20 Aug
2015

I Sing the Body Fantastic: an Appreciation of Ray Bradbury

Look at that punim.

Look at that punim.

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."

fahren451

I admit from the outset that I am not a very good Bradbury fan.  Bradbury, born 22 August 1920, published at least 27 novels and over 600 short stories (and likely wrote a ton more-he wrote religiously every day for almost 70 years) and I've only ever read one of his books, Fahrenheit, 451 and I only thought it was ok.  One of his works that has stuck with me since I first saw it, though, is the made-for-TV movie The Electric Grandmother written by Bradbury and based on his short story I Sing the Body Electric (named for a Walt Whitman poem).

The movie tells the story of a widower and his three children who obtain an android grandmother to help assuage the loss of their wife/mother.  It's a lovely and heart-wrenching story and it affected me very strongly as a kid.  Ray really knew how to hit you right in the feels, man.

Despite not having a great grounding in his works, I do really love Ray Bradbury for his love of and commitment to the art and craft of writing.  Aspiring writers now have so much discouraging them (us) from pursuing our goals that it's great to have the moral support of someone so influential in the field.

Thanks, Ray.

"I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it."

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19 Aug
2015

Happy Birthday Great Bird of the Galaxy!

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Gene Roddenberry’s birthday is August 19!  To celebrate, here are nineteen fun facts relating to the creator/king of Star Trek and his enterprise (see what I did there...enterprise.  HAH)!

 

  1. His first published work was about his children’s bunnies!!!
  2. Went through Peace Officer training at UCLA.
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  3. He was the first member of his family to earn a college degree.  It was an associates in police science.
  4. One of the founding members of the Association for Professional Law Enforcement: “We are of the opinion that professional ethics and practical police work are completely compatible and we intend to meet together to promote this compatibility.”
  5. Obtained his pilot’s license through the US Army Air Corps.

    Gotta love a man in uniform.

    Gotta love a man in uniform.

  6. He wrote scripts under the pseudonym “Robert Wesley” because a fortune cookie advised that, “A change of name will bring you fame.”
  7. He flew 89 combat missions during WWII.
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  8. He passed his police sergeants exam on his first attempt.
  9. He believed all contemporary religions would disappear by the 23rd century.
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  10. He was friends with Ray Bradbury and even asked Bradbury to write for Star Trek; unfortunately Bradbury refused.
  11. Wesley Crusher’s character was modeled after Roddenberry as a teen.  (Man, he must have been an insufferable teen!)

    "Shut up Wesley."-Said everyone ever

    "Shut up Wesley."-Said everyone ever

  12. Star Trek was created in 1964.  Star Trek: The Next Generation was created in 1987.
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  13. He worked for the “Public Information Division” of the police as a speechwriter.
  14. He was an avid fan of the John Carter of Mars series.
  15. He was a major drug abuser which added to his health problems later in life.
  16. In physics, a “Roddenberry” marks the distance traveled at light speed during a “traveler year”...whatever that means…
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  17. He was an adulterous man-slut.  Sorry Gene, you were.
  18. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife were avid Trek fans!  It was one of the only programs they felt comfortable letting their kids watch.
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  19. In 1992, his ashes were flown into space.
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14 Aug
2015

Steve Martin’s Birthday!

SteveMartin

Today is Steve Martin's 70th birthday! He is an incredible and intelligent man who can literally--I mean figuratively--do anything. He's a talented actor, playwright, comedian, writer, and musician. He taught himself to play the banjo at a young age, had his first child at 67, and is an ardent collector of fine art. He has written many screenplays, such as The Jerk and Roxanne, and three excellent fiction novels and novellas: Shopgirl, The Pleasure of My Company, and An Object of Beauty (available at Kards!). Just this year he won an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame. So, why not celebrate the day he was born with some of his bluegrass music, All of Me (arguably one of his best films), his comedy, or one of his novels? Or, create a drink named after him (A "steve martin(i)" perhaps? No, not that Steve Martini.) to toast his existence, if you're into that sort of thing. For now, I'll leave you with a clip from one of my favorite Steve Martin movies:

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

 

12 Aug
2015

Vinyl Record Day!

tumblr_nagb1xxBpP1rqb2tko1_500Sometimes people call the store and ask if we sell records. We don’t, which is sad. (Although we do sell these really awesome bowls made from old records. Only the un-playable ones, clearly.) I’m not entirely sure why some people think that we sell records, but I’m just going to assume it’s because Vinyl is awesome and we sell awesome things.

A few of my favorite albums of all time are only available on Vinyl. Yeah, they’re old. And not well-enough known for someone to have ripped them from record and posted online for the world to have at their fingertips. I guess, I could do that myself, but why would I when I could just throw on a record and sit back and listen to that pop hiss beauty.

If you stop in your local Barnes and Nobles, it’s pretty apparent that someone is trying to bring records back. You can now get your favorite new hot album in vinyl format, right off the presses. And they all come with MP3 download codes so that you can listed to the album on your iPod when you don’t have time to sit down and soak in the sounds from your record player.

Even though records are coming back (ish?) there are a lot of people who get all excited by my record collection but then don’t know how to interact with them. I mean, if I had a dollar for every time someone put their fingers right on one of my records or tried to stack them flat, I would still not have enough money to pay for the heart attacks that these incidents cause.

So, in honor of Vinyl Record Day, here are some handy Do’s and Don’t’s!

  • Do listen to records often. And make sure you’re sitting still and paying attention and letting that heavenly music stream all the way through your body like a good high.
  • Don’t put your greasy fingers on them, I don’t care if you JUST washed your hands. Records are delicate and wonderful things, and you know how if you touch your face, you get acne? Well if you touch a record, you give it acne and then it skips incessantly.
  • Do show off your records to your friends. Because they need to be indoctrinated into the wonder of vinyl. One Of Us.
  • Don’t sit on them. I did that once when I was very small. My mother has still not forgiven me. Nor has she thrown the pieces away.
  • Do turn the volume ALL the way up. Your neighbors can deal. Records are pretty short compared to ‘shuffle all’, so it’s not like it’s going to be noisy forever!
  • Don’t just leave your favorite record on the player all the time because don’t you know what dust is? Dust is the thing that makes your record into just a weird flat disk that you can only use to srve pasta on, but not even that because there’s a hole in the middle.
  • Do stack your records standing up. Flat records are sad records. I mean, you wouldn’t stack cupcakes directly on top of each other, would you? Records are like cupcakes.
  • Don’t just drop that record back into the sleeve. OMG are you serious. You do that one too many times, and BAM, the sleeve splits, the record hits the hard ground edge first and breaks into a million pieces like Cinderella's poor pumpkin when those idiot horse riders savagely stampeded it. Don’t be an idiot horse rider person. Slide it in gently while flat.
  • Do treat owning records like owning Pokemon. GOTTA CATCH THEM ALL.

vinylscratchMLP

10 Aug
2015

Happy S’mores Day, Y’all!

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Every diabetic’s favorite holiday is coming up...S’MORES DAY!!!  In case you’ve been living under a rock in Tianjin, a s’mores has three ingredients: graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, and melted chocolate bars.

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Anthropomorphized food is actually kind of terrifying.

It is totally recommended that you get creative with your s’mores ingredients!  Substitute peanut butter cups for chocolate bars!  Or cut open a banana lengthwise, scoop a bit out, fill it with chocolate  and marshmallows, then wrap in tinfoil and put it in the embers of your campfire for a few minutes.  Instantly your s’mores is now healthy (and gluten free)!!!

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The first official s’mores recipe was published in Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts in 1927, but culinary historians believe the tradition began much earlier than that.  Leave it to the Girl Scouts to make everything official!  You’ll always want “some more” of this delicious treat, and if you’re eating it correctly it’ll sound like s’mores!!!

s'mores kitty wants more s'mores.

s'mores kitty wants more s'mores.

Most children don’t know how to eat healthy, I was no exception.  Oftentimes, when deprived of campfires in the winter, I would microwave chocolate chips and marshmallows in a Pyrex measuring cup, then dip graham crackers in it.  Sometimes, I skipped the graham crackers altogether and just dug in with a spoon.  MMmmmmmMMmm

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8 Aug
2015

Sneaky Zucchini!

If you are a gardener, farmer, or zucchini enthusiast, then you’re probably ready to celebrate National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day on August 8.  Each year, like a plague upon their houses, neighbors with abundant harvests rush upon bare porches adorning them with fruit (yes zucchini is a fruit)!  One must employ great stealth not to be seen.  After all, we want people thinking, “What the hell is that?  Is that a zucchini?  Whose zucchini is this?  Is it my zucchini?”  If one doesn’t employ great stealth, then the jig is up!

This is the least sneaky of all the zucchinis...

This is the least sneaky of all the zucchinis...

So, here is some advice for any novice zucchini sneaks:

If you need some stickies to leave notes on your zucchini, we've got them!

If you need some stickies to leave notes on your zucchini, we've got them!

  1. Remember to harvest some zucchini blossoms.  By harvesting the zucchini blossoms you will reduce the overabundance that normally results from growing zucchini.  Zucchini blossoms can be eaten raw, fried, or stuffed and cooked.
  2. Even one zucchini plant will produce a mountain of zucchinis!
  3. Be creative.  Don’t just lob a zucchini onto your neighbor's porch like an apathetic kid on a paper route (unless you hate them or something).  Internet legend says to leave a basket under the cover of darkness, but that seems too simplistic.  Have fun with it!  Wear a disguise, disguise your zucchini, leave a note, don’t leave a note, leave a recipe...the possibilities are endless.
  4. However you decide to leave your zucchini, your neighbors will be thrilled to share in the fruits of your labor.  Sharing is cool and so are you.  Perhaps you should share your favorite zucchini recipe too.
Zucchinis in disguise!

Zucchinis in disguise!

Here are three wonderful zucchini recipes to try if you’re one of the lucky ducks that gets free zucchini!

Baked Zucchini Sticks

Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

Existential crisis weenie dog: I DON'T KNOW WHAT I AM ANYMORE!

Existential crisis weenie dog: I DON'T KNOW WHAT I AM ANYMORE!

6 Aug
2015

Raise your glass of BootRear to Piers Anthony!

headshot"I found that I simply couldn't take fantasy seriously, so it became humourous, and continued from there."

If you're a fan of funny, punny fantasy stories, you probably are very familiar with Piers2236-75561 Anthony. His Xanth book series is well known to be painfully packed with puns. They're hilarious and wonderful and light and fun, but if you're someone who takes personal offense at someone rearranging the English language, this series is probably not for you.

There was a point in my life that I would proudly be able to say that I had read all of the Xanth books. that was back when there were only 28 or so. There are now a whopping 39 books in the series. With like 5 more in the works already. Partly, this is because fans of puns send them all to Mr. Anthony, hoping their own unique word play will end up in his next books. So I'm sure he has a million books' worth of material by now.

xanthIf you are a fan of light reads that will pull you in but also allow you to pick up and put down whenever you want, Piers Anthony books are so totally for you. If you're not into the pun thing, don't worry, he has a million other non-Xanth stories.

My particular favorite is the Incarnations of Immortality series. Each book in the set is about one of the immortals; Death, Time, the Fates, the devil, etc. They're very fun and fast. Perfect for airplanes or bus rides.book

The point is, this guy is someone who you should know about. And now you know a bit. the next step is to pick up one of his million books and give him a try!

Have fun!

4 Aug
2015

National Farmer’s Market Week

IMG_0001You know what would be so yummy right now? A fresh, crisp salad made from locally grown greens and the best tomatoes you've ever tasted.

Or maybe a nice bowl of fresh blueberries with cream?

Crisp peppers! Cool cucumbers! Carrots! radishes!

Farmer's Markets are one of my very favorite things about summer. I am 100% more likely to buy vegetables when I can get them outdoors from a local farmer. And it's not entirely because I'm a snob and like my veggies pure and simple. It's not entirely because I want to support my local farmers, although I super duper do. I think it's really mostly because simply going to a farmers market inspires me to be overly healthy for at least a day or two. So I feel all alive and fresh and I buy one million tomatoes and 5 bundles of kale.

Pittsburgh has a pretty rad selection of farmers markets. If you're willing to travel, you can pretty much find a farmers market somewhere every day of the week.

tomatilla

Tomatillos are awesome.

I think the thing I love the most about farmer's markets (aside from them being like, good for your karma or something) is that I always end up finding a vegetable that is new to me that I just HAVE to try and cook. I mean, now that we have a Market District, we can get pretty much any vegetable we want at any point in the year. (Which is honestly a little scary, guys. I mean things have growing seasons for a reason.) But far before Market District had caught on, I met my first tomatillo at a small farmer's tent in Oakland. It changed my life.

National Farmer's Market Week is August 4th through 10th. I challenge you to go to at LEAST one farmer's market to celebrate!  Buy something radically new and strange.

Or just buy some tomatoes, because farm grown tomatoes are seriously the best thing in this world. end.

Click here to see a list of Pittsburgh Parks' 2015 Markets!