Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Accused

Okay, I've officially seen it all. I now stand accused of of actually being the Rubber Duckie Bandit my OWN SELF. Aynex seems to have thought it all out in her post.

HOWEVER! Let me say this about that. While it's true that I love tiaras, true that I am unemployed, and true that I believe increased blogging is ALWAYS a good thing, the following is DEFINITELY NOT true:

-Let me say once and for all that I absolutely DO NOT think the S-Man is the boss around here. Certainly, he is not the boss of me. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

-It is also untrue that I said anything about the S-Man going by a "rubber duckie" code name on the walkie talkies--UNTRUE! I never knew this until I read it an e-mail written by none other than you, Ms. Mercado. HA!

In conclusion, I would like to state for the record, unequivocably, that I am most certainly NOT the Rubber Duckie Bandit. Although, if I was? I probably wouldn't admit to it.

In other news, my cousin Diana and Uncle Leon stopped in for a nice visit this afternoon. Like a goober, I didn't get a photo. But we had a nice visit on the balcony and then they headed off to Tootsie's in Nashville to enjoy some REAL LIVE country music.

Later, I mixed up some unexpectedly delicious and stupidly easy to make Coconutty Bars from a recipe I found at Splenda. I used Splenda brown sugar, but I'm sure it would be just as good, if not better, made using the real thing.

Coconutty Bars

Serves: 18Preparation Time: 20 MinutesCooking Time: 30 MinutesTotal Time: 50 Minutes
What you need:

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend, packed
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

What you do:
1Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2Combine the butter, SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend and flour until a dough forms. Press into a 13X9 baking pan.
3Bake for 10 minutes.
4Blend the eggs, SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend, vanilla, flour and baking powder. Stir in the coconut and the pecans.
5Spread the filling onto the par-baked crust.
6Return to the oven for 20 minutes.

Submitted by: Makers of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products
Nutrition Info (per serving)
Calories 210 Calories from Fat 140 Protein 3g Fat 16g (sat 8g) Carbohydrate 14g Fiber 2g Cholesterol 35mg Sodium 70mg Sugar 6g

The S-Man and I took in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus while enjoying our coconutty bars. The movie is compelling, if strange, visually lush, and stars Nicole Kidman as Arbus. (An irritating aside: they pronounced "Diane" "Dee-Anne") The movie takes pains to let the viewer know it is an IMAGINATION of what may have influenced Arbus to take the photos she did. I'm not familiar with the work, just the name. It was the sort of movie you can't look away from, but not the sort of movie you can recommend. Enter at your own risk on this one.

I'm off to bed. Much drudgery to face tomorrow.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Getting Busy and Meeting Stephanie

Whew, I tell you. Ya'll! It's been CRAZY down here today...CRAZY!

First, I had to LEAP out of the bed early this morning (read: pre-nine o'clock) in order to make an appointment with my superfantastic stylist, Amberly. Once again, I am powerless to resist the urge to document the miracle of fabulousness she single-handedly wrought on my head (at left). That's her, looking like a super model and me looking mediocre at best EXCEPT for my Miracle Hair which is hardly recognizable, it looks so good. I tell you, the girl is a wizard. So call her at Total Concepts II and let her perform a miracle on your head.

After I got all fluffed up and fabulous at Amberly's, I had lunch with my friend Rhonda and we discussed various unmentionable ideas for this here site. More to come on that, hopefully.

Later in the afternoon I traded some exciting e-mails about some scintillating (AND EXCLUSIVE) literary events that I hope to be hosting this summer in Bizzyville because I take my mission of entertaining as well as informing you guys VERY SERIOUSLY.

Last, but perhaps MOST exciting, I went out for !sushi! with my friend, La Donna, and her daughter and up and coming celebrity, the fabulous Stephanie. In case you just beamed in from planet Mars, or are just now finding this here blog, or have been in a long-term coma, Stephanie famously co-starred in the "Ask a Gay Man: Denim Edition" (noise) video with William Sledd which has now been viewed at YouTube (are you ready for this?) over THREE MILLION TIMES. William's YouTube site in general is the fourth most popular in all of YouTube.

Stephanie has just returned from an action-packed, fun-filled, celebrity-elbow-rubbing, R&F hobnobbing, trip to NYC w/William Sledd and has the photos to prove it! I'm happy to report that Stephanie is as charming and pretty in person as she is in video.

Also! There are new videos to be viewed. First, William and Stephanie go into the wedding cake business in the "Wedding Cakes" video (noise). Also, William takes the NYC Gay Pride Parade by storm in "Proud in the City" (noise). William has a show in development with Bravo, and Stephanie tells me we could be seeing the pilot as early as August.
Stephanie herself has a web project in development that I hope to be linking to soon. I will definitely keep you posted on that.
So, there you have it. And if there's any doubt as to just how busy I've been, know that I've missed Dr. Phil two days in a row.
Yes, it's that serious.

Yet Another Opinion.

Okay, let's think about this "Rubber Duckie" thing....SHALL WE?


Somebody sneaking around the it?

Somebody bad.

Somebody underhanded.

Let's think a minute.

Could it be, oh I don't know...I'm just not sure.

Let me see now....

Could it be SATAN?!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sleeping with the Enemy?



(bursting through the bedroom door)
Hey! Are you asleep?


Are you the Rubber Duckie Bandit?

(not responding)


(still not responding)

I know you heard me. They’re saying YOU’RE the Rubber Duckie Bandit!

(Turns over and cracks open an eye.)
Okay, let’s think about this. If I WAS the Rubber Duckie Bandit, would I be telling YOU about it?

I like to think so.

(Turns back over.)
Think again, Blogger Girl.


(crossing my fingers)
You don’t think I’d write about it, do you? I mean, of course not.


I can keep a secret! You know I can!


You’re not the Rubber Duckie Bandit, anyway. I know you aren’t.

(not responding)

Are you?

# # #



What with all the recent controversy surrounding the mysterious appearances of ducks in the 'hood, I thought I should report back on the status of my little refugee, Princess, as she's come to be known.

After a somewhat restless and difficult first night, Princess settled in with her jacuzzi cohorts who welcomed her with open arms, er, flippers, claws...whatever. Ahem! We have, together, made the decision to adopt Princess as an official member of the family.

I am the the Angelina Jolie of bath toys. Next week...a seahorse!!

The Summer of Manhattan

There are quite a few movies, being the movie buff that I am, that I find difficult, if not impossible, to pass up when scrolling through the channels. There are a few movies the S-Man can't pass up. But there seems to be only one movie that renders the both of us powerless. And that movie is Woody Allen's 1979 masterpiece, "Manhattan". We sat through it again last night for what I think is the third time in as many months.

I know it's been said by everybody in the entertainment industry far better than I ever could, but I'm going to go ahead on and say this movie is, quite simply, perfect. The score. The casting. The decision to shoot in black and white. The dialog.

If you're the one person in the world that hasn't ever seen the film, I'll just sum it up by saying the movie is about a bunch of over privileged self-absorbed Manhattan intellectuals trying to reason their way through their love lives. This, as you might imagine, doesn't work so well. Woody Allen, as always essentially plays himself, an out of work comedy writer in a relationship with a seventeen year old girl played wonderfully by ingenue, Mariel Hemingway. Enter Diane Keaton, jilted lover of Woody's best friend, whom Woody also finds himself attracted to.

Like all great movies, Manhattan ultimately transcends the subject matter of the plot, in this case, that is accomplished with a classic score that includes Rhapsody in Blue, Embrace Me, Someone to Watch Over Me, to name a few, and incredibly gorgeous shots of Manhattan. Against this backdrop, Allen's smart, witty and just plain funny dialog absolutely pops and the three combine to make a movie that is ultimately irresistible about a subject close to all of our hearts: love.

The formula described above is really the recipe for most all of Allen's greatest films, or at least the ones that I consider classic. I don't think Woody's really done anything remarkable since "Husbands and Wives" (a movie I own and view regularly) which was released back in 1992. This doesn't prevent me from still seeing his new releases and hoping for the magic, though.

That's not to say I wasn't conflicted when the whole Woody-Mia-Soon Yi Previn thing broke. Good Lord, it's a special kind of son-of-a-bitch that takes the child of his long-term lover as a wife. Cripes. Don't get me started. I will say that Woody is now both father and brother-in-law to his own children. Gives new meaning to the term "Uncle Daddy", doesn't it?

In any case, it seems to me that the decline in Allen's movie making genius coincides directly with the beginning of his relationship w/Previn. "Husbands and Wives" is definitely a high point (and his last collaboration w/Farrow) and everything after is just sort of..."eh". It's okay, but the real magic? Gone.

Happily, we can revisit the magic any time we want to. "Hannah and Her Sisters", "Annie Hall", "Manhattan", and "Husbands and Wives" are definitely Allen's way-out-of-the-park home runs. Woody's early comedies, to a lesser extent, are always good for a laugh and contain some of the funniest bits I've ever seen: "Bananas", "Everything you Always Wanted to Know About Sex", "Take the Money and Run". Two of my second tier serious favorites are "Interiors" (w/Geraldine Page my all-time favorite) and "Crimes and Misdemeanors".

While searching earlier (in vain) for stills from "Manhattan" to post at the top of this entry, I ran across a few interesting links. First, I was unaware that Diane Keaton has a blog at the Huffington Post. Looks like she hasn't updated in a while, though. Mariel Hemingway has morphed into a fitness guru and keeps a regularly updated blog here.

Mia Farrow, too, has a blog at the Huffington Post, though be advised it is a grim one about her work to stop the violence in Darfur and other troubled African countries. I have to give Mia snaps, though, girlfriend has managed to recover from one of the most vicious, not to mention public, relationship smack-downs in all of recorded history. Despite all this, she seems to have come out on the other side strong and giving, not to mention having raised about sixty-five children (not counting the betrayer).

No sign of Woody himself having a blog. The most recent interesting publicity I could find on him is this interview he gave to Vanity Fair in December, 2005, just before the release of "Match Point" and during the shooting of "Scoop". The piece takes an in-depth look at the Woody of today--rather a sad little figure at age 70, now actually shooting his films out of the country and having problems getting financed. Nevertheless, I found the interview fascinating and Woody does seem, if nothing else, unflinchingly honest, a trait I can never help but admire.

[Edited to add: Check out the latest development on the mysteriously appearing ducks over at the iList Blog.]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One Kentucky Writer

I am so very pleased and excited today to announce the blogging debut of my very own Mom. Long time readers have been regularly treated to links at this site to her published work on the web.

Today, Mom the joins wonderful world of blogging with a site of her own beautifully designed by the talented Nikki May.

So, ladies and gentlemen, without further adieu, I present One Kentucky Writer. (Just go ahead on and add to your favorites list now!).

Good Thinkin', Uma!

Looks like Uma Thurman kicked former hottie husband, Ethan Hawke, to the curb just in time before he went dumpster.

Rear Window

Just learned during my daily drop-in at iList Paducah that the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Rear Window, will be shown at at Maiden Alley Cinema on Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m. I am very excited since this is an all-time favorite of mine starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly that I've never had the privilege of seeing on the big screen. It should be superfabulous. If you've never seen this cinematic triumph by the master of suspense, you must make plans THIS MINUTE to go! Trust me.

Making Bath Time Lots of Fun and Eating Soup

Okay, I'm not going to mince words here, I'm just going to come out with it. Lately, many of my neighbors have been having suspicious visitors lurking about their houses and galleries. Two were found floating in a coy pond. A few were spotted creeping up front porch steps. In my case, I found mine lurking amongst the flowering plants on my balcony:

I hardly think it a coincidence that my ducky is wearing a tiara, do you? Like many in the 'hood, my money says a certain pint-sized diva is responsible. Just a guess. Meantime, this little guy will be taking up permanent residence in my jacuzzi with the rest of my bath toys.

In other news, I developed a whole new chicken soup recipe by accident yesterday. And I know you're saying to yourself--Self? Where DOES she find the time to blog, cook, write, lunch, act as Satan's cobana girl, garden, catch Dr. Phil and be unemployed and fabulous all in the SAME DAY?! And, friends, all I can say about THAT is really. I don't know HOW I do it all. I'm completely exhausted and will likely have to treat myself to a pedicure on Friday in order to recover, no two ways about it.

Anyway, with the S-Man partial to eating chicken, chicken, and more chicken, I was running out of ideas having stir-fried, fried, grilled, and baked the bird ad-nauseum. I developed this soup recipe with an All Recipes recipe as a starting point. I wanted chicken soup, but not chicken NOODLE soup. I substituted wild rice for noodles and threw in a few extra ingredients. Very easy, healthy, and above all adaptable. It made a TON of soup, enough for at least five. Whip up some cornbread and add a simple salad and you've got a feast.

Suzanne’s Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

2 Large Chicken Breasts
1 Large Onion, Chopped
3 Stalks Celery Chopped
2 Cans Chicken Stock plus 3 Cans water
1 Cup Wild Rice
1 Can Sweet Corn, Drained
Whatever Fresh Herbs you have on hand—I used thyme and sweet basil

Season w/salt and pepper, and toss the breasts, celery, and onion in a stock pot and cover with the chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about twenty minutes. Remove chicken from pot. At this point you can add the wild rice and cook in the broth with the veggies or cook in your microwave according to the directions until about fifteen minutes from done and cook the rest of the way in the stock w/veggies. Shred the chicken with two forks. When the wild rice is almost done, add the chicken back in and throw in the drained corn. Simmer until flavors come together and rice is cooked. Add lots fresh herbs at the end and simmer a while longer. Enjoy! Obviously, you can substitute any veggies you prefer or switch the wild rice for white or brown.

We enjoyed our soup with our friends, Steve and Karen while we traded stories that came under the heading of "Stuff that Happened to Me that Was So Funny I Almost Peed My Pants." As you might imagine, this category was sort of an off-shoot of mine and Satan's story about the Lady from Funland who peed all over MacDonalds. What? You don't talk about pee at dinner?

I suggest you try it some time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Diameter of the Bomb

The S-Man and I took in another great documentary last night courtesy of our friends at Netflix.

Diameter of the Bomb tells the story of a 2002 suicide bombing in Jerusalem that took the lives of nineteen people, many of them children, and seriously wounded fifty others who were passengers traveling on crowded city bus number 32A on June 18, 2002.

The film details the rippling effect of the tragedy: the hospital treating the victims, the fire fighters first on the horrific scene, the families of the dead, the bomber, the Israli police, two countries seemingly irretrievably locked in a death match.

No doubt about it, this was a grim, difficult movie to watch. At the same time it is a story so important, the human suffering quotient so brutally high, that it is a story simply must be told and witnessed.

Conflict in the Middle East is something we hear about so often that I think we sometimes just become sensitized to it. For me at least, the situation is really brought home when I see something like Diameter of the Bomb.

At the time of the World Trade Center attacks, I remember reading in the press that Israel helped us out forensecially with cutting edge technology they had developed to help identify even the smallest human remains. The need for this is graphically illustrated in the film when you understand the incredible force of the explosive device used by the bomber that reduced many of the victims to tiny fragments of flesh, eyes, fingers.

The families of the victims must give blood samples and then wait up to twelve agonizing hours while technicians race to to relieve their suffering only to the extent they they can know for sure what they already know: that their loved ones are indeed among the dead. The pain and suffering on the faces of the parents forced to live this nightmare is just unimaginable.

Films like Diameter of the Bomb, often times, on difficult and important subjects, just aren't the kind of thing you find on the shelf at BallBusters. More and more, Netflix is on the cutting edge of not just bringing films in wide release into our homes, but with their subsidiary company "Red Envelope Entertainment", they are also seeking out quality undistributed films we would never see any other way.

And, if that isn't enough, REE is now also in the business of actually funding indie filmmakers and has exec produced John Waters' "This Filthy World" and the documentary "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" and, perhaps most nobably, "Sherrybaby", a film I recommended here a few weeks ago starring Maggie Gyllenhaal about a mother recently released from prison struggling to have a relationship with the daughter she abandoned.

So! All set to join Netflix and watch some important and riveting documentaries? I thought so! Here are my top ten recommendations (in no particular order):

Capturing the Friedmans


A Crude Awakening

Diameter of the Bomb

The Future of Food

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills


Hacking Democracy

Born into Brothels

Death in Gaza (2004)

The War Profiteers

After Innocence
The Devil and Daniel Johnson
# # #

Okay, so that's more than ten--sue me!

Anyway, like I always say--real life, baby. It's the biggest trip of all.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Feelin' Lucky

Today I woke up early and met a friend for a leisurely breakfast, came home, did a few things around the house, worked on the blog a bit, fixed the S-Man lunch, then headed to my Grandmother's.

Grandmama lives in a small town about thirty five miles from here and I was in my element. Free as the breeze on a Monday afternoon, driving through the rolling countryside, my Amy Tan book in the CD player. When was the last time, I asked myself, was I this free on Monday in late June?

And the answer to that question came back the summer of 1981, twenty-six years ago. Only then? I was too angst ridden to enjoy the beauty of a summer afternoon. Too focused on whatever the (nonexistent) drama of the day was in my life to fully take in a beautiful blue sky, the heady smell of honeysuckle, and the rain.

Not so today! What a great drive.
Today was my Aunt Mona's birthday and she, too, was feeling lucky. That's Mona at the top of the post enjoying one of her favorite birthday treats: scratch off lottery tickets. No big wins this time, but still? Three dollars to invest in three more tickets and who knows where THAT might lead!

Grandmama fixed an unbelievably delicious lemon pound cake which we enjoyed with frozen vanilla yogurt.
I had a great afternoon with some of my very favorite people.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

William Sledd Lights Up Geraldo at Large LIVE on FOX NEWS

Well, guys, it happened and we were there.

Our own William Sledd made, LIVE, what may or may not have been his primetime national TV debut on the FOX News Show, Geraldo at Large tonight. And it did happen at around 7:45 p. m.

William appeared, albeit briefly, in a live segment with Geraldo and his sidekick, a former judge commentator whose name escapes me at the moment (sorry unidentified judge lady!).

William's spot was somewhat overshadowed when the producers could not resist the opportunity to show that an unrelated male commentator on an earlier segment was in the studio wearing a full suit and tie on top, but outfitted totally in casual shorts and sneakers on the bottom, a common phenom in the news world and something that, IMOP, could have and SHOULD HAVE been avoided in the interest of a little more William.

Nevertheless, William acquitted himself admirably, looking cute as a button in a classic white button down shirt and purple and blue striped tie. Geraldo quickly reviewed William's top five fashion don'ts, i.e., never wear socks w/sandals, no mini-skirts after age 35 for women, etc. The whole thing was a little rushed, but William came off like a pro easily holding his own with Geraldo, former judge lady, bad shorts guy, and everybody else in the vicinity.

Great job William!


Bizzyville had just received word that William Sledd is scheduled to appear LIVE tonight (Sunday, 6/24/07) on the FOX news show "Geraldo at Large" at 8 p.m. central time. (Be sure and check your local listing to verify the time/channel.)

Okay, I now believe after checking the schedule myself, that this program will actually air in CST at 7:00 p.m. tonight, despite what the Sledd website may say. Look for yourself.

In any case, believe me, only an event of this magnitude could ever persuade me to point anyone reading me in the direction of FOX for God's sake.

What's the world coming to!?

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, this is channel 42 at 7 p.m. for the majority of us in this area. Enjoy!

A Near Miss for Mary Chapin Carpenter

(Photo by Traci Goudie)

Talented singer/songrwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter suffered a pulmonary embolism a few months ago. Fortunately, she's doing well. Read a great essay she wrote about her experience entitled "The Learning Curve of Gratitude" here , the latest installment in the fabulous NPR series, "This I Believe".

A Mighty (Publicity) Fart

Amid almost constant rumors that serial mother, Angelina Jolie, is either pregnant or looking to nab another baby from some lucky third world country any minute, it looks like she’s also managed a cinematic home run with her latest, “A Mighty Heart” (noise).

The movie, released Friday, features Jolie in a curly dark wig playing Mariane Pearl, wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl. I caught the actress on Larry King Live recently where she very gravely discussed how very sensitively made the movie is and just how SERIOUSLY she took the whole production. And, my initial reaction to the interview was pretty much the same as it was to the movie. A big “WhatEV.” Because, seriously? How many more photos of the cadaverous Jolie with adoptees clinging to her are we going to have to be subjected to? Not to mention photos of her looking all Madonna (the original, not Mrs. Ritchie)-like with her hair piously covered as she crouches, make-up free but still somehow fabulous, amongst the needy?

Has the world actually managed to forget that this is the same Angelina Jolie who tongue-kissed her own brother (left) and not only married Billy Bob Thorton, but also wore a vial of his blood around her neck? Not to mention stole the husband of America’s sweetheart by rhythmically swinging her empty uterus in his face, “You’re getting veeerrrry sleepy and I’m going to be needing a genetically perfect baby to add to my collection….”

However, just as I had to cop to the fact that Angelina’s swollen pouty lips are very likely natural, a genetic trait inherited from her mother, it looks like I’m going to have to give “A Mighty Heart” a serious look. All of my sources point to “winner” on this one. And we all know what happens when a great performance is also politically timely.

Say it with me: Oscar.

Ten bucks says she manages to either work her own actual authentic baby bump into her Oscar gown or, alternatively, have a brand new needy orphan in tow by that time, thus cementing her status as saint and pretty much ensuring an Oscar statue for an actress in a LEADING role.

Which, let’s face it, has to be the final step in her plan for Total World Domination.

FurGirl and Number Five

Annoyingly blurry, but still sort of irresistable.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday Shopping

Not much going on today. We had a morning shopping mission to find David some second hand furniture for his new bachelor pad in his college town. We hit pay dirt at the Salvation Army where we puchased an ancient 1950's style unnattractive but sturdy and servicable couch along with four matched chairs and a mis-matched table. All this treasure for less than $100.

I had never been in the Big Back Room of the Salvation Army before. I snapped this picture of what I silently labeled the corner of despair:

Yep, all your cast-off wheel chairs, your pre-owned walkers and pre-sprinkled potty chairs for sale. (Either that or there had been one HELL a senior citizen rumble just a few minutes before I got there. I'm thinking that's doubtful.)

Anyway, I could only figure someone placed the Nordic Track nearby as a cruel joke. Clearly, a person in the market for a used adult potty chair is not ALSO looking to pick up a Nordic Track. (They're very insensitive at the 'Army.)
Later we went on our bi-weekly pilgrimage to !!!Sam's Club!!! where I stocked up on mass quantities of raw meat and Satan played chicken with a Mennonite family in a Plymouth Voyager who had the nerve to think they were going to be parking in the front row spot Satan had already mentally claimed for his own self. NOTSOFAST, Mennonites! Satan is, how shall I say this, an agressive parker.

Otherwise, pretty quiet. I fixed my damn good pork-n-'taters again tonight for dinner. This time I threw in fresh asparagus with the potatoes--an EXCELLENT addition. A big hit with the fam. I highly recommend.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Scene from a Summer Balcony

The Setting: A late summer afternoon on a plant covered balcony.
The Players: Mr. and Mrs. Satan and their dog, FurGirl (lollygagging).

(Blabbering on about something or another and swatting away flies when, suddenly...)
Hey! Wait a minute! Do you hear something?

(suddenly alert)
Could it be...?

(The faint strains of calliope-like music are barely audible in the distance)


The Ice Cream Man!
(We simultaneously spring to our feet.)

(What the HELL IS GOING ON?)
(Begins panting/running in circles.)

Where's the MONEY?!? We must have CASH for the IceCreamMan!

(Running frantically around the dining room searching for my camera.)

Do you have money! I need MONEY!

(breathlessly, still running in circles searching)
In my purse! There's money in my purse...!

(Now also running around frantically.)
Where is your purse?

(Tripping over the now hysterically excited dog.)
DAMNIT, FurGirl!
Dining room! Chair!

(Panting, running.)

I've got it! I've GOT MONEY!!

(I spot my camera, grabbing it from a barstool.)

(Plunge, like a herd of elephants, down the stairs toward the front door and congregate, in a panting wad, on the front porch.)

(Searching up and down the street)
What the HELL?

Where did he GO?

(What IS IT?! WHAAAAAT???)

Well, that bastard.


I call this one Dreamsicle Denied:

(And he had his cash money and everything.)


Ever since I heard of the plan to remake the John Waters classic 1980's cult film, "Hairspray", I just had to wonder who in the HECK they were going to find to fill the plus sized pumps of Divine.

Today, I wonder no more:

Guess who? Yep, that's John Travolta on the left in the dress. At 53 (and what IS the world coming to when Vinnie Barbarino is 53 I ask you), Travolta is still breaking new ground. And snaps to him, I say! You gotta love a guy that's not afraid to get in touch with his feminine side.

Read all about it at the Daily Mail.

Decisions, decisions...

Well, it's happening and I knew it would.

Now that I'm, temporarily at least, out of the nine-to-five grind, my body is struggling to settle back into its natural rythmn which up-all-night. I was always a night owl as a kid and definitely so as a teenager.

For the first week or so I was off work, I stuck to my usual schedule which is to wake up between 7 and 8 a.m., if left undisturbed. But this last week, my true colors have emerged. Come 10 p.m., I start to feel all perky--bright-eyed and bushy tailed, even. This morning at 1 a.m. I was all busy learning how to design my own blog banner. By 3 a.m. I had settled down enough to read myself to sleep with "Long Day's Journey Into Night".

But, still? Three a.m. is a tad on the late side.

I'm not sure when I would have awakened left to my own devices. As it happened, a flurry of construction activity next door did the trick at around 9 a.m. At first, I thought I was dreaming about hearing loud motors and the sound of LOTS of wooshing water. Upon becoming more conscious, I realized that, indeed, I was hearing the sounds I thought I was dreaming, and a peek out the window told me the loud motor sounds were coming from huge cement trucks, and what I thought was rushing water was actually the sound of rivers of liquid cement streaming down metal half pipe troughs into large wooden forms.

At the moment the scene looks like this:

Both the buildings next door are going condo (yay!!) and both of these concrete pads are still wet having been poured just in the last hour or so. If I had to guess, I would think they are going to serve as foundations for garages or carports.

In any case, poor FurGirl was damn glad to see me awake having long since passed her usual morning pee-pee time, I found her big furry body pressed against the bedroom door, her nose a little desperately poked into the space between the bottom of the door and the floor sort of like, "Help! Somebody?! Mommie died and I gotta GO!"

So, yah. Today's dilemma? To sleep all day or not.

Hmmm. It's a puzzlement.

(Doncha just wanna SMACK ME?)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

William & Stephanie take New York

Today I'm back with more news on our burgeoning fashion guru, William Sledd, and his intrepid and talented cohort, Stephanie. I can report that the duo right now, THIS MINUTE, is in the Big Apple hobnobbing with the R&F and various style icons (I'd tell you who, but then I'd have to kill you. And you know I love you guys.) Also? William's channel is now the fourth most popular on ALL of YouTube.

Don't miss this piece by Yahoo! News featuring William as a "Person of the Web" and introducing him to even more of the world. Also, at the same site, be sure and watch the videos that are included, especially "Extreme Makeover: Thrift Shop" wherein William gives both himself and Stephanie a fashion makeover at our very own local Salvation Army for a whopping $14; and also, you guys out there be sure and take in "Five Things Men Should Never Wear".

Go William and Stephanie!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Diana, David, and Me

Today I mark a few important milestones.

First, my stepson, David, turns the big two-oh. That's right, the youngster of the family is no longer a teenager. And no one is more surprised than me. With two older brothers who seemed to virtually zoom through their teenage and high school years, David on the other hand, seemed to me, comparatively speaking, to stay a kid almost forever. I used to joke that he'd been a sophmore for "almost three years" or that he was, say, thirteen STILL. In fact, I regularly referred to him as the Amazing Slowest Growing Kid in the Universe.

Well, the joke's on me today, isn't it? Our little David has finished his freshman year of college, and this week is moving into his first swinging bachelor pad with two buddies in his college town. After only one year on campus, the Slowest Growing Kid in the Universe cannot be bothered to move home between semesters.

Happy birthday, kiddo! You can stop now. Twenty is plenty old enough, I take it all back.

Nextly, today is also the birthday of my cousin, Diana. Since she is the same age as me, older only by a scant three months, I'll be keeping the number to myself. The daughter of my father's brother, Diana was my major running buddy and co-hort in crime during holidays and long hot summers on the southern Illinois prairie where our Grandmother lived (and still lives). Together we secretly climbed the incredibly high TV antennae tower mounted on the top of Grandma's house, ventured as far as we dared into deep dark fields of tall corn, and endlessly doctored our baby dolls, Wendy and Sarah.

Happy birthday, Diana. I hope I see you this summer.

And then there's me. Today is significant for me because six years ago today, I finally, once and for all, shook the demon nicotine off my back. Since I read at the time that it helps to quit on a day that is personally significant, I picked this day, the birthday of both David and Diana, for the first day of my re-birth as a smoke-free person. So far I have:

-Enjoyed 2,191 smoke free days wherein I was not Mr. Marlboro's bitch.
-NOT smoked the 65,730 cigarettes I normally would have.
-Saved the $8,216.00 that I would have spent buying said cigarettes.
-And, finally, and most importantly, saved 7 months, 1 week and 6 days of my very own life.

It hasn't always been easy, but it has truly been worth it. If you are a smoker reading this and you think you can't quit? Think again. I was the biggest ciggie-butt junkie on earth. Seriously. I was that person who wouldn't even ride in a smoke-free CAR. No, thanks, I'd rather walk.

So, set a date, screw up your courage, and slap on a patch. You can do it.

Lastly, this post is dedicated to Dr. Frank Etscorn, a graduate of Western Kentucky University, just up the road in Bowling Green, Kentucky. A behavioral psychologist, Dr. Etscorn is a professor at the University of New Mexico and is also the inventor of the nicotine patch, without which, I would seriously be puffing away until drawing my last breath. Which I'm afraid would have been sooner rather than later. Dr. Etscorn was inspired to begin his research by his wife, a smoker so addicted that she would pause her Jane Fonda workout video to have a smoke in the middle of her workout (boy, can I relate).

So, thanks Dr. Etscorn. You saved my life.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Putting the Golden in Golden Arches

After a seemingly unending drive on Highway 45, we finally made it home.

I'd like to say the trip was uneventful, but unfortunately, a little incident in Jackson, Tennessee makes that statement impossible.

And let me preface this by saying that the S-Man and I? We don't eat at MacDonald's very often. In fact, we almost never indulge in fast food so maybe we were a little unprepared for our Jackson, Tennessee MacDonald's experience.

Actually, we had planned to eat at a Thai restaurant that we had enjoyed on the initial leg of the trip thru Jackson. Unfortunately, we found the place randomly closed, so we had resigned ourselves to something cheap and fast that would allow us to press on quickly.

The MacDonald's in question was one of the those with a "Fun" land in an enclosed glass case attached to the front of the restaurant. A really old Funland that had been faded by years in the sun and years of abuse by bacteria ridden toddlers. In fact, the S-Man and I were speculating on just how often the dedicated employees of MacDonald's might wipe down such a contraption to at least, on occassion, minimize the germs.

Yah, we laughed too.

Inside the restaurant at the counter, we gave our order to the almost motionless counter girl who is clearly annoyed that: a) We are there. b) We expect food. and c) We do insist on her preparing the drinks we ordered (heavy sigh on that one).

Eventually we (heavy sigh) get our food, find a seat, and begin choking down our dinners when it happens. A large woman of about thirty with a bowl hair cut that also happens to be giggling wildly charges into the restaurant from Funland. She runs toward our table still in paroxyms of laughter and, I immediately notice as she passes by, that she is leaving a trail of pee in her wake. By the time she arrives at the door of the ladies room, it looks like a faucet has been turned on between her legs and I can actually see a stream shooting out the back. The BACK.

Go ahead on and read that again if you need to, I'll wait.

The S-Man, who while he saw the rather strange sight of the charging lady, did not appreciate, shall we say, the full magnitude of the problem. He is still gnawing on his reconstituted chicken product when he notices I haven't chewed in a really long time.


(watching, speechles, as the restroom door closes behind pee-pee lady)

Hey! What's the matter?

That lady that just ran buy?

She's a little old for Funland, huh?

Yah, and she must have been having a lot of fun. Because she was peeing.

She wasn't peeing.

Trust me, the woman was peeing. Like a geyser.

(realizes I'm not kidding)

(Stare at each other in horror.)

(Unable to help himself, confirms by looking that, yes, there is a pee trail in the aisle next to our table.)

(Still not chewing.)

Pick up your cheeseburger.



(I pick up my cheeseburger.)

Okay, we're moving.

(I begin to stand...)

And for God's sake...DON'T! Step in the pee.

Yah. I get that part, thanks.

We carefully make our way to the extreme other side of the restaurant where we finish what we can of our dinners. Eventually, pee-pee lady emerges from the restroom, still snickering. By now her what look to be thin cotton pants (that are lime green, by the way) are completely, COMPLETELY drenched. It's as if she submerged herself from the waste down in a swimming pool. Evidently, actually pulling down her pants in the restroom wasn't in the plan.

I don't have a snappy ending for this other than to say that it will be a while, if ever, before we visit another MacDonald's. And, also, I'm sorry to subject you to this but, damn, what good is a blog if you can't write about it when a giggling woman takes a whiz all over the MacDonald's lobby? [Edited to add: Hey, maybe her pants were drenched because she rinsed them out? Yah, that's it, she rinsed them out.]

Studies in Tupelo

Once again, yesterday was spent exploring the City of Tupelo. I found this mural painted on the side of a building that housed a restaurant called Romie's, a Tupelo institution, and also where we had lunch.

We were told to come early, and that proved to be good advice. The place was jammed with Tupelonians fresh from church and hungry. I finally got a helping of fried green tomatoes, a dish I had heard about and been around all my life, but for whatever reason, had never actually experienced until now. I have to say? I'm not a fan. I can understand overeager southerners being unable to resist the urge to pluck the first unripe tomatoes of the season but, in my opinion, the fully ripe tomato is worth the wait. For those of you who are unfamiliar, fried green tomatoes are exactly what the name implies: unripe green tomatoes batter dipped and fried.

In fact, here's a photo of my lunch. You'll note that the two main southern food groups are represented here: your browns and your whites:

Those golden discs peeping out from under the roll are the tomatoes. When ordering off a menu of authentic southern homestyle cooking there really is only one choice: fried chicken. When ordering off a southern breakfast menu? You need to try the grits. And while grits is spelled "grits", in the south that is a actually two-syllable word pronounced: "gree-yuts" (Just a little fyi for you there.)

I snapped a few photos of some of the more interesting locals around me at lunch. This gentleman looked to be enjoying a Father's Day lunch with his daughter:

And this woman was clearly at lunch with her husband, children, and grandchildren:

Both of these people are, in my opinion, typical southern upper crust. A little excessively well dressed, attractive, but with JUST a whiff of eccentric. I can easily picture the woman's beautifully decorated home, she's likely a wonderful cook, perhaps famous for her cobblers, probably active in her church. At the same time, if her husband were to, I don't know, say stray with her good friend and neighbor, Betty Jean Drexell? This lady in white might just serve him up a deadly slice of his favorite, lemon ice box pie, laced with arsenic, and calmly sip a nice cup of coffee flavored with a dash of, her favorite, hazelnut cream as he slowly chokes to death in the breakfast nook.

Later, she'd turn up appropriately red-eyed, perfectly coiffed, and stunning all in black complete with pillbox hat and veil at the funeral. And she'd be sorry it had to end that way, she really would. But, sometimes, these things just can't be helped (she'd say to herself as she patted her little granddaughter's head at the graveside).

My point is, you just do not mess with this particular type of southern woman. Just don't. Trust me on this.

As for the dapper gentleman. He's a retired bank president, isn't he? Obviously, the bow tie is his signature look. He has thousands of them that he's collected over the years. One in every conceivable color. In fact, it's a tradition that his daughter buys him a new one each father's day. And, each year, when presented with the elaborately wrapped present, they have a tradition where he guesses all manner of bazaar guesses about what's in the box. The Hope Diamond? A set of mud flaps? Toe socks?

Yes, he has a wonderful relationship with his daughter. And they've grown even closer since his wife died last year. But, while he loved Doris, if he were really honest, he'd have to admit that this last year on his own has been fairly exciting. Because, for the first time in his life, he can now indulge his fantasies each and every night. And what our friend Larry here likes to do in his impeccably decorated two story Victorian, after dark, when the shades are drawn, is to dress up like a Dallas Cowboy's Cheerleader.

Oh, sure, the habit started out dressing as just any old generic cheerleader. He'd pick up some pom-poms here, some extra-large sized saddle oxfords there. But, over the years, much like his bow tie habit, his cheerleader habit evolved. The outfits became more authentic--he HAD TO HAVE the matching cheer panty for each pleated cheer skirt, for example.

Eventually, he realized he was meant for greater things. He was meant to be part of a squad that included only the cheerleadng elite, the best of the best: The Dallas Cowboy's squad. For years, acquiring the legendary short-shorts, vest, and royal blue bra-tie blouse was only a dream. And then...and then. He discovered E-Bay.

And now? He has several identical versions of the coveted outfit (and matching cheer panties). And, just about every night, he gets the chance to morph from plain old Larry Sappington, Bank President, to:


And if you're Larry (or Becky)? It just doesn't get any better than that.

(And if you're me? You gotta wonder if there isn't something in the water around Oxford, Mississippi.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

BlogHer Conference

I was excited to find a link on Erin Shea's blog today to the 2007 BlogHer conference that will be held this year in Chicago, IL at Navy Pier on July 27th-29th.
I'm still researching it, but at first glance, it looks like something I would really love to do. Although, it looks like the blocked rooms left are coming in at a steepish$189/night. Any bloggers near me out there willing to share a trip and a room? Let me know in the comments or e-mail me. Looks like full registration is coming in at around $200; but I'd love to have an opportunity to aquire some new skills and meet up with more people like myself.
Otherwise, we're still in Tupelo and it's late.
Time to catch a few zzz's.

Touring Tupelo & Oxford

It's been a long day of sightseeing today. First, we met Tupelo Jim at the Farmer's Market. Jim was very knowledgeable and took us on a wide ranging tour of the town. Tupelo's population stands at around 36,000. It has very little historic housing stock due to an F-5 tornado that raged through the town in 1936, flattening darn near every structure in the place. Thankfully, Elvis, a baby of just over a year old at the time, was spared.

Tupelo has a problem with railroad tracks. At least one train an hour cuts through the town from one end to the other including the busiest hubs, stopping traffic and causing all manner of inconveniences and delays. The people of Tupelo are clearly sick of the sight and sound of trains, but I think they're kind of cool. Here's the one that passed by the market while we were there.

Of course, no tour of the town would be complete without a stop at the birthplace of The King. The house in which Elvis met the world is unimaginably small, smaller I'd say than a regular sized trailer. It is a two-room shotgun structure which Elvis's father, Vernon Presley, constructed himself from a kit at a cost of $150 back in the late 1930's.

Elvis lived in Tupelo from birth to the age of thirteen when the family loaded up and moved to Memphis, which of course would become his permanent home. This statute, depicting a young Elvis at the time of his departure from Tupelo, stands surrounded by crepe myrtle in a little reflecting garden not from the historic shotgun where he was born. In the interest of research, I sidled up to the statue close enough to be hip-to-hip to the great one and, as it turns out, Elvis was exactly my height. At thirteen.

Next, we were off to Oxford, Mississippi, a distance of about 50 miles from Tupelo. The S-Man is a HUGE Faulkner fan and I, too, was interested in seeing the city that spawned so many stories. With substantially more southern town charm than Tupelo (partially due, I'm sure, to the fact that the tornado passed it by), Oxford seems a little more gracious and civilized. Situated around a traditional and charming court square, the downtown is small but full of thriving bookstores, high-end women's clothing boutiques and cafes. Here, the s-man swaps (well constructed and beautifully worded) tales with Faulkner's likeness on the square.

I found this resident kitty at The Square bookstore. Right after I took this photo, the cat gave me a distinctly "Do you mind?" look and disdainfully moved on to a comfy couch on the other side of the store. It's not easy being a celebrity cat in a bookstore smack dab in the middle of the town that produced the man that is, arguably, the greatest American writer in history.

We also toured the Ole Miss campus which was beautiful, but I was droopy by that time and didn't get any photos. In fact, I have no more time to write as we have dinner plans soon. More later.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Damn Good Pork-n-Taters

Just a quick stop-in to post the aforementioned pork loin recipe. I am in LUV with this dish which I've adapted from a recipe originally posted at All Recipes. I've adjusted the cooking time based on reviewer recommendations and added a few ingredients. The thing is pretty much no-fail at this point and is a perfect WOW dish for company.

I'm no ingredient snob, but if you don't have it, RUN to the grocery and add the largest container possible of Tone's Canadian Steak Seasoning to your pantry. I seriously don't know how I cooked without it. I use it on hamburgers, potatoes, pork, steak, damn near anything is improved by it. It is an absolute STAPLE for me now. Trust me on this.

Also, while this may look like a bunch of steps? It's really not. I like my recipes very specific. This is super easy and only takes about fifteen minutes of actual work on your part, all total.

Also? While you and I will know this recipe as "Damn Good Pork-n-'Taters" as in,

"Honey, will you sling me and Junior up another batch of some a that there damn good pork-n-taters and then brang me a Bud?" (This is Kentucky, after all.)

I highly recommend you refer to it to any dinner guests you might serve it to (while carefully extending your chin so that your bottom teeth extend passed your top) as the:

"Herb Encrusted Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes"

3 Cloves Garlic
2-3 Stalks fresh Rosemary or Lavender or a combination (more, if you like it spicy)
2 handfuls Tone’s Canadian Steak Seasoning
¼ Cup Olive Oil
1 Pork Loin
1 Can Chicken Broth
3 or 4 Scrubbed Potatoes Chopped into 1-inch pieces (skin on)
½ Cup of Whatever Good Tasting Wine is on your Counter Today (I hear tell you can substitute red wine vinegar, but I’ve never tried it my own self.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Total cooking time is 1 hr 30 minutes.

2. Strip the leaves off the rosemary or lavender and place them along with the garlic, steak seasoning, and olive into a food processor or blender and pulse until combined (not long).
3. Put the loin on a rack and place in a layer cake pan; cut some criss-cross slits in the top of the loin and rub the whole thing with the processed mixture.
4. Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the pan and place the whole shebang into the oven.
5. Baste w/pan liquids while cooking.
6. 45 minutes into the cooking time (which means another 45 remain) take the loin out and arrange the chopped potatoes in a single layer in the broth in the bottom of pan. Sprinkle the potatoes liberally with steak seasoning and return to the oven for the final 45 minutes.
7. Remove loin onto cutting board (and let it rest!) and remove potatoes w/slotted spoon.
8. De-glaze the pan over low heat on a burner (use low heat if you have a thin pan!) with the wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to remove all yummy food bits and then pour the liquid into a sauce pan and reduce for a while.
9. Mean time, slice the loin and arrange attractively. Pour reduced sauce over all. Or, alternatively, serve as a dipping sauce on the side.
10. Be really, really impressed with your bad-assed cooking self.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Busy in Bizzyville

Wow, who knew unemployment would be so incredibly busy?

Since the last time I posted I've:

-Met w/my friend, La Donna, and discussed a publication piece on choosing a day care, wrote the piece, met with her again, discussed revisions, and completed the 1,500 word piece. Both of these meetings involved treats, drinks, and lots of unnecessary fun and enjoyable discussion on other topics besides the matter at hand.

-Freaked out about, discussed, researched, consulted with my Dad, consulted with Satan, and otherwise felt super nervous about my retirement. The good news is that I now consider that matter (successfully) resolved.

-Cooked a super fantastic dinner of lavendar encrusted pork loin with wine sauce, candied carrots, roasted potatoes and home made biscuits that for some reason turned out distinctly more crackery than biscuity. Still, they weren't half bad. And the pork loin? To die for. I'll post that recipe soon.

-Cleaned my house really well. And by that I mean chipping the grease off the stove and polishing the stainless steel. Both tasks I loathe and avoid whenever humanly possible (which is alot).

-Met with the fabulous Nikki May about a site she's developing that I'll hopefully be linking to soon. This is one of those meetings I've been putting off because of all the stuff I had to do at my former place of business and that I shouldn't have been putting off because it was such a pleasure. We spent some time being long distance and second hand embarassed for the people who designed this god awful thing.

-Discussed at length my possible participation in a new Paducah women's roller derby league called the Melt Down-Town Derby Dames. I am a quad skater from WAY back, but I'm not sure I can compete with these hotties, most of whom are actually young enough to be my daughter.

Nonetheless, they are super sweet, cute as buttons, and give a great impression of people who would be glad to include someone in my geriatric state. Best of all, they wear fishnet stockings, tube socks, and all manner of fabulously eclectic garb whilst skating (thus rendering themselves nearly irresistible). Near as I can figure, women's roller derby is sort of the girlie version of Fight Club, but cuter, sexier, and not quite as violent.

If you or someone you know might be interested, here are the particulars on the Melt Down-Town Derby Dames recruitment party (which sounds like fun even if you're not planning to sign up):

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Day Two: Levity and Larceny

Did I tell you guys there was an element of panic involved in being unemployed?

I did?

Well, that was so yesterday.

Because today is pretty much...


Kind of like how Steve Martin reacts in the movie "Parenthood" when his nervous kid FINALLY makes that game winning catch in right field?

Hey! That's ME! (to be read aloud in your best "Clucky Chicken" voice.)

I sprang from my bed this morning (and those of you who know me know: I'm just not a springer and SURE AS HELL I'm not a morning springer) and then I (get this) MADE THE BED.

Yes! Made the bed with the Chenille Number Five! And I didn't spit up!

Then! Then, I had a torturous session on the BowFlex. (Ouch! In a good way!)

Then! I self-righteously dropped off mine and Satan's cast off clothes for the needy at the Salvation Army.

Then! I took a few leisurely phone calls out on my porch.

And? WHILST I was out on my porch, I had to be honest with myself: What with all the recent goings on in my life, Satan (that sly bastard) has taken this opportunity to pull ahead of me in the porch wars.

Yep, there's no getting around it, his porch is prettier than mine this year. All blooming purple petunias and two kinds of roses and I-don't-know-what-all. This this isn't the first time this year I've made the observation either. Earlier in the spring, we had a conversation that went like this:

(Surveying his wildly blooming porch.)

(Smugly watering his Dahlias)

(Examining a climbing vine heavy with purple blooms as big as my hand.)
(Then, reluctantly...)
Nice Chlamydia.


Of course, Satan having a better looking porch than me for any length of time is, quite simply, unnacceptable, and with my intrepid FurGirl at my side, I quickly swung into action.

First, I dug out the Mission Impossible soundtrack from the bottom of the CD holder where I'd stuck it when one of the kids abandoned it several years ago, and began playing it softly on the stereo. Next, I located Satan's prized Maui Jim sunglasses, liberated them from their velvet-lined case, and carefully placed them on FurGirl. I disguised myself by placing a set of stuffed reindeer antlers with jingle bells from several Christmases ago on my head.

We were ready.

As the MP theme continued to play in the background, FurGirl and I slunk through the door and out onto the forbidden zone of Satan's porch. FurGirl, a master of nonchalance, immediately busied herself sniffing her own butt while I quickly selected two profusely blooming and attractively potted petunias.

We were nearly home free when, suddenly, the silence was shattered by the unmistakable strains of the introduction to "Sweet Home Alabama" wafting from the far reaches of my sports bra where I had stashed my cell phone.

After a few paralyzed seconds during which a jumpy and distinctly (now) chalant FurGirl and I nearly shat ourselves, I sat down a petunia, reached into my cleavage, retrieved my phone, and checked my caller I.D.

It said: Satan.

"It's him!" I whispered to FurGirl who reflexively slung off the Maui Jims into a nearby pot of split leaf philodendron ivy.




What are you doing?


What did you do before that?


Is that all you can say...nothing?

(Shaking my head)

Do I hear jingle bells?

Of course not!

Is that the...what...the Mission Impossible song?

Gotta go!

But I haven't...


So there you have it. And the day's barely half over!