Writer’s Workshop: My Take On Twinkle

I saw “twinkle,” I thought “Twinkie.”

My favorite snack as a kid. (Source: Amazon.com)

Ann Blyth used to do commercials for them, as well as Hostess fruit pies, Ho Ho’s, and Ding Dongs.

One of the first real songs in Mel Bay’s Modern Method For Guitar, Book 1 is called “Sparkling Stella,” written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Mel Bay. Okay, I think ol’ Mel is responsible for the arrangement. We, of course, know it as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Here’s Jewel’s version, one of the shorter versions on YouTube. She has a pretty voice.

Really, there are versions of the song that run on for an hour, two hours, and one that runs almost 13 hours. I’m sure the baby doesn’t mind. His parents and older siblings, on the other hand…

That wasn’t even the first thing I thought of for “twinkle,” believe it or not. The first thing I thought of was Twinkle the cleaning product. When I was growing up, Mom used to buy it to clean the copper bottoms of her Revereware pots and pans.

They now have two kinds of Twinkle: one for brass and copper, the other for silver. The Vermont Country Store sells both kinds and cautions not to use the one meant for brass and copper on silver.

Yes, back in the Fifties and Sixties housewives had all the time in the world to clean their copper and brass, wax the floors, clean the oven, and polish the silverware. I don’t think we even own any silverware.

Wait, we do: My father used to work for the Monon Railroad (“Up and down the Monon, everything is fine, ’cause the rootin’ tootin’ Monon is the Hoosier Line!”), and when they closed their dining cars, he got a bunch of dishes and silverware, including a silver “crumber,” which the waiters used to clean crumbs off the linen tablecloths after someone was finished with their meal. After Mom died, we found it in her sideboard, and I laid claim to it. I suppose we should clean it, because it’s pretty badly tarnished. Maybe we’ll use that silver cleaner Robin Leach advertised years ago…

From what I’ve seen on YouTube, aluminum foil works as well as Silver Lightning.


Writer’s Workshop: Fancy!

I’ve had a little trouble sitting down and writing this until now, because it’s been a very long day and I’ve been busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. When that happens, I usually fall back on my usual array of videos.

For example, a couple of musical numbers from the 1950 film Fancy Pants with Lucille Ball and Bob Hope. Lucy’s voice is dubbed by Annette Warren. Lucy was a beautiful woman, wasn’t she?

Lucy reminded me of my mom. I was watching The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson one night back when I was still living at home, and she was a guest. While she was being interviewed, son Desi came out and surprised her. There was a lot of kissing and hugging, and it was clear she was happy to see him. Then, when they sat down, she turned to him and said, “Now, when are you going to clean your room?” I swear, she looked like Mom.

Something tells me all moms have that look…

There are a lot of songs named “Fancy.” My favorite is the one by Bobbie Gentry. I know Reba McEntire covered “Fancy,” but no one does it like Bobbie.

We didn’t hear much from Bobbie Gentry after “Ode To Billie Joe,” “we” referring to us in the Chicago area. There were no country music stations per se in Chicago at the time; it was the late Seventies before we did. She had a great voice and wrote a lot of her own songs, and she was gorgeous.

A suggestion for you cat lovers: if your cat doesn’t seem to be eating, try a can of Fancy Feast. Our vet calls it “kitty crack.” If they won’t eat Fancy Feast, take them to the vet: there’s something wrong.

Going to keep this short. What other “fancy” things can you think of?

What Brings Me Comfort (Writer’s Workshop)

I had written a lengthy response to what I thought would be one of the prompts fo this week, and unfortunately, it turned out not to be. I’ve saved that for sometime in the future while I respond to the prompt “List seven things that bring you comfort.”

  1. Mary This goes without saying, so I had to say it first. Being handicapped, I’m kind of limited in what I can do, so she’s taken on a lot of responsibility that used to be mine. And she doesn’t complain, and does it cheerfully for the most part. (I mean, everyone has bad days.)
  2. The cats As the number of cats we have has dwindled, I’m finding that knowing they’re still around is a great comfort. I have a couple that will be making a trip to the Rainbow Bridge sooner rather than later, and all of them are in their teens, and it makes me wonder, who will be the omega, the last cat standing? I try not to think about it and to just enjoy that they’re still with us and still love us, even if it is because we feed them…
  3. Food There are a couple of foods that bring me comfort: pizza, macaroni & cheese, pie, Klondike bars, coffee. I have to watch how much I eat, something I didn’t do a really good job of earlier in life (and I’m paying for it now), so when I do have one of these, I enjoy it greatly.
  4. Vintage TV Both on TV and especially on YouTube. I’ve written previously on the shows we watch over-the-air, and realized I was spending a lot of time repeating myself here, so I’ll look up those posts eventually, or maybe write a whole post on those shows later. YouTube carries episodes of a bunch of old shows, but one of my favorite things to watch are some of the posts by MicroJow, who had a bunch of old videotapes that were entire evenings’ worth of programs. He edited out the actual programs and left the commercials, interstitials, bumpers, station breaks, and newscasts. For some reason, they’re very relaxing to watch. Most of them are 30 years old or more.
  5. Music I do a lot of music here on the blog, because I love music. I have somewhat eclectic tastes (you might have noticed) and love finding out about the artists and the recordings and sharing what I learn.
  6. Hoodies Our living room gets drafty during the winter, especially when the wind is blowing out of the north, and being wrapped up in a hoodie is a very comforting feeling.
  7. Sleep By about 10 PM, I’m starting to think it’s time to go to bed. I might not actually get to bed that early, but I’m thinking about it, and starting to wonder what sort of dreams I’ll be having that night. Since the stroke, my dreams seem especially vivid, and while I can’t remember much about them, I can remember some of the images that my brain conjures up while it’s doing its nightly maintenance. It’s a comfort knowing that my dream world will open up while I’m unconscious.

What brings you comfort?

Writer’s Workshop: Book Review: “Hardcore Twenty-Four” by Janet Evanovich

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving! Mary and I will have our traditional feast of ribs, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, apple slices cooked in sugar and sauce, and a Dutch apple pie for dessert. Hey, you have your traditions, we have ours…

Mary and I have followed the exploits of not-very-good bond enforcement agent Stephanie Plum, heroine of Janet Evanovich’s numbered books, since they first came out, and have gotten to where we preorder the books from Amazon so that, the day they come out for the Kindle, they’re automatically downloaded and ready for us when we get up in the morning. Her latest, Hardcore Twenty-Four, came out about a week ago, and we have both read it. Mary read it first, and finished it in one sitting; it took me a couple of sessions because, you know, Two Dots.

Ms. Evanovich brought the regular cast of her books together again for this one: Stephanie, Stephanie’s love interests (Joe Morelli, a Trenton, NJ cop, and Ranger, a former Special Forces operative and bond enforcement agent), Lula (a plus-size former ho’ who joins Stephanie on her bond-enforcement misadventures), Connie Rossoli (administrator of the bond agency Stephanie works for, which is owned by her cousin, Vincent), Stephanie’s long-suffering mother and Grandma Mazur, the primary source of her mother’s long suffering, and Rex, her hamster. To this cast she’s added Diesel, another former Special Forces type who has the uncanny knack for entering Stephanie’s apartment without her knowledge, Lily, a 50-foot boa constrictor that Stephanie has ended up babysitting while Lily’s owner cools his heels in jail, unwilling to be bailed out again because he feels safe from zombies while locked up, a couple of skips who Stephanie is supposed to be bringing in but somehow manages not to, and the aforementioned zombies.

The reviews on Amazon, both the good and bad, are fair assessments of this book and the state of the series in general. Ms. Evanovich has a knack for having the characters (primarily Lula and Grandma Mazur) say some outrageous and thus hilarious things and for causing all kinds of grief for her characters, but I can tell that, as the series progresses, she has fewer ideas for good stories and depends largely on the laughs and Stephanie’s romantic exploits to mask the fact that there’s really no plot to the books. I’ve been able to adjust my expectations so that, when a new one comes out, I know I’ll be getting a pretty vague plot and lots of laughs, and a lot of romantic dithering by Stephanie, who can’t choose between Morelli and Ranger, and now there’s this third guy… you know, I really don’t care about that, and it’s starting to really annoy me. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but if I were Morelli or Ranger, I’d move on.

If you’ve never read the series, it’s best to start with the first book and work your way forward. If you have, I’d be interested in knowing what you think about the series and specifically this book.

Writer’s Workshop: How Not To Find A Job

I got quite a lot of experience looking for work at the end of 2013, after being laid off from my job. Actually, Mary wanted me to apply for Disability right away, but the lawyer we talked to said it might be a good idea to try and find a job first. If I found one, great, if not, it would make my case for Disability stronger.

I had been lucky that my last two jobs to that point had been work-from-home situations. I had my equipment and a steady Internet connection, was familiar with Windows, Mac and Linux as well as Microsoft Office, I had programming, customer support and training experience, and had written and rewritten training materials and documentation. I had heard the trend was toward people telecommuting, working from home and staying in touch with the office by email, telephone and Skype.

I figured the best way to find a job that met my requirements would be to use the Internet job boards, i.e. Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and a few others whose names escape me now. I would put in “IT telecommute” in the search box and see what jobs appeared. And, there were plenty of IT jobs, just not ones that were full-time telecommute opportunities. They would list as one of their benefits “telecommute one day a week” or would make it clear “this is NOT a telecommute job.” The jobs that said I could telecommute and not come into an office indicated that I could do so when I wasn’t on the road at client sites, which would be anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of the time.

Nevertheless, the conditions for unemployment compensation said that I had to apply to at least five companies each week, so when I found a job opportunity that looked like it had possibilities, I applied for it, modifying my resume as needed to make myself appear as qualified and eager as possible to fill the position. I applied for jobs for which I wasn’t exactly qualified, but could bring myself up to speed quickly. I applied for jobs that weren’t in the Atlanta area, figuring if I was going to telecommute it didn’t much matter where I was.

I was contacted by several recruiters with job opportunities, and when I told them that I needed a full-time telecommute position, they politely told me that they would check with their client, but they were pretty sure the answer would be “no,” and promise to keep my resume on file if such a job crossed their desk. Then I’d never hear from them again, or I heard from them after I had been on Disability for a couple of years. Even then, the positions did not allow for a person to work from home full-time.

There were two calls that I got that were very interested in speaking with me. One was from an insurance agency that saw my background in training and wanted to speak to me right away. Mary ended up driving me to a location almost fifty miles away for the interview, which was conducted by a woman who was reading the questions off a sheet. They of course were looking for warm bodies they could turn into insurance agents. I was invited to a presentation that evening; I told the woman I’d think about it, left the office, got in the car, and told Mary “take me home, and let’s never speak of this place again.” I was also contacted by an executive recruiting service who insisted that I be joined by my spouse, which was a good thing, because Mary’s first question to the guy was “how much will all of this cost?” The company wanted $5,000 to market me. We told the man we would think about it and get back to him, then emailed him from the parking lot and told him, in no uncertain terms, to stick it where the sun didn’t shine. I still get emails from people wanting me to either be an insurance agent or to participate in schemes that are quite obviously intended to separate me from my money. I file them in the spam folder.

No doubt there are many people who have successfully found employment through the online job search sites. I wasn’t one of them.