Friday, June 27, 2008

Episode 26: How to Eat Corn on the Cob

Summer is finally here and you know what that means! Getting drunk in the afternoon! And also, fresh corn on the cob starts showing up at the local markets. Now if my mother was writing this, right about here is where she'd start going on and on about the variety known as Silver Queen. Silver Queen this and Silver Queen that and ohmygod enough with the Silver Queen already! She's the same way about cantaloupes. "Ambrosia! We can only eat the Ambrosia variety!" she screams over and over at the farmer's market, turning up her nose at all the other varieties and poking everything until all the farmers silently start questioning their career choice. She's right about the cantaloupes, but just between you and me, I don't think Silver Queen is life-changing, especially since I always slather it in enough butter to clog the arteries of people who just look at it.

Which reminds me of the time I drank a big bottle of wine and decided to invent a Butter-sicle (®), which consisted of sugar and butter creamed together and then frozen with a stick in it, like a popsicle. It was absolutely delicious and you'll be happy to know that if you drink a bottle of wine and then eat a frozen butter confectionery, when you throw it all up later, it comes up smooth as silk. Cheers!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Episode 25: How to Hang Pictures Salon-Style

Home decoration is one of those things that seems subjective, but no, it isn't really. There is a right way and then there are all the ways you do it. There are really only about four ways to arrange a bedroom (four walls = four ways ... unless you have a round bed and if that's the case, you probably aren't really concerned with whether the room is arranged properly since your time is completely eaten up by your stripping lessons and visits to the free clinic) and only one of them is the Right Way.

People get picture-hanging wrong all the time. One little nothing - a Hang in There Baby, Friday's Coming kitten, perhaps - hung way too high. It doesn't look looks sad. Look, unless you have a Franz Kline number just sitting around, you don't need to be putting little things alone on big white walls. But since the chances of you being a billionaire art collector are slim, you probably have a bunch of little tiny things all in mismatched frames. Embrace them! Hang them together salon-style! With a tape measure and a few simple tools, you can have your own miniature Louvre right in the living room! Why just last night, I hung this exact configuration at a friend's house (minus the peanut) and it looks like a million bucks, if I do say so myself. Which I just did.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Episode 24: How to Judge a Book by Its Cover

I used to know this girl who played this game whenever she'd see a scraggly, possibly available man from a distance. The game was called "Homeless or Flawless?" and the point was for her to guess whether said gentleman was a dirty ugly homeless person or a dirty handsome hipster who probably went to Vanderbilt. It was her game; don't yell at me. She used certain visual cues to make her decision - plaid shirt? Easily available at thrift stores, so: homeless. Cigarette in hand? An expensive hobby, thus: flawless. One of those little knit caps? Uh-oh; it could go either way. The poor dear almost had a nervous breakdown when the Grunge movement gained momentum, and more than once I saw her on a date with a wrong guess, spraying Gloria Vanderbilt's White Shoulders all around her general area so people wouldn't know she chose the smelly guy. All these years later, she's still single so I guess her skills haven't really sharpened up much.

ANYWAY, some things are easier to judge by appearance than others. Restaurants, for one. If there are no cars in the parking lot, go somewhere else. But I chose books to illustrate this concept, because books are easier to draw than cars.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Episode 23: How to Get on My Nerves

If you've ever hung out for me for like more than three minutes, you know that a lot of things drive me crazy, that's for sure. Things like SUVs (and it's always an SUV) with "W" bumper stickers still on them - seriously, eight years later, how's that working out for you? Neighbors who don't mow their lawn. Those Peptol-Bismol commercials where people chant Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrahea: Yo! ( Frankly, it's the "Yo!" that bugs me more than the litany of digestive problems.) But what bothers me most of all is people who are passive-aggressive. It just blows my mind that there are grown people who just can't come right out and tell you what they think or want. I have this one friend (or should I say had?) who is like a master at it:

Me: Where would you like to go eat?
She: Oh, anywhere, you know me.... I'm easy!
Me: How about Thai? I know a great Thai place.
She: Ew, no, I hate Thai!
Me: Mexican? It's right down the street.
She: Gross. Immigrant food!
Me: about a hot bowl of steam and some paste?
She: Perfect!

And it goes like that every time. Or it did every time I bothered to call her, which stopped about a year ago and now of course I've heard that she talks about me behind my back, says that I never call her. Which - it's true - I don't because between you and me, I am almost never in the mood for a bowl of paste.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Episode 22: How to Use the U-Scan®

Well I don't know about the grocery store in your neighborhood, but visiting the one in mine is like a trip back in time. Like say to when monkeys ruled the earth and there was only one kind of fruited yogurt. I have no idea what the job requirements are for the various positions at my local bodega, but I am fairly sure the checklist includes the following questions: "Are you fluent in mumble?" "Do you have anything to wear other than the orange jumpsuit with the numbers on it?" "Do you promise to not learn what any vegetables other than potato chips are?" Because once, when I was buying beets? The charming cross-eyed no-doubt seventeen year-old mother of two behind the register asked me "are these for eating or are they for planting?" "Whichever is cheaper," I replied flatly, followed by a solid seven minutes of dumbfounded silence. I don't know what she thought they were....ground apples? Dirt grapes? Over-the-top potatoes?

Anyway. When the U-Scan® arrived at my grocery, I was overwhelmed with excitement at never having to put up with human interaction at the grocery store again! Until I deduced about ten seconds into it that the people in line now using the U-Scan® comprised the very same pool of talent from which the aforementioned employees were drawn. And not a single one of them can follow the instructions that the machines are speaking aloud. So! Be careful what you wish for, or you'll end up behind the guy in the U-Scan® line who can't even operate a blunt spoon, much less this high-tech piece of whatnot.

Special thanks to the, oh, eight different people who suggested this.

Episode 21: How to Order a Pizza

First off, if you are one of those deep-dish types, or one of those nincompoops who regularly defrosts some Jeno's pizza rolls or - god forbid - one of those idiots that puts pineapple on a pizza, you can just stop reading right now and go on back to whatever white trashy thing you were probably doing before you decided to come here. Secondly, don't clog up the comments with your pizza-related-opinions, either. If I wanted to hear about what YOU like on a pizza, I'd read YOUR blog. Third-wise: enjoy!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Episode 20: How to Avoid a Nervous Breakdown

Okay, so today I went to a puppet show at the public library. Big deal, I know. But it's this whole big puppet festival with troupes from around the world, all different countries that haven't had the good sense to just ban puppeteering outright. I'm sitting there watching grown people prance around in costume performing The Abduction From the Seraglio with hideous puppets on their hands when suddenly I realize that there are a whole lot of things that make me nervous all going on at the same time in a confined space: puppets, adults in doublets, children and even the library in general. I started to get a little unnerved so I was really glad when it all ended. But then! The menacing puppeteers came out into the audience and waved their puppets right in my face! I almost fainted. Good thing my sister was with me...she knew just what to whisper into my ear: "we'll have a beer at lunch."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Episode 19: How to Cut a Picture Mat

I used to work part-time at a picture frame shop. Three bossy ladies ran the place, though I suppose they were all nice enough. They listened to NPR constantly, so much so that I almost voted Republican just to spite them. When I say "bossy," what I mean is they hired me and basically threw me downstairs where the frame stuff was and said "go to it!" without much training. So I'd turn the saw on and off and chop little pieces of wood and make hammering noises to make it sound like I was doing something but what I was really doing was reading Jude the Obscure. I'd keep one frame in the right angle clamps at all times so if they clomped downstairs, I'd look like I was doing something. Then at the end of the day I'd say "lawzy! I'm exhausted!" and come upstairs and make stretching gestures, clock out and leave. It wasn't a fun job and one time my bike got stolen from right out in front even though the three bossy ladies were up there right in front of the window gabbing nonstop about whatever the hell it was that NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg was in a tizzy about.

I do like to cut mats, though. I learned how in art school and made a little bit of money on the side cutting them for people who didn't like to do it, which was practically everybody. I mention that you can get a mat cutter for around $125 at an art supply store, and I do recommend it. If you've ever gotten mats cut at a frame shop, you'll see that it pays for itself pretty quickly. When your neighbor brings over that picture of a chicken wearing a wig that they picked up at the flea market, you can say "why I'll mat that for you for twenty-five dollars!" And then later, you can silently and mercilessly judge them while you're in your studio, swiping the exacto blades down the metal guides of your new mat cutter.

Episode 18: How to Pack for a Hike

Some people are more serious than others when it comes to hiking. There are people who carry a snakebite kit and a doohickey that makes creek water potable and a, you know, sundial or whatever to know what time it is down at some Mayan temple in Eastern Mexiwhathaveyou. I hike light. Sometimes I don't even carry water because the thirstier I am, the more appealing the impending post-hike visit to the Sonic for a cherry limeade becomes.

Once when I was hiking alone in the South Grove at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, I was eating a roast beef sandwich while walking along admiring all of the nature. When suddenly! There was a black bear coming down the wooded slope off to my right! I totally panicked, mainly because I was also listening to Petula Clark sing "Downtown" on my iPod and it was at the part I really like and I really wanted to hear it. I couldn't quite remember what I was supposed to do if I ran into a bear. Punch it in the nose? No, that was a shark, and running into a shark on the western slope of the Sierras seemed unlikely at best. Drop and roll? No, the woods were not on fire. Oh, what was it? Think, think, think! So I just froze in mid-step and let the bear amble down and kind of around me to the creek, though I did get the rest of that roast beef sandwich stuffed into my mouth as quickly as possible. I finished my hike and when I got back to the car, I checked the hiking guidebook to see what it said about bear encounters. "Try to make yourself as tall and loud as possible so the bear thinks you're bigger than he is." It also discouraged - in so many words - the eating of roast beef sandwiches and the use of iPods on the trail. Which is advice you can take or leave; I'm no expert.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Episode 17: How to Get Rid of a Wasp Nest

You should definitely have your bookmark-finger ready because this How To could be life-saving! Or you could die following my advice - probably from lung cancer because I advise smoking at one point. My own personal experience with this particular traumatic event was that I got to spend a lovely night in the hospital watching "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" starring Barbara Stanwyck and eating a $74 ham sandwich., right? Afterwards, I got my very own personal Epi-pen, which I guess was supposed to make me feel more secure even though there's no way I'm jamming that giant needle into my thigh, I don't care how giant my face swells up. Also, it happened right before 9-11 and then when I was flying on a trip to the Grand Canyon the following October, the people at security confiscated the giant needle. When I protested - "But I'm allergic to bees!" - they deadpanned "Sir, they ain't no bees on the plane." So there I was at the Grand Canyon for four days, terrified of sudden bees. And also turquoise jewelry, which freaks me right out.

Thanks to Margaret Littman for suggesting this one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Episode 16: How to Exact Revenge

Oh, I know, I know. You are thinking to yourself "how can you advise about being happy one day and then turn around and advise about dishing out revenge on the next?" Well, let me tell you...IT'S EASY because they frequently go hand-in-hand! Nothing makes you happier than seeing an enemy put in their place! Trust me! For example, let's say a neighbor, hmmmmm, across the street doesn't quite take care of their yard enough for your tastes and indeed might perhaps re-locate a toilet into their front yard during a renovation and they then "accidentally" forget for weeks on end to put said toilet into the construction dumpster. You have two choices: you can sit on your own immaculate porch and wait and see exactly what petunia-pansy-lantana combination they have planned for this avant-garde planter or you can just call codes and complain! Flowers make you happy, but they die. Seeing a city official with a clipboard knocking on an undesirable neighbor's door is a gift that lasts forever.

I hear.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Episode 15: How to Be Happy

Frankly, the few suggestions I give in this How To installment are all on the sugary-sweet, naïve side of advice-giving. Because I did all three of them today and they worked, instant mood-lifters. I admit there are some other days where these sort of Pollyanna-type activities would have no effect on my mood at all. In fact, on dark days such as those, I find that the only thing that can make me even the slightest bit happier is to Google old high-school or college enemies to see if they turned out more successful than me. If I'm lucky, their names pop up on mandatory sex-offender registries. If I'm really lucky, their names don't show up at all! And that is one happy day, let me tell you. I'm beaming just thinking about it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Episode 14: How to Get Film Developed

God. Trying to get a roll of film developed these days is like looking for one of those things you used to put in the middle of 45 RPM records to make them play on a turntable. Or looking for an actual turntable, now that I think about it. Everything's digital digital digital. I'm fine with digital, though I notice that I never print prints taken with my digital camera; all of my memories live unrealized on little unlabeled silver discs in a box I bought at TJ Maxx that lives on a shelf in the closet.

I recently went on a camping trip, though, that involved whitewater rafting, so I had to use an old-timey waterproof camera that utilized something called "film." When the camping trip was all over, I had to go to five different drugstores to get it developed and even that took three days because every single machine in a fifty-mile radius was broken. Or so the extremely nice and extremely little person behind the counter at the last Rite-Aid told me. And when I say "little person," I mean it. She was a genuine midget - she even had a key ring that had a little rubber medallion that said "WATCH MIDGET PORN: IT MAKES YOU LOOK HUGE" dangling from it. Her name was Frieda and she also had a tattoo of a shrimp on her arm. I thought she was a very unusual hire for a Rite-Aid, but what the hell do I know? After all, she was the only person in five different "one-hour" film-developing drug stores that could help me. Lesson learned!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Episode 13: How to Visit, an online community based around books and reading to which I've belonged from the beginning, is celebrating its eighth anniversary today. That's a long time for an online group! There's new book-related content every day and a vibrant forum component full of people who will alternately make your day or make you crazy. We've already had a Readerville marriage and at least two moving-in-togethers, so you never know what will happen, other than that books you wanted but have no memory of ever ordering magically appear in your mailbox, because it turns out someone at Readerville had a copy and sent it to you.

I've befriended quite a few Readervillians in person: I've hiked into the Grand Canyon with one, I've sipped a crawfish-garnished Bloody Mary with another, and I witnessed yet another one hurl a martini shaker into a poison oak-lined ravine in the redwoods, where it remains to this day, a rusty shell still holding half a margarita. I spent a magical afternoon watching the sun set over a Napa vineyard (after it was closed to the public!) with three others, all of us sipping wine and eating cheese. Needless to say, I can no longer keep track of how many I've been hung over with.

I highly recommend you stop by and look around. I'm sure you'll find something - or someone - that engages you. Anyway, here's a little cheat sheet to help you get started. Feel free to print it out and laminate it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Episode 12: How to Work a Crossword Puzzle

Okay, so don't even TALK to me about that stupid sudoku. It's the stupidest thing ever invented, with the possible exception of those Kinoki pads you put on your feet to draw all the toxins out. Which I totally hope work! No, in my opinion, the best way to while away fifteen minutes or so is to work on a crossword puzzle. I usually enjoy a glass of wine while I'm doing it, which explains why sometimes the letters don't ever make it to the exact little square they probably should and it maybe looks like I was just making words up to finish the puzzle, but I know I knew the answer. It's not my fault YOU don't know that an Indonesian marmoset is called a "gwyminnet."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Episode 11: How to Change the Litter Pan

Sometimes a particular How To will come into my mind as a reflection of what kind of day I have had. For example, if you visit this site and see How to Smile at Everyone, you can assume I have had a good day. If you see How to Fall Down While Inexplicably Wearing a Tube Top, you can probably assume I was drinking at lunch. So today you get How to Change the Litter Pan because it was a bad day, one that was partially full of crap. And also because it was easier to draw than How to Serial Kill.

Episode 10: How to Make a Chicago-Style Hot Dog

I give you this How To for one good reason: you'll need to know it if you ever meet a person from Chicago who goes on and on about how they have the only real kind of hot dog and trust me: THEY ALL WILL. It's like some disease they all have, this urgent need to tell you that the way you like your hot dog is wrong wrong wrong, so then they'll go into excruciating detail about all this folderol they put on a hot dog and then they have a near-death experience if you tell them you don't have any poppyseed buns at your local grocery store. It's sort of like if you try to give me "beef BBQ" (as if such a thing even exists!) and then you get a fifteen-minute lecture about the Divine Providence of North Carolina pork BBQ.

Anyway! By the time you go round up all of these crazy ingredients, you'll have spent the equivalent of a Southwest airline ticket to Chicago Midway, so you might as well just do that and de-plane and go get one of these damned things in the concourse and then just get back on the plane and go home.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Episode 9: How to RSVP

Now, it occurs to me that some of you will never need to know how to do this particular thing. You know who you are - you spend so much time reading blogs, you simply must be a shut-in who never gets invited anywhere. But! You just never know when you'll be called upon to attend a social gathering, like say when your half-sister-by-third-marriage gets her leg brace off, or perhaps your cousin Wayne is being released from a minimum-security facility and would like to share the evening repast with you and yours down at the Morrison's Cafeteria. These are the times when it's absolutely crucial to know How to RSVP correctly. Otherwise, they'll think you're coming, which of course you are not going to do.

Episode 8: How to Grow a Morning Glory

Some things in life are hard. Some are medium. And some are so easy that a one-legged-ex-Beatle's-wife could do them! Growing a morning glory is one of these latter challenges. Even if you don't have a green thumb, you can pull this off. And at the end of the season, you can shatter the seed pods and have millions more morning glories the next year. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Like this blog, really.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Episode 7: How to Uncork Wine

THIS SKILL IS IMPORTANT. Especially if I'm coming over to your house. If you're particularly anxious about it and you know I'm coming over, feel free to just buy one of those boxes of wine and pour it out (oh, sorry, decant it) into a fancy pitcher before I get there. I'll never know the difference. I have the taste buds of a chicken.

Episode 6: How to Alphabetize Your Library

It's shocking how many people get it wrong. Grouping books by theme or subject or color or putting some books in one room and some others in another and mixing things up willy-nilly. It simply will not do.

Episode 5: How to Lip-Sync

Some things come by instinct: breathing, crawling, margarita-drinking. But some things must be learned, like how not to wear striped pants with a plaid shirt or, say, doing the moonwalk. Lip-sync is one of the latter type things. It's also one that comes in way handier than you might think.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Episode 4: How to Boil an Egg

Since you're probably still reeling from all of the How to Lie instructional advice from earlier today, I'm closing out the maiden voyage of The Psychopedia with an easy one. IN THEORY it's easy. But this is something a lot of people don't know how to do. And a lot of these people are having children, driving cars, running countries and making movies. So there's hope for us all if these people can make it! Anyway, How to Boil an Egg:

Episode 3: How to Lie

I know, I know. Most of you already know how to lie. How do I know this? Because you are LYING right NOW while you are pretending to work in your cubicle but instead you are reading BLOGS all the livelong day! See! IT'S EASY TO DO! But! There might be some of you who are out of lying practice, or perhaps you've given up for some moral reason or another. Which we all know just means you are a bad liar and got caught at it so you gave it up. It's exactly like drunk driving that way! But I say it's time to get BACK on that horse! You can do it! YES YOU CAN!

Episode 2: How to Make a French 75

Everyone should have ONE cocktail that they know how to make by heart. And no, a "gin and tonic" doesn't count. You should know how to make something delicious and obscure. After all, specialized knowledge, like plastics, is the future! I don't care if you memorize this one or one of your own devising...the Pink Panty Pull-Down, for instance, or the Red Hot Cock-Knocker. WHATEVER. Just learn one. Ladies and gentlemen, the French 75:

(Special thanks to Jeremy, who I sort of copied for this one)

Episode 1: How to Fold a Dishtowel

The first in a series! Once a week, I show you how to do something. I're on the edge of your seat. This week...folding a dishtowel! Thank me later, when harmony has been restored to your household. Click to make it printably large and suitable for framing.