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Charlie Hatton
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It Just Goes (Amaz)On and On and On...

(This week's Secondhand SCIENCE is lost... in... spaaaaa-aaaace.

Well, almost. It's actually all about trans-Neptunian objects, which aren't quite "lost". But they are really, really far away. And there might be more of them than you think. Have a looksee.)

I'm not much for New Years' resolutions.

"New Years' resolutions are like assholes: everyone's got one, and nobody wants their face rubbed in someone else's."

Partly because they're a little too common. I tend to stay away from the conventions that everyone follows, because how interesting are those? To paraphrase a popular saying about opinions:

New Years' resolutions are like assholes: everyone's got one, and nobody wants their face rubbed in someone else's.

Wait. Maybe that was birthdays. Anyway, you get the point.

Also, I don't like New Years' resolutions because the tradition is completely arbitrary. A large fraction of the eastern hemisphere doesn't even recognize January first as the start of the new year. A few hundred years ago, various Europeans celebrated in spring, or September or December 25th. And between all the adjustments and gaps and tinkering with the Gregorian and Julian and other calendars over the centuries, who knows whether modern "January 1" is still the same "January 1" people were talking about through history, anyway?

What I'm saying is, if you simply must make an annual resolution, pick whatever day you like. It's fairly likely it was "New Years' Day" to someone, sometime, somewhere in history.

Mostly, of course, I'm just lazy. So I don't make New Years' resolutions. But this year, I am making a "Second-to-Last Week of January resolution".

Which is perfectly as good. See above, if you don't believe me.

What I'm resolving is to finally finish reformatting and re-releasing the Amazon prank review articles I wrote for ZuG.com a while back.

(A recap of the situation, for those of you -- okay, all of you, who can't be bothered to link through and catch up:

ZuG.com was a Boston-based humor site for around 15 years, featuring pranks, articles, message boards and some of the least uncomfortable talk about "pee tubes" you can imagine.

Also, some of the most uncomfortable talk about pretty much everything else. And yes, it was glorious.

I wrote two series of around fifty articles each there -- one involving Facebook post pranks on companies, and the other silly Amazon reviews. When ZuG closed up shop on April Fools Day 2013, I was able to grab the materials [and permission] to repost those articles here.

I got the Facebook posts cleaned up and reposted by April 2014. The Amazon articles, not so much. Like I said, I'm lazy.)

So, I'm making a late-January resolution to get these silly things live by April 1st, the second anniversary of ZuG riding the old flaming Viking funeral ship out to sea.

(Or choking on a cocktail wiener while sitting on the toilet. None of us has actually seen the medical examiner's report.)

To be honest, I'd nearly forgotten about those old Amazon reviews, but my memory was jogged when I found out two of them were hand-selected (by Amazon automated delivery drones, possibly) to appear in Did You Read That Review? It's a book chock full of odd and hilarious reviews of Amazon products, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Also, now I want to get those articles up so I can read what the hell I was thinking when I wrote that nonsense.

So if you want a sneak peek of the Amazon-pranking goodness to come... again, by April... probably, unless it's really hard... then check out the book. Or just sit back and wait (like I've basically done for nearly two years), and perhaps the articles will magically reappear.

Either way, this is the best non-New Years' New Years' resolution I've ever heard of. Anybody can lose weight or quit smoking or get elected to Congress in the space of a year. But I'm taking laughs from the internet tomb in which they lie (and also, a book), and bringing them back to life -- the better to be ridiculed, mocked and vilified for creating them in the first place.

If that doesn't say "brave new year", I don't know what the hell else does.





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Just Say No-Lympics

(It's time again for science. That's Secondhand SCIENCE, natch.

This week, it's a look at DNA origami. Want to fold a pretty swan out of your genetic material? Well, that's kind of strange. But maybe you can. Have a look, weirdball.)

I'm not sure I'm on board with this whole "Boston hosting a Summer Olympics" thing.

Sure, it would be a fantastic cultural experience -- people from countries all over the world would mingle in the streets, sharing thoughts and cuisines and various exotic pathogens. It'd be like a United Nations meeting, with more javelins. Or Carnivale, without the boobs.

And maybe living here, I'd even be able to score tickets to a couple of the events. Nothing extravagant, of course. The popular sports would be way out of my price range. But maybe I could catch Cameroon and Laos in a cornhole semifinal, or whoever Russia hasn't re-absorbed in Eastern Europe playing a game of table soccer.

Are those exhibition sports? I don't really keep up.

Still, I can't see the advantages outweighing the significant and inevitable suckages. Logistics, for instance. Boston proper is approximately the size of a Denny's place mat, which means the venues for sports would either be outside the city and miles apart, or allcrammedupontopofeachother, which would lead to some terribly awkward moments around the Olympic village.

Just for instance:

Latvian athlete: Hey, bucko -- you got your sweaty handballs in my beach volleyball panties.

Norwegian athlete: To be pardoning, no -- you wrapped your beach volleyball panties around my sweaty handballs.

Both: They're two great tastes we can medal in together!

And then they'd run off to practice Greco-Roman wrestling in the dorms. Do you want that on your conscience?

"There's a reason people only bother going to Gillette Stadium for four games a year in December and January. I'm just saying."

Well, fine, maybe you do. Still, it seems kind of messy. And the point stands -- the plan as I've heard it is to use existing sporting venues all over the suburbs, which would mean an awful lot of zipping around on overtaxed roads and buses and subway cars to see them. There's a reason people only bother going to Gillette Stadium for four games a year in December and January. I'm just saying.

Speaking of which, that's another markdown for the Olympics: why would you host a sporting event that the local sports heroes wouldn't excel at?

That's just not the Boston way, frankly. When we've hosted the Stanley Cup in hockey, we made sure the Bruins got to play in it. Ditto the World Serieses at Fenway; the Red Sox were right in the middle of those. All the NBA playoffs in Boston have featured the Celtics, and the NFL post-season played here includes the Patriots, like clockwork. The local fans love those teams, and the players. But where in the world would any of them get into the Olympics?

Nowhere, is where. What's David Ortiz going to do, join a rowing team? They say Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have a great rapport on the field -- but can they synchronize swim? And who wants to see Zdeno Chara in competitive horse jumping? Not the horses. I'll guarantee you that.

Besides all of that, the last few Olympics have been enormous money sinks for their host cities, costing billions of dollars to plan for, put on and clean up after. Neither Boston nor Massachusetts has that kind of money lying around; it's already earmarked for Harvard fundraisers and MIT startups. Also, I think we're probably still paying for the Big Dig. Also, Ted Kennedy's bar tab. And the Tea Party.

(No, not the loonybag recent one. The other one, back in Redcoat times.)

So personally, I think I'd prefer if the Olympics pass Boston by -- with one exception. These are the 2024 Olympics, I think, and that's still a few years off. Maybe by then, we'll have this virtual reality thing finally figured out, and all the games will be digital, with the athletes competing via joysticks from the comfort of their Olympic Village sleep pods, and the rest of us jacked into the Matrix to watch. It might not matter at that point what city the Olympics are "in", technically, but I'd be all for Boston hosting then.

Why? With all the fancy hacking and coding the kids can do these days, we can probably muster a way to make Big Papi a world-class (virtual) rhythmic gymnast. And that's a (digitally-enhanced) spectacle I'd pay (real money) to (fake) see.





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The Furor of the Juror

(You know what's special? Relativity, that's what.

Well, not all of it. Just the special kind. Obviously.

For more probing scientifical insights like this, check out this week's dose of Secondhand SCIENCE, which is about -- you guessed it -- special relativity.

It makes regular relativity look like remedial relativity. Check it out.)

Next week, I'll be venturing into new territory for me. New, somewhat troubling and highly judicial: I've been summoned for jury duty.

It's my first time, which seems to be unusual -- just about everyone I mention it to has been called for jury duty themselves. Which means they have stories. And lots of advice:

"Better take a tablet, so you can watch movies or something."

Evidently, watching the wheels of justice turn isn't as mesmerizing as the writers for Law and Order would want you to believe.

"If you get sequestered, make sure they give you the good takeout food."

This advice was sadly not followed up with tips on how to score the good takeout, or exactly what constituted "bad takeout". I've frankly never met a spicy eggroll I didn't like. But I've never had one in a courthouse, either.

"If you want out fast, just give 'em the crazy eyes. Say you're pro-arson or something."

This seems like good advice to get out of some things fast. A blind date, for instance. A PTA meeting. Volunteer firefighter training. But assuming there's a prosecutor in the vicinity, I think I'll stay away from confessing love for any sort of felony. Or misdemeanor, for that matter.

"If some suit is still yakking about evidence by noon, I'm just going to vote to fry the defendant for whatever disturbing the peace or litterbugging he's in for, so we can all get on with our lives."

But I am good with the crazy eyes. I'm totally doing that.

The main thing I don't want is to get sucked into some months-long affair that drags on forever. A couple of hours of criminal justice system is fine -- I've watched my share of L&O marathons on cable. But I'll lose interest soon enough. If some suit is still yakking about evidence by noon, I'm just going to vote to fry the defendant for whatever disturbing the peace or litterbugging he's in for, so we can all get on with our lives.

Well, okay. So the rest of us can get on with our lives. The perp should have thought of that before he dropped his gum wrapper on the ground, or whatever.

The scary thing -- other than everything about a courthouse, and being formally summoned to one at eight in the early-ass morning -- is that there are two hee-yuge trials around town just getting under way. The Boston Marathon bombing trial started picking jurors last week, and apparently the ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez murder trial is doing the same now. Neither of those seems like a quick "in-and-out" kind of deal, somehow. Probably, there's some evidence to go over, and witnesses to call and such. The bad takeout could get really old for somebody sitting on one of those juries.

Of course, as a (sometimes) writer, maybe I should want to land on one of those high-profile cases. Some jurors get through those, wrangle some sort of legal rights or other, and pen bestselling books about the experience. I can't say that wouldn't be attractive. Except for all that writing that's probably involved. Still.

The bigger problem is that I'm really that kind of writer. You don't want deliberations about a cold-blooded murder, or a capital terrorism case, to sound hilarious -- but I'm not sure what else I could go for. Most everything I write -- including this nonsense -- is a swirl of iffy snark, self-deprecation and dick jokes.

(Psst. It was the "spicy eggroll" thing. Sometimes they're subtle.)

Anyway, I don't think that's a risk for me. Those are both federal cases, I think, and I'm not being called to a federal courthouse... I think. I don't really know how this works. Maybe I'll get traded for a sack of "good takeout" burritos, and wind up sequestered for months. Or I'll acquit a jaywalker after ten minutes of defense. Or I won't get called at all. That might be likeliest.

(I really do have the good crazy eyes. I'm just saying.)





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Should Old Spam-quaintance Be Forgot?

(Happy new Secondhand SCIENCE! This time, we're talking about prions. It sounds like some kind of vegan unicorn-farting car, but no -- it's science! Have a gander.

Also! If you're around Boston on Thursday night, come see our sketch group Always on Deck at Sketchhaus at ImprovBoston. It's mostly new, and probably fabulous. No, seriously.)

The start of a new year seems like a good time to reflect.

Not in a mirror. Good lord, after the holiday feasts and the powersleeping and the sitting on my ass for two solid yet squishy weeks. No.

Instead, I'll reflect on my tiny (and indirect) role in the sad and spammy state of the modern internet.

(Oh, it's not so weepy as all that. I'm just being dramatic.)

Spam is everywhere online. Crammed in your inbox. Wedged between your YouTubes. Aggravating your articles. It's constant.

If you spend a lot of time on the internet -- particularly on this site, where I've bitched about this for years -- then you've also run into the odd and annoying species of network flotsam called "comment spam". For the most part, these are gibberish messages, not even meant for the eyes of actual readers (or link-clickers). Rather, as I understand it, it "works" like this:

Filthy spam robot makes programmed access to a blog or other site that accepts comments. Filthy spam robot runs program to submit comment with keywords and links to dubious bullshit pages hawking knockoff handbags, fake watches and deep-discount Tic-Tacs repackaged as peener pills. Google then indexes those blog pages for search, notices the millions of links associated with the keywords, and shoots those links to the top of internet searches for... I don't know, "Cooch purses", "Rolexuses" and "Viiiagra", I guess.

I put "works" in quotes above because I'm told that a few years ago, Google figured all of this out. They didn't appreciate being made search engine pawns by a bunch of pseudo-Cialis sickos, so they rejiggered their algorithms to put the kibosh of this nonsense. Spam all the comments you like; Big Googs knows what that looks like now, and is through rewarding your shenanigans.

"No one is clicking on the links, or seeing them, or telling Google how great faux Russian 'Bearburry' coats are."

So those shenanigans stopped, right?

No. The comment spambots churn on, merciless and impotent, even today.

But, you might protest, surely the spammers have changed tack? They only ping big popular sites, trying to actually get eyeballs and clicky mouse-fingers onto their greasy links?

That's where my little part comes in.

Up in the aside above, I mentioned my other site Secondhand SCIENCE. It's a niche site. I don't advertise it much (except on here, which is also pretty niche). And no one else does, either. So next to no one visits.

That's okay. I'm writing there -- and pretty much everywhere else -- largely for my own amusement. I started the site last February, and there are something like eight comments on it right now. Half of them are mine, responding to a friend I used to work with who sometimes reads. The other half are his. It's quite possible we're the only two who've seen the site in the last ten months.

However.

In the fall, I was writing my 34th Secondhand SCIENCE post, and happened to notice that the spam comment filter on the site had been working a bit harder of late. After seeing none of that nonsense for the first few weeks, the trickle of tripe had started. And at that point, it was up to a steady stream. In fact, the comment blocker boasted it had shitcanned more than 14,000 spurious spamments to that point.

That got me thinking. I post once a week, so I extrapolated out and determined my 50th post would be the first of this new year, 2015.

(Tomorrow, if you're interested. Tune in any time, folks.)

I wondered whether the spam -- this particular sort of now-ineffective, easily-rerouted, pointless, brainless spam -- would really keep coming. None of it is getting through. No one is clicking on the links, or seeing them, or telling Google how great faux Russian "Bearburry" coats are. I know they're automated, and they're hitting six million sites at once. But they're illogical, on every front, and hopelessly outdated.

Surely it couldn't keep pace. The stream must be at maximum firehose level already. I decided to pay closer attention, and see whether the number of comments blocked hit 50,000 before or after my 50th post.

Tomorrow, I'll write that 50th post on my mostly-unknown, nigh-unvisited niche little website.

And the total number of spam comments that have been left (and blocked) there, as of this evening?:

134,428. And counting.

That's the internet, kids. Happy new year.





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The Gift Grift That Keeps On Giving

(What's going on this week in the land of Secondhand SCIENCE, you ask? Good question!

This time around, we're digging into the Mpemba effect, where the cold side stays cold and the hot side stays... even colder, as it turns out. It's all kinds of freaky. Check it out.)

Hey, parents!

You had a great fall and winter this year, thanks to your "elf on the shelf" putting the fear of a coal-stuffing Santa into your little brat or impette. They were on their very best behavior -- at least when you or the elf doll were in the room. And that's great!

But now Christmas is over. The kids scored all their swag, and that little elf puppet has lost all sway over the heathens now.

(Oh sure, you can tell them, "Santa keeps an eye on you all year."

But they know old Crotchety Kringle -- read: you -- will forget all the unspeakable shit they do before summer, at least. This isn't their first North Pole rodeo, there, skipper.)

So what's an overbearing Mom or Dad to do? How to point your spawn in the right direction and teach them valuable lessons about guilt and shame and modern surveillance culture, when the "money" holiday is fifty-one weeks away?

Never fear, ya nagging nanny ninnies. Christmas may be out of play again for a few months, but there are still an army of holiday watchdogs you can employ to instill paranoia and anxiety in all of your offspring. And you can have fun doing it! Check out these "elf on the shelf" out-of-season replacements:

Baby Cupid on the Stoop(id)

You don't want your kids thinking "love is in the air" on Valentine's Day; what the hell good would that do them? Plop this disapproving cherub on your front stoop in early February to make your children ask themselves:

"Am I really worthy of love?" (Hint: no. And tie your damned shoe, kid.)
"Will I ever find someone who understands me?" (Yep, two of 'em: "Jack" and "Daniels".)
"Where's my 'fairy tale ending'?" (Probably at the back of an Edgar Allan Poe story.)

You'll be lucky if the kids make it past this thing to get into the house. And you're welcome.

Leprechaun on the "Ottomaun"

Assuming the kids do make it inside (by March), greet them with this scowling Irish mascot on their favorite living room footrest. It'll be a constant reminder that if they're not good, they won't get any of the great things associated with St. Patrick's Day:

Green beer
Drunken hookups
Drunken breakups
Drunken cockfights (both kinds)
Various green bodily fluids
Potato famines
Shillelagh spanking (both kinds)
The absence of snakes

You tell 'em misbehavin' wee children get no beer, a mug full of vipers and all the potatoes they can eat. And they'll have to spank their own shillelaghs. That'll put the fear o' the blarney into 'em.

Ash on the Dash

What better way to make children feel deep pangs of remorse around Arbor Day than to mount an uprooted, slowly dying ash sapling on the dashboard of your car? That way, when they've finally pestered you into yet another ride to soccer practice or business school or the emergency room, you can lecture them (again) about how all the vehicle emissions they're causing are killing the environment.

And all because they just had to get some exercise or break a femur or apply to Wharton. Selfish jerks.

(Note: You might have thought this one would be a reference to Ash Wednesday, and dumping ashes all over your car to guilt your kids into something. But no, for three reasons:

1. It's your car. Those children don't give a shit how dirty it is. They've been flicking boogers in the back seat since before they could hold their goddamned heads upright.

2. The Christian holidays are generally terrible for this sort of treatment, because they're already about guilt and feeling awful in the first place. What would you even withhold from a "bad" kid on Ash Wednesday? Dirtying up his face and hearing he basically nailed some carpenter to bunch of his own wood, probably? Don't miss that special moment, Mom and Dad.

3. If you really want to hit 'em where it hurts, faith-based edition, hold out for Easter and plant the ...)

"And what are they doing in the medicine cabinet, anyway? Looking for mouthwash to huff? Licking all the pregnancy test strips?"

Praying Rabbit in the Medicine Cabinet

This'll straighten the rugrats out in all sorts of ways. And what are they doing in the medicine cabinet, anyway? Looking for mouthwash to huff? Licking all the pregnancy test strips? Swapping grandpa's pain poppers with his pecker pills?

The rabbit sees all of this. And the rabbit doesn't approve. No Cadbury eggs for naughty kids this year.

Also, he'll be a constant reminder of the "true meaning" of Easter, which apparently doesn't involve posting pics of the largest number of marshmallow Peeps you can stuff into your mouth at once.

Instead, it's about how children once nailed baby rabbit Jesus to a chocolate cross or something, or forsook him for a bowl of Trix. Which is part of a balanced breakfast, so you can kind of see the kids' side on this one, actually.

Whatever line you feed them, just make sure they know if they don't keep their noses clean, they'll be getting no Easter baskets or goodies this year.

And they'll have to keep those noses clean without the Afrin nasal spray, because that's in the medicine cabinet -- and baby Jesus bunny rabbit is watching you in there, mister.

Bottle Rocket in the Pocket

All kids love fireworks. And good kids -- if such a beast even exists, and experts have their doubts, I hear -- should get to watch the beautiful fireworks displays lighting up the night on the Fourth of July.

The bad kids, not so much. They should be under constant surveillance, and ceremonially marched blindfolded away from the festivities if found undeserving of the holiday splendor. That's the deal. (Or should be. Stupid child blindfolding laws.)

How to remind children of this arrangement? Send them out on summer mornings with a live firecracker in the pocket of their pants. And not only is it topical; if they come back one day with the bottle rocket missing or exploded or without several of their fingers, then you'll know they succumbed to temptation and lit it. No Independence Day for them this year. Them's the breaks, Stumpy.

Candy Wrapper on the Crapper

Finally, if you really want to scare your kids into submission, you'll mess with their second-favorite holiday: Halloween. And your "monitor" for this holiday couldn't be more on the money -- or easier, or cheaper. Simply buy a piece of candy, eat it, and leave the empty wrapper sitting on your bathroom toilet.

The kids who see it will get the message -- namely, screw up this fall, and all your Trick or Treat treats are getting flushed down the commode. You can Hershey kiss those sweets goodbye, short of some major-league seasonal parental ass-kissing, bub. We're talking real von Trapp-level horseshit here. Yeah.

And leading up to the night, that strategically placed wrapper is all you need to remind the boys and girls in the house to straighten up, fly right and Auf Wiedersehen their asses off, if they want to see any goodies in October.

Plus, you get to eat candy -- quite possibly while figuratively taking it away from a baby. Talk about a holiday! What could be better than that?





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Coming Hit-tractions

('Tis the season, all right. The season for Secondhand SCIENCE. [To be fair, that's every season.]

This week, the buzz is about Z-DNA. Is that how z-ebras get their stripes? Or Z-orro his skinny mustache? Z-oom on over and find out.)

Last week, I talked about a certain pumpkin log that became a costar of a short comedy film I've been working on. Or rather, three different pumpkin logs playing the same character in various scenes.

"We've got ten people in this movie, and somehow the pastry is the only one who gets stunt doubles."

(We've got ten people in this movie, and somehow the pastry is the only one who gets stunt doubles.

On the other hand, the pastry is the only one who's been in the main character's mouth -- as far as I know -- so I guess fair is fair.)

Obviously, your interest is piqued now. As far as I know.

So, good news, then. It'll be a few weeks before the film is edited and dubbed and letterboxed and blessed by a priest of Baal, or however the hell it is films get released -- but right now, this very moment, you can dig in and learn more over at our fancy new Facebook page for: The Hit.

So far, we've got a few behind the scenes shots and production stills -- including yes, one of the infamously delicious pumpkin roll. There'll be more of that coming soon -- much, much more pumpkin roll, I'm afraid -- along with news, info and eventually the big official release.

Or a postcard from Armageddon, if that Baal priest gets too frisky.

Either way, stay tuned. As for me, it's holiday travel time tomorrow, so I'm off to pack. It's candy canes and Santasaurus sweaters for me next week.

And pumpkin logs, naturally. They're not just for Hollywood close-ups any more.





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A Gluten for Punishment

(It's science time! That's Secondhand SCIENCE time to you.

This week, we're learning [if you can call it that, which you mostly can't] about nanoparticles. Like carbonite, maybe, if that's a real thing. Or Ariana Grande. It gets a little weird. Go see.)

I don't like making people uncomfortable.

(Except for the times when I do, which is mostly all of the times. But for the sake of argument, let's assume I don't.)

Problem is, sometimes there's no good way to not make someone uncomfortable. I had one of those, a few weekends ago.

You may know (or may not) that I was involved in a short comedy film shoot over the past month or so. My friend Jenn and I wrote the script, and decided we liked it enough to give filming it a shot.

"I might as well decide I'm going to invent a perpetual motion machine made of used popsicle sticks and powered by Tinkerbell farts."

Which means absolutely nothing, for me to decide such a thing. I might as well decide I'm going to invent a perpetual motion machine made of used popsicle sticks and powered by Tinkerbell farts. Luckily, Jenn knows how these things work and has a ton of past experience, practical knowledge and helpful contacts.

(For the filming. Not the fairy-fart machine. Trust me -- I asked.)

So we put a schedule together, and planned to shoot over a couple of weekends in November. We used my condo, her car, a local pub and assorted locations in Rhode Island. But before shooting, we had to put all of the pieces together, like the props. Jenn acquired a Santasaurus sweater, four dozen urine specimen bottles and two Boy Scout uniforms. I found a velour track suit, a laser pointer and a banner for the (nonexistent) West Chelsea Charity Arts and Crafts Fair. Meanwhile, our designer rolled out the graphics, both printed and digital: a mafia-themed cupcake company logo. "Got chlamydia?" pamphlets. Dick Aficionado magazine.

(By the way, if that last paragraph doesn't make you want to see this movie ASAP, then I don't know what the hell we're doing here. I'm just saying.)

Clearly, all of these things made our mail carriers very uncomfortable, along with a couple of Kinkos employees making copies of whatever unholy thing we had to xerox. These people, we didn't care so much about. They see weird shit every day.

But when it was nearly time to start shooting, I was tasked with picking up the last set of props. One of the characters we'd written is a big fan -- no, a big fan, really -- of pastries. Doughnuts and cupcakes and bear claws, oh my. You name it (and preferably, glaze it) and he's into it. That's his "thing".

Naturally, the actor who signed on to play the part -- hilariously, by the way -- has a gluten sensitivity. So we couldn't actually feed him all those rich sugary pastries, or we'd kill him. Which isn't really supposed to come up until near the end of the film, and anyway, that's what we bought the (disabled) handgun for.

So the day before shooting, I found myself walking into a local gluten-free bakery, looking for treats that would both look good on camera and keep our actor off a hospital gurney. A very nice lady at the counter offered to help, and I walked out of there a few minutes later with a flourless mini cake, a half-dozen cupcakes and a large heavy gluten-free pumpkin roll.

(The last of which would ultimately become a featured co-star of the film. Based on all the work he put in, we probably should have paid the pumpkin log a union rate.

But instead, we ate him. Or smeared him on some sheets. I'll get back to that.)

The lady didn't ask a lot of questions; I went on my merry way and we filmed some great scenes that first weekend. But when the next weekend of shooting rolled around, we needed more goodies -- did I mention this character really loves pastries? -- so I went back to the same shop for another run.

The same lady was there, and looked a little puzzled when she recognized me. I'd taken a lot of merchandise home just last week. That could have been for a party, sure -- but why would I be back so soon? And why was I now ordering another big batch of cupcakes, another pumpkin log -- and another half-log, besides?

I could almost hear her wheels turning. "Is this freak coming in every week? Is this my life now? Where did I go wrong?" But she smiled sweetly when I approached the counter, and rang me up as before. As breezily as I imagine she could muster, she asked:

"Oh, you're back -- got another party or something?"

And there was no way at that point to not make her uncomfortable. I could have lied and said "yes" -- but then I'd have probably offered more details to make the lie seem believable, and told her I was having a bunch of gluten-hating eight-year-olds come over to my van or something. I don't lie well on the spot. I need prep time to cross the t's in a mistruth. And I wasn't ready.

I could have just said, "no" and left it at that. But then she'd wonder what the hell I was doing with all her baked goods. With no other information to go on, she might think I was hoarding them for some glutenless apocalypse, or building some kind of flourless Frankenstein's monster.

That didn't seem right. I thought maybe telling her the truth would put her mind at ease. Then I thought about the truth, in the context of the scenes we were shooting, and how that would sound:

"Nah, the first batch was for a guy to snuggle with in my guest bed. And these are mostly to smear on his face while he's sitting in my friend's Yaris in an empty parking lot somewhere."

All of which is true. But none of which would make the lady more comfortable. Or, perhaps, keep her from calling the police on me.

So I just smiled, and shrugged, and took my cupcakes and pumpkin logs away. I could see her eyebrows knitted up with curiosity, and I know she was a little uncomfortable. But hey, I did the best I could. Cupcake lady, what you don't know probably won't hurt you.

But for the record, everything was delicious. I can't wait to see how tasty it looks on film.





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