Tuesday, October 30, 2012


It’s ridiculously easy to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Yes, even that smug co-worker can be damaged with a flick of the wrong word. The same goes for a loud-mouthed drunk at happy hour. I’ve inadvertently bruised a few of the biggest and meanest muscle guys at my gym(s), but I fixed it right away. A puzzle with only a few pieces can be put back together quickly and there was no lasting damage.

No matter how impervious someone seems, they’re not.

No matter how much they want you to think they don’t care, on some level they do or else they wouldn’t be listening.

Caveat: If they’re at work, then they might genuinely not give a damn, but they might not really be listening, either.

Whenever two people interact voluntarily, there is the opportunity to do harm. Which brings me back to my point, it’s easy to hurt someone’s feelings.

I know you didn’t mean it like that. You were trying to be honest or helpful. You might even have thought you’d finally found the myth, the legend, that elusive “constructive criticism” we’ve all heard so much about. Well, guess what.

It doesn’t exist. There is only criticism.

Not only is there only criticism, a lot of innocent stuff that isn’t supposed to be critical at all is heard that way. Blame human nature. We’re a fragile and defensive bunch.

So if it’s so easy to hurt feelings whenever we open our mouths, what do we do?

I could say pay attention to what you’re really saying, not what you meant to say. I could say that, but there’s no point. If we could do that, then we wouldn’t need to be told to.

The best Auntie can offer is this: You should clean up after your words the way you clean up after yourself in Starbucks.

You don’t have to be a doctor to try to do no harm.

Also you should pick up after yourself in Starbucks. No one wants to deal with someone else’s crumbs and cups.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scary Thanks

Dear Aunt Scary,

How do I say "thank you" when saying "thank you" isn't enough?

Three people went out of their way to make my life better. They didn't have to, though two of them may think that they did.

I'm enormously grateful and appreciative, and I have no real way to express it. What do you suggest?


Dear Wondering,

Well, if you have either a blog or an advice column, you can always pretend to write a letter to yourself, publish it, and hope that the people you want to see it, see it.

That's what I just did.

Thanks, Sis. Thanks, T. Thanks, Bubble.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shut Up. It Was A Question. (Ask Auntie)

Quick question:

Have you made $100 today??

If not, go here:

To your success,

- Mack

Dear Mack,

Thanks for sending your question to Ask Auntie at auntscarycookies@aol.com. Any and all questions are appreciated, as can be seen by the publication of yours.

In response: No, I did not make $100 today. My car was in the shop.

By the way, if you ever need any work done on your car, you should go to Burbank and ask for either Charles or Bob at Mountain View Tires on Magnolia at Catalina. (818) 843 - 6933. They do all kinds of repairs, not just tires. Seriously, they're the best.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Say Cheese!

So I was sitting in a coffee shop, as I often do. (Shout out to @RealBobWilson and @RudeMorgue, waving hi guys!)

As sometimes happens, there was a lull in the conversation. I looked around, as one does. There was a young man with unfortunate facial hair in the next booth.

My brain automatically clicked over a couple of punch lines at his expense – none of which I voiced, thankyouverymuch. I felt sorry for the guy. He looked both miserable and pathetic.

Then he smiled. That’s when I realized I knew him. Until he smiled, he was just some random stranger in a coffee shop.

Now we uncover the buried lead of this piece with a flourish and a ta daa: Yes, a smile makes that much of a difference in life.

To be fair, I don’t know the guy well and hadn’t seen him since last spring, but I know him to talk to. Frowning, he was literally unrecognizable. The smile transformed him from some poor shlub into someone from that place where I used to go.

There’s a book about smiles, called “Lip Service” by Marianne LaFrance. It’s filled with useful if unsurprising wisdom like:
1. Food servers who smile more get bigger tips, and
2. People respond better to photos of smiling faces.

There’s lots more of the same, with a huge amount about how babies learn to smile. Yawn. Sorry. Please excuse me. I didn’t exactly make it through the whole book.

People like smiles. I like smiles. Let a smile be your umbrella, as long as it’s not actually raining. But until Tuesday night, I didn’t realize quite how much of a difference a smile can make.

Think about it. The next time someone tells you to smile, maybe they’re just trying to figure out who you are.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jalapeno Hellfire

This is about machismo. Well, machisma. That, and chili.

I make meaty chili. You’d think I wouldn’t given the whole vegetarian thing, but I do. It has pork and beef and pasilla because I can never find fresh poblano, not even at Vallarta.

More relevantly, it has lots and lots of teenily, tinily minced jalapenos. I can’t call it a brunoise because my vision hasn’t deteriorated quite that much, but I aim for that classic 1/16” dice.

I don’t wear gloves.

That’s where the macha comes in. I’ve made this chili at least a dozen times, not once have I worn gloves and not once have I had a problem.

Until today, obviously. Otherwise you’d be reading about something entirely different.

Ow! Ow, ow! Jalapeno burns.

Yes, I know water doesn’t help. I remembered that mere minutes after I tried it and before I tried olive oil. Capsaicin is fat soluble, the oil should have worked. Obviously, it didn’t. See previous.

Next I did what any red-blooded American would do. I ran to the Internet.

Turns out this is a real thing. People do suffer from jalapeno burns. At least they claim to and if they’re going to lie, I’d like to think the public is smart enough not to lie about something that makes them look as stupid as I feel right now for having done this.

Testimonial cures include: bleach, milk, olive oil(!), sour cream, lime juice, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, Vaseline and Advil. The last is taken internally.

So far I’ve tried lime juice, milk, rubbing alcohol and even bleach. I just rubbed some herbal Vaseline-equivalent salve on, enough to gunk up the keyboard.

Yeah, no.

Still ow.

That’s where the metaphor comes in. Sometimes when painful things happen, the only cure is time.

Gotcha. You've just been ambushed by a platitude. Auntie wins, but it's a Pyrrhic victory.

P.S. The superb chili recipe is Dan Chaon’s, from “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. For further testimonial, ask Scott. He’s coming to dinner tonight. Given the vegetarian thing, I have no idea what it tastes like.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

La La La

What are you good at?

Har har. Not funny. What are you good at besides that.

You don’t get to decide if you’re good at that anyhow. I don’t care how many times you’ve asked. Asking sounds needy and besides, if you’re in that sort of situation then most people won’t want to hurt your feelings.

So I was driving around today and the guy on the radio kept saying over and over, “People are good at doing things they love to do.”

Stop with the entendres. I’m trying to have a conversation here. From now on, I’m just going to “la la la I can’t hear you” if you do it again.

Where was I? Right. People are good at doing things they love to do.

It took me a while to realize I don’t believe it. I mean, obviously it’s often true, but enough to qualify as a cliché or truism?

I think not.

There’s two ways to hit it. (La la la, I can’t hear you.) The first would be by looking at things you love to do and deciding if you’re good at them or not. The second would be vice versa.

Some of you would cite your professional achievements, which are varied and impressive and often intimidating. Good for you.

Others of you might mention your Sky Rim or Guild Master scores, which I don’t want to encourage despite my being 21% of the way to my 7th degree black belt in Pop Fu. Yes, really. Save your applause.

Game theory says that people love doing things they’re already good at. Makes sense, I can kind of see it.

But the radio guy’s point was about making money.

While it’s impossible to play Pop Fu professionally, it’s illegal to earn a living doing that.

La la la, I can’t hear me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Shining Time

Andy Warhol said "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."

Fifteen minutes. Everyone.

Right. Let me grab a Ouija board so you can hear me clearly when I say fuck you, Mr. Warhol.

So far that quote has messed up at least three generations.

Mine was perhaps the first generation to somehow have the idea that we all, each and every average ordinary nondescript one of us, will have fifteen whole minutes of fame in our lifetimes. Guaranteed (or at least promised) by a celebrity who understood (or at least revered) fame.

Yeah, subsequent generations have the Internet, but that’s really not much help. While the Internet grants fame more generously than a drunken lottery winner, it rarely lasts as long as fifteen minutes.

It’s a problem when we assume we’ll have our turn, if not at fame, at least in the spotlight of our own lives. Our time to shine, our place in the sun, whatever you want to call it, we’ve been conditioned by popular culture to have that expectation.

It’s hard to be happy when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder for some external acknowledgement that may never be there.

We, and the people around us, are pressured to provide what amounts to “Thanks for playing” trophies in daily conversation.

Focus shifts from achievement to perceived achievement, from humility to hubris, from contentment to “What do you think?”

It’s easy for Auntie to type ever so earnestly that you should be happy in yourself and stop looking around for validation. It’s even easier to say that fame is irrelevant without respect, and how much do you respect most people on magazine covers?

I could do all that but I won’t. I’m too busy checking my stats to see how many of you are seeing this.

Your quote stinks, Mr. Warhol. May you rest in peace.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Auntie Scary's Household Hints

1. Always wait til after company leaves to do your big cleaning. That way there’s less pressure.

2. Just once in your life remember to dust first, sweep second.

3. Do it the hard way. You’re just going to have to go over it all again anyhow.

4. Don’t listen to @rmangaha. Even with a diagram there’s no easy way to fold a fitted sheet. (But follow him if you’re on Twitter, ok? I owe him a lot.)

5. “Clean as you go” applies to cleaning, too. The last thing you want to do after your arms and back ache is clean up your cleaning things. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you’re either a slob or have a maid.

and finally, most importantly:

6. If there’s cleanser left in the bottle then you’re not finished yet.