Un chien on the loose

Monday was either National Dog Day or International Dog Day, but it came on the heels of some rather sad news about our favorite local French restaurant getting ready to close its doors or downsize or some such thing, so seeing all the cute canine posts was somewhat bittersweet. You see, not only is the local French restaurant a great place to relax near a fireplace with a glass of wine and some fries with mayo, but it’s also the home of one of my favorite dogs. And I don’t know what’s going to happen to him if they tear down the building.

Here’s the dog in question:

He’s in the hallway between the bar and the restroom. Do you think they’ll let me adopt him?

Published in: on August 28, 2019 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slayer cake

We went to an estate sale recently where there was one of those sad progressions of cookbook libraries that started out with Fun Holiday Cookies and Cakes For Every Occasion from the ’60s and ended up with No Sugar Desserts and Diabetes Busters from the ’90s. In honor of the lady of the house’s fun times, I went home with the Wilton Pictorial Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating from 1969.

My friend Sally asked me what I was going to make first, and I had to reply that I had no intention of making anything in the book. I bought it solely for the pictures. There are a lot of really elaborate and colorful wedding cakes and cakes shaped like pianos and very advanced sugar flower techniques, and there isn’t a thing in here that I would actually be able to pull off.

But the thing I noticed most about the book was the jarring shift in tone throughout the pages. At a certain point I realized that a lot of the perceived tonal shift was due to the photos either being in color or black and white.

Take, for instance, the Bear Skiing On The Roof Pink House Fantasia:

compared with this terrified bear/mouse creature being eaten alive while running through a field:

I’m sure he’ll be fine, but he doesn’t look happy. Polar bear about to jump off the roof seems much more dangerous if you think about it, but gosh if I don’t want to jump into that picture and hang out for a while.

What about these dolls?


It’s a toss-up for me as to which one I would prefer, but the mood couldn’t be more different between them. It’s Laugh In vs. Clive Barker in confectionary form. Let’s move on to clowns.

If you read this site frequently, you know that I like clowns and am annoyed by the proliferation in modern pop culture of “scary clowns.” Scary clowns are a tired cliche and are kind of unfair to actual skilled acrobatic clowns who can juggle and do magic and would be able to make a whole heck of a lot of kids happy if the kids hadn’t been conditioned to the “clowns are terrifying” point of view by their lame relatives. But still, there are some unsavory clowns around. I will admit that.

Take these guys who are creepy crawling along the perimeter of this cake:

They may be preparing to sneak up on someone, or they may be recovering from a drunken face-plant; either way, they do seem to be clowns to watch out for. On the other hand, I’d much prefer meeting all three of them in a dark alley if the alternative were:


There are a lot more examples like the ones above, but I’m going to wrap this up with the cakes celebrating violence and destruction. If you were to choose, would you prefer to adorn your party table with:


I guess it depends what kind of party it is. I never knew George Washington could seem so goth.

Word of the day for Thursday, June 13th

In high school I had a friend that at certain points I considered to be my best friend, even though from my perspective I was always just trying to get her attention and from her perspective I was always competing with her. I disagreed with her perspective because we didn’t look alike, didn’t think alike, weren’t good at the same things, and weren’t really interested in the same things. I guess that doesn’t sound like a very good foundation for a friendship from either perspective. Maybe I just had a crush on her. She was a rather magnetic presence.

At some point in our adult lives she completely broke off contact with me without explanation, though when I saw her across the room at a school reunion she gave me a small smile and didn’t run away or anything. When a mutual friend died, I contacted her through an email address on her blog to let her know. She acknowledged receipt of my email a week later. When I read her email, it was late at night and I was drunk on wine so I wrote back immediately, something to the effect of “oh my god you wrote back oh thank god let’s talk please we have so much to talk about oh wow.” I woke up the next morning, looked at what I had sent the night before, and wrote another email that said, “Never mind. You don’t need to talk to me if you don’t want to talk to me.” And I never heard from her again.

I miss this person, but five years or so later (I’m a little slow) I’ve finally come around to the fact that yes, she doesn’t want to talk to me. And even if she did want to talk to me at this point, it would be a bit of

cavoli riscaldati, wouldn’t it? An Italian phrase meaning “reheated cabbage” that is used to describe an attempt to revive a long dead, unworkable relationship. A smelly, limp mess. Give it up. There must be something better in the fridge.


Published in: on June 13, 2019 at 4:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Creepy is in the eye of the beholder

I guess a lot of people luckier than me have been getting a video recommendation on YouTube about a quest to find a lost creepy cartoon from some guy’s childhood. I say “luckier than me” because my recommended videos have been flooded with a character named Emilia Fart ever since I clicked on one of her videos, and I don’t know how much Emilia Fart I’m supposed to consume but apparently it’s a lot more than I’m able to.

Back to this video that’s been recommended to the lucky people. Maybe they’re not so lucky either, because the video that was recommended to them is 23 excruciating minutes long. Maybe I found it excruciating because there is so much hyperbole in the description of the search for this lost cartoon. A fruitless search for the former owners of a foreign cartoon distributor from the ’80s is embellished with “it was as if they vanished,” and so on. A chapter (yes, this thing has chapters) is entitled “False Leads.” Way too much time is spent on explaining the plots of other cartoons and fairy tales that people on the search are conflating with the cartoon in question. And a great deal of this search seems to have been made on 4chan, where everybody is stamping their childhood fever dreams (literally; “I REMEMBER THIS FROM TV WHEN I WAS HOME WITH THE FLU”) as irrefutable fact. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to have a good old fashioned Freak Ourselves Out Klub meeting, but all of this is presented so breathlessly that I couldn’t help rolling my eyes.

Of course, maybe I found it excruciating because I watched the cartoon in question before the “in search of” video, and it’s just not creepy. I know that “creepy” is awfully subjective (I find Sesame Street’s classic opera singing orange somewhat disturbing, if fascinating), but come on. Maybe I’m annoyed because the “in search of” video never addresses the fact that all of the young men describing this cartoon remember the main character as a boy instead of a girl, or maybe I’m annoyed because there is an overproud air of “look what great researchers we are” to this thing that really should not have taken five years to resolve. I don’t know. Have your fun, I guess. I’m just a cranky old person who gets scared by citrus fruits singing Carmen.

If you find “The Search For Clockman” pop up in your recommended videos, allow me to recommend that you skip it and just watch the actual cartoon “About Dressy Sally” instead. Here it is:

90 words from our sponsor

I woke up this morning to find that my favorite holiday YouTube channel XmasFlix had been scrubbed of all content. That added to the fact that the “falling snow” feature has been removed from WordPress is making it very hard for me not to stomp my feet and yell, “CHRISTMAS IS RUINED” and not post anything this morning. I’m not going to do that, but I do need a moment to collect myself because without XmasFlix it’s pretty hard to wade through the lousy and the offensive holiday cartoon offerings from the past.

In the meantime, please enjoy 45 minutes of ’70s and ’80s Christmas advertising. It’s more pleasant than you might think.


Published in: on December 8, 2018 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fly high and touch the sky

It’s been a pretty dramatic few weeks on our front porch, friends. I alluded to it last week when it became apparent that Gladys the mourning dove finally hatched her eggs, but that was neither the beginning nor the end of the odyssey. As we’ve now reached the end, I guess it’s time to talk about it.

The beginning, of course, was when Gladys and her mate found a very exposed hanging plant on our porch and decided to make a nest by throwing four sticks in there, as doves do. They are really quite terrible nest builders. This is not my opinion; even among bird experts, doves’ nests are described as “flimsy” and “lousy.” But whatever. The hanging pot was a pretty good readymade nest in itself, and maybe the metal chicken hanging nearby made it seem like a nice, homey place.

(that’s actually Gary; there is a bird sitting on those eggs 24/7 but apparently the male sits during the day and the female takes night duty)

There was a guard on the power line above watching over everything,

but I noticed that he would go home for the night, so that in the evenings Gladys had to fend for herself (this part is a little confusing because of the day/night shifts, but it still shakes out that Gladys was there with no guard; that’s probably girl Gladys up on the wire).

One morning the guard duty was apparently sleeping on the job, because I came out to the porch to see this:

and was extremely alarmed; was Gladys eating one of her eggs? I sent a photo to Benny and we determined that she was probably actually trying to protect the egg from a blue jay or some other predator. By the time I got home in the evening, all eggs were back under Gladys.

Then, you know, came the blessed event:

and that was really cool, and we saw the gross feeding ritual where the baby doves stick their heads in the mom’s mouth and she barfs this white foam up for them.

Things seemed to be going well, though one was a lot smaller than the other. Gladys was protecting that one more, trying to keep it warm underneath her while the other one was drying off and stretching out,

but she was also starting to leave them alone in the nest for periods of time. I came home from work one evening and only saw one head pop up. The runt was dead.

Benny did some more research online and found that this was fairly normal, and we decided to leave the dead baby alone in the nest rather than disturb the surviving one and his mom. We also decided that the surviving one was a dude and that his name was Gary Shazzbat Jr.

Benny read that pretty soon things were going to get real hairy, and Gary Shazzbat Jr. was probably going to flutter down to the ground any day now and would have to hide in a bush so predators wouldn’t get him until he learned how to fly. He wasn’t going to stay in his nest? Much like the feeding ritual, nature was not following what I had learned in cartoons.

On Saturday, we didn’t see him in the pot so we started looking on the ground for him, but then I noticed he was in another hanging plant a few feet away. So… he was flying already? There was no other explanation for it. Gary Sr. came around and made some noise about it. I don’t speak dove so I’m not sure what it was about. Probably a parent-teen dispute. “You can’t live on your own yet, son.” “I DO WHAT I WANT.”

At this point we decided that he should be renamed Angel Witch, after the song “Angel Witch” by the band Angel Witch that we heard on the radio that afternoon. This premature flying and acting like a big independent boy seemed to merit it.

Yesterday Benny was wondering if he should make a nice top hat for Angel Witch with a purple feather in it so that we would be able to tell him apart from the other doves. He was growing up really fast and wasn’t going to be hanging around in that pot much longer and we wanted to say hi to him if he ever came back to visit.

And then, this morning, Benny said that he didn’t see Angel Witch, and Gladys and Gary were each in a pot looking around for him.

I think you know where this is going.

I found Angel Witch on the ground below the first pot, in one piece but not alive. It seemed like some sort of dumb demi-predator like a cat or jay had attacked him for sport or something. The scene was not gruesome, just sad. I did not take photos.

Benny didn’t have to work this morning so he made a sassy little coffin for Angel Witch and his brother and filled it with flowers and kumquats.

We buried him in the front flower bed and that’s that.

And now there is a new mourning dove making a nest in the palm tree near the porch and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to handle this all over again.


Look !!!ward, angel

The first words of the first piece in Tom Wolfe’s first book of essays The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby are famously:

Hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, HERNia; hernia, HERNia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, HERNia, HERNia, HERNia; hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, eight is the point, the point is eight; hernia, hernia, HERNia; hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, all right, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hard eight, hernia, hernia, hernia, HERNia, hernia, hernia, hernia, HERNia, hernia, hernia, hernia, HERNia, hernia, hernia, hernia, hernia

and eventually it’s explained and whether you find that explanation to be a good payoff or not for all those hernias will pretty much weed out the people who will like Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism style from those who don’t. From my lack of punctuation in the previous sentence, you should consider me to be a person in the former camp.

I didn’t like Wolfe’s later novels much and I can imagine him being sort of an annoying “look at me, ain’t I the cutest li’l’ institution” presence with his spats and celluloid collars for the past few decades to those who live in New York, but I can’t let his death go without comment. His early writing contains beauty and cruelty and bravery and pathetic clawing and people just trying to find their place. Read “The Pump House Gang” or “The Put-Together Girl” or “The Life & Hard Times of a Teenage London Society Girl.” See if they don’t make you feel like screaming or punching or hugging the hell out of someone.

I was introduced to Wolfe by a very special teacher in high school, someone who taught me a lot about writing. One of the things he taught me was the judicious use of exclamation points. This might sound ironic given his love of Tom Wolfe, but I don’t think it is. Wolfe knew punctuation and rhythm and I don’t think he wasted a point in his ’60s/’70s-era writing. Why a great jazz musician decided he needed to start writing operas is a mystery to me (The Right Stuff is a mighty fine jazz opera to my ears), but I suppose it has something to do with what is considered important and weighty and serious. I wish older Tom Wolfe would have re-read his own pieces about teen culture and remembered that anything can be important and serious in the right context, and not everything has to be serious to be !!!important!!!

Whatever. Mr. Wolfe, have a nice time in the next world and go have a chat with Nick Ferentinos if you see him. Tell him I haven’t used an exclamation point in months.

Foiled again

Well, here we are. As of today (or maybe tomorrow; that first post wasn’t much), I’ve been writing Fancy Notions for ten years. A ten year anniversary is typically celebrated with tin or aluminum, but I had really wanted to make myself an elaborate smorgastarta, which is

a savory sandwich cake, frequently made with shrimp and eggs but mainly just whatever you feel like would be good in a sandwich cake. Ham slices, radishes, chickpeas and beets… with frosting made of cream cheese and maybe some ranch dressing. Yes.

But it’s Wednesday, and I’m tired. And it’s also Pi Day. A pie tin would work with both aspects of the day, but there’s no way I can bake a pie right now. If only there was one of those pecan pie vending machines nearby. Who’s in Austin and can ship me a celebratory pecan pie? I’ll owe you a smorgastarta.

And don’t worry. I may be tired, and I may not be able to go on forever like pi, but I will keep this blog going for as long as I can possibly handle it. Thank you very much for your support through the years!

Photo by Pomax on Flickr

Point well taken

I drove by what is probably my favorite liquor store sign today and thought about trying to take another picture of it, but I was late for an appointment. I always take rotten photos of this sign for some reason, and I would really like to have a nice photo of it someday. When I don’t stop to make another photo attempt, it’s because it’s too hard to park there, or the light seems bad, or whatever. And I already missed getting a photo of it before it got a big hole in it.

When I was leaving my appointment, I heard the news that the Melrose Witch (a/k/a Lava Lady, a/k/a Wellington Witch, etc.) had died. I drove by the liquor store sign, took a few more rotten photos, got home and bumped up the color on the photo as far as it would go, and now I’m posting it in honor of the passing of a most unique lady.


RIP, Ray Suzan Strauss. You were one of the first things I liked about Los Angeles.


UPDATE: More links about Suzan Strauss here and here (I’m being informed that my hyperlink color is too close to my regular text color, so you might have missed one of these above)

Word of the day for Friday, March 11th

An old (younger) school friend’s kid doesn’t know who Elvis Presley is. A Lyft driver looks at me like I’m crazy for mentioning that I remember the year 1994 even though it’s a completely valid thing to say in the context of the conversation. I start making rules like “kids should know pop culture history from at least the year they were born” and then realize that this year’s high school sophomores were born in the year 2000. I start noticing that things that I think happened a year ago actually happened four years ago. I find myself doing the math a lot to place things in perspective relative to my experiences.

A former teacher dies, and when I do the math I see that he was three years younger than I am now when he made such an impact on my life. I’m toasting that teacher in a pizza parlor that now serves craft beers in the area that used to screen Laurel & Hardy movies when we were kids who went here after AYSO soccer games. This place has a new name and I can’t remember the name it had when I was a kid. It was a long time ago. It was just yesterday. I guess I’m deep in

Gothic text from pookatoo.com

zenosyne. The sense that time keeps going faster. Courtesy of our old friend The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.


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