The Amazon Review Project

Dodie Bellamy's Writing Workshop


Into the Omazone

At the San Francisco Apple store, I surveyed the iPods for a couple of minutes and said to the salesgirl, “I’ll take a 4 gig Nano in . . .” I zoomed my eyes over the tableful of candy-colored slabs, and declared, “Green.” When I got home I looked my Nano up on Amazon and discovered I could have gotten it for ten dollars cheaper, free shipping, no taxes. How could I have been so foolhardy? The trendy bespectacled girl did show me how to use the thing, but she would have done that whether I bought it or not. I started digging deeper into Amazon’s iPod pages, and I learned that my Nano needs an extended warranty, a skin, better ear buds, a case, a voice mike, a charger, external speakers, a lanyard, a wristband in case some day I should go jogging. My Nano needs so many things, and each thing comes in so many brands, each with its plusses and minuses. I clicked through screens for hours, frozen and scattered before the enormity of my Nano’s needs. I feel my Nano has betrayed me.

When I was a kid the Sears Roebuck catalogue was nicknamed the Dream Book. I pored over ours, picking out my Easter dress, the cornet my parents bought me for band. Sears labeled big budget items—like cornets—Good, Better, and Best. I urged my parents to buy me Best, but according to them Good and Better were good enough for me. I loved to look at the pages with the wedding bands, imagining my own glorious white wedding. (In every edition, wedding and engagement rings were cleverly placed smack dab in the middle of the catalogue, the hinge around which all other goods organized themselves.) At ten I thought yellow gold rings were tacky, befitting a Good or Better type person. I decided to go with white gold with diamonds, that would be really classy. When I married at the age of 35, I chose a vintage white gold wedding band with diamond chips. Some dreams never die.

With the advent of online customer reviewing, the dream has become lucid. We write love notes to phantom objects, we interact with other dreamers of images. We enter our judgments with passionate hyperbole. We exclaim this Jennifer Lopez movie sucks or I’m ordering a case of organic microwaved popcorn because I can’t live without it! We read avidly about the articles we’re considering bringing into our homes. We delight that 4.5 stars-worth of people loved a thing. But what about the .5 stars for whom the thing jammed leaked cracked or refused to whistle, for whom the thing was lacking in excitement, felt predictable, not true to size, inferior to the ones that used to be made in Germany? Anxiety wells. Objects should be reliable, stable, they should never fuck up or wear out before we tire of them—but here we’ve caught our coveted products unawares, first in the morning, when they’re hungover with smeared mascara and smoker’s breaths. Dare we click the Buy Now button?

Images of objects call out to us day and night. We could waste our whole life online pining for them. Some people even click in their sleep, in spells of so-called “blackout shopping.” From customer reviews of Ambien at “It would take a couple of hours to kick in, so I’d find myself getting up and going online and buying stuff. But not remembering it the next day!” “I have also purchased things online and until the strange packages would arrive, I had no idea anything was coming.” “I registered for a marathon one night and didn’t even know it. I wasn’t even a runner, but since I paid for it and booked the hotel and airfare I trained and ran it.” “I have done a lot of the things people have described here, phone calls, night walking, shopping online, which was horrifying because I woke up the next day and had to come up with the money to pay for everything I didn’t even remember buying.” “I have gotten some really weird things in the mail as a result of ‘black out shopping.’”

The body is still. The mind is focused. Consciousness merges with the object and its attributes. Ohmmmmmmm . . . ohmmmmmm . . . we are amazed, we shift into the Amazon, the Omazone. In the wake of shrinking book review sections of large dailies, bloggers are taking up the slack. No more chorus girl’s breakfast—coffee, cigarettes, and the morning paper. No more folding and crinkling, no more ink-smudged fingers. We sit in a desk chair, our eyes drink in light, our fingers click, we try not to spill coffee on the keyboard. Reaction to the book review upheaval has been emotional. The New York Times‘s Motoko Rich: “To some authors and critics, these moves amount to yet one more nail in the coffin of literary culture. But some publishers and literary bloggers—not surprisingly—see it as an inevitable transition toward a new, more democratic literary landscape where anyone can comment on books.” Who do we trust more—one effete reviewer in the New York Times or 269 Amazon customers? Who’s really going to lure our cursor to the BUY NOW button? When the cursor reaches the BUY NOW button it turns into a little white glove—a magician’s glove, for buying online is magic. We ache for things, we click, and a few days later things appear on our front steps.

Anyone can comment on books, anyone can comment on anything (because Amazon sells everything). The lofty towers of cultural capital have been leveled to the ground: poetry, jello, lube, films, Great Books, TV shows, Mane ‘n Tail Horse Shampoo and Conditioner are equalized in our electronic wash of consumption. My husband, Kevin Killian, has written over 1500 Amazon reviews. While he does formulate opinions of products, Kevin has seized upon the rich outsider potential of the Amazon review and fabricated a new literary form. The narrator of these reviews often bears little resemblance to the Kevin I know. For instance, in many recent reviews he describes his younger self as “an American boy growing up in rural France,” but my Kevin has never been to France. For a graduate writing seminar at San Francisco State in first person fiction, I assigned a selection of Kevin’s rural France series, and gave the following writing exercise: “Based upon a similar project by Kevin Killian, you will create a fictional character which you will develop through a series of at least 4 Amazon customer reviews. You will post your reviews online and bring copies for all.” CW 880 was comprised of an enormously talented and smart group of good sports. Nobody groused about the screwiness of this assignment; they jumped into it wholeheartedly, and the results so delighted me, I asked Fanzine to publish them. Some of the students declined to post insincere reviews on the Amazon website itself, so their work is published here for the first time, under the banner of fiction.

In these linked reviews fragmented subjectivities morph through a universe of things. At first we chuckle at the giddy zeal with which these narrators gush over an endless array of goods, but as the reviews accrete, life around the objects begins to feel emptied, endangered, as if the objects were reaching out of the computer and sucking all the air from the room. When commodities loom this large, who’s controlling whom—the possessor or the possessed? We tap into the horror of the doll that comes to life and creeps up on us in the middle of the night, the TV set or toaster that turns itself on. Desperation leaks from every sentence, betraying a lack so deep it’s impossible to say what the objects are replacing. As we publicly declare our desire for them, objects are freed from their subservience to narrative and the ego that drives it. Narrative becomes a mere prop in the object’s apotheosis.

Under the pen name “Jello Girl,” Lee Stegner wrote a series of reviews on Jello and its accoutrements. “If you’re panning for a man, someone at your party that melts your jello, present him with the sparkling ruby red stiletto. If you wear a matching lipstick, his eyes will move from the jello stiletto to your dazzling smile.” To our potluck the final day of class, she brought the Lime Jello Tuna Casserole she describes in her piece on “Kraft Jell-O Sugar-Free Gelatin Dessert, Lime.” She slid a knife around the edge of a copper mold and plopped out a bright green quivering mass, shaped like a giant bumpy Lifesaver and filled with tuna and mayonnaise and god knows what else. People looked at it a bit frightened. Even though she brought it as a hoot, Lee became concerned that no one was eating it. “Nobody’s eating my jello salad,” she exclaimed. “Don’t you want some jello salad, here I’ll cut you a slice.” Despite herself, Lee had become Jello Girl. It was inevitable. Deep down we were all Jello Girls, a tense truth we were trying to hide from one another. A couple of us were vegetarians, but the rest of us sampled her jello salad, and it tasted better than we had imagined.

—Dodie Bellamy

Lee Stegner

Red Hot Chili Pepper String Lights – Set of 10
When I plan my annual summer Red Jello Party, I string up the chili lights, criss-crossing the ceiling with lights to create a steamy atmosphere, like a devil’s pit. You need to buy at least two boxes of lights to bring the right “hot underworld” look.

I search through my collection of jello molds for just the right ones for my Red Jello Party. I have a stiletto mold, a broken heart mold, and maraca molds that shake when served. Try strawberry jello and kick it up by sinking in slices of mango and adding a pinch of cayenne pepper.

My guests dress for the occasion, red-sequined cocktail dresses, red ties or shirts. Everyone dyes their hair red.

Next July, plan your own Red Jello Party and get tangled in your own chili light strings!

3D LARGE DESSERT FISH 2 mold set Nautical Candy Mold Chocolate
This large 3D fish mold may work for chocolate, but it is a superlative jello mold. For your next seafood party, I recommend using the fish mold with orange-flavored jello. Pour the jello into the fish mold and refrigerate. Revel in the physics; after refrigeration the liquid jello becomes solid–a wonder of nature, this physical phase transition!! After you have carefully overturned the fish mold onto an oblong platter, slice one banana. Thin slices are best. Arrange the banana slices in an overlapping pattern of imbricaton: fish scales. You guests will love your fish mold dessert. It gets such high praise for presentation, that some of my guests refuse to eat the fruity dessert, reluctant to ruin the “life of the party.” I assure them there are a lot of other fish in the sea.

Lekue Imperial Royal Crown 9 Inch Mold, Silicone
Let’s face it. I’m the queen of jello. I was jello-fed as a girl, and especially loved my mother’s famous lime jello tuna casserole. It tastes much, much better than it sounds. The Lekue Imperial Royal Crown jello mold is the latest acquisition in my jello mold collection, to be used with lemon flavored jello of course.

Sink mini-marshmallows into the jello before refrigeration to fix the gems in the crown. You can make your crown mold for your Dress up as the Royals party, or even your Oscar’s night celebration. This is the mold of molds for jello lovers, so use it as an exquisite centerpiece. It’s heaps more tasteful than those tacky ice sculptures that melt in a puddle of humiliation.

3D HIGH HEEL SHOE 2 Mold Set Dads and Moms Candy Mold Chocolate
For my steamy hot summer Red Jello Party, I always use the stiletto heel mold for one of my jello presentations. Try Strawberry Jello. For a Wizard-of-Oz effect, use silver sprinkles on the jello after it has solidified in the frig.

If you’re panning for a man, someone at your party that melts your jello, present him with the sparkling ruby red stiletto. If you wear a matching lipstick, his eyes will move from the jello stiletto to your dazzling smile.

Jason Flick

wPjur Eros GEL Bodyglide 100ml – thicker formula!
The other day I was wrking out back, in the garden, and came upon a banana slug . . .

Milwaukee 6524-21 The Hatchet 7.5 Amp Reciprocating Saw wth Pivoting Handle
Please don’t get me wrong, I thought this the cat’s meow when I first started using it . . .

The Golden Girls – The Complete Seventh and Final Season (1985)
Oh say it ain‘t so. This final season’s come to pass . . .

Philosophy Inner Grace 2oz eau de parfum
After a long and torturous relationship, which has ENDED, thankfully, I needed something . . .

Maria Suarez

I Love this bag
I love this bag, it is my addiction, front and center. It helps me not to drink it, coke, which is weird, because Coca-Cola didn’t sell it to me, it’s like nicorette, and you wouldn’t think they’d let their logo be lisenced if it was gonna help me break free of their hold. Every time I think I might want to have some beyond what I’ve allowed myself, beyond my
36 ounces, I look at it and it does everything coke made it to do. Red silver, it makes me think of drinking it, it makes the roof of my mouth feel fizzy and cold and not sweet but not not sweet, just cold refreshing that opens out into my throat, and now just looking at the red swirl and fake bubbles, just looking under my arm makes my brain feel fizzy and
fresh all over, like shaken a little, and colder and cleaner. I love this bag. But four stars because it’s hard to see it up under my arm like that. I wish the strap were longer.

Megan O’ Patry

Original Mane ‘n Tail Horse Shampoo and Conditioner
Bill was right you do have hair like a Palomino says Lee Horsley to Lindsay Frost in NBC’s 1997 TV movie, Palomino based off the Danielle Steel novel of the same name, which is my favorite Christmas movie of all time. (5 stars) This quote has haunted me like all great writing can do so that when I stumbled across the equine beauty line Mane n’ Tail at my local drug store, I was immediately thrown back to this timeless story of a big city photographer’s marriage gone awry, forcing her to seek refuge at a friend’s cattle ranch. Of course a freak horse accident leaves her paralyzed from the waist down but her hair is in top shape throughout the fifty-nine minute feature. And her savvy New Yorker sense kicks in when things get rough, allowing her to turn misery into second chance by opening a horse ranch for handicapped children! (I can’t wait for Steel to expand into graphic novels) A true tale trumpeting the tenacity of the human spirit. Surely her success is directly attributed to her palominic features. Had she been riddled with split ends, I doubt she would have survived the crisis at all. Thank goodness for main stay hair care. I imagine every sweeping landscape epic involving a horse wrangler has a couple of bottles of Mane n’ Tail on hand. Did you know there are over 2000 products in this line? My favorite is the original shampoo and conditioner although I do have the braid sheen spray and the hairdressing. As marketed, these formulas will offer the ultimate conditioning moisturizer for natural and synthetic hair. The line can be expensive, but if you order in bulk off Amazon as I do, you can save money on shipping and handling. As these products were originally designed for horses, they’re animal safe! But I digress as usual.

Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes
I’m not sure I’ve ever taken to anything quite so fast; you know a connection is burgeoning when a book can be used on pubic transportation as well as under the dinner table. The illustrations alone cause a spark similar to wintergreen lifesavers in the dark of the bathroom. Remember that commercial? I’m still waiting for the option to pre-order commercials releases to dvd by decade. Perhaps they’ll divvy it up by category; I think I’d do just about anything to have the Honey Nut Cheerios version of A Christmas Carol at my beck and call. I’m sure Dickens would feel as I do, Ebenezer’s miser hood is left intact in his greedy display for General Mills cereal. He likes rhymes a lot. But I digress as usual. The good people at Amazon suggest pairing Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes with his Dirty Beasts. I say go for it- I did. The BCCB promises pithy language but it didn’t take the fun out of the book. I think the promise of pithy language is a foresight all it’s own, I know it forced open my wallet. (Note accidental pun)

Many fans of Dahl come to expect the absurd baked-in, unhygienic humor associated with classics such as The Twits and James and the Giant Peach but Dahl administers the same lack of consideration for sanitary situations in this collection, so there is no fear of disappointment. You can take this book anywhere. 5 stars.

Danger UXB mini series
Reminds me of a poem, like “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” but instead of the Crimean War we have World War Two and instead of Tennyson we have A&E. And the sappers aren’t nearly as romantic clearing away mud and debris to access bombs as Anthony Andrews is in disposing of them.

Why Anthony Andrews has escaped into obscurity, I’ll never know. If only they issued a glossy 8X10 calendar every year, I would be content. Half a league. Half a league. Instead I’m doomed to my pitifully minimalist collection of Andrew’s greatest hits, such as Agatha Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide and Danielle Steel’s Jewels. But I digress as usual. Into the mouth of hell! Sounds like a Christmas card. Can you imagine opening your season’s greetings to the image of a butterfly bomb or perhaps an exploding pier? Well, ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die. And many do in this short-lived series, which manages to box in everything from tea and toast to nightclub singers and your occasional adulterous visit to the country inn. And what a fancy car the man drives! You’d think the scarcity of petrol would have regulated the mount as a permanent lawn ornament, but Brian Ash (Ash, you funny Brits!) made mileage. Rode the six hundred he did.

Of course Andrews steals the series, but it also marked the great performances by actors who would go on to appear in groundbreaking work such as Judy Geeson in Episode 48 of the WB’s Charmed and Maurice Roeves as Col. Edmund Munro in The Last of the Mohicans. 5 stars.

Twinings English Breakfast
The original hand prop, a cup of tea- long before cigarettes or handguns became popular. And what a compatible beverage it is, friendly with cream, toast, scone, or gum. Why it wasn’t until I was able to dress my own cup that I realized Cremora wasn’t included in the individual tea bags, it seemed a natural combination. And what a deceptively passive verb steep is. To say I left the room to let the bag steep! Hmm….

I do know, without a doubt, certain activities lack luster without the participation of tea. Christmas shopping for one is best enjoyed while juggling an insanely hot cup of tea that is forever spouting up onto your hand, forcing you to stumble and knock passers by into oncoming traffic.

Board games become completely one-dimensional if there is no gigantic Styrofoam jug to accidentally fall, morphing the cardboard surface into a Chagall simulation.

And of course, television is best digested along the rhythm of slurp and gulp. I for one don’t think it’s possible to fully relate to any tragic situation without your palm sweating against a ceramic mug boasting a swollen Santa Clause. If it hadn’t been for Twinings English Breakfast, the intensity of Beaches would have surely escaped me. It is a particularly bold blend. But I digress as usual. 5 stars.

Michele Hayes

Spaghetti And Meatballs For All (Marilyn Burns Brainy Day Books) (Hardcover)
Once upon a time many years ago I watched my daughter Emma play with her cousin Brian, whom Emma lovingly referred to as Meatball . . .

San Francisco (1936)
The first time I met Charlie Beardsley he was staring intently at the window of a diner at the corner of Market and Larkin St . . .

45 Fantastic Fights of the Century
Emma and I sat on the couch watching the DVD of the 45 Fantastic Fights of the Century . . .

Besame Cosmetics Enchanting Lipstick
Enchanting, certainly. Rita Hayworth stood on the front steps of the Steinhard Aquarium waiting for director to make a decision about the shot . . .

Jim Nelson (writing under Marshall K. Linehan)

Parker Jotter Fine Writing Pen (Brushed Stainless Steel/Black)
People leave little bits of their junk everywhere around the public library here. I’ve found corn chip wrappers and crushed soft drink cans behind books on the shelves on the third floor. I even found a used Taco Bell napkin in a copy of Cigar Aficionado, the old hot sauce gluing it to the glossy heavy-stock paper. I’ve found money, mostly pennies and nickels which people take out of their pockets for whatever reason and then don’t feel worth the time to replace. Americans are not very frugal people, I’ve learned since moving to the Civic Center.

The nicest bit of trash I’ve found in a long while is this Parker Jotter pen, which someone left beside a computer terminal. The ball rolls smoothly on all the different paper I’ve tried it on. The clicker has a substantial feel and satisfying sound. It makes me feel like an expert when I snap the button and the point proudly juts forth. There was a time when I was an expert of some sort. Whether it’s the Internet Age or back when I worked at Data General, a computer programmer always has a need for a reliable pen, and a reliable mechanical pencil too, which I’m now on the prowl for here in the library. What does a person living in a dump like the Vincent Hotel need a fine, reliable pen for? Not writing a lot of tea party invitations, I tell you.

Nissin Cup O Noodles Chicken Flavor Noodle Soup
This is Part One of a Three-Part Series on food I’ve shoplifted from Fox Liquors on Larkin and Eddy.

I don’t like people stealing from me. I don’t steal from other people. But this store is different. The treat me like GARBAGE. I buy smokes from them every day and the guy behind the counter — who can’t speak two words of English — can’t even look me in the eye. Then he stopped giving me free matches with the smokes I just paid for! “Matches, twenty-five cent. No free. Twenty-five cent.” So I told myself I’m going to hit this guy back, hit him in the cash register where he put my twenty-five cent.

I have a leather jacket with big pockets I bought at the Goodwill on Geary and Hyde. (GREAT selection.) What I did was take the Cup O Noodles and then went to the magazine rack and pretended to check out the gay porn on the bottom shelf. I tore off the cardboard Nissin wrapper QUIETLY and left it with the Colt and Mustang magazines. That way, when the RUDE DUDE at the counter goes to check his supply, he knows he’s lost a purchase. A buck seventy-nine, adios amigos.

The cup barely fit in my jacket pocket, but the problem was it shook like a marimba when I walked. So, I walked slowly and on flat feet. He had his head in front of the little TV he keeps on the counter — FOX NEWS, the Nazi! And out the door I went, back to the Vincent to heat up some water for my Quite Free Lunch in my electric teapot.
The chicken flavoring is too salty, and I’m not even sure it tastes much like chicken. The noodles were goo-ooo-od. Drank the broth down, liquid heart attack I tell you, but filling and warm. Yummy soup’s yummier when it’s free!

Beer Nuts, Original Salty & Sweet Peanuts, 12 oz
This is Part Two of a Three-Part Series on food I’ve shoplifted from Fox Liquors on Larkin and Eddy.

There’s a bar in San Jose called The Almaden that served free beer nuts. That’s right, not average peanuts, but beer nuts, which, I will attest, are perfect with beer. They are salty but perfectly salty, and the beer tastes that much better when it’s quenching a thirst. The sweet isn’t too sweet, either. Chocolate chip cookies or Hostess cupcakes with beer never work — I’ve tried — but sweet ‘n’ salty beer nuts do the trick every time. I wish I still lived in San Jose, just so I could visit The Almaden one more time. Play some darts, drop some loose change in the jukebox, shoot the day away with Mary, the lady who works Mondays through Thursday afternoons. She is quite a gal. I wonder what she’s up to?
So when I spotted this little can of beer nuts in Fox Liquors, I knew the FOX News Nazi was going to suffer a little more financially. Like the Cup O Noodles, they fit in my jacket’s kangaroo-like pockets, but they made even more noise walking, so I had to loiter a bit at the canned cocktail rack waiting for someone to enter. (Every drank a Hublein can of their Dry Martini? Delicious with olives over ice! Highly recommended!!) A guy came in for a bottle of Thunderbird and his girlfriend (who was looking “fly” as they say) was listening to some obscene rap group on her cell phone. (When did these damn things turn into boom boxes?) Out I went, beer nuts a-rattlin’, and Fox Liquor’s FOX News Nazi was none the wiser.

I ripped off a can of Dry Martini too, but Amazon doesn’t sell liquor, apparently, so I can’t review it. Shame! Beer Nuts + Hublein Martini = WINNER!

Island Soap Company Hawaiian Lip Balm, 5 oz., Pineapple Paradise
This is Part Three of a Three-Part Series on food I’ve shoplifted from Fox Liquors on Larkin and Eddy.

Okay, so pineapple-flavored lip balm isn’t *food*, but Fox Liquors isn’t in business to distribute nutrition into the Tenderloin, is it? This one was one of the more difficult five-fingered discounts I’ve performed at Fox Liquors simply because it’s one of those impulse buys they put next to the cash register. There’s a little lady-friend of mine who lives on the second floor of the Vincent Hotel I thought I’d get a gift for.

I had to go in there for smokes three times to solidify my scheme. The liquor is all behind the counter, and so I asked if I could buy a bottle of Christian Brothers’ brandy. When he turned to reach up for it (it’s on the top shelf, way up high), I snatched the balm and into my jacket pocket it went. “Nope, sorry, that’s too expensive. Thanks anyway! See you next time!” Sucker!

She thought the balm smelled nice and I got a nice long milky hug for it. She wiped a finger of it over her lips on and said it made her feel like a little girl. I asked if I could taste her lips and she giggled and let me. She had a box of wine and we lay in her bed for a few hours. Then she got an email from a guy on craigslist and she had to go. Ah well …
Good balm, guys! Get some for your women!

Writing MS-DOS Device Drivers
I write all my reviews in the library because I don’t own a computer. I used to come to the library for the bathrooms. They aren’t particularly clean, but people need to understand, when you don’t have any place to shower or shave, the library’s bathrooms are your best bet. Here in San Francisco the librarians are more accommodating than other places would be. I can’t imagine a place like Mountain View putting up with people taking a paper-towel bath in their precious, spotless, sterile city library. There’s just not that many places in the Civic Center you can get the daily business done. I know, I had to bathe in the library’s bathrooms many times until I got my situation at the Vincent Hotel scraped together.

So today I was in the library and ran across this book, Lai’s “classic” WRITING MS-DOS DEVICE DRIVERS. I say “classic” because there’s only one other decent book out there that attacks the subject, WRITING DOS DRIVERS IN C by Adams and Tondo, and it’s pure garbage. Lai’s book is “classic” because, if you’re an MS-DOS driver writer, it’s your only real source. Microsoft’s own documentation is horrid — a pox on them and Bill Gates forever.

I worked with a guy from Taiwan who’d never written an MS-DOS driver and he used Adams’ and Tondo’s garbage book as his springboard. Like Brando said, The Horror! The Horror! Why? Because Adams and Tondo took the approach that an MS-DOS driver can be written ENTIRELY in C. That’s right — ENTIRELY. Wha???

Me and this Taiwanese guy worked together at this dysfunctional, walking-zombie startup. Debugging his screwed-up pure-C code took every minute I had. I barely had time for smoke breaks. (Not really, of course.) I went to his cubicle one day and told him he was a hack and made it clear I was sick of debugging his junky code. I told him I was going to rewrite the thing from scratch. My solution? I went to the GREAT and sadly deceased Computer Literacy bookstore for another viewpoint — I too had never coded a DOS driver — and there I found Lai’s book. In the very first chapter he makes it clear: you can write a DOS driver in C, but in the very least, the entry points should be hand-coded in assembly. YES! Common-sense is the best compass.

Lai does a decent job going over the various commands and error situations that a driver must handle, but he never picks an interesting project to illustrate his points. Replacing Microsoft’s default keyboard driver is boring as heck! Lai also doesn’t go into great detail about how to eject the initialization code after the driver starts, and I wound up having to hand-craft it myself. I am quite proud of my solution: I instructed the linker to build two code sections, two data sections, and two uninitialized data sections. For each, one section was pre- and the other was post-initialization. This step alone shaved eight and a half K off the driver’s in-memory footprint, a coup over that dumb C-only approach.

Unfortunately, Lai spends no time on architecting the initialization linkage, leaving it as one of those hoary “exercise for the reader.” A little more work and Lai would’ve truly written the “masterpiece” all those know-nothings at InfoWorld and PC Week lauded on this mediocre but perfunctory tome.

The company fired me six months later citing attitude problems and an inability to work in groups. Idiots! A pox on them too.

MS-DOS is dead. I have no idea why anyone would buy this book today.

Radhika Sharma (writing under Pauline Van Lynden)

When I was the in-house stylist for Style Guide I had this incredibly beautiful Indian girl with dark eyes for an intern. She wore the brightest colors to work everyday and spoke in this rich lilting voice. One day, I finally asked her where she got it – “the clothes or the accent?” she asked, “Both”, said I. Well, she said, the colors are from my mother’s land and the accent is from my father’s land. Turns out that my pretty intern’s mom came from the desert state of Rajasthan, in the North Western part of India. I have since then browsed innumerable coffee table books on Rajasthan, but Pauline Van Lynden’s Rajasthan is certainly a notch above the rest. The photographs are lavish, the details touching, the effect spellbinding. Royals, artisans, dressmakers, housewives – Van Lynden gives us a breathtaking glimpse into these myriad lives.

Another plus is Van Lynden’s tone – always inquisitive but never condescending. There might be other books which will give you a lot of information about Rajasthan but Van Lynden’s Rajasthan shall remain a front runner due to its evocative prose and dazzling photographs which seem to leap off the page. I recommend Van Lynden’s Rajasthan as an antidote for any colorless day.

The Body Shop Skin Focus Face Illuminator
True or False?

Beauty is only skin deep (read: physical beauty is superficial).

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder (read: everyone is beautiful).

If anything my decade and half long stint as stylist and fashion editor has taught me, it is that a) physical beauty might be skin deep but its creation and maintenance is as complex a task as coming up with the theory of relativity b) beauty never lies in the eyes of the beholder…all beauty is about tricking the beholder to feel a certain kind of way.

So banish all your old worn out mantras about beauty and adopt a new one. Beauty is hard work and Beauty is savvy. The Body Shop Skin Focus Face Illuminator passes both these litmus tests. For starters you are going to save a cool 14 bucks when you add this petite tube to your arsenal and before you scream, “what about quality?” let me assure you that a few dabs of this booster boy at the beginning or the end of your day (remember to wash and pat dry your face though) and your face will glow with that fresh faced allure that you last saw only in the black and white scrap books of your grandma.

p.s: Everyone is not born beautiful. I have seen enough. I know. You have to work at it.

p.p.s.: And if it lightens your conscience any, the delightful gunk in this tiny tube has not been tried out on animals before. You’ll be the first person to get a rash. Just kidding!

Seven Spiritual Secrets of Success
One day, someday, you are going to be 40 (or 50 or whatever number that scares the daylights out of you). That day you’ll wake up on the wrong side of the bed, your skin will suddenly erupt a thousand wrinkles (they are just like acne, only scarier and harder to fix) and thereafter guzzling 20 cups of coffee will do nothing to restore your mojo. That will be the day you might want to pick up a book like this. I’ve seen a zillion self-help writers during my decade long stint as a fashion editor at StyleGuide and I have (confess, confess) many times been taken in by American diamonds masquerading as gem diamonds – still, Chopra writes with a certain intensity and honesty that seems almost impossible to fake for 100+ pages.

In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success Chopra breaks down the barriers between the internal and the external and shows us how we can affect change in our physical world by simply altering the subtle ways in which we think and view our world. Chopra’s writing style is a unique synthesis of art and science; his reinterpretation of sacred ancient Hindu texts and philosophies doesn’t seem at odds with his training in modern medicine, in fact his work appears to be an astonishing synthesis of both. While much of the book is filled with the typical spiritual mumbo jumbo about not being judgmental and opening your heart to everyone, nevertheless it might be worth a try, for Chopra promises us surefire success at the end of this experiment. Guess what, for success, I’ll do it.
p.s.: If you’re 40 despair not. 40 is the new 30. Or so I am told.

2-in-1 Vacuum by Kaplan Learning

I bought this vacuum as a gift for my niece last Christmas, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to give it to her. I just felt really drawn to this 2-in-1 vacuum with its bright colors and stylish frame – so much so that decided to give it a name, Dustee.
Dustee is this lightweight marvel; it has an upright vacuum with adjustable angles, a sonorous removable hand vacuum and a removable dust catcher! One weekend my hand vac broke down and Dustee was totally up to the task. In fact I was so impressed by my little Dustee that I just bundled my ex, the Rumba, in a brown bag and gave it a warm send off in a Salvation Army truck.

But….a few weeks ago tragedy struck. My sister and niece paid me an impromptu visit and I forgot to hide Dustee. I told my niece that I was building a small toy collection for her at my place so that she wouldn’t have to worry about carrying her toys everywhere. My sister kept mum for a long time and then before leaving said, “Probably its time to send your resume to both Vogue and”

Tom Andes (aka A.J. Asbury)

Pale Sun, Crescent Moon – Cowboy Junkies
The great thing about reviewing a Cowboy Junkies record, is that you don’t necessarily have to listen to a Cowboy Junkies record to do it. Really, just listen to that one you’ve already got, the one you bought after Trinity Sessions, having been won over like the rest of the nation by the haunting cover-version of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” they contributed to the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. You’ll find the same strummy three- and four-chord guitar parts here, the same bare-bones three-piece ensemble rock band instrumentation, with every now and then a harmonica or a fiddle thrown in, just for the sake of “authenticity.” Margo Timmins’s voice still soars above the mix, the sort of voice that makes stoners who dream of becoming rock critics cream their jeans, except she’s still singing the same insipid lyrics about looking down into your coffee cup on a Sunday morning and experiencing some kind of minor metaphysical revelation involving the sunlight and the dish detergent and maybe a ring on the windowsill, all while holding hubby’s hand across the kitchen table, etcetera, the sort of toothless, insipid lyrics that make you think of your newlywed friends with the alliterative names in Boston, since if either of them were inspired to write songs, this is undoubtedly the kind of crap they’d write. Still, one or two tracks almost win you over, one or two tracks that almost seem worth the price of admission, the $18.99 you shelled out because she was right about you, wasn’t she, you don’t read enough fiction or listen to enough music by women, and having all but worn out your copy of that Liz Phair CD, never having been able to stand Tori Amos’s histrionics, didn’t Cowboy Junkies seem a safe bet? Well, safe they are, and safe’s the whole problem. Still, you might enjoy the atmosphere, just as long as you don’t look too closely at the lyric sheet.

The Voice Imitator – Thomas Bernhard
As outlandish a claim as it seems, this might just be the best book ever, certainly one of the best to appear within the last century. Do you call them stories? Do you call them sketches? Do you call them prose-poems or anecdotes? Bernhard might just have invented a new literary form, an anecdotal tale that never runs longer than a page, that passes so quickly you’ll miss it if you blink, and yet one that upon rereading seems to illuminate all of mankind’s absurdity, folly, stupidity, and perversion, all within the space of only a few tortuous sentences – and he’s collected 104 of them together here, under the subheading, “eighteen suicides, six painful deaths, twenty-six murders, thirteen instances of lunacy, twenty surprises, four disappearances, two instances of libel, three character attacks, five early deaths, one memory lapse, four cover-ups.” Certainly the almost documentary distance he keeps from his material is part of his effect, as is his use of an unqualified first-person narrator, who appears now in the plural, now in the singular, adding to the cumulative effect of the book. Misanthropic to the extreme, the narrator of these stories hates his homeland and his countrymen both, and by extension all of mankind, and yet who can argue with the following story, “Mail,” reproduced here in its entirety, a story that achieves redundancy in the space of two short sentences and yet in which that redundancy becomes part of the effect of the story? “For years after our mother’s death, the post office continued to deliver letters that were addressed to her. The post office had taken no notice of her death.” And yet Bernhard seems to reserve particular venom for his homeland and for the city of Vienna, “where lack of consideration and impudence towards thinkers and artists has always been greater than anywhere else, and which can assuredly be called the graveyard of imagination and ideas.” Now, I’ve never been to Austria, have never, in fact, traveled east of the Rio Grande, not since leaving my homeland of Vermont at the tender age of 16 and hitchhiking across the country with nothing more than the duffel bag strapped to my back, and yet I can’t help but find in Bernhard an appropriate antidote to the excessive positivism of my adopted homeland of California, where every beautiful woman carries a yoga mat under her arm and nourishes her svelte physique on tofu and bean sprouts, and where every scruffy beatnik begging for change in the park fancies himself a “free spirit” – and an antidote as well to the self-congratulatory Yankee positivism of my actual hometown of Killington, a town in which there is currently a movement underway to secede from Vermont and join neighboring New Hampshire, just as there is a movement underway in the state of Vermont to secede from the United States – and the punchline is that Killington is not even a border town, it actually lies twenty-five miles from the New Hampshire state line, a petty irony that Bernhard would no doubt appreciate. Well, but far better to let the author speak for himself, in the following story, “Hotel Waldhaus,” excerpted here in its entirety: “We had no luck with the weather, and the guests at our table were repellent in every respect. The even spoiled Nietzsche for us. Even after they had had a fatal car accident and had been laid out in the church in Sils, we still hated them.”

The Collected Stories – Isaac Babel (trans. Peter Constantine)
Who is this guy, Peter Constantine? Thinking of him, I can’t help but think of John Constantine, erstwhile hero of the Hellblazer series of comic books, published by DC’s Vertigo imprint, and lately the subject of yet another godawful Keanu Reeves movie, Constantine, about which nothing more need be said. In my early years, growing up the only child of an elderly pig farmer and his younger schoolteacher wife, in a little chalet beneath the scenic ski slopes of Killington, Vermont, I used to imagine that I was John Constantine. I bought myself an overcoat and spiked my blonde hair, and I started smoking cigarettes to cultivate the look – I even went so far as to pierce my ears – for if I couldn’t be tough like Wolverine from The Uncanny X-Men, if I couldn’t sprout adamantine claws, and if I couldn’t blow things up at will like Havoc, I could at least fancy myself a reluctant hero, one who had no real powers and who hesitated even to use his shady underworld connections for the good. But who the hell is Peter Constantine, and more to the point, how did he con Cynthia Ozick – she of otherwise good repute and refined taste – into blurbing this latest and admittedly long overdue translation of Babel, much less into giving it the glowing review it received in the New York Times? Meet the book that nearly ruined Babel for me, even before I’d discovered him. Meet the book in which the translator, so in love with the florid excesses of the standard Russian translations of yesteryear, no doubt, that he couldn’t help himself, chokes off all the momentum and the humor in these otherwise brilliant tales, drowning them in the own verbiage, so that these once swift and violent stories work even better than Foucault as a non-narcotic substitute for Ambien. If not for the kindly ministrations of an elderly professor of English at our local state-run institution, who introduced me to Walter Morrison’s vastly superior translation from the 1950s, I’d probably have dismissed Babel even before I made it through the first section of this book. As it stands, Babel’s one of the great story-writers of his time – of any time – though you’d hardly know it by reading this translation. Indeed, I’ve read and reread his early stories time and again, so struck have I been by our analogous experience, his fighting with the “Reds” in the Russian Revolution, mine surviving my own adolescence. “The orange sun rolled across the sky like a lopped-off head.” That’s from the Morrison translation. What other author can get away with a line like that? And yet all the swift and terrible beauty of his stories is sunken here in a mire, like the swamp from which John Constantine first emerged as a peripheral character in The Swamp Thing, and one can only wish that Peter Constantine and Cynthia Ozick had both used their powers for the good – or not at all.

The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Well, call me Dimmesdale. I found out only yesterday, while browsing the relevant Wikipedia articles, that Hawthorne and Melville struck up a “brief but intense” friendship sometime during the 1840s, and that Melville dedicated his magnum opus, Moby Dick, to his dear friend Nathaniel. Poe, apparently, did not count himself quite such a fan, though he wrote a few rave reviews, mostly of Hawthorne’s stories. Admittedly, I first picked up The Scarlet Letter in vain hope that I might glean something of my own history, my ancestors, the Asburys, having been among the first settlers in the dark and gloomy New England wilderness and later the Vermont Republic, which lasted just fourteen years before joining these United States in 1791. According to the editor’s introduction in my tattered paperback copy of the novel, Hawthorne penned The Scarlet Letter in a mad flush of inspiration in 1849, publishing it to wide acclaim the following year. One hundred and fifty years later, I learned how to write the expository essay largely by analyzing this book, though I seem to have retained next to nothing of the novel itself, its author’s heavy-handed symbolism aside. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder if the “Hawthorne” who pens the purportedly autobiographical introductory sketch, “The Custom House,” and who speaks almost jocularly to the reader in the body of the novel proper, isn’t himself a literary construction, if Hawthorne – the real Hawthorne – isn’t being postmodern about a hundred years before postmodernism’s time. To hear him tell it, when Hester and Arthur finally meet in the forest, by conspiring to escape, they have sealed their fate for good and for all, and Dimmesdale has committed his gravest sin yet, placing himself in a moral wilderness from which he will find no egress but death. And yet is it not the rigor and the egoism of his all too literal belief that kills Dimmesdale in the end, despite whatever the narrator says? So Graham Greene might have had it – and so palpable is the good Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale’s moral anguish, that we might long for a Papist’s gentler touch. Still, there’s such a tangible sense of relief in finally seeing our hero and our heroine alone together in the forest, where Hester can unpin the titular scarlet letter from her breast and cast it away, quite literally letting down her hair, and where the good Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale might finally lean his head against her bosoms, that we cannot help but root for them, even as pint-sized Pearl and the narrator himself seem to align themselves against these star-crossed lovers.
I’ll admit to being skeptical about this book. My father, a poor, illiterate pig farmer who toiled all his life on a tiny plot of land beneath the picturesque ski slopes of Killington, Vermont, used to love when my mother, the village schoolmistress, herself of French Catholic extraction – a much younger woman, on whom all my friends had at one time or another developed their first crushes, usually during the third grade – would read Hawthorne aloud to him. Well do I remember my mother sitting beside his bed, in the austere ladder-backed wooden chair in their room, her posture impeccable, in a dress of white muslin, pronouncing the word tremulous in a breathy, sonorous voice. It would have been enough to put me off any author for life. Still, on a whim, I read The Marble Faun a few years back. Insufferable. Only a story, “Wakefield,” introduced me by a kindly professor of English at our local state-run institution here in California, convinced me to give Hawthorne another chance. And yet if The Scarlet Letter deserves its place as a classic of American literature – and most assuredly, it does – it’s less on account of its narrator’s incessant moralizing and more on account of how its characters – and especially Hester Prynne – engage our sympathies, even when the narrator seems to have it out for them. Now, I confess that I have always most readily fallen in love with the type of woman whose loose sexual morals might have found her branded – or worse – in Hawthorne’s day. Still, Hester seems possessed of more moral force than the rest of the characters in the novel combined, and it’s thanks to Hester and to Hester alone that The Scarlet Letter deserves a place on our bookshelves and in our hearts. I’m deducting half a star for Hawthorne’s not infrequent abuse of the semi-colon; otherwise, it’s a ravishing read.

Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
There are enough rosy female orifices, just in the first paragraph of this book, to populate all the brothels in Nevada. I’ll admit, I never made it past the first page. Perhaps my timing was bad. A younger man, I’d gladly have listened to Miller wax poetic about his experiences slumming it with Paris prostitutes in the decadent Left Bank of the 1920s. As it stands, I’ve got my own fish to fry. Still, there’s some unspoken sympathy between these fallen women and this fallen man, isn’t there, as though the mediating intelligence behind this novel most readily identifies the artist with the prostitutes who populate its pages. My initial question, though, is more fundamental: Does our young narrator enjoy the services of these lovely ladies of the Paris night gratis, or must he compensate them, like any other customer? I imagine him lying on a rickety iron-framed bed in some Paris flophouse, surrounded by a half-blind syphilitic harem who feed him grapes, rubbing calamine lotion on their open sores while he pecks away at his typewriter…Out here in California, the other Left Bank, an artist has to scrimp and save if he’s going to enjoy the favors of a lady of the evening, and yet have we come so far from Henry’s day? All of American literature still seems irreducible only to itself, to that mysterious pronoun I, which favors the fiction of so-called “authentic” experience, and in which all but a few of our great books seem to be written. Indeed, Miller begat Bukowski, who begat a legion of second-rate imitators, and though some of them are palatable in doses, read through a collection, and you encounter the same problem you do with Lucinda Williams now that she’s stopped taking a decade between records or for that matter with Hemingway – namely, that once it starts to accumulate, their you-know-what starts to stink. Now, I myself have no moral objection to prostitution – I rather think we ought to give it free license – and in this regard, sad to say, I find the state of Nevada considerably more progressive than either my adopted homeland of California or my actual homeland, the People’s Republic of Vermont. My father carried a pitchfork and toiled all the afternoon, slopping our hundred-head of hogs. My mother taught the village children in a tiny one-room schoolhouse perched next to the cemetery on top of a hill. People thought she was stuck up because she was always reading, even when she walked. What I’m saying, in short, is that Miller’s world never touched ours. In point of fact, the closest thing to a house of ill-repute in Killington, Vermont, was the mobile home where little Sally Eldridge lived with her father, a former millworker who spent his afternoons drinking his disability checks in Great Barrington or some such place, and who, if rumor could be believed, had sampled his daughter’s favors himself. And oh, poor Sally, the world still bleeds for you, my dear, and I can only hope you’ve found happiness after serving so many years as a rite of passage for all those boys who emerged from your father’s trailer sniffing their fingers, never again to darken the doorstep of your doublewide. Still and all, we ought to be thankful for any book that keeps the juicy bits intact, as this one most assuredly does, and so it’s Miller’s shamelessness, his willingness to wallow neck-deep in sleaze, that finally distinguishes this novel, or the first page of it, at least, which only, frankly, promises more to come.

Sweet Old World – Lucinda Williams
Before he died, my father and I had a running argument, one that usually ended with one or the other of us shouting into the telephone, hollering back and forth between California and Vermont, usually on his dime, about which phase of Lucinda Williams’s career we preferred. My father championed her early years, the cleanly produced country and straight blues of her first records, back when she took as long as a dozen years between releases and was championed by peers like the world’s greatest backup singer, another of my father’s faves, Emmylou Harris, whereas I’d first fallen in love with Lucinda when everybody else did, namely, upon hearing her landmark release, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, in 1997. Car Wheels…, of course, was the record that had the dubious distinction of sweeping the Grammy Awards, introducing Lucinda Williams to a larger audience, and she’s worked relentlessly – perhaps too relentlessly – to keep herself in the spotlight since then. It’s also the record on which she introduced the time-honored techniques that have since become hallmarks of her vocal style, the throaty bends and dips that make even so seemingly uninspired a line as, “oh, my baby,” lacerate. “Trashy,” my father described her vocal inflections, though quite honestly, I thought the trashiness was part of the appeal. Well, be that as it may, now that my father has left this world and shuffled on up to the great pig farm in the sky, it seems time to reevaluate this representative album from the early phase of Lucinda’s career, and much as it pains me to say it, I’ve come to see the old man’s point. “Born and raised in Pineola, his mama believed in the Pentecost, she got the preacher to say some words, so his soul wouldn’t be lost,” Lucinda sings on “Pineola,” and it’s one of the album’s brightest spots, so pumped full of feel-good gospel and heavy blues that you nearly forget the song’s about a suicide. Typically, one track here, “Little Angel, Little Brother,” highlights Lucinda’s fascination with troubled men, and the one duff track, “He Never Got Enough Love,” falters for all the reasons you’d think it would. For my money, though, the best track here is one of the poppiest, “Lines Around Your Eyes,” which incorporates elements of Cajun and Zydeco into a classic rock and roll shuffle with the kind of sing-along refrain my father must have been talking about back when he described Lucinda Williams as “spunky”: “Sometimes I don’t know what we’re fighting about, but that don’t mean we can’t work it out, because I love you, darlin’, and the lines around your eyes.” It’s all there, her reinvention of a popular form to say something we don’t quite expect, the subtle blending of genres. And yet as with any great storyteller, the devil is in the details. “Well, I can’t stay around, ‘cause I’m going back south, but all I regret now, is I never kissed your mouth,” Lucinda sings on “Something About What Happens When We Talk,” the best of the album’s several ballads, and as hyped as she’s become as a songwriter, back then, suffice to say, she understood that besides fulfilling her rhyme scheme, the difference between lips and mouth, makes all the difference in the world. Yes, she’s traditional, but if the poor, illiterate pig farmer I was proud to call my father taught me anything, it’s that the self-styled avant-garde all too often prefers style over substance, incomprehensibility over any meaningful engagement with form or content, while if it’s substance you want – and style, too – this album is proof that Lucinda Williams has always had plenty of both, even back when nobody but Emmylou Harris and my father knew her name.


Renato Escudero (writing under Ramiro Estrada)

Plastic Sign
My production manager Blane constantly teases me about my heavy accent. At least I can express myself well enough in writing to review Amazon products that are especially significant to me, like this one. That’s one of the things I like about this forum- I can say whatever I feel like and not fear being chastised by Blane. He knows how sensitive I am about my Mexicanness. The very first thing he said to me when I started working at the trophy shop years and years ago was something to the effect that he hoped my customers could understand me with that accent of mine. They do, trust me. Last year alone I wrote a quarter of a million dollars worth of business for the company. This sign probably wouldn’t offend so much, if it were written correctly. It just goes to hyperbolize Blane’s hypocrisy and ignorance. The Spanish portion of it should read, PROHIBIDA LA ENTRADA. Hy-Ku Products really ought to do something about this. I encourage all Spanish speakers not to obey absurd signs, like this one, made by sign makers who do not take the time to ask their Latino colleagues to copy check their work before silk-screening. I personally never respect Blane’s dictums anyway. Last week, he pasted this hideous sign which, by the way, was supposed to come in red lettering on a white background as advertised, to the door of the walk-in closet in the back of the assembly room. He keeps his precious trophy figures there. The heavy ones, brass and lead mostly, which are seldom used, are buried in a few milk crates at the bottom. The rest of the place is fairly well organized most of the time, although Blane’s always complained that “everyone” makes a mess of his sacred closet (I’m the only one who’s heard him complain). He’d make an altar of it! Early in the morning on the day of the posting, he made an announcement over the intercom -that “people” were no longer allowed to go into the trophy figure closet (I was the only one in the shop); he would personally make sure all materials needed would be laid out each day. He sounded reasonably sober. When he was out to lunch, I rummaged through the closet, only because I needed a Star Performer brass star for Macy’s, and behind the front row of milk crates at the bottom, I discovered his case of Bud. I felt like summoning the boss to show him my findings, but I decided to save it for a rainy day.
12 Inch Quick Ship Single Column Trophy: Male Bowling Figure, Green Column
Toward the end of the day on Tuesday, I was at work, putting trophies together again . . .

BIC(R) Brite Liner(R) Highlighters, Pink, Box Of 12
Sometimes my production manager Blane at the trophy shop pushes me too far . . .

The Gatekeeper T-shirt Short Sleeved 100% Cotton Shirt with Fairy ADULT and YOUTH
There is nothing more disturbing than to see a grown man with a beer belly, puffy red face and balding pink head wear this T-shirt. On the day my production manager Blane had eight beers for lunch, presumably because it was his birthday, he came back to the trophy shop sporting this beautiful 100% cotton fairy shirt. He said it was a gift from his ex-wife, and for a change I believed him, because I had been there with her surfing through possibilities on Amazon. She had modeled it for me as soon as it arrived, and I touched it, felt the smoothness of the cotton, and inhaled the earth friendly water based paint of the fairy at the breast. The tie-dyed purple had looked good over the pale skin on her arms and legs. She had told him the kids insisted on this design and that he must wear it immediately, but they were at school and never even saw the shirt. By the end of the workday it was all sweaty, even the armpits had begun to get that rusty color of too much cardboard and brass dust and perspiration. This shirt is of fine quality indeed, but by no means is it meant to be a work shirt. What Blane doesn’t realize is that his ex-wife is not really all that heartbroken and bitter, even with the divorce and the whole single mom aftermath. She’s still a wisecracker. All of us at the trophy shop, minus the boss, went to the bowling alley down the street to celebrate Blane’s b-day, and all the boys insisted that he wore the shirt, but he took it off with the excuse that he wanted to start the evening with a clean shirt. So he put on his “Beer – It’s What’s for Dinner” shirt instead, also available on Amazon. [[ASIN:B000BT6HS4 Beer…Its Whats For Dinner T-Shirt (Humor Shirts Buy 2 Get the 3rd Free!)]] But by the end of the evening, Blane was toasted with too many two-for-one beers, and the chief engraver persuaded him to get the fairy shirt from his trunk. He put it on again and danced like a fairy with a bowling ball each time he took the lane. The fairy shirt was such a big success that I ordered another one for Blane’s ex-wife, which she proudly wears every night to bed. I’m not going to lie and say that the shirt has sprinkled love dust over us; it’s not even that we like each other that much, but we’ve had Blane in common for ten years, and that’s a good enough reason for us. There’s strength in numbers.