Monthly Archives: January 2009

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A formal essay about famous frogs me

My mother is exasperated that my husband and I still haven’t made a dime from our famous photograph. “Couldn’t you at least print up some t-shirts?” she says. “You can sell them on” I explain to her that it seems exploitative to profit off something that—for whatever reason—inspires people. It’s like selling $5 bottles of Barack Obama water on the Washington Mall. I also explain to my mother that I don’t want to abuse or overextend my 15 minutes of fame. But in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “If I play my cards right, I can ride this photo all the way to the top.”

My husband and I never aspired to make a full-fledged career out of the spider on top of a frog on top of a turtle that we rescued from my parents’ pool filter last August. How could anyone sustain that kind of celebrity? We never dreamed that the photo phenomenon would go as far as it did. In fact we thought it would go precisely as far as our personal blogs. But the turtle/frog/spider mutant took on a life of its own. First local website cVillain picked up the story and photo. Then it went viral on the internet. Then it went international in OK Magazine and the Daily Telegraph. Then it went epidermal with a giant back tattoo on a California woman. Then it went full circle with Brian McKenzie’s Daily Progress column. Then it went statewide with Sandy Hausman’s WVTF radio story. Here on One Star Watt I will try to prolong the story for at least another week.

All my previous fantasies about being famous involved the New York Times or the Oscars or the White House or (on bad days) the Darwin Awards, not accidental drownings. Granted, the three critters survived their ordeal, but that didn’t stop an irate Albemarle County woman from writing into the Daily Progress. According to Marlene Condon’s editorial, the photo “epitomizes the cruel impact that humans often unwittingly inflict upon the Earth’s creatures.” Since when is it cruel to go hunting for animal carcasses in your bikini? Pool filters are the middle class’s version of raccoon traps baited with Friskies cat food. And I doubt that the chipmunk living in the neon-green Funoodle on my parents’ pool patio would exchange its happy home for personal safety. But Ms. Condon alleges that “[b]y maintaining an uncovered swimming pool, people bring about the deaths of numerous kinds of wildlife that are attracted to the water but then can’t escape the consequences.” Tell that to the three creatures that are in the woods right now writing the Disney/Pixar screenplay of their lives. At least I think they are. I’m a little afraid to return to the place where my dad finally released them after the photo shoot. What if I discover three small skeletons stacked one on top of the other, delayed victims of chlorine inhalation? I would bury them in formation. But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that I’m famous.

On the internet especially, I’m surprised the goodwill has endured so long. Usually it takes a much shorter time for a cyber backlash to begin. It’s a credit to the New Age websites that have featured the picture that few people make negative comments. Even the “This is clearly shopped” comments are rare. But please—if I were to Photoshop an image, it would probably be of me and Mick Jagger partying together on the island of Mustique. I have a hip, unfeeling reputation to uphold; I would never choose to be known as the woman who took a heartwarming picture which Chicken Soup for the Nature Lover’s Soul will one day option. (Call me anytime, Chicken Soup.)

But I’m not embarrassed by being the author of the picture. Fame is always cool, no matter how lame its origins. At least my mom has been really impressed with me since the photo started generating buzz. And I’ve discovered that it’s not really how you get famous that matters, but how you deal with the fame once you have it. Once it’s in your lap, do you reject it (no), freak out (no), gloat (yes), start judging your friends “pre-turtle/frog/spider” and “post-turtle/frog/spider”? Certainly. Do you become full of yourself, thinking “I can stack any three things on top of each other—magazine, turkey sandwich, remote control—and they will be transformed into high art when I take their picture?” Of course you do. In the morning I’m going to lay my bowl of yogurt on top of a cat on top of a dictionary and then sell the photo rights for a million dollars.

But at what price fame? Sometimes fame can tear a couple apart. I should know because I was engaged to my husband when I found the turtle/frog/spider and now we’re happily married. All because he remembers that I took the picture so technically I own the rights. Every time I open our freezer and see the preserved topping from our wedding cake—the sugar turtle/frog/spider that Frank Cappellino made for us—I understand that love is the turtle that holds up the frog bride and the spider groom. Or maybe the spider bride and the frog groom? Or maybe humankind? I’m determined to find a deeper message in my photo. In any case someone has his fidgety legs in someone else’s eyeball and someone else is feeling seasick and the ground seems to be constantly moving underfoot. But in a good way. In a way that says one day God will pluck us out of the pool filter of life and unleash us in heaven after having a good laugh at our expense. Or that we will simply succumb to the fumes. Or that I should apply for a photojournalism position at National Geographic Magazine.

Failed improv and other notable neuroses

Last night I had a nightmare that I was one of two leading actresses in an improvised play and all my friends came to see it but I couldn’t think of any funny lines and every time I spoke it was with a different unconvincing accent. No one returned to the theater after intermission, but the dream still woke me up in a cold sweat.

I think I experienced this nightmare because I watched Reno 911 earlier in the evening and those actors always knock me out with their improv skills. They don’t make me cringe like I usually do when people try too hard to say zany things off the cuff. For instance John C. Reilly routinely makes me feel uncomfortable when he acts in comedies. Every time I see him in a comedy I want to reach into the TV, pluck him out, cuddle him to my bosom, change the channel to a depressing period piece, and then put him back where he belongs. All with the help of my Wonkavision.

But this Reilly business reminds me of a website I recently discovered: I Am Neurotic. Here folks can dredge up the weirder thoughts and feelings that reside in their subconscious minds and post them on the internet for all to see. It’s a time-honored recipe for building a popular blog and then earning a book deal (HarperStudio, 2009).

If I drive up to this light late at night, when I know I can easily make the right on the red, I feel bad for the light making the effort to turn green, so I wait for the light to turn green before I go.

I do this with crosswalks. I imagine that if I push the crosswalk button and then walk across the street before the white light specifies that it’s okay, a driver will later be held up when the light turns for no one and he will think, “That bitch must have already crossed.” But that isn’t exactly neurotic because road rage is very real.

And then there’s this clown:

I don’t wash my hands every time after going to the bathroom because I don’t want to aggravate my dry skin too much. But I want everyone to think I’ve washed my hands so after I flush I turn on the faucet and let the water run for people to hear. I want it to be believable though, so I mime washing my hands to make sure I let the water run for exactly how long it would take me to really do it.

Hey person, you are gross and everyone knows it. Your ruse is a failure because there are hidden cameras in the bathroom and they also caught you pooping. And your whole office knows that you’re addicted to porn and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer fan fiction. Now stop soiling my internet with your dirty stories.

We hate you.

The John Grisham Chronicles

I haven’t written about John Grisham for a while. The phone call I was waiting for never came. Meanwhile John deigns to answer random questions from nobodies in Time Magazine:

Q. My mom thinks you are better looking than Tom Cruise. Why didn’t you star in The Firm instead? —Durriyyah Usman, Islamabad, Pakistan

A. It is very simple – I have no acting talent whatsoever. It is amazing what you can do with photography these days, so don’t be too impressed.

First of all, I have seen John Grisham in person so I know he’s just being modest. That is a handsome man. Second of all, does Durriyyah have her own blog? Only real members of the media like me and Katie Couric should be allowed to ask these hard-hitting questions.

And some of these people are just impertinent!:

Q. You churn out a book almost every year. Does that impact the quality? —Cynthia Moyer, Salt Lake City

You don’t have to answer that, John Grisham! What has Cynthia Moyer ever churned in Salt Lake City? But John responds with his usual eloquence and grace:

A. I don’t think so, because if I had more time, I wouldn’t use it. I’d wait until the last three months and write the book. I learned how to procrastinate in law school, I perfected it as I practiced law, and now I am an expert. I’ve written stuff when I had plenty of time, and it wasn’t very good.

A man after my own heart! People are always like, “Where do you find the energy to blog twice, sometimes three times, a month? Do you think your art suffers because you’re so prolific?” And I’m like, “Fuck you.”

Q. Do you ever get writer’s block? – Julius Ogunro, Lagos, Nigeria

Yes, I do. Thank you for asking.

I’ve watched a lot of TV on the internet today, but this episode of the Simpsons amused me most because it features a John Grisham scholar who teaches at Springfield University.  He wears an ascot, speaks with an aristocratic English accent, and quotes The Firm like it’s Macbeth.

You’re invited to One Star Watt’s Inaugural Linkage Neighborhood Ball!

But keep in mind these links have nothing to do with the inauguration tomorrow. Mostly they’re just something to keep you occupied during commercial breaks.

Guinea Pig Olympics – My childhood friend Amy and I subjected our little brothers to a similar game, but they were much cuter.


Fuck You, Penguin – Humbling the enormous egos of baby animals.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Only Friends Are Mirrors – Cool people seem to hate Gwyneth Paltrow. I’ll jump on that bandwagon.

New Smokable Nicotine Sticks – “Fills lungs with rich, satisfying smoke, curbing desire for cigarettes.”

We Covet – I suddenly need a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know existed five minutes ago.

Women Living with Fake Baby Dolls Treat Them Like Real Children – Self-explanatory.

Some eCards – For modern thank-you notes.

Put the romance back into your mostly internet-based relationship.

Children’s Hospital – A very funny show available in its entirety (all 10 five-minute webisodes) on the WB website.

Searching for Jesse Camp – A touching essay about a woman’s crush on an erstwhile MTV VJ.

Sexy Pole-Dancing LEGO – It’s about time someone made LEGOs sexy! I think.

Marketing Drank – “Purple drank” – urban slang that I just learned – is now bottled for profit.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Panic – A scary and moving window into the life of a 911/999 telephone operator.

Attractive Girls Union Refuses to Enter into Talks with Mike Greenman – A male friend of mine sent me this because he says he relates a bit too much to Mike Greenman. Don’t we all.

Cover Controversy? Naked Ambition Doesn’t Cover It – Hot, naked attention whores are the best kind of attention whores.


Top 50 Movie Special Effects Shots – For the geeks. And for the non-geeks who are into movie special effects shots. Ahem.

Two Perspectives on Bush’s Departure – I love the VQR but I never have a chance to contribute to its blog. Thankfully smarter, better people with more important things to say have been picking up my slack.

Pregnancy rehab

I have always believed that the surest way for a woman to quit drinking is for her to get pregnant, which is why I encourage all female alcoholics to get knocked up. The same goes for crack addicts. Don’t spend tens of thousands of dollars on rehab; just make the small investment of having a child. Once you’re pregnant you won’t need the same substances that you needed before because you’ll be so high on being a mom.

I have to laugh when I see all those rich celebrities entering Promises or the Betty Ford Center. Use your brains, ladies! Use your brains by using your uterus (uteri?). Your own bodies contain all the tools you’ll need to combat your deadly addictions. And these days semen is so readily available that people are cooking pastries with it.* So please, fertile alcoholics, take my advice by putting down the bottle and picking up a baby. Your liver, if not your progeny, will thank you.

Wait, what’s good advice again?

*Eating semen pastries will not make you pregnant.

Twilight: Where do I even begin?

Twilight has a special place in my heart because it keeps me running for over 20 minutes on the treadmill without my realizing that I’m out of shape and have probably broken a leg. Twilight owns a part of my soul like the last people to keep me up reading until 4 in the morning, but the British wizards were not nearly as sexy. And Twilight gets my blood pumping because, like all great addictions, it makes me feel terrible about myself as soon as I’m released from its heavenly clutches. The high of self loathing is almost as rich as the high of insanely hot vampire booty.

Edward and Bella
Edward and Bella

I hate you Twilight! I love you Twilight! Do I update GoodReads with Books Three and Four or do I not? Can I conquer my shame long enough to blog about my compulsion to know the lives of these idiot teenagers? Somehow I will have to intellectualize Stephenie Meyer’s fantasy world in order to go on. And yet it helps not at all to imagine that the series might be an allegory for the Church of Latter Day Saints. In fact it makes it worse. But the call to abstinence horrifies me even more. In fact the whole saga makes me want to die. But only so I can become a vampire.

Please excuse me for being late to this party. I also just watched Boys Don’t Cry if anyone wants to talk about it.

Harper’s receipt from Build-a-Bear reads like her mother’s worst nightmare

CUDLY HGS TDDY PK                                         $14.00
SPRKL FUR EARBAND                                        $2.00
SLVR GLITTER HEEL                                           $7.50
GLITTER PURSE PNK                                          $3.00
WHITE DRESS                                                    $10.00

Darren and I entered Build-a-Bear Workshop with a four-year-old girl and high expectations, and we left Build-a-Bear Workshop with a furry pink bridezilla wearing a lace veil and bear high heels who had aspirations to marry “Johnny,” the bear back home.

At least she didn’t want the one with the Hannah Montana wig and charm necklace.

Blog devastation via disgruntled employee

This week blogging platform JournalSpace was singlehandedly destroyed by an ex-IT guy caught stealing from the company. This means that all the tens of thousands of bloggers on the site lost their entire output of data in one malicious stroke. Some of them spent years establishing their voices only to see them completely obliterated by some a-hole with access to the JournalSpace servers.

I probably shouldn’t even be writing about this now, before bedtime, because I’ll feel responsible for the nightmares all you internet people will suffer later. I already know that I will wake up tonight in a cold sweat, screaming for an automated backup mechanism; begging for an impregnable, fireproof server room; gasping for a redundant drive. Even now I hear the Jaws music in the background while I envision some cat burglar sneaking around in the recesses of the internet, preparing to pull the plug on my entire blog history while I’m sleeping. I think I’ll keep my monitor glowing until the sun comes up.

My heart goes out to you, JournalSpace refugees.* Please take shelter on my website until your bloggings find a new home. There’s safety in numbers.

*Their terminology. Personally I find the word a bit dramatic even under these tragic circumstances.

I dream of Christos Vangelopoulos

Because everyone needs a little Christos and a lot of mutant canary, and because my website is desperate for some color, I present you with a bit of artwork created by my dear friend (of 13 years!) Christos Vangelopoulos.





I’m not in an awesome band so I couldn’t commission Christos to do a poster for my next show, but I did ask him to create our wedding program. His wedding programs will make you want to get married again and again and again.


The man himself:


I never get to see Christos because he’s always in his studio apartment dicking around with bird photos and Christmas lights, but when he does appear I feel like I’m in a still life with a supernova.

New site design makes me feel urban

Maybe we can feel urban together.