Indexed Archives


Contact me

Who am I?


The diary of
Iseema bin Laden

Greatest Hits




Confessions of a fluff-watcher

I confess. I have to leave room in my life for meaningless fun. So I deliberately seek out "The Lost World," the show that doesn't even claim to base itself on the novel. It describes itself as "based on a story by Arthur Conan Doyle".

Ever since Xena and Hercules went off the air, my television fare was lacking in campy sword-and-sorcery shows of half-dressed men and women filmed entirely in New Zealand. For whatever reason, I never could get into "Beastmaster". It's just--boring. Well, The Lost World is an Australian production, but still great fluff, and I love to watch it every week. When the WB screws with their schedule and I find the wrong show on my tape, I am annoyed.

The thrust of the show is that a group of intrepid explorers found a plateau in South America where dinosaurs still thrive, but now they can't find the way off the plateau. It's almost Jurassic Park meets Quantum Leap, with four Sam Becketts plus a female Al to help guide them. Each week, they're either battling for their lives or they're trying to find the way home. And the Plateau appears to have the mysterious power to draw in all kinds of people from all kinds of time periods, so there is an endless supply of guest villains, from genuine pirates (with treasure!) to Zorro types to aliens from outer space (twice so far).

The Lost World is so minor, so cheesy, it doesn't even have a website. At the end of last season, when it seemed that one of the characters had been killed off, I had to search on Google to find out that the actor, who is Canadian, couldn't work on a weekly basis on the show anymore due to Australia's noncitizen working laws, but that he'd be back.

There are many reasons why I like watching the show. Dinosaurs, is one. The actors get to run from raptors and pterodactyls and T-Rex on a regular basis. Beefcake is another, although the show is an equal-opportunity employer: The main characters (besides Professor Challenger) are two handsome men and two beautiful women, who cavort around in various stages of dress, depending, of course, strictly on the plotline. My favorite gratuitous moment: The two hot guys, along with a hot guest-star guy, were working on something heavy, which required them to shed their shirts, heave and grunt, sweat a lot, and pour water over their heads while one of the women watched, grinning, from afar, obviously representing all of us female fans of the show.

Then there are the plots. Let's see, there's "Marguerite's being held captive; she's going to die." And "Veronica's being held captive; she's going to die." Or "Marguerite and Veronica are being held captive; they're going to die!" Or, "Malone's being held captive; he's going to die!" Or, "Everyone but Roxton is being held captive; they're going to die!"

These plotlines lead to a lot of scenes where Marguerite, who is not-so-secretly in love with Roxton (who is openly in love with her) to yell "ROXTON!" many times, also for him to yell "MARGUERITE!" a lot. On the flip side, Veronica gets to yell "MALONE!" and he gets to--well, you get the picture. Sometimes Roxton or the rest get to yell "Challenger!" but that's rare; more often than not, when Challenger is captured it's so he can use his scientific mind to help evil. Which, I need not add, he will not do.

The other neat thing about this show is that they live in a treehouse that is very reminiscent of the huts on Gilligan's Island. It's Veronica's treehouse, you see--she was born in the jungle, and her parents disappeared when she was ten, leaving her to evade dinosaurs, cannibals, and all sorts of dangers on her own. Which she did, of course, magnificently, all the while wearing a two-piece suede bikini thing. They never explained why she wears that outfit; but then, do they really have to?

Professor Challenger is nothing if not The Professor from Gilligan's Island, with better props. Here on the Plateau, they get to find things like sulfur and saltpeter to make gunpowder. They've built a hot-air balloon. Twice. They rig an electric generator to supply an electric fence to keep dinosaurs and cannibals away from the treehouse. They even have an elevator for the treehouse, using some kind of pulley system. And they don't have to eat coconuts every day, either, and no griping from the Howells. Alas, they do have to drink their liquor without ice. They complained about that in one episode, so you'd know that they really are deprived. Plus, they keep talking about Trafalgar Square, so you'll pretend not to notice that Marguerite is really an Australian actress, and her American needs work. (It ain't even good British, but we ignore that, because we love Marguerite.)

Nope, it isn't Shakespeare. It's pure escapism. And I love every minute of it, even the ones I'm laughing through.

Catch up on your reading today

Excellent piece on the roots of terrorism in Dissent magazine online. Other good articles as well, check it out.

Norman Podhoretz. Commentary. WWIV. Must-read!

Where's the worldwide outrage? The Iranians reject the new British ambassador because he's Jewish. Oh, and a spy. No, the Islamists tell us, it's not anti-Semitism, it's just anti-Zionism. And the Tooth Fairy really does exist.



Blog this [gesture]!

A truly funny, pithy comment by Eric Grevstad at E.G. for Example regarding John Dvorak's rather condescending article on the weblogging phenom: "We're here, we blog, we post cat pictures, get used to it". Eric, you're my kinda guy!

The dustbins of history

Jonathon mentioned a big issue on his weblog: The Vogue fashion issue. It brought back memories of My Life As An Atex Typesetter.

I used to work for what was then Publishers Phototype, Inc., the largest typehouse on the East Coast. We were a 24-hour operation, and I worked third shift. My shift was responsible for most of the overnight turnaround work. Our vans would pick up pages from our customers in NYC and bring them back about 7:30 p.m., and again at 9 and 11 p.m. We had to make the changes or create the pages and have them back on the van the next morning at 7 a.m.

I really liked working for PPI. The building sits at the edge of the NJ Meadowlands--literally--not far from Giants Stadium. You can see all of Manhattan from the rear parking lot. In the wintertime, I often drove home watching the sun rise over the Empire State Building.

Each night, when the work came in, it was prioritized and "flagged" according to how time-critical it was. Work that had to be out on the seven o'clock run got a red cardboard strip added to the envelope. The head of the shift had a box filled with red-flagged work that we called the Hell Box. I suspect it was called that for two reasons: We'd catch hell if we didn't get the work done by 7, and it was hellish to get through it all.

Vogue's September issue is their fall fashion issue. Most monthly print magazines have a three-month lead time. So their Christmas issues are done in September, and their September issues are worked on June and July. And Vogue wasn't our only fashion magazine. At its peak, PPI had half the magazines in the Conde Nast stable, half the Hearst magazines, and various other independents.

The year I arrived, we'd just gotten Harper's Bazaar, which, along with Vogue and Glamour, gave us three very popular fashion magazines. Remember too that this was pre-desktop publishing software, so we would receive hard copy, type it into the system, run it out in repro film, copy it and send it to the customer, who would send it back on several editing runs and then give us layouts. Now it was our turn to paginate and add photos, advertising, and artwork, and then run those back and forth for edits until the customer was satisfied and we entered the blues stage, and finally sent it off to the printer.

During my first years at PPI, summer vacations were for senior staffers only--newbies couldn't hope to survive the seniority-list vacation cut. Only two typesetters per week were allowed to take off during the twelve weeks of summer, out of the entire department, not per shift. Overtime was not mandatory, but expected. Most of us worked ten- or eleven-hour days, five days a week, and sometimes came in on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon if the Hell Box was really nasty that week.

The Hell Box itself turned into the Hell Table during what we called the Summer Crunch. Our department head set up a small table next to her desk, which was piled high with red-flagged envelopes each evening. It was a challenge and a matter of pride for my shift to make sure the Hell Table was empty of any red flags by 7 a.m. Most nights, we done good.

I experienced the Summer Crunch only twice. By my third summer at PPI, former Atex programmers had developed a program called XYWrite, which effectively turned your PC into an Atex terminal. Shortly after that, programmers invented software called Quark Xpress and Adobe Pagemaker. The front-end dumb terminal typesetting systems became a thing of the past as publishers, typehouses, newspapers and magazines embraced the PC revolution. Writers and editors could key in their own stories; make their own edits. In-house desktoppers could do on the PC or Mac what we needed a VAX and tape drives to do. The face of publishing was forever changed.

Progress is progress; it's pointless to lament things that improve our lives. I don't. I love that I can publish a newsletter by myself if I want to. I love that I can publish my web pages just as easily. I have far more of a publishing background than your average blogger, true, but that's just the roll of the dice.

About the only thing I lament is that at this time of year, I used to love watching the sun rise over the skyscrapers of New York.

Bye bye bots

Everyone look to the left menu. Do you see a new addition? Do you know what that is? That's right, folks. It's an email link. It's a naked email link for all the spambots to see. BUT--is it truly what it appears to be?

Hell, no! Dan Benjamin coded up a nice little Javascript that allows you to put your email address on your web pages but should stymie the little spambots' minds. Go look at the source if you want; if not, he encodes the characters into their numerical equivalents. There ain't even an at sign in it. Ha! Ha! I say again.

Not that I expect any of you to actually use the thing, but hey--at least it's there if you want to. (Note: That was not a plea for email. Yesterday's blog included a plea for email. I don't beg for email two days in a row.)

Random Acts of Greetness, again

It behooves me to give a great big shout-out to what Burningbird calls The Australian Delegation. One of them at least is using a service called "", which I think is a really neat name for an ISP. Especially since they're across that really big pond we call the Pacific Ocean.

Another shout-out I must send is right across the river, to New York, New York--the city so nice they named it twice. To my fellow northeasterner, I say, "Hey! What are you lookin' at?"

Glad to have you peeking in west of the Hudson. I know it's not too cool, just lie to your friends and tell them I'm really blogging from The City. After all, nowhere does it say "Meryl's New Jersey Website," right? Oops. Now it does. Busted!

The international contingent is growing. Ireland checked in last month, and again this week. Japan is edging out France in visitor sessions, but I'm pretty sure those are spiders. For some reason, my loyal readers in Qatar, home of Al-Jazeera, Official Mouthpiece of Our Buddy Bin, stopped calling. Buh-bye!

I really should get my coding muscles back in shape and capture the referrers one by one, so I can get a truer idea where people are calling from. But that would mean thinking. Naaaah. I'll just wave in your general directions.



On Second Thought

The masses have not spoken, and so, remains a commentless blog, with the exception of the contact page and my various javascript button email prompts that show up from time to time. You may notice that I'm not linking any of the linkable pages so you can click on them and leave me feedback. That's because I know you better, my friends. You want to read and not be heard. You want me to get on with my business and leave you out if it.

In other words, you like me just the way I are. Er, is. Er, am.

A really, really long time ago, I wrote a humor and opinion column for The Montclarion, Montclair State College's (now University) student newspaper. The editorial page editor, Matt, who was older and wiser (and thought he was funnier), had a humor column modeled after Russell Baker, the former New York Times humor columnist (that for some reason I never found to be funny). I asked Matt if I could give it a shot, he said write up a column and he'd see. He saw, it was published, and I soon got to be a columnist. I wrote that column each week for the rest of my time at college, except during one semester.

I was cut to twice a month, then once a month because the faculty advisor hated me. I didn't like him, either. He never thought my column was funny. He kept asking, "What does this mean?" He never got it. What he did get, apparently, was to screw one of the copy editors, who was less than half his age. I'm doing that digression thing again. Anyway, the faculty advisor's clique had been elected editorial page editor and editor-in-chief; I had no power and no recourse and ultimately, no column. Until the editor-in-chief decided he'd had enough of the advisor's crap, and enough of working forty or fifty hours a week for an unpaid position that wouldn't really do much for his post-college career. So he quit, and the day that happened, three other former editors cornered me and convinced me to run for the position and take our newspaper back from the sink of the faculty advisor's leadership.

We were tired of having an incompetent unprofessional (this would be the faculty advisor, who got the position because no one else wanted it, not because he used to write for a newspaper) call the shots, so the first thing we did was make sure to fix the election by "certifying" voting members who really weren't. You had to have worked X hours and written X articles to be a voting member; we simply lied and corraled a group of people who hadn't been around in ages, but who had once written at least one article, to come to the meeting and vote for me.

It worked. I won. But I am also proud to say that afterwards, when we tallied the true voting members' votes with the ones we stacked the ballots with, I still won. Fair and square. (Remind me to tell you about the time two years prior to this story, when I learned what true yellow journalism was all about after the student government president shut down the newspaper, and we put out a four-page special issue with two-inch high type screaming PREZ STOPS PRESSES.)

So I was elected editor-in-chief in December, to take effect in January. Most of you probably have no idea what a sweet, sweet feeling revenge is. I found out when the day after the election, I said to the editor who had cut my column, "So, how often will you be wanting my column next semester?"

The Montclarion's charter effectively gave dictatorial power to the editor-in-chief, and he knew it. I could have run a full-page ad that said, "Chris cut Meryl's columns for a semester and he's so sorry about it that now he sucks eggs with his ass" on the editorial page, and he couldn't have stopped me. Lucky for him, all I wanted was my weekly column back. Lucky for the faculty advisor, I didn't have proof he was screwing the copy editor or I would have gone to his wife with it. Oh, Chris' answer: "Whenever you want it to run." Life was sweet, indeed, on that day.

And what this long, rambling entry is all about is this: At Montclair State College, one of the things that people told me on a regular basis about my columns was, "You wrote what I was thinking!"

That led me to believe that the difference between me and most of the rest of the world is that where they wonder things like, "What moron thought it would be a good thing to take the toilet paper dispensers off the side walls in the women's bathroom stalls and put them on the back wall? Do they think we're contortionists?" I said them out loud--or put them in my weekly column. (I really did write that in a column once. It got more feedback from the student-in-the-street than any other column, ever. Now you know what issues concern female college students the most. I'm digressing yet again.)

So I will continue to think out loud, in writing, here on my website. I won't be adding comments, because that would entirely change the tone of this website. I'm still pretty much writing my column. I nearly called this weblog On Second Thought, which was my column's name. We didn't have a dialogue back then; we're not going to have one now. I get the picture. You want me to keep on writing what you're thinking.

Okay, you've got it. But it won't kill you to drop me a line now and then. You know who you are. Yeah, you in the back, hiding behind the tall guy. I'm watching you.--MAY



Funny things

The fattest cat on the web. And it isn't mine. Warning: teen site; may be hazardous to non-Britney fans' mental health. But don't pick on her, she's just a kid. (Thanks for the link, Jay.)

One reason why I love watching the Gilmore Girls:

Lorelei: "Hey, I can be flexible."
Luke: "Oh, please."
Lorelei: "I can. As long everything is exactly the way I want it, I'm totally flexible."
Luke: "Oh, my mistake."

Kid stuff

I babysat for James, my neighbor's ten-year-old, last night. He was extremely distressed because he had to read 24 pages in a book as homework. He complained mightily. Finally, as I was cooking dinner, he said, "I can't read this."
"Why not?"
"It's too long."
"Not a good enough excuse. Keep reading."

Too many kids don't like to read these days. He loves to watch TV or play videogames or computer games, but he hates to read. More than an hour a day and he thinks it's cruel and unusual punishment.

Come to think of it, a lot of kids didn't read so much when I was growing up. I remember looking forward to the day the Scholastic Book Club books came in every month. Books were the one thing my parents never stinted on; I generally got ten to twelve books a month from the SBC, as well as nearly every book I ever asked for at the store.

In the classroom, the teacher would have a huge box of books on her desk, and one by one, she'd call the children up to get theirs. One by one, the other kids in the class would have one, two, maybe three or four books. Then she'd call me, and I'd stack a dozen paperback novels in my arms and walk happily back to my desk.

Anyway. James is a sweetheart, but he sure does gripe about his homework. I'm trying to remember if that's what I did when I was ten. Probably.

For another side of children, I present Sorena, who is eight years old and far, far wiser than her years. Getting smarter by the minute, actually. Heidi told me tonight that recently, out of sheer frustration, she said to Sorena, "Just once before I die I'd like you to do what I asked without saying 'In a minute' or 'When I'm done with this' or 'Later.' Just once I'd like to see you just say 'yes, Ma'am' and do it." She got the evil eye, and thought that was that. Until a short time later, she asked Sorena to do something minor, and Sorena said, "Yes, Ma'am" and just did it. Heidi looked at her, shocked, and Sorena said, "I thought I'd get it out of the way already."

Kids. You gotta love 'em, because it's illegal to hold them by their feet and bounce their heads on the ground.

Boring site request

A quick request: I'm putting in these permalinks myself, not with a blogging program, so there have been errors. I can see in the stats pages that some of the links aren't working. I check what I can, and fix what I find, but if you folks see a broken link, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop me a line. Thanks.--MAY



Georgia on my phone

I received a number of telemarketers' calls while I was out this evening. I have Caller ID, so I can always tell when it's a phone spam. Well, last night, I got home, and my caller ID had an out-of-area number with a one-word identifier: Georgia. I didn't just get a telemarketing call, the whole damned state of Georgia called me while I was out.

I'm impressed.

Looney Tunes

The operative phrase for the day is Looney Tunes. I am Looney Tunes, you are Looney Tunes, they be Looney Tunes. The paranoid among you will think I'm talking about you. The cartoon fans among you will think I'm talking about Mr. B. Bunny, the Great Philosopher.

I think Bugs Bunny is the most overlooked American philosopher of the 20th century. "What a maroon!" can be employed in many places, on many occasions, and change the hearts of millions. If only we could have sent Bugs into Afghanistan to deal with Osama bin Laden (the military hasn't checked me out lately; I should repeat: Osama bin Laden). Can you imagine how quickly Bugs would have driven Osama insane enough to run out of his cave screaming for us to take him away and put him where that awful rabbit couldn't find him?

Here's a search phrase challenge: Osama bin Laden and Bugs Bunny. Frighteningly, it brings back 514 results. I'm not a South Park fan; who knew?

This from a cache of only, alas--no full article: "One floor beneath the World Trade Center, in what used to be a shopping concourse, a clock on a jewelry store wall remained frozen at 9:10. A ghostly Bugs Bunny statue stood coated in gray dust outside a Warner Brothers gift shop nearby."

Bugs stands guard over the ruins. Unfortunately, the Great Philosopher couldn't go to war.

I have a rather embarrassing confession to make regarding Bugs Bunny and his "What a maroon!" phrase. For some reason, all of my childhood, into my teens and (sigh) even into my twenties, I thought Bugs' "maroon" was a different meaning for "maroon", something all his own, until one day, somehow, an epiphany finally struck: "maroon" was Bugs mispronouncing "moron".

I felt like a complete maroon as I realized that, and for years, I told no one. When I finally told my younger brother, he laughed at me and called me a maroon, of course. Now my nephew and I quote Bugs Bunny to each other. We can do it for hours.

Looney Tunes. --MAY


Shout it out

This is what happens when one of my regulars takes the time to say hi in response to my desperate plea for feedback. I mean, my request for feedback, but not too much, as I have better things to do than respond to thousands of emails per week.

Anyway, my pal Todd at Excess Bloggage (that is such a great name for a blog) gets a shout-out to Tampa as a result of his shout-out here to Montclair, and I believe next time we may have to be a bit more quiet, as our neighbors are beginning to complain. Todd, here's the way we in NJ act when our neighbors tell us to be quiet: "Shutup!" "You shutup!" "You shutup!"

The last one to say "You shutup!" wins.

Yes, another blog link

I finally got over to sharon o's absolute blog, after seeing her many times on Burningbird. Highly recommended. Highly recommended. Scroll down to the January 19th entry; the permalinks weren't working right. And then read the rest of the entries.

I'm beginning to think that the blogging phenomenon is proving both sides of the theory about bloggers and writing ability. Yeah, there's a lot of drivel out there, but then you find phenomenal natural talent, and you sit back in awe of your fellow bloggers' writing ability.

A very silly thing

You know, when I start doing the money thing and try to figure out how I'm going to manage some bills that come due next week, and get myself all worked up about needing a job right away, and the fershlugginer stock market, where most of my money is tied up in stocks that nosedived a year ago so I can't touch it, things look a whole lot better when you consider two things: My cats.

I was just on my way into the shower when I heard a strange thumping noise from my bedroom, where I had just been. I investigate. Tig has gotten locked in the closet, because as I was choosing clothes, he was quietly slipping inside the closet to explore. The thumping noise was Tig trying unsuccessfully to open the sliding doors.

My Tig, the clown. He makes me laugh on a daily basis.

A very serious thing

Something I mentioned in an email last night got me to thinking about depression and your state of mind and quality of life.

We hear a lot about depression, but it is probably one of the most misunderstood illnesses. People think that you should be able to "snap out of it" or that you shouldn't be depressed because your life is so good. They think it's a state of mind that can be affected by, oh, singing a happy tune, or just deciding to change your mood. You should be counting your blessings, not sitting home alone crying, they say.

If only it were that simple.

I understand depression very well. Ten years ago, I was clinically depressed to the point of paralysis. Five years ago I was suicidal.

I was actively planning how to go--thinking of the least painful way to end my misery. The most frightening thing to me, thinking about it now, is that I was in therapy while I was feeling suicidal. I had been in therapy for quite a while before that, trying to rid myself of my depression. I was getting help, and I still wanted to kill myself. That's not something that's supposed to happen, you would think. You would be wrong.

I got through it, obviously. I never acted on my plans, but I did think about them often--until I got past the black times. Now, the operative word in describing my moods would be "happy". I worked hard at trying to understand the roots of my depression, and ultimately worked through it. I'm a very different woman from the one who went to bed each night wondering if she would stop by Home Depot the next day to get the materials she would need to end her misery.

I found these links for sites about depression. The first one is on, fast links for someone who doesn't know where to turn. This one is a list of the worst things you can say to a depressed person. And this one is a list of the best things you can say.

There are a lot more online resources, but these should be a good place to start. Just know this: The tunnel ends. There is a way out, and you can resume your life. I did.

Remembering 9/11

The Washington Post recently ran a series called "10 Days in September". Bob Woodward and Dan Balz are the authors. It's a phenomenal 8-part article on the Bush Administration's response to Sept. 11. I stayed up way too late last night finishing it. I recommend it highly. It is fascinating and well worth reading. What are you waiting for? Go read it!


Random Acts of Greetness, Part the Next

We continue with our habit of giving a shout-out to those of you who are from distant places; that is to say, not from New Jersey. We have multiple greetings to get through, so please quiet down. We need to stop speaking in the third person, as well, since we are, after all, just me. Phew. Thought I'd be stuck in that "we" mode forever.

Would the residents calling from New Zealand please tell me how to pronounce Aotearoa? And why does Web Trends insist on considering Kiwis Pacific Islanders? It's enough to give them an inferiority complex. Anyway, hey, NZers!

And a shout-out to Maple Grove, Minnesota. Isn't that a beautiful name for a town?

So is Silverdale, Washington. Hey, eastern or western? Which side of the mountains? Makes a huge difference in climate. (I spent some time in Steilacoom a while back. Come to think of it, I learned how to drive a stick shift in Tacoma. It may not be San Francisco, but then, for a beginner, it may as well be. My cousin's husband would park on the top of a hill, get out, and make me drive. Nothing like trying to go forward on a hill in a manual-transmission auto when you're a wet-behind-the-stick beginner. Annoying thing is, it worked.)

A call from Springfield, Virginia, and Springfield, Oregon, one right after another. There is also a Springfield, NJ. My great-uncle the dentist used to live there. I wonder if every state has a Springfield in it? Probably not Hawaii or Alaska, and I'm thinking no to the southwest, but I'm betting there are at least 30 states with a town called Springfield. A quick Google search brought me Illinois (of course! The Simpsons!), Massachusetts, and Missouri--all on the first page.

Mind you, I never expect an answer to any of these questions, because you, my faithful readers, are the stubbornest, quietest people I've ever met. But if you feel like shouting out back to me, you know the drill: Click.

It's link time

Adbusters vs. Disney, via Daypop Top 40.

'nuff said!

Psycho kitten via my pal Dolly.

Stupid search requests

The following is an example of a really bad search request: "ma deaths 2/1/02". Let's parse this out: I presume the searcher was looking for deaths occurring in Massachusetts on February first, not deaths of mothers on February first. Why is this wrong? Well, let's see.

Every single web page bearing the date of 2/1/02, the letters "ma", which are part of thousands of words in the English language, let alone other languages, and the word "deaths", a not-so-uncommon word, and you come up with probably millions of pages.

There was a search request that I will not repeat on this page, because I really don't want to be put into the porn categories in the search sites, but it made me laugh out loud. It had to do with my blog on neighbors doing the nasty, and thumping noises from the common wall.

The one that's puzzling me the most today is the search request for the Elijah Woods AOL chat transcript. I know I mentioned Elijah Woods in a LOTR post; I'm sure I mentioned AOL at one point or another. But they found all those words on one page? Here? Wow.


What happened to this page? Where'd all the text go? I don't understand!!

Oh, wait, that's right. It's Sunday. I did the site maintenance and archived last week's blogs.