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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Quickies

A few years ago at work, I was helping a customer find a book.  As I typed my keyword search into the computer, a coworker of mine came up next to me and held up a book.  The title was Porn for Women.  As my eyes took it in, I quickly shoved his hand and the book out of the customer’s 7 year-old’s sight.  My coworker just laughed.  Later, when I was done with my customer, I went back to the information desk where the coworker and book still were.

“What were you thinking?” I asked him.  “That lady had a little kid with her!”

He laughed some more.  “Just look at the book.”  So I did.

Inside were pictures of half-dressed to fully dressed men.  Each picture had a caption that was supposed to be seductive.  For example, there was a man in a bathroom, his hand on the toilet seat as if raising or lowering it.  The caption read something like, “You don’t have to worry about falling in.  I’ll put the toilet seat down for you.”  Another picture was of a man on the couch (possibly shirtless, I can’t quite remember), his arm outstretched as if handing over the remote in his hand.  The caption was, “I don’t care about the game.  Let’s watch whatever you want to watch.”

So I had to admit to my coworker that it was pretty funny and we laughed about the book for hours.  Still, can anyone really blame me for thinking, purely from the title, that it was a book a 7-year-old shouldn’t see?  I think not.

Now there are multiple Porn for Women books as well as a journal, a calendar, and a coupon book.  (Guys, remember the coupon book for the next significant gift-giving event.  Yes, Fred, even you!)  If you have the chance, pick up a copy of one of the books at your local bookstore or library.  Just remember that it’s in the humor section, not sexuality.

Here are some other hilarious quick reads:

Chinglish: Found in Translation and More Chinglish: Speaking in Tongues by Oliver Lutz Radtke

These books contain pictures of foreign signs with their English “translations”.  The humor factor is that the English is not very well written.  One of the signs of the cover of the second book has this translation: “You can enjoy the fresh air after finishing a civilized urinating.”

Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates

The cover is a picture of “the cake that started it all.”  Like so many other people, I’d seen the image of this cake in a forwarded email and got a hearty laugh at it.  Yates not only got a good laugh, but she built a whole blog around it.  I love the book and I check on the blog almost daily.  Yes, the pictures are hilarious in and of themselves but Yates’ commentary makes it even more funny.  She’s an expert in double entendres and puns.  It’s hard to say what my favorite section of the book is, which is divided into types of wrecks, but my top two are “The Pooh Phenomenon” and “Literal LOLs.”

Caution: Funny Signs Ahead compiled by RoadTrip America

Okay, so I haven’t gotten very far into this book just yet because I picked it up from the library about 3 hours ago and I had to stop to have dinner with a friend.  But I’m enjoying it so far.  It’s exactly what it sounds like: pictures of signs (road, restaurant, and otherwise) that are a bit…off.  For example, there’s a sign for an evacuation route on the same post and pointing the same way as the “Dead End” sign.  The book also tells what city and state the picture was captured in.  I was proud to see a couple from my city, one of which I’ve passed on several occasions but never fully took notice.

There are so many more quick, funny reads out there but I’m going to stop for now.  I’ll write another compilation in the future.  In the mean time, go find these books and have a good laugh.  I certainly did.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2010 in Literature

 

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Doing it myself

I love doing crafts.  However, I usually don’t have the patience to finish everything that I start.  For instance, I’ve been working on one specific cross stitch pattern for 5 years.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy the pattern or cross stitching, but I just don’t take the time to sit and do it.  There’s always something else I’m in the middle of doing or making.

Cross stitch is one of my favorite activities.  I’ve been cross stitching since I was 9.  Of course, back then I was only doing little ornament-sized patterns.  But as I grew, I got down the technique and started doing bigger patterns.  During one summer Olympics, I cross stitched Bert from Sesame Street while listening to the sporting events.  (Jess and I have this running joke that I’m Bert and she’s Ernie.)  A few years ago I picked up Julie Jackson’s Subversive Cross Stitch, which has given me and my coworkers, to whom I give presents from the book, hours of smiles.  The book has even led me to create my own designs, like these:

I realize the picture is a little small so in case you can’t see it, it reads, “Daddy Drinks Cause You Cry” and the four corners have pacifiers.  This was given to my friend as a baby shower gift.  His wife is still talking to me, thankfully.

This was another gift to a coworker, who has gotten many smiles out of it through the years.  The year after she received this one I made her another one that read, “National Sarcasm Society – Like we need your support”.

The shorter the craft is, the more likely I am to follow through with it, but I also like the feeling of accomplishing something big.  So I take on those bigger crafts, thinking that this on will be the one I finish in record timing.  Alas, I have yet to find that grail.

Recently I was in Michael’s, which is dangerous in and of itself, and I saw a kid’s craft kit to make a media case.  Instantly I wanted to make one but I didn’t like the one I saw but there was no other pattern.  Slowly, I walked up and down the aisles, trying to think of a way to make my own, and as cheaply as possible.  After picking through the felt (only 20 cents per sheet!) I went home and started researching.  I wanted my case to look cute but I’m a horrible artist.  I scanned through craft books for image inspiration but didn’t come up with anything.  I then went online to Must Have Cute and looked at all those adorable pictures.  Inspiration did strike, several times, and I quickly jumped on getting the first one made.  Here it is (called iCupcake):

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2010 in About me, Crafts & Hobbies

 

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Diary of a wimpy adult

In Kalamazoo, Michigan is a zoo that is unlike any other. There are no animals but there are plenty of rides and a lot of attractions. It is the Air Zoo where one can see and experience the history of flight.

Fred, his parents, and I went to the Air Zoo on our second day in Michigan. While I was growing up, Dad took the family to several air museums. As a kid, I found them rather boring. I wanted to zip around the exhibits as quickly as possible and get back in the car. However, as only grownups can seem to do, my parents wanted to take their time and read each description of the planes. But the brochure of the Air Zoo showed more than just planes; it also had rides.

The first ride Fred and I hopped on was a “hot air balloon” ride. It was mechanical and it spun in circles while swooping up and down. I really enjoyed it but the circling caused Fred to be nauseous. We then joined with his parents for a 4-D battle flight experience. The seats moved and air blew in our faces at intervals, not only giving the audience the sensation of wind but also the smell of plane exhaust. While I liked how they incorporated smell, I was a bit disappointed at the rest of it. I thought that the seats would move constantly, dipping us back and to the sides. But the chairs only moved back and only a couple of times. I left the “ride” wanting more.

The next ride was a flight simulator. Basically it was an elaborate computer game that two people could play. The participants were strapped into their seats, each with controls at their side.  One was the pilot and the other was a gunner.  Then a lid came down over them, completely trapping them in a tiny box. The game screen was projected in front of them and they had complete control of what happened while they were in there.

As I stood in line with Fred, I saw most of the boxes doing barrel rolls and hanging either straight up or straight down. I quickly lost my nerve. I figured that Fred, who loves rollercoasters, wouldn’t let me, Ms. Chicken Shit, get away without doing at least one barrel roll. It wasn’t that I was just afraid of the ride, either. I was afraid of throwing up and I hate the thought of throwing just as much as the act itself. So I stepped out of line and let Fred’s dad, who was also a thrill seeker, ride with him.

As they climbed aboard, I yelled out, “You can always ditch in the ocean!”  Fred’s mom and I watched the monitor that showed us what they were seeing inside the ride. Less than a minute into their flight, the plane headed straight for the water. “I was only joking,” I thought but maybe they were just having fun. Then, suddenly, the whole contraption flipped around and their simulator was facing the opposite direction it had started in. It was then that I felt right in my decision not to go on the ride.

Next to the flight simulator was an exhibit called “The Fly Girls of WWII” which featured the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  Each woman was listed with a picture and brief biography.  Original uniforms were displayed on mannequins.  There was also a short history on the WASP mascot, Fifi, which was drawn by Disney animators and based on a Roald Dahl character.

We then looked at the long and sleek Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird.  (Yeah, I didn’t know what it was at first, either.)  This plane was built by NASA to spy (on what, I’m not sure, but it probably has something to do with America’s enemies).  It was painted completely black and the aerodynamics of it were stunning.  It could reach a speed of Mach 3!  It was quite a sight to behold.

Next to the spy plane was another ride, this time a trip on a shuttle to the space station.  It was another mild ride, but definitely more exciting than the 4-D ride.  That was the end of the first building so we took a break and had a snack from the Kitty Hawk Cafe.  We skipped the gift store (“Fly Buy Store”) entirely and headed for the East Campus.  Here visitors could pay for a plane ride where they took hold of the control themselves.  Even if it had been free, I wouldn’t have done it!  We stuck to the exhibits, which were all about space, instead.

A tiny capsule caught my attention right away.  It was just big enough to hold a toddler.  Right below the one window were three handles, each a different color.  Curious, I read about the odd contraption.  It turned out to be what the monkeys trained in to prepare for flight in space.  The handles were part of a series of tests.  If the monkey did well, he got a banana pellet.  If he did poorly, then there was no pellet.  To help kids understand (or perhaps just to keep them entertained) there was a video version of the tests to play.  I started out doing fine but…well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not a monkey in the space program.

Despite having watched Apollo 13 (one of my all-time favorite movies) right before heading out on our trip, I still couldn’t comprehend the size of the shuttle.  Well, the Air Zoo helped put it in perspective for me.  There was one burner set up so that one could walk underneath it.  It was bigger than I’d imagined from watching movies, and to think that the shuttles had four of those on it blew my mind!

Fred and I tried our hand at docking a station.  The first time around, I was in control of the direction while he was in control of the speed.  I veered off to the right and then over-corrected the mistake.  It was more difficult than it looked so I made Fred switch places with me to see if he could do any better.  He wasn’t able to dock on the first try either, although he was a lot closer than I was.

We then walked through a recreated shuttle that depicted how everyday tasks were handled in space.  I learned that astronauts have to wear a snorkeling mask when showering so the water doesn’t go up their noses.  Then they have to vacuum off the water from the walls and their skin.  It was also interesting to see their sleeping quarters and bathrooms.  Everything looked a lot more complicated and in such a tinier area!

We were forced to bypass the Zero Gravity ride because it had a maximum waist requirement of 38 inches.  That was one of the rides I’d been looking forward to so I was quite disappointed when I learned I couldn’t go on it.  Fred wanted to go on the Space Ball, a contraption that rolls two people around and around.  I didn’t want to go (again, I didn’t want to throw up) and this time I was happy to see a maximum weight capacity that forced me to sit out.  Instead, Fred went on the ride with someone else who wanted to go and didn’t have a partner.  I watched as Fred was spun around in every which direction.  He looked like he was having fun but the ride left his nauseated.  The rest of us were ready to go anyway, as we had a long car ride still ahead of us.

Aside from Fred’s nausea, the four of us left Michigan in good spirits.  It’d been a fun weekend.  I can’t wait to go back some time and experience more…with my feet firmly on the ground, of course!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2010 in About me, Travel

 

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Michigan: come for the beaches but don’t stay at Days Inn

“I need to use the restroom,” I said to Fred as we whizzed by a Marathon station.

“A little heads up would be nice,” he responded.

“It comes on suddenly,” chimed in his mom from the back seat.

I turned around, trying to face her.  “Thank you!  Finally I have someone on my side who understands!”  I am notorious for having a small bladder, which is especially apparent on road trips.  Fred’s mom has the same affliction.  It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one in the car who frequently had to stop.

“Alright,” Fred said, “the next gas station I see we’ll stop.”

The four of us, me, Fred, and his parents, were taking a weekend mini-vacation to Michigan.  Specifically we were headed for Muskegon Beach.  Fred and his parents thought of the trip idea Friday afternoon.  Fred’s parents are on vacation this week but didn’t have any plans made.  When the idea of going to Michigan came up, they asked us to go with them.  It sounded like a fun way to spend our time.  We’d been trying to think of things to do on the weekend and there’s only so much one can do in town.  Fred also wanted to be outside as much as possible but it’s been so hot lately that it’s not much fun to be outside for very long.  What better way to kill two birds with one stone than to go to the beach?  And since we live in the Midwest, our choices were a bit limited.  We quickly accepted the invitation.

“There’s a gas station,” Fred said as he started to pull the car over.

“Not a BP!” I exclaimed.

“Why?  Are you afraid of spills?”

I tried to glare at him but he didn’t buy it, probably because of the smile on my lips.

We got on the road a little late so by the time 2 o’clock rolled around, we were still 2 hours away from our destination.  Fred suggested something closer and so we found Silver Beach in St. Joseph.  As we circled through the town trying to find a spot to park, we kept seeing throngs of people lugging beach gear and heading toward Michigan Lake.  Finally we opted to pay for parking and pulled up to a lot.  The attendant said it was $20 but we figured we’d be looking for another hour if we didn’t take him up on the offer.  I forked over the bill but not without grumbling, “Boy, you’re making a killing today.”

We gathered our stuff and headed for the beach.  Apparently the crowd we saw was not only there for the beach but also for a festival.  Carnival rides were set up alongside food and game booths.  A sign warned us about prohibited items:

We couldn’t figure out why the word “dogs” was in quotes so we continued on.

The sand was hot beneath our feet and we wasted no time getting in the water.  It’d been close to 15 years since I went swimming in a lake and that was a much smaller lake (I’d felt the algae brush my feet in that lake).  The waves swept over us as we waded in.  The water wasn’t too cold, but just cool enough to be relaxing.

We stayed at the beach for a couple of hours, drying out in the sun between swims.  When we were ready for dinner, we headed back out the way we came.  There was a little street with a bunch of cute shops that we’d passed on the way down.  There was a cafe in particular that caught our eye.  It was the Chocolate Cafe.  There was more than just chocolate there, of course.  There was soup and sandwiches (on top of ice cream, cheesecakes, and espresso drinks).  The chocolate was made by the South Bend Chocolate Company, an establishment to whom I like to give my money.  The jumbo milk turtles are my favorite and worth every penny.

After dinner we headed to our hotel in Grand Rapids.  The combination of being out in the sun, all the walking, and riding in a car put me to sleep (car rides always put me to sleep).  We stayed at the Days Inn and of all the places I’ve stayed in my 29 years, this one was my least favorite.  Our first room had dead ants on the floor in the bathroom.  While I was glad they were dead, I was not happy to see that no one could be bothered to sweep them up.  Fred told the front desk and we were hoping that they would upgrade us to one of the jacuzzi rooms, but instead they just bumped us down the hall.  The room appeared fine and so we settled in for the night.

At least, we tried to.  Fred sat down on the bed and let out a moan.

“Soft?” I asked.

He shook his head.  “Come here.”

I sat on the bed.  There was no give to it, no bounce.  The thing was like cement.

Now, you have to understand that Fred prefers a soft mattress while I like something firmer.  His mattress at home is nice and soft and I do enjoy sleeping in it.  I think my mattress is still rather soft with the pillow-top but Fred claims that it’s made of marble.  So, since I thought this hotel mattress was hard, imagine what Fred thought it felt like!

We showered the sand out of hair and scrubbed the lake residue off our skin.  There was no shampoo and the body soap left our skin feeling dry.  When I dried off, I remarked to Fred how not soft the towels were.  “They feel like sandpaper!” he agreed.

“I think they’re supposed to exfoliate your skin,” I said, “while simultaneously removing it.”

I spent the night tossing, trying to get comfortable.  With no give in the mattress, my back felt stiff and it hurt slightly.  I tried to give my neck some support by hugging the pillow, but that caused my arms to frequently fall asleep.  The majority of the night was spent with my bones creaking as I stretched my legs and back so they wouldn’t stiffen up.  When morning came, I shot out of bed and refused to touch it again, even just to sit on it to put my shoes on.

As we were getting ready to leave, I called Fred into the bathroom.  I pointed to the ceiling above the shower.  It was leaking.  At that point we just had to laugh.  Next time, we figured, we would spend the extra $20 and stay at the Comfort Inn.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in About me, Travel

 

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A sixth sense or one of the first five?

On the third floor of Steere House in Rhode Island, resides a cat named Oscar.  He is not the only cat to walk the halls with the residents and nurses but he seems to have a gift that the other cats don’t.  Oscar sits with or sleeps next to patients mere hours before they pass.

In his book Making Rounds with Oscar, David Dosa, MD, told about his experience thus far with the special cat.  It was a nurse who first brought Oscar’s ability to Dr. Dosa’s attention.  He wasn’t a believer at first but after observing Oscar and talking to passed patients’ families, he began to believe.  Dozens of families testified that Oscar was there at the end of their mother or father’s time, usually curled up on the bed next to the patient, purring.  One woman said that Oscar even stayed with her mother until the undertaker came for her, and even then he sat straight up with his paws together, as if in a vigil.

As a scientist, Dr. Dosa sought a scientific explanation as to how Oscar can tell when a patient is about to pass.  He came up with one solution: ketones.  I’ll let the expert explain what ketones are here:  “As cells die, carbohydrates are degraded into many different oxygenated compounds, including various types of ketones – chemical mixtures known for their fragrant aroma.”  (Perhaps this is where the saying, “The sweet smell of death,” stems from.)  He asked later, “Is it outlandish to suggest that Oscar, a cat residing on a floor where patients with end-stage dementia routinely die, has merely learned how to pick up on a specific smell emitted in the final hours of a patient’s lifespan?”  It is a good question indeed and my answer to it is, no, it is not outlandish to think that way.  Now, there are some people out there, like Mary, the nurse that Dr. Dosa interacted with the most in the book, who believe in a more supernatural explanation of events.  For me, however, the scientific explanation is solid and conclusive.

Not only does the reader learn about the cat but she also learns about the patients of Steere House and their families.  The third floor of Steere House is for dementia patients.  Family members, Dr. Dosa explained, often found it difficult to see a loved one continually lose memory.  As the dementia progresses, the patient goes through an “unlearning” process, where they no longer know how to get dressed in the morning or even walk.

One couple that stuck out in the book was the Rubensteins.  They met in a concentration camp and Frank was instantly smitten with Ruth.  They vowed that if they survived the concentration camp that they would meet in Frank’s hometown.  They did survive and were married shortly after.  They couldn’t have kids but they spent decades together.  Ruth started showing signs of dementia and Frank tried to care for her but it got to be too much, even with a nurse in the house to help him.  He put Ruth in Steere House and visited her every day.  On the 63rd anniversary of the day they met, Ruth’s dementia had progressed so far back that she could no longer remember Frank.  As he tried to kiss her hello, she screamed and swatted at the stranger.

Frank’s heart was broken and he no longer visited Ruth at the Steere House, but called every day to check up on her.  When he missed calling for a few days, the nurses knew something must be wrong.  A friend of Frank’s found him dead in his home; he’d suffered a heart attack.  One night, a few months later, Mary checked on Ruth in the middle of the night.  Oscar rode the medicine cart that Mary pushed.  When the cart stopped at the bed, Oscar jumped to the bed.  After circling a few times, he curled up next to Ruth.  After checking to make that Ruth was comfortable and that there was nothing that could medically be done to help or prolong the inevitable, Mary sat in a chair and kept Ruth and Oscar company.  A few hours later, Ruth died.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the quotes at the beginning of every chapter.  Here are some of my favorites:

Cats are connoisseurs of comfort – James Harriot

One cat just leads to another – Ernest Hemingway

A cat is always on the wrong side of the door – Anonymous

Which is more beautiful, feline movement or feline stillness? – Elizabeth Hamilton

For animal lovers out there, especially cat people, the book is a must read.  Dr. Dosa talked a lot about the effect animals have on dementia patients and their families.  The book wasn’t purely about Oscar and even though the other cats are mentioned, the main theme throughout was family.  It could be a human family bonded by blood or a family of nurses and patients.  To know about Oscar, you must also know about the families of Steere House.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2010 in Literature

 

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Irony isn’t always funny

Normally I laugh in the face of irony. One of my favorite time-wasting websites is Friends of Irony. But when it happens to me, it isn’t so funny.

Saturday morning Fred and I were watching a news program about the new law concerning overdraft protection at banks. Beginning July 15, banks must have an account holder’s approval to charge overdraft fees if the account is overdrawn. Fred and I had opposite views on overdraft protection.

“It’s a huge fee that’s being charge,” Fred said. “If I don’t have the money, I want my card to be denied. I’ll use my credit card if it’s an emergency. Otherwise, whatever it is I’m trying to buy, I don’t need it.”

I could see his point. “But if I’ve written a rent check and I don’t have sufficient funds, I want the bank to cover it,” I said. “If I bounce a rent check, which I’ve never done, then I have to pay my apartment office a fee and then pay my rent every month with a cashier’s check, which involves a fee with each time. In that respect, it’s worth the one-time overdraft fee.”

Fred thought of a good in-between solution. “The technology is probably out there that if you run your debit card and there aren’t sufficient funds, you can opt in or out for overdraft protection for just that transaction.”

It sounded reasonable to me but I wondered how that could be done with rent checks. Either it bounces or it doesn’t. The rental office probably wouldn’t come to me and say, “Sorry, the check’s no good. Do you want us to go ahead and put it through, though?” Fred does all his bill payment online so this concept of paying by paper check is absurd to him. I could pay online but I prefer not to. Plus, this doesn’t account for all the people who don’t have secure (or any) internet availability. The system still needs to work for them.

We discussed the topic in greater detail and we both had valid points. For me it was worth opting in because I rarely overdraw my account. The times that I did was because I was not careful with my money and it was my own fault. I accepted the fees (but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t upset about it; I was just mad at myself). The guy on the news piece, however, said that the average American overdraws his account 3 times a month, racking up a huge amount of fees (or as he called them, high interest loans). Three times a month? Yikes! Those people definitely have no concept of financial planning.

When I returned to my apartment Sunday, I grabbed the mail from the weekend. In it was an envelope from my bank. I figured it was probably a letter about this new law and hat it would encourage me to opt in. I dismissed it until Monday morning. When I finally read it, I saw that I was way off base. It was actually a letter to let me know I had overdrawn my account, not once but 4 times and I had $100 worth of fees.

I was not happy.

I looked over their math and then checked my online statement. According to my online statement, I was never in the red. Not only did I have enough to cover everything I’d purchased, but I had enough money for the fees and then more money left over. WTF?

It was too early to go storming into the bank so I got ready by getting together my case. I printed my online statement and highlighted the deposit I made that should have come through on Saturday (not Tuesday as it had). Then I grabbed my bank file and looked through 8 years’ worth of statements and wrote down every overdraft fee I’d ever incurred. I had a total of 5. I’d say that’s pretty damn good.

When the bank opened their doors, I was right there waiting. I sat down with a young lady and explained my case. She listened and then typed some things into her computer. She reversed the fees and then explained that deposits made after hours on Friday (when I’d done it) did not show up until Monday.  Deposits didn’t show up Saturday, as I thought it would, because Saturday was not considered a business day. Nothing came through until Tuesday because Monday was a holiday and the bank was closed.

When all was said and done, I still opted in for overdraft protection. Except for this incident, the few times I used it, I rightly deserved the fees. You can bet, though, that I’ll be even more vigilant with my money than I was before.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2010 in About me

 

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F*ck this blog

***WARNING***

I will be using many curse words (particularly one word over and over again) so if you are easily offended by such things, read no further.

We good?  Okay, here it goes…

I stumbled upon the book Fuck This Book by Bodhi Oser years ago when at an alternative media convention.  The book consists of pictures of signs where one word (sometimes more) is replaced with a sticker that reads “fuck”.  A simple “Do Not Feed the Pigeons” becomes “Do Not Fuck the Pigeons”.  An innocent Citi ad turns dirty, yet is still relevant: “Having a fuck shouldn’t be considered a guilty pleasure”.  Pictures range from perverse to hilarious to so-wrong-I-shouldn’t-be-laughing-but-I-can’t-stop.  There’s even a website: fuckthiswebsite.com.  You can even order your own “fuck” stickers and make your own hilarious signs.  Fans are also encouraged to take pictures of their fuck signs and email them to the website.  Even better, the stickers are non-damaging so the possibility of damaging public or private property is of no concern.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2010 in Literature

 

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