ACCIDENTAL DOG OWNER
I’ve always been a cat person. I like their quiet, sedentary ways, and I admire the fact that they’ve figured out that humans aren’t a species worth worshipping or trying to impress. But cohabitation with my girlfriend also means I’m now a dog owner. What kind of dog, you ask? A little, yappy, perpetually ravenous, easily startled, attention whore. As you can tell from his photo, Tex is undeniably cute, but being his roommate has taken some adjusting.
What is it with small dogs and their unrelenting desire to pick a fight with the world? Apparently every other dog he encounters in the world owes him money or did something to offend his mother before I met him, because when he spots one he strains at the leash and emits menacing guttural noises that sound like they should be coming from a coked-up wolverine in an elevator full of overweight rabbits. When strangers pass on the sidewalk he makes no effort to hide his desire to rip out their tracheas with his bloodthirsty jaws of death. Most maddeningly, he can awaken from a dead sleep and lose his fucking mind when animals of any kind appear on the TV. He charges at the screen hollering bloody murder and then darts around to the back of the TV set, where he assumes the fiends are hiding. I may have neglected to mention that he’s not exactly a brainiac.
When he’s not busy threatening to decapitate living things, however, he’s a total lover. To say he’s affectionate would kind of be like describing Charlie Sheen as “a bit eccentric.” He’s a cuddle junkie. The only thing that’s on me more often than he is would have to be my own skin. His favorite habit is to jump on me as soon as I sit down and stare directly into my face. It’s a peculiar look, as if he’s either trying to memorize my face or deciding whether he wants to eat it. If you should somehow forget your sole duty in life and stop petting him for a moment, he will locate your hand and burrow his snout under it as a friendly yet stern reminder to stay on task. But eventually he’ll settle down and sleep on me, which is charming, until something distracts him from another room, at which point he’s mastered the ability to launch himself off my testicles and go charging off toward said distraction.
Other than his shark-like devotion to giving me the hard stare whenever I’m in the kitchen, we’re learning to live with one another. He actually follows directions sometimes, which as a lifelong cat owner flabbergasted me, so that’s nice. I’ve learned to howl in harmony with him when we hear a distant siren. And he was enthusiastic about wearing his lucky Pittsburgh Penguins jersey during our recent championship run. So in the end I think we’ll be good friends. My girlfriend has suggested we get a cat too, but hopefully she’s just messing with me. I’ve got my blood pressure to worry about, after all.
LEARNING & GROWING FROM MISTAKES
To be able to write a book like Accidental Adulthood, I had to go through myriad dating and relationship experiences--some fun, some perplexing, others horrifying. Despite internet dating sites’ propensity to act like flypaper for freaks, I actually met my current girlfriend online, and it’s gone so well that we recently took the monumental step of moving in together. Monumental in the sense that its significance in my mind makes Mt. Rushmore look like an Etch-a-Sketch doodle. I’ve never shared a living space with a girlfriend before. There have been lots of adjustments by both of us, and more than a few arguments have arisen. I mean, who the hell stacks the dirty plates on top of one another in the sink? Then you have to wash the BACKS of the plates too, like a sucker!
She’s been encouraging me to write blog posts about relationships, since that’s one of the major themes of my book. Her recent suggestion? “Talk about our own relationship--the specific challenges we’ve faced with cohabitation, what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown by going through them.” It was at this point that a sinking feeling washed over me, and I thought: “Oh shit, I’m supposed to be LEARNING something? I’m supposed to be GROWING as a person?” Sure, in the grand scheme of things that’s a life goal of mine, to become a better partner, a finer friend, a higher quality person in general. But I guess I just thought that would happen naturally, like facial hair growth, or like the unraveling of America’s stature around the world under the current administration. I didn’t realize it was supposed to involve conscious effort on my part. I don’t seem to absorb, process, or learn anything without taking the time to sit down and actually write about it. All this time my girlfriend has been taking mental notes about how to relate to me better, while my mental note-taking has amounted to a guy standing in front of a blank whiteboard, rummaging through his pockets for a marker. In the first couple of weeks that we’ve lived together, my disgustingly perceptive girlfriend’s mind has been noticing patterns of behavior, analyzing arguments, and concocting more positive ways to interact with me. My mind, on the other hand, has been preoccupied with thought like “Why is there so much yogurt taking up space in the fridge that could be devoted to real food?”
After an argument, I generally wake up the next day and think: “Whatever man, I love her more than I feel like tripping about whatever it was we disagreed about yesterday. Wait, what was it we disagreed about? Hey, are there still English muffins in the cabinet?” I’m usually not one to hold on to anger. But now I realize maybe I should be using these occasional skirmishes to learn how to avoid them in the future. I generally consider myself to be a pretty reliable self-examiner, but sometimes amid the nettlesome bustle of everyday life I neglect to take opportunities to check in with myself. Maybe all of us should try something like that in our relationships--when we hit a snag, wait for things to cool down and then reconvene and try to make some sense out of what happened, and why, and how we can improve. Hell, maybe you’re all already doing that, and I’m just the last one to board the short bus. Maybe I’m an idiot. It’s a possibility I haven’t ruled out yet. I’ll have to give that one some more thought in the future. Once I’m not so busy wondering why anyone could possibly need 23 decorative pillows strewn about an apartment...
The following is a post by guest blogger Catherine Brophy. Check out Catherine's website for info on her books, including the very funny Burning Bright.
Find her at: www.catherinebrophy.ie
What is it about doing anything faintly health related that makes people quiz you up down and sideways?
1. “I go for a walk every morning," you say conversationally.
Then they get that look in their eye.
How long do you walk for?
You know it's no good unless it's at least half an hour?
What pace do you walk at? It's no good if you dawdle.
Do you swing your arms? It's much better for you if you do?
I'll write down your advice!
2, "Actually I'm not much of a drinker," you say.
There's that look again.
Oh but a glass of red wine is good for you! The Mediterraneans don't suffer from heart problems like we do.
Insurance companies like to know that you drink a little.
Yikes... maybe I should take up the habit.
3. "I use Olive Oil."
Is that cold or in cooking? Because it's lethal if you use it for cooking. You should use vegetable oil for cooking.
Well if ever I want to murder you I'll know what I'll use!
4. I've taken up swimming.
How many lengths do you do? Swimming does nothing unless you're swimming lengths.
Swimming will damage your neck unless you put your face in the water.
Or I could just put your face in the water!
5. I can't stand those I-can-definitely-believe-it's-not-butter substitutes
Sharp intake of breath. But butter will kill you!
There are more ways of choking a cat than stuffing butter down its neck... now I wonder... what effect it would that have on humans?
1. THEY’RE AS INSECURE AS YOU ARE, MAYBE MORE
Many women feel their 30s are their “do or die” time to find that special someone. Whether it’s their biological clock ticking, or whether it’s just their family and friends (or society, indeed, in general) applying intentional or unintentional peer pressure. Becoming half of a couple, settling down--these are the “normal” things to do at this point in your life. Men are not immune to this pressure. In Accidental Adulthood, the main character Mick feels like everyone around him views him as a “fraction,” or an incomplete entity, because he doesn’t have a wife and kids, not even a girlfriend. This causes him, and most men in his situation, to do some peculiar things. They try to project an image of confidence, supreme masculinity, laissez-faire, but most of that is just insecurity causing them to mimic movie characters that seem desirable to women. I’ve heard women say most of the messages they get on online dating sites are bland, vague, and they don’t make the person sound as if he’s even read their profile. What they may not realize is that a man who sends that kind of message is just copying-and-pasting the same message to lots of women. Why? Casting a wider net. Why? Because they’ve probably already been ignored or turned down by so many women on the site that their fragile egos are telling them it’s probably not going to work, so don’t put much effort into it, but cast a wide net and you may get lucky. Mick tries this very tactic in the book. I’ve been there too, and I daresay I’m far from alone.
2. THEY ONLY THINK THEY WANT TO DATE YOUNGER WOMEN
Ladies, most men are physically attracted to younger, fit women because society has made that our ideal. Or perhaps it’s an extremely common personal preference. As Mick explains in Chapter 11, “If the average man didn’t find young women desirable, Playboy would’ve stopped publishing college issues a long time ago.” The thing is, the kind of man women in their 30s want is someone whose maturity actually matches their age. And there are plenty of us. The problem with those young, nubile women, is that they’re on a completely different wavelength than a thirtysomething man. They’re by and large too immature or self-absorbed to hold a man’s interest in conversation for very long. They’re boring. Admittedly, there are legions of men in their thirties that have not progressed mentally past horny teenager, and younger women fulfill their one and only use for them. But ladies, if you want a man that doesn’t solely think with his penis, then you have to attract them first with your mind. Your intellect, your sense of humor, your ability to talk about big ideas, whatever. If you whet his appetite with a good conversation (or an entertaining online profile) chances are you won’t have to look like an ill-fed swimsuit model to get and hold his attention.
3. YOU CAN STILL HAVE FUN IN A TERRIBLE ECONOMY
Bring home your free soup and gather around the radio for one of FDR’s “Fireside Chats” while….oh wait, nevermind. This one is from my blog about Dating Men in the ‘30s.
3. THEY’VE HAD JUST AS BAD EXPERIENCES DATING AS YOU HAVE
And that’s why they’re as paranoid and crazy as they seem. I’ve heard lots of young women deploring all the “creeps” they run into, especially when dating online, but it goes both ways. In Accidental Adulthood, Mick experiences some surreal moments while dating: getting patted down in public like a drug suspect, being invited to do a Sears portrait on the first date, being shown dozens of pictures of the “slut” who stole her man from her, receiving a marriage proposal on a first date. Let me tell you, not all of these events sprung from my imagination. So if a guy seems to have trouble letting his guard down, or being distant, or putting up some kind of front, it’s just self-preservation mode. Don’t read too much into it. Don’t dismiss him from your mind right away, simply because he didn’t do everything right on the first date. He needs time to get comfortable too, and to assure himself you’re not just another girl who’s going to end up another bizarre story to tell his buddies at the bar.
4. THEY WANT COMPANIONSHIP AS MUCH AS ANYTHING ELSE
If you want to be treated like a princess and have every date feel like a magical prom night, you have to ask yourself what level of seriousness you’re truly trying to achieve through dating. There is nothing wrong with romantic gestures and grand adventures that seem like they’re out of the movies, but not every guy has that in them. Men get just as lonely as women. If a man is divorced, he’s facing a level of isolation that he’s not used to. If he’s still single in his thirties, he’s used to it, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Be prepared for--and even suggest--a date now and then that just involves hanging out. Watching TV, just getting coffee and going somewhere to simply people watch, making dinner together. Sometimes a guy just wants someone to share his space, someone who “gets him” and makes him feel wanted. Let me tell you from experience, it sucks when a cool event is happening in town, but it doesn’t sound cool to any of your friends and then you face the prospect of attending alone. Don’t come into a new relationship with grandiose expectations; you’re just going to feel let down. Look for someone whose company you genuinely enjoy, even if you’re not actually “doing” anything.
5. LOVE IS A FOUR-LETTER-WORD
Men who have stayed single into their thirties haven’t gotten there by falling in love too easily. Men who married and are now back on the market in their thirties are most likely aren’t in a hurry to declare their love as quickly as they did the first time around. In Chapter 5, Mick has a memorable first date with a woman who proclaims her love for him and even hints at having children with him. It’s a funny scene, and I’m not saying it happened to me in real life (But, it did.), but the message is clear: Too much, too soon. Some men can’t wait to settle down and start a family, but I gotta say most of those types are not still online dating in their thirties. The majority are still single because nothing has worked out so far, so naturally they’re a bit wary. If a man says he loves you too early in your acquaintanceship, take that as a GIGANTIC RED FLAG. By the same notion, if he starts too soon with the pet names--babe, bae, boo--and it seems like he’s trying to progress things strangely fast, he’s probably one of those one-track mind guys that we spoke about before. Steer clear. If you’ve been dating for a year and he still hasn’t said any of these things, well, that’s a problem for a different article somewhere down the line.
I recently watched the movie "Suicide Squad" because, well, I tend to give in to Hollywood hype and follow trends like a dim-witted sheep. I didn't think it was that great, but some of the characters intrigued me. I did a little research about the film and the comics on which it was based, and I found out a lot of great villains from the comics and early scripts failed to make the final cut.
So without further ado, I present my findings:
TOP 12 REJECTED SUPERVILLAINS FOR SUICIDE SQUAD
Maurice the Space Cowboy
Talking Hamburger Helper Hand
The White Divorcee
Gluten Free Paul
The Subtle Mocker
The past few days have been rough. 2017 has a tough road to travel if it’s going to shape up to be as lousy as 2016 was, but it’s off to a resoundingly awful start, so anything can happen. The overall shittiness of the past few days is squarely the fault of one man. Well, one man and his enablers--those who have either hardened their hearts against their fellow citizens to the degree that they actually support his actions, or who lack the courage and conviction to stand up and oppose him.
The past 48 hours, I’ve been reminded of a movie. I watch too many movies, so bear with me. Actually I’ve been recalling a real life experience I had that reminded me of a movie. It was a recent December, and I’d flown East to visit my parents. I arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. and had a couple hours to kill while waiting for my sister to arrive on a separate flight from Seattle. I’d bought a snack, popped in my headphones, and sat down to relax at one of the entrances to baggage claim through which I thought she might be coming. Some flights soon began arriving, and hordes of people walked through those doors, their faces lighting up at the sight of loved ones seated around me who had been waiting for them. It reminded me of Hugh Grant’s narration in the movie Love Actually, where he explains that when he’s feeling down he likes to go to Heathrow and watch just such scenes for himself.
I got it. Totally. Despite my weariness after a long flight, I soon found myself succumbing to a cheerful mood, buoyed by the vicarious joy of all the hugs, hearty handshakes, and back slaps I was witnessing. The postures and the emotions they implied were so familiar, and they reminded me of how much I had in common with total strangers, how so very much like myself these people were. Before I knew it, my uneasiness had disappeared. Oh, I forgot to mention, the seat I’d chosen was beside a baggage carousel operated by Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi, so I’d been the only white person in the entire section, and one of only a handful not dressed in traditional Muslim garb. I don’t mind admitting to a general sense of unease or discomfort that I often experience initially when I’m the only one of my kind in a particular area. But in truth I wasn’t the only one of my kind there that day. Even though the UAE isn’t one of the first seven countries whose visitors Trump has banned, those people I saw that day were clearly the type of folks he’s after. And those people were my people. We had the same travel fatigue eased by the same remedy: the sight of family, friends, and loved ones that we hadn’t seen for too long. It was, for lack of a better word, a beautiful scene, and I fear it may have been the last time I’d see it.
Friends, I am nearly overwhelmed with grief and trepidation that scenes like the one I witnessed that December are in danger of being outlawed and may soon cease to exist. I feel powerless and small. What do you think I should do, if anything?
McKinley’s Wars: The Farce Awakens
You’ve heard the quote, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” You may have also heard the phrase that’s become even more popular in modern day America: “Fuck that.” Yes, we are a nation that adamantly refuses to learn from our past mistakes, and even seems to glory in repeating them. So today, Class, I’m going to tell you a story that may sound familiar. (And not just because I already covered the Spanish-American War in a post from 4/15/12.) It’s because you’ve seen (and lived through) the reruns--but here’s the original tale:
For centuries, Spain was one of the most feared empires in the world, known far and wide for their advanced steel weaponry that had a remarkable success rate against peoples that still fought with bows, arrows, hatchets made out of stone, and rudimentary sling shots manufactured by Ewoks. They were also renown for their mighty Armada, as well as for occasionally surprising members of Monty Python with unannounced Inquisitions. However, by 1898 the once proud empire was a shell of its former self--more “Ender’s Game” Harrison Ford than “Blade Runner” Ford. But Spain was still the owner of some pretty attractive real estate--namely Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.*
Rebels in these hot spots had been going all Luke Skywalker against Spain’s Darth Vader for years, but US President Ronald Reagan (who at this point was being portrayed by William McKinley) didn’t want to get involved in the conflicts, as he was much too busy busting up labor unions and empowering the country’s biggest business corporations. However, there were some in McKinley’s administration that were insisting that the US needed to offer assistance, particularly to the Cuban rebels, so that they could win their freedom from Spain. And not--repeat NOT--because they’d be a nice little piece of land that would be easy for us to control and that also happened to be rich with the most coveted natural resource of the day.** One of the loudest voices calling for US intervention was Paul Wolfowitz, who in those days went by the name of Theodore Roosevelt and was widely known for his eagerness to pick a fight with ANY living creature, as well as the occasional unfortunate piece of White House furniture that seemed to be “askin’ for a sabre stabbing.”
When famed clunker of a battleship the USS Maine mysteriously sunk in February 1898, many believed the cause was a faulty boiler plate that exploded. Roosevelt, however, pointed out that the ship sunk in waters that were really, really close to Cuba, and that was reason enough to attack Iraq (which was what Spain was sometimes called in those days). Newspapers of the day, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdock (portrayed by William Randolph Hearst), were quick to join Roosevelt’s side, pushing for war with understated headlines like: “If McKinley Doesn’t Attack He’s a Little Pussy and He Hates Us For Our Freedom.” Hearst’s rival newspapers, owned by Joseph Pulitzer*** concurred, and the US bowed to the pressure and entered the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt was so excited he ran off to join the fight wearing a Captain Crunch uniform, and he was replaced in his role by Donald Rumsfeld, who astutely pointed out that why should the US be fighting only one war, when it could be fighting two instead? George W. Bush--er, Reagan, er, sorry McKinley--thought the idea brilliant, so we went ahead and also joined forces with the Philippines rebels, who were fighting their Spanish overlords as well. While some questioned this strategy, McKinley reassured the American people by explaining that God told him to do it, and pointed out that while we were there, we could force our own, superior religion on the Filipino people, and that they’d surely greet us as heroes and liberators. Actual quote: “[The Filipinos] were unfit for self-government...there was nothing left for us to do but educate and Christianize them…”
Spain put up less of a fight than the Cincinnati Bengals in a playoff game, and the fighting was over in less than four months. Spain relinquished its control of Cuba, paving the way for the US to prop up a series of incompetent and corrupt governments that would insure instability in the region for years to come. A formal surrender treaty had to be drawn up at this point, but neither side could agree on a host city in which to negotiate the surrender. After the Russians volunteered their resort city of Sochi, but were unable to guarantee that the buildings would include chairs or a roof, a new city was agreed upon (where it was has been lost to history), and when the terms of the final treaty**** were announced, the McKinley camp shared a good laugh that although the Filipino rebels thought we were helping to liberate them, we actually annexed their land for our own use, along with Puerto Rico and an island to be named later, in exchange for $20 million in cash and journeyman forward Shawn Marion. Interestingly, the war and the peace treaty went so unexpectedly well that unnamed sources have indicated an “overtired” President McKinley at some point became convinced he was merely playing a game of Risk, which probably explains why he went ahead and stole the Hawaiian Islands during this period as well.
Although the Spanish-American War was over, those same Filipino allies we had fought alongside now turned their guerrilla tactics against us, viewing the US as merely the latest occupying force to be driven out. The Bush--er McKinley--administration now referred to them as “terrorists” and clandestinely sanctioned tactics such as waterboarding***** to be used in the quest to defeat the insurgents. Mark Twain wrote an editorial at the time decrying the Philippines situation as a “quagmire” and predicted correctly that it would drag on for years.
Despite rising public furor at George W. McKinley, Americans inexplicably reelected him in 2004, which in those days was called 1900. However, American citizens’ resentment continued to grow, and in 1901 McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz. George W. Bush, on the other hand, now paints pictures of kittens, and no charges were ever leveled at his administration for their alleged war crimes.
Gentle readers, if the mountain of evidence I have laid before you still has not convinced you that Americans learn nothing from history, I will simply remind you that in the summer of 2015, when the Obama administration approved the changing of Mt. McKinley to its original Alaskan name of Denali, the decision was protested by irate residents of McKinley’s home state of Ohio, who--after years of rooting for mind-numbingly horrendous professional sports teams--are in such a state of ignorance of American history that they still apparently regard our shitty 25th President as some sort of hero. In fairness, it should also be noted that the state of Ohio produced such luminaries as the great orange person John Boehner, and actor David Birney, who famously turned the mom from “Family Ties” off men for good and into a lesbian.
*They also owned Guam, but then (as now) no one knew what its value was, or even where it was on the map.
**Believe it or not, sugar! Which in those days was referred to as “white gold.” Not kidding, look it up.
***After whom the famous “Emmy Award” was named
****known as The Treaty of Paris
*****I’m not kidding. They called it “the water cure.” Look it up.
For a lot of us, 2014 will not turn out to be a year that we’ll feel nostalgia for later on down the road. We found out our country was spying on us, and we felt pretty crappy about that. We checked out some photos of celebrities that someone else was spying on, but we ended up feeling pretty crappy about that too. We found out it was legal for cops to kill black guys, and that made us feel crappiest of all. It was a year of continued economic hardship for most of the folks we know, yet a year when the Ryan budget offered millionaires an extra $200k tax cut. Speaking of Congress, 2014 was the year they stopped pretending to care what we think. Items that a vast majority of US citizens approved of--like background checks for gun buyers, raising the minimum wage, and lowering student loan interest rates--were either completely ignored by our so-called “representatives,” or they were used as in idea platform from which to construct legislation that accomplished the exact opposite. Despite all this, getting reelected to Congress turned out to be just as easy as hopping a fence and wandering into the White House. Our embattled President sometimes showed up big in the “Amnesty for Illegal Residents” sort of way, and at other times showed up big in the “Peyton Manning in a Super Bowl” sort of way.
Around the world, we took notice of some strange and unsettling things, and not just the ones said by Willow and Jaden Smith. We laughed when Russia couldn’t even provide Olympic athletes and journalists with working toilets, but then stopped laughing when they started invading their neighbors’ countries. We were disappointed that our ambassador to North Korea, Dennis Rodman, couldn’t seem to smooth things out with the psychopathic little runt that runs that country. A group called ISIS emerged as the winner on this season’s “America’s Next Top Boogie Man.” Israel and Palestine continued to brutalize each other, and we continued to support Israel anyway because a magic book tells us they’re going to win in the end.
Well enough about the shitty year that was. Let’s give out some awards!
Most Overblown Terrified Reaction to Something That Wasn’t That Big a Deal:
(TIE) Ebola outbreak, Canceling release of “The Interview,” and Common Core implementation
Actual Most Terrifying Thing:
The inability to avoid seeing photos of Kim Kardashian’s slimy ass
Network That Overreacts to Everything in the Worst Possible Way:
CNN (You guys find that missing plane yet?)
CNN Memorial Award For HUGE News Story That Turned Out To Be Not True:
(TIE) Michael Sam becomes first openly gay player in NFL, and Scotland votes for independence
Worst Thing To Arrive From Canada and Make Us All Uncomfortable:
(TIE) The “Polar Vortex” and Justin Bieber
Old Guy That Turned Out To Be Cooler Than We Thought:
Old Guy That Turned Out To Be Way Less Cool Than We Thought:
Fox News, and all the other white people who’ve claimed for years that racism is over
Most Shocking “Holy shit!” Moment:
Russians shoot down a Malaysian Airlines plane full of top AIDS researchers in July
Most Boring “Well, duh!” Moment:
Ellen Page acknowledges she’s gay
Simultaneous Best & Worst Thing:
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” campaign that raised funds for ALS, and the endless self absorption of jackasses filming themselves doing something temporarily uncomfortable to avoid donating to a worthy cause.
Safest Place To Be:
Congress apparently, no matter how bad a job they did last time around
Least Safe Place To Be:
In an elevator with an NFL player or a relative of Beyonce
Most Welcome Entrances:
Lebron James to Cleveland, Legal Pot to some US states, Jessica Williams emerging as the breakout star of The Daily Show
Most Unwelcome Entrances:
Russia reprising its role on the world stage as super villain, the phrases “conscious uncoupling” and “rectal rehydration”
Most Unwelcome Exits:
Joan, Robin, and PSH
Most Welcome Exits:
The World Cup (for another 4 years), Pharell’s “Happy,” and Donald Sterling
The Madonna Award (awarded to the female celebrity who everybody finally tires of seeing naked):
Best Films That I Saw:
Chef, Grand Budapest Hotel, The Skeleton Twins, St. Vincent
Worst Films That I Saw:
Noah, Gone Girl, A Million Ways To Die in the West
Best Movie Title That Sounds Like a Conversation With Your Grandfather:
The Theory of Everything
Best Austin Powers Lookalike:
Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything)
Best Performances in Film:
Tom Hardy (Locke), Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins), Michael C. Hall (Cold in July), Halle Berry (Frankie & Alice), Bill Murray (St. Vincent)
Best Things I Saw On TV:
Fargo, True Detectives, The Americans, John Oliver doing/saying anything
Best Music Albums:
Everything Will Be Alright in the End by Weezer, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson, Bad Self Portraits by Lake Street Dive, The Voyager by Jenny Lewis
Best Album Named After the Best TV Miniseries of All Time:
Band of Brothers by Willie Nelson
Best Tom Petty Album:
(TIE) Hypnotic Eye by Tom Petty, and 77 by Nude Beach
(TIE) “I Wanna Get Better” Bleachers, and “Stay With Me” Sam Smith
Best Song About an Ass:
(TIE) “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj, and anything Rick Ross sang about himself
Most Annoying Song That Should Follow Its Own Advice:
“Let It Go” by Idina Menzel
Be careful how harshly we judge 2014. After all, 2015 might be the year Kanye and Kim go all Paris Hilton and decide they should be movie stars too. Hey, at least we’ll have a Bush vs. Clinton election campaign season to look forward to...
As my previous blog post shows, I am all for trying our best not to offend our fellow earth dwellers, but sometimes this political correctness thing goes a bit too far. After the anthrax scares of a few years ago, I heard the '80s metal band Anthrax was thinking of changing their name to something less "offensive" (Candy Grams?) to the modern palate. This got me wondering what other bands from the '80s might be thinking the same thing. I mean, Katrina and the Waves? After 2005 they couldn't play another public concert in the US, no matter how much we all wanted to hear "Walking On Sunshine." In researching, I found out that several bands are considering name changes. The following reports are unconfirmed at this time, but believe me friends, change is on the way.
OLD NAME = NEW NAME
Katrina & the Waves = PETA & the Waves of Affection
Midnight Oil = Sunlight Ethanol
Pet Shop Boys = Animal Rescue Heroes
Guns 'N Roses = Hugs 'N Toasters
The Bangles = The Consensual Procreationals
Fine Young Cannibals = The Donner Party
Dexy's Midnight Runners = Dexy's Early Morning Yoga Enthusiasts
Dire Straits = Everything's Cool
Ice T = Bottled Vitamin Water
Men at Work = Non-gender-specific Persons Pursuing Career Options
Talking Heads = Fox News
The Police = Sting and Some Dudes
Did you guys know that I hate America, and especially white people? I didn’t know that either, until a Facebook “friend” told me. You see, not long ago I posted a message to my friends back in the D.C. area, encouraging them not to get caught up in what I considered to be a silly and pointless “debate” –whether or not the Washington Redskins would change their racially-insensitive name. A great concern of mine these days is what I perceive to be an alarming lack of empathy in our society. The fact that a derogatory nickname that offends thousands of Americans was actually being defended was mind-blowing to me. As a member of an ethnic group that has NEVER faced oppression of any kind, I didn’t feel that we had any real right to engage in the “debate” firsthand, since we lack the inherent perspective of a people whose history is littered with oppression and genocide. After all, if the team’s name is changed, who is going to suffer? Surely not the Redskins, who would immediately make millions of dollars as fans rushed off to buy the new team merchandise and clothing. And certainly not the fans themselves—changing a team’s name in no way changes its past glories and accomplishments. Washington Wizards fans still talk fondly about the championship season of the Bullets back in 1978. I lived in the area when that franchise changed its name, and you know what happened? Nothing.
So you see I just couldn’t fathom how this possible name change had become any sort of argument. In my post I said: “Since when do we get to tell others whether or not they are allowed to be offended by what we say? Whether or not a comment is made with the intention of hurting another's feelings is irrelevant; only the way it's received matters.” It seemed like a perfectly reasonable and non-controversial statement, right? Not on Facebook.
My big mistake was that I had forgotten about the single most oppressed minority in our society today: Upper middle class white lawyers. Thankfully, my Facebook “Friend” (I haven’t seen him in real life in over a decade) belongs to that very minority. I was unprepared for the shit storm that was to follow. I certainly was unaware of this incident’s direct correlation to the gay marriage argument. Luckily, Lawyer Man was there to set me straight.
For your consideration, here is the last in a short series of emails I exchanged with Lawyer Man, unaltered, starting with a very informative one from him to me:
"No group of people in this country is oppressed. You and your ilk focus on past injustice and invented oppression to divide the nation and seize power. This is the most tolerant nation on earth, and you hate America so much you cant stand that. The reality is you and your peeps would be screaming bloody murder if whites even showed the slightest public pride in their race. You ignore NBCs racial railroading of Zimmerman, the white privilege conference, and constant race hustling. You and your peeps actively seek division through pitting race, class, gender, sexual pref, against "the man." The war on women...pathetic. And your absolutist arguments are a testament to how out of touch you are. You want to keep white people out of debates about racial issues? Well you're the racist. You want to redefine marriage (a religious rite) and spit in the face of religious people? You're a walking hypocrite. Judging by your past postings I'd say you hate America and religion. The Redskins is another chance to further division for you. You say, There is racism! Everyone that supports the Redskins name is racist! You don't give two shits about your countrymen, you don't even know them. I realize everyone pats you on the back in SF, but your country exists beyond. My reason is to do something to stop the insanity...stop the race hustling, stop the division. But you keep working on that division, you've got the hustle down."
You can see, gentle readers, why I found this email so enlightening. Let’s look at what I learned from it:
1. “No group of people in this country is oppressed.” Well that is a relief. I hadn’t realized things had gotten so darn swell out there. I guess the time I spent volunteering for the Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals, trying to assist those with no real voice because they can’t afford proper legal representation, was just keeping me too busy to go out and see how swimmingly our oppression-free society was flowing.
2. I “hate America” and would “scream bloody murder if whites even showed the slightest public pride in their race.” This is pretty hypothetical, so I don’t know for sure that Lawyer Man is right. I never have, but I’d like to think that if I EVER were to run across some public display of pride for the historical accomplishments of white people—-you know, like some monument, or building, or museum, or film, or book-—I’d like to think I wouldn’t start howling with rage, but who knows for sure. Those that know me do know that I try to squelch any acknowledgment of my own ancestors’ legacy whenever I see it. I still can’t figure out how this Irish pride tattoo ended up on my right shoulder. And I’ll tell you it’s absolute torture to have to lie through my teeth every day to my students when I teach them about the incredible things this country of ours has achieved during social studies class. I don’t know how I get through it. I usually need to grab my iPod and listen to a few old speeches by the Ayatollah while perusing my collection of jihadist literature for a while when I get home each day, just to take the edge off.
3. (I’d like to point out that Lawyer Man is dead wrong about my ignoring the plight of poor Mr. Zimmerman; I keep his likeness alongside all the rest in my hallway’s “Martyr Hall of Fame.”)
4. I admit to loving Peeps, but I confess I had no idea that those delectable marshmallow confectioneries were what has been fueling my tireless efforts to create further divisions among the folks in this country. How Lawyer Man was able to see past the relentless façade I’ve been putting up via posts about coming together and being empathetic towards one another I’ll never know. I guess he’s just plain smarter than me.
5. I can only assume that by "War on Women" he's referring to my dating history. Guilty as charged, unfortunately; it has been rather pathetic.
6. I don’t give “two shits” about my countrymen, and I don’t even know them. This is probably the most important thing I learned from his email. The fact that I accepted a paycut of over $10k/year to switch careers and become a teacher had me thinking for a second that it was because doing something positive for society was more important to me than money. Boy, am I glad Lawyer Man set me straight. And how could I have wasted SO MANY hours being my school’s Community Service Coordinator, and so many hours of my personal time volunteering for 5 different charitable organizations over the years—when all along those people I was getting to know and helping were apparently NOT my countrymen at all. (What brilliant disguises though!) Apparently my “real” countrymen are upper middle class white lawyers that tell people that have faced genocide to “get over themselves.” Yep, the REAL America apparently only exists beyond San Francisco, which is a relief since I live more than two hours outside the city.
But if we could get back to real life for a moment...here was my reply:
"So let me get this straight: When I try to get people to stop arguing and hurting people's feelings, it means I'm "actively seeking division"? When I support equal rights for all Americans, despite some people's religious beliefs, it's because I "hate America," a country founded on strict separation of church and state?? You sound like a raving lunatic. That message was filled with so much nonsense and illogical ranting that I have lost whatever respect I had left for your intelligence. I have no interest in continuing any sort of dialogue that’s not based in reality. Goodbye."
So there you have it, gentle readers. While I encourage you all to listen to and try to understand opposing points of view, remember to make sure they’re informed opinions based on something tangible. Sometimes to maintain your sanity it’s necessary to opt out of conversations with the insane. So if you want to lose a friend on Facebook, first detach yourself completely from reality, then passionately argue on behalf of racism and against empathy, and generally prove yourself unable to take part in a fact and logic-based discussion. When you run out of relevant things to say, just start throwing out some random re-treads of past and moot arguments about gay marriage. Who knows--you could end up being a lawyer someday!
The Oscars are going to suck for me this year, having not seen the majority of the nominated films. Of the films I saw in 2013, here are the best of the best:
Hugh Jackman "Prisoners"
Michael B. Jordan "Fruitvale Station"
Robert Redford "All is Lost"
Miles Teller "The Spectacular Now"
Tom Hanks "Captain Phillips"
Matthew McConaughey "Mud"
Sandra Bullock "Gravity"
Rooney Mara "Side Effects"
Amanda Seyfried "Lovelace"
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss "Enough Said"
Aubrey Plaza "The To Do List"
Best Supporting Actor:
(TIE) Sam Rockwell "The Way Way Back" and James Gandolfini "Enough Said"
Harrison Ford "42"
Barkhad Abdi "Captain Phillips"
Best Supporting Actress:
Nothing really stands out, although Shailene Woodley was really good in "The Spectacular Now"
"Iron Man 3"
"All is Lost"
"The Company You Keep"
- Spot weld Miley Cyrus’s tongue permanently INSIDE her mouth
- Feign some sort of interest in some Winter Olympic sport, or whatever
- Try to break personal record (set in 2013) of 5 ex-girlfriends getting married in the same year
- Before making any important decision, ask myself what Robin Thicke would do
- Finish reinventing myself as an unhinged, inbred dictator of a threatening Eastern nation (which is all an elaborate ruse to get Dennis Rodman to come to my house)
- Finish the coffee table book I’m constructing out of paint sample pamphlets from Home Depot (working title: 51 Shades of Gray)
- Sneak into Safeway, replace all the rice cakes with plastic hockey pucks, see if anyone notices
- Start flossing more often. But only in the early-2000s hip hop sort of way.
- Pretend to be shocked when Justin Bieber comes out of retirement
- Pretend not to be shocked when I see Morgan Freeman alive in a movie. Silently remind myself that he and Nelson Mandela were two different people.
- Finally make up my mind whether I’m gonna get with This, or whether I’m gonna get with That
- Make it through at least one conversation with a vegan that doesn’t result in my murdering them and hiding them beneath the floorboards of my house
- Exercise more.
- Wait, that period was a mistake. It should have said: Exercise more caution in choosing whether to watch Superman-related movies
- Contact NSA to find out what the hell I drunk-texted my ex-girlfriend last week that got her so upset
- Insure the eventual demise of Mumford & Sons by assassinating all the Grandsons
- Finally make peace with Cotton Eye Joe for preventing my marriage all those years ago
- Invent a soup spoon made out of bread to go with my bowl, and then throw them both out glumly as I realize they’re not gluten free
- Have elective surgery to remove all knowledge and awareness of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian from my brain
- Play my Walkman tape deck during a plane’s final descent just to see if it really crashes
- Continue to not give a shit about Duck Dynasty
- Sneak my way into a White House press conference so I can jump up and ask: “Besides running for reelection in 2012, what would you say is your biggest regret?”
- Post enough made-up-yet-believable-sounding facts on social media to actually break Google.
(Such as: ‘90s hip hop sensations Kris Kross actually stole their branding idea from late 1960s psychedelic rockers Vice Versa, who were known for wearing shirts on their legs & pants on their torsos.)
- Write another word in Sharpie under one of Miley Cyrus’s breasts that she won’t notice for months
- Send Papa John a Get-Well card, hoping he gets over that Tourette Syndrome
- Try to come up with a better invention in my lifetime than yoga pants. Fail again.
I believe that if you try hard enough, you can find something to like—or at least some common ground—with everyone. Yes, Democrats, even Republicans. And vice versa. I don’t believe enough people try to do this, because it’s hard work, and we’ve become a lazy culture. On the other hand, I don’t believe it is worth the effort with every person. There is so much negativity associated with some people that it outweighs what little good or common ground you’d be able to find. I believe there’s nothing wrong with actively avoiding such people, because you have to protect your life. As strong as you think you are, you are greatly impacted by those whose company you keep.
The press is made up of self-serving assholes who believe in story over dignity.
It was really weird back when you could smoke in airports and carry guns on planes.
Using your maiden name behind your husband’s back? Not cool.
Helsinki is in Finland.
Johnson & Johnson should’ve stuck to shampoo.
Any athlete who misses a game with a sore foot is a pussy.
Norwegian blonde dudes are immune to hanging.
At the end of the day, who wouldn’t want to hug Reginald Vel Johnson?
Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
White tank tops and gray tank tops are interchangeable.
Never send a principal from “Breakfast Club” to do a dad from “Family Matters” job.
Volume XI: The Whiskey Rebellion
Despite what people who tend to rewrite our history to suit their own purposes* would have you believe, alcohol consumption is as big a part of our American heritage as God, Mom, and apple pie. Whereas nowadays distilled liquors are mainly used to console oneself after a tragic incident (such as a divorce or a particularly aggravating loss in our fantasy football leagues) or to perpetuate the careers of marginally talented performers (read: Pitbull), in the days of America’s infancy, liquors such as rum and whiskey were a part of every major occasion, and were even used as currency in rural areas. Even preachers were paid whiskey!** By 1791 owning and operating a whiskey still was even more common than men wearing powdered wigs and girly stockings while cracking racist jokes about their slaves. In particularly backwoods areas like Western Pennsylvania, there was estimated to be a still for every six people.
Enter President Washington’s newly appointed secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who was desperate to find ways to pay off the incredible debts the nation had incurred during its war for independence. In March of 1791, Congress passed a law that specified a tax on all whiskey produced privately or professionally. Tempers flared, and trouble soon began. You see, back then, when people weren’t crazy about a law, they responded with outrageous and irrational threats such as secession from the Union and a forced shutdown of the Federal government. Especially vocal protests came from the rambunctious minority of Americans living in rural areas, who angrily compared President Washington to the vile King George*** of England, who had famously caused the Revolutionary War by making people pay taxes. Of course, this comparison was a bit of a stretch because the Whiskey Tax law had been passed by a democratically-elected group of representatives, in accordance with the Constitution, but remember—back then people tended to make nonsensical political statements without fear of a well-educated public calling them out for their idiocy. Representative James Jackson (GA) even made the humorously illogical and hyperbolic leap of suggesting that this tax would soon lead to a tax on “washing shirts.”****
By the next year, when the law had begun to be enforced, violence and intimidation tactics sprung up among the protesters. Distillers who paid the tax were assaulted, their stills destroyed. Congress responded by twice amending the law to lower the taxes, but by that time the rebels were so hammered that they loudly proclaimed they would pay no taxes at all, but would continue with their plans for drunken carousing, aggravated intimidation, constructing the Pennsylvania highway system, and inventing country music.
Hamilton and Washington realized that the sovereign authority of the United States government was being directly challenged, so they sent U.S. Marshalls (including a young Tommy Lee Jones) to restore order and forcibly collect the taxes. In July of 1794, one such group met with armed resistance in the hills of Western Pennsylvania. Shots were exchanged, and the “Whiskey Rebellion” began claiming its first casualties. You see, back then, “country folks” were enthusiastic gun collectors and didn’t like to miss opportunities to engage in impromptu violence, so the “whiskey boys” were soon nearly 6,000 men strong. Led by David Bradford***** the rebels called for secession, and an end to the oppressive U.S. government.
George Washington, as it turned out, had a bit of experience as a military strategist, and the force he led to quell the rebellion was so intimidating that Bradford and many others fled at the very sight of them, admitting defeat this time but vowing to rise again if the U.S. ever had the audacity to “let a black fella be President.” In order to symbolically prove the superiority of the Federal Government, Washington arrested about twenty protestors, but after replacing their whiskey with Coors Light during their incarceration, he figured they had suffered enough, and all were subsequently released or pardoned. The message was clear though: the United States government would not tolerate open rebellion to its authority—if disagreements were to arise, they would be resolved in a gentlemanly and Constitutionally sound manner in the hallowed halls of the US Capitol building. And that is why we’ve never had to deal with problems of this kind ever again.
NOTE: The Whiskey Tax was later repealed by President Thomas Jefferson, the Godfather of the Classy Drunks.
* I hate it when people do that
**Today this is only true in the case of Pastor Fred Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church
*** They compared him to King George because Hitler hadn’t been born yet
**** Jackson had to be the one to make this sort of statement because Michele Bachmann hadn’t been born yet
*****Because Rick Perry hadn’t been born yet
Another football season is upon us. That means our nation’s finest collection of overpaid, undereducated, implausibly-overmuscled behemoths get to begin taking themselves and the game they play far too seriously once again. And the few former behemoths that are articulate enough to string a sentence together will sit around TV studios in ill-fitting suits and endlessly overanalyze all the minutia that the game involves. And we Americans will lap it up like honey-milk sent down from the gods.
I am a big sports fan, and always have been. But when I tell folks that I’ve pretty much lost interest in the NFL they stare at me quizzically, as if searching my forehead for the stitches left over from my lobotomy. I mean, the NFL is by far the most popular entertainment enterprise in the country—a billion dollar industry. It’s our Sunday ritual. We get up, put on a comically-too-large jersey with someone else’s name stitched on the back, park ourselves in front of a TV, and drink beer until it seems socially acceptable to scream our heads off at pixilated images of people we have never met, who are running around in uncomfortably tight pants, trying to injure each other. Grown men, who are getting paid obscene amounts of money, to play a game. And taking themselves waaaaaaaaaaaaay too seriously while doing it. I tuned into a pregame show during opening weekend and was soon privy to a camera inside the pre-game huddle, where one gentleman (who appeared likely to have just snorted enough PCP to run through a brick wall) was shouting at his teammates, “You gotta be ready to die out here on this field today!” Die? Seriously? It’s a fucking game, bro. And why do so many players refer to themselves as “soldiers” during interviews? It’s a GAME. Aren’t actual soldiers at all offended by this idiocy?
I’ve got to admit, the violent nature of the game has been one of the culprits in turning me off. This is a league of extreme violence that attracts vicious men. Don’t believe me? How do you explain 47 arrests of NFL players, just since the end of last season? 47! During the games themselves, it seems like after every single play someone is hobbling—or being carried—off the field. When there are gruesome injuries, the TV stations take delight in showing them over and over again in high-def slo-mo, to make sure our Romanesque bloodlust has been satisfied at the sight of the destruction of these gladiators. People may call me a hypocrite because I’m such a big fan of hockey, but I find the fistfights the most ludicrous aspect of that game, and have long called for them to be outlawed. Are there big hits in hockey? Sure. In the course of trying to stop someone from advancing toward the goal to shoot the puck, they’re bound to occur. But it’s nothing like football, where tackling a man to the ground is the NORMAL way to end each play. And over the past few seasons the NFL has claimed it’s cracking down on violent hits to protect its players, but that’s ridiculous. We all know they’re only trying to protect certain players—the quarterbacks, the marquee receivers, and the like. If Roger Goodell and his crew of monkeys are legitimately concerned about concussions, why do they continue to allow violent helmet-to-helmet collisions between linemen on both sides of the ball to occur on every single play? The NFL is trying to have it both ways; they pretend to care about injuries, yet they’re fully aware that the game’s inherent violence is the #1 aspect that appeals to the lowest common denominator of each of our psyches. As our country continues to get dumber, expect the popularity of the NFL to continue to rise.
Moral indignation aside, I have to admit that as a self-proclaimed shallow and impatient guy, my main problem with the NFL is the sheer boredom of it. As an avid DVR-user I have gotten spoiled by being able to fast-forward through tiresome commercials. Problem is, a 3 hour NFL game is comprised of about 75% commercials! Interesting that some of the same folks who talk with disdain about how the “corporations” have taken over America don’t seem to mind the millions of dollars the NFL rakes in each week from allowing other millionaire companies to take up three quarters of your game-viewing time trying to sell you shitty beer, junk food, and absurdly large trucks. Another substantial chunk of that three hour window is devoted to huddling up, calling timeouts, waiting for the injured to hobble away, calling penalties, and challenging those penalties. You’ve all read the multiple studies that have proven that a 3 hour football game only contains 12-15 minutes of actual action on average. For a guy like me who does all of his Christmas shopping online because he can’t stand to wait in checkout lines, statistics like those are what’s known as a deal breaker.
And don’t even get me started on the abrasively enormous egos that the NFL’s finest exhibit. You’re paid to make tackles, pal, so must you perform an ostentatious dance routine every time you do so? The guys at Jiffy Lube don’t stop to pound their chests and mimic moves from “You Got Served” every time they change my oil. Why not? Because they’re just doing their damn jobs.
Bottom line? Hey, I like the game of football—always enjoyed playing it and being a fan—and yes, some of what I’ve just said was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I do think the NFL has gotten a little too big for its britches. If you remain a ravenous fan of today’s NFL, good for you—I’m not judging. But in return, it would be nice if the backwards-hat wearing members of our society could go ahead and stop questioning my sanity and heterosexuality because I no longer am.
A lot of folks lately ask me how the book is coming along. For some it’s just polite and conversational, and it sounds better than “Hey do you like grapes?” But in case you are genuinely interested, here’s an update.
First of all, in case you aren’t aware, I have indeed been working on a third full length novel. I started it a couple of years ago, shortly after Out of Dark Places was published. As you can imagine, it’s emotionally exhausting to write something like that. I wanted to push myself to make a stark departure from that type of book, so I thought I’d shoot for something more lighthearted, with a little humor thrown in for good measure. (Read: Something more people would want to buy, LOL) At one point—plagued by the sort of self-doubt for which us writers are famous—I abandoned the project, thinking it was something that would not be able to find an audience. But I have since reconsidered, and am at work once again.
For years, after hearing about my spectacularly unsuccessful dating experiences, my friends (after having recovered from fits of uncontrollable laughter) have suggested that I should write a book about that very subject. So with that in mind, I began envisioning a coming-of-age story, but for a full grown adult. Since we all have parts of our brains and personalities that are in varying stages of adolescence, this shouldn’t be too difficult to visualize. In my experience, there are times when being single absolutely sucks. But I have always striven to wring humor from my bad experiences, so what I’m trying to do with this book is to paint an accurate portrait of what it’s like to be single in a world filled with couples, but in a way that’s fun to read. The protagonist is a man in his early 30s who’s trying to figure out exactly where and what he wants to be in life. He runs a shoddy motel, but he dreams of something bigger. He also happens to have comically bad luck when it comes to women. The working title is:
Accidental Adulthood: One Man’s Adventures in Dating and Other Friggin’ Nonsense
As far as how it’s coming along? In a word, slowly. I am a notoriously slow reader, and it appears that I am even slower as a writer. Perhaps I should accept that I am just slow in general, as my high school guidance counselor had often intimated. Anyway, I am over halfway through the first draft, but not much more than halfway. I outlined the whole book first, so I know the general direction I want the story to take, but novels are organic things—they grow and change as they come to life. This story has already led me in directions on which I hadn’t originally planned. In fact, the original plan involved hunky young vampires and large fighting robots. Okay, not really. I work on the book several days each week. Well, usually. I am also learning that I am an enormously lazy person. If anyone out there thinks you’re lazier than me, I challenge you to a....ah, nevermind, I don’t feel up to organizing something like that.
Actually it’s not all laziness. Several times this summer I’ve spent my morning at the coffee shop plugging away, feeling as though my fingers are flying across my laptop’s keyboard, and I’ll look up to see that three hours have disappeared, yet only three pages have been written. Sometimes it’s even less than that. It’s slow going, folks, at least for me. How Stephen King is able to polish off an entire novella before he finishes doing his business on the toilet—well that is staggering to me. And some days I just plain don’t have it. I’ll struggle with a single paragraph for an hour and a half and realize that it’s pointless. The words are coming out so clunky and awkward (Picture an elephant trying to play Twister, or Chris Farley attempting the 100 meter hurdles) that I know I’ll just end up rewriting them the next day anyway, so I quit. This happened last week. And the next day, the three paragraphs that I struggled for over an hour to write—I rewrote them in less than twenty minutes. And this time they sounded right.
I always tell my writing students that I’m not looking for a certain amount of words; I’m looking for the right ones. So will this book ever get finished? Yes. Will it get published? God, I hope so. And I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it. But as far as a time frame, I’ll just say it’ll be done when it’s over.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Democracy simply doesn’t work.” - Kent Brockman, newscaster on The Simpsons
The ancient Greeks are credited with inventing democracy, and because their population was so small they were able to have a direct democracy, in which all citizens could attend political meetings, voice their opinions, and vote. Well, all citizens except women of course, who were expected to stay home and make babies. Because America had such a large population, our attempt to copycat the Greeks eventually morphed into a representative democracy, where we elect trustworthy and upstanding citizens to go to political meetings and vote on our behalf. We were much more successful in emulating the Greeks’ treatment of women, until about the 1970s, when we were forced to admit they actually had brains. Our representative democracy worked okay for a while, until our population became too stupid to elect competent representatives, and the species known as Trustworthy Politicianicus went the way of the Dodo bird.
The legislative branch of our government has become such an appalling dung heap of incompetence and corruption that it’s difficult to still refer to it as a government while keeping a straight face. It is a “government” in the same way that boy bands are “bands.” All our congressmen and senators give a damn about is getting reelected. Well, that and finding ill-fitting suits that make them look like the mannequins you see in thrift shops in the wrong part of town. The latest spectacular display of contempt for citizens like you and me came this past week when the Manchin-Toomey gun control amendment crashed-and-burned in the Senate like a man of modest income hitting on a Kardashian. Is this what the average citizens wanted? The citizens who reside in a country with such a ridiculously high gun-related death rate that it’s got Al Qaeda bastards sitting in caves high-fiving each other? In a word, no. Every national poll taken in the past two months shows 80% or more of the US population agrees with the main points of the gun control amendment, and wanted it to pass. But do our venerated “leaders” care what we think? Well, was Michael Jordan really as stoked about those batteries as he seemed in the commercials? No. MJ couldn’t give two shits about batteries; he was saying what they paid him to say. Just like the pond scum in Washington says whatever their most generous donors pay them to say. The National Rifle Association, which long ago used to actually look out for the best interest of its members before it became a shill for the weapons and ammunition manufacturing industries, has contributed mountains of campaign money to a whopping 88% of House Republicans. 93% of current Republican senators have cashed in on the NRA’s benevolence. And what about the Democrats who bucked the party line and voted against the amendment? One of the most vocal in his opposition to the bill was Montana’s Max Baucus, who used to favor of gun control until the NRA doled out big bucks to his opponent in the 1996 election, and he barely held onto his job. Since then he’s changed his tune and was rewarded during the past two elections with a comfortable pile of over $20,000 of the NRA’s money. The bottom line is, the NRA has waaaaay more direct control over the laws that are and aren’t made in this country than our actual “lawmakers” do. Ruffle their feathers, and you can guarantee that next time you’re up for reelection, your opponent will have buckets of NRA money with which to outspend you on their campaign.
Does any politician have the cojones to come out and admit that this is the reason they voted against a bill that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans support? Does Rhianna have good taste in men? You see, honesty would make it far too difficult to maintain the hypocritical piece of garbage image that they’ve worked so hard to cultivate. So they come up with rationales and explanations that are so stunningly ludicrous that even fans of the Fast and Furious movies catch on to the fact that they’re being lied to. Some of my favorite comments from our nation’s finest in the past few days:
“I believe we should not restrict transactions between law-abiding citizens, especially when we will not prevent such transactions between criminals.” – Richard Shelby (R-AL)
“We ought to recognize that we can’t legislate away the evil that’s about us.” –Tom Coburn (R-OK)
“People who steal guns do not submit to background checks.” –Charles Grassley (R-IA)
Other than the fact that all 3 of these mental giants were able to correctly read the talking points they were given, did you catch what these quotes all had in common? The message seems clear to me. Our lawmakers are in effect saying: Laws don’t work because people break them, so what’s the point in making laws? Those are words being spoken by people who are PAID TO CREATE LAWS!! That’s like a weatherman saying, “Well, once in a while my forecast is dead wrong, so why should I make any forecasts at all? Maybe I’ll sit in my office and finger paint on toilet bowl lids instead.” Actually, that was a bad example. That might be more entertaining than the weather segments on the news, and just as helpful. But I digress. I hate to be a syllogist when trying to clarify the political stance of a pudding-brained dolt, but it appears to me that there is no longer a point to having laws against rape, because rapists will still break that law. Why are the sales of narcotics illegal? Aren’t junkies still going to buy them? I suppose since so many people break traffic laws, we ought to just say, “Screw it, drive however fast you want in whatever lane you want, going any direction you want.” Why try to improve any bad situation through legislation, after all? I mean, what are we—Canada?! (Or Australia, or the UK, or Finland, Switzerland, Japan, or any other country that has stricter gun laws than we do, and also happen to have 20 times fewer firearm homicides each year?)
The fact that these politicians aren’t being openly mocked on the streets and being pelted with rotten tomatoes for their blatant bullshittery and conspicuous assaults on our intelligence tells me one thing. Far too many among us are mouth-breathing thimbleheads who are too dense to realize we’re being insulted, and the rest of us are too lazy, apathetic, or distracted to give a damn. I’d love to see some of these jackoffs get sent home at the next election for failing to pass a law we all wanted, but I’m not holding my breath. They’ll come up with some flashy commercial, and we’ll all wipe the drool from our mouths and end up filling in the circle on our ballot next to the only name we dimly recognize, and then go back to watching fat people try to lose weight on TV. At least here in California (as in many states), if a new state law is going to pass, more than 50% of us must approve it directly. Which just goes to show that the Greeks were smarter than we thought. It’s not democracy that doesn’t work; it’s only representative democracy that’s irrevocably broken and no longer useful. I wonder what else those Greeks were right about that we should try out. Please God, let it be togas.
Volume X: The Cuban Missile Crisis
Long before Rocky IV, when Rocky Balboa was able to get an entire capacity crowd of Soviet boxing fans to simultaneously embrace America, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were involved in what was known as a Cold War.* After World War II ended, the US was acknowledged as one of the world’s “Super Powers,” along with the Soviet Union, possibly some other European countries, Superman, and the New York Yankees. The trouble was, it was tough to keep finding wars to get involved with in order to keep demonstrating how Super our Power was. After the Korean War ended and we all had to sadly say goodbye to Alan Alda and the gang, we couldn’t find any real wars to get into, so we came up with this concept of a Cold War—which was basically a war without fighting, in the same sense that Fox News is considered news. In America the Cold War consisted of a bunch of sweaty white men sitting huddled around tables, smoking cigarettes and complaining about how Communism was the worst thing on the planet besides rock n’ roll music, miniskirts, and Cleveland, Ohio. In Russia the Cold War consisted of a bunch of shivering white men sitting huddled around tables complaining about how Capitalism was the worst thing on the planet AND WHY IS IT ALWAYS TOO DAMN COLD TO EVEN SMOKE CIGARRETTES?!**
When the Soviet Union selected Cuba’s Fidel Castro with their #1 pick in the 1959 fantasy draft, America got nervous. Communism was now getting a foothold in the Western Hemisphere, which in comparison made the miniskirt seem not all that terrible. In 1961 the US sent paramilitary fighting units into Cuba to attempt to overthrow Castro in what is known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion. It was a spectacular failure as the pigs in said bay easily frightened off the invaders. This made President Kennedy appear weak, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was ready to pounce. He decided to install nuclear missiles in Cuba in order to show the US who had the bigger penis. Kennedy and his advisors, meanwhile, had decided the Bay of Pigs failed because its name wasn’t ridiculous enough, so they immediately began plans on Operation Mongoose.***
US spy planes discovered Khrushchev’s plans in October of 1962, and despite the fact that the missiles probably only had enough range to take out some of our least popular states, Kennedy decided to set up a military blockade in the waters surrounding Cuba before the construction of the missile bases could be finished. He demanded publicly that the USSR stop being so mean and take all their weapons out of Cuba. Khrushchev responded by attempting to give Kennedy the finger, but he was not accustomed to the American gesture and instead extended his index finger, which made him appear to be pointing somewhere behind Kennedy. The President and his cabinet spent days trying to deduce what Khrushchev had been pointing at, during which time several Soviet ships attempted to break through the blockade in what is known as a “red rover maneuver.” Tensions mounted, and warning shots were exchanged when Rihanna, a deck lieutenant on one of the US warships, accidentally called out a correctly-sequenced letter and number.
US newspapers frightened citizens with tales of nuclear annihilation and notified them of great bargains to be had on bomb shelters at a massive Sears and Roebuck sale. Khrushchev publicly warned that Kennedy’s blockade constituted "an act of aggression propelling human kind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war that even Aqua Man won’t be able to stop." Kennedy responded with some snide remarks about Khrushchev’s weight.
Although outwardly neither side would back down, later on the public would learn that a private negotiation was taking place behind the scenes between Kennedy and Khrushchev. Details are sketchy, but apparently Kennedy was able to prove to Khrushchev that he was the bigger man**** and not the inexperienced weakling that the latter had imagined him to be. On October 28—a harrowing 13 days after this confrontation began—the two sides announced a resolution to what would turn out to be the longest and most dangerous standoff of the entire Cold War, which should in some way convey to you how ridiculously boring the Cold War really was. Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba, and Kennedy promised to stop his hilariously-named attempts to invade Cuba, and to remove some missiles of his own from Turkey and Italy. Interestingly, what most historical accounts of this event nowadays fail to mention is Kennedy’s original offering to allow the Soviets to keep Cleveland, Ohio, as a token of good will—an offer that Khrushchev immediately refused and later would come to view as an act of hostility.
*Try TheraFlu to help you win your war with the common cold!
**It seems like the Russians were the only ones taking the Cold War literally.
****Apparently Marilyn Monroe was involved in a conference call to confirm this.
Just like the MTV Movie Awards but less prestigious!
If I ran the Oscars....I would call them 'De La Hoyas' and there wouldn't be any damn 'Amour' or anything else I haven't seen. Of the 25 or so films from 2012 that I've seen (yes, I have a Netflix problem) I humbly submit the following picks for the year's finest performances. In the major categories, nominees are listed, and my pick for winner is in [brackets]. The special category awards, I should think, are self-explanatory. And the De La Hoya goes to......
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Dark Knight Rises
Silver Linings Playbook
Jack Black, Bernie
Adrien Brody, Detachment
[Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook]
John Cusack, The Raven
Jason Segel, Jeff Who Lives at Home
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Sami Gayle, Detachment
Kara Hayward, Moonrise Kingdom
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
[Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild]
'Best Supporting Actor'
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
[Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths]
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress
Emily Blunt, Looper
[Shirley MacLaine, Bernie]
Susan Sarandon, Jeff Who Lives at Home
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Rachel Weisz, The Bourne Legacy
Ben Affleck, Argo
Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
[Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises]
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Argo (Chris Terrio)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin)
[Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)]
Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh)
Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
'Best Movie I Didn’t Think I’d Like'
21 Jump Street
'Worst Movie I Thought I’d Like'
(Tie) American Reunion, The Bourne Legacy, The Grey
'Best Bruce Willis Acting Performance'
(Tie) Bruce Willis, Moonrise Kingdom, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looper
'Best Imitation of Actor Other than Bruce Willis'
Josh Brolin as Tommy Lee Jones, Men in Black 3
'Best Guilty Pleasure'
The Expendables 2
The Three Stooges
'Funniest Unexpected Scene Stealer'
(Tie) Dylan McDermott, The Campaign and Don Johnson, Django Unchained
'Best Place To Get One’s Face Pinned'
Jennifer Lawrence’s crotch, Silver Linings Playbook (Bradley Cooper)
'Best Performance by Someone Obviously Not Human'
(Tie) Ted the Bear, Ted, and Christopher Walken, Seven Psychopaths
Catwoman, The Dark Knight Rises
'Most Painfully Realistic Documentary'
'Best “Enough, Already!” Performance'
Robert Downey Jr., The Avengers
'Best “It’s About Damn Time That Happened” Moment'
(Tie) Cast of Jersey Shore getting slapped around (The Three Stooges) and Zac Effron getting pissed on (The Paperboy)
• Finish teaching Siri to speak pig-latin
• Apologize to Maya Rudolph for chewing her out so harshly for scaring everybody about the world ending on December 21. I had my facts mixed up.
• Find a way out of this bunker I locked myself into on December 20th
• Spend more time with family
• Find a family I can tolerate so I can accomplish previous resolution
• Download a copy of all the photos of food people post to Facebook and Instagram and compile them into a huge photo mosaic collage of me shooting myself in the head
• Finally solve the mystery of what Brown can do for me
• Talk Kelly Clarkson into early retirement
• Finish writing that book about procrastination I’ve been working on for the past twelve years
• Stop shaving, wash hair less frequently, buy checkered shirt, star as “white guy” in McDonald’s commercial
• Exercise less. Sit down to pee.
• Make friends with a guy named Cliff so I can call him “Fiscal Cliff” and then stop hanging out with him once the phrase seems outdated
• Attend as many NHL games in the second half of the season as I did in the first
• Single-handedly bring the slang word “phat” back into popular English parlance. Also, every time I leave a place I plan to say “I’m Audi 5000!”
• Visit library more often. Rearrange books in arbitrary order that only I will understand.
• Stop evaluating my self-worth by the number of Facebook friends I have, and start using number of Twitter followers instead
• Figure out what the hell Bane was saying in “The Dark Knight Rises”
• Read that John Grisham book about the lawyer
• Figure out a way to combine sleeping and eating cheese
• Pop Papa John, and get away with it
• Convince the world that I do not exist, and then pose as a disabled Kevin Spacey
• Get one Republican to understand the irony in calling a democratically-elected official a Socialist
• Ascertain the hidden, deeper meaning of the lyrics to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It”
• Stop using the phrase “awesome sauce” so frequently during job interviews
• Sell TLC on my new TV show concept “There Went Honey Boo Boo”
• Maintain a minimum of two days per week where my diet is “meat-free,” my ears are “One Direction-free,” and all news stories I read/watch are “group of angry Muslims-free”
• Decorate bedroom walls with inspirational quotes by Adam Lambert
• Become more tech-savvy and finally figure out how to set the timer to record programs on my VCR
• Do research to make sure Todd Akin’s theory about “legitimate rape” is scientifically accurate
• Pass my audition for “Magic Mike 2”
• Help Wile E. Coyote achieve his dream of cooking and eating the Geico Gecko
Folks, I have traditionally exercised restraint when talking about my political beliefs, but the time has come for transparency. I am a member of the Nazi party. Yes, the Grammar Nazi party.
You all know what this label means—it’s entered our country’s collective vernacular alongside such quaint terms as “brain fart,” “douchey,” “bromance,” and “Boehnering the agreement.” Okay, one of those I might have made up. But Grammar Nazis are the stiff shirts of our society who cling to the radical notion that the English language is much easier to read and comprehend when it is used correctly. They tend to communicate by writing words and phrases that follow the established rules of the language, as if they once “learned” them in some sort of “big building where people teach you stuff.”
What gets me is that our society has attributed such a hyperbolic negative label to us. As if we’re party poopers, raining on the parades of everyone else who was having such a good time being imbeciles and mangling our native tongue like they were Kobayashi at a wing-eating contest. Since we insist on knowing the difference between your and you’re, we’re clearly in the same league as those who were primarily known for strategic genocide. What’s next? Will we start to refer to the winners of democratic elections as Socialists? Oh. Nevermind.
It irritates me the way the United States has demonized intelligence and glorified ignorance and plain stupidity. We’ll try to change the Wikipedia pages of historical events in order to match them to the delusional verbal meanderings of our borderline-retarded political fringe candidates just as quick as we’ll DVR a show about a bunch of rednecks arguing over the hick-knacks found in a stranger’s storage unit. The recent campaign season showed me that politicians now count on the dipshittery of voters as part of their overall strategies. What kind of country with any pride in itself would allow candidates to get away with telling outright lies in their campaign commercials because they know we’ll be too gullible and lazy-minded to do any research and call them on their bullshit? Why have ill-informed, blithering nincompoops like Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Phil, and the cast of Jersey Shore become cultural icons, while most of us couldn’t name a single Nobel Prize winner if our lives depended on it? Knowing that U.S. students rank 14th in the world in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math, when all these middle-American patriots are yelling “We’re Number One!” what the hell are they talking about, exactly? This is the country that wasn’t bright enough to grasp the McDLT concept when it came out in the ‘80s. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if there is one day a reality TV show where we simply watch other people play video games (if there isn’t already).
During one of the recent presidential debates, Mitt Romney said one of his first moves would be to cut funding for PBS, and half a nation of mouth breathers nodded in agreement. Because what the hell do we need educational television for, when we can be laughing at Honey Boo Boo instead? If you are angry enough to call me a Nazi when I point out stupid things that you do, isn’t it just possible that part of that anger should be directed at yourself for doing stupid things?
Learn a lesson from “Revenge of the Nerds” and take it easy on smart people, America. Read a book. Learn how to play chess. Memorize a poem. Here’s one to start with. It’s from the Statue of Liberty.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
of accountability, empathy, and reason—
Who cannot be bothered
during television season.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Those of you mentally deranged enough to read this blog on a regular basis (and I can recommend some good therapists, BTW) may remember a post called “Somewhere Over the Rainbows” from July of last year, in which I berated people for getting their tightey-whiteys twisted over a joke Tracey Morgan made. My point was that remarks people make in jest are designed for a certain audience, and if you’re not part of that audience but you allow yourself to be offended by the comments, it’s more your problem than anyone else’s. What’s been happening in the Middle East lately is a psychotically extreme extension of that same kind of thinking. So some would-be filmmakers from the famously level-headed state of California made a clownishly amateur and rather unfunny satirical video to promote their personal hatred of the Islamic religion. So what? Why should this be an excuse to go around murdering people who had nothing to do with the film? Obviously we in the freedom-of-speech portion of the world have a difficult time wrapping our heads around the idea that anyone could take another’s opinion that seriously. We’re used to the things we hold dear being held up to ridicule and verbal abuse by the buttheads of our society. We don’t enjoy it, and in fact it riles us up a bit, but it doesn’t occur to us that we should take out our frustration by ending the lives of random strangers. But we must not forget that in Islamic culture freedom of speech is not recognized and words carry greater weight and blah blah blah, and we should be sensitive to those cultural differences. Hogwash. I recognize and understand the differences in our cultures, but to paraphrase Bill Maher, I don’t have to respect those differences. In this particular instance, I firmly believe our culture is just plain better than theirs. And I don’t mind running the risk of having a jihad declared against me to say so.
Anyone presumptuous enough to take anything they believe in seriously enough to physically harm those who would decry it is just plain bonkers in my book. Where does this obnoxious self-importance come from? Why do we think it’s okay to maim a guy in a stadium parking lot, just because he was rooting against our team? Since when are some of our views and opinions so vastly superior to those of others that it’s appropriate to punish them for their disagreement? You could make a movie mocking everything about my life—paint me as a pedophile and serial killer, portray me getting ass-raped in a prison—and while I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t buy the DVD, I’m also quite certain that I wouldn’t possess the infuriating arrogance that would make me think it’s within my rights to hurt someone because the movie was made.
Here’s the part where this post gets politically-incorrect. In my opinion, nowhere is this arrogance and propensity towards violence more prevalent than in the Muslim culture. I’m fully aware that there are millions of peace-loving, upright citizens of the Muslim faith that cause no harm to their communities, and I’m further aware that our culture’s media is partly to blame for ignoring these noble ones in deference to the headline-grabbing extremists, but come on, let’s be real. How often do you hear about someone from ANY OTHER religion inflicting violence against others in proportion to the frequency of stories about Muslims doing so? Sure there were some Christian extremists who murdered an abortion doctor like ten years ago, but on a DAILY basis, all newscasts in this part of the world consist of the same format: Local news, sports, angry Muslims, and weather. What is it about this religion that seems to prod so many of its followers in violent directions? I must admit to being a little too ignorant about the religion itself to fully understand the answer to that question, but the Muslims I’ve talked to have assured me that there is NOTHING in the Qu’ran that explains this justification the extremists feel about inflicting violence upon those who reject the religion.
So what do we call this kind of thinking?
Wrong. That’s what we should call it. Absurd. Deluded. Conceited. Those who believe in the fallacy that dying nobly for a cause they believe in is somehow more glorious than living humbly for it are just childish, unevolved thinkers who have read too many comic books. The Middle East seems chock-full of these kind of people, trying to crowd out the good ones. Maybe it’s the lack of air conditioning, I don’t know. But they’ve always thought that way, and they probably always will. In my opinion, the best we can do is just stay out of the whole area, but that’s a topic for another post. In the meantime, we Westerners should probably learn a lesson from these extremists, and stop buying the myth that our beliefs and values are somehow a cut above those of our neighbors. Maybe we could start to slow the vitriol we spew from our laptops towards online strangers who disagree with us. Maybe we should stop voting for politicians who do nothing but try to incite rage against their political opponents. Maybe we could even stop putting money in the pockets of business owners who use their resources to limit the rights of those they disagree with. Because right now at this moment, we can claim the moral high ground to the world’s extremists, but it’s a slippery slope from where we are to the dreadful place we could end up.
The other night I was enjoying an adult beverage at a local watering hole, as I’m wont to do from time to time, when in walks a gentleman whose face I couldn’t immediately place, but I suppose that’s what happens to one’s mind after making merry a little too long. I concentrated though, trying to figure it out, because it appeared he was trying to communicate with me. You see, his t-shirt displayed the following question: “How’s Second Taste?”
Although at first I’d thought this man was a total stranger, his t-shirt revealed to me that not only had I known him, but apparently we’d been engaged in some sort of competition, and it seemed as though he’d bested me. I ransacked my hops-soaked mind to recall just what sort of contest we’d waged, but I drew a complete blank. I scrutinized the rest of his appearance, looking for clues. Perhaps we’d been entangled in a struggle to see who could keep the bill of our baseball caps the straightest. He had me there, because his—turned backwards and a little to the side on his head as it was—maintained a rigid, unnaturally horizontal angle that seemed to be keeping the rest of the cap from conforming to the natural contours of his head. So much so that the cap appeared to be oversized enough for him to tuck the tops of his ears up under the hat’s edge. This appeared downright uncomfortable to me, but I couldn’t recall whether this was part of the competition or not, so I didn’t speak up. If the game had been based on counting the number of tattoos around our biceps that appeared to be facsimiles of barbed wire, why he’d gotten me there too—by 100% no less! Two things that I immediately ruled out were closest shave and not wearing clothes designed for workouts at the gym when we were going nowhere near a gym for the evening—because I appeared to be in the lead in both of those categories.
Then I started analyzing more deeply the actual question his shirt was querying. I did appreciate his concern—or was it mere curiosity—that prompted him to inquire how I was mentally handling the repercussions of my defeat. Naturally I assumed the question was figurative, and believe me the metaphor threw me at first; I’d heard about the “stench” of failure before, but as far as I knew the condition of being first runner-up was not something I could physically put into my mouth in order to activate my taste buds. Then I remembered this summer when I’d seen several Olympic athletes biting into their medals on the awards stand. So, I figured, maybe this fellow was just interested in how the taste of silver compared to that of gold. I thought it through, and although I occasionally confuse myself with Gabby Douglas, I decided I was 98% sure I hadn’t competed in the Olympics at all.
Then something occurred to me. If this guy was so curious what second place tasted/smelled/sounded like, it could only mean one thing: He had NEVER FINISHED ANYWHERE EXCEPT FIRST PLACE! Clearly that’s what his shirt was implying. I felt humbled to be in the presence of an undefeated champion of...something. Probably something athletic; why else would he have been wearing basketball shorts out in public? Yes, I must have been standing not ten feet away from the Jordanesque Muhammad Ali of Tiger Woodses, but what I couldn’t reconcile in my mind was that I’d never seen a poster of this particular person in a sports store, nor had I come across his face on a box of Wheaties. A criminally underexposed champion athlete in our midst, and why, dammit, why?? Probably a failure on the part of his agent.
Then another, darker thought crept into my consciousness. What if he wasn’t asking about my second place finish out of empathy, or even curiosity? As I watched him, standing there sucking down Coors Light and high-fiving some of his acquaintances, I wondered if just maybe his shirt’s question belied a more sinister intention. Was it possible that the question was designed to intentionally make me feel dejected about my obvious inferiority to him in whatever it was we had just competed about? Was the question supposed to somehow make him look better by making me look worse? Nah, I ultimately decided. I had never heard of this strategy being employed in the world of sports before, and besides, I like to fancy myself a more than fair judge of character. I think I’m experienced enough to spot a classy, sportsmanlike gentleman when I see one.
So on the way out I made sure to whisper in his ear, “It tastes serviceable—somewhat thirst-quenching, but without a strong or satisfying flavor, leaving you feeling a bit underwhelmed and kind of disappointed.” Kind of like Coors Light.
Volume IX: The Moon Landing
The idea of people landing on the moon originated after the election of President John F. Scott Fitzgerald Kennedy, who famously vowed that before the 1960s were over the U.S. would “put a man on the moon—preferably the husband of an attractive and morally casual woman.” The other main reason for the Apollo project was that the United States was embroiled in a decades-old penis measuring contest with the Soviet Union and was constantly looking for opportunities to show their superiority. When Soviet cosmonaut Yakov Smirnoff became the first human other than Buck Rodgers to orbit in outer space in 1961, the Kennedy administration was desperate to save face.*
Kennedy looked to NASA because he was a big fan of acronyms, and the Apollo Project** was born. A new space center was opened in Houston, Texas, on land owned by Rice University***. Some of the country’s best scientists took time off from not getting laid to help the U.S. meet the challenge thrown down by President Kennedy.
Tragically Kennedy was assassinated (probably by Indians who had moved to the moon to get away from white people invading their territory) in 1963 but the Apollo mission pressed on. President Johnson renamed the launch site in Cape Canaveral, FL, after Kennedy in a failed attempt to impress his hot widow. Project engineers tried out and scrapped scores of mission mode plans and spacecraft designs. More experts and consultants were brought in on the project, including William Shatner, who reportedly spent nearly nine hours trying to explain that the USS Enterprise was not real, and therefore he had no expertise to lend and should be allowed to go back home. A Lunar Orbit Rendezvous was the tactic that was eventually decided upon. Its design featured a command module that would remain in orbit around the Moon, and a lunar excursion module that would descend to the Moon, return to dock with the command ship, and then be discarded. This announcement was received enthusiastically by the American public, who were thrilled at the possibility of now being allowed to litter in space too. North American Aviation, which had a factory in President Johnson’s home state of Texas, won the contract to build the command and service modules, because back then politicians sometimes did underhanded favors for their rich friends.
Several rocket test launches continued throughout the sixties, and astronauts were trained in hopes of being selected for the crew that would eventually land on the moon. The US National Society of Onomatopoeia Enthusiasts lobbied hard for the inclusion of Buzz Aldrin, and Louis Armstrong’s twin brother Neil was also a favorite to win a spot. These two would eventually make the final cut, along with Michael Collins, who would later go on to invent whiskey.
It wasn’t until the summer of 1969 until the actual launch occurred. There had been many delays, and some experts still questioned the readiness of the project, but NASA was mindful of Kennedy’s decree to make it happen before the ‘60s were over, and Aldrin wanted to be sure to make it back in time for Woodstock. So on July 16, a breathless nation waited breathlessly in front of their television sets as the astronauts boarded the spacecraft, with Armstrong famously tweeting “YOLO!” from his phone once inside. Just over 4 days later, the lunar module landed safely on the moon, with Neil Armstrong famously announcing “The Eagle has landed.” All the major radio and television news outlets were covering the event**** and were shocked to hear that there are eagles on the moon. Armstrong, who like his brother had been trained in scat, uttered the following unforgettable line as he slowly descended the ladder to the moon’s surface: “That’s one sbah dep per bam, one lion bleep ber bankine.” He and Aldrin then spent two and a half hours on the surface taking photos and exploring. All they reportedly found was a bunch of rocks, dust, and Michael Jackson shuffling around backwards trying to invent a new dance step. Also, according to a commercial I saw, apparently there were some Transformers hiding just out of sight. On July 24th the astronauts successfully re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and successfully splash landed in the Pacific Ocean.
Excited by this mission, five more moon landings took place over the next three years, but each time the astronauts reported “Seriously, it’s just a bunch of rocks and dust,” so the U.S. hasn’t bothered to go back to the moon since. However, it has been reported that Newt Gingrich plans to establish a colony and live on the moon, and I know we’re all pretty excited about that, because here on earth, No Newt is Good Newt.
*The idea for ‘Rocky IV’ was still a long way off.
**Named after the other character in the ‘Rocky’ movies
***Where rice used to come from, before we knew about Asia
****Not ESPN, because they were airing something about how great Lebron James is.
We’ve all heard the expression “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” but I think our culture has taken it a bit too far. Being entitled to an opinion is not the same thing as being entitled to shout it from the rooftops of the world. Today’s rooftops of the world are internet blogs and social media. Somewhere between the time “The Real World” premiered on MTV and the invention of MySpace, we all drank the Kool-Aid and began to believe that we were all uniquely interesting and that the rest of the world was dying to know what we did during our spare time, and what our thoughts were about politics and current events. I am here to tell you: THIS IS NOT TRUE. You’d be surprised just how many people do not care to hear your opinion. Especially if it’s an uninformed opinion. This is the worst. You may be entitled to your opinion, but if it’s not an informed opinion, you ARE NOT entitled to have it taken seriously by others.
Believe me, the irony of my using a blog format to share this opinion is not lost on me; I’m talking to myself here as well. I like to think that as a novelist I’ve contributed something of literary value to the world, so that’s how I justify writing this post. I hate blogs, yet I write one; that should in some way convey to you the whore-like nature of my existence. If you’ve stopped reading by now, good, it serves me right. But mainly I’m talking about social media at this point. These days, Facebook appears to be nothing more than a manufacturing plant for baseless rumors, exaggerations, and opinions that are not based on any semblance of intelligent thought whatsoever. At this point I’ve pretty much stopped commenting on other people’s ludicrous posts, because I realize nobody wants the inaccuracies of their fervent statements pointed out to them. Our culture has taught us that we no longer need to base our opinions on facts, or to recognize both sides of an argument. All we need to do is be the one who shouts the loudest and gets the most people to corroborate our argument. If enough people “Like” your statement, it HAS to be true.
I recently got sucked into a few FB “arguments” that made me decide they’d be the last ones I commented on. One in particular was with an old colleague who posted what I considered to be an irrational and ridiculous opinion about the late Joe Paterno. Basically his statement was that because Joe played a part in the horrific Penn State scandal, nothing positive the man had done previously should count for anything and should in fact be erased from history as if it never happened, so that history can more easily label him a monster. My argument was that he had indeed done an unforgivable thing, but that in a career that spanned over 40 years, he had also made many positive, lasting contributions to the lives of generations of students. If a troubled street kid who was persuaded by JoePa to stay in school and get his degree ended up with a better career and family life as a result of that event, nobody can say that it didn’t matter. At least not to that young man and his family. That sort of thing doesn’t disappear just because a coach makes a series of terrible mistakes late in his career. Now granted, my colleague hadn’t grown up in Western Pennsylvania and was therefore uninformed about the scores of positive Paterno stories through the years. I know this will shock you, but the national media didn’t rush to their keyboards to cover those kinds of stories with the same zeal they displayed during the Sandusky scandal. So our media is partly to blame, but does that let my colleague off the hook? Not in my book. In this day of online resources, ignorance is a choice. He could have looked up some of the things Paterno had done over the decades that won him such loyal supporters, but he instead chose the easy way out. He decided to let the picture the media painted of the Coach during the recent scandal become The Whole Story for him.
And this is exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t bother to try to learn all the facts about something, why do you believe your opinion on it deserves the attention of others? The truth is, your opinion doesn’t—and shouldn’t—matter. I for one am past the point of being exhausted by the proliferation of baseless opinions being tossed about. The biggest example of this I can think of is the raging debate over gay marriage that continues to generate headlines in this country. If you’re against gay marriage and you’ve never had a gay friend/family member/coworker/neighbor, then guess what? Your opinion is an uninformed one, and I couldn’t be any less interested in it, so go ahead and shut the hell up. Who I’d be interested in dialoguing with is a person who has a relationship with a gay person and STILL wants to limit their civil rights. I still may not agree with their opinion, but I’d at least be interested in hearing about it. The uber-religious people who have formed their opinions about homosexuals based on a thousand-year-old book are about as relevant to this conversation as I would be if I went to a PETA meeting and called for the slaughter of whales because I once read Moby Dick.
Gentle readers, the insanity has got to stop. Modern technology has brought us a great many things. According to a commercial I saw, I no longer even need to look out the window to see if it’s raining. But this attitude of self-entitlement and the ease with which we can let the world know what we think about things that we know nothing about—these are the curses it has brought upon us. Have you ever heard a lengthy argument in a sports bar where neither participant brought up statistics to prove his point? Me neither. Let that be a lesson to us all.
Okay, so I’m not a full time, professional writer. Not yet. People have to actually buy your books in order for that to happen, a heck of a lot more people than buy my books. But my “real” job allows me nearly three months off per year, so during those precious summers I get to be a full time writer. It’s more grueling than you might think.
Today I groaned just like you did when the alarm went off. 10:30 got here too fast! You see, I had to set the alarm extra early this morning because I’ve got a full plate. Other than writing, I also have to return a library book. And I kind of verbally committed to playing golf this afternoon, although I might try to weasel out of that one if the day gets too hectic. Since my body was not used to being up at such an unreasonable time, I decide to shower while sitting down to kind of ease into my day. 45 minutes later I’m out of the shower and dressed. I’m not up to shaving—who has that kind of energy in the morning?—so I’m sporting the Don Johnson ‘Miami Vice’ look, which as far as I know has yet to go out of style. By 11:30 I am on my way to the office.
And by “office” I mean “coffee shop.” I’m visiting two of them today. When you’re under contract to a small independent publisher a lot of the marketing responsibility for your book falls to you. It’s tough to stay on the cutting edge of marketing trends, but I manage it pretty well, which is why I visit the coffee shops. I need to make sure some of the promotional bookmarks I’ve made are stacked haphazardly on the “free stuff” table and one of my flyers is displayed prominently on the bulletin board. That’s the thing about marketing—you have to know your audience. People who frequent coffee shops are enthusiastic about reading, according to my meticulous research. Probably also coffee. And judging by the flyers displayed on the board, they’re apparently also really into free seminars on the existence of UFOs. Between the first and second coffee shop, I make a detour to return the library book. After helping Blockbuster Video stave off bankruptcy for all those years through my late fees, I’ve gotten pretty responsible about returning things on time. The downtown library, however, is closed on Mondays, so I have to walk almost half a block down to the afterhours book return slot. This throws me severely off schedule.
I can feel myself already getting stressed, so when I get to the next shop I decide to eat a muffin and stare blankly out the window for about thirty minutes, just to calm down. I always start the day’s writing by rereading what I’ve written the previous day and overanalyzing the appropriateness of the grammar and sentence structure. This can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to four hours, depending on just how neurotic I’m feeling. As usual, once I begin writing I get into the zone and my fingers fly across the keyboard. By two o’clock I’ve already hammered out an entire page. I sort of regret the twenty minutes I spent deciding if the character should reply “yes” or “yeah” to a question. I went with the latter, but I’ll probably change it tomorrow. Also, another twenty or so minutes was lost when a squirrel scurried across the sidewalk outside the window and I watched his every move and pondered what was going through his head, but overall I feel like it was a pretty productive day.
On a normal day, I try to work in at least two afternoon naps to keep myself sharp, but I’m probably going to have to skip one if I still want to make that 4:00 tee time. Also it’s kind of a hot day and I tend to sweat a lot, so I’ll probably have to pick out a new t-shirt to wear for golfing, and maybe—if there’s time—even a different pair of shorts. It exhausts me to think about going through that kind of rigmarole. Good thing it’s time for my first nap. Don’t even get me started on what kind of nightmare tomorrow’s going to be—let’s just say there’s a tentative trip to the farmer’s market on the schedule.
So, yeah, the life of a writer isn’t exactly the cake walk you thought it was, now is it?
Tomorrow I shall embark upon a new daily habit. Occasionally, when in the presence of others, I shall withdraw a small and very sharp blade from my pocket and make a small incision in my skin. Then I’ll turn my attention to anyone else that happens to be within arm’s reach and use the pointed tip of the blade to poke them somewhere on their exposed skin. Not a stab, mind you, just a little poke. At most, a single drop of blood might escape their veins. An act that by itself is merely a trifle unpleasant, but not necessarily dangerous. Especially not when compared with the damage I am causing myself during this exercise. The only thing that gives me pause about my plan is when I consider how my neighbors and co-workers might respond. Since they spend a lot of time in close proximity to me, they’re liable to sustain five or more pokes per day. After enough time goes by all these minor non-injuries may—just may—add up to something that resembles an actual health risk. Again, it will be nothing compared with what distress my own skin will have sustained by this point, so I hope they’ll have the tact to not try to make some sort of big deal out of it. I acknowledge that this new personal habit of mine might seem peculiar to some, even annoying to others. Some might even think I’ve lost my mind. But I’m sure smokers will understand.
Volume VIII: The Battle of the Bulge
Although most Americans today believe The Battle of the Bulge to be a humorous reference to the difficulty of weight loss, it was originally the name of the largest and bloodiest American battle in World War II. It was a surprise attack launched by the Germans in December 1944 in an attempt to split the American and British front lines in half. SPOILER ALERT: It was unsuccessful, and the battle stands as one of the American military’s finest moments, immortalized in dozens of films, such as HBO’s ‘Band of Brothers’.* Initially, American forces were unprepared for the assault and forced to fall back. The battle’s unusual name derives from the inward-bulging shape of the Allied front line on wartime maps at this point. Germans refer to the battle as ‘The Ardennes Offensive’ because the line on their map more closely resembled an Ardennes.**
In winter of 1944, Germany was facing invading forces from the Allied Powers to the west, as well as from the Soviet Union to the east. This being nearly 40 years before ‘Rocky IV’ revealed that Soviets had weaknesses, Germany decided that defeating the Americans and British was the more achievable goal, and decided to focus their efforts on forcing the Allies into surrender. Reportedly, some of his advisors warned Hitler that this plan was dubious at best, but the Fuhrer, displaying the kind of Donald Trump-esque illogical self-assurance for which he was known, vowed to press on. In an effort to bolster support among his ranks, he even named the plan “Watch on the Rhine,” after a popular German patriotic song. Historians believe copyright issues prevented him from going with his original title, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore.”
Reconnaissance informed Hitler that the Allied front line appeared to be weakest in the forests of Belgium, near the city of Bastogne. After being assured that Brad Pitt’s men had not been spotted anywhere near the vicinity, Hitler agreed to launch the attack amid the overcast wintry weather. In what would later become a longstanding U.S. tradition, American forces stationed in the area were largely neglected and dangerously undersupplied. In preparation for the attack, Germany had initiated “Project Greif,” which sent English-speaking German troops undercover behind American lines to gather info on troop locations. American Intelligence officers—never known as strong spellers—failed to catch on to the operation, having been distracted by that point by a series of experiments involving the massive intake of L.S.D. and elephant steroids. Soon Germany began quietly assembling a massive force in the Belgian forest. These maneuvers did not escape the notice of Allied Intelligence, although they were duped into thinking the buildup of personnel was merely a casting call for a winter production of ‘The Producers’ and failed to warn the U.S. troops of the impending attack. The French Resistance, which had provided intelligence since the D-Day invasion, had long since stopped doing so, in favor of smoking cigarettes and laughing behind their hands at American fashions, so the Germans were able to move forward with their plan completely undetected.
When the initial assault began on December 16th, American forces somehow failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation. German SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Joahchim Peiper led a force of 4,800 men and 600 armored vehicles in the main portion of the attack. The Americans, with no leaders who had nearly the same amount of letters in their names, had no choice but to fall back. However, the German infantry’s understanding of their American enemies came entirely from Nazi propaganda films and David Hasselhoff records, and they were completely unprepared for the resilience shown by American troops, such as the 99th Infantry Division, who—although outnumbered five to one—inflicted casualties upon their German attackers at a ratio of 18 to 1, causing the assault to falter.
Peiper soon moved his forces west, and shit got nasty. Germans and Americans took turns slaughtering large groups of POWs. Peiper met with fierce resistance from Allied forces during the next few days of the campaign. There was even a paratrooper drop of reinforcements by the Germans, led by Oberst Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte. I only mention this because I continue to marvel at the ridiculously long names those Germans had. I bet their college athletes gave the equipment managers fits when they tried to sew those names onto the backs of their uniforms. Anyway, the Germans’ attempt to recapture the vital crossroads village of Bastogne was thwarted by the American 101st Airborne Division on December 20th. Soon, German forces surrounded the town and demanded the Americans’ surrender. Commanding officer Anthony McAuliffe famously responded: “Nuts!” No one on either side understood this response, and while they were discussing the possible explanations, forces led by General George S. Patton*** broke through the German lines and reinforced American troops. Soon the weather cleared up, and Allied air forces bombed the living crap out of the Germans.
On New Year’s Day, the Germans attempted to launch a counter offensive, but the success of this operation fell far short of expectations, finishing far behind the Volkswagen Beetle and the Scorpions’ 1984 hit “Rock You Like a Hurricane” on the all time list of successful German endeavors. Patton’s forces continued to push north, cutting through German forces like a steak knife through Wiener Schnitzel, and by mid-January Hitler’s forces withdrew from the area. Many consider this battle the final straw that broke the back of the Nazi regime, and even renowned drunken British leader Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war, and Madame, you’ve got a fanny that won’t quit” before vomiting into a nearby plant vase.
*Which I believe was a critically-acclaimed biopic about The Beach Boys
**A pastry, traditionally topped with cinnamon
*** The S stands for George C. Scott
If you read my post from 5/12 below, I thought you might get a kick out of the response I received to my letter. It's reprinted here:
Thank you so much for your detailed notes on my manuscript; I am pleased to find out you’re as excited as I am about this literary event! While I understand your concerns over the accuracy of some of the information, I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you the literary world’s rather casual attitude towards truth when it comes to biographies. I know for a fact that Abraham Lincoln was not a vampire hunter. And much of the book about Steve Jobs claims that he was the founder of Apple computers, while I’m pretty sure it was actually Michael J. Fox. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t let yourself get so bogged down in “facts” that it gets in the way of our masterpiece. Delays in getting the book published will only lead to delays in the film adaptation, and we have a limited window of opportunity in which we can still cast Zac Efron in the lead role of my life story. I can't overemphasize the importance of casting the perfect actor in this role. Not only is he the actor who most closely resembles me physically, but his staggering, Olivier-like dramatic range would make him perfect for the film. Also, he has dreamy eyes. Actually, if you could put me in touch with him I could start working out some of the preliminaries with him. I seem to have an outdated phone number for him, and my letters to him somehow keep ending up in the hands of a really despicable, aggressive, lawyer. But anyways, let me address some of your concerns:
- I wasn’t “adopted” by Angelina in the strictest sense of the word, but I did stand really near a limo that I’m pretty sure she was in when it passed me on Hollywood Blvd. Anyhow, she’s adopted so many kids by now that there’s no real way to keep track of them, so I don’t think readers will question it. If you strongly disagree, then I suppose we should stick with the truth—that I was miraculously conceived by a virgin mother. Although the same thing happened to one of my ancestors, and when the story went public a LOT of people doubted it was true. I’m sure I don’t have to spell it out for you. Let’s just say he was Jewish, and his name was Jesus. His last name rhymed with “priced.”
- I completely understand your confusion over Chapter 16 being—in your words—a “profanity-laced tirade” against James Franco. Please understand that I was suffering from insomnia while working on the manuscript, and that is what led to this ridiculous mistake in judgment. I’m embarrassed that you had to read something that must have seemed like incoherent nonsense to you. In my overtired haste, I accidentally typed James Franco, when in fact it was supposed to read: Ryan Reynolds. Please just change all the Franco’s to Reynolds, and I’m sure it will make a lot more sense to you.
- I use penicillin frequently and have even invented some novel ways to ingest it into the body. Since I’m sure nobody knows who actually invented it, I figure someone should take credit for it. I think I deserve that distinction.
- Lebron James? This name doesn’t ring a bell with me. I assure you the descriptions of the athletic feats of my youth are 100% accurate, and I implore you to investigate them no further.
- Speaking of which, if you’re thinking of attempting to contact Wilt Chamberlain to verify the number of women I’ve pleasured, don’t bother. Wilt had no way to know what all was going on in the cramped confines of his tour bus guest bathroom, if you know what I mean!! Also, it’s important to accurately report the figures I’ve given you because I’m hoping that bringing this information to light will finally persuade my father to stop referring to me as a “prissy little pony boy.” It was ONE high school play, Dad! ONE!!!!!
- Sorry the gay celebrities list was so long, but as I’ve mentioned, I think readers deserve to know the truth. By the way, add Bradley Cooper to this list. You’ll see.
- As far as what you refer to as “dialogue” from some movie, I can assure you it’s not. I was simply inspired by the mixture of real scenes and realistic dream sequences in your ‘Out of Dark Places’ book—how the reader never knows what’s going to hit them next, so I thought I’d take them in a surprising direction on p. 238. Feel free to take artistic liberty and crazy up those pages as much as you see fit!
- Scratch the ideas from that Pancake Circus menu as being a possible prologue; that’s a bunch of crap. I’ve been working on an epic poem about brown gravy that I think will just make a dynamite prologue instead! I’ll keep you posted.
- I can assure you that my ex-girlfriend is still madly in love with me! She’s just got a lot on her mind, and she gets confused sometimes. I’m sure after a few days of crying over her missing cat, she’ll come to her senses. Isn’t it weird how the cat happened to show up on my doorstep of all places?! It’s like a sign that we were meant to be reunited! Also, here’s an unrelated hypothetical question: Do you think a woman would find a sweet but slightly risqué tattoo inked onto a shaved spot on a cat’s belly to be a romantic gesture?
Anyhoo, thanks again for writing back—I feel like I’m a real part of the literary process now! If it would make things easier for you, you’re more than welcome to come stay at my mom’s place with me until the project is finished. I have a secret spot in the laundry room where I like to sleep sometimes, so the good futon is all yours!
Let me know,
[Ed. Note: Follow Matt Raymond on Twitter @ComicMRaymond, and on FB at ComicMRaymond]
I remember how young and naïve I was way back in 2008, when I still labored under the delusion that elections actually mattered. I thought Obama would swoop in to Washington, like the penicillin to our country’s collective whooping cough, like the Viagra to our flaccidity. In short, I thought he would change everything. I figured Republicans would finally admit that they had secretly been working for Wall Street all along, we’d all have a good laugh, and then our leaders would get down to business. I believed that Democrats would crawl out from under their desks and start working with Republicans again, instead of scaring each other with ghost stories about them. In short, I thought Obama would usher in a return to the days when our elected officials actually gave a damn about us, the citizens.
How foolish I was.
What I didn’t realize then, but have since learned, is that our elected leaders don’t give a crap about us, and they never have. Elected officials only care about being elected again. That’s it. Politics is nothing more than an elaborate game, and it always has been. And that’s why the next six months will be so overflowing with outlandish exaggerations, absurd claims, and total detachment from reality that you’ll think you somehow got transported into the mind of Ron Artest. Most of the political discourse you will hear during this time will be total rubbish. It doesn’t have to be serious, or make sense, or be grounded in any way in reality, because it’s just another part of the game. When one party’s representatives look into a camera with a straight face and give the credit for the assassination of Bin Laden to George Bush but then turn around and blame Obama for high gas prices, only the absolute dumbest among us (read: ‘Jersey Shore’ viewers) still think they’re watching a discussion that contains a shred of truth or sincerity. This is nothing new. In 1800, incumbent President John Adams had to run for re-election against his own Vice President, Thomas Jefferson, who famously questioned Adams’ gender in the press. In 1828, incumbent John Quincy Adams claimed his opponent, Andrew Jackson, didn’t know how to correctly spell “Europe.” Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if that were true. But there’s no excuse for his calling Jackson’s wife a “dirty black wench.” This game is nasty.
In case you’ve become totally braindead over the past 3.5 years, like some of us—not naming any names, but if you have to ask Siri if it’s raining outside, you know who you are—you may have missed the rules of the game. Here’s how it works: We hold elections that feature a bunch of zany characters who drop out one by one until the two richest guys are the only ones left. (Note: This is also how we ultimately decided whom to credit for inventing Facebook.) We elect one of those guys, and then the game begins. If you’re a member of the winner’s political party, you go on a bunch of talk shows and lend vocal support for whatever he does. If he cuts a bunch of funding for National Parks, you talk about how much more fun playing Keno is than going to parks. If he doesn’t happen to do anything at all, you make excuses for him—say that your opponents in the game won’t cooperate with him because they’re big meanies, and also they stole your lunch money. If you’re a member of the loser’s political party, your rules become quite simple: you play the opposite game with the winner. You simply contradict and criticize everything he does. If he says “goodbye” you say “hello.” If he borrows a line from Paul McCartney for a blog he writes, you say John Lennon was the only one with any talent. If he says it’s hot outside, you wear a parka. If he agrees with something you’ve said, you IMMEDIATELY recant your statement and take up the opposite point of view. Being on this team allows for great creativity. The best players, realizing that there are no rules in this game regarding truth or tact, find ways to blame the winner for problems that he had nothing to do with. Start rumors that he’s the one preventing Wile E. Coyote from ever catching the Roadrunner. Say he’s the reason Starbucks refuses to refer to their serving sizes by anything as simple as small, medium, or large. If he ever says or does something that is publicly perceived as positive in any way, just come up with a distraction for all of us knuckle-draggers and tell us he’s secretly from Venus, and that’s why the space shuttle program closed shop. Even if he happens to die while in office, don’t let up—refuse to believe it until you see his long form death certificate.
Once the election in November is behind us, we get to start the whole game over again! When December rolls around, if you still can’t afford to pay your bills or keep your house, don’t complain to me about the politicians. Have budget cuts made it so your neighborhood no longer has firefighters or decent roads? You might as well write an angry letter to a professional bowler or one of those sketchy looking poker players on ESPN. In the end, here’s what I think. People who play games for a living aren’t going to help us, my friends; so maybe it’s time to help each other.
Gentle readers, I thought you might find the following exchange an interesting insight into what it's like to be a writer. Sometimes you get some strange requests. What follows is an unsolicited letter I recently received, as well as a sampling of my response to said letter:
Dear Mr. Gephart~
Like you, I am a resident of Sacramento, Ca. I just finished your newest novel, Out of Dark Places, and in my opinion it was even better than the reviews said it was. Filthy liars. Anyhoo, for some time now, I've been planning to write my memoirs, but I need a talented writer like you to bring my true story to life, as I do not feel I have the literary talent to do my story justice.
You will be receiving a FedEx package today containing 3,200 pages of hand written notes, stories, and ideas that will eventually become nothing less than the definitive book of our generation. The notes jotted on the Pancake Circus place-mat might make a lovely prologue.
I will be in touch soon. If you have any questions, please contact me at any time. I promise prompt answers.
Matthew Gilligan Amadeus Raymond III
Selected Portions of My Response:
Dear Mr. Raymond,
In order to undertake such a task, I must first verify the truthfulness and literary potential of the information you've provided. Some of my concerns are as follows:
- Your claim about having been adopted by Angelina Jolie has been difficult for me to verify. The Wikipedia page you referenced has since been updated and now makes no mention of the "special relationship" you outline on p. 23-38
- The details you include about your contributions to the success of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team seem to be contradicted by your admission on p. 3 of having been born in 1978. Please clarify.
- The entirety of chapter 16 appears to be nothing more than a profanity-laced tirade against actor James Franco. I fail to see the connection between this chapter and the rest of your life story.
- The accomplishments in the field of medicine that you describe on p. 70-83 seem dubious at best, and will need verification. I know for a fact that penicillin was invented well before 1987.
- I find it difficult to believe that your stardom as a high school basketball player in Akron, OH, a decade ago led to your being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I daresay you might be confusing yourself at this point with Lebron James--someone, I must point out, that will not hesitate to seek legal recourse in order to clarify the truth in this matter.
- Pages 238-242 appear to be nothing more than dialogue copied from the script of the movie "Julie and Julia."
- From a literary standpoint, I must take issue with the fact that Chapters 38-81 are entirely devoted to your feelings about an ex-girlfriend who does not appear to have ever liked you in the least. The threats you make regarding her cat are simply inappropriate for print, and I must caution you that you couldn't be more wrong about your love for her being "transcendent of a restraining order from some ass-clown judge." On a personal level, I'd advise you to seek legal counsel in this matter.
- Chapters 83-84 are merely a list of male celebrities that you suspect are gay. How exactly does this fit into the narrative?
- I think readers might like to hear more about the time you spent as a personal assistant to Wilt Chamberlain, and how the rather implausible number of women you claim to have slept with correlates to this experience. Please consider expanding this section, and this time leave out the repeated use of the phrase "If you know what I mean!"
* For transportation, choose something with a motor so loud that everyone within a 3 block radius will have to pause their lives and conversations as you pass. The un-awesome need frequent reminders of who’s in charge.
* Treat every opportunity to shake a man’s hand as an invitation to crush it into a withered piece of seaweed. Inappropriately applied strength = Awesome.
* When walking through a crosswalk, if a vehicle approaches and waits for you to pass, try to walk at a speed that’s approximately 4 times slower than your normal pace to indicate your importance. Plus, it gives the person waiting more time to bask in your awesomeness. On second thought, screw crosswalks—cross wherever you damn well please, because you’re awesome.
* Make sure you frequently wear jeans so tight that they couldn’t possibly have room for both of your testicles. This is why women swoon for boy bands—all women are wildly attracted to eunuchs.
* Obviously, you already smoke cigarettes. Or cigars. But always try to do so in a location where it will be impossible for others to avoid inhaling your secondhand smoke. The un-awesome need to understand what a privilege it is to be given the gift of cancer from someone who’s AWESOME, instead of some schmuck, like Kid Rock.
* NEVER let anyone catch you reading. The exceptions to this rule are Maxim and FHM magazines.
* Own a loud and obnoxious dog, and make sure to train it to intimidate sidewalk passersby, relieve itself on the lawns of the un-awesome, and maintain a generally foul disposition to help you punish others for not being as awesome as you are.
* Purchase and make frequent use of a gasoline-powered leaf blower. The number of actual leaves present on your lawn is irrelevant. The purpose of this activity is to prove to your neighborhood that you are certainly not Mother Nature’s bitch, but quite the opposite.
* Become a fan of one of the following teams: New York Yankees, Oakland Raiders, L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat, or New Orleans Saints. NEVER support a team that represents un-awesome traits, like good sportsmanship, morals, or class.
* When in public, ALWAYS put your phone on speaker before making or accepting a call. How else will all the suckers around you learn what an awesome conversation sounds like on both ends?
* Listen to as much Nickelback as possible. Or, in a pinch, Linkin Park.
* Normal-looking ears are for the un-awesome. Make sure to purchase the necessary jewelry to gradually stretch a circular hole into your earlobes until the lobes themselves resemble the giant hoop earrings favored by Latina women.
* Spend time practicing your head-butting technique, as well as your “Whoo!” yell, so that you’ll be ready next time you’re in a bar where others are trying to have conversations.
* Wear camouflage for no apparent reason.
* If you are under 25, try to style your hair in such a way so that you always appear to have just stepped out of a wind tunnel that was only blowing in One Direction. If you’re over 25, obviously go with the mohawk.
* Only refer to women as “bitches.” Or, if you’ve got a special lady, you may use “shorty.” (*The only time you are permitted to use the word “Boo” is when you happen to overhear some opera music.)
* Driving tip: When you see someone at an intersection waiting for you to pass them, but really you’re going to turn off the road before you get to them, never—I repeat, NEVER—use your turn signal to let them know what you’re going to do, because...well, because fuck them, that’s why.
*** If you have a tip to suggest for inclusion in the upcoming “How to be Awesome” handbook, please submit it here. But understand that suggestions will only be taken seriously once the legitimacy of your personal awesomeness has been proven by our researchers. ***
Volume VII: The Spanish-American War
Prior to the 19th century, Spain was one of the world’s superpowers, known primarily for their dogged imperialism, religious brainwashing of native peoples, and the histrionic embellishments of nonexistent injuries by their soccer players. But by the mid 1800s Spain had lost most of its colonies, due to a series of wars for independence and poor poker decisions. In the Americas Spain still maintained its control of Cuba, an island nation that the U.S. had long coveted.* In 1868, Cubans made their first attempt to gain independence from Spain by starting the “Ten Years War.” Historians are unsure how long this conflict lasted, but we do know that Spain emerged victorious.
Many Cubans, however, refused to give up the fight for independence and began engaging in what became known as “guerilla warfare,” which involved hiring an army of primates trained by James Franco, outfitting them with skateboard helmets, and sending them to wreak havoc on Spanish troops that had misguidedly built barracks amid a grove of banana and plantain trees. In Spain at that time, the longer your name was the more respected you were, so the brutal General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau Rodham Clinton was sent to put down the guerilla rebellion in the mid 1890s. He promptly cut off the rebels’ supplies by ordering entire cities of Cuban citizens to move to “reconcentration camps.” When news of this practice reached the United States, leaders were furious that they hadn’t thought of it first. President McKinley issued a statement that condemned the actions of Spain, demanded that Cuba be granted independence, and vowed to use that relocation trick with a bunch of its own Asian citizens in “about forty years or so.”
The turbulence in Cuba was really cutting into the U.S.’s shipping and trade industries, so McKinley sent the USS Maine battleship down to keep an eye on things. On February 15, 1898, an internal explosion caused the Maine to sink into the Havana harbor, killing Leonardo DiCaprio and 266 soldiers. Prominent U.S. newspaper ‘The New York World’ coined the popular phrase “You sunk my battleship!” and convinced its vast readership that war with Spain was inevitable. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer awarded himself a prize named after himself for his efforts, despite there having been no evidence that Spain was behind the explosion. Young intern Rupert Murdoch vowed to one day create his own news empire based on this principle. War was soon declared, and in a surprise move the United States adopted what later became known as the Bush Doctrinality Principle, which essentially said, “Why fight one war when you can get in on two or three?” Fighting soon broke out not only in Cuba, but also in places like the Philippines, Guam, and the airspace surrounding the Death Star.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt took a break from slaughtering elephants and calling them “game,” and organized a group of volunteer cavalrymen, outfitted their horses with saddles made of sand paper, and christened them “The Rough Riders.” He and other battalions engaged the Spaniards and were shocked to discover that they had adopted the revolutionary strategy of “taking cover” while fighting. U.S. troops, still clinging to the Civil War tactics of walking through open fields in a straight line and arming one-third of the soldiers with musical instruments instead of weapons, did not fare well at first. But soon, Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, desperate for the anti-chafing cream supplies that could be found in Santiago, led successful charges in the Battles of El Caney and San Juan Hill. U.S. naval forces were faring much better; the famous Battle of Santiago de Cuba was fought in Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. succeeded in destroying all but one of Spain’s naval vessels. 1,612 Spanish sailors were captured and held as prisoners of war from July 11 until about last Thursday.
Unbeknownst to Spain, an estimated 75% of American forces in Cuba eventually contracted yellow fever** and may have been unable to keep fighting. Spain, however, was weary from a war that had dragged on so long that it was interfering with soccer season and agreed to admit defeat. Leaders from both sides gathered on December 10, 1898, at an unknown city (possibly somewhere in Utah) and signed the Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the Spanish-American War. In the treaty, Spain agreed to become an afterthought on the world stage, and the United States was granted control of Cuba, as well as Guam, the Philippines, a player to be named later, Puerto Rico, cash considerations, and a future 2nd round draft pick.
*For its really tasty cigars, and for future filming permits to make “Scarface”
**Not what you’re thinking, although admittedly Asian girls are quite attractive
I'd like to officially register my disapproval of the growing number of mohawks appearing atop the heads of white men over the age of 25. I didn't think anything could be more obnoxious than the "faux-hawk" trend; I stand corrected.
Guys, let me spell it out: If you're not a native American, a member of the Sex Pistols, or Mr. T, it DOESN'T LOOK GOOD ON YOU.
I was at a bar recently when this actor, Josh NotReallyFamousSomebody (see photo on left) [Ed. note: Photo has been deleted. You snooze, you lose, bitches.] appeared on a talk show sporting this horrendous sprout of seaweed doing its own version of the comb-over atop his otherwise gray and grizzly shaven head. I began wondering what is wrong with men. Then I had an even scarier thought. Do women actually find this attractive? I asked the bartender, a pretty, top-heavy girl probably in her late twenties. She said that "sometimes" they look good, but then she went on to explain that some middle aged singer in Japan or somewhere has one, and now &quot;half the guys in Asia&quot; are sporting one.
This comment made me feel irrevocably old and out of touch, because when exactly did we start giving a shit about what people in Asia think is cool?
In a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine, I was confronted yet again by a puzzling phenomenon. And no, I’m not talking about the astonishing number of times Keith Richards manages to get his saggy leather face in front of a camera or the eerily increasing resemblance of Eddie Van Halen to his pet Pomeranian. I’m talking about the weekly Top-Selling Albums list, and how 8 of the top 40 spots belonged to the recently departed train wreck once known as Whitney Houston. Death has become the best marketing scheme ever devised. I started noticing this trend after the nauseatingly over-affectionate sendoff we gave another of our freakish pop pariahs a few summers ago. It continued when we all pretended Amy Winehouse was something more than a crackhead with one hit album to her credit, and her sales soared. Heck, even the Monkees cracked this week’s Top 20 just because Davy Jones took the last train to Heaven.
What baffles me is that there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t already own any of this music that all of a sudden desperately needed to. Weren’t any of these people fans of these artists when they were alive? Are we going to behave this way when someone finally offs Celine Dion? My point is, all of these same CDs were collecting dust on the shelves at Target last week and no one cared. Have we become so addicted to melodrama that someone has to DIE in order for us to think they’re special? If that’s all it takes, Whitney could’ve revived her career years ago by jumping off a bridge somewhere. It’s sad that people have to get high and drown in a bathtub in order to seem glamorous or important to us.
By this logic, I could assuage my disappointment over not winning the Mega Millions Lottery by just going out and buying all the Maroon 5 music and memorabilia I can find, then shooting those guys in the head. For one thing, I’d be rich by selling the junk to all you drama addicts. For another thing, I was kinda already considering shooting those guys anyway. I have to wonder if we’d be talking about Biggie and Tupac in hushed, reverential tones if they were still around, coasting on their reputations, making guest appearances on shitty pop songs and mix tapes. If that dude from LMFAO gets his hair caught in a garbage disposal and suffers a horrific, Final-Destination-like demise, will there be PBS documentaries hailing him as a troubled genius? If Katy Perry dies, will we see skyrocketing sales figures for Buckets of Crap?
It all just seems so insincere and emotionalized to me, like we can’t recognize good music for what it is anymore—we need some spectacular scandal to help us know which music we want to own. Just listen to your heart, and play the music it wants to hear, and don’t worry about what’s trendy. Show some love for these artists while they’re still alive, instead of reveling in the juicy details of their gradual downward spiral. Because one day, before you know it, somebody’s going to trip over M.C. Hammer’s lifeless body in an Oakland gutter somewhere. And when that day comes, if the “Addams Family” soundtrack suddenly lights up iTunes sales charts, I’m just going to have to do something rash....like maybe asking President Santorum to shut down the music biz once he’s done with the porn industry.
A hearty thank-you to publisher Dave Boles for plugging 'Out of Dark Places' on the homepage of Primal Urge's website. If you're not aware of this fantastic art and literature magazine, please check it out: http://www.primal-urge-magazine.com/index1.htm
Since good old Harold Camping is now out of the future-telling business, I guess that leaves me. Writing about a character who can tell the future in 'Out of Dark Places' puts me in a unique position to do this, so let me present for your consideration the Top 10 News Headlines you can expect to see popping up on CNN in the near future...
10. Colts in “Serious Talks” With Favre
9. Oscar Mix-Up: ‘Artist’ Voters Thought They Were Voting For ‘Jack and Jill’
8. Psychologists Announce IQ Scores Will Now Include Negative Integers: Georgia Screwed
7. Jolie Gets Tattoo of Own Legs on Her Back
6. Robertson: Gay Marriage the Cause of Gas Price Spike
5. Poll: Fans Wish Limbaugh Would Become ‘More Racist’
4. Mexico Announces ‘Titans’ Movies & ‘John Carter’ Were Elaborate Prank to Make White People Look Silly
3. Kony Appearance on ‘Sesame Street’ Cancelled Amid Controversy
2. Gingrich Unveils Plan to Bomb Iran From Moon
1. 1st World Nations to Compete for Earth's Remaining Oil Supplies ‘Hunger Games’ Style
Volume VI: What were the real causes of the Civil War?
Much has been written about the famous battles and events of the Civil War, but the causes that ultimately led to this epic conflict have been largely forgotten. Here's the real scoop:
The story of the U.S. Civil War actually began back in 1794 with a harried inventor named Eli Whitney. Whitney’s ill-tempered wife, Hilda Bobbybrown, tended to verbally and physically abuse him whenever he didn’t invent something, so to stay in her good graces, he invented the cotton gin—-a wildly popular flavor of gin and a key ingredient in Really Dry Martinis. In the South, more cotton was needed as the drink’s popularity grew, but harvesting it in the hot southern climate was a sweltering endeavor for white people, who in those days tended to dress in elaborate, multi-layered outfits—-especially ladies, who favored giant hooped dresses that could conceal a small battalion of midget bodyguards. It was therefore decided that foreigners should be forced to harvest the cotton. Importing Mexicans was ruled out when it was suggested that bringing them into the country would result in a devastated healthcare system and lost jobs, so they decided to kidnap and enslave Africans instead.
Slavery quickly surpassed incest as the South’s most popular policy, but in the Northern States—-where local television stations had recently broadcast the miniseries “Roots”—-people decried slavery as inhumane. Tensions flared in the ensuing years, and nearly reached a boiling point in 1860, when prominent Southern leader Jefferson Davis attempted to brag about the “success of the Southern states” in a text sent to President James Buchanan, but his iPhone autocorrected it to read: “secession of the Southern states.” Buchanan, furious that people in the South knew how to use a device he hadn’t yet figured out, declared Southerners traitors and warned everyone that they wanted to secede from the Union.
As Buchanan was putting the finishing touches on one of the nation’s most forgettable presidencies, Republican up-and-comer Abraham Lincoln took up the cause, running on a platform of limiting slavery, maintaining the Union, and popularizing the Amish beard look. Southerners mistrusted Lincoln and demanded to see his long form birth certificate, but he instead challenged them to a series of debates. The famous “Lincoln/Douglas Debates” originally pitted Lincoln vs. Frederick Douglass, but they kept agreeing on everything so it was a boring debate. Michael Douglas was only a toddler at that time, so a Democrat named Stephen Douglas filled in. The debates resulted only in a growing hatred for Lincoln among Southerners, as well as for Emma Stone, who was trying to write a book from the perspective of slaves. Since they were already being accused of planning to secede from the Union, the South decided that if Lincoln got elected President they would do just that. (Spoiler alert: Lincoln wins the election.)
Seven states seceded from the Union as Lincoln was preparing to take office and declared themselves the “Confederate States of America.” The other “slave states” were asked to publicly make a choice between the Confederacy, the Union, or Dustin Hoffman.* Tensions continued to mount, and it looked like there would be no way to avoid a confrontation. Lincoln demanded that the secessionist States return to the Union and officially declare that Miller Lite does in fact have more taste. The South stood firm in its demands for legalized slavery, more states’ rights, and unlimited episodes of “Dukes of Hazzard” in syndication. Northerners agreed with Southerners that it was too damn hot to actually fight, so the dispute was arranged to be decided via breakdancing battles, staring contests, and rock-paper-scissors tournaments. Both sides agreed that the war would be a “Civil” one.
A fantasy draft was held to determine both sides’ leaders in the conflict. Lincoln won the toss and chose Ulysses S. Grant (who was nearly passed over for his addiction to cotton gin, but ultimately picked because his first two initials matched those of the country the Union wanted to preserve. Also, he looked marvelous with a beard.) The South countered by choosing Robert E. Lee, who—having been named after the Duke boys’ beloved Dodge Charger—was an immensely popular pick among Southerners. In the next round, the Union chose Matthew Broderick, and the Confederates went with Thomas “Puddin’ Pie” Jackson, who was later mistakenly called “Stonewall” by Siri, and the name stuck.
With the teams set, the conflict was set to begin, but as you know, gentle reader, this was a tussle that didn’t remain civil for long. Brother fought against brother and the occasional cousin, leaders fell, dogs turned against cats, and Vivien Leigh’s house was burned down. Luckily, once the dust settled, blacks and whites never had another misunderstanding, Lincoln got to be on two forms of money, and nobody but Rick Perry** ever discussed the topic of secession again.
*This joke references the classic film “Kramer vs. Kramer” in which Dustin Hoffman engages in a bitter custody battle with Michael Richards.
**He doesn’t count, as he is considered “mentally incompetent to stand trial” in nine states.
(Nominated for 4 Oscars, including Best Picture)
The next time you hear a senior citizen pine for the “good old days” of the ‘50s/60s, please do me a favor and kick them in the genitals. ‘The Help’ is a highly recommended film if you happen to be white and are looking for an excuse to feel more ashamed about your race. It portrays life in Mississippi during the “Camelot” days of Kennedy, before he was assassinated by Oliver Stone. Apparently, in the South, no one had clued the people of either race in on the fact that slavery had been abolished like a hundred years ago, because in this movie the “help”—the black maids who are treated as subhuman slaves by their affluent white employers—are treated with such baffling cruelty that it makes you want to grab an uzi and go out and make headlines about White On White crime.
Except for Jules from ‘SuperBad’ and Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (who seems hellbent on a Rachel McAdams-style overexposure blitzkrieg—I mean six movies in 2011? SIX?!?) all the white people in this movie are portrayed as either socially impotent or downright evil. I mean evil to the point where Dick Cheney seems like an affable old grandpa sort. White women take an exceptional beating in this film; they’re all portrayed as idle, superficial dimwits who only seem clever at devising ways to make life more miserable for their black maids—from falsely accusing them of theft to counting the squares of toilet paper to insure they’re not using the home’s “white” bathrooms. The evil is personified by spoiled bitch extraordinaire Hilly, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (and who’d have imagined that anyone related to Opie was capable of playing anyone despicable?), whose clashes with Emma Stone blatantly remind everyone how trite and supercilious the lives of suburban housewives were in those days. Since they have maids, these women won’t answer the phone even if they’re standing right next to it, and the thought of actually changing their kids’ diapers is as absurd as the idea of allowing a godless Communist to live unpestered in one’s own neighborhood. I’m surprised they didn’t make the maids brush their teeth for them.
The maids are fed up with this kind of treatment but afraid to say anything about it. At first, only Best Actress nominee Viola Davis agrees to help Stone with her idea of writing a book from the point of view of the help. Eventually Davis’ sassy friend Minny (played by the deliriously wonderful Octavia Spencer) bullies some of the other maids to contribute their stories, and the book gets published. Of course it causes a scandal in Jackson, the movie’s setting—the changed names are not difficult to decode, even for soulless airheads, and in the end Stone opts to depart for the cosmopolitan utopia of New York City, leaving the maids to face the repercussions of the book by themselves. Yep, the awful shit continues to happen after Stone leaves, and I’m pretty sure most of the maids probably got lynched later, but at least the movie doesn’t show that part.
So, despite the strong urge this movie will create in white people to murder their own kind and undergo some sort of reverse-Michael Jackson treatment to opt out of their race, I still recommend that you watch this movie, if for no other reason than to witness the miracle of Best Supporting Actress nominee Octavia Spencer. In all seriousness, in a movie chock-full of award-worthy performances, she manages to steal every scene she’s in. If there is a supporting role in a movie out there somewhere that was played by a woman any better than this, I honestly can’t even imagine what it would look like. Also, the guy who plays the newspaper editor is such a perplexing evolutionary halfway point between a midget and a small man that he’s fun to watch just for the circus-freak-fascination factor.
A review of "Tree of Life" (Best Picture nominee)
If you’ve ever watched TV and found that the battery in your remote is almost dead, you may have already had an experience like watching “Tree of Life.” You start out watching Brad Pitt play an insecure, vindictive father of three, which is a unique choice for him (unless you happened to have caught his off-Broadway turn as Newt Gingrich in the short-lived “Ethics, Shmethics”). But you quickly realize you must be watching one of those VH1 “Behind the Scenes” shows about the movie, since no one seems to be near the middle of the screen when they speak, and the lighting looks like it was the brainchild of Stevie Wonder and a narcoleptic Rottweiler. You keep clicking the remote, but the damn battery leaves you on the same insipid program.
When the remote finally works you find yourself on one of those Discovery Channel specials, probably titled “The Creation of Everything” because we go from a fiery big bang all the way through the universe to the invention of day and night, and you wonder if it’s shot in real time because it seems to take nearly as long as evolution itself. Then the remote surprisingly clicks you over to TBS’ “Dinner and a Movie” featuring what can only be deleted scenes from “Jurassic Park” because you’re watching a dinosaur step on another dinosaur’s neck for roughly five minutes. Seriously, this is really in the movie. Eventually the remote saves you from this mental equivalent of watching jello set, and you find a Calvin Klein commercial. The lovely Jessica Chastain is the underfed model in this one, and she lingers languidly among randomly located white linens that appear to be blowing around from breezes coming from 20 directions at once. All the while, the traditional fragrance ad dialogue is heard: Mumbled non-sequiturs that sound like you’re listening in on a brainstorming session at the Inspirational Posters factory. “Love every leaf, every ray of light,” Chastain’s voice mumbles as you boggle to comprehend why this is the longest cologne ad you’ve ever seen, and then Chastain begins to actually float around a tree, and you check the wrapper of the candy bar you’re eating to see if it came from a local pot dispensary instead of Safeway.
Then you switch to TLC, and they’re showing a documentary on architect Frank Gehry. All you’re seeing is a series of shots of windows in skyscrapers and on elevators. Your eyes greedily scan the walls beside the windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of a freshly painted wall, so you can watch it dry and relieve the tedium. Yet all the while you swear you can still hear a bunch of voices whispering gibberish, so you make a mental note to call Safeway and complain about their product inspection practices.
Oops, now we’re on a beach, and Sean Penn is walking around in a suit. The remote must be functioning on its own now. You decide to wait and see if something happens. Better go grab another candy bar, because he’s going to run into some other folks on the beach, but no one will say anything, or explain what’s happening. Soon we’re back to Brad Pitt, and he’s still being a jerk to his family, but not in the funny Archie-Bunker-to-Meathead sort of way. You feel bad for his oldest son, Hunter McCracken, who is so good that you hope he doesn’t give up on acting after this experience. Then Brad Pitt goes away for a while, but the boys are still there, and you suspect this may be the Truman Capote remake of “The Wonder Years.”
Despite my best efforts to drink this movie out of my memory, I was able to kind of glean that since the characters were such prisoners in their own individuality, that the creation of a single person and the creation of the universe are one and the same. The tragic death of one of the sons at the beginning of the film suggests the whole thing is just an unreciprocated search for meaning. To me, it was an unrequited search for a point to the movie. Clearly this film was made for philosophy majors, avant-garde artists, and pseudo-intellectuals who claim to love every movie they don’t understand so that they can look down on you for not “appreciating” it. I, for one, am fine with that. If this film wins the Oscar, I believe I’ll kill a muppet.
Volume V: Prohibition
Today not only marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day here in the U.S., but it’s also the 92nd anniversary of one of our country’s all time zaniest schemes—the day everyone agreed that talking animals will always be hilarious and never stale. But it was also the day that Prohibition became U.S. law. Since everyone besides 60 Minutes viewers is too young to remember this, here’s a recap:
The drinking of alcohol had been a prominent part of our nation’s history since its inception. Our founding fathers were known to use beer instead of water both for bathing and for brushing their teeth.* Also, they powdered their wigs with raw cocaine. But by the 1800s the distillation process had evolved, and alcohol was now so strong that many in the country were spending their days staggering around like Gary Busey doing an impression of Nick Nolte. When polls indicated that too darn many Americans were having fun, religious groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union decided to take action. They began preaching total sobriety--targeting mainly women, pussy-whipped men, and especially children, publishing school textbooks that exaggerated the dangers of booze. Also, they threatened that if children didn’t abstain from alcohol forever, video games would never be invented. Soon, an anti-drinking reform movement began to sweep the nation, much to the chagrin of politicians, men’s lodge clubs, worker’s unions, ugly women, and Billy Joel.
As the 20th century arrived, the Anti-Saloon League, led by Wayne Wheeler and William E. “Pussyfoot” Johnson, had become a political force, pushing for legislative action to put a stop to the curse of alcohol. However, at this time the nation’s leading brewers wielded great political power as well, because back then rich people were able to influence political decisions. The fact that many of the nation’s top brewers—Eberhard Anheuser, Joseph Schlitz, Frederick Miller, and Jeremiah Purpledrank—were of German descent led to racial tension in the debate over prohibition. Wheeler and his cohorts began to openly question the patriotism of these immigrants and to persuade the public that their presence was the source of many of our nation’s problems. This tactic was never used again in politics, as far as I know.
Although Federal legislation was slow, several states chose to placate the Sobrietists** by enacting statewide bans on alcohol. However, the enforcement of said laws was typically only done half-heartedly, if at all, much like the way Penn State University seems to treat sex crimes. Activists such as Carry Nation led vandalism campaigns in which they’d enter saloons and destroy them with hatchets and thrown rocks. Technically, Nation was merely enforcing a state law by damaging illegal establishments, so her actions were difficult for authorities to penalize. Also because she was carrying a hatchet. Other activists included William E. Johnson, who purportedly rode one of those bicycles with the enormous front wheel haphazardly through the middle of one of Jay Gatsby’s cocktail parties, simply because he was sick of people calling him Pussyfoot.
Eventually, the Anti-Saloon League was able to influence enough elections and lean on enough politicians that a nationwide prohibition law was proposed. In October 1919, U.S. congressmen, describing themselves as “tired of being nagged at home,” passed the Volstead Act, which paved the way for the ratification of the 18th Amendment on 1/16/20, which outlawed the production, transportation, and sale of intoxicating beverages. Owning it, however, was still legal. For a more detailed explanation, please refer to the conversation between John Travolta and Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
For over a decade, Prohibition was law in the United States. Interestingly enough, the next major event that came along was the Great Depression. I’m just sayin’. Without a doubt, Prohibition and the reform movement that led to it had some long lasting impacts on American life. Since the idea of not drinking at this time was as ridiculous a notion as men walking around hatless, most Americans continued to drink during Prohibition, which provided them good practice at ignoring the law, a skill that would come in handy when it came time to cheat on their taxes. (Income taxes, by the way, were made a permanent institution in the US in 1913, thanks to the dwindling revenue the government was receiving from liquor taxes, which had been a primary source of income prior to the rise of the reform movement.) Also, since one of people’s daily habits had now become illegal, Prohibition directly led to the birth of Organized Crime and the mafia, which would one day go on to provide careers for Francis Ford Coppola, Frank Sinatra, and the Super Mario Brothers. Government agencies, led by Elliot Ness and Sean Connery, simply did not have the manpower to curb the bootlegging business, or slow down Al Capone’s famous Chicago Beer War (later renamed the Bud Bowl). The widespread violations of prohibition soon became the 2nd worst-kept-secret in the country, behind only J. Edgar Hoover’s penchant for dressing like a flapper and singing ABBA songs while locked in his FBI office.
Once the Great Depression was in full swing—even though President Hoover continued to deny its existence (this dolt was so far out of touch he made Muammar Gaddafi look like Nelson Mandela)—the idea of putting the millions of Americans who had lost their jobs because of Prohibition back to work began to seem like a pretty good idea. Many people also realized that alcohol itself was a reliable remedy for depression, although most citizens were unable to afford irony. Soon, a politically-well-connected woman named Pauline Sabin began floating the idea of repealing the 18th Amendment, which came as a shock to the vast majority of Americans, who still believed women’s brains were too small to formulate opinions. Sabin was a Republican supporter and urged her fellow party members to consider how hypocritical they looked supporting prohibition by day while drinking regularly each night. Republicans, in what would become a long-standing tradition, expressed blithe acceptance over being labeled hypocrites, so Sabin looked to Democrats for support. Democrats—including 1932 Presidential nominee Franklin Roosevelt—took up the cause for repeal, and were joined by the highly influential Catholic church, whose members found it difficult to light all those candles with such shaky hands. Eventually, enough people got on board with the idea, and on December 5, 1933, Prohibition was officially repealed by the passage of the 21st Amendment. Some states—particularly in the South, where states were already accustomed to ignoring Federal laws like the Emancipation Proclamation—kept enforcing dry laws for a while, but eventually the idea of Prohibition became widely regarded as one of the worst decisions the country would make until 2007, when Paramount Pictures would greenlight “Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
* Not true. They didn’t really brush their teeth.
** This is a word I made up. Another one is shnyblobbly, which I’m pretty sure is an adjective.
As a new year begins, I have a confession to make. I’m not really as grumpy as you might think. I’ve heard comments about this blog along the lines of “Doesn’t this guy have a positive opinion about anything??” To tell the truth, I feel pretty blessed. But telling the whole truth is for court, not for this blog. Most of the venting you read here is simply for humor’s sake. Aside from the list of demands posted to the left of this column, and the once-in-a-blue-moon politically-charged blog post, I try to keep it light. I save the soul-searching confessionals and ethos-spouting for my novels, because in truth my opinions don’t really count for much. And I’m not self-absorbed enough to believe people are dying to hear what I think anyway. (My book sales figures have proven me correct on that one!) The jokes I make at pop culture’s expense aren’t intended to be taken seriously, because I don’t even take them seriously. It’s fun to poke fun at Justin Bieber, but Bieber fans shouldn’t take offense, because the jokes aren’t intended for them anyway. I don’t “really” hate Justin, because deep down I know his music wasn’t made for me in the first place, so my opinion is irrelevant.
Sometimes I think as a society we all need to lighten up a bit. When you start to take yourself and your beliefs too seriously, at the end of the day isn’t the joke pretty much on you? Bill Maher recently made some twitter remarks about Tim Tebow that had Christians up in arms, trying to organize a boycott of HBO (the network that carries Maher’s show). I find it ridiculous that people decide to be offended by jokes that were never meant for them in the first place. How did we get it in our heads that everyone else is supposed to have a positive opinion and a healthy respect for the things we hold dear? And by the way, Christians, why are you subscribing to HBO in the first place? The whole network is not intended for you. That kind of flawed thinking is as ludicrous as my doomed attempts to organize a boycott of Comedy Central back in 2004 because I took offense that Dave Chapelle made so many crude jokes about white people. (Note: This never happened.)
Assuming you know what’s best for others seems kind of dangerous to me, and even un-American, but there are certain politicians who have built careers on just this kind of thinking. Trying to use the law to legislate morals has had a disastrously ineffective history (think: Prohibition, the War on Drugs), and common sense always seems to win out in the end. Morals and personal religious beliefs have their place in society, as do politics and lawmakers, but they simply don’t share the same address. Seems like this nation’s founders had that figured out a long time ago.
Now sometimes I do share my earnest opinion, because I’m a writer and that’s how I work through my emotions. For instance, I am genuinely saddened that we’ve become a nation of rubberneckers and we now consider it legitimate entertainment to witness the train-wrecks other people’s lives have become (think: nearly every reality show on TV). And if you watch that stuff, I’ll probably make fun of you, but I wouldn’t dare presume to tell you not to watch it. And if I see genuine hypocrisy in politics, I’ll continue to ridicule it, because there is a big difference between correcting misinformation and promoting one’s own opinion as fact. Unfortunately, most media “news” sources have forgotten this. As have most people who like to post provocative opinions on Facebook without thinking them through. Remember, you are entitled to your opinion, but if it’s not an informed opinion, you are not entitled to have it taken seriously. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: With the vast amount of information available at our fingertips these days, ignorance is a choice.
So in 2012, I’m going to try even harder not to start any controversy, but instead to entertain, because that’s really all I feel qualified to do. And before you start an argument with a stranger online, take the time to become informed, learn what you truly believe and why, and don’t be afraid to be proven wrong. My wish is that we’d all look for ways to make others’ lives better, not by telling them how they should live, but by most of the time choosing to just shut the hell up.
That’s the last advice or personal philosophizing you can expect from me anytime soon. And if I can bring you a smile once in a while in 2012 through the words I write in this space—or if I can prevent a frown by not writing inflammatory words—I will continue to feel blessed, and I’ll continue to say that I am profoundly grateful that you’ve allowed me to be a little part of your life.
Friends, if you didn't laugh out loud at Rick Perry's latest campaign ad, you need to take a knife sharpener to your sense of humor. Anyone who honestly believes our country has a "Christian heritage" should be ineligible for the office of President on the grounds of Bachmannism (i.e. Absurd Delusions mixed with Laughable Ignorance).
Sorry to disappoint you, Rickyboy, but some of our most famous Founding Fathers were staunchly anti-Christian. http://www.ecis.com/~alizard/founding-fathers-xtianity.html
If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out the screen shot I posted on my gallery page of Rick Perry's REAL Facebook page...the truth is in the details, my gentle snowflakes.
Before they decided on the most brilliant tagline of our lifetimes ("If you don't have an iPhone, you don't have an iPhone") Apple ad executives reportedly considered and dismissed the following tagline ideas:
10 If you don’t have an iPhone, you’re letting the terrorists win.
9 If you don’t have an iPhone, no one will ever have sex with you. Ever.
8 If you don’t have an iPhone, motorists shouldn’t have to slow down if they see you in a crosswalk.
7 If you don’t have an iPhone, even Tom from MySpace won’t be your friend.
8 If you don’t have an iPhone, you won’t be able to correctly count down from 10.
7 If you don’t have an iPhone, do the planet a favor and just die.
6 If you don’t have an iPhone, how will you know when a Kardashian does something slutty or imbecilic?
5 If you don’t have an iPhone, you must be an assistant football coach at Penn State.
4 If you don’t have an iPhone, even Fred Durst won’t come sing at your Bar mitzvah.
9 If you don’t have an iPhone, God will give you AIDS.
3 If you don’t have an iPhone, we’re gonna blame you for global warming.
2 If you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll need to actually learn your way around your city, like some chump.
2 If you don’t have an iPhone, McDonald’s will sue you for how hot their coffee is.
2 If you don’t have an iPhone, one day your only daughter’s occupation will involve glitter and a pole.
1 If you don’t have an iPhone, you can’t join Team Edward or Team Jacob.
Volume IV: The Battle of New Orleans
A whole generation of Americans learned about the Battle of New Orleans from a Johnny Horton song that reached #1 on the pop charts in 1959, and was penned by American folk icon Jimmy Driftwood. But this famous event—which serves as the thing Andrew Jackson is 3rd most famous for, after being on the $20 bill and being a racist prick—gives us invaluable insight into the American identity.
After the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, English citizens were panicking, completely uncomfortable with the idea of not being at war with anyone for the first time since the invention of rocks. Two tactics were quickly decided upon: Britain would try to pick another fight with America, and it would also try to spur the world’s beaver population into a fighting mood by rudely mimicking the way they grew their teeth. Both of these turned out to take longer than the impatient Brits wanted, so they accused nearby French leader Napoleon of “intellectual plagiarism” for his desire to take over the world—an idea long considered British in its nature—and got themselves involved in a good old dust-up with the French.
By 1803, Napoleon was desperate for war money, not having yet heard of the Bushian Principle (ignoring the cost of war before committing to one, or three), so he sold the vast “Louisiana Territory” to the United States for a small sum of cash, a dozen fried bologna sandwiches, and the remaining tri-pointed caps that were left over from the Revolution. This move—which ran contrary to the longstanding British belief that no one else should own anything anywhere, especially land—enraged the Brits and ushered in the famous War of 1812 (which is what the Americans called it, since the British would need a more specific name for it).
As the war dragged on into 1813 and then 1814, the British relentlessly ridiculed the Americans for their inaccurate choice of a name for the war, and tensions escalated. Many battles were fought at sea, but the British had caused major damage on American soil too, such as the time a British infantry division got so frustrated with trying to navigate their way through Washington D.C.’s poorly designed roads that they simply burned the entire city down and flipped off Benjamin Banneker on their way out of town.
By early December, 1814, the British had defeated a small American force and established a garrison on Pea Island, which was roughly 30 miles east of New Orleans, and just south of Poop Peninsula. On December 23, General John Keane led a group of 1,800 British soldiers onto the mainland and camped 9 miles south of New Orleans. The prospect of an imminent British invasion was enough to distract American General Andrew Jackson from his favorite pastime of Plains Bowling* and plan a counter attack. Interestingly, historians point out that Keane could have easily advanced into New Orleans at this time, since the area ahead of him was completely unguarded, but many believe that singer Jimmy Driftwood intervened and explained to the British general that such a move would “really f*** up my song idea,” so Keane and his men stayed put, in no way expecting the possibility of an American attack. According to fellow officers, Keane, a raving opium addict, did not take the American military seriously, having convinced himself that the entire American Revolution was merely a hallucination induced by a particularly bad trip. Jackson’s forces attacked the British at their camp, but being inexperienced at facing enemies that were actually armed and in good health, they failed to drive Keane’s forces off the land and suffered 213 casualties. Jackson reportedly considered waiting for FEMA to arrive with aid supplies, but figured he was too close to New Orleans to count on it.
After Keane’s men were able to convince the general that he had not imagined Jackson’s attack, he decided to stay put for several more days, which allowed Jackson’s men to dig in and fortify the area that he supposed the eventual British attack would come from. On Christmas Day, another British general, Edward Packenham (nope, that’s his real name), arrived to find out why nothing had happened in two days, and found Keane prancing about dressed only in an apron, carrying a handful of half-eaten mushrooms and singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in falsetto. Packenham assumed command and organized a strike, asking Siri to remind him to carry it out three days later.
Packenham’s attacks from December 28 – January 1 were continually repelled by the well-fortified Americans, who benefitted from Ewok-style assistance from area beavers, who had finally grown tired of being mocked by the British and mercilessly hunted by British sympathizer Bill Murray.
On January 8, after reinforcements had arrived, a furious General Packenham ordered a two-pronged assault against Jackson’s forces. General Jackson, according to legend, had ordered his troops to postpone firing until they could see “the whites” of their enemies’ eyes. This bode well for bleary-eyed General Keane, who at this point was reportedly fueled mainly by corncob moonshine and an early form of crack cocaine, but even he was later injured in the ensuing slaughter. Advancing British troops were mowed down by American artillery, and their frequent breaks for “tea time” made them easy targets for sharpshooters and disgruntled beavers. British leaders made a dizzying array of questionable decisions throughout the day, highlighted by Lt. Col. Thomas Mullins’ famously inept attempt to have his men cross a canal without rafts or ladders, after having been convinced by the late night campfire ramblings of John Keane that his men could, in fact, fly. Renowned cereal fanatic Major General Samuel Gibbs, Packenham’s second in command, reportedly led an ill-advised charge against the Americans’ 7th infantry, after having mistaken the word “grapeshot” (the firing of a mass of small metal balls rather than a single musket ball) for the words “Grape Nuts.” Grapeshot, interestingly enough, had been chosen over bows and arrows at the behest of songwriter Jimmy Driftwood, who explained the change was a necessary “syllable adjustment.”
At the end of the day, Jackson excitedly reported to his superiors that the British had been massacred “Injun-style!” and had suffered over 2,000 casualties, while the American total was a mere 71. The following day, the British demonstrated why they’ve always been known as gracious losers by bombarding nearby Fort St. Phillip for ten days from their naval ships, until they finally withdrew, fearing reprisal from Aquaman for the damage their cannons had caused to New Orleans’ fragile ecosystem.
It was not until after the cannon fire receded that Andrew Jackson thought to turn his cell phone back on and found out from a text message dated December 24 that a treaty had been signed and the War of 1812 was officially over. Technically, the British had surrendered the day before Christmas, making the Battle of New Orleans the most famous battle to ever take place after a war was officially over. However, in a peculiar twist, the U.S. congress did not actually ratify the treaty until mid-February, because they were strictly abiding by a principle known as “Obamapposition” which dictated they needed to disagree with anything then-President James Madison suggested, even if it was the end of a war. Historians have never been able to determine whether or not England, not known at that time to get bogged down by petty things like “bonding treaties,” had been aware of the treaty when they launched their attack against Jackson’s forces in New Orleans, but most agree that their getting away with it most likely gave them the confidence to launch the hugely successful British Invasion of the 1960s. Gen. John Keane, it should be noted, had gotten too high to return to England, so he stayed in New Orleans and invented jazz.
* Plains Bowling was reportedly a game devised by Jackson which was quite similar to regular bowling, only the bowling balls were actually cannonballs, and the pins were Indian women and children.
I’ll admit it. I do research before I write a “Revisionist History” article. I know, that goes against the Palin/Bachmann spirit of just making up history as you go along without checking facts, but hey, that’s why they’re great leaders of our society and I’m not. So, while researching possible topics for the next installment, I read up on the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that happened exactly 100 years ago in New York City. It’s a compelling story from our history, but probably a little too grim to make jokes about. It still stands as the third deadliest disaster in a city that seems prone to them. While maybe not jokeworthy material, the event provides a parable of things we can apply to our lives today.
For instance, a lot of folks today argue that the only way to spur an economic recovery is to remove more regulations on businesses, and I think that the Triangle Waist Company was a perfect example of why that thinking is absolutely, infallibly perfect. For obvious reasons, in 1911 women’s blouses were referred to as “shirtwaists,” and Triangle was a major player in the industry. Owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris weren’t constrained by the stifling regulations that business owners must suffer through today, and so they were able to provide an honest day’s work of nine break-free hours (plus 7 hours on Saturdays) for their employees on three floors of a building in the Greenwich Village section of NYC. Plus, without the burden of a minimum wage law, they were able to demonstrate their business acumen by paying their employees a cost-effective but fair hourly wage that easily allowed the employees to put food on the table several days a week. Concerned for the health of their valued employees, most factory owners would not permit smoke breaks, but the ladies were free to use the restroom up to three times per year. Unfortunately, as any business owner will tell you, employees are generally greedy, unappreciative, rodent-like creatures that always seek out ways to break the rules. Because so many factory employees in those days sneaked cigarette drags while they worked, factory fires were as commonplace as those obtrusive black people who kept getting in the way of police officers’ billy clubs.
Blanck and Harris, aware of the epidemic of factory fires in the city, thought the best way to protect their workers was to lock them in the building during their nine hour workdays. Of course, they wouldn’t be allowed to protect their employees like that today, because bleeding heart liberals with no business sense whatsoever seem to think people ought to be allowed to openly disrespect their bosses by doing things like “going home sick” or “taking care of family emergencies.”
Unfortunately, life at the Triangle Factory was not as rosy as I have presented it so far. Because of a lack of visionary leaders like John McCain and Rick Perry, immigrants were welcomed into the work force back then, and Blanck and Harris were guilty of thwarting the sweatshop-job-seeking efforts of industrious white people by filling the nearly 500 job vacancies at their factory with immigrant women of dubious legal standing. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that immigrants are a bunch of lying thieves. This knowledge was not lost on the owners of the Triangle Factory, who utilized the fact that all employees were locked in to institute a daily practice of checking the women’s purses for stolen valuables—such as fabric scraps—before they were allowed to leave for the day.
Yes, business was booming at the Triangle Waist Company, which stood as a testament to the fact that when businessmen are unencumbered by pesky rules and regulations, they will turn a hefty profit, everyone will get a fair shake, and nothing bad will ever happen. In fact, when historians recall this stalwart example of how deregulation caused everything to be right with the world, the only negative thing—if anything—that gets mentioned is the fire on March 25, 1911.
The blaze, which probably started when a smuggled cigarette ignited some clothing scraps, ended up killing 146 employees—who could not escape because they were locked in (come on, their purses hadn’t been checked yet!)—and injuring 71 more.
But even in a disaster, there are positives to take away from it, such as the fact that the youngest victims were 14-year-old girls, which reminds us of the robust work ethic that teenagers USED to have, before that damned “texting” was invented. There were heroic acts of bravery, such as those of the foreman who held the keys to the locked doors was one of the first survivors who managed to fight his way through the smoke and the panic to escape the building unharmed. The fact that dozens of ditsy female employees attempted to exit the building through the windows—apparently forgetting there were no stairs beneath them—just goes to show how their inferior little minds justified the fact that they were paid much less than men who did the same kind of work.
Perhaps most touching of all was that despite the accident and its aftermath, our legal system continued to function brilliantly as both Blanck and Harris were acquitted of second degree manslaughter charges, despite the efforts of some tree-hugging, hippie liberals who made the preposterous claim that the actions of the two owners had some sort of connection to the tragic loss of life. Regrettably, the hippies claimed victory two years later, when a civil trial resulted in Blanck and Harris being forced to compensate the plaintiffs to the tune of $75 per victim. But in the end, the great American system worked, and the owners’ insurance company stepped up and did the right thing, awarding them $60,000 more than the losses they’d claimed, which amounted to roughly $400 per victim. If hearing something like that doesn’t warm your heart, you probably hate America and support its Socialist president.
As inspiring as the story of the Triangle Waist Company is, the bump in the road they hit with that little fire unfortunately put us all on the path to the very things which have devastated our economy today—unions, workers’ rights, and business regulations. One of the first things to go was an owner’s right to lock his employees into a confined area, something that—interestingly enough—Max Blanck himself was later arrested for again. And to this writer, the $20 fine he was forced to pay as punishment stands as a black stain on an otherwise perfect example of the American Dream.
Dear Drivers of Sacramento (and cities everywhere):
As a reformed road rage activist, let me share something I learned. Expressing that frustration you feel behind the wheel accomplishes nothing. Zero. Zilch. You may think it makes you feel better, that it’s cathartic to pound that horn or flash that finger or yell those incoherent, curse-laden, cavemanesque sentences, but you’re lying to yourself. (Kind of like Jason Alexander telling his mirror reflection that he’s still relevant) Next time, concentrate on how you feel before, during, and after one of your episodes. It doesn’t help, does it?
The facts are that it doesn’t make you feel any better, and it doesn’t spur the idiot driver who caused your stress to learn a blessed thing. They will still be an idiot, and there are loads more where he came from, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Kind of like the Tea Party, but I digress. The problem as I see it is that our society has devolved to a point where almost no one possesses even a shred of concern for anyone other than themselves anymore, and nowhere is that more profoundly illustrated than on our highways and city streets.
With that being said, enough already with the single, drawn-out incredulous horn beep that lasts like forty seconds and irritates everyone on the block every time a space cadet driver slows down right in front of you to ponder whether they can fit into that parallel parking spot. It’s frustrating, we all get that, but really, with the horn? Why should the rest of us on the surrounding sidewalks have to pause our conversations until your petulant little tantrum is over? Most humans are only slightly better drivers than crash test dummies, okay? And a lot of them inexplicably become suddenly worse when they’re driving in an urban setting. But guess what? The annoying thing they did to impede your progress will be over in twenty seconds, so is it really worth making a horn-accompanied Public Statement about? When it’s over, you’ll still be inside a climate-controlled, cup-holder-endowed, mechanical miracle that allows you to zoom past the guy who forages for his meals in dumpsters while you’re on your way from Point A to Point B without even using your pathetically flabby legs!
So, for me, try to get some perspective, and save that pent-up, righteous indignation for something that’s truly important, like when a professional athlete offends your delicate senses by saying something stupid on their Twitter account!
If you didn't already know, years ago I used to collaborate with some very talented people on a satirical news website called "Gristle." One of those talented people came up with the visionary idea of writing movie reviews based only on the ads he'd seen for them, rather than actually seeing the movie. He's up to his old tricks again, and you can read the review of the thriller "Contagion" by checking out this page:
I contributed some ideas, and the page even has some old articles from our glory days. A little dated, but good for a laugh if you get bored at work. Enjoy!
Volume III: The Iran-Contra Affair
The Iran-Contra Affair, long lauded for being the only known political scandal since the 1970s to not have the suffix “-gate” attached to its nickname, was also a widely overlooked event in our nation’s history, due in large part to the fact that it occurred during the simultaneous rise of MTV and Max Headroom. In the mid 1980s, the under-30 crowd regularly spent their nights having fun and wang-chunging, choosing to ignore complex political happenings, thereby undertaking the first steps toward spawning a generation that would one day become far more intimately familiar with the Kardashian family than with the growing number of worldwide failed states and a global environment on the brink of devastation.
Then-President Ronald Reagan, who had by the early ‘80s begun strictly adhering to his wife’s “Just Say No” drug policy in favor of daily sniffing sessions of common household glue products, was well-known for his rabid and somewhat paranoid crusades to seek out and obliterate burgeoning Communist governments around the world. Thrilled by the overwhelming success he’d achieved in arming the Afghan Taliban government’s army to fight off the Soviets, with no foreseeable long term negative side effects, he set his sights on Nicaragua. The Central American country, with a population nearly rivaling that of the state of Iowa, had been taken over by a Communist government and posed a deadly threat to the rest of the democracy-loving Western Hemisphere. The only ones resisting the Communist takeover were a group of militant Contras, whose guerilla fighting tactics mostly consisted of murder, torture, rape, kidnapping, and forcing their captives to watch endlessly-looped episodes of “The Love Boat.” Reagan, however, saw past all that, recognizing them for the humble patriots they were, and immediately began brainstorming ways to provide them with training and weaponry. This was tricky because the rest of the U.S. government, lacking Reagan’s keen foresight, had previously passed the Boland Amendment, which strictly outlawed providing direct aid to the Contras.
After a fateful all-night meeting in early 1985 with Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger and National Security Council leader Lt. Col. Oliver North that was said to have involved inhuman amounts of Elmer’s Rubber Cement, Wild Turkey, and whip-its, President Reagan had devised a plan. Feeling he was on a hot streak after heavily betting on the New England Patriots to defeat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX, Reagan selected—from a group that included all the countries in the entire world—the stable and congenial nation of Iran to help him with his plan, which involved selling arms to Iran and using the money to help out the Nicaraguan Contras. Reportedly, sober members of the president’s inner circle advised him against doing business with Iran on the premise that the Muslim nation had openly declared its hatred for Israel and the U.S., and for the fact that at the time Hezbollah, a militant Islamist group with ties to the Iranian government, was currently holding several U.S. citizens as hostages. Reagan assured his staff members that when the Iranians received shiny new tanks and guns, they’d loosen up and begin releasing hostages, thus reversing the U.S. policy of “not negotiating with terrorists” that had been previously established by President Harrison Ford. When staffers further pointed out that there was currently an arms embargo in place against Iran and sending them weapons would be breaking U.S. law, Reagan reportedly chased them all out of the room by brandishing a “soap-on-a-rope” type device.
Despite its illegality on several levels, the plan was enacted in 1985. After a meeting with Reagan during which a reported 12 bottles of sake and two cases of horse tranquilizers were consumed, Israeli officials even agreed to be the middle man for the sale of arms to Iran, temporarily forgetting about Iran’s promises to “wipe Israel off the map like so much jelly from the beard of the Ayatollah.” It should be noted that somewhere along the way, National Security Advisor Robert MacFarlane objected to the proceedings, and was replaced by John Poindexter, who agreed to remain silent and “stand on the wall,” a habit that later served as inspiration for a memorable lyric written by rapper Young M.C.
It wasn’t until 1986, after Reagan had survived colon cancer surgery and reportedly developed a Vicodin addiction, that the covert actions were revealed to the world by intrepid Lebanese reporter Margot Kidder. The revelations rattled many Americans, who had begun looking at Reagan as a sort of grandfatherly figure with mild dementia, so Reagan took to the airwaves on November 13 to make a statement that in no way referenced his breaking of U.S. Federal laws, but did explain his motives. “My purpose,” he stated, “was to show that we’re prepared to replace the animosity between the U.S. and Iran with a new relationship, a relationship defined by its newness, one in which terrorists like Iran will swear to oppose all forms of terrorism, and that all international terrorists—Lebanese or straight—will decide to release our hostages and come back into the embrace of our national embrace, much like the Prodigal Son in the movie Cocoon.” The inspirational speech satisfied Reagan’s legions of supporters across the U.S. who went back to their trailers and continued waiting for the huge profits being reaped by U.S. corporations to trickle down to them and their families.
Not all U.S. lawmakers were so easily dissuaded by the speech, so Reagan hand selected some old friends to form the Tower Commission, whose purpose was to investigate him and his staff for any wrongdoing. During the investigation, Oliver North shocked the nation by testifying about a secret science research project that had successfully created the world’s first “matter removal spray.” North went on to explain that his retarded secretary, Fawn Hall, had accidentally broken the prototype’s bottle and the liquid spilled over stacks of all the relevant documents pertaining to the Iran-Contra Affair, and that they had all disappeared forever. Citing a lack of evidence, the best the Tower Commission could do was to good-naturedly chide President Reagan for “not keeping a better eye on those ornery staff members of yours.” Despite his famous television speech where he apologized for “the things of which I was unaware, and also for some of the things I knew, but didn’t know I knew,” Reagan’s approval ratings dive-bombed, until the fall debut of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” mesmerized the country and everyone forgot about the scandal. In the end, after George H.W. Bush pardoned all people involved in the scandal, everyone had a good laugh and no real harm was done, except for possibly the continued military threat Iran has posed since it gained the upper hand thanks to U.S. weapons technology, and the fact that the Nicaraguan Contras are generally credited with introducing the U.S. to crack cocaine, and that George W. Bush used the precedent set by Reagan to openly flout U.S. laws and violate its Constitution, but other than that, it’s all been just a harmless footnote in our glorious nation’s history.
I have been wracking my brain lately, wondering “How can I alienate and offend at least 50% of my readers all at once?” Jokes about religion or 9/11 seemed too easy. And then it occurred to me, like a sudden flash of light that knocks you off your feet and renders you unconscious. (Or as Lindsay Lohan calls it, “any weeknight.”) It’s very simple: I need to explain to “dog people” why they’re barely being tolerated by the rest of us.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like dogs and have even had them for pets from time to time. By “dog people” I’m talking about the obsessive types that dress their dogs up in ludicrous outfits, refer to them as family members, freely exchange spit with them, and allow them to basically dictate their day to day activities. You guys are the Scientologists of pet-owning-society, wandering around unaware that you’re the butt of the joke. Here are some ways to help you spot if you are one of these people and are currently being ridiculed by your friends and neighbors behind your back.
1. You use your dog as an excuse to be boring. You know these types, the ones who used to be right there with you when you were carousing around town late at night, drunkenly pissing on statues of religious figures in church yards, but now they say things like, “Sorry, I can’t go to the ballgame with you. I have to be back home every ninety minutes to let Sparky out. He suffers from an enlarged prostate and needs to go potty really often.” If you haven’t hit that guy in the mouth by the time he says the word “potty,” you’re a better friend than I am. You know what? Teach that flea-bag to jump into the bathtub and piss away, and let’s go see Enos, the mute ventriloquist that’s only in town for the weekend! The rest of us suspect that what’s really happened is you got lazy and traded in all the fun from your soul for an oversized HD TV, an Ikea addiction, and a smart phone. The dog is just your cover story.
2. You have allowed ownership of a dog to let the basics of social etiquette completely elude you. When have I ever begun frantically shouting at you when you approached me on the sidewalk and then jumped all over you and slathered you with my slobber like you were a turkey that needed basting? Okay, maybe once or twice, but never when I was sober. Yet you allow your four-legged demon to do that constantly and then laugh off his behavior as “cute.” You know, I happen to enjoy flinging hot Ramen noodles all over my face and shoulders, but I don’t make the wild assumption that all my fellow humans share my penchant for it and greet them that way. Not everybody gets off on being coated by a fine layer of canine saliva and fur to the same extent you do, and you need to be aware of that. Also, you may be used to constant barking at all hours, but it still REALLY bothers some of the rest of us, and not only will we not get used to it, we shouldn’t have to.
3. You no longer see any distinction between places that are dog-appropriate and places that aren’t. When was the last time you saw someone attempt to walk into a bar trailed by their pet marmot? Can I assume you’ll have no objection if I sit next to you on a plane with Elton, my 8-foot python, wrapped around my shoulders? When you invite me over for a barbecue, I’m not going to bring along the spastic midget with rabies that I keep chained up in my basement and let him run wildly around your yard knocking over garden gnomes and chewing on your lawn furniture. You know why Nazi officers didn’t allow Holocaust victims to stare hungrily up at them when they ate meals? Because it’s uncomfortable!! (Plus they were horrifying human beings, but you get my point about meal times, right?)
4. You ignorantly assume all of your friends will be as interested as you are in the billions of photos of what your dog is wearing or the details of its mundane, pedestrian accomplishments. Oh wait, that’s people with kids. Nevermind.
Anyway, I could probably go on, but I’m running out of things that will offend people. Just please be aware that not everyone around you feels the same unconditional love for all things canine that you do. And if you think forcing everyone in your neighborhood to tolerate and even embrace things they don’t want to, simply because you happen to love them, then let me thank you in advance on behalf of Rick Perry for your upcoming vote.
Volume II: The Boston Tea Party
America’s interest in The Boston Tea Party has been rekindled in recent years, thanks to its being chosen as a symbol for an emerging faction of a major political party that is known for its boisterous rallies and borderline sanity. Some facts have become blurred, however, so the following is my version of the true events surrounding this landmark occasion.
In 1773, American colonists had not yet shrugged off the British tradition of interrupting their daily tasks fourteen times a day to enjoy a cup of tea. In fact, tea was the number one import into the colonies, far outpacing the second place Snuggie. Most tea was imported from the East Indies, which were actually islands in the Caribbean Sea, but were so named by an obstinate white man who refused to admit he was lost. Since 1698, Britain had allowed a monopoly on the importing of tea by the East India Company, later renamed Comcast, which allowed them to set their own prices, however exorbitant, illogical, or unfair. The East India Company was not allowed to import directly to the colonies. Instead, they sold to British companies, who would then mark up the price and resell it to the American colonists, in a practice then known as “ticketmastering.” Competing tea importers from Holland began smuggling in tea and selling it at a much more reasonable price, in a process known as “napstering.” To help ensure that the biggest businesses, such as the East India Company, were still able to post record profits, Britain lowered the tax on tea for English citizens, and raised it for Americans.
This decision fanned the flames of an existing argument between the colonies and Britain, spearheaded by the Whig party and its leaders, William Shatner and Burt Reynolds. The Whigs argued that taxing the colonists without allowing them to send representatives to Parliament to weigh in on issues of taxation was unconstitutional. A minor member of the party, Thaddeus Michael Bachmann, tried to further argue that any taxation set forth by a ruling government over its people was unconstitutional, but his efforts were unanimously ignored by everyone at the time who knew anything about how government worked. It should be noted, however, that an unconfirmed story suggests his loyal followers all went home, dipped their quills in ink, and changed the section explaining government in their copies of Poor Richard’s Almanac to give the illusion of credibility to Bachmann’s preposterous claims.
The Whigs’ indignation at the new taxes soon spread across the Massachusetts colony, and various forms of protests took place. A colony-wide boycott of tea was enacted, but many colonists soon succumbed to the addictive powers of tea and soon found themselves performing lewd acts in exchange for what limited supplies could be found. Semi-popular minstrel Avery Winehouse was the first confirmed casualty attributed to tea withdrawal symptoms. Eventually, bolder protests occurred. Groups of Whigs, led by Jack Nicholson and Leonardo Dicaprio, engaged in intimidation tactics designed to frighten appointed consignees—the merchants who signed for the deliveries—from allowing the ships to be unloaded, and many cargo ships returned to England with their shipments of tea still aboard. This tactic worked well in several places, but in Boston, Governor Hutchinson’s refusal to allow the consignees to be intimidated, resulted in several shipments getting through, which made the Governor leapfrog Casey Anthony into first place in the latest “least popular person in America” polls.
In November, 1773, the Dartmouth—the first of three cargo ships carrying East India Tea—arrived in Boston Harbor. Governor Hutchinson insisted that the cargo be unloaded, but a bevy of colonist enforcers, dressed in Celtics gear and anti-Yankees t-shirts, prudently pointed out to the dock workers how difficult everyday life would be without functioning kneecaps, and they stood guard, ensuring the tea was not unloaded. Soon, the other two ships—the Yale and the Greendale Community—docked in Boston Harbor. Infuriated by the Governor’s actions, renowned Boston hothead Samuel Adams called for a public meeting to be held to discuss the situation. He also used the occasion to unveil a new winter ale that was robust and full bodied, yet complemented by the roasty sweetness of the malts, with a hint of citrus. A rough-and-tumble group of like-minded patriots, known as the Sons of Liberty, arrived at the meeting on their trademark Harleys, led by the well-respected Ron Perlman, and the mom from “Married With Children.” Tensions flared at the meeting, with several speakers later being described to the press as having been “wicked pissed,” and a bold course of action was undertaken.
The Sons of Liberty and their followers stormed out into the night, disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians, and formed the first of many angry mobs for which Boston would soon become famous. The disguise, it should be noted, fooled many of the locals who were not in on the plan, and many made a private vow that night to later seek vengeance for the unruly disturbance by moving west and systematically destroying the entire Indian population. The mob soon made its way to the harbor, boarded the three cargo ships, and famously dumped 342 chests of tea into the water, which was soon engulfed on all sides by zombie-like Bostonian tea addicts who carried straws and soon drained the harbor to nearly half its original depth.
This event was branded as terrorism by the British government, who assured their English citizens that the colonists “hate us for our freedom!” Hundreds of thousands of tiny British flags were sold within hours and attached to door fronts and car windows. With promises to smoke out the terrorists, Britain enacted swift punishment by closing the port of Boston and moving their football team to the nearby meth haven of Foxboro.
Back in the colonies, leading patriots such as Samuel Adams, John Adams, the Addams Family, and Tom Brady argued in defense of the event, describing it as a “principled protest” by oppressed people who had been left with no other recourse. Many other colonies sympathized with Massachusetts and lent their support, with the notable exception of New York, which smugly attempted to lure away some of Boston’s best and brightest citizens with lucrative contracts. The protest inspired many acts of defiance in other colonies, such as the famous burning of the “Peggy Lipton” in the harbor of Annapolis, MD, and the “I Want My MTV” uprisings of the early 1980s.
Eventually, the animosity between England and her colonies led to the conflict known at the time as the Screw the Queen Squabble (later renamed The American Revolution). Despite England’s subsequent attempts at reconciliation with the colonies, such as 1775’s “Conciliatory Resolution,” Bostonians had learned through experiences such as the Tea Party that they just plain enjoyed fighting, and all attempts at compromise proved fruitless. Oh, and speaking of the violence between heavily armed British soldiers and the colonists who ran for their lives from them: this event is commemorated every year with the running of the Boston Marathon. Also, Cheers was founded.
Everyone complains about airline travel, and I know how snooty and pretentious it sounds. As comedian Louis C.K. pointed out, once your petulant whining about the minor inconveniences of air travel are over, you get to end up sitting in a chair that reclines IN THE SKY, traveling at inhuman speeds. I get it. But I’m sure Louie also gets the fact that sometimes finding humor in the things that annoy you is the only way to get over them. And since some of you disturbed people out there seem to derive entertainment from my complaining, I’m going to go ahead and recount my experiences on the flights I took this past week from Sacramento to Chicago, and then on to Boston, by showing you what it would have been like if I’d kept a journal during the adventure. The sad part? All of the following is true!
2:35 – Departing on time; nice start. Why does it already smell faintly of flatulence on this plane?
2:37 – So that’s how you put on a seat belt!
2:51 – I don’t like it when the pilot comes over the loudspeaker and lets me know the mundane details of his job. Only talk to me when something out of the ordinary happens, okay? I don’t expect the guys from Jiffy Lube to keep popping into the lobby every few minutes going, “We’re replacing the spark plugs now. Man, it sure it greasy under that hood!”
3:08 – I suspect the old lady sitting next to me has passed gas roughly four times in the last ten minutes. She knows I can’t just open the window, right?
3:10 – They’re about to start the inflight movie. It stars one of those vampire kids that I can’t tell apart from one another. My superb abilities at making sweeping generalizations tell me I’m better off popping one of the DVDs I brought along into the ol’ laptop. “V for Vendetta” it is! Remember when Natalie Portman made more than one good movie in a row? Apparently both Natalie’s and Mila’s “Black Swan” contracts called for them to make a lousy movie afterwards about having sex with a friend, and how it—gasp—complicates the friendship!
4:30 – My laptop battery goes dead right when the prison guard tells Natalie she’s about to be executed. This infuriates me literally beyond words, so the ensuing exchange between me and my laptop probably looks a lot like a mime arguing about the check with a mute waitress.
4:36 – I’m pretty certain the old lady beside has shit her pants. There is a distinctive difference in the smell between passed gas and actual feces. This does not bode well for the remaining two hours of the flight.
5:45 – Even with my iPod at full blast, I find it impossible to ignore the European lady’s frantic interrogation of the flight attendant coming from the row behind me. She’s making a big deal out of the fact that she has only 35 minutes once we land to make her next flight. Apparently she believes we will be landing on the South Side and her next flight will be departing from Wrigley Field.
5:50 – The flight attendant has run out of different ways to reassure the woman that 35 minutes will be more than enough time to make it to the next gate. I wonder if she’ll try doing a puppet show to calm this bitch down.
5:53 – God, lady, that is abominable. I hope you brought an extra pair of Depends.
6:25 – We’ve landed, and it feels good to stretch my legs by standing up in the aisle. The European lady is already attempting to pass me in the aisle, asking me if I have a connection flight to catch. I answer, simply, “Yes,” without bothering to mention that I have 5 fewer minutes than she does to catch mine.
6:26 – Even though the entire aisle ahead of me is completely blocked with bodies, the European lady has now begun pushing forward against my backpack. Urge to kill...rising.
6:29 – I wait until there are no more people in the aisle in front of me, and THEN I turn around to explain how pushing against my back was not only rude, but pointless since there was nowhere for me to go when there were people in front of me. Even after we’ve exited the plane into the much wider hallway corridor, she makes no attempt to pass me. *grin*
6:41 – It’s official, the only electrical outlets in this airport have strange rounded holes that will in no way accommodate the cord of anything I’ve ever owned in my life. It sure would’ve been nice to find out what happened to poor Natalie.
7:40 – There is an open space of roughly five feet between the corridor and the open door of the next airplane. In that small space, I discover that Chicago’s weather feels like Satan’s armpit.
7:45 – Wait, so the seats will actually FLOAT in the event of an emergency? Who knew!
7:56 – We still have not moved. Apparently since I was exposed to it in those five feet, Chicago’s weather has managed to get worse. The pilot tells me we’re going to have to “wait it out” to see when we’ll be able to depart. Why does every airline pilot have a Southern accent?
8:15 – Why wasn’t I consulted when we decided to go ahead with this whole “climate change” thing? This sucks.
8: 20 – I’m getting pretty sick of hearing the pilot come on the speaker every few minutes and drawl that we should be able to get going “any minute now.” If I wanted to be bullsh***ed by a Texan, I’d ask Matthew McConaughy to explain Method Acting.
8:45 – Texas Bob has now shut off the engine. He’s no longer pretending.
9:01 – There is now water dripping on the exasperated travelers seated beside the windows, as well as a steady drizzle across the TV screen in the aisle above my head. The flight attendants’ solution to the window seat conditions is to pass out stacks of paper napkins to the passengers with instructions to “dab” as needed.
9:03 – As the storm outside continues to rage, I ask a passing flight attendant whether the dripping water is moisture from the malfunctioning air conditioning unit, or from the storm itself. She just smiles and walks away. I have no idea how to interpret this response.
9:04 – I decide not to report the water dripping across the darkened tv monitor that probably only I have noticed so far. At this point, I would welcome death.
9:10 – I’m going stir crazy with nothing but water passing across the tv monitors, and with a laptop battery as dead as Amy Winehouse, so I attempt to read. Almost immediately, my reading light burns out. I actually laugh aloud at this development, like a slap-happy middle school girl.
9:15 – And we’re off. Finally. The Muslim kids in the row across from me have been as well behaved as I suppose anyone could expect from children forced to sit in the dark on a runway for an hour and a half. But their mother has lost patience as well, and is yelling at them in Arabic. Without access to television or any news source, I thought I was finally going to experience a day without witnessing the actions of angry Muslims. Denied.
10:30 – It hasn’t really been an hour; we’ve just crossed another time zone. The good news is, they fixed the TVs. The bad news is, they’re showing an episode of “The Middle.”
10:55 – After ignoring the inanities of “The Middle” to the best of my abilities, they’re now broadcasting a documentary about the construction of the new Yankee Stadium. On a flight to Boston!! I begin to suspect they’re reading my mind to figure out what kind of programming will torture me most. If an episode of “Designing Women” comes on next, my suspicions will be confirmed.
11:15 – After purchasing a tiny, tiny bottle of Jack Daniels, things have begun to turn around. I tried talking the flight attendant into giving me another bottle for free, since technically it was already my birthday in our destination city, and somehow it worked! Alcohol to the rescue once again. I don’t even mind having to ignore the episode of “$%# My Dad Says” that’s airing on the tvs. Although I do have to wonder why Shatner wears that damn fishing vest in every single scene. At least Gilligan had an excuse—he thought he was only going on a 3 hour tour!!
12:45 – We are finally approaching Boston, and thanks to the combination of the alcohol and a serendipitous appearance of an episode of “The Office” I am actually hopeful that the plane will land safely and I’ll live to see another day. Even if I have to fly.
1:30 – Don’t worry, I didn’t check any baggage. Never do. Why? Because it would undoubtedly be in the possession of a guy named Chuckie from Wisconsin by now if I had. My friends are late to pick me up (ah, the irony!) and the sound of the power washing equipment where I’m waiting is deafening, and it’s creating a humidity that’s revealing curls I never knew my hair had, but I don’t care in the least. I’m no longer on a plane, after all.
Volume 1: Washington Crosses the Delaware
A couple of our most esteemed political leaders have lately ushered in a new era of creativity and self-expression, and I heartily applaud it! Not content to customize their iPhones, Facebook pages, internet browsers, and news feeds, these innovative leaders and their constituents have succeeded in making it acceptable to customize your own version of United States history! A few keystrokes here and there on Wikipedia, and boom! History the way you always kind of figured it might have happened. It’s now that easy to make actual history match up with your recollection of it, and I say that is the embodiment of the American dream—-an idea whose time has come!
Now that the shackles of historical accuracy have finally been removed, I can move ahead with my lifelong dream of telling the grand stories of America’s past the way they were meant to be heard. As my loyal blog readers, I thought you should get a sneak peak at what I’ll soon be posting to Wikipedia, and once the textbooks are changed to reflect my version, you can proudly tell your friends that you heard it here first!
Now, you’ve all seen the famous painting by Emanuel Leutze (er, sorry, Emmanuel Lewis—this will also change, because I think it’s important that the world not forget the adorable star of TV’s “Webster”) that depicts the father of our country, dressed in his trademark Captain Crunch hat, boldly standing in the preferred rowboat position as he makes his way across the icy waters of the Delaware River, but the story behind this historical moment is a fascinating one.
In the summer of 1776, after British General William Howe had successfully chased Washington’s Continental Army out of New York, and secured by force the rights to Babe Ruth from his dreaded rival Boston Red Sox, he sent Commander Charles Cornwallis and his troops into New Jersey, where they faced intermittent uprisings from the Soprano family, the unofficial leaders of the New Jersey colony at that point. Washington, meanwhile, who was dealing with the sudden downsizing of his battalions due to the controversial passage of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, decided to set up camp across the river in the woods of western Pennsylvania, which was at that time still referred to as “Old Jersey.”
During the ensuing months, tensions flared between the two sides as American and British troops took to mooning one another and shouting jokes about each other’s mommas from their respective banks of the Delaware River. The situation grew even more grim when Cornwallis succeeded in strengthening his numbers by securing the services of the Hessians, which I believe were a group of heavily tattooed and overtired mercenaries led by Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Washington’s troop numbers continued to dwindle as many soldiers began losing faith in their cause, a morale problem that was no doubt exacerbated by the disbanding of the Second Continental Congress, which had recently fled Philadelphia after having failed to reach an agreement on the proposed height for the dome ceiling in Independence Hall.
Fearing an imminent skirmish with the powerful army across the river, Washington sought information about their plans. His former top spy, Paul Revere, had fallen out of Washington’s good graces after he botched his assignment to ready American minutemen in New England by instead ringing a bunch of bells and warning all British soldiers he came upon that “you’re not gonna be takin’ our arms!” Desperately seeking a trusted spy, Washington was approached by his adjutant, Joseph Reed, who volunteered for the mission in a manner that probably went like this:
Washington: We would do well to be privy to the secret machinations of Generals Cornwallis and Stallone, and to know if they harbor intentions of aggression, but we must take utmost care to advance from this point under cloak of secrecy.
Reed: I told you, yo, I got some creep to me, you heard? I gotchu on this, dog!
As winter befell Washington’s camp, and no word from Reed arrived, the soldiers grew ill and more discouraged. They were reduced to burning books for warmth, but Washington, being a strong advocate of literature, prohibited the burning of any texts except for Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” and Jenny McCarthy’s “Louder Than Words.” In mid December, however, Washington’s camp was brightened by the arrival of General Charles Lee and his division of 2,000 soldiers, soon followed by the arrival of General Horatio Gates and his decimated division, which now consisted of about 40 soldiers, a cross-eyed mule, and his bookish son Bill, who was obsessed with making the abacus more user-friendly.
Morale was further boosted by the publication of “The American Crisis,” a pamphlet by renowned patriot Thomas Paine, which included the now-famous passage: “These are the times that try men’s souls: 9:00 am, 2:00 am, and occasionally 2:30 pm if you don’t have a bottle of 5 hour energy drink.”
Plans were made to cross the icy Delaware River and attempt to strike a bargain with Cornwallis. Washington proposed that the British keep New Jersey forever, in exchange for a 10% commission rate should there ever be a successful reality TV show filmed within its borders. Washington proposed the crossing take place on December 25, assuming both sides would be feeling more congenial after celebrating the birthday of Jesus, founder of Minnesota.
You know the rest—Cornwallis was so offended by the prospect of having to hold on to New Jersey that a fight broke out, in which many of the Hessians were killed or wounded, over 1000 British and Hessian soldiers were taken captive, and the American forces seized much needed artillery and supplies, while only suffering minimal losses—only 6 wounded and 3 killed, including the head of the New Jersey Sopranos, who was suddenly and ambiguously shot in the back of the head while eating onion rings at a roadside tavern.
This incredible victory would serve notice that Washington’s army was a force to be reckoned with, and would inspire enough military volunteers that the Americans would eventually prevail in their war against the British, which they would then immediately replace with a “Cold War” on drugs, which wouldn’t be won until centuries later when the Berlin Wall was taken down and then reconstructed on the southern U.S. border at the behest of the planet of Arizona.
I think the gay discussion in this country has taken a wrong turn and ended up somehow in Crazyvilletownburg, where molehill climbing is a favorite recreation and Casey Anthony’s Childcare Center is the top-grossing business. It’s devolved somehow from a relevant discussion about important issues to a shouting match between two drunken hyperbolists both vying for the position of village idiot.
First of all, I can see no reason whatsoever that a person’s sexual habits should have ANYTHING to do with the rest of their lives, or how they’re treated by society. That’s like telling someone they’re not eligible to receive mail from the U.S. postal service because of their egregiously high intake of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” on their morning toast. The only argument I’ve ever heard in favor of restricting gay people’s rights has to do with ancient religious beliefs. The Bible’s Old Testament clearly states that homosexuality is a sin, an abomination in the sight of god. Unfortunately for gays, this country has an extraordinarily high population of Christians, so for now they’re bound to feel like a gangsta rapper who just moved into Tipper Gore’s neighborhood. That same Old Testament, by the way, also states that it’s perfectly acceptable to force one of your slaves to become your wife, but it’s a no-no to wear garments made from mixed fabrics, such as wool and linen (Deuteronomy 21-22), but for some reason I haven’t heard of any legislation being put forth lately to reinforce these sacred laws. Anyway, those who choose to make it their mission to protect god’s law in this one area have repeated the talking point that homosexual unions, for example, diminish the sanctity of marriage in this country. To which I respond: Hogwash. No country that has a divorce rate of nearly 50%, has aired shows like “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” and is home to Britney Spears should be claiming any nonsense about marriage being sacred. In fact the city of Las Vegas is itself a living testament to the un-sanctity of marriage. As far as limiting the rights of gays to serve in the military, well I find that even more mystifying. Maybe there are too many soldiers who would be uncomfortable with someone in the barracks who finds David Beckham attractive and tends to mix their cashmere with their silk. As for me, hey if you want to replace me on the front lines and do the jobs that I’m too much of a coward to do, I don’t care if you want to marry a platypus and worship Betty White as a deity. Go for it, and god bless ya.
Serious Question: How many religious types that want to restrict civil rights for gay people do you know personally that have spent any substantial time around actual gay people? Probably zero, or close to it. Other than the construction worker I know who had to room for a year in college with Nathan Lane during a period where he typically dressed like a schizophrenic peacock—-I’ll give him a pass-—I don’t know anyone who has hung out with gay people on a regular basis and still maintained a belief that their gayness is a poor personal choice that should either be corrected or oppressed. I’m just sayin. I just think the whole repression thing is ridiculous and ought to be shelved in favor of more pressing issues. For example, I’ve heard rumors that we’ve hit a little speed bump of some kind lately with our economy.
On the other side, the rhetoric and activism has lately been cranked up a notch from David-Hyde-Pierce-odd to Charlie-Sheen-crazy. Trying to get back at renowned anti-gay activist Michele Bachmann by spreading rumors that her husband is a closet homosexual? What are we, in 7th grade? Sure, the guy sometimes makes Elton John look like Clint Eastwood, but so what? For people who claim that it shouldn’t matter whether someone’s gay or not, it seems an odd strategy to retaliate against a guy like him by stooping to vague insults and insinuations that seem like they’re straight out of the playbook of those douche bags on Jersey Shore.
And how about the backlash over Tracy Morgan’s recent homophobic remarks? Now, naturally I don’t think it was wise or particularly appropriate to suggest he might stab his son if he found out he were gay, but when exactly did we start taking offense at stuff comedians say in their routines? They’re jokes, people, not life mantras. I find it hard to believe that there are actually parents out there who had to rush into their impressionable children’s bedrooms and say, “Remember that stuff I said last week about how I wanted you to skip your homework, gorge yourself on Goobers, and start cultivating an ability to control your bodily functions and use them as punchlines so that you can grow up to be just like Tracy Morgan? Well, forget it!” I had the pleasure to actually meet Tracy at one point, and found him to be a hell of a nice guy. I simply can’t believe he intended any offense. It was a freaking JOKE!! I’m not saying it’s okay to deliver hate-speeches or incite violence against groups, but do we honestly believe that audiences at comedy clubs are taking notes during the routine and forming an ethos? If that were the case, Hot Pockets would have gone out of business after Jim Gaffigan’s first comedy special. If you see people breaking off into discussion groups in the theater next time a Kevin James movie ends, then I stand corrected, but I really think most of us are grown-up enough to distinguish between comedy and real life. I think some people just feel better about their day if they find a "Cause" for which to stand up and make some noise, and if a real one doesn’t present itself, they happily manufacture one faster than Tom Ridge used to make up colors for the terrorism alert scale.
Here’s a novel idea, how about both sides just give it a rest? How about we start treating gay people no different than everyone else and stop trying to include special language in legislation aimed at keeping them in their place? And those of you on the other side, you’re not going to convince a religious person that being gay is okay, so stop trying. But maybe you can find some middle ground and point out that even if it is a sin or a crime, it’s a victimless one, so ask them to leave it alone and channel their righteous anger towards the real troublemakers, like Britney Spears and her darn wool-and-linen stage costumes!
Over the years, the hugely successful X-Men movie franchise has won over a lot of fans that had never read the original comic books, because they weren't nerds. Lots of new things were added for the movies, but a lot of ideas failed to catch on. After exhaustive research and talks with film industry insiders, I've compiled the following list of mutant superpowers that were pitched at meetings, but never made it past the editing room floor.
1. Super-fast laundry folding skill
2. Able to bludgeon enemies with nunchuks made out of live raccoons
3. Hair that stays in place on really windy days
4. Ability to turn wine into water
5. Voice that has soothing effect on jittery squirrels at the park
6. Ability to immediately tell actual insane people apart from people talking on their Bluetooth
7. Able to easily open factory-sealed CDs and over-the-counter medications without using teeth
8. Power to have a profitable career in showbiz despite having a face that looks like a foot. Wait, that was Sarah Jessica Parker.
9. Constant Chihuahua-like trembling
10. Professor G-spot
If you've heard of any that I failed to include, please add!
Today's guest blogger is comedian Matt Raymond
(as told to Jeff Gephart)
Unencumbered by facts or any sort of evidence whatsoever of any fires being started by Mexicans as they illegally cross the border, Senator John McCain still proceeded to use a public forum to put that very idea into people's heads. Come on, you might say, nobody outside of Arizona is impressionable (read: stupid) enough to take such ridiculous, fanciful rhetoric seriously! May I remind you that the good people of Minnesota have repeatedly elected a fake wrestler and then Michelle Bachmann to public office? Our neighbors in Chico, CA, have felt no need to amend the law that punishes the detonating of a nuclear device within city limits with a mere $500 fine. Also, recent studies suggest that almost 30% of people who live in Alabama are unaware that there is an “A-L-A” at the beginning of their state’s name. Okay, I made that last one up, but I digress.
I'm surprised McCain wasn't literally wearing a white hooded robe for the press conference. You can't help but think that the whole "losing an election to a black guy" thing may have brought that already simmering racism to a rolling boil which triggered his current intolerance for anybody with skin darker than Boo Radley’s. The funny part is, this is probably one of the least crazy theories he has floating around in that oddly shaped melon of his. I bet he putters around his house like all 109-year-olds do, convincing himself aloud that Mexicans are to blame for manufacturing AIDS, funding the terrorists (in Iran of course), the shooting of J.R., Hurricane Katrina, and for the inexplicable career of Sarah Jessica Parker.
I'm sure every Mexican sprinting for dear life across the border has felt the urge to stop and say, "Hey Juan, I know we’re both barefoot, dehydrated, and exhausted from being in this 130 degree heat, but let’s stop and make a fire, I want s’mores!" I’m assuming that in McCain’s epic delusions it must have been a wayward campfire because I doubt that even the most insolent arsonists have the means to carry a flame-thrower or a Webber propane grill with them on their illegal treks. You know what? If I lived there I would try to come here too. John McCain would probably try to run, jump, and swim his way across Hell’s decathlon field himself if he was a citizen of Mexico because in their world, the rampant poverty is interrupted only by the neighborhood drug cartels leaving severed heads lying around everywhere like they were lost kitten fliers. Think about it—if your dream destination was Ari-fucking-zona, how indescribably awful must the place you’re escaping from be?
Then of course when they do risk life and limb to get here they are hunted like rats by the CBP, not to mention J.T. Ready and his merry band of inbred Nazi whack jobs who use the movie “Predator” as an instructional film to teach their tow-headed Aryan offspring survival skills. (Cue the banjo music for this article...)
The sad thing is that all of this doesn’t surprise me very much. McCain is from Arizona, the state that fought against acknowledging Martin Luther King Day for over a decade, and only relented because the NFL refused to have the Super Bowl in their state until they did so. More recently, of course, the state of Goldwater implemented law SB 1070 (which I'm convinced was actually scribbled on a cocktail napkin by McCain, George W. Bush, and Archie Bunker over a long weekend of fishing, beer drinking, and Mexican teenager hunting). This law is written so poorly and vaguely that it basically gives law enforcement officials the right to interrogate anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally. All they have to do is "look" like an illegal alien. What special training course do they take that qualifies them to tell if a dark person is there illegally or not!? And is the course taught by that guy from “The Mentalist”? You mean to tell me that the average Arizona state trooper is somehow able to distinguish between an illegal landscaper and George Lopez? (To clarify that, I would have ZERO objections to George Lopez being deported. It would be even better if Carlos Mencia was deported, but as far as I know Arizona has no plans to deport Germans.)
The vast majority of immigrants—illegal or not—work hard and are otherwise good, honest people. It's not like they wouldn't go to the ticket counter and fill out a form if they had the option. The system is simply too complex and expensive for a large portion of these people. And what’s the harm, really? Some economists predict that without their real estate rent and sales tax revenue, some states could go bankrupt. (Hello, California.) Charges that they are coming to our country and "taking our jobs" and all that other nonsense they say at KKK meetings are about as realistic as claiming that Brooklyn Decker took my job as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model. Where’s the outcry against all those Norwegians coming over and taking our neurosurgeon jobs?
Arizona needs an intervention worse than Charlie Sheen needed someone to knock him out with a whiffle bat the week he thought his road show was a good idea. Mr. McCain, there are ways to handle immigration that don't involve violating basic human rights. Proper screening, better laws, a little common sense tolerance, and better leadership might just bring your state back from being the drunken Mel Gibson of the United States.
(Ed. note: Find MATT RAYMOND on facebook and twitter--he will make you feel less guilty about what a jerk you are.)
Summertime used to be a time to look forward to BIG things: gargantuan knuckle-draggers hitting baseballs into neighboring zip codes, new fashion trends that continually challenge existing definitions of female modesty, lavishly unaffordable concert tours by super-bands like the Rolling Stones, who began touring before there was sound, and of course the best of all--the traditional summer blockbuster at your local Cineplex.
The trouble, of course, is that the summer movies we used to look forward to have been replaced by titles that qualify as films only in the most technical sense—from the relentlessly unentertaining (The Green Hornet) to the I.Q. diminishing, soul-crushing scourges upon humanity that Michael Bay has made his calling card. The world needed another Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean movie about as much as Anthony Weiner needs another smart phone. Listen, when a commercial for an action movie (Drive Angry) makes you laugh so hard that you spew chocolate milk from your nose, isn’t it a sign that it’s finally time to take Nicolas Cage to the vet and have him put down? I mean, were they serious with this piece of poodle crap? Forget the grammatically impossible title, the movie’s tagline actually went: “Forgiveness Takes a Backseat,” and it was somehow read in the trailers without the narrator bursting into laughter.
You know things are bad when an insipid knee-to-your-brain’s-groin like “No Strings Attached” (which may well someday serve as Ludacris’s suicide note) is remade into “Friends With Benefits” before we’ve been able to ingest enough Kahlua to purge the first one from our memory. And now we’re supposed to get excited at the prospect of watching Van Wilder parade around in a goofy CGI underoos costume that looks like it’s an homage to the 1980s TV cult classic “Automan”? Puh-leez. At least we’ve got Kevin James’ surefire smash “The Zookeeper,” which is based on the hilarious and innovative concept that the animals in it talk. They talk—-the animals actually TALK!! Get out the needle and thread for my sides; I’ve never seen that twist attempted in a movie before, but it’s sure to make me LOL until I ROTF of the theater in all the filth that will probably give me HIV! And in case Transformers 7 doesn’t quite quench your appetite for ridiculous-looking robots beating the microchips out of each other, make sure to get in line for “Real Steel” which will attempt to pull a “Rocky” and inject tenderness and inspiration into a movie about robots hitting each other. It’s pretty clear that the reason we haven’t seen Evangeline Lilly since “Lost” went off the air is because she was waiting around for an absolutely perfect script like this one to come her way.
Watching movies like these is like sending your mind on a two-hour vacation to a sleazy strip club in New Jersey where only amputees and midgets work. These trite excuses for movies make the dirtbag Chicken McNugget philosopher on those McDonald’s commercials (“It’s the ping to the pong, the ding to the dong!”) look like Fareed Zakaria. Watching them is like basically admitting, "Alcohol consumption is taking far too long to destroy my brain; help me Jerry Bruckheimer!!"
Even as a self-proclaimed X-Men movie superfan, I have to admit the new one was a bit lacking in the old “Wow” department. It featured some stupefyingly unexciting new mutants, like a girl who hovers around like a mosquito waiting to have a shoe hurled at it, a guy who simply has hands for feet, and another guy whose superpower is the baffling ability to get killed ten minutes after he’s introduced. At least there was plenty of eye candy, including Mad Men’s January Jones, who continues to do her uncanny impression of a C3PO droid who had the spectrum of human emotions explained to her only seconds before cameras began rolling. But the best part for many fans was the cameo appearance by Hugh Jackman. Although with this summer’s dubious crop of movies, I can’t help but wonder if his one line in the movie was directed at Charles and Erik, or at us…
Is it possible that Harold Camping and his merry band of Family Radio space cadets, who were certain the world was going to end this week, had simply gotten God confused with Oprah?
It's not that far-fetched of an idea; a lot of folks have slurped down that Kool-Aid. But somehow, my life doesn't feel any different than it did last week, which will now be recorded in the annals of history as B.O. 2011. What will this brave new world of ours look like without Oprah telling us what to think and what to read and how awesome she is? Who will be on the cover of the next issue of "O" magazine? How is the next bumbling, overweight psychologist who steals ideas from savvy Texas businesswomen and passes them off as his own going to get his shot at national celebrity? It's anybody's guess.
Across the country, emotions seem to be running the gamut, from those proudly declaring that Oprah taught them how to live again, to the less confident, who are moaning, "How could she abandon us when we still need her so much?" (A phrase that--oddly enough--was never uttered in the state of Alaska when Politician Barbie jumped ship prematurely)
At least we will not be Oprahless for long. I hear she's taken over an entire television channel, which I desperately hope will be named the "O!" Channel (as in egO!). Her plans after the launch of the tv network have been kept under wraps, but sources have indicated that she may be scheming to take over the continent of Africa in order to do away with dreadlocks once and for all.
Interestingly, rumors have abounded that she lobbied hard to have her likeness carved into Mt. Rushmore, but when her pleas were rejected, she put a plan in motion to purchase the moon, send landscapers to it, and change the "Man in the Moon" to the "Oprah in the Moon." Now why didn't Michael Jackson think of that?
I'm not sure about any of that, but at least we can hope that the rumors are true that have Oprah bailing out the troubled Broadway production of the Spider-Man musical and getting it back on track. I have heard rumblings, however, that Bono and the Edge are unsure about the new artistic direction she wants to take with the show, and neither seems to be too enthused about the projected title: "The Phantom of the Oprah."
Take heart, friends...in the meantime, we always have "American Idol" to give meaning to our lives!
I had to look this up to confirm my eyes were not deceiving me. Are you aware that New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys have formed a supergroup, and they're going by this particular group of letters? I can't be the only one to notice the potential windfall of jokes this will inspire. Remember how haters and critics back when those groups were popular used to deride them by questioning their heterosexuality? Are they really setting themselves up for someone to notice that the letters stand for "New Kids On The Back Street Boys"? You gotta be kidding me.
1. Insultingly moronic commercials that post a ticking clock onscreen during the ad, claiming that you'll get some special offer if you call "within the next five minutes"! Does anybody fall for this garbage and think commercials are ACTUALLY broadcast live, and that they're watching how long it takes you to call in? Come on, even Michelle Bachman's supporters...wait, nevermind.
2. Pepsi Max. Tastes like regular pepsi......for the first three seconds.
3. Guys who take reading material with them into public restrooms.
4. Cate Blanchett
5. "The Wave" at sporting events. This lost its novelty by like 1987. Watch the f**ing game!!!
6. Whoever does the voice of Dora the Explorer.
7. Inspirational quotes that pretentious people attach as part of the signature on their pointless emails.
8. People who put photos of their pets on their Christmas cards. Good god, people.
9. iPhone commercials whose best tagline is, "If you don't have an iPhone...you don't have an iPhone." Wow, talk about peer pressure. I'm so out of the loop, no one will ever love me. Oh wait, I don't have an iPhone because I don't spend ungodly sums of money on things I don't want or need.
10. People who use those noise and air-polluting leaf blowers every mother-lovin' day to clear every leaf and diminutive scrap of nature from their lawns, even when their lawns are barely the size of a fat guy's moo-moo. If you loathe leaves to that insane degree...either get therapy, or use a lousy rake, for Pete's sake! I guess these are the same people who fire up the chainsaw every time they need to clip an Arby's coupon out of the paper. Why do something in a quiet, environmentally-conscious fashion when there's an opportunity to annoy the entire neighborhood?
So...what did I miss?
I recently had an experience that left me feeling bewildered, insulted, confused, and frustrated all at the same time. In other words, the exact feeling I had after watching the first episode of the “Paul Reiser Show,” but I digress. The experience I’m actually referring to involved the careless wielding of power without the application of common sense. I know, old story, so maybe you can relate.
I had the day off, and some friends texted me that a local restaurant was featuring a special on supremely cheap Sangria, and that I should come join them for one. I was on my way to practice my abysmal excuse for a golf swing, but clouds were rolling in, so I decided to stop off and join them while the weather gods decided to what degree they were going to screw with me. I had a sangria—actually two—and a plate of food with my friends when I decided the rain was going to hold off. One of my friends decided to join me, so left and spent the better part of an hour hitting more ground balls than J.D. Drew with runners on base, and generally making a mockery of the sport of golf. Then the rain came. Despite a nearby groundskeeper’s prediction that “the really heavy stuff won’t be coming down for quite some time” we opted to go back and have another Sangria.
It was about two sips into my drink (which, including the two I’d had an hour earlier was my third—count them, THIRD—drink) when the new bartender who was coming on to relieve the one who’d served me earlier informed me that she was no longer “allowed” to serve me. I was floored. I’m not going to pretend I’ve never been kicked out of a drinking establishment before, but this was the first time I’d ever been cut off while completely sober. First of all, my blood is Irish mixed with German, and second, a sangria—which you may or may not know—at its best contains about as much alcohol as a nun’s liver, and I daresay the ones they were selling on this day for 15 cents apiece had even less. Yep, 15 cents. My third glorified raspberry Kool-aid of the day, and this aspiring Columbo of a barmaid deduces that I’m too hammered to carry on.
When I realized she wasn’t joking, I asked her what I had done to give her the impression that I’d had too much. Mind you, in a curious rather than indignant way. So this lovely bartender, with hair like Farrah Fawcett circa 1979 and a body like a Delta Faucet circa 1953, played the innocent card and said it wasn’t up to her. Neverminding the fact that she hadn’t answered my question, now she was being evasive as to who made the call in the first place, if in fact such a call had actually been made. Then the previous bartender gets involved and says it’s not her fault either, that it’s out of their control. All she can do is let me talk to the manager if I liked. Yes, I say, I would like that. At this point, I’m dying of curiosity what on earth I’d done to offend these people. I had seen a balding, tie-sporting bozo wandering aimlessly around the bar, doing his best impression of David Koechner in the movie “Waiting,” but he hadn’t given the impression that my friends and I were even on his radar.
While I’m calmly waiting for someone to motion him over, the first bartender comes back and inexplicably fills up my drink for me. This, my friends, was as close to an admission of misjudgment as anyone in this hopeless establishment would offer during this whole sordid episode. I tried to explain that the drink itself was not the issue, that if I was that desperate for wine-flavored Gatorade I could just as easily ransack Kid Rock’s tour bus, but I was stymied again by no one willing to step up and admit it was their decision in the first place. All I wanted at this point was to be spoken to like a human being of equal value, but since I wasn’t among the few and the proud who could call themselves employees of this unparalleled pillar of culinary utopia, respect was apparently not on the menu.
By now I’m getting angry, as my inherent sense of fairness has been hopelessly ruffled, and who steps back in but the bartender with the Farrah hair, who at some point in her life had been misled to believe that she was attractive enough to treat men with scorn and get away with it. As I’m conversing with my friend and trying to make sense of this absurd situation, she decides to interrupt and suggest that I just “stop talking about it.” Don’t you love people who grow more didactic and tyrannical once they realized they’ve made a mistake, rather than just admitting to it? Works pretty well for Gaddafi. And Charlie Sheen. Although, come to think of it, I’m not 100% convinced they’re not the same person.
Anyway, I quickly realized that I was going to get no satisfaction in this particular establishment (okay, it was Paesano’s on Capitol, whose collection of derivative pop culture artwork adorning its walls does little to hide its fascist tendencies in dealing with its clientele), so I decided to give up. I didn’t go all Colin Farrel and make a scene, mind you, I just said goodbye to my friends and walked out. Trying to reason with someone who’s drunk on their own meager degree of power, after all, is like trying to explain to dumb people what the popularity of “Jersey Shore” says about the moral decay of our nation. So I left that place for the first and last time, feeling more depressed than anything else. Well, that and completely toe-up ripped from those two and a half sangrias. Sheesh. It’s a good thing I didn’t take a sip of Nyquil on my way out, or I’d have probably rammed my car into a school-bus full of children.
My point is, no matter how superior it makes you feel to be in a position of authority over someone else, it honestly won’t kill you to treat them with respect and talk to them like they’re a fellow human being. And please, if you’re feeling like a total loser because of the position or station you find yourself in, don’t take it out on strangers, just because you can. Reiser, I’m looking in your direction here.