whatnot and such, per se
musings, nonsense, oddities, rants, observations, beauty, sarcasm, what have you. take it/leave it, if you will.
Happy O'Slappy Toofpaste: Super-Secret, Underground Recipe
Oh wow, guys.  I've been doing some reconnaissance work lately.  It's been dangerous, stealthy, and risky.  Why would I do it?  For you.  To bring you the super-secret, underground recipe for Happy O'Slappy Toofpaste.  I'm putting my life even more at risk right now by blogging about it.  But, if I lose everything, I'll take solace in knowing that I brought information to the people.  Information that you all deserve to have.  You may think I'm a hero but I'm just an ordinary person.

It began by me applying for a job as a Quality Control Agent for Happy O'Slappy so I could get the real insider scoop.  Mission accomplished: I got the job!  After I was handed my apron, gloves and hairnet, I got a tour of the plant.  Never in my life have I seen so much toothpaste.  In my own bathroom cabinet, I have 2, maybe 3 tubes at a time.  But when I stepped out onto the production floor at Happy O'Slappy, I probably saw hundreds of thousands of tubes on the assembly line.  And all the workers had brilliantly white smiles.  How did I know?  They smiled a lot.  It's in the job description.  Part of the clock-in process for all the workers is to floss one's teeth even!  They take this shit seriously.

During my orientation, I got a step-by-step tutorial on how the toothpaste is made.  I had a microscopic still camera mounted on my Happy O'Slappy polo shirt's lapel, with a remote capture button in my pocket.  I totally splurged on these techy purchases.  Again, for the good of the people.

So, here's how it shook down.  Remember...Ssshhhhhhh.  Mum's the word, peeps.

The first of the three simple, pure ingredients is sodium bicarbonate.  Or, baking soda.  Happy O'Slappy uses Arm & Hammer but I hear that that company employs animal testing for some of their product lines so I plan to ask the Willy Street Co-op to offer another brand that does not.  

The second ingredient in the super-secret formula is vegetable glycerin(e). 

Apparently, Happy O'Slappy uses whatever brand is available at the lowest price.  Locally in Madison, the one on the left in the photo is available at Community Pharmacy, off State Street, and the one on the right is available at Willy Street Co-op on Williamson Street.  Vegetable glycerin is available on such famous streets in Madison!

Finally, the ingredient proportionally lesser than the other two, but so very, very important...  the essential oil for flavor.  We did a taste-test of the paste pre-flavor and it was salty!  After the oil, it was a little salty, but then left my mouth feeling oh-so-fresh.  That's a technical phrase in the industry, btw.  The batch being made on my orientation day was "clove bud" flavor.  MmmmmMMM!  


Look at all the flavors! 
Citronella toothpaste?  Apparently there's a niche market in the northwoods. 

So, a rogue employee told me the proportions of these ingredients on condition of anonymity.  He makes his own at home.  Apparently it's even cheaper than the employee discount!  So first, you pour as much baking soda into a jar as you think you want the final product portion to be.  Then, you add glycerin so that the consistency is what you want.  Hey, you decide!  Then, you add drops of your desired flavor to the flavor strength you desire.  So easy.  It's all up to your own preferences. 

Well, the rest of the process gets a little boring, but you can get ideas for how to package and store your home-made version of Happy O'Slappy Toofpaste.  These are actually the photos of the jar I made at home.  I guess I have the same countertops as my new employer has near the assembly line.  Huh.  

Since it's so hard to shove something into a tube at home without specialized equipment, I thought I'd use a jar and spoon.  So, I used a recycled jar after I ate up some delicious salsa.  I sure was ready to brush my teeth after that!  But, how do I get the toothpaste out of the jar every day (twice daily and in between meals)?  Genius time.  Think...think...think.  Ah-ha!  How about that old light saber spoon that I got out of a cereal box?  The light saber function failed after I maybe washed it and submerged it in water.  And the spoon part snaps right apart from the saber part, trimming the size down enough to fit right into my salsa jar once the lid is screwed on.  Take a look...

You could probably cut or break a plastic spoon in half if you don't possess the good fortune of owning a light saber spoon.  

The retail price of a tube of Happy O'Slappy Toofpaste is $4.99.  I made twice that much and have a ton of leftover supplies for a few more jars to come.  Many essential oils can be purchased for $3-$8 and last forever.  It only takes a few drops to make the above recipe.  I also use them in cleaning solutions with vinegar and water, so they're good to have on hand for multiple uses.  Baking soda is cheap, as you probably know.  Also good for many uses.  We put it in the fridge, in baked goods and in the litter box (all separately).  So, you probably have it on hand already.  Finally, that bottle of glycerin on the right in the photo above sells for $8.95 (16 fl. oz.) at Community Pharmacy.  I estimate getting 8 jars of toothpaste out of the larger bottle so my general idea of math lends me to believe that making it at home is a better deal, in addition to being customizable, fun, and conscious in multiple ways (all priceless attributes).  I wouldn't go so far as saying it's delicious, but I will say that it's pleasant and leaves a fresh feeling in my mouth.  Aaaah!  Here's the end product, with my creative and festive touch added to the label. 

So, there you go!  I hope my undercover, life-risking investigation has brought some real-world knowledge and empowerment to you.  I'm on the graveyard shift tonight so I better affix my hairnet and get going.
Fashion Show Wishes & Documentary Dreams
Hello everyone -
I'm remaining busy these days as I try to do everything that pops into my head at any given time.  It's a little hectic but seems to be part of the equation to keeping me sane.  I may drive others a little crazy in the process, however, so I apologize for that.  Speaking of, hey!  I haven't asked anyone for money in awhile!  Wow, who would I be if I didn't ask the people I know and love for some money for what I think is a good cause?  Well, without further ado...

My latest activities have lead to me producing a documentary film.  That sounds a little fancy but mostly what it means is that I'm trying to come up with the money to make it happen.  That seems to be the make-it-or-break it part of this entire project and that's the stage we're at thus far.  No pressure for me, right?!  I'm happily applying for grants, whistling while I work and such (kidding - I despise sitting down and devoting time to the unpleasant process), but in addition to that, I thought I'd send out an old fashioned call for donors.

So, you'd probably want to know what we're doing before you blindly hand your hard-earned cash over to me.  Because, who knows - I may be raising money to euthanize puppies or something.  But, I'm not!  Whew, right?!

Well, it all began back in September or so when I signed up for a week-long workshop offered by Wisconsin Film School to learn how to make a movie.  We actually made a movie!  It is called "Hits" and once it's all polished up in the editing room, it will be looped daily at the Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI.  I'll definitely let people know when it "hits" the museum film screening room.

Hey - that's me!  And I'm touching technological equipment!

Photo Credit: David Ruhland

And the whole crew after a long weekend of hard, but satisfying work...

Photo Credit: David Ruhland

WI Film School is a newer, local, non-profit collaboration of filmmakers with a mission to

instruct collaborate with, and support filmmakers and filmmaking in all genres and disciplines, promoting the arts of filmmaking and digital media through workshops, gatherings, competitions and festivals, taking special interest in the promotion and education of filmmakers of color, underserved communities and activists.

I'm sure you can see why the film school appealed to me.  With my social work background and growing interest in using film to promote social action in various ways, it seemed perfect.  And, frankly, I wasn't ready to jump into a 2-year film program somewhere without testing the waters a bit.  My dream was and is to make documentary films.  

Of course, I met some kind and talented folks through that experience and we got to talking.  I told them about this great event here in Madison that I've been on the steering committee for for a few years.  It's called the Fashion Show for All Abilities.  The committee had been looking for someone to take interest in making a documentary about the event but we didn't really know any filmmakers.  Social workers...it's like we only interact with other social workers or something because we never have any connections!  After describing the event, Jim from the film school became very enthusiastic and we have pitched ideas around a few times since the Mustard Movie workshop.  And  now we're committed!  Funny how this stuff works out, right?  Basically, dreams coming true.  I'm a little mystified yet that all I had to do was dream, put myself out there (the scary part), and work hard.

Before I get to "the catch" to it all (yeah, that money thing), let me talk a bit about this fashion show.  The Fashion Show for All Abilities began as a dream of a young woman named Chantel who had wanted to become a model.  After experiencing a brain injury and needing to rely on a wheelchair, Chantel found that modeling agencies were not so interested in hiring a model with a disability.  Chantel shared her dream with the folks over at the Waisman Center (part of UW Madison) and the Community Outreach program worked with Chantel to create the annual fashion show that has now, after 5 successful years, become the "Fashion Show for Abilities."  This fashion show has become huge in so many ways.  First, it's a community awareness event, bridging the gap between retailers and individuals with disabilities.  Retailers are beginning to address how to make the shopping experience available to everyone.  Secondly, the audience is continually expanding.  Every year the venues have sold out and in 2010 the show will be at the lovely Monona Terrace in the heart of downtown Madison.  Third, it's been beautiful to see more and more committed volunteers participate with joy every year.  Retailers, make-up artists, photographers, a certain radio personality and hairstylists have donated their time and talents year after year and begged to be invited to help again the next.  I've read some of their blogs where they share how life-changing this experience has been for them.

And finally (well, not really - there are infinite ways that this show has been hugely impactful but I'll wrap this up), the part I love the most is seeing the models up on the runway enjoying their own moment of a lifetime.  After a couple months of planning and preparation, a few hours of pampering and polishing, they each have their moment up there, feeling their best, with a cheering crowd of friends, family members and strangers reflecting positive energy back on them.  It's a beautiful thing.  An intensely beautiful thing.

So, yeah.  That money thing.  It turns out that teaching students and making movies is really, really expensive.  Crap.  So that's what this blog is really about right now.  It's a request that you'll consider donating to the Wisconsin Film School.  As much as I believe in this project, I can't say for certain that the money will go directly to it, on the off-chance that we don't pull in enough money to cover all the bases on this one.   But, I'm pretty confident that with this appeal, and applying for grants, we'll make it.  Or I wouldn't be doing this.  Because it sucks to put a lot of effort into something and bug a bunch of people about something that one doesn't think is going to happen.  I've kind of been on a "making things happen" streak recently so maybe that can put you at ease in your donation.  Regardless, the film school is a wonderful non-profit organization with a strong mission related to media, arts and social equality.  Beautiful things indeed.      

I'll add a link to donate down at the bottom, if you choose.  I know money is a tricky thing these days with so much going on in our world.  A non-donation is certainly nothing personal.   

A few more things I feel like I need to say before you send any money...

The link is to WI Film School's Paypal account, just for this lovely project, and is a convenient way to send your support.  If you want to skip the Paypal option, you can just mail a check made out to "WI Film School" to the address below.  Please add a note in the memo line to specify that you're donating toward the fashion show project.

Wisconsin Film School
2301 Monterey Drive
Madison, WI 53704
                                                                                                                                                        Last 3 Photo Credits: Douglas Otto

We'll be sure to get a receipt to each donor for tax purposes.  Wisconsin Film School operates under their 501(c) (3) (nonprofit) fiscal agent, The Neighborhood House Community Center in downtown Madison.

I think that's pretty much the nuts and bolts of it.  Thanks for bearing with that and for reading this WHOLE thing!  It's such an honor that you did so.  Thanks for all the love and support, even after you realized I was bugging you for money :)

Oh, also - nothing is officially in the works yet for post-production but once we pull this off, I'll keep donors (and everyone, I'm sure) posted on any opportunities to view the final masterpiece.  I'll also be sending out info and reminders on this blog and my facebook page about the fashion show event itself.  Feel free to repost, link, and forward this and any other news I share.  And whenever there are any opportunities, we will list donors so you can proudly see your name attached to the project.  Thank you!

My best to you,


Photo Credit: Douglas Otto
Humanity, I'm Embarrassed For You
Because you use the word "retard" out of correct context. And because you assume that those around you think that it's a fine use of the word, and that perhaps you're even a little humorous for using it. Your blatant use of this word out of correct context makes me feel a little sorry for you. I think, "Oh that's too bad." It makes me think that you're sheltered and uneducated and lacking humanity. That perhaps you've not grown since adolescence. It's really quite disappointing.  And that is too bad. Those are a lot of heavy feelings that I myself, and perhaps others feel about you because you choose to describe people and things as "retarded" as a casual insult. I feel like you are growing in number. I hear incorrect use of this word more and more every day. I really don't understand this phenomenon in our culture.

You may defend your use of the word out of context. To you I suggest that you think back to your last use of the word. Then, imagine finding out that the person you were speaking to has a loved one, a family member who is indeed diagnosed with mental retardation. Or that an individual with a cognitive delay was standing nearby and overheard you. Would you still defend yourself? Could you?

Though the root word "retard" and its offspring words can be applied beyond their use to describe cognitive disabilities in a human, its most widespread definition over time was such.  For years, "mental retardation" was standard medical diagnostic jargon, while words like "retard" branched out into our slang.  So, when one refers to someone or something as "retarded" in a casual setting, it is most often interpreted as an insult.  Though medical terminology has changed, most people with disabilities have lived their lives being referred to as "retarded" by peers, doctors, family members and society at large so we are very much still in a time where this word can cause a negative effect on people and cultures.    

I also think that it is important to look within oneself and determine why you feel that it is okay to speak this way about your brothers and sisters at the expense of an uninvolved population of even more brothers and sisters. Perhaps you do not know anyone with a cognitive disability. Perhaps you do not value people with disabilities or people with differences from you. Perhaps you are threatened by your similarities. Perhaps you do not know that you are capable of possessing real love and respect for an individual with a disability.  These are all very unfortunate things.  

Bad habits are hard to break so I'm not without suggestions here. When the word begins to roll off your tongue, switch it up at the last moment. How about re...diculous? Or, make up a word like re...posterous. Or re...pendous.

I hope that you'll not consider this for my sake.  And I doubt most people affected by cognitive disabilities or who have loved ones with disabilities really care either way about your vocabulary.  I hope that you will consider this for yourself and for humanity.  It's really just a simple editing technique that can have great, positive effects on the energy around you.  Simple = Big and Good.  Sign us up, right?

Thanks for reading - I know this isn't a lovely topic or splendid experience to personalize to oneself.  It's not especially enjoyable to tackle, risking alienating friends and loved ones.  But I felt the need and here it is.  It's not okay and I can't go along with it being okay.  Thanks for your consideration.  Take it, leave it, if you will.