Saturday, July 22, 2006

Career Day

When did you know that you wanted to do what you want to do?

It took me a while. I was so intent upon being an astronaut it never occurred to me, right up until high school algebra hit me directly in the face, that NASA would probably prefer crewmembers who do not require their fingers as addition and subtraction aids. I didn't consider writing as a career, know that I needed it as a career, until late in high school.

My mother, she knew earlier. The summer of 1987, I believe. This was when I won an essay contest sponsored by our local Waldenbooks in honor of Father's Day: "What My Dad Does At Work."

Nowadays, of course, this sort of thing would invite a lawsuit, but I put on my rock necklace and busted out my erasable pen and got to work. I think my dad still has it framed somewhere. I'm pretty sure I used the gift certificate of a prize to buy something literary and mind-expanding like a Betty and Veronica comic book.

I look at this photo and notice, to my horror, (the bangs/magenta shirt/yellow shorts statement is a separate horror altogether) that my full name and address were included on the entry, and placed on display for every child molester in town to examine in detail. (I also rode around the West side in the tailgate of my mother's Wagoneer. I swear, I don't know how we're all alive.) This little one... she has no concept of the rejection slips, the weeping over health insurance, the desk-slamming, the clicking of the computer keys. I was in High Astronaut Phase at this point.

My mother, though-- she knew.

moms are like that at:

Friday, July 21, 2006

Picture Pages

In all the riffing and White House-circling excitement, don't miss the eight-foot french fries.


OK, am I just too, too irretrievably lame to think this is the best news I've heard in months and months?

On July 20, Legend Films will announce a new web site called Mike Nelson'’s RiffTrax. A lot of people have talked about something like this. Mike and Legend is actually doing it. At the site, you will be able to download full-length commentaries for a growing list of movies. When it's working right, you will pay, download the commentary (it's an unrestricted 128 bit MP3 file), pop the movie in your DVD player, load the commentary into the mp3 player of your choice, and off you go!

The news broke earlier this week on Satellite News, but rather than post and jinx it, I waited for the glorious news to be true: Mystery Science Theater 3000 is, in a way, back.


Lookit this from the RiffTrax site:

MSNBC online recently named him one of the 10 sexiest movie men (along with Antonio Banderas and Tom Selleck!), saying, "The attraction of Nelson is that of The Protector: He will deflect the evil power of the bad movie with his Carol Channing impressions, making Patrick Swayze films safe again for you and me."

Wow. Hmmmm. What irretrivably lame person could have written something like that?

Oh, squee, squee! Happy day! Mike is mocking movies again, and I get to sort of be a part of it! Kind of! A little! Uncredited!

loser status confirmed at:

Thursday, July 20, 2006


And now, the traditional telling of the Best Astronaut Joke Ever: "The three Apollo 11 astronauts were honored in the Oval Office at the White House today. Well-- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were in the Oval Office... Michael Collins just circled the parking lot."

Happy anniversary, Apollo 11. And blessings to all who got us there.

Further Proof

Non-worldwide distributed photos from this month's Pepsi 400 here in The Swamp. I feel I must point out that these are in no way a substitute for an actual NASCAR race, but if you want the same effect, scroll through them very quickly and have a friend or coworker scream "RRRRRRRAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWW!" directly into your ear. It's about the same thing.

All the drivers have these Whorin' Vans from which they sell merchandise. You can pay as little as $25 for the privilege of acting as walking advertising for Office Max or Cheez-its or Target! Sweet!

The more popular a driver, the bigger his Whorin' Van. Dale Earnhardt had the largest. Part of me wanted to tap the shoulders of the people in line and say very brightly, "Do you think you can get him to autograph that hat?" but the rest of me doubts I would enjoy hell, or a beating, very much, so I refrained.

Because it's just not An Event without eight-foot-high french fries, Daytona Beach International Speedway became the world's densest concentration of large inflatable objects.

Actually overheard on a loudspeaker moments after I snapped this picture: "We got plenty of Slim Jims here." Slim Jims AND Kennedy-sized bottles of Jim Beam. I do not understand why NASCAR has this reputation as a redneck sport.

'Tis a fine nation that can produce a flatbed truck with the sole purpose of supporting the Great Pepsi Testicle for four days. Bow down, mortals! Bow down before the August Looming Pepsi Ball!

These are the vans that carry the cars to the track, which are different, okay, from the Whorin' Vans and the RV's that carry the drivers and pit crew transports. We are standing above Jeff Gordon's garage, which has little glass windows with slits for the faithful to shove their hats and shirts and boobs through for autographs. Oogie and I stood and stared into Jeff's garage for quite some time. His car wasn't in there, but his pit crew was. And Jeff clearly has some sort of Hot Guy Affirmative Action Hiring Program. It's like you can't even apply unless you're at least a 7.8. Josh the Pilot took a picture of one of them at our behest, but, WHOOPS, darnit all, it came out all blurry. Mmmm-hmmmm.

This is me and Josh the Pilot standing on the track, which has like this 90 degree angle on the banks. Perhaps this is why everybody crashes so much. We sat on the slope at one point to enjoy the Human Hilarity Parade (basically the entire event was a county fair sponsored by Tire Discounters), and somebody sitting at the top of the incline spilled a very fast-moving liquid. I do not wish to know what it was.

I will also have you note the security tape surrounding the Pepsi logo in the middle of the infield. Okay, the Vice President of the United States showed up to this thing. Well, screw the second-in-command... make sure the Pepsi logo is okay, because if just anyone can walk on the grass paint, then the terrorists win.

Most people sign the wall near the finish line. I corrected everybody's grammar.

Apparently it is okay for the general public to trample the NEXTEL logo. I was very sad there wasn't a Cingular logo available for me to stomp on.

LOOK, EVERYBODY, IT'S JEFF GORDON AND ALSO SOME OTHER GUY, I THINK. Jeff is Josh's NASCAR boyfriend. We have... an understanding.

Oh, oh! What's going to happen next? Do you think they're gonna turn left for three hours?

At one point I went shopping. There was a romance novel for sale advertised as "NASCAR Fiction For Women." Title: In the Groove. Man. That massive NASCAR fiction for women market whizzed right past me.

"Is it my turn to use the headphones yet?"




beer was $7 at:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The publication date of the Formerly SuperSecretDoubleProbation Project approacheth, and the first review is in. It is from Publisher's Weekly. Since I know you are all busy standing in front of your mailboxes waiting for your subscription edition to arrive, I shall reprint it here. The parts mentioning me or my essay are in bold type:

This delightful literary anthology of memoir-style essays by American writers under 30 is the fruit of an Internet contest organized by Jillian Kellogg and Matthew Quint, editorial assistants at Random House. Its acutely self-aware observers and philosophers inhabit experience intensely. Many write about work, be it night shifts at Wendy's, serving the U.S. military in Kuwait or playing with infuriating fellow band members in New York City. Whether admitting they are only just beginning to see their own parents as people or struggling to balance graduate study and parenthood, the essayists blend morbid irony and idealism. Many write of a dawning realization of mortality: Jennifer Glaser writes with a perfectly judged tone about being in love and losing a boyfriend to leukemia. Others attempt to define their generation and the trends that dominate it: John Fischer, who works for a company that monitors changing consumer attitudes, savagely contemplates high-tech capitalist consumer culture, while Theodora Stites, considering her obsession with Friendster and MySpace, confesses, "I am trying desperately be a celebrity in the network of my own digital world." This highly readable collection of voices is more assured and memorable than one might have expected from such a venture. 34 illus. (Sept. 5)

Whither the bold type?


This is, I am sure you all agree, a horrible, horrible review, for nowhere does it mention me. Why did the reviewer not quote my essay? No, he has to mention the perfectly judged one (which, of course, it is.) Why ignore the one essay about refusing to sit in a chair a man has just vacated because the author fears she will become impregnated? It is art of the highest caliber!

But suppose the reviewer did mention me. It would likely be something along the lines of, "Its acutely self-aware observers and philosophers inhabit experience intensely, except for Mary Beth Ellis, who sucks."

I'm not in the Amazon sales copy found on the back of the book, either. Oh, this is most lowering. Mentioning combat veterans instead of meeeeeeeeee! This puts a cog in my Rich Famous Author plan, it really does, and people ought to get their priorities straight. Screw you, Publisher's Weekly.

huff at:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wheels Stop

It wasn't quite as dramatic as the last time this happened, which made the media sad, which made the landing good.

Josh The Pilot was outside during the sonic boom. He's never heard one before, as a pilot, so I suppose he will simply have to create one himself one day.

There are two booms when an orbiter returns: One for the nose. One for the shapely behind (that second one is actually the combined, way-too-close-together-to-hear-it-separately booms of the leading edges of the wings and the tail, or vertical stabilizer. Go ahead, name your next child "Vertical Stabilizer.") Sometimes the booms, depending upon where one is standing and the density of the surrounding air, are little pop-pops. Sometimes they are, indeed, BOOOOOOOOOOMs. Today Discovery made a BOOOOOOOOOOM. Good for her.

I adore teaching during a mission, because then I show clips of the orbiters and astronauts at work and the students put down their beers and raise their hands and ask what happens to the poop on board. (Answer: You... seriously don't want to know.)

Don't ever, ever fall into complacency with this. It looks easy. It's not.

Click on the picture and have a look at Discovery. The commander said this is the cleanest ship he's ever brought home. But see what a beater she is. Most of us see the orbiters from far away, and everything looks shiny and streamlined and new; but upon closer inspection, the effort shows. With Columbia gone, Discovery is now the grande dame of the fleet, our workhorse. The tiles of the thermal protection system are reusable, and NASA doesn't much go for looks when they each cost thousands of dollars apiece. Discovery reveals every single micrometeorite scrape and carbon score. She works hard. She sweats. She's not a princess about it.

I like that in a spacecraft.

can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs at:

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Customer Service

This week my cell phone (one year old) rolled itself up in a ball and died, closely followed by my computer (six months old). The Cingular people were very helpful, however. I took the Motorola corpse to a Cingular store and laid it at the feet of a Customer Service Hater, and we had the following conversation:

HIM: (jabbing at blank screen) What seems to be the problem?

ME: It won't turn on.

HIM: Well, what you need to do is dial 611. The national call center will help you.

Things fared a little better with the laptop, which has clearly outlived its usefulness. Six months! You can fall behind a great deal, computer wise, in six months. The computers on the shelves now can reposition GPS satellites, whereas when I chose the one I'm typing on now, I poked around at the casing until the guy with the nametag materialized and I said, "Where's the disk drive?" and he laughed very hard. And yet this computer is now, in the eyes of the industry, little more than a Swatch watch.

The Best Buy people must have attended the same charm school as the Cingular guy, because when I dropped my laptop on the counter, I pointed at it and said, "Windows is slow and I can't open Word and the system won't turn off when I tell it to" and the guy said, "But you just had this in two weeks ago," and I said "You see why my left eye is twitching, then."

Best Buy Guy hated the following: People, computers, and Best Buy. We had the following delightful chat:

HIM: We loaded Norton Antivirus on your last visit.

ME: That's all you guys did? You charged me $160 to uninstall and reinstall Norton?

HIM: That's not what I said.

He sent me several times to wander around the store, opening washer doors to entertain myself by wondering how many bodies I could fit in there, while he ran diagnostics. It works for now. I cannot say the same for my cell phone. Somebody call me and tell me how to turn it on, OK?

landline at:

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