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jan . feb . mar . apr . may . jun . jul . aug . sep . oct . nov . dec

Above: Cover art for the classique Five Jerks With A Tape Deck album Unsafe At Any Speed

Longer 1996 items: Five Jerks With A Tape Deck: Unsafe At Any Speed CD / The Computer Jon Ferguson / House Rant Steve Gross


January 1996.

1996jan09. Escape From New Jersey.

As you may be aware, New Jersey and New York were recently paralyzed by a massive snow stroke. The stock exchange shut down, vehicular traffic in both states was prohibited Monday, over 10,000 plane flights were cancelled, etc. I chose Sunday to return to Detroit from a week's layover in New Jersey, and ended up driving through the eye of the storm with about 100 other cars (some of the poor dears got tired and rested in the ditch). It took fifteen hours to travel 630 miles; I started whooping for joy in the middle of Ohio when my speedometer hit 60mph for the first time. They shut down Pennsylvania (this is a very good thing, actually) about a half-hour after I slinked through; the snow plows couldn't keep up with the snow. People were staying the night in restaurants, East-bound truckers were being told to find some gas and go to bed for the night, and I was a bundle of nerves. Passing trucks was probably the worst part of the trip; you're totally blinded by the snow being kicked up (it was very light and airy), and the truck is your only point of reference. So if the truck decides to drive into a lake, you're pretty much going to get wet. I have now officially earned my Snow Wings. A few people I talked to today had the impression that I'd still be in New Jersey, because only a fool would have left on Sunday. Yes, and?


February 1996.

1996feb03. Kinko's Trash-Fishing And/Or WheeCut!

The holiday season, for me, is just another excuse to watch TV, with all the pageantry and goodness that is the Christmas Special. However, I find that with each passing year, I am able to spark the otherwise dormant Spirit O' Christmas by creating my own Christmas cards at Kinko's. Last year, I brought in some clip art, did some intentionally-crude cut-n-pasting with a friend of mine, and had a good old time. This year, I resolved to enter the portals of Kinko's sans art, and see what fun I could have there with whatever was left in the garbage. "It's closing in on Christmas, surely there will be ample holiday detritus," I thought to myself while eating Goldfish Tiny Crackers®. After spending a half-hour there, it was proving to be a heartless endeavor (a GM paint manual, pastoral spring scenes, some kind of flyer about a contest to appear on "Home Improvement"), until I found two pages from the Wall Street Journal (dec 21) at the bottom of the trashbin. Paydirt ‒ an amazing article on "dragees," those kooky little cake-decoration silver balls with the "non-edible" warning right on the package! And the shape of the column was the same approximate dimensions (once reduced) as a postcard! A Martha Stewart quote baked right in! A Christmas miracle! But you probably aren't surprised that the topic of this paragraph is the paper cutter I used at Kinko's. This paper cutter features a blade shielded by a grip-friendly block, running back and forth the length of two metal bars. You couldn't cut your thumb and two of your fingers off (like, say, my elementary school principal) without really wanting to. This paper cutter is the closest you can get to having sex as far as paper cutters are involved, and isn't that a lovely image. This paper cutter is wonderful. So perfect. So nice. Delicious. This is God's paper cutter (oh, sure, there are those of you who would insist that God would use X-ray vision, or merely think the two pieces of paper apart with His Mind or whatever He's got Up There, but I'm of the opinion that the big G is a hands-on kind of Guy, maybe with a nook-like woodworking corner in His Basement Of Infinite Size [sure, if it's a basement of infinite size, how can it have corners, you say, but these are the types of problems you run into when dealing with the omnipotent]). It, however, lacks a proper name. "Safety Super Roller Cutter" is what the nuts at South Coast Designs (714 997 7582) deigned this paper cutter, and I say the name sucks. I have rechristened this device "The WheeCut" (I pause here to note that it was during the fermentation period of this special name that I realized why people sometimes spell "Wee" with an "h," to wit: "Whee" ‒ it's actually to differentiate it from the classical definition of "wee," i.e. "small"; this little bit of grammatical trickiness isn't needed if "whee" turns into an exclamation, e.g. "Wee!" Unless for some reason the speaker may actually be excited about something tiny, and in this case, just throw the "h" out the window, because no one will care but your chronicler. Oh, sure, you can't find a exultation spelled "wee" in the dictionary, but we all know and use "Wee!" with careless abandon, myself included; as I've posited before and will posit again, English is my second language, and once I've determined what the first one is, I believe my life will be a lot smoother). If you need an office supply fix and end up calling these people, offer the new name to them. Don't forget to charge them ‒ people are loathe to accept free advice, but they love to pay for it.


May 1996.

1996may11. For some reason, the reading populace at large EXPLODED with responses to the "WheeCut" discussion, which is now months old, but who cares. Constructive criticism, observations, and recipe requests were just some of the letters received here at Missive HQ. Longtime Missive reader and secret double-agent Tom L speaks out in defense of "Whee":

"I must point out that the exclamation 'Wee!' is totally bogus! The 'h', however silent it is, MUST be left in situ. 'Wee!' could only possibly be a response to a question demanding a diminutive answer, e.g.; "How big is Newt Gingrich's brain?" The 'h' must remain! Perhaps I have a slight bias on this matter of forgotten/dropped letters, as my surname contains a participle and my 'm' is often left as lower-case...

The 'h' gives "whee" some elegance, it makes you look twice ‒ not because it's wrong, just because it's cool. People will start saying "so that's how you spell 'whee'!" Without the 'h,' whee just becomes some stupid looking, vaguely onomatopoeic utterance. Although, I must admit that from a purely technical standpoint, I do not understand the English language rules and regulations re: 'w' versus 'wh.' It certainly cannot be phonetic: why not "whindow"? Now, "who" makes sense, but "whine" and "wine" sound the same ‒ can the sole purpose of the 'h' be to serve as a patsy, simply to double number of meanings allocated to each 'w' word? Wee/whee, wine/whine, wet/whet, whit/wit, wack/whack. Why does the English language take such advantage of the 'h' in these instances?! This is an outrage!!"

Also, Dan T (of Exploitation Retrospect) informs me that the "WheeCut" model he saw is self-sharpening. I am there.


June 1996.

1996jun15. Archive Tiem: some graphics used on the site around this time.

1996jun16. Random, pointless A&W "paragraph" with minuscule salute to the Olympics.

There are two or three drive-in A&W restaurants left in the Detroit-Metro area. To place your order, you have to talk into a speaker placed next to a menu. Ray, Phil and I enjoyed a meal of pretend burgers and delicious A&W root beer, while making loud, dumb conversation.

Ray: "The waitress only weighs eight pounds."
Mark: "She looks like Nadia Comaneci strung out on crack."
Phil: "What I like most about the speakers is that they can listen indiscriminately to any conversation you might be having."
[pause]
Ray (falsetto): "I am not eight pounds!"

1996jun16. I'm sure a number of you recently received a "switch-services" check from AT&T for $100. One HUNNERD dollars? That's enough for me to switch from Sprint, then back. I was an AT&T customer for about four hours; the tape with my record had "just popped up," according to the AmeriScam (our local-call monopoly) representative. Somehow I finagled Sprint into letting me hang onto my bonus points; I almost have enough to fly to England. Getting back might be a problem. Anyway, two weeks later, AT&T called. The check had cleared, so I figured I owed them a short conversation.

"You've switched from AT&T to another carrier, we were wondering why this was?"
"I'm not sure..."
"Just going to try out another carrier?"
"Yeah, sure. Whatever."
"We'd like to offer 40% off your blah blah $10 check blah blah...switch tonight."
"No thanks."

Suckers. Thanks for the $100. I spent it on drugs.

Note: That wasn't supposed to sound like an endorsement for either of those bloated corporate phone freaks; I just HAVE to get those bonus points. As soon as I get my Eurotix, I'm going to switch to "Fred's local incompetent co-op phone service." I promise.


September 1996.

1996sep15. Corn-A-Go-Go.

Geared up as I was for Burning Man, I found the need to execute a desert dry-run. Hoping to prepare myself for the directional confusion and rampant dehydration of the playa, I went with some friends to a crappy corn maze.

As our convoy of two cars arrive at the outskirts of the maze, we are tortured by an over-zealous parking lot volunteer. This man clearly hasn't parked a goddamn car in his life, and he wants to make sure that we know this.

"So you see over there, the man with the jacket ... you'll be taking a right into the parking lot, and there's a little hump there...and then he'll guide you to the parking place, it's right where that car pulled in ... and then, on your way out, there's a little hump, and then you go over the second hump and make a left to exit, and then you're out of there."

Perhaps by the end of his shift he'll just be randomly waving at cars to go "over there" and knocking down gin in a little parking lot shack that exists only in his head.

The Corn Car maze design was inspired by Henry Ford's first working car, the 1896 Quadracycle. This "maize-mobile" [editor's note: get it?] is located on the side lawn of the Lincoln-Mercury offices. It cuts a winding road through the 247,000 square feet of corn, a plot operated by Ford Motor Land Development Corporation.
-- instruction sheet

The entry fee is $8.75; the money benefits four cancer foundations, two in the Detroit area. At the starting area, we're given a blank map backed by an instruction sheet; there's also a board here with various maze times posted.

Best maze times
------------------
Running: 11.00 [with full map]
Walking: 22.00 [with full map]
Walking: 27.32 [w/o map]
"Wait a second, the rules say there's no running, so what's the deal here?"
"That's just for comparison purposes."
"We're going to run."

We're led into a small corn nook for an operative briefing. In addition to just getting the hell out, there are sixteen mailboxes scattered throughout the maze. You're supposed to grab little map squares from the mailbox that has the relevant map section. Get all sixteen, and you're a "winner," I guess. There are no rewards offered. You don't get anything for finishing the best, the worst, or just finishing. You get squat. So who cares if you cheat?

"Please don't cut through the corn, or under the bridges ... you don't need to cheat to finish the corn maze."
-- corn briefing guy

The briefing guy goes on to explain that the maze itself creates the image of a large antique car (the "quadracycle"), where the water is, etc. We're handed back to the starting gate; they punch our "official" starting time.

START TIME ‒
24 AUG 96 1 : 34

Several parties are racing through the maze with large, colorful flags. We don't get any, because they're out for the time being. Ray and Jennifer split off into one maze exploration party; Neal and I the other. We're ready to kick this maze's ass.

MAZE MASTERS: There will be several "Maze Masters" to assist you through the maze. They will be sitting in the Towers, watching out for lost Passengers and guiding them to the proper place.
-- instruction sheet

The actual corn in the maze is ribboned off; the ribbons are color-coded according to what area of the maze in which you're currently stuck. Neal has taken over the task of map master; I'm the "split-off guy," rarin' to check alternate routes and get lost.

The official Lincoln-Mercury Amazing Car Corn Maize Maze Map has several questions on it. One column is about cancer, the other Lincoln-Mercury. The answers are apparently hidden in dead-ends throughout the maze.

3. Which cancers can be completely prevented?

a) All cancers caused by cigarette smoking and heavy use of alcohol
b) Breast cancer
c) Throat cancer

10. Who is the Mercury spokesperson?

a) Kate Hepburn
b) Kate Capshaw
c) Kate Jackson

Our initial attack on the maze involves the infamous "right-hand wall" procedure all good computer programmer geeks learn in the womb: follow the right-hand wall, wherever it goes, and eventually you'll have traversed the entire maze. This becomes tedious. We switch to our second option, a carefully thought-out hodge-podge array of "random" maze path selections.

"Dead end! Did you know the Mercury Villager has the highest minivan customer loyalty?"
"Huh!"

Within twenty minutes, Ray and I both end up getting flags from the starting station; now we can keep tabs on each other and yell obscenities in the proper direction.

TELESTALKS: There are four locations (marked by a flag) in the maze from which passengers may talk to the Maze Master. These poles, or "Telestalks," [or, "large plastic tubes] stand in the corn to aid passengers who feel that their directional engine is running on empty [WORK that metaphor, baby, WORK IT!]. Speak loudly into the Telestalk and the Maze Master will answer to assist you.
-- instruction sheet

We practically run over the first Telestalk. It's in a small clearing, so the Maze Master can eyeball you while you crack wise.

MAZE MASTER ... I THINK I LOVE YOU!

We are rapidly filling out our maze map with little squares. The Maze Master at the end of the maze is having an exit interview with a "winner."

"So how many people are with you?"
"My sister, mom and dad, and grandma."
"And you're the first one out?"
"Yup."

I begin planning my exit interview. It will condemn Clinton's posturing election-time attack on Iraq, even though at this time, it hasn't happened yet. The American people must know. I will also try to work in the words "soft-serve" and "Frisbee®."

There are two bridges tucked within the maze. There's Ray's flag, off too far to taunt. We use the high vantage point to scope out maze areas yet to be traversed, and to rest on the steps.

"Pay the toll, or you know, the thing with the troll..."

I can also see the starting station, and drag the flag back. Seven feet of PVC tube is just too damn heavy.

Passengers are free to ask each other for help to the next destination. However, do not share your secrets unless specifically requested to do so. Some Passengers said they could do it without any help, so let's keep them honest for Henry Ford's sake!
-- instruction sheet

You know, usually, when you see a sentence with the words "honest" and "Henry Ford" in it, you automatically expect to find other words like "not very" and "the very antonym thereof."

We've dragged our weary selves through most of the maze. There's only one piece left, #8. Neal is sensing the greater scheme of things.

"There's three consecutive rings to this thing...this is incredibly vicious!"

All the rings run through the #8 area; if you can't find the mailbox in one ring, you have to go all the way around again to test the next ring. A kid rustles through the corn and ends up between Neal and I.

"We've already been through the whole thing."
"Sure, kid."

I motion to his tentative compadres on the other side of the corn, fooled by our adult-like appearance.

"Come ON already! No one's looking."

Meanwhile, Ray's off in another part of the maze, scribbling a mustache on a picture of Kate Jackson. He's discovered the Lincoln-Mercury spokesperson! Spokesman, now, I suppose.

We can't find the last piece. We've spent thirty minutes looking for it.

"Fuck!"

Watch what you say ... there will be children of all ages present. THE CORN HAS EARS!
-- instruction sheet

We're sitting on another one of the bridges, and the Maze Master notices our lethargy and/or the veins bulging out of our foreheads.

"Maze Master ... help us!"
"You know that there are three outer rings to the maze?"
"Yeah."
"Well ..." [thought trails off]
[whispering] "Let's cheat and get the hell out of here."

Up until this time, Neal had to hold me back. I nod slyly to the corn. We slip under the red ribbon and emerge in another ring, cutting fifteen minutes off our time. But we still can't find the damn thing. More cheating is in order. This time, we sneak under the length of one of the bridges.

"Hey, don't go under the bridge!"
"Screw you!"

Here's another Telestalk.

MAZE MASTER ... THE BACK CARGO HOLD IS TAKING ON WATER! THE PUMPS AREN'T WORKING! I'M AFRAID WE'RE DONE FOR, SIR!

Shortly thereafter, we run into Ray and Jennifer and we briefly confer about #8. We're ready to quit. Ray's going to stick it out. We consult the map, cut through some more corn rows to facilitate an easy exit. We walk through a group of people in one of the beginning corn nooks, getting their maze orientation. Good luck to them.

"Remember, there are many ways to traverse the corn maze... for instance, these two gentlemen here have chosen to exit the maze through the entrance."

No exit interview. No throngs of crowds. No ticket-tape parade.

BAIL TIME---
24 AUG 96 3 : 19

Neal and I station ourselves at a picnic table right outside the stupid corn maze.

"Maybe if we regrouped and set the whole maze on fire?"

Jennifer joins us five minutes later. Ray is sticking it out inside the maze, trying to find #8. He is eventually successful, but at what cost?

I'd let you know if it was still going on, but our maze map doesn't have any dates on it. I guess they figured we wouldn't be telling our friends...

97may20 Update. I was recently contacted by the ACTUAL DESIGNER of the Amazing Maize Maze, who lives and works in exotic Pennsylvania. An excerpt from his letter follows.

... had to keep from laughing out loud and waking the wife and kids. I'm forwarding copies to my partners. There have been many stories over the past four years, but few have taken the time and effort of putting the experience in print. I would like to know the name of the writer, and say thank you ...

I thought that was pretty nice, considering I slagged the whole experience heartily. The letter continues:

When another one of our events appears in your area, or anywhere for that matter, consider this an invitation to the challenge.

I will accept that challenge! I will also bring a flamethrower. Here is the letter I sent back.

To: (corn maze guy)
Date: 3/19/97

Howdy. I wrote the corn maze article you referred to in your recent mail to [old email address]. I am glad and confused that you enjoyed it. But since I have your ear (get it? Corn? Ear of corn?), I had a small meeting with the other people who went into the maze with me (the Tiger Team) about what went wrong. The consensus is that getting a piece of the maze map in the section you're currently in is just completely useless. Also, there weren't that many attractive, young women running around in the maze, getting lost and needing help by burly he-men like most of the members of the Tiger Team.

The Tiger Team suggests maybe having one mailbox, or a portion of the maze already sketched out. The Tiger Team can make such brash suggestions because we represent a combined total of over sixty years of programming experience, and we've done the maze thing. And it was too hot, you need sprinklers or something. And a pool in the middle. There's a nice summer treat. Ice cream? These are only suggestions. The Tiger Team also has over sixty years of ice cream experience.

One member of the Tiger Team noticed that you could still see the maze from the airplane as he came into Detroit.

"When another one of our events appears in your area, or anywhere for that matter, consider this an invitation to the challenge."

Get us tickets, anywhere in the US, and we're there, like the song.

1996sep16. Pixbarn: OB Ice beer advertisement (Korea) January 1996.

OB Beer. You've dared to dream. You've hit the heights. You're a burly guy. You think you are some tough shit, don't you? Come on ... you want some of this? Who else wants some? I'll take all of you pansies on. Shoot his kneecaps off, Denise.


October 1996.

1996oct11. Mail.

This is so cool ... Almost just like if I were to have gone through the last four years thinking that my best friend had died and now had miraculously turned up in the witness protection program or something ... (come to think of it, i think that would be a good plot for a "feel-good" summer hit.) I am just very happy to find that y'all are still in existence. The first issue that i saw of your zine was the 'lil people issue, and i thought it was the greatest thing since packaged oxygen. I also saw a couple subsequent issues (the other milk and cheeze issue (milk and cheese are a whole other taste sensation in themselves..) and the negativland, and then my neighborhood purveyer of crappy comix and role playing games said that they had no magazines, and didn't know if they were ever coming back ... I sobbed that night just like i did when I lost my favorite starwars figure (the carbonite han solo) [insert brady-bunch unhappy theme music here] and thought that life would never be the same. A few months later, a new zine popped up at the good ol towe, and huzzah ... it was Hypno ... but that quickly degraded, and started to take on the appearance of a women's fashion magazine, and their subscription's never actually went out on time (i was able to pick the issue up at the store a month before it was mailed to me..) and so, there again, life was empty [return to brady sad music] I returned to my life of longing. (fast forward a year or two...) (you may be wondering if this is going anywhere, and I have to to agree with you, if you find out what i am rambling on, please let me know)

I finally stopped hitchhiking on the infobahn recently when the newspaper i work on finally went "online" [ugh] and I was looking up evan dorkin when i stumbled into your domain ... well let me say (from what i can see) your style is kick-ass ... and I want to subsribe ... frankly, i would love to buy stock (but then again, i am a college student, so nevermind) ... but i would be R E A L L Y interested in subscribing and whatever else that entails ...

(well, i am being dragged out for a cigarrette) (more pertinent information, of course)

Please send me whatever is necessary for subscription and trinkets...

thanksabunch.

Charles/Pat/Kazimer/Tangboy/J.s, Esq.


November 1996.

1996nov05. It's Archive Tiem again! Here are a selection of graphics used on this site around this time.

1996nov07. Mail.

Just thought I'd let you know that you can still experience the wonder of visiting an automat, but you'll have to trek all the way to Amsterdam. There, little restaurants called FEBO adorn many of the picturesque and tourist-laden strassen. A FEBO looks like the wall of PO boxes at the post office, except that the doors are transparent, and there are coin slots instead of keyholes. FEBO employees are hidden behind the wall of tiny clear cubicles, busily preparing tasty FEBOtreats. Although there are a large number of tiny compartments at a FEBO, it's hard to tell if there is any difference in their contents. Each one simply contains something small, breaded, deep-fat-fried, and unidentifiable. The up-side is that it doesn't cost much to eat at a FEBO; for a couple of guilders, you can slide open the door to reveal a scrumptious "broodje mit kass" (whatever that means). They're also open 24 hours a day, if I remember correctly.

-- Gary Wicker

P.S. ‒ I've visited Amsterdam twice, but have yet to work up the nerve to actually eat FEBO cuisine.

I'm inclined to use my Sprint Bonus Flight (see Missive #985195) just to experience FEBO in Amsterdam. Oh, and the pot. And the hookers ("strassen"). And whatever else they've got lying around.

1996nov07. The day after a certain party, I had to move all my belongings, and then some, to a new rented house thing. Mistake #1: owning a lot of things. Mistake #2: renting a U-Haul truck. This wasn't that wimpy little pick-up designed for maximum head banging (rent one sometime; I'm not talking about music here), this was a monster truck (SATURDAY! SATURDAY!) with stripped gears and no center rearview mirror. I had to fight it for nine painful hours, sometimes on major freeways. The stick shift, the steering, the brakes, everything was conspiring against me. I was worried about sideswiping small cars or fauna hiding on either side of the truck, but then I just stopped caring. "Listen for metal scraping metal," I thought, and began to enjoy truckerdom. I ruled the road! A turn signal would send drivers fleeing for other lanes. Wise, they are. "Fuck YOU, asshole!" I would yell at no one in particular over the crappy radio blaring what the DJ referred to as "Alternative Rock" (I've got to check into this). My U-Haul experience brought with it a newfound respect for truckers. And the inclination to give other U-Haul greenhorn idiots out there a wide berth.


December 1996.

1996dec23. The Pastry Chef Manifesto That Started Out As One Sentence And Now It's More.

I've finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a pastry chef. Cool hat. Free pastries. Check me out. Women like pastries, too. Bargaining power. I've got pastries, you don't have pastries. You could have some pastries, these pastries, that I made. This is what I will say, Mark Simple the Pastry Chef, to the women. Yes.

1996dec23. Found scrawled on a one-dollar bill:

"Dead beat dads should go to jail when they quit a job or get fired"
"Dead beat parants (sic) are bad role models"
"Dead beat parents have to (sic) many rights"
"It take 2 to create"

I call this my "deadbeat dad dollar," and it's been in my wallet for two months now. I've been whittled down to a dollar several times, and through sheer will, determination and lying ("No money, someone slide me some cash"), I've been able to hold onto it. My own divorced-dad thing paid his alimony pretty regularly. The last time I saw him was around Christmas of 1981. He took my sister and me to Pack-N-Save and got us Tic-Tacs after he did his shopping. Warm, warm, happy. Merry.

1996dec23. Ann Landers: The Thinking Man's Art Buchwald.

A recent Ann Landers column (December 16th) centered around reader's responses to another reader's suggestion to come up with "a signal of apology when [a motorist] goofs."

[memo to myself: invent innovative human-interest/advice column that will encourage large reader interaction so I can sit on my butt all day and be a conversational conduit for the clueless masses]

Most of the ten suggestions come from backwater towns like Nescopeck, Pennsylvania [you know, the state where they STOP at the end of the freeway on-ramp, waiting for a good time to merge in at 15mph]. Here's the creme de la stupid:

From Pompano Beach, Florida:
"Open your window and tap the top of your car roof with your hand. It works for me."
["Come in, the door's open...oh, that's me]

From Atlanta, Georgia:
"I think the universal gesture for surrender, or forgiveness, is to smile and raise both arms, palms outward. Of course, if your car is still moving, you should only do this for a brief second."
[This NBC Olympic Moment brought to you by PFG Safety Glass]

From Waco, Texas: [fill-in-blank quiz: The _____ from Waco]
"I suggest the natural gesture children use ‒ place the flat of your hands against your cheeks. I've done this several times, and people always wave their acceptance. In fact, I've had to do it so often that I'm working on paying better attention to my driving."

From Florissant, Missouri: [population: -37]
"The perfect hand signal is the military salute. It's simple, everybody knows how to do it and it shows respect for the other driver."

From Kilgore, Texas:
"Move your index finger back and forth across your neck ‒ as if you are cutting your throat. The message is clear."

The message is clear, indeed. "I'm going to kill you." Can you imagine getting into one accident with all of these idiots? One salutes you, one's about to put their hands through the glass, another's banging on the roof, still another turns into Macaulay Culkin, and the last one wants to slit your throat. These are the people that read Ann Landers ‒ and they're all raving nut cases. I wonder if she sells her mailing list to marketers, this is the very definition of psychographics in action. My answer to all of this: never apologize. I will also share with you the way I signal someone when they've made a mistake: wave while sporting a sickening-sweet smile. Additionally, if they've pulled out too far in an intersection as I pass, I give them "Doppler Horn" ‒ blow your horn long enough that they get the Doppler effect. Hold it down even longer during the holidays ‒ "Christmas Doppler Horn." Or I just smash into them. This is my way of showing respect for the other driver.

"That Ann Landers, man, that was powerful."
-- Todd R. Capsule Review, Ann Landers Slagfest

1996dec23. I recently moved to a new house with a friend. Our electrical bill is sky-high, and we're really not sure why; we're just sure we're not going to light up any Christmas lights this year. Ironically, our big spender might be the dryer (for those of you just joining us, The Missives are brought to you by a multi-national conglomerate named "Dryer Systems"). I'm putting most of my chips on the oven, though, it's a mad little sailor. It has an on-board guide for cooking things ("CHICKEN, DUCK 325-375"), and push-buttons for the top burners, all lined up in a row from left to right:

HI 2 3 LO WM OFF

I wasn't really sure how to read the "2" and "3"; if you're demarcating a temperature, wouldn't "3" be hotter than "2"? Follow along here, because I'm setting up a joke. Then one day, I got splashed with some hot water, and realized those buttons stood for second and third-degree burns. I'm not pushing those again! You'd think I would have learned my lesson; when I was around three years old, I almost killed myself by pushing the wrong button. That would be the "NEUTRAL" button on a 1964 Valiant; it was parked on a hill. What? You don't remember the big push button button-pushing craze of the sexy '60's? Push buttons on cars! Automatic Torqueflite Transmission! So easy! A little too easy. Supermom stopped the car from rolling down the hill while she yelled at me to get away from the open door. Not that I remember, I don't even know what I had for lunch today. But it sure wasn't prepared on that screwball oven.