Monday, July 30, 2012

When Boring People Attack

I take a lot of public transit, which means that wherever I am*, I get to hear a lot of other people's conversations. This is excellent for a writer or masochist. Over the years, as an astute observer, I've learned not only to absorb, but to pose myself crucial questions about humanity ("When will humanity get its large butt out of my way so I can move my suitcase?"). You can't put a price on that kind of knowledge, although I guess if you were to ask me I'd say $29.99 sounds good. 

The only problem is, however much I learn, I never seem to be able to put it to any use. I've come to a conclusion about this: people are boring-ass. Yes, this is a problem, a deep and real one, on the order of world hunger, only more dire. This is why you never hear Miss America contestants saying they want to end world boringness. It makes them too emotionally overwraught. They can't handle the magnitude. I mean, could you?

Therefore I'm posting here, for what it's worth, several recent examples of this rampant and very alarming problem, so that we and/or the March of Dimes may do something about it. At least it's more interesting than what I was just doing, namely reading Cosmo. I am never entirely comfortable with Cosmo, because it is always asking me things like my Sex I.Q. I don't totally understand what this means, but I assume a person with a high sex I.Q. reads Dostoyevsky during coitus, whereas a person with a low one, oh, I don't know, munches on beef jerky. I'm no expert in these matters, although I am not against outfitting your partner with a reading stand, if you think this would be a graceful option. 

Now, without further ado, a variety of representative instances of Terminally Boring Discourse that I've encountered in real life:

- Example 1: As I typed these words on a morning Amtrak commute into Boston,** there were two 50-something ladies behind me, having an extremely long conversation about: American Girl dolls.

STUDIO AUDIENCE: How long was it?

It was so long that I had time to drink a whole thermos of coffee, and when I tuned back in, they were saying, "Now when she got her NEW doll, she wanted a BUNK bed, and..."

As a side note, I once had the idea to create an American Girl from the Neanderthal era whose name would just be a grunt, spelled "Nguhhhh," complete with a series of feel-good stories with names like "Nguhhhh Saves the Day." This story would be about her saving her pet buffalo from velociraptors, or Ursula the Sea Witch. As of yet, I have seen no kickback from this.

- Example 2: I do a lot of commuting with a big bag, which compels a lot of fellow travelers to observe to me - pay close attention here - that it is a big bag. The observations usually go something like this:

FELLOW PASSENGER (helpfully as I struggle with the bag): That's a big bag.
ME: Heh, heh. Yeah.
FELLOW PASSENGER (helpfully as I continue to struggle with the bag): Yep, that sure is a big bag.

Meanwhile I am attempting to lug the big bag down a train corridor the width of your standard bendy straw, which means I have little time for chit chat (so, tragically, we never make it to the conversational apogee of "Boy howdy"). Also, occasionally, there is my favorite variation:

FELLOW PASSENGER: That's a big bag for a little girl!

Regrettably, I do not keep a big flame thrower in the big bag. 

- Example 3: While I don't mean to devalue other people's accomplishments here, I have noticed that, with alarming frequency, the people you meet have children who do exactly what you do, only more important. Here is the aggregate version of a conversation I have had 85,679,420,122.2 times (the .2 time, I went to the bathroom):

OTHER PERSON: So what do you do?
YOU: I'm an actress.
OTHER PERSON: Wowee! Really! You don't say! Brittnee and Zack are both into drama up at Vanna White Magnet School for the Performing Arts. Just like you.
YOU: Buh.
OTHER PERSON: Zack recently interpreted the role of "Flower #3" in A Midsummer Night's Dream Jr. Critic Gus Grandecrotte of the Coccyx Daily Tribune singled him out as 'luminous.' Of course, he said he was talking about the lighting design, but we're pretty sure that was code for Zack.
YOU: Wug.
OTHER PERSON: Anyway, now Zack has signed with the Gersh agency and has a 13-movie contract with Paramount, in addition to which he's slated to be the Face of Dior starting fall 2013. What did you say you do again?
YOU: I'm going to take my life now.

Okay, I admit, acting is a bad example, thanks to the common perception that pretty much any random-bucket bonehead yahoo cretin Chick-fil-A CEO can do it and get hailed as Thespis reincarnated.*** This is of course extremely false, on the grounds that ... uh ... let's see here ... never mind, I have forgotten.

At any rate, this is just one more subspecies of Terminally Boring Discourse, which I cite not so much for its boringness as its lethalness, although it can't hold a candle to ...

- Example 4: The "Chewman" method of conversation, named for the popular dog toy which you grab and shake and ON PAIN OF DEATH DO NOT LET GO. To make matters worse, in this form of conversation you, the victim, are usually tag-teamed. Leading boringness researchers agree that your assailants are usually named Uncle Bud and Aunt Pam, and that the conversation must include a strict 55-repetition minimum of the phrase "OH yeah":

AUNT PAM: So our dermatologist's cousin's proctologist's realtor's proctologist got a new pool put in.
YOU: Oh?
UNCLE BUD: Yup. OH, yeah. Uh-huh. A new pool. One of those swimming pool-type pools that, y'know, you can swim in 'em.
YOU: Huh.
AUNT PAM: Yup, one of those pools, one of your swimming pools that you can go right out and swim in. You can go right out and swim in 'em, those pools.
UNCLE BUD (introducing nuance): Big pool, too. She always wanted one of those big pools.
YOU: Hm.
AUNT PAM: OH yeah. Big, big pool. OH yeah. Nice pool. She always wanted one of those big pools. Got your concrete, got your chlorine, got your water.
AUNT BUD: OH yeah.
UNCLE PAM: Big pool, too. She always wanted one of those big pools.
YOU: Whoa, Uncle Bud and Aunt Pam, sorry to interrupt, but it says here in the Daily Quotidian that tomorrow a great fiery roaring death comet will incinerate us all to crisps, obliterating all known life, at 8:00 (7:00 Central)!
AUNT PAM: She always wanted one of those big pools.

And thus the legal question arises: am I within my constitutional rights to garrot these people? The answer is yes, but only under very strict circumstances, such as - and I quote from the Constitution here - "if you are having a sucky day." Also if they surpass the maximum limit of OH-yeahs.

Of course there are always more peaceful, even creative ways to deal with this same frustration. For example, you could entertain yourself by persuading Aunt Bud and Uncle Pam to continue their conversation to the tune of "Born to Hand Jive" from the toe-tapping musical comedy Grease. It'll be amusing, for one thing, plus the song has a whole lot of OH-yeahs in it. Here is an excerpt:

OH yeah, yeah, yeah - everybody!

It's a big pool, baby,
It's a big pool, baby - yeah!

How big is the pool?
How big is the pool?
How big is the pool?
How big is the pool?

Bigger, bigger, bigger and bigger
Now can you chewman, baby?
'Cause it's a big pool, baby
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, yeah
It's a big pool, oh yeah!

Yeah! It's toe-tapping! Who's with me on this? ...

(Sound of crickets chirping)

... Okay, never mind. I take it there's no room for innovation here. I guess boring persons and the rest of us will just have to coexist exactly the way we always have. But let's agree on one thing, you and I: if you get to regale me with tales of a foreclosure in Escondido, installing that nice new chestnut wood-paneling in your TV room, or your colonoscopy, it is only fair that I, in return, should get to relate a minimum of 25 anecdotes from figure skating competitions I watched in 2009, or, worse, the clothes I'm thinking of putting up on eBay.**** 

Just always know, from the bottom of your heart, that no matter who you are, or what your conversational habits may be - somewhere, to some special someone, we are all boring.*****

* Generally, at any given time, here.
** Motto: "Taunting your sorry commuter hiney with nonsensical use of the words 'Inbound' and 'Outbound' for our own amusement since 1905"

*** Vanna White.
**** In the interest of full disclosure, I actually do bother my mom with this one, as if it is interesting or something.
***** Except for me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

SDCC redux: post-Comic Con reflections

And so San Diego Comic Con has wrapped up for another year. Bummer. I always miss it when it goes. On the other hand, I always seem to go through the same sort of cycle with it. What with all the other stuff that goes on in the year, I tend to forget how much I enjoy it, then July circles back and we're off again and... WHEEEE! COMIC CON!! Awww, it's over. Something like that.

(Fleeting reflection on the above: despite all my inner protracted teenage angst, I suspect I am not really a very complicated person. It's like when feminists get all irked over how women get characterized as simple creatures who only care about shopping for shoes, and you're like, yeah! Boy howdy! How dare the patriarchy-- OOOOH! SHOES!)

Oddly, for someone who enjoys the whole Comic Con shindig so much, I must admit to having a very minimal understanding of comic culture. Take the other day, when I posted that picture of the action figure my dad and I dubbed "Sewing Machine Man" (savin' the world from eviiiil / with his BOBBIN O' JUSTIIIIIICE). There are probably ten thousand megageekazoids* out there who, if they saw that picture, would spit out their Cheez Doodles in indignation, squealing, "THAT'S not Sewing Machine Man! That's ZORTHOR THE DISEMBOWELER," or whatever.

(Special note to all megageekazoids offended by the preceding remark: I don't mean to suggest all of you go around subsisting on Cheez Doodles. I realize some of you prefer pork rinds. Thank you.)

And now, as it's still fresh in my mind, here is a roundup of some of the highlights of Comic Con:

- We actually ditched Comic Con on Friday in favor of spending the day at the San Diego Zoo, where we chilled with a variety of gorillas including one who had a condition that would make him remain forever undersize. I don't recall the name of this condition, but I like to think it is "Weenie Syndrome." Fortunately, those afflicted with WS can still live fulfilling lives, with Regis Philbin being just one example.

- My sister and I met Grant Imahara of "Mythbusters" fame, on which occasion I may or may not have acted like a goofass. But then, that is my thing. Also, how is that dude 40-plus years old? He looks younger than I am.

- We ran across a variety of whackadoodles permanently stationed across from the San Diego Convention Center for to blast Bible passages on megaphones and helpfully notify us that our sorry asses were hellbound. This was all worth it once I saw the lone soul in the Gaslamp District holding a (hand-lettered) sign reading, quote, "Superman died for your sins."

- For the second year in a row, one of my puppets and I got our picture taken by official Comic-Con photographers, and for the second year in a row, I have no idea how to find the picture or where it might end up. The cyberspace equivalent of the crack between the car seats, I guess. That is where I once misplaced a Cocoa Puff at the age of four. Its whereabouts remain unknown.

- And, last but not least, there was this replica of the Incredible Hulk made entirely from Legos. I will forever be grateful to the omnipresent camera of the good folks at GoComics for ensuring I will cherish such memories as this one when I am old and decrepit and too pathetic to do anything else.

But seriously, isn't this like the coolest thing EVARRR?

Till next year, dear Comic-Con. You grow on me every time.

* Excuse me, I meant "informed persons."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Comic-Con 2012

Good morning from Pacific Time! To celebrate my accomplishment of finally getting myself from France time onto Maine time onto California time only to get myself back onto Maine time in a few days,* here are some photos from the Comic-Con.

 San Diego Convention Center, as viewed from the outside. No madding crowd because they were all on the inside at the time, while we were waiting for the trolley.

 And looking in the other direction, toward the Gaslamp District (taken as we were heading to lunch at the formidable Royal Thai).

 Balboa Park, or as I like to call it Bowelboa Park. It's not an insult. I love the place. It just lends itself.
 And more of same, featuring yours truly...

 This is one of the signs outside the GoComics booth (#1714 if you're here!) featuring the Chickweed characters the way they were some 14 years ago...

And one of the most recently released Chickweed titles, SONATA FOR PIANO AND ARMPIT (available for order at, pluggity plug plug!), on display at the booth...

Moomins!!! (at Drawn and Quarterly's booth)

Banners hanging from the ceiling...

 I myself am on Team Veronica, and proud of it. I mean, how could you not be? Betty is a dweeb.

This is part of the queue that lined up to have my dad sign posters and things. Those are 9 Chickweed Lane and Pibgorn books on the table.

 This is an action figure dude we dubbed Sewing Machine Man, or Bobbin Man. Doesn't that look like some sort of totally sick sewing machine in his hand there? I SHALL DESTROY YOU ALL WITH MY BOBBIN OF DOOM BWAHAHAHAHA !!!

 This booth is called "Meat Bun," so how could I not take a picture of it? I mean ... it's called "Meat Bun."

 Coffee! Yes! The regulation size cup o' joe in my hand means I am back in America. Wahooo!

*I'm what they call a "go-getter".