cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “humor”

Desert Is Not Dessert


Out of necessity I am in Arizona this week.

Most times mentioning Arizona as a destination brings up that “Oh–” that is a followed by congratulatory commentary with a dash of envy.

That “Oh–” takes on tones of surprise, commiseration, and even pity when Arizona is mentioned as a travel stop this time of year.

The last three days have been rising to triple digits. Today is expected to be 114 degrees. I should add an exclamation point. Make that two.

People who live in Arizona must be okay with this cruelty. Why would someone purposefully punish themselves unless by choice? There are sooo many other places to live.

These are the reasons I hear from residents as they try to excuse the heat:

“Air conditioning. You go from the car to the store. It’s not bad.” That’s what they said about my root canal. “The pain and discomfort is minimal.” Pain is pain and the shock of heat blasting off the asphalt parking lot even for the two minutes of the dash from car to store is still excruciating.

“It cools down at night.” Umm, 80 degrees at 1 am is not cool. It’s not even pleasant.

“Hang out at the pool.” Great idea in theory; however, the sun has been heating up that water until it becomes lukewarm. Not remotely refreshing is the time spent floating in tepid waters.

And the weather announcer pull-it-out-every-time excuse: “But it’s a dry heat.” Dry it is. Because heat is hot and hot is not comfortable.

I’m sure Arizona is lovely other parts of the year. Flocks of snowbirds descending and settling down in the desert for winter have proven this to be statement of fact. Unfortunately I care not for the desert. It is not my idea of a dessert vacation.

114? Really?!?

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Word Nerd Confessions: June


Still sweeping out the collection of words drifting about in the corners of my word collecting bag.

Speaking of bags:

1. musette: a small leather or canvas bag with a shoulder strap, used for carrying personal belongings, food, etc.

2. saggitate: shaped like an arrowhead

3. literam: letter for letter; literally

4. gerontocracy: a government in which old people rule (I’m not making this up!)

5.  dundrearies: long full sideburns or muttonchop whiskers

6. bedizen: to dress in a showy or tasteless manner.

7. suspiration: a long deep sigh (a favorite–note the italic–but how to use it in a sentence?)

8.  quodlibet: subtle or elaborate argument or point of debate, usually on a theological  or scholastic subject.

9. instauration: renewal; restoration; renovation

10. fenestrated: having windows (this is such a cool word–I get extra nerdy upon hearing “fensteration” or “fenestrated” in a sentence).

11.  epistemic: of or relating to knowledge or the conditions for acquiring it.

12. oblivescence: the process of forgetting (more and more my life is this word)

13. crump: to make a crunching sound, as in walking over snow, or as snow when trodden on (I fully intend on finding a way to apply “crump” in a story–it’s too amazing of a word to leave sitting on the bench waiting for wordplay).

14. fiddle-footed: restlessly wandering

15. objurgate: to reproach or denounce vehemently; upbraid harshly; berate sharply (sounds close to regurgitate–throwing up angry words?)

And that’s May’s edition of Word Nerd.

May no one objurgate upon your quest towards epistemic persistence as you crump along the path of knowledge which could render a suspiration of frustration (not to be confused with fenestration, although not finding an open window when needed can be frustrating) upon finding yourself stuck in a gerontocracy in which the leaders tend towards bedizen attire evidenced by their dundrearies. Ignore the proclivity towards quodlibets with these politicians and pack up your musette and go on a fiddle-foot tour of nature to achieve instauration from worldly concerns. Celebrate oblivescence of worldly matters. Celebrate the little joys such as the finding of  sagittate treasures upon nature’s path. The literatim of life does not have to be dreary–crump on to finding contentment!

Crump twice–Word Nerd points…

Why We Say: Spam—the case of canned mail


SPAM* in my day was not a Monty Python skit nor a designation in my email. Mom would fry it up and slab it between two pieces of mayoed toast. What do kids know about cuisine?

*SPAM is the official designation by Hormel.

8 billion cans can’t be wrong (image: Smithsonianmag.com)

The product SPAM is a meat product by Hormel and is a derivation of “spiced ham.” It became a popular food item around WWII, as its canned qualities meant it could be stored, shipped, and shopped easily. The US troops benefited from its convenience and it gave them something to joke about. There are odes about SPAM floating around.

On the other hand–

Spam is that annoying clutter that fills email boxes. It is electronic junk mail. It is not pretty and should not be glimpsed.

Unfortunately, one of my forwards was not appearing in my recognized mail box which meant I went searching. I took the plunge and went dumpster diving in my electronic trash. I found:

  • Keto ads
  • Loan enticements
  • Wine information
  • Online dating
  • Concealed weapon ads
  • Tinnitus info

And I found my lost forward. It looked a bit stunned and wasn’t worse for wear from the company it found itself in. I dusted it off and sent it correctly on its way.

As for SPAM…

Hormel originally objected being associated with the practice of unsolicited electronic mail. At one point it took legal action. Wired has an entertaining and informative article on the matter.

The real reason SPAM became spam was due to Monty Python. That explains it, doesn’t it? They created a skit where Vikings sitting in a tea shop would drown out any sort of decent conversation with shouts of “spam spam spam spam –wonderful spam”

Perhaps best seen to understand:

Monty Python “Spam”

Then apparently a blogger decided unsolicited electronic email was a sort of drowning out productive communication (like Vikings shouting in a tea shop), and the term “spam” arrived, which really hasn’t much to do with SPAM except Monty Python decided it was funny fodder for a skit.

There it is. From ham in a can to mail that gets a backhand to a one step above trash.

I’ll let you decide about the evolution of this product.

The -ing of things


Spates of good weather have beckoned me out into the backyard where much needed work is required: weeding, thinning, raking, mulching. All those -ing type of tasks that result in another set of -ings such as lower back spasm-ing.

However–

There was one surprise -ing:

I planted some bulbs last year in my patio container and “whoa!” I exulted upon this sudden blooming. No weeding, mulching, raking required. Just appreciating.

Now, that’s my kind of garden-ing.

Why We Say: A Twist on Past Words


Language is fluid. It can start out with one meaning and morph into another definition over time. Here’s a batch of words that have come into their own meaning through the advent of social media:

Tagging, traffic, fan, wall, hacking, search, viral, link, ping, feed, alert, tweet, are just a few. Here are a few others that have changed:

Troll

Past: a large nasty creature who hung out under bridges. Sometimes a word used with fishing.

Now: Someone who pokes around online and stirs up responses.

Spam

Past: pinkish spongy mystery meat squished into a can.

Now: Unwanted, annoying messages that arrive through email or even as texts.

Friend

Past: a chosen companion who shared common interests.

Now: a button-click indicating a degree of superficial commitment.

Like

Past: a preference signifying a degree of indication of favor.

Now: a click response of rating that operates as a indicator of popularity.

Post

Past: to send a written communication through the postal service

Now: a written communication sent through social media most likely as a blog (a neoplasm and a separate post).

What words have you seen come into existence or change due to the influence of social media?

Reader Round Up: April


I don’t know if this is embarrassing or if it is something of an accomplishment to crow about–here it is:

I have read 57 books of my 101 goal. And it’s not even halfway through the year.

What does that mean?

Have I surreptitiously slipped from bibliophile, merely a person loves books, into a bibliomaniac, being crazy about books?

‘Tis a ponderment.

If I were to submit to a consultation, as if there is real concern about reading too much, (is that even feasible?) What would be revealed about my reading habits?

Today we will look in on the eminent Reader Analyzer, known for her insightful understanding of reading habits. The following is a session excerpt with Cricket Muse, known for her monthly Reader Round Ups and efforts as a chirpy Book Booster.

RA: Cricket, I appreciate your willingness to share your views about reading.

CM: Well, isn’t this really about whether I’ve drifted from casual reading into habitual reading?

RA: No one here is judging. We are here to celebrate your accomplishments. You do like to read, don’t you? <smile>

CM: Somewhat of an understatement. You’ve read my rap sheet: three years in a row of surpassing my Goodreads goal of 101 books? Reading 57 books before May 5 hit the calendar? I read 4 books in one week! <lowers voice> Is that even normal?

RA: Normal is subjective. Some say “normal” is a setting on the dryer.

CM: It is? Mine says “dry or more dry.” What type of dryer you own? A Kenmore? I think my mother had an old dryer that had that setting.

RA: Back to books and the normal reading standard. Who is to say what the new normal is? Reading isn’t what it used to be is it?

CM: That’s true. Some of my students wouldn’t ever pick up a book if I didn’t require SSR, silent sustained reading. I don’t know many adults who are avid readers either.

RA: Not being surrounded by readers, what influences you to read?

CM: Getting right down to it, aren’t we? Well, I read because at the end of the day I suffer from screen scream. When I’m not teaching up front and personal, my time is at the computer grading and creating lesson plans. My brain is buzzy from all that screen activity. My solution is to grab a book and knock back a couple of chapters, letting my brain settle down. Holding a book in my hands, feeling that paper between my fingers, hearing that crisp swish of pages turning is very therapeutic.

RA: Not judging <smile> but you said four books in one week? Teaching must be stressful.

CM: It can be. That four book week was not a teaching week. I was in a situation that resulted in a combination of weather conditions, downtime, and the need to de-stress.

RA: Sounds like reading is your go to for relaxing. Do you read for other reasons?

CM: Of course! I read out of curiosity–what’s the big hype about The Martian, for instance (I actually liked the movie better, but reading the book helped enjoy the movie more)? I read because as a writer I need to know what is current on the market–what are others reading and what are others writing? And yeah, I read for pleasure. A cup of cocoa, my cozy chair, a crackling fire, a good book or glass of lemonade, my hammock, a soft backyard breeze, a paperback of choice–yup, these are a few of my favorite things.

RA: Enjoying a book, for whatever reason, could be addictive. Do you just read?

CM: I see what you’re doing <wink/finger point> I have a full life that includes books; it doesn’t revolve around books: teaching, working out at the gym, volunteering at the library, writing, putzing about in the yard–books are frosting, not the cake.

RA: Sounds like a good balance. I can’t resist–what good books have you read lately?

CM: Here’s a few titles from last month and a couple of recommends. So–am I crazy about books or am I crazy?

RA: Not here to judge, remember–but it is crazy wonderful how much you enjoy reading. I’d say keep on reading on. Thanks for revealing your thoughts about reading.

CM: See you around, and I hope you find a good book to read this week.

April Read Highlights:

The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ sequel to The White Mountains–classic science fiction and ignore that it’s in the juvie section because it’s a great plot and writing

King of Shadows by Susan Cooper ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Another juvie–yet appropriate for adults, especially for Bardalators and Bardinators as it is a time transfer back to the Renaissance Globe theatre when A Midsummer Night’s Dream played. Lots of marvelous historical detail and the plot is intriguing as well.

The Martian by Andy Weir ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ finally got around to reading this and it was a bit better than okayall the science detail proved a bit daunting, but the Castaway on Mars with Mark proved a decent story.

For more reviews check out my Goodreads links on the right (on full site) or look me up on Goodreads as I have plenty to say about all those books I read.

Until the next Reader Round Up…

Reader Round Up: March


I can tell how stressed I am by how many books I read in a month. I used to count by dark chocolate Dove bars. Books are less invasive on the waistline.

I can also measure my stress level by the types of books I read.

Picture books:

Where Are You, Little Zack? by Judith Ross Enderle ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The StinkyCheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Juvie books:

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The White Mountains by John Christopher ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

YA books:

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Inspirational books:

Better Together: Life Is Best With a Friend Like You by Warren Photographic ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Be Safe, Love Mom by Elaine Lowry Brye ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

New-to-me-authors:

The Librarian by Sally Vickers ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vickers ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Historical Romance:

Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Mystery:

Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A baker’s dozen of books. All over the place. I’m unable to comment on March. I do appreciate how many five star reads I encountered. Nothing like a run of really satisfying books to get one through the murkiness of March. Maybe the Ides have it–March is not a month to mess with.

Good thing it’s April.

Celebrating Shakespeare


There are many aspects to April to celebrate: daffodils, warmer weather, rain instead of snow (finding the positive), poetry, and Shakespeare. No matter your feelings about Shakespeare, it is pretty cool that he died on the same day he was born: April 23.

As a way to celebrate Shakespeare’s coolness, the month of April will be dedicated to all things Shakespeare. Get ready for a range of celebratory stuff. Here’s a starter:

 

 

Yup, “To Be or Not To Be” in Klingon. Now, that’s what I call awesome.

Debatables: March–What’s So Funny?


Time for another round of Debatables, where Mike Allegra, my partner in literary pettifog, and I take on meritable topics such as “Who is the Most Appealing Mouse of Middle Grade Fiction” and make quite a fuss. Sometimes Mike wins, and sometimes I do. Like last month. Just saying.

This month we take on the serious topic of “The Funniest Picture Book.” Now, I could be at a disadvantage because Mike is truly a funny guy. His family stories are a hoot. I shall strive for another win. Like last month. (oh dear, I promised Mike I wouldn’t crow).

Here are the Debatables ground rules:
Each debater is allowed one brief argument (fewer than 300 words) on a previously agreed-upon topic. These brief arguments will then be followed by a briefer rebuttal (fewer than 150 words).

For my Funniest Picture Book entry I nominate:

46677

Yes, this book is so funny it’s been a play at the Kennedy Center, a TV special, AND a Disney movie.

 

Mike suggests:

Image result for stinky cheese man

Okay, fine–it won an award

Cricket’s Turn:
Some days just start out wrong, and keep getting worse. Having a bad day, especially from a kid’s point of view, is what Judith Viorst’s classic picture book is all about. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is just that–a really bad day in the life of six year old Alexander.

This is one of those books that is a perfect blend of text and illustrations. Viorst succinctly states with comic vaudevillian timing the woes of Alexander’s day. Ray Cruz’s illustrations deliciously capture Alexander’s expressions. Like this one:

Image result for alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day illustrations

Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair, he trips on his skateboard, and drops his sweater in the sink. And that’s just the start of his day. He’s smushed in the car pool, his friends snub him, he leaves out 16 in counting, and there’s no dessert in his lunch. And the day just gets worse. There is also the running gag of moving to Australia.

 

Alexander’s no good day is relatable. This is a book anyone from 6 to 96 can enjoy. The story is funny. The illustrations are funny. Alexander’s bad day is a good funny, because all bad days come to an end. Viorst knows this and doesn’t sugarcoat the terrible, horrible of the Alexander’s bad day. They just happen. And when they are done we can laugh about it.This is a book that parents and children can read and laugh about together. Bad days happen. They just do. It’s cathartic to laugh about them. A book, a play, a TV special, a movie–people can’t get enough of this story.

Image result for alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day illustrationsMike’s choice of The Stinky Cheese Man is commendable, yet its satirical humor leans towards mean. The gentle humor of Viorst and Cruz is family friendly and it’s made for kids. TSCM? Do kids, little kids, the ones picture books are supposed to be for, really get that crazy, hyperbolic humor? Hmm, to each their own kind of funny. Alexander is cute. The cheese man is, well, stinky. What’s so funny about a stinky cheese man?

Mike’s Argument:
“Gentle humor” and “funniest” aren’t synonyms. Not even close.

Is Alexander And The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day a good book? Yes. It is an excellent book. It may even be a better book than The Stinky Cheese Man.

But hardly anyone could say it’s funnier. And this debate is all about the funny.

AATTHNGVBD generates warm, nostalgic smiles. But Stinky Cheese gets laughs. When my son was little, I read him both Alexander and Stinky. He liked them both, but only laughed at Stinky. Heck, the book still makes him laugh. It still makes me laugh, too.

In this compendium of “fairly stupid tales,” an ugly duckling grows up to be really ugly. A “frog prince” is is fraud, one who just likes smooching (and cares little about the slime he leaves behind on princess’ lips). The titular Stinky Cheese Man, like The Gingerbread Man, runs away to avoid being eaten; but nobody is chasing Stinky Cheese because, well, he stinks something nasty.

Lane Smith’s illustrations greatly contribute to the book’s comic tone. His ugly duck, for example, is not just a dippy, drooling disaster; he is a happy, dippy drooling disaster. He’s ugly. He knows it. And he’s cool with it. What could’ve been a cruel story in the hands of a lesser illustrator, is hilarious, for Smith’s duck seems incapable of hurt feelings.

Image result for stinky cheese man ugly duckling

And let’s not forget the character that ties all these ridiculous tales together. Jack the Narrator accidentally drops the table of contents on Chicken Little’s head. He spoils the ending of “Little Red Riding Shorts.” And, in a great running gag, he tangles with a very belligerent giant.  

Nope, no “gentle humor” here. The Stinky Cheese Man is brash, wildly original, and comic gold.

Cricket’s Rebuttal:
Some people like obvious humor that’s a bit loud:

Image result for stinky cheese man cow

This cow is flabbergasted that a stinky bit of cheese is remotely funny

Others enjoy the subtle comedy of a facial expression or comment can evoke:

Image result for alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day illustrations dad office

It comes down to what’s funny to an individual. In a world that dwells on harsh and mean, I much prefer the gentle humor of a boy coping with a bad day where delightful illustrations accompany witty commentary. It’s relatable, enjoyable, and resonates with good vibes long after I’ve read it. I smile just thinking about Alexander. He lightens my bad days. I choose him over slimy frogs and the stink of rude, cheesy banal jokes.

Mike’s Rebuttal:
You’re right, Cricket, one’s interpretation of “funniest book” will always be subjective. But you’re not making an argument for The Funniest Book; you’re making an argument for The Most Relatable, Resonant, Warm, Fuzzy, Good Vibe-ist Book.

C’mon, you! Yes, I’m looking at you, Cricket—with your smart aleck ways, plethora of puns, and encyclopedic knowledge of weird cow jokes. Let’s get real.

You might love AATTHNGVBD—and you should love it—but you know which book generates more honest-to-goodness laughs. Stinky Cheese pulls out all the stops. One page is upside down. Another page contains a Surgeon General’s Warning. Another page is blank because the diva-ish main characters walked out of the story in a huff. Stinky Cheese is a layered, visual and verbal feast of funniness.

The book blazed a new trail in no-hugging-no-learning meta fiction. And readers laughed. So did critics. So did the Caldecot judges. So did I. And—admit it—so did you.

 

Well, there you have it. You, our most marvelous readers, now have the opportunity to add in your own commentary about which of the two books is the funniest. And while we appreciate your suggestions, we really, really want you to stick with what you see here: either Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good Very Bad Day  or The Stinky Cheese Man.

Thanks for stopping in and thanks even more for your comments and votes.

Debatable Recap: Reeping a Win


February ‘s Debatable topic of “Most Appealing Mouse of Middle Reader Literature” sparked a lively discussion. It appears mice are quite nice in many an opinion. We won’t mention the one dissenting view about mice (which wasn’t very nice at all).

I choose Reepicheep from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series.

Image result for reepicheep

While Mike nominated Amos from Robert Lawson’s Ben and Me.

Image result for ben and me

After a spirited voting spree, Reepicheep won by a whisker–yes, by one vote. Reep, that mighty warrior mouse valiantly strode forward and claimed his victory.

To be fair, Ben is a great little mouse. In fact, a vote for Ben or a vote for Reepicheep, along with the suggestions for Stuart Little, Bianca, Wilcox and Griswold, Despereaux, Runaway Ralph as considerations, just goes to show that mice are nice. That is, I admit I’m not keen on finding them unexpectedly in my kitchen pantry, but mice truly are winsome little creatures.

Someday I will regale my stories about Hunca Munca and Spot, two truly wondrous mousekins as once valued as pets.

BtW: a hearty congrats to my Debatable chum, Mike, who has just published his own mouse book: Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist.

Stay tuned for the next Debatable…

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