, of course it does.

To make things even worse, this farm animal sanctuary had the audacity to get combative and defensive when questioned about their choices! And not by me, either. Apparently, there were quite a few others raising their eyebrows before I ever got into the conversation. Their reasons behind this bold dining choice made no sense either. They claimed that to NOT serve meat would be confrontational and antagonistic to the meat eaters who might attend, and they felt that they should show them by example that animals matter… that they would take the opportunity to educate, rather than argue. Presumably this example-showing and education would occur on the tour of their animal residents who are, you know, farm animals… cows, pigs, goats, chickens, and the like. I’m sorry, but I have to call bullshit here.

I will agree with them on one thing; fundraising events are a great way to educate the general public. It’s an opportunity to showcase the organization’s mission and encourage support from donors by offering them new perspectives on the issues at hand. However, what this particular farm animal sanctuary (I cringe to even call them a “farm animal sanctuary”) failed to do was offer such an opportunity. What exactly did they do to educate the attendees? “Oh, this animal here was worthy of our protection. The one on your plate, well, not so much.” How is that showing by example?

I mean, I’m not one to say, hey, you can’t eat meat because I don’t. You do you and I’ll do me (food, people, I’m talking food here). But at the same time, I don’t think that serving vegetarian or vegan dishes at a FARM ANIMAL SANCTUARY fundraiser would be thumbing my nose at the meat-eating attendees. On the contrary, wouldn’t you think it would be a given? Wouldn’t you expect it? Not to mention, if their objective is to educate people on why farm animals such as cows and pigs shouldn’t be in the food chain, they blew a prime opportunity to showcase just how delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes can be. I’m genuinely confused by their choices.

Let me climb up on my soap box a little higher to say that non-profit organizations should be held to higher expectations than members of the general public… ethically, morally, and through their financial stewardship.  One should expect transparency and moreover, one should expect consistency and an adherence to the mission statement of the organization in question.  Especially the latter and especially when it comes to fundraising. Honestly, they should have anticipated the backlash and to double down by getting argumentative when questioned makes it all the worse.

I can’t even begin to understand what this group was thinking. Their entire program hinges on the concept that ALL animal lives matter and they all deserve to live a full and happy life. How do they fundraise to support this mission?  By serving the very animals they’re fundraising to save. Tell me how that makes any kind of sense at all?  I guess some animal lives just don’t matter after all.

This Way to Crazytown

I am nothing if not directionally challenged.  Back in the day, I used MapQuest to get me to my destination… remember MapQuest?  You’d put in your starting point and your destination, and out popped directions that you could print and take with you on the road. For me, MapQuest was a godsend as I never could re-fold those origami maps to fit back into the glovebox.  My backseat would look as though a cartographer had thrown-up after a 4-day bender. And reading a sheet of directions just seems easier – not to mention safer – than spreading a 6-foot map out across the windshield as you’re going 65 mph down an unfamiliar stretch of highway.

Then came the GPS tech that attached to your dashboard… or in most cases, sat on the passenger seat next to you because you were too lazy to figure out the dashboard attachment feature.  Better than MapQuest, if not more obnoxious. You see, this tech would talk to you. Often in a woman’s voice … which always invoked the feeling that either your wife or your mother was right there in the car with you and not always happy with your performance. Knowing a trend when they see one, car manufacturers started adding this nifty navigation device to their arsenal of new car features. The idea of having an onboard navigation officer – sans the red shirt – was so popular, it became a standard bell on the list of bells and whistles for vehicles coming off the factory floor.

Right about this time, news started drifting in about drivers ending up in lakes or the middle of cornfields … the GPS to blame. Oh sure, we can laugh and say the driver should’ve paid more attention, or at least, not listened to a disembodied voice when it directed them to take that right turn into the ocean. But did we ever think that perhaps that disembodied voice was just having a laugh at our expense? That in fact, it knew the Pacific Ocean was a right-turn away and just thought, “what the hell, let’s see if this idiot is stupid enough to listen to me…”

Not to be outdone, smarter-than-me geeks software engineers everywhere worked themselves silly coming up with the best navigational apps for our phones. On today’s highways, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for getting lost, because your phone can lead the way. Oh sure, people still end up in lakes, but for those folks… well, let’s just say that no app in the world can help them.

As for me, I use Waze. I know I’ve mentioned it before. I love it. It not only tells me how to get somewhere, but also when I’ll be there and exactly how much traffic will annoy me on the way. It even warns you of potholes and roadkill along your route. I’m not sure why, but this app, like so many, still has a woman’s voice. Maybe people feel calmed by a woman’s voice, rather than a man’s voice. Calm is definitely a feeling you want to nurture while hurtling down the road – or while stuck in traffic – so it makes sense. I mean, listening to Lewis Black’s curmudgeonly demeanor call the shots on my morning commute, while amusing, likely wouldn’t end well.

I’ve come to depend on Waze and find myself using it even when I know exactly where I’m going.  She helps me avoid traffic on these routine trips by sending me down backroads I never knew existed. I’ll probably be one of those people in a lake one of these days, having listened too intently to the soothing, yet authoritative, Voice of Waze. Reminds me of the Face of Boe … but that’s another story for another time.

What I do find though, is my self-esteem taking a hit. Not unlike having my ex-MIL in the car. Oh, not from anything the Voice of Waze is outwardly saying or doing, it’s more the silent disapproval and quiet judgement.  You see, when leaving my neighborhood, Waze always, but always, wants to send me down this one road that ends in an intersection with nothing more than a stop sign to direct traffic. Well, we all know how that goes, don’t we? Yeah, people suck. And nowhere do they suck more than on a busy road during the morning commute to work. I guess on paper, it looks like the faster route, but in reality, it’s not… because you have to wait forever to cross the busy main thoroughfare without the benefit of a traffic signal. So, instead, I drive past that road and go on to the next one, where there is a traffic signal because I don’t really like spending my morning waiting at a stop sign for so long that I forget where I’m going in the first place.

Before I got Waze, my GPS program would say “recalculating” whenever I missed a turn. Sometimes, it would say recalculating a lot and I would swear its tone got a little more frustrated every time. But I digress. With Waze, she doesn’t say “recalculating.” In fact, she doesn’t say anything at all. She just pauses for a minute, trying to recalibrate herself, and then gives new instructions.

Well. I’ve noticed a change over the last few times I’ve driven past this road I mentioned … the pauses have grown longer and seemingly more, well, exasperated, if that makes sense. I can almost hear an audible sigh. It’s as if she’s got her head in her hands, saying to herself: “Your turn. You just missed your turn. Again. Did you not hear me tell you to turn?  What the hell, Wendy? Why do you even have me on if you’re not going to listen to me? God. Damn. It.  Fine.” And then she pulls herself together just in time to tell me the next turn even though she probably doesn’t want to.

Waze’s frustration with me is palpable

Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s possible I could use a carpool buddy. You know. For some human company. Just don’t tell Waze. She’s kinda touchy.