Sunday, June 27, 2010

Real Taste Buds and a Genuine Knowledge of True Value

For those without reading glasses handy, this sign says:
Spiro & Staff John Jolin Head Voter
It's really quite the masterpiece. The Gold Star is in fact very good, but the sign is clearly the best thing about it at this moment in time.

Pop Quiz! What is the best thing about it?
1. That there is no indication of where this poll came from? (I assume the Worcester Magazine Best of Worcester poll...but who knows??)
2. The quotation marks around "best"?
3. "People with real taste buds" (as presumably opposed to fake taste buds)?
4. The swagger of it all
5. The problematic punctuation involved in "Congratulations! Spiro & Staff" that makes it seem like Spiro (the owner) and his staff are congratulating the People With Real Taste Buds and A Genuine Knowledge of True Value for voting correctly?
6. The inclusion of "John Jolin Head Voter," further developing the incredible douchebaggery of the Jolin Image (the Jolins run a local paving company and drive around in a squad of Hummers that say "Paved For" on the back of them. Oh, and they're responsible for this crime against landscaping)?

Why pick one, I say!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

Part of my reaction to this book made me very sad. I'm not talking about the extreme poverty that exists in the world, though that does make me sad, and I'm not talking about the downs of Greg Mortenson's life, though those are significant also. I'm talking about the cynicism with which I responded to much of the story, and to Greg's own earnestness. Here is a man so dedicated to making a small patch of the world better that he sacrificed everything, and who went to great lengths to repay a debt without a creditor, and my reaction was "oh LAH TI DAH." That's pretty sad, particularly for someone who has said several times that people should worry about changing their own small part of the world and not worrying about saving the world entire. Greg Mortenson's quest to provide schools for the poor children of Pakistan is remarkable and a wonderful example of the potential efficiency of private charitable works.

All that being said, there was a certain disingenuousness to the presentation of Greg's story. He really accomplished some remarkable things, but the story was told with a certain "wow, look at this guy from absolutely nothing who managed to build all these schools" vibe that really grated on my nerves. Greg Mortenson made a lot of sacrifices to accomplish what he did...and that is plenty on its own. It is not necessary for Greg to be a penniless child of the gutters for the story to be compelling. Greg could have made great money as a doctor, and he had the money to attempt to climb K2. That's not insignificant and in fact I think it makes his sacrifice all the more impressive. Greg chose to live out of his car and forego all the options he did have in the name of helping people a world away. Not many people would do that, and to act like he didn't have those options shortchanges the magnitude of his giving spirit.

It bears mentioning that this is the first book on tape/CD I have listened to in years, and it was FABULOUS. My Uncle Todd gave it to me for graduation and I listened to it on my way to and from work. The last book on tape I listened to was actually a book on tape called Thornyhold that involved witches and carrier pigeons (?????). I took that bad boy out of the Worcester Public Library (holla!) about ninety seven zillion times when I was in middle school. My car has a five CD changer, so I could throw in five CDs and just let them run through. Of the many things I miss about living in DC, one of the stronger longings is for something I never thought I'd miss - my commute. When I was commuting on Metro or on the bus, I could always read or do crossword puzzles. I currently have a commute that's about the same length but is via car. Up until now, that meant I couldn't read, but now I'm definitely renewing my library card and taking out books on CD or downloading them onto my iPod. I'm really glad I rediscovered the medium!

All in all, a great book and a compelling story. It's a good one to hear post-September-11th particularly, because it emphasizes the basic reality that people don't like to fight for the sake of fighting. I don't think that the "you catch more flies with honey" approach is always the best, but it almost always helps, and this story is a fine example thereof.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Actually Believing In Private Industry

The Atlantic's Sebastian Mallaby recently published an article - "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty" - about entrepreneur Paul Romer's ideas on how to end poverty in the developing world. The plan takes inspiration from Henry the Lion's development of L├╝beck in the 12th century, which he achieved by setting up a city with bare-bones regulation and fair laws that encouraged industry to come from all over. Romer suggests that nations wishing to provide aid should lease space in the developing nation of their choice and set up similar systems. I think his theory of development is sound, but the execution is problematic.

State-run economic development is difficult largely because state aid demands return on investment, and the preferred reimbursement is in political conformity and alliance. This makes the aid relationship more complex than just "giving money to help someone." Governments are fundamentally concerned with their domestic populations - and they should be. If they're going to pay out, they really should be getting something back. This dynamic, however, is not conducive to purely charitable development efforts. Given the delicacy of statecraft - and the magnitude of the consequences when it is not respected - nations can ill-afford to give aid in any other manner. Still, the domestic priorities of states point us towards the particular kind of aid we currently dispense. We assume that governments are best qualified to disperse aid, so we send it along state "frequencies." However, it only takes a brief moment of consideration to see that this is a silly concept. Not only do we have myriad historical examples of states not acting in the interest of their populations, and but we also must consider the fact that democracy is meant to draw its power from its citizens, and we often try to encourage fledgling democracies.

Romer is right to bank on industry to develop nations, because you need money to achieve your best life. The one thing I don't really understand is why he puts the onus on nations to develop industry. I think it's because the Henry the Lion example from which he draws inspiration included the institution of laws and political systems that must stem from established legal and political systems. For centuries, nations have been the peak of power and in that context it makes sense to focus on nations as the impetuses for development. However, in an increasingly globalized world, corporations have greater power and have less call to appear pure of motive. It seems more logical to me to encourage corporate development of these economic jumper cables, rather than other nations.

This would require a more intensive soft power approach than we currently use or have – I will complain all day, every day about the pathetic state of our diplomacy and the enormous opportunities we are letting fall by the wayside by not developing our diplomatic reach – but it is workable. Nations could encourage businesses based in their countries to develop spaces like the one Romer describes, with a clear message that behavior that would be illegal on domestic soil will be equally illegal and swiftly punished overseas, and then leave the economic development to corporations while the nations use their diplomatic corps to bolster political development and social progress.

If the goal of foreign aid is to encourage the development of liberal democracies and political stability – and if not, what’s the point? – then there must be additional support on top of economic development. Jack Snyder, in his book From Voting to Violence, distills the formation of potential liberal democracies down to four primary preconditions: state (or state-like) institutions, elections, malleable political elites, and an active and free press. The idea is that all of these things can be shaped into a democracy – even if the elections are corrupt, people must be in the habit of voting for people. Even if the state institutions are total machine-politicky messes, people must have a clear image of where political power happens. These factors, with the possible exception of the malleable political elite, will be of little interest to corporations.

It falls then to the nations of the world to shore up these institutions and push them towards democracy, as the corporations pour money into the fledgling democracies’ economies. It’s much easier to encourage leaders to give their citizens rights and freedoms and to convince said citizens to submit to political leadership when there is money coming in (ex. the decline of IRA violence as the Irish economy rose). With corporations involved in the money side of things and nations involved in the political development, motives are appropriately placed and political clarity more attainable. Any attached strings are clearly visible and beyond reproach, all actors are in roles that maximize on their knowledge and ability, and sovereignty can be preserved.

I can already hear the yelling about evil, nefarious corporations who will simply pillage these countries and leave. I’m the last one to say that corporations are entirely moral entities without exception, but I do think we need to accept the power that they currently hold in realistic terms and capitalize on it wherever possible. There’s a real problem in appreciating the fact that nothing is perfect and our acceptance of something comes with the bad as well as the good. Capitalism does a lot of great things, but it also grants a fair amount of political power to people and entities not elected by the people. Rather than condemning corporations because they have a perceived down side, why not find a way for that down side to be productive and positive? The same works for democratic (or any) governments – they have a down side, but why not capitalize on it? I understand that this is a somewhat radical change in thought (perception?) from today’s collective understanding of government and corporate images, but I think it’s a worthwhile and actually quite important one.

On one final note, it’s interesting that Mallaby should announce his piece as being politically incorrect. Of course, authors do not always have control of their headlines, but someone, somewhere at The Atlantic decided that Mallaby’s article was politically incorrect (which of course is often used interchangeably with “verbally daring” to everyone’s supreme detriment) and that speaks volumes about the way we see our place in the world. The guilt that consumes our political awareness is so…wasted, really. It seems that the prevailing sentiment is that we should give money and aid without ever admitting that it comes with strings attached, for the sake of looking philanthropically virtuous. This makes no sense. We’re a nation with very real economic, political and social concerns and costs – of course there are strings attached, and if there aren’t, then we are failing to protect ourselves. You must be clear on the obligations on both sides of any agreement (one of the literal thousands of things I have learned from the People’s Court), and if you are not, you can’t be surprised when the obligations you thought the other party had agreed to don’t get carried out. To be fair, I think the political incorrectness label may be attached to the idea of nations running these economic proving grounds within other sovereign nations, but I don’t think that this violation of sovereignty is in any way the most important lesson of this article nor the best way to proceed.

I think that “politically correct” may be the most damaging term to come out of the past few decades, because it is so imprecise and so problematic. It gets used for an incredibly broad array of uses and it really means less than nothing. Politically correct, taken at face value in the context of modern politics, basically comes down to “saying things in a way that won’t lose you votes/support” which is a pathetic way to conduct your business and your life. Admittedly, it’s stupid that the general public expects for their representatives to rigidly conform to a party platform and never display any kind of critical thinking, but unless people stand up for the fact that they are, you know, actual individual humans, then there’s no way of changing this and our politics will continue to decay.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

An Open Letter to Continental Airlines

Dear Continental Airlines,

I'd like to tell you a story about my dear friend Ashley. She's a great friend, political maven, Golden Girls fan, full sourcebook for Gone With The Wind, mobile French farce generation unit and all-around good person. She is a Cancer and enjoys long walks on the beach as long as the walk leads to shopping. We met at American University, where we learned that we were both born at Polyclinic Hospital in Harrisburg, PA and went on lots of fun adventures, including one notable evening when I chased a duck through the Capitol Reflecting Pool in a dress. We've made a lot of poor choices together, and for this reason, we like to hang out occasionally. Sometimes this means going to Inauguration "together" (by which I mean standing at literal opposite ends of the Mall while texting each other) and sometimes this means taking underage Norwegians out into international waters in the company of people who use the phrase "I cry like a chicken" (yes really).

I haven't seen Ashley in over a year. That sucks - a lot of my friends live far away and that's difficult, because I, Continental Airlines, am a hugger. She planned to visit from Thursday to Monday this week, and I was really excited because we could have more adventures! Plus, there are ducks at Assumption College and I still have my commuter parking pass, so I figured we could chase some of them. For old times' sake, you know? I got a text from her on Thursday saying she'd be slightly delayed, so I was like "cool, I can work a full day," and waited until 4:30 to leave work and head for Manchester to pick her up.

Well, it turns out that you guys overbooked her flight. It happens! I get it. I've worked for an airline, and my Dad runs an air taxi, so I know how much is involved with getting a plane off the ground. The problem is, you proceeded to not get Ash on the next three flights that night, keep her overnight in Houston, and then not get her on the next flight out in the morning. Finally, you got her to Chicago around noon...where her Delta connecting flight for Manchester was overbooked. HEY, SHIT HAPPENS, RIGHT?

Well after another thrilling day full of failure, I got this text from Ashley:
Apparently the way to make up for stranding your passengers is to put them up in a fucking roach motel where people are BBQing in the parking lot. Yes it is 12:36 and there is BBQ
Sometimes all the non-shady hotels are booked, am I right, Continental Airlines? So the next day at 5:15a, Ash headed back to the airport to begin another thrilling day of negotiations with the genius-caliber human beings you employ. I'll tell you, Connie - can I call you Connie? - it might help if you asked your employees to avoid telling passengers that they should calm down because "this happens all the time." It's never really a great idea, but honestly, once you hit 24 hours of delays, it should really never, ever, ever happen. The good thing is, you got her on her way to Atlanta! Hooray!

Oh wait except Atlanta is in the South, Connie.

She spent the day in Atlanta trying to get on a flight to "Somewhere in New England, doesn't matter where," and finally got on standby for a 6p flight to Boston. Well, she didn't get on that one, but she did managed to get on the "7p" one, which was delayed an hour. At 7:48p, I got the following text from her:
"Ok I'm sitting in my seat so I'm going to turn my phone off now and strap myself in and refuse to move. Noone is offering to's like I wonder why BECAUSE everyone has been trying to get to their destination for hours!!! Hopefully next time you hear from me I am in Boston!!!!!"
I was feeling pretty good about things, Continental Airlines. I called Knight's Limo and arranged a pickup so all Ash would have to do was walk off the plane and into their open arms. Because they are competent businesspeople, they were like "no problem" and put her on the list.

At 12:20a I got a text from Ashley's phone. The nice Delta desk person at ATLANTA was trying to figure out how to get the phone back to its owner, and they mentioned again that they were sorry about Ash's flight troubles, which by the way, Connie, you kind of didn't do very much of. They asked if I knew what flight she was on, and I told them the number I thought she was on. The response was "[Okay] but I am going to look up her name and try to track her down, because my colleague says he does not think she got on flight 2500 and got bumped to AirTran. It is because Continental Air double booked 15 flights out of Houston on Thursday and Friday and it's causing massive problems." I informed her that I would be very surprised if they had managed to pry her off the flight, but they said they would try to find out more.

At this point it's 1a and I'm calling Boston and trying to call you, Connie, but of course your customer service line is not taking calls thanks to high call volume (side note: in what world is that a thing? I would love to opt out of taking calls from irate customers resulting from my epic screw ups). I emailed my phone and address to Ashley, hoping she'd be able to log on from whatever dimension she'd been shipped to, and sure enough she sent me an email at 2:42a saying she was in Charlotte, NC. CHARLOTTE, Continental - yet another fucking city that is NOWHERE NEAR NEW ENGLAND. I haven't heard from her since, so I'm not sure where you have her stashed, whether she even wants to bother coming out here or what.

So I guess what I'm saying is this, Continental Airlines...go fuck yourself. Fuck your employees' shitty attitudes, fuck your incompetent booking policies, fuck your lack of business savvy, fuck your shitty customer service. I have a really high tolerance for the Shit Happens Factor in the airline industry because it does have some uncontrollable factors, but this is inexcusable. It's now four o'clock on Sunday [ETA: posting time adjusted in the interest of getting this public quickly; thanks Blogger], a full THREE DAYS after I was supposed to be picking Ashley up in Manchester, and had she made it here, she'd be leaving tomorrow. Instead, I have no idea where she is and it seems unlikely that she'll make it here at all. Totally unacceptable. There's a reason your industry is in the shitter, and this is it.



Oh PS - you would think that after a television personality called you out for the same thing you might try to fail less. I'm just saying is all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Josie's Magic Duct Tape Risotto

Here's the situation with cooking. I don't cook a lot, but generally when I attempt it, things go well. (I am a great baker, however.) I don't cook because I am lazy - and also legitimately busy much of the time, but...lazy - but I have one fail-safe recipe that I bust out whenever possible. It's a standard risotto recipe, which is perfect because risotto has a reputation for being A Feat of Culinary Excellence, so I get extra badassery points. Here is a quick guide to impressing your friends with risotto.

You need:
Ariobo rice
1 box of chicken/beef/veggie stock (your choice)
a package of sausage or mushrooms (or both!)

Advice on what you need: I know that the White Wine and Herbs stock that's out there sounds like it would be delicious but WOW is it totally overwhelming. Don't use it for this. I really like using chicken stock and chicken sausage, particularly when I can get the kind with jalapenos in it.

Have at it: Pour the stock into a pot and heat it to boiling. While that's heating up, cut your meat and/or veggies into bite size pieces, and start them cooking. Cook any meat most of the way through, and veggies until they're cooked but not soft. Throw one cup of ariobo rice in there, and let the rice, meat and veggies hang out a little bit (2-3 mins). Once they've had time to mingle, pour a cup or so of your now-boiling stock into the pot. Keep the mixture moving and let the stock absorb into the rice. When the first round of liquid is absorbed, throw some more in there. Keep adding and cooking down until you're out of stock. The last round is often a little tricky since the rice is at its maximum capacity. I like to let the whole thing sit, then it's time to chow down!
Risotto with Chanterelle Mushrooms

Friday, June 11, 2010

Makeup Is Easy: Art Class!

I have a couple friends who don't really get why I do my makeup, and I've explained to them that it gives me a chance to start the day with a little bit of art. M.A.C., God bless 'em, has taken this mentality to its logical conclusion and made actual markers of lipstick.
My friend Katy gave me a gift card to M.A.C for graduation, and one of the items I bought was the Pro Longwear Lipstain Marker in Runway Ripened and it is awesome! My lips tend to bleed a little without liner, but these babies go right on and stay put. The color I got is awesome and I couldn't be happier with it. The consistency is great, too...not sticky, drying or greasy. I'll likely be picking up more of these. I also tried putting my Get Rich Quick Dazzleglass over it and it darkened up the color and added fantastic shine.
You can see that it's quite matte but the color is nice and deep. I have Glee Club Dropout on my eyelids, finished with Phenomen'eyes mascara - such an easy look, but maximum impact!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Shakespeare: The World as Stage

I've recommended Bill Bryson's books several times before in this space, and I'm here to do it again. This one is perfect for the vaguely nerdy reader on vacation - a slim, brisk volume on what we know and don't know of William Shakespeare. There are hundreds of years' worth of speculation on who Shakespeare was, and yet we can declare almost none of the result to be unassailable fact.

There are plenty of stars in the firmament whose histories are equally mysterious, but few inspire the same fevered and sustained research. We allow many of our great lights' work speak for them without trying to parse out their personal histories, but Shakespeare is a man we want to know. I think this is because he has such intimate conversations with our hearts - discussions about honor and about love, justice and leadership, gender and power. Just as we work to know and love the people in our lives who can have those same conversations with us in the flesh, we want to know and love Shakespeare, the man who could produce these great treatises on the human spirit. If he was any less a man, we would be content with his ink, but we want to know his soul.

Bryson understands this, and I think he truly loves Shakespeare for his elusiveness as well as his truth. There is something wonderful about our questions about Shakespeare, and Bryson runs us through the theories with full appreciation for all of the possibilities. Shakespeare could have been a brawling boozehound, staggering home to crank out plays to pay his bar tabs. He could have been a faithful husband whose romances were inspired by the pain of his separation from his wife. He could have been almost anyone, and we don't know. Bryson's approach highlights these options, and his book is all the better for it.

This is a great little book for the beach-going Shakespeare fan. It's thin, funny, quick and well-researched. It's a terrific rundown of the historical and modern research on Shakespeare as well as an excellent index of information.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Makeup Is Easy: Clubbing in Tokyo

I got a Visa gift card from work for my graduation and surprise, surprise, I wound up using it to hit up Sephora. I actually did use it to go out to dinner and such, but I had about $40 left over and decided to use some of that to pick up the Sephora Collection ColorPlay 5-in-1 Pallette, which has five different color stories in one handy box. Each little panel pops out and fits into the included portable compact. How smart is that? I'll wait here while you go order one.
You could be set for life with this selection of colors, and it includes gadgets! Totally fun, and they also include little tutorials on each look on the Sephora website. I tried out the "Clubbing in Tokyo" look suggested on the site because it matched the new M.A.C. Superglass lip gunk I got in Totally Bang! which is also excellent, though I admit I do not like the glitter in it as much as I like the Dazzleglass for everyday wear. That being said, I will be wearing the SHIT out of that Superglass when I go to Lady Gaga July 2nd with THE LUCY!

(There is not a single element of that sentence that isn't 100 times more awesome than anything else in the world [with the exception of Rich who is awesome and snagged the tix for us as a graduation present].)

Seriously you guys, I'm going to be wearing the draggiest, most cracked out makeup ever for that concert and I've been seriously considering how to make a phone hairpiece out of an old wig of mine.


Anyway, Clubbing in Tokyo.
The COLOR of the Superglass is primo and as usual M.A.C. is the shit. You can also see my new haircut, courtesy of Ali who was cutting hair as a fundraiser for the US Social Forum in Detroit. Badass, is it not?
I used the green on the lid and topped it with a strong pink, with some serious sparkle action to blend, then finished with Aqua Smoky Lash.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Gift of Sisterhood and Sometimes Jewelry

My sister and I have fashion sensibilities that meander along separately and bump up against each other more or less at random. When we were in Italy, she admitted to swiping numerous items from my closet in high school, which just goes to show that the Sisters Stealing Each Others' Clothing trope even works when the bulk of your wardrobe is hockey related and/or colored jeans. (Note to fashion: the latter is why this whole 90s Fashion Revival is a terrible, terrible idea.) Sarah has always been much better at following trends and particularly at the successful application of belts (???) than I have, and I seem to be better at finding and applying classic pieces and dressing them up with non-belt accessories. In that light, it's interesting that this necklace, which I wear all the time, was a gift from my sister.
It's exactly the kind of piece I like - nice color, interesting detail, symmetry (ooooh I love symmetry), just big enough for a statement without being too aggressive. Sarah gave this to me for Christmas about eight years ago and I still wear it on a routine basis - if you follow the Makeup Is Easy posts, you've probably seen it a couple of times already.

Sarah worked with me over winter break, and the commute gave us a good amount of time to catch up. We talked a lot about our family, and how lots of our respective friends have commented on how much members of our family love one another. I sometimes get frustrated with my relationship with my siblings because we don't talk as often as I would like and neither of them ever answers their damn phones (to be fair, I don't always either), but whenever we're together I so enjoy my time with them, and it's like we do talk every day. I'm amazed all the time at what interesting, vibrant humans they are.

In a way, my occasional dissatisfaction with our levels of casual communication comes from a soft, quiet knowledge of how present they are in my life; so many of my stories center around them, and all of those stories - even the ones where one or the other plays the role of Bane of My Existence - resolve into a great enriching influence in my life, without which I would not be the person I am today or will be in the future. The above picture is just a necklace, but that my sister gave it to me years ago, at a much younger emotional age, and with a persistently divergent fashion sense from me, speaks to a larger phenomenon that exists between the two of us.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sherlock Holmes and the Magic of Good Writing

The presence of Watson in the tales of Sherlock Holmes guarantees from the beginning that the appeal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories does not lie in ambiguity or work done by the reader to solve the mystery. Indeed, most of the mysteries relayed are in the post-solution voice of Dr. Watson, with all the twists and turns already untangled before Watson had picked up his pen. Everything's going to get explained. This reality shows just how engaging just plain great writing is. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fully realized characters and vision of England make for addictive reading, and there's a reason that new printings keep rolling out even today.

The highest achievement a writer can attain is a story or a character that endures for generations, and Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson certainly fit the bill. Echoes of the pair resound through popular culture in any number of media - consider problem-solving Dr. House and his sidekick Dr. Wilson in House, MD, who owe much to Holmes and Watson not only in character but even in name. Of course, the many movie and TV versions of the duo have shaped their image and character, but their core remains distinctively Doyle's.

The friendship between the two men is intensely real as well, and portraying that kind of relationship realistically has eluded thousands upon thousands of writers. In a certain sense, it's easy to portray romantic relationships because the reader's mind does the legwork for you. There is something universal to the experience of romantic love, and if you're reasonably alert, you can trigger remembrances of those feelings easily. They're so powerful and so appealing that we're always willing to return to them. There are so many kinds of friendships, though, that it takes real talent to create friendships that resonate clearly. Isn't that odd? Still, Doyle pulls it off with grace and aplomb, and creates an enduring pair that is as hilarious as it is lovely.

I would probably recommend an edition of these stories with larger pages so it's a bit slimmer. The copy I have has the virtue of costing less than $7, but is quite dense and thick, making it hard to hold up, particularly towards the beginning and the end of the book. Regardless of the edition, everyone should read these stories - they're as enriching as they are entertaining!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sometimes the Understanding of "Garden Center" is a Little Foggy

Lots of gardening this Memorial Day weekend, beginning with the installation of the long awaited raised dahlia bed:
It's an 8'x5' bed made out of untreated wood (for better flower health), constructed by the crack construction team of Brown & Brown, Inc. Dad helped me go to Lowe's, where we got a bunch of wood and some nails, then we went out back and went to town using Pioneer Woman's advice on building a raised garden bed, which was very helpful (though I think Dad probably could have winged it). Some stakes remain to be screwed in, but that's a quickie job. The tough part was leveling everything and getting it situated. I still need to get some dirt for it, but I will have to run out tomorrow. Then we will have the planting!

Mom and I also went over to a nearby nursery to pick up some plants for my back garden. Now, I don't run a garden store or anything, but I'm just saying that MAYBE if I was going to open one I would hold off on the order for "the jive-talkin', stereotype-livin' Jim Crow crows from Dumbo in lawn ornament form," you know?
Then again, if you're already making room on your shelves for the "Water Worm" then I guess there isn't much reason to hold back:
Umm, that is a dildo. I understand that they're trying to say it's something that indicates when your garden needs watering,'s a dildo. I mean, an epic, somewhat terrifying dildo, but still. Moreover, it's one of those completely useless items that is a redundancy to something that comes standard on your body, because the best way to tell if you need to water your garden? Is to touch the soil. With your finger. [NB: Most humans come equipped with ten of these highly specialized tools.] You're supposed to put this thing on your soil, and if the terra cotta is dark, the soil is okay. If it's light, you need to water it. I am amazed I haven't seen a deranged infomercial for it.

On the other hand, we did get several nice plants and we saw both my accompanist and a hummingbird: