Monday, July 11, 2011


Attention, all you (putatively) happy young couples out there who are in the process of arranging your nuptials: CAUTION! DO NOT READ. This blog post will undoubtedly rub you the wrong way, and far be it from me to tread on your bliss. May you be blessed and live happily ever after!  {Rice} {Cheers} {Tears} {Etcetera}

To continue: As humanity continues its downward spiral into madness, certain formerly agreeable rites and rituals have gradually evolved from sweetly sentimental heartfelt celebrations into massive vulgar orgies of conspicuous consumption that would beggar the spectacles once staged in Rome’s Circus Maximus. Baptisms, circumcisions, christenings, confirmations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, quinceañeras; all of them have been whipped up into a loony meringue of excess, frequently leading to severe financial hangovers and years of indebtedness. Does it make sense? Of course not. (Any supposed religious overtones are steamrolled by the tsunami of expenditure; the Almighty cannot be invoked as a raison d’etre for this nuttiness.) So, what bizarre out-of-control engine is driving this crazy train?

Simple: I believe that the motivation behind such displays is nothing but plain old one-upsmanship, but taken to an extreme that is so far gone into the Twilight Zone that no one even realizes it anymore. Overindulgence has become the norm. By golly, if Larry down the street stages an absurd five-thousand-dollar extravaganza for his sweet sixteen princess, then Moe is damn well going to spend ten thousand bucks on his princess and make Larry look like a tightwad until Curly spends twenty thousand dollars to bury them both in humiliation and cause both their daughters to despise them for being such cheapskates. On and on it goes on, a never-ending carousel ride of rampant avarice, growing ever more outrageous, teaching the impressionable young greedsters to equate love with a willingness to abuse the plastic.

You know, I remember many, many years ago reading a story about some demented Miami businessman who rented the entire Orange Bowl for his son’s Bar Mitzvah. The Orange Bowl! I recall thinking at the time, “Whoa, that kid is seriously hosed.” Yeah, sure. More likely he’s a hedge fund billionaire battening on the corpse of our economy and perhaps renting Antigua for his kid’s Bar Mitzvah.

Now, for pure runaway, bloated, maniacally costly overkill, nothing comes close to the modern wedding. Have you watched some of those wedding shows on television? Setting aside the monetary devastation, the level of angst and hysteria is so stratospheric that it absolutely astonishes me that anyone emerges from the process with their sanity intact, let alone happy. Months and months before the ceremony, the bride is reduced to a shrieking basket case by endless anxieties about the dress, (“Twelve thousand bucks and I look like an effing COW!”) the reception, (“I don’t care if Uncle Mario is doing life in Pelican Bay, we have to invite him and his family!”) the color scheme, (“Goddamit, I want purple and mustard, okay, and that fag wedding coordinator can just bite me!”) the flowers, (“Cricket Feldman had six thousand camellias, and she’s a cheap slut!”) the music, (“I don’t want a bunch of old farts playing songs from a million years ago!”) the bridesmaids, (“Courtney and Sarah are such bitches, I hate them!”) and of course, the mothers. (“Can both of you just please shut up before I lose my mind?!”)

The groom, naturally, is almost entirely excluded from these proceedings, since he is irrelevant. Every once in a while he’s collared and dragged into the mosh pit to be “consulted” about something or other, whereupon he offers a doomed grin like that of the male black widow spider, who knows full well what’s in store.

The crowning –and pitiful– irony of this lunacy is that a huge percentage of these marriages implode rather quickly, because wasted money is no guarantor of happiness, and in fact may even kill it. Sometimes it seems that the more outlandishly-priced the affair, the quicker it ends in ruin. The bride shows up in a flower-bedecked carriage drawn by twelve white stallions, the groom helicopters down in a Sikorsky, the guests slug down Piper-Heidsieck by the gallon and devour enough Beluga caviar to sink a barge, and five weeks later the joyful couple separates, citing “irreconcilable differences”.

The Beatles (anyone remember them?) had it right: “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Perhaps the song should be played at every one of these atrocities, until folks begin to remember why they get married in the first place. Hint, sweethearts, from your old Aunt Lannie: It isn't the par-tay.

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff

Thursday, July 7, 2011


As we enter the opening phases of another interminable election cycle, I find myself curiously –and refreshingly– detached from the impending chaos and lunacy. For the first time in my adult [caution: suspect adjective use] life, I am not fastened like a squid’s sucker to every single political column, article, forecast, diatribe, prognostication and poll (straw or otherwise) that I can find. To my surprise, a great sense of peace arises in my breast from not caring in the slightest which one of the Keystone Kandidates made a better impression on last Sunday’s assemblage of gun-waving yahoos at the annual mudsucker fry over in the key bellwether hamlet of Throwback Notch.

Still, this serenity of mine is a trifle worrisome. I mean, what’s happening to me? Have I started my final descent into that rheumy-eyed Happy Realm where all I care about is another bowl of applesauce and a new hearing aid?? Consternation! I mean, everyone knows that it’s vitally important to remain completely plugged in all the time to everything that’s happening everywhere... isn’t it? After all, one way another, these pols are going to be running the country –and by extension, our lives– for the foreseeable future, and if that isn’t a reason for panic, nothing is. How can I not be obsessed?

Well, I may have a hunch. Over the past several years, I have come to suspect that all of this manic election hoopla really doesn’t amount to much. Sure, it’s the most wastefully expensive yell-fest in human history, but so what? In my jaded view, our “political system” is so hopelessly bollixed up that the whole nominating process resembles some sort of through-the-looking-glass freak circus, and following every bump, grind, waffle and self-implosion isn’t nearly as entertaining as watching desperate contestants get catapulted into vats of syrupy goo on Wipe Out. I don’t know how many years I have left on this earth, but surely I can find something better to do with my time than worry about whether Mr. Flip-Flop, Lady Screech, or the Bug-eyed True Believer is ahead in the latest meaningless newspaper sampling.

And anyway, what I think is of no significance whatsoever. Nothing I do will affect the ultimate outcome. Admittedly I never miss a chance to vote (it’s my Good Citizen gene) but that doesn’t mean I’m kidding myself. After more than six decades, I have come to realize that nine times out of ten the majority will elect the Most Unqualified Idiot, so why work myself into an anguished lather? “BUT (S)HE WILL APPOINT A RIGHT/LEFT-WING MANIAC TO THE SUPREME COURT”, I hear you scream. Yeah, maybe so. And? It’s happened before, and we’re all still here. As my daughter has observed on occasion: “Just chill.”

In any case, there is one tremendous additional benefit to be had by ignoring the political silly season: not having to listen to television pundits. To my way of thinking, few things –with the possible exceptions of junk hamburgers and insurance company executives– have done more to debase the quality of life in America than television pundits. I know, I know, the Almighty created all living things, including parasites, and I humbly accept that She had Her reasons; but seriously, even for a lower life form, the television pundit is so utterly lacking in worth that it truly boggles the mind.  

When my mind is boggled, it compensates in peculiar ways. Herewith an example:

The Pompous Political Pundit Show

Another dull Sunday... rainy and cold,
sitting around and beginning to mold.
Turn on the boob tube, hey, whattaya know?
It's the Pompous Political Pundit Show!

These pundits are usually good for some laughs:
the ill-informed statements, the blunders, the gaffes,
delivered with such a self-worshipping glow
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

One is a geek, and the other's a blonde;
smugly convinced that they've got us all conned.
Never make sense but they spin and they snow
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Eager by turns to go out on a limb,
making predictions that simply sound dim.
Somehow I doubt that they'll ever eat crow
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Hurling such rot from the left and the right,
ego-crazed bullies who just want to fight.
Being a jackass will get you a go
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Yelled interruptions too garbled to follow,
twisted statistics a dolt wouldn't swallow,
shouting out facts that you know aren't so,
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Clearly they don't believe viewers can think.
That's why they waste so much airtime (and ink).
I'm feeling ill. For the Maalox I go,
from the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Enjoy the show... or not. I’ve got a good book to write.

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


You may have noticed that my blog (R4) is atypically uncluttered with pictures, icons, URLs, Google ads, Twitter come-ons, YouTube links, dancing rainbow Tasmanian Devils or any of the billion other little cyber-thingies that populate the blog world. Perhaps you suppose that this is due to a disturbing fondness on my part for expanses of abstractly-splotched pink watercolor background, but that’s not it.

No, the reason that stuff isn’t there is because... well, because I am a true gizmophobe.

gizmo·phobia (\'giz-mō-'fō-bē-ə) n.  Fear of or aversion to technology, especially computers and high technology. (See also: Luddite, Neanderthal.)

See, I have a serious fear of all things techie, geeky, nerdy, HTML-y, and so forth. (I suspect this came about because when I was still young and innocent my über-geek brother tried to ram DOS into my brain, leaving me cruelly traumatized and determined to forever avoid anything with a plug.) I don’t like cell phones (just looking at a Droid stresses me out), MP3 players strike me as alien and sinister, and I always offer prayerful thanks when the printer actually prints instead of exploding. (As for changing the ink cartridge... can I have a Xanax?)

In light of this, it should come as no surprise when I confess that as I was setting up my fabulous blog, the actual process of assembling the components filled me with dread. I was confronted with an array of mysterious items: “templates”, “layout width”, “hover color”, and the like. Then, after an hour of tentative key taps to see what might (or might not) happen, I came across an elongated outline that proclaimed, in words striking terror to my very core: “INSERT GADGET HERE”.  


Now, admittedly I’m a bit of a prude, but the thought of inserting gadgets anywhere is waay outside my comfort zone. What kind of gadget?? I didn’t want any stupid gadgets. I just wanted to write posts and have fun and try to be amusing and not be harassed and LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY WITH THE GODDAM GADGETS!!

Then, when I finally thought I’d gotten everything sorted out, I clicked on something called “Preview” to check it all out, and up popped one of those hideous messages that make 21st century life such a non-stop joy:

“Internet Explorer cannot display the page because scrammis bollafip can’t virp splignit when you ick the screeble. Press ‘retry’ to retry, or ‘cancel’ to waste the entire past three hours because you are a lame loser from the previous century who would be more at home attending a husking bee than trying to use a computer. Error message: ICUR12BAtwit.”


I think I’ll go have some prune juice and practice using the can opener.

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff

Sunday, July 3, 2011


“Moderation ought never be taken to extremes." – Anonymous

Well, okay. Anonymous didn’t say that. I did, during a recent doomed effort to transform myself into an aphorist along the lines of Messrs. La Rochefoucauld, Lichtenberg, and Wilde. I have always relished the keen or catty bon mot, and so I set out to become a master of the Pithy Truism.

All very well, but I ran into a headwind straight away. These sorts of wise quips and witticisms all have one thing in common: they are succinct. As anyone who knows me will readily confirm, succinctness is not my forte. I have something of a tendency toward volubility; as my spouse is wont to observe, I can “download” until people want to cover their ears and scream. (Just to give you some idea, I could hold forth at great length on the subject of brevity.) True story: When my daughter was about three years old, she made the mistake of asking me an innocent question, whereupon I launched into an encyclopedic discourse about lord knows what. She scrunched up her beautiful little face, rolled her eyes and pleaded, “DAD! Don’t say more words.” I was so stunned and proud that I actually shut up, and that remains one of our most precious father-daughter memories to this day. Which, naturally, I recite in great detail at every opportunity, to her endless chagrin.

Of course, this prolixity shows up in my writing, too. The first draft of SHE’S MY DAD emerged from my fevered mind at over 173 thousand words, from which I then cut almost 24 thousand. A lot of unnecessary long-windedness, to say the least. Determined to write more efficiently as I work on my new book, I sternly order myself to be concise and to the point, with no ruffles and flourishes. The result isn’t fewer ruffles and flourishes, but fewer words at all, since I’ve hamstrung myself from letting the prose flow naturally in a blathering torrent, which is the way I write. (Can you tell? Believe it or not, I heavily edited this entry.) That's what comes of trying to be brief, when one’s natural inclination is to be effusive.

The one area where I did have a bit of luck at keeping things short was in the realm of poetry, even though poetry is the art of saying much in few words, whereas my art involves saying much, period. Nonetheless, I did manage to compose a few reasonably compressed poems, which folks seemed to find engaging rather than embarrassing. (Whew!) Here’s an example of my attempt at poetic concision:

Calming Waters

When the common uncommonly riles
and constant strain of constant pain
pops rivets from sanity's support beams,
I yearn for refuge and renewal
someplace on a solitary seacoast.

Where salty waves mesmerize
with metronomic eternity,
isolated with my transience
I seek to rediscover the serenity
of relative insignificance.

Pretty succinct, right?

But, as is said of the dinosaur DNA in Jurassic Park, “Nature always finds a way.” Before long, this is what I produced:

The Porcine Pedant

It occasionally crosses my mind
-- as a termite will a hotplate--
while I wallow porcine, pompous,
pickling in the brine of my megamorphic rectitude,
that my wonderful existence as Emperor of the Over-Learned Bores,
attained after a lifelong struggle to absorb more useless mental chaff than
any mortal in history
to be spewed as water from a busted hydrant in blathering cascades without end,
may be placed in jeopardy by my own gluttonous disregard
for the mundane verity
that a subsistence upon swollen ego and
oleaginous orotundity and
animal grease
must inevitably result in ghastly bloat of form and deadly stress of ticker...

But then!

Secure in my conviction that the Almighty
daren't apply to my sociopathic rotundity
the laws of physics by which She governs the rest of the Universe,
I reach for yet another fistful of tallow
to pound into my over-clogged capillaries,
bravely marching in Strasbourg goose-step to martial strains
played by McDonald's Cholesterol Band
into a glorious future of back-pain and
wheezing for breath and
double airplane seats
to accommodate a posterior grown broader than a Simmental cow's,
over the cliff of myocardial infarction to that intellectually barren
Land of Rubber Tubes
which lies just short of the
Kingdom of Mental Parsnips
where nary an ignoramus can sight-translate
Trilobite me
from the original Aramaic
and enemas lurk behind green curtains
waiting to pounce with radiator flush
and Vaselined nozzles.

Alas for brevity!

Hmm... perhaps I should try my hand at writing a short story.

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Right, then: With considerable reluctance, I have concluded that it is time for me to join the 21st century, succumb to the inevitable, and start my own blog. To do this, as a famous disgrace once declared, “is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.”
Well, too bad, Lannie. Get over yourself, get with the program, and start shooting your mouth off. It’s what you do most of the time anyway; that whole reticence thing is an affectation, and nobody likes a poser.

Why now? Well, for one thing, they say it’s absolutely crucial for a writer to have a blog these days. Ah, you ask, but exactly who are THEY? Why, the very same all-knowing THEY who decree that you can’t give lamb chop bones to the cat (it might choke), or wear long hair if you’re over forty (tacky and pathetic), or read Huckleberry Finn (Twain is, like, such a racist), or believe that Beltway pundits have less collective sense than a rutabaga. THEY are the ultimate faceless authorities before whom we all cringe, and genuflect, and scuttle under the refrigerator, lest THEY think we have a mind of our own.

By starting a blog, I can now become one of the mob, a sure-nuff member of the blaberatti, spewing forth declamations and opinions on anything and everything that strikes my fancy; an exercise in metastasized self-indulgence that really, when you think about it, is nicely reflective of the prevailing societal attitude these days.

Incidentally, I truly loathe the word “blog”, which is unquestionably one of the ugliest words ever coined. It sounds like some sort of demonic troll in “Lord of the Rings” (yes, dears, I know that was the Balrog) but you get my point. Personally I would’ve preferred bdiary, bjournal, or even bchronicle, but no one consulted me, so we’re stuck with "blog”. Alas for the English language!

Now, although like most writers I am tinged with megalomania and exist in a more-or-less permanent state of self-absorption, I’m fully aware that my blog will prove to be of no consequence whatsoever in the grand scheme of things. Actually, I’m sort of counting on it, because there’s great comfort to be had in embracing one’s utter unimportance. Besides, in a world already overflowing with such atrocities as reality television shows, aerosol cheese spread and Wall Street, this blog (hereinafter referred to as “R4”) will at best be a minor additional horror.

I don’t often make promises, but here’s an exception, paraphrased from the mandatory Honor Code signature required on all academic submissions at my esteemed alma mater, Princeton: “I pledge my honor as a gentlewoman that, in writing this blog, I shall take neither myself, nor anything else, seriously.”

Since finally starting a blog,
Miss Lannie’s an Internet cog.
With consummate poise,
she adds her own noise,
which thickens the cyber-space fog.

 See what I mean?

To quote Mr. Longfellow: “Excelsior!

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff