Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Uphill, Both Ways

     The February that sticks in my mind as the most memorable would have to be the one where Wolverine, my long-awaited and much beloved baby brother, made his surprise entrance into the world a full two and a half months early.  After that, the second most memorable would have to be the Blizzard To End All Blizzards.  Before you land on me with stories of your childhood trips to school in six feet of snow with no shoes and your little sister on your back, please understand: I live in the South.  Snow, when it happens, is usually light, messy, and sticks around just long enough to be a pain before it melts away.  I loathe snow and everything about it, but thankfully, mercifully, I am not forced to endure very much of it.

      Except for that Blizzard To End All Blizzards.

      It was a rather cold February and my skin burned with a taunting reminder of why I don’t ski, snowboard, or ice skate.  The weather forecast called for heavy snowfall with “substantial accumulation”, but I rolled my eyes.  I’ve seen schools closed for two days waiting for “substantial accumulation” that amounted to little more than a half-dozen lonely flurries skittering across a dry, deserted parking lot.  It’s like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.  How was I supposed to know this time it was for real?  Local Grocery was swarming with panicked doomsdayers hastily snatching up tiny bits of firewood at 10 bucks a bundle and milk at 8 bucks a gallon.  It was pandemonium, and I refused to take part.  By the time I got home, snow was falling at an alarming rate and the wind was starting to sound like an ominous background track to a horror movie.  I was beginning to realize that, though the last 600 warnings for “significant accumulation” were bunk, number 601 might have some merit. 

      My house is in the country.  It’s a nice house with all the modern conveniences, but it is rural.  As I saw the snow falling and heard the wind howling, I started making “just in case” preparations.  I filled the bathtub with water so we could still flush toilets, brought in a few logs of firewood, and closed off back rooms.  The Yankee looked at me with his eyebrows up to his former hairline.  “What are you doing?”  I dropped my load of firewood on the hearth and moved to the kitchen to fill bottles for drinking water.  “I’m preparing for a romantic interlude with Jamison, our butler.”  He rolled his eyes and went back to his TV show.  Moments after tucking Buttercup in for the night, the power went out. 

      Now, when I say, “The power went out,” I must tell you what this means:  No water.  No heat.  No means of food preparation.  No entertainment.  Nothing.  Nada.  And because of our rural location, the power company has put our house on the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the priority list.  We are about 47 steps down from the circuit that runs the nightlight in the outhouse at the bottom of the cow field on the other side of Farmer Peterson’s deer stand.  When the power goes out in our neck of the woods, it stays out.  I hate the fact that it is freezing cold and boring, but I choose to make the most of it.  The Yankee, being himself, is extraordinarily grouchy about the whole situation and resigns himself to hibernation and a diet of beef jerky while he waits for his beloved television to work again.  I decided that my child would NOT be living off potato chips so I pull out the trusty iron skillet collection.  “How do you want your eggs?” I ask The Yankee.  He opens one eye and stares at me.  “How are you planning to cook these?  Over a candle?”  I inhale deeply and count to 10 so I don’t say what is on my mind.  “No dear,” I drawl with saccharin sweetness, “I was planning on makin’ y’all some lil’ ole eggs in this here skillet over the fire.”  He turns over in his chair and snorts, “Yeah.  Good luck with that.”

      Ten minutes later, he awakens to the sizzling sound of fried eggs and poetic justice. 

      Three days later, we make it out of the house.  The snow has formed a barrier as far as the eye can see and the truck is barely able to make it over the frozen speed bumps of ice and snow.  Smelling like a fireplace and armpits, we make it to Mom and Dad’s for a hot shower and food that doesn’t taste like a smoke pit.  It is an amazing feeling and I vow to never again take the simple things for granted.  On our sad journey back to the Igloo (as we lovingly christened our house), we stopped by Save-More Club to pick up some supplies. 

     As I wander the aisles, I can not locate a single winter-related item.  No chem logs.  No firewood.  No ice melt.  After walking for a half hour, I finally find an employee.  “Excuse me,” I began, “Where would I find the winter supplies?”  She looks at me and over-enunciates like I’m a complete buffoon.  “Uhhh, this is Feb-yoo-wary.  We don’t HAVE winter crap anymore.  We cleared all that out six weeks ago to make room for pool chemicals.”  I was stunned.  “First of all, there is an ‘r’ in Feb-roo-wary.  Secondly, Spring is not officially here until the Vernal Equinox on March 20 so this is still, indeed, WINTER.  And Third, who on God’s green earth is worried about a swimming pool when there is three feet of snow on the ground?!”  She just smiled as if to say, “You poor dumb customer.  The whys and wherefores of merchandising are far above your meager understanding.”  I make it back out to the truck.  “Well,” said The Yankee, now sorry for rolling his eyes at me days earlier, “What did you find?”  I sighed, “A size-6 string bikini and chlorine shock treatment.”  Back we sauntered to the Igloo and waited for the storm to be over. 

      Our power came back on after 5 days.  The house smelled like a chimney, we were starting to smell like armpits again, and I longed for a meal cooked in a warm kitchen on a functioning stove with the strains of Dean Martin annoying The Yankee in the background.  Speaking of The Yankee, he got on board with the whole “ingenuity” thing.  We now have a camping stove so I don’t have to hover over the fire place with a skillet anymore.  He’s stocked up on firewood and bought a kerosene heater.  There will probably be another 600 forecasts for “significant accumulation” before we see another Blizzard To End All Blizzards, but I’ll trudge through ... uphill, both ways.  

© Bertha Grizzly 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: Dumb Things People Say When They Find Out I’m a Writer

     One of the first questions an acquaintance will usually ask is, “So what do you do?”  I usually assume they mean, “what do I do for a living” so I answer with, “I’m a writer”.  If I answered with, “I’m a world-renowned brain surgeon” or “I teach disabled children”, the response might be one of awe or admiration.  If I answered with, “I tame lions” or “I’m a candy taster”, the response might be one of extreme interest.  When I answer with, “I’m a writer”, I often wonder if I mistakenly said, “I sit on a park bench and stare at my thumb nail.”  People have no clue what to say, so they start to babble.  I think I’ve heard just about everything.

     Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s the Dumb Things People Say  When They Find Out I’m a Writer list:

13) “You’re a writer?  Like, at a bookstore?”  No.  I’m a writer, like, at my computer in yoga pants and a Muppets T-shirt.     

12) “Do you have an assistant to write for you?”  What?!  I do my own writing, t hank you very much.  And if I did have an assistant, I think I would have that person clean my house so I could write more.   

11) “I bet you are rich since you’re famous!”  I started this column with nothing and I still have most of it left.  And if I’m famous, I really need to have a talk with the deli manager at Local Grocery for how long they make me wait for a half-pound of corned beef.    

10) “Can you introduce me to famous people?”  Part of me wants to answer with “for a fee”.  Another part of me wants to smack you across the forehead.  Do I look like Truman Capote?

9) “I be you get to travel a lot!”  Uhh, does a jaunt into town to buy dog food count as “travelling”?       

8) “I bet The Yankee is your biggest fan!”  Actually, no.  The Yankee is vaguely aware I have “a column thingy”, as he calls it, but he cannot locate it on the Internet nor is he even remotely interested in its content.       

7) “I bet you have crowds who want your autograph.”  Only when it’s time to sign the credit card receipt.  

6) “You’re a writer?!  Oh my gosh, do you get people sending bottles of wine to your table at restaurants?!”  I don’t think the drive-thru at the Sammich Hut is allowed to sell alcohol.       

5) “How do you come up with your characters?”  I live with these people.  No, I’m serious.      

4) “All this ridiculous stuff happens to you, I bet you laugh a lot!”   Guess again. 

3) “Do you really have an autistic daughter?”  Actually, I have a son named Filbert who’s been locked in his room playing Pogs since 1992.  I just thought an imaginary autistic daughter would make a fun pastime.      

2) “You’re a writer?  I’ve never heard of you.”  I said “writer” ... not Pulitzer Prize winning author.       

1) “I could never be a writer.  Nothing interesting ever happens to me.”  I have news for you.  “Interesting” depends entirely upon your perspective.  If you spend your life down in the dumps, staring at your feet, you will never see the interesting.  If you search for drama in every aspect of life like some redneck with trailer park hair, you run the risk of dramatizing every boring, minute detail of the excruciatingly mundane.  Look up, open your eyes, and don’t read into everything.  You may be shocked by how much “interesting” you really have around you.    

© Bertha Grizzly 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ask Bertha

Dear Bertha,
            Are you really married to The Yankee?
             — Martin

Dear Martin,
             Thank you for asking.  No, I am not actually married to anyone.  I decided one day that I did not have enough turmoil in my life so I scoured the Internet for a remedy to this problem.  I found an overseas company specializing in television-addicted robots who prefer a lumpy recliner to an exciting evening out and can hibernate for an entire 3-day weekend.  I shopped the clearance page and got a discount for a discontinued model whose “Fine Arts” chip and hand-applied hair extension were missing, but had somehow ended up with two “stubbornness” routers.  He came with outdated clothes and plenty of baggage and I am so glad I decided not to get married.
             — Bertha

Dear Bertha,
            It sounds like you eavesdrop at restaurants.  Isn’t that rude?
             — Molly

Dear Molly,
            When I am dining alone, as I often do, I am not in a position to be distracted by conversation as my imaginary friend, Clovis, doesn’t like to talk in public.  If another diner is seated within earshot and insists on speaking at a decibel level similar to that of a gas-powered wood chipper, I find it difficult to ignore.  So the next time you are alone in your car at a stoplight and a kid in an $800 hatchback pulls alongside you blasting his $4,000 sound system, remember this: he is just trying to enjoy a good song.  You are eavesdropping.  How rude.
            — Bertha

Dear Bertha,
           I am a stay-at-home mom of three kids.  I cook, clean, and homeschool.  My husband says I don’t “work” because I don’t earn a paycheck.  How can I help him see me in a different light?
            — Kelly

Dear Kelly,
           Every time you do something, leave the jerk a bill.  As a paid employee (housekeeper, nanny, tutor, cook, laundress, seamstress, landscaper, referee, etc.) you are entitled to at least one day off per week.  Leave home at 6am and don’t return for 36 hours.  When you do come back, throw yourself in a recliner, screech “WHEW, WHAT A DAY!!” and go to sleep.  Yell at the kids if they breathe too loudly, then say, “What’s for dinner?”  If he doesn’t start seeing you in a “different light” after about a month, serve him lumpy oatmeal for dinner every night for the rest of his stupid life.  What’s he going to do?  Fire you?  If he tries, tell him you’re union and refuse to make his oatmeal.
            — Bertha 

Questions for Bertha?  E-mail with “Ask Bertha” in the subject line.  Be careful what you ask: good questions will be answered.  Stupid or negative questions may be deleted, ridiculed, or end up the un-credited, uncompensated, unwitting subject of a future blog post.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

© Bertha Grizzly 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cake Is My Weakness: Part Two

     At 2am, I unmolded my second attempt at a giant cupcake for Buttercup’s birthday.  A beautifully formed confection waited for me to decorate it into a pink and white fantasy worthy of the fairiest of fairy princesses.  I was ecstatic that this cake looked like it might hold up, unlike its pitiful, gelatinous, gluey predecessor.  I dropped in the bed, exhausted but ready to give Buttercup a birthday to remember.  I got up the next morning and readied myself for a day of low-key, autism-friendly festivities, the highlight being my pink-sational centerpiece.  I rounded the corner to the kitchen and gasped at what lay before me.

     My naked cake had cracked.

     I don’t mean a hairline fracture or an unfortunate divot.  I mean a full-fledged, “watch your step please”, deep as the Grand Canyon, crackamundo crevice.  I decided right then that the god of crappy baking must be named Squidge-Bucket Jelly-Fart and he hates me.  I tried to apologize for whatever I had done to be so displeasing, but it was too late.  Squidge-Bucket Jelly-Fart had already cursed my cake with his lightning crack of fury.  As I surveyed the damage, The Yankee comes to the kitchen in search of something caffeinated.  “My cake!” I screeched, pointing at the chocolate disaster on the counter, “It’s ruined!”  He yawned, bleary-eyed and grumpy as ever.  “That’s nice.  Where’s the sugar spoon?”  I glared at him, “Don’t tempt me.”

     I stared at my disastrous, cracked cake, looking progressively sadder and more hideous by the minute.  I have no more boxes of cake mix.  I am out of eggs and cocoa powder so scratch baking is out of the question (not that I’m any good at it anyway).  We have to leave for Mom and Dad’s house in an hour.  I am out of options.  I plunk the lid on the cake carrier and grit my teeth.  I’ll think of something ... I have to. 

     We get to Mom and Dad’s, Buttercup blissfully unaware of the crackpot cake in the trunk and the crackpot mother in the front seat.  Dad, Moose and Red, Wolverine and Midge were already present and accounted for.  Mom would arrive later in the afternoon thanks to a no-husbands-allowed vacation she had enjoyed with a friend.  I left unpacking “Krakatoa” for last, and was not surprised to find Squidge-Bucket Jelly-Fart had deepened the Great Divide to the point the cake was now split in half.  Oh joy.  While Dad and The Yankee talked shop with Moose and Wolverine, Red and Midge tried not to laugh at my cursed attempt at baking.  I tried to laugh it off, “We shall overcome!  I have come armed with icing!”

     Why did I think this would work?

     Evidently, some bored person with a shrewd interest in making a fast buck off DIY bakers decided to sell squares of parchment paper as “easy to roll!” pastry bags in a box of 100.  I quickly discovered 100 is a requirement if you intend to be as tenacious as I am.  For almost an hour, I rolled, re-rolled, taped, glued, folded, wrinkled, and subsequently destroyed 95 squares of the slickest, most slippery paper ever marketed.  I would have had more success nailing cotton candy to a gelatin square.  Red waiting until she got outside before she laughed at me for calling parchment square #96 a “snortin sniveling frick turd moo moo head.” 

     I finally found one of Mom’s pastry bags, filled it with icing, and squeezed.  BOOM!!  The coupler gave way as icing and a decorating tip flew across the kitchen like a runaway balloon.

     I think I screamed a little.

     Finally, I managed to get a bit of cooperation from another one of Mom’s pastry bags.  I mixed electric pink and neon green icing to Buttercup’s exacting specifications.  With some creativity birthed from extreme desperation, I managed to turn the crackamundo cake of doom into a rock covered in a neon vine of electric pink flowers with a garden of beautiful flowers flowing from a crack in the “rock”.  I was sweaty, I had a headache, and I hoped I never saw another square of parchment as long as I lived.  Even so, I was thrilled at Buttercup’s smile and nearly wept as she said, “Oh Mama.  My flower so beautiful.”  Maybe it had been worth the effort after all.  I could breathe a sigh of relief. 

     “Hey Bert,” someone called out.  “How’d you get a pudding center in the middle of this cake?”

© Bertha Grizzly 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cake Is My Weakness: Part One

     Any mother worth her weight in dust bunnies is going to make an effort to see that her child has a very happy birthday.  I don’t mean live zoo animals at lavishly catered affairs costing more than an Ivy League semester.  I mean the small touches that celebrate another year of life with a treasured loved one.  When Buttercup’s birthday rolls around, I look forward to the small ways I can show her I am happy she got to be my little sidekick one more year.  I love all of it: making a “Happy Birthday” sign, picking out pretty napkins I know she will love, wrapping a gift with a sparkly bow … it’s fabulous, every bit of it.  Except the cake.  I can admit it: cake is my weakness.  But not eating it. 

      Hi, my name is Bertha and I can’t bake a cake worth a darn.

      Let me make one thing quite clear before I go any further.  I can cook.  I am an accomplished cook with many a dinner party, wedding, and catered event to my credit.  Aptitude is not the issue here.  It just so happens I am not a cake baker.  And it’s not like I haven’t tried.  Take last year, for instance.

      With Buttercup’s autism, I have to be careful not to hang too many decorations in too many different colors because she finds the busy-ness distracting and says it makes her ears “loud”.  Last year, I decided I would keep the decorations minimal, the guests limited to family, and make the cake the focal point of the table.  After she went to bed the night before the party, I mixed up a box of allegedly idiot-proof cake mix and poured the chocolatey goo into an allegedly easy giant cupcake mold.  My oven thermostat and the thermometer I  had put inside the oven both registered the perfect temperature, so I slid my confection into the oven.  The Yankee sniffed the air, “I don’t even like cake but that smells good for a boxed mix.”  I smiled and dreamed of the flower and candy encrusted masterpiece I would present the next day.  The timer went off to tell me it was time to check the cake’s doneness.  The toothpick came out dripping to I slid the pan back in the oven, after all, the instructions had indicated a 40-50 minute window of time.  At the 50 minute mark, the toothpick (yes, a new clean one) came out dripping.  The Yankee hung over my shoulder.  “That’s weird, Bert.  Are you sure it said 40-50 minutes at 350?”  I huffed, exasperated.  “Yes, I’m sure.  Read for yourself.”  The new, clean toothpicks dripped at 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, and 125 minutes.  At 130 minutes, the edges were beginning to turn an unattractive molasses hue. 

      I brought the heated pool of lava to the counter and let it cool the requisite hour.  As I warily unmolded my doubtful cake, the center jiggled like a nightmarish gelatin mold of childhood Christmas horror at my other grandma’s house.  I grit my teeth and said the dirtiest words I could muster.  “This frickin fruitin stupid pile of sugar-laden moo moo crud buckets!  You’re a flitter-flicker ninny-noodle chuckle snort!  Curse you oven of doom and double curse you snardin-gobble-dinger cake pile!!!”  The Yankee laughs, “Oh, my ears are burning.”  I flash him the eyes of death as he chuckles a hasty retreat to another part of the house. 

      My gelatinous flop of a cake, and the unfortunate fact that it’s now past midnight, are not going to deter me from making a beautiful dessert for my Buttercup, so I pull out the old cookbook and start mixing.  A few eggs, some flour and cocoa powder later, I had another cake in the oven.  I crossed my fingers and prayed it would work.  At the 50 minute mark, I checked with yet another toothpick and squinted my eyes.  It came out clean.  I did a happy dance and let the cake cool. 

      Tomorrow, I would decorate the cake of Buttercup’s dreams.  Tomorrow, I would present her with a sugared representation of the sheer depths of a mother’s love.  It would be perfection.  It would be an unparalleled culinary achievement.

      It would be a disaster.

© Bertha Grizzly 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Friday, January 13, 2012

It’s a Wonderful Life ... Somewhere

     Have you ever had a moment when you felt just like a specific character in a specific movie scene?  Maybe on your wedding day you felt “just like Scarlett O’Hara in that dress”.  Maybe when your uncle told that preposterous fish story for the six-millionth time, you felt “just like that poor guy forced to relive the same Groundhog Day over and over”.  I think we’ve all had something happen to us in our lives where we felt like another person.  It happened to me fairly recently.

      I felt like George Bailey.

      When The Yankee lost his job, I went into survival mode.  It’s become a way of life for us.  In all the years we’ve been together, I know for every dollar I earn, every day of relative normality I experience, there will be at least a hundred dollars’ worth of exploded car parts and a week of weirdness so intense my friends think I’m practicing my fiction-writing skills.  The more I say, “It really happened!” the harder they all laugh.  I’ve tried to be strong, to maintain a sense of  humor about the skimpiest birthday and Christmas this side of a Charles Dickens orphanage.  I’ve tried to smile.  I’ve tried not to worry.  I’ve tried to pretend it’s all OK when failure and ruin mocked me just for fun.  I really tried, but ...

     I’m a terrible actress. 

      I’ve heard a lot of cliché analogies about friends over the years.  I won’t bore you with a litany of groaners, but you know what I mean.  I always knew my “friend bank” was small yet fabulous.  I just didn’t know how many people counted themselves as account holders.

      On a day when my pitiful acting skills had gone into hiding and the stress was choking my soul like an itchy wool noose, my friends showed up.  Friends whose Christmases came from the same Charles Dickens orphanage, showed up clothed in generosity that brought tears to my eyes.  I told myself I’m not a crier, but I lied.  As friend after friend showed up bearing gifts of every imaginable variety, I half-way expected to hear, “Hee haw and Merry Christmas from Sam Wainwright.”  I was absolutely overcome.  People who I didn’t know had remembered my name much less the details of my situation showed up, gifts in hand, recounting some obscure moment when I had been kind to them.  Over the course of months, I was on the receiving end of unparalleled, gratuitous generosity and for a few precious moments, the milk of human kindness flowed with a gurgling freedom of the spirit of Christmas, Christian charity, and goodwill toward men. 

      In those moments, I made a few promises to myself.  First of all, I will pay no attention to the goobers who make fun of me for talking about the spirit of Christmas all year round.  It is real in my heart and has been proven real yet again by the generosity bestowed upon me.  Second, I will continue to live in survival mode because if I relax at this point, the shock to my system could prove fatal.  Third, I will “pay forward” this incredible gift-giving season heaped upon me.  I’m pretty sure my large bank of friends would want it that way. 

      It truly is A Wonderful Life.

© Bertha Grizzly 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Whispers of Long Ago

     I’ve admitted it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t belong to my own generation.  I was born 40 years old and I’ve only grown older with time.  Trust me: being in the fifth grade and knowing by heart the lyrics to every song Elvis Presley ever belted out is not exactly a stepping stone to popularity.  Half of my class loved Tiffany, the other half loved Debbie Gibson.  My teacher was the only one who pretended to understand my “same but different” love for both Elvis and Johnny Mathis while I visited Boots Randolph and Tchaikovsky on the side .  Being different is not as fun as it sounds.  Nobody gets your jokes.  Nobody likes your music.  Most of your heroes are dead.  It can be a lonely existence. 

      It was on one such lonely day when I “visited” some of my heroes on YouTube.  I marveled at clips of Katharine Hepburn, her confidence as obvious as her Bryn Mawr accent.  I laughed when Foster Brooks, a stone-cold sober gent, portrayed a side-splitting drunk without uttering a single profanity.  I was enraptured by Cary Grant’s love scenes that sizzled with raw magnetism without becoming a biology lesson.  I missed them all and I’ve never met a single one of them.   

      Why couldn’t I have been born in a time that actually fit me?

      What I wouldn’t give to have friends my own age who find modern “rom-coms” droll and pedestrian when compared with classic cinema.  A pal who finds it difficult to choose between Cary Grant and Clark Gable for the prize of “Man of the Century”.  I kept up my YouTube review of the works of my heroes when I happened upon a clip from the fabulous Mr. Don Rickles at his own roast at The Fryer’s Club.  What he said at the end of his spot left me speechless, floored, absolutely spellbound.  I transcribed his exact words so I could read them over and over: 

      “My father said, ‘Don, when you’re different your heart is open to a little ache.  But remember, when you’re different, you might capture all the stars but the whole world will not rally ‘round you, but you have a chance of having them notice you.  So go home at night, put your head on the pillow, and thank God for what you’ve attained.  And maybe God will look down and say, “Hey, I am grateful to you, son, for doing something different."'”

      Am I hearing this correctly?  Have the words of one of my heroes come from a time long passed to encourage me?  Is it possible that maybe, just perhaps, my heroes didn’t feel like they belonged either?  It’s just too much to hope for.  If he felt different, then maybe I’m not such an oddball after all. 

      It’s a big deal, find out you aren’t as alone as you once perceived.  Someone else struggled with feeling different.  Someone else sought reassurance that his was not an odd path bound for a nowhere existence.  Someone took words of wisdom to heart, and through the retelling of his experience, reached through the portals of time to encourage a fellow “different”. 

      Since then, I have taken a new approach to life.  I have put my thoughts into the modern equivalent of a “column” and found an audience of “differents” just like me.  I credit Don Rickles for much of my courage.  I hope one day I can shake his hand and say, “Thank you.  I’m grateful to you, sir, for doing something different.”

© Bertha Grizzly 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bertha is on vacation until Tuesday, January 10th

Thank you so much to all of my loyal readers for your support in 2011!  I am truly honored by your faith in me.

I'm taking a week to step back, look around me, and possibly take my Christmas tree down.  Join me back here on January 10th for an all new year of snarky, self-depricating satire.