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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lucky 13: Thoughts of You Are Such a Welcome part of my Day.

May a lucky thirteenth day be upon all crockpot readers!

In efforts to legitimize this daily drivel into a recognizable blog format, I spent some time today perusing images that might jazz up the page as the NBA did Utah. Let me be the first to say, if you want to be equal parts enticed and repulsed, conduct an image search for the term “fish crockpot.”

Many search results looked delicious. These pictures evoked a tastiness that is near what I imagine Gargamel had been trying to perfect in his giant cauldron, but failed to achieve due to the wily ways of escaping smurfs and the resulting missing smurfiness that would be, I assume, delectable if smurfs had simmered with other ingredients for several hours. Gastronomic, if not actual, gold.

As the internet clearly showed me, plenty of other animated souls are successfully achieving delight in one giant pot, and are even taking the time to take pictures over which the rest of us will drool.

Living in Los Angeles, very rare are the days when you just need to curl up with a big bowl of something warm and hearty that will stick to your ribs and undo the harsh effects of a winter night. I understand from everyone I am related to living elsewhere that there have been many chilly nights this winter that are best endured by also becoming chili nights. I found several of these crock pictures to be so appetizing that I almost wished for the requisite snow and sleet, cold fingers and toes, (I guess a job as a New Hampshire postal carrier?) to make these pot meals a realistic notion brimming with possibility, as well as something tomato-based, and maybe some beans? A bay leaf? Whatever it takes.

My cold weather fantasy gets cut short around the time that I realize I would need a wizard, a kindly grandmother, or a non-evil Gargamel (Grandmamamel?) in that scenario to concoct a stew that would simmer all day toward deliciousness until the world and the weather had blown me home to enjoy it.
Lacking such a Julia Child prodigy, it is better then that I stay put in L.A., where only the Lycra from your yoga top should be sticking to your ribs.

By contrast from their tantalizing counterparts, the “other” fish crockpot images were just fine viewed at their original thumbnail size. Various meat-, fish-, and bean-based sludge seemed to be collected in pots across this great land, then photographed for sharing!

Though rife with cautionary visual tales, my search proved many red, white, and blue-blooded Americans seem to be enjoying the wonders of crockpot cooking.

And now on to the grand finale or this precursor departure of sorts. The biggest prize in all of my searching was not even a pot.

I believe it took me until about page 11 of the results for me to discover this:

Somehow this artistry, though quite creative, fails on multiple levels as I find it to be both a disgusting depiction of the contents of a crockpot and a wholly unappetizing bit of pastry. And for me to say a cake doesn’t look like good eats - it’s gotta be rough.

Keep your eyes peeled for more grotesque, theme-appropriate visuals soon!

Speaking of rough, today I felt remorse for being rather gruff on the phone while talking to my dad yesterday. As day twelve’s entry states, I was glum. Not in the best mood for shooting the breeze. So today, bound by the confines of my desk job, I took to the one realm where you can say it all (surprisingly, not this blog!), send a smile, and wrap it in a hug without leaving your cubicle – the world of the e-card!

Even though I am generally a cynical bastard [
ref. days 1- impending 40], I do enjoy e-cards quite a bit and think that they nearly always serve their exact intended purpose- showing someone you care a little more than enough to email.

The e-card is a great way to tell someone that you think enough of him or her to guess his or her spirits might be brightened by simple animation set to a simple melody that repeats itself endlessly.

Maybe e-card melodies trigger memory associations with the approach of ice cream trucks or a mobile over my crib in infancy (I don’t even know if I had a mobile in infancy), but I cannot recall a single instance when an e-card hasn’t made me just a little happier than I was before I clicked on the link to retrieve my electronic greeting.

That may be part of it too- the active role you must take to retrieve the e-card. The fact that it’s a two-step process creates moments of serene anticipation because you know you’re waiting for something good, it’s just a matter of how good. The email notification is all part of the build up. To a dog playing fetch, actually retrieving the ball is his part of the covenant.

Come on Frank, you love me enough to throw the ball, and if you’ll do that for me, again and again, I’ll go get it. I’ll go get it boy, just like you say. I’ll go get it. Yes Frank, I, your dog, Ernest, will go get it. And be your good dog. Your good boy. That’s right.

So too with the e-card retrieval. To know you are loved, you must go get what has been thrown far a field for only you to sniff out. Only you can find it.

You have commit to a whole new browser window before you begin your adventure. And if your internet connection is a little slower that day, ooh the suspense! By the time you get to a teddy bear hugging a kitten with the “Miss you beary much friend” message overtop of a song that sounds a lot like “Turkey in the Straw” if it were a club mix, it’s all you can do to still look like you’re doing work, so overpowering is the excitement hammered into every mouse click that your finger tips tap. And then there’s the opportunity for the personal touches – the message.

The message is the part where someone can either take two minutes to actually show you they were thinking of you by writing something unique to them and their relationship with you (i.e. the exact number of years they know you have achieved on this, your birthday being celebrated by the e-card), or one minute to show you they were really only willing to go as far as the e-card already went by including some generalized indicator that they in fact sent you that pre-fabricated card and that it’s not spam (i.e. their name after “Love,”). Both are fine, but the former truly cements the e-giver as someone who cares enough to take one more minute away from their time surfing the internet at work to connect with you. It’s a nice thing, what can I say.

Well, today, after having found an e-card and composing my own two-minute message that amounted to “sorry I was a bitch” to send to my dad, I looked at the features on the e-card web site and realized “suggested messages” was a pull-down menu for use. Aren’t the messages on the e-card themselves already the suggested messages? How could you need more pre-fabricated message than that? That’s the point of the e-card!

Turns out if 2 minutes of actual input to an e-card is out of the question and 1 minute still seems to be an excessive amount of time to spend on a friend, you can get your e-card send-time down to 30 seconds by choosing a general suggested message. This made me wonder, “Who actually uses these?”

My first assumption – a.holes. People who have their secretaries do some e-carding for them, or people who just do not give an F about the beary special people in their lives. The other option that crossed my mind was maniacal a. holes who REALLY care about the beary special people in their lives, but use generic suggested messages to underscore their disregard for those beary special people and wound them emotionally through email greetings that the recipients will no doubt receive with the full knowledge that the sender has only the time to send along his or her version of electronic ill will, so insincere is the card. Then a third option came to mind – engineers and the like.

Apparently the opposite of my brain is that of an engineer. Our thought processes are so different that I often can’t even understand them. I love them (really, the engineers I know are FABULOUS, brilliant people), but they posses a certain directness in language, logic, and general ability to assemble IKEA furniture that I just do not get. They are often able to relate events to others in two to three sentences!!! It occurred to me that these people might see the utility of using a formula in place of reworking a problem (message content) and as such, might opt for an acceptable suggested message. To some engineers, this might be streamlining the communication process for greater efficiency and, therefore, not intentionally ridiculous.

Optimization of process rather than writing overwrought little original messages to friends. I see this point of view, though clearly (see: this blog) I would opt for overwrought messages. This third group, therefore, is excused from my assessed scorn for those using the “suggested message” feature along with the disabled, the elderly, and the guy who wrote “Footprints” the inspirational poem. His iconic gift to the world has been copied and merchandised enough that he’s earned it. (Ok, looking that up I just found that most of the authors claiming to have written that poem are women. My apologies ladies!)

Go ahead, use someone else’s greeting while drinking from a coffee mug with your own poem on it, then resting that mug on a mouse pad with your own poem on it. Let e-cards be the one set of footprints this time.

Having thus set my parameters for judging others, I decided to take a look in the ole’ suggestion box to see just how genuine an emotional tone one could strike. Another wonderland opened unto me by a pull-down menu.

I started local and specific - Easter. Three options:
Secular: “Wishing you chocolate smiles and jellybean grins!”
Religious: “Wishing you a peaceful and blessed Easter!”
Re-purposed Valentine’s Day: “Hope your Easter is as sweet as you!”

Things just got better from there.

Several holidays had interchangeable e-card message options. The Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa messages, for example, had many ways to say have a great day with your friends, family, religion, or foodstuffs, depending on which of those options the e-card recipient valued most. There were also non-occasion cards with substantial suggested message overlap.

The suggested messages for the “Friendship-sorry” category were:

“I wish I knew just what to say to make things better.”
“Sometimes words just aren’t enough.”
“A little hug to say ‘I’m sorry.’”
“I’d love to see you smile again.”
“Thinking of you and wishing you brighter days ahead.”
“I’m sorry to see you hurting so.”
“Life can be so hard sometimes.”
“May you be comforted by the many warm thoughts of those who care.”

I’m pretty sure that last one is an old sympathy card standard. And “thinking of you and wishing you brighter days ahead,” is also one that can be used in the get well soon or sympathy sections of greeting cards. So when I went to the “just because – sorry” section, I found the exact same suggestions. Ok, I suppose friends are the people who send e-cards just because, so friendship and just because sorry themed e-cards could have the same message. But then I checked ‘Love & Dating- Sorry” and found the exact same suggested messages!

If the person you’re dating apologizes with, “May you be comforted by the many warm thoughts of those who care,” you’re probably dating one of those a.holes I mentioned since he/she is not including him/herself as a source of warm thoughts. That’s not a relationship “sorry” card, that’s a relationship “we’re breaking up” card. Really, most of the above messages would have to have an addendum to be used in a love & dating scenario.

“A little hug to say ‘I’m sorry…I slept with your best friend.’”
“Life can be so hard sometimes for people dating a douchebag like me.”
“I’d love to see you smile again, but I’d really love to see you put down that screwdriver you’re wielding.”
“I wish I knew just what to say to make things better. But clearly, by using this greeting someone else wrote, I don’t. And this may be a good time to view this e-card as a metaphor for our entire relationship and really re-consider my capacity to fulfill your needs. Yes, I did read that last part in O Magazine, why do you ask?”

There was also a hilarious ménage a trois going on in the suggested messages of the “Boss’s Day,” “Administrative Professional’s Day,” and “Mother’s Day” e-cards.

Boss’s Day
“You’re the best!”
“I’m so lucky you’re my boss”
“Thanks for everything.”

Administrative Professional’s Day
“I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done!”
“I’d be lost without you!”
“Thank you for all the big and little things you do!”

Mother’s Day
“You mean the world to me!"
"You're in my thoughts today, as usual!"
"Hope your Mother's Day is perfect in every way."
"I'd be lost without you!"
"Happy Mother's Day to the best of the best!"

Apparently, the way to an administrative professional’s heart is the exclamation point. And declaring your own idiocy. Whereas the way to your boss’s heart is declaring your appreciation of the fact that this individual has power over you. And the mother’s day cards – well those are a mix of the first two –either declaring your own inability to function without the assistance of this person, or declaring their superior authority and your happiness to just be a part of her excellent team. Most of the mother’s day offerings could all be redone with passive-aggressive addendums:

“You mean the world to me! But I’m in therapy so that I can one day successfully interact with others and meet realistic expectations of a human being!”

“You’re in my thoughts today, as usual! But I’m in therapy so that I can one day successfully interact with others and meet realistic expectations of a human being!”

“Hope your Mother’s Day is perfect in every way. Because perfection is what you demand from everything you touch. But I’m in therapy so that I can one day successfully interact with others and meet realistic expectations of a human being!”

This also might be a good time to borrow from other categories for gems like the “I’m so lucky you’re my boss!” (also useful for many anniversaries).
“Life can be hard sometimes,”
from the “sorry” offerings of any category with addendum “sorry to be such a gross disappointment as your child.”

And if you haven’t gotten around to getting that therapy to one day successfully interact with others and meet realistic expectations of a human being, you can always borrow one for mom from the “Just because” section like “Just taking a minute to keep in touch,” or “Hi! Remember me?”

Now if a boss really cares and is an a.hole, he or she can borrow one from the “Just Because” section and send “Just wondering how things are in your little corner of the world” to his or her administrative professional who sits in the worst cubicle in the office. That’s also a great e-card to serve as a reminder from the boss to that administrative professional to be sure to send him or herself an Administrative Professionals’ day card on behalf of the boss. That’s a good time for the administrative professional to send back an “I’m so lucky you’re my boss!” with the addendum “This is probably an obvious lie. It came from the suggested message offerings. I wish it were true.”

Some of the “Care & Concern” suggested messages actually give me concern. If you’re using an e-card to say “Don’t give up,” don’t you think you may not be reaching that person who’s apparently on the verge of total collapse quite as directly as he or she may need it? I mean, even seeing that message requires the step of retrieval, and if you’re thinking about giving up, sending e-cards with extra steps is kind of a dick thing to do because it’s like, taunting this person to give up before seeing the message not to.

I also don’t quite love the messages of “I think about you more often than you know”
or “You’ve been on my mind a lot lately…”
Those are not added ellipsis, by the way. That’s like, serial killer thought bubble extraordinaire:

“Oh good! Someone’s taken all the extra effort out of stalking for me! Now a greeting that says EXACTLY what I want it to say without me having to take time away from breathing heavily into a phone then hanging up or cutting the eyes out of all the faces in O Magazine! Thank heavens for e-cards! ‘I’d be lost without you!’”

And now, my two favorite suggested messages.
2. “Something happened today that made me think of you…”
NO SHIT. That’s why you sent an e-card.

1. “I care about you, more than words can say.”
"…As evidenced by the lame message of this e-card that I couldn’t’ even write myself. So just know, I really care. Like, a lot."

Ahhhh, so we draw another post to a close. May I just say, beleaguered readers,
“Whatever happens, never forget how amazing you are!” and
"You’ve made a difference in my life.”

No really, that last one is true. Especially with the addendum, “I’m in therapy so that I can one day successfully interact with others and meet realistic expectations of a human being!”

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