Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Friday, April 29, 2005
Talking Monkey Goes Prime-Time
I'm a reasonable person, I think. I would not classify myself as a conspiracy-theory nutjob. I don't believe that the CIA is beaming signals into my brain. I don't believe that there is a group of seven bankers who control the world's finances. I think the Sasquatch and Loch Ness Monster pictures are crappy hoaxes.
But I am firm in my belief that George W. Bush wears a tiny speaker in his ear during press conferences and gets his answers fed to him.
I mean, listen to the man, for Christ's sake! He takes these Pinter-esque pauses wherein he stammers and uhhhs and ehhhs and then he comes out with these pre-digested sound bites, which he sometimes gets right and sometimes doesn't. He seems like a less-polished version of Bill Hurt in Broadcast News. Now, in a James L. Brooks comedy, it's hilarious when a handsome but vacant boob has to have someone tell him what to say, but that's not what I want in a chief executive. Unfortunately, the Democrats are all too happy to take the Albert Brooks part, sweaty and unappealing, providing no viable alternative to the amiable doofus we've got.
He sounded even worse in the scripted stuff he did earlier in the press conference, when he was reading his prepared shpiel on Social Security and energy policy, with the exception of a couple of sections that you could tell he'd done a hundred times while on his sixty-city trip to shore up support for his dumb-ass privatization idea. For most of that portion of the evening, he looked for all the world like a kid who hadn't prepared quite enough for his bar mitzvah, glancing down too much at his papers and narrowing his already beady eyes in discomfort.
Even if his handlers will trust him to read something sitting on a podium, though, they can't trust him to come up with answers off the top of his head to a range of questions from the White House Press Corps, especially when one or two of them didn't seem to be playing their normal game of non-competitive T-Ball with 43. David Gregory actually had the temerity to not let Bush off the hook when he failed to answer a question about the role of faith in politics. He didn't exactly bitch-slap poor W, but he did press a couple of times for a clearer answer, not that any were forthcoming.
In fact, Bush didn't say much of anything last night. He really showed why this was only the fourth press conference he's given in the entire time he's been in office. I was left wondering exactly why the hell he bothered with it. He had to scramble to get the networks to even give him coverage. Apparently, several networks balked at giving up space in their prime-time sweeps month schedule, which prompted the White House to change the time of the press conference from 8:30 to 8:00.
Can you blame the networks? This news conference told us nothing new. Bush got ever-so-slightly more specific about his Social Security proposal, adding the word "voluntary" to his privatized investment accounts idea and spouting something vague about promising that lower-income seniors being able to keep a higher percentage of their income, but he really didn't tell us anything new. If I was a network, I'd flip out that my viewing audience was going to miss the series finale of JAG.
'Cause, apparently, Harm and Mac finally get together. I've been hoping for this for so long.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
There's no such thing as an original thought, dammit.
I have had the experience, with Netflix, of ordering a movie because it achieved a lot of acclaim and because I thought I should see it, only to have it sit for a month or two gathering dust in front of my DVD player. I call such movies Broccoli Movies, because I never have any enthusiasm for them, even though I know they'll be "good for me."
Now, I find out that someone has coined the term Spinach Cinema. Well, you know what? I like spinach. Not cooked, of course, I'm talking fresh, well-washed spinach in a nice salad. Anyway, I like my term better, goddammit.
And while I'm talking about things DVD-related, I'm a little pissed because my three-year-old DVD player is not functioning. Every time I put a disc in, it makes a pathetic, gasping attempt to get things going, then flashes a No Disc message on the read-out and an Insert Disc message on the TV screen. Not happy, especially because I'm trying to be a good husband and tape shows for my wife, who is working incredibly long hours right now and deserves to relax with something she enjoys when she gets home. These are shows that I don't want to watch. In fact, I have a very strong feeling that, if I were to watch these shows, I might end up doing violence to someone. Not that they're bad shows or anything, they're just not...for guys.
The point here is that I need the DVD player to work so I can watch a movie while my honey's shows are recording.
So I hopped on line and went to Sony's tech support site, where "Sam", the ever-so-helpful customer service fella looked deep into his technological manuals and then suggested that I unplug it for a few minutes and, if that didn't work, that I blow on it. They're really scraping the bottom of the barrel with their tech support folks. I suggested that "Sam" plug something up his ass and then blow himself and I resigned myself to watching a Very Special Episode of Felicity.
Summer Movie Preview, Part III
Time to wrap up our preview of the cinematic masterpieces heading your way this summer. Before we get going, though, I wanted to give voice to one complaint that's sort of been festering inside of me for a few days now. A Lot Like Love only did $7.58 million on its opening weekend. What the heck is wrong with America? Ashton Kutcher doesn't put movies out every day, folks, so when he does, we need to treat it like something special. This one's got Amanda Peet, for Pete's sake! (Oh, goodness, I'm sorry. I hadn't actually meant to make a joke there, especially when I'm so deadly serious about this subject, but now that I've made it, I can see the humor in her name.) Anyway, I just hope that Ashton doesn't get the idea that we don't like him or something. Now, on to July and August.
The Island: Have you ever wanted to clone Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson? Well, so has Michael Bay! Now, the director of Bad Boys II and The Rock looks at the morality of genetics. Now, in case you're thinking, "Oh no! That sounds more like an art house movie than the kind of thrill-ride I've come to expect from the genius behind Armageddon!" don't you worry. Even with the serious subject matter and weighty philosophical questions, I have a sneaking hunch that Mr. Bay will still find a way to blow one or two things up.
Dark Water: When bad things happen, it's a shame. When they happen to really attractive people, it's even worse. Which is why I'm not sure I'll be able to sit through this adaptation of a Japanese horror movie that stars that loveliest of starlets, Jennifer Connelly. As much as I love the red hot Formerly-Japanese-Now-American-Horror-Movie genre, I just might be too scared to watch the story of a single mother whose new apartment just might be haunted...by water. I get the shivers even thinking about it. Moisture can just be so creepy.
Bad News Bears: You know what I hate? I hate when movies get old and I don't recognize the people in them. For example, who the heck is Walter Matthau? I don't know a thing about him, except that I don't think he was ever married to Angelina Jolie. Fortunately, someone decided that the movie he did a long time ago about a crotchety guy who's forced to coach a little league team could be re-done with someone who was married to A.J. (and I'm claiming credit for this clever new nickname for her!) So, this one is kind of like The Mighty Ducks, but with baseball instead of hockey.
The Pink Panther: Speaking of re-making movies with people I've actually heard of, I can finally enjoy this one, now that they've gotten rid of that Peter Spellers guy. And what, I ask you, is funnier than a Steve Martin movie? Nothing, that's what. This one also reunites the dynamic comic duo of Jean Reno and Kevin Kline, who tickled our funny bones and warmed our hearts in French Kiss. Hey! Two movies set in France? I'm thinking Reno and Kline might be part French themselves!
The Dukes of Hazzard: Re-makes of old television shows have long been providing movie-going audience with high-quality entertainment, but this one looks to set the bar just a little bit higher. When the source material is as rich as this TV classic and you throw in the phenomenal acting chops of Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson, can the Best Picture Oscar be far behind? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm pretty sure this "little film that could" is going to be taking that golden statue home next spring.
The Skeleton Key: I love Kate Hudson. I've got a Kate Hudson screen saver, a Kate Hudson bobble head in my car and even a custom-made pair of Kate Hudson pajamas. Still, I'm a little dubious about the Hud-one veering sharply away from the romantic comedies she's so effortlessly mastered. Still, if you're going to do a thriller, there's not much scarier than the idea of a key made out of a skeleton. All right, I guess I'm sold.
Now, as I've said before, this is just a tiny, tiny sample of all the fantastic entertainment that's heading your way during the dog days. Believe it or not, I've only just scratched the surface. You can do your own investigating by going to your local library and asking them how to get to the nearest magazine stand, where you can pick up the latest issue of People, which never fails to direct movie-goers to the best in cinema through their always accurate, frequently hilarious Pics & Pans column.
However you get to the theater this season, enjoy!
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Aries: You need to ask yourself if breast implants are the wisest way to start experimenting with plastic surgery. Shouldn't you start with something smaller, like anal bleaching?
Taurus: Seeing as how you're not in the Senate, you can go ahead and filibuster all you want and I don't think anybody's really going to care.
Gemini: You're not a panther.
Cancer: Covering your genitals with frosting could be considered sexy, under certain circumstances, but since you're single and not sleeping with anybody, it's just kind of gross.
Leo: The urge to travel is very strong in you today, Leo. So is the urge to drink until you puke. Guess which one you're going to do?
Virgo: Yes, caramel corn is delicious. However, eating nothing else for a month is not quite the miracle diet you seem to think. Have a salad.
Libra: Fight against your instincts; your blind date will not go better once you start talking in a "funny Chinese" accent.
Scorpio: In search of culture, you decide that today is an excellent day to go to a museum. The good people at Madame Tussaud's thank you for your patronage.
Sagittarius: Today, as everything you do seems to go wrong, you begin to suspect that there's something off about the Feng Shui in your pants.
Capricorn: You're a little bit country. You're a little bit rock-n-roll. Mostly, though, you're polka. Loud, obnoxious polka.
Aquarius: Despite your most fervent wishes, your job is not going to be rained out today. You're a CPA. So haul your ass out of bed.
Pisces: Potential employers will not be impressed that you won the Wet T-Shirt Contest at Hooters Amateur Night. You probably should take it off of your resume. Unless you're applying to Hooters.
Summer Movie Preview, Part II
Well, we started yesterday taking a look at some of the fantastic movies coming this summer to a theater near you. Actually, some of these are probably coming to every theater near you. And to multiple screens inside those theaters. That's because there are certain movies (and I won't name names here, but let's just say that a good example rhymes with Bar Mores: Syringe of the Pith) that the studios know everyone wants to see. What, then are there options? Making people wait until a show isn't sold out? Having the movie-going public see a film across a long period of time and thus spreading the box office receipts over several months instead of all in one weekend? Nope! Not good enough for the generous, thoughtful men and women (sorry, woman) who run our nation's movie studios. To guarantee that you can see the Big Movies when you want to see them, they make sure that their films show every ten minutes at any one of the Super-Multi-Plexes near you. You gotta love those guys! Anyway, on with the movies that you won't have to wait on line to see this June:
Cinderella Man: Russell Crowe is back and his hair is dyed! And if that's not enough to have you clicking your way toward Fandango.com for advanced tickets, get a load of the story: Crowe plays a down-on-his luck family man during the depression who has to box his way to glory to put food on the table. This one's already being hailed by critics as "Like Seabiscuit, but with a dude instead of a horse." This one also stars Renee Zellweger, who I absolutely love. I think she's better in movies the skinnier she is. I can usually accurately measure the quality of a Zellweger movie by how many of her ribs I can see. Based on previews, this one looks like an Eight-Ribber!
War of the Worlds: Don't look now, but Tom Cruise is getting ready to destroy the planet! No, it's not part of some Scientological conspiracy. (As far as I'm aware.) Rather, Cruise is teaming up with his buddies Steven Spielberg and Tim Robbins--Academy Award-winners all (except Cruise)--to adapt the classic H.G. Wells novel for the big screen! The good news for those of us who are confused and angered when movies don't take place in our current time, Cruise and Company have moved the story from 19th Century England to modern-day America. I'm guessing that Mr. Cruise feels that he's more than mastered the period movie, what with Far and Away and Interview with the Vampire. Whenever he is, though, I'm sure that Tom will be H.G. Wells-tastic!
Herbie--Fully Loaded: I don't know about you, but I just can't get enough of Lindsay Lohan. I sometimes can't remember who she is exactly, the gal from Lizzie Maguire or the kid from Saved by the Bell, but whichever one she is, I love her! You couple that with the return of one of the greatest characters to every grace the silver screen and you'll have to drag me away from the theater with a team of really strong horses! This one also has Breckin Meyer, star of two of my favorite sitcoms, Inside Schwartz and Married to the Kellys (I can not get enough of the Irish jokes.)
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: I have long been of the opinion that there just aren't enough movies about articles of clothing. I, for one, thought that Cold Mountain would have been a lot better if it had focused a little less on the love story and a little more on the aprons. This one is based, I have learned through painstaking research, on a young-adult novel very popular with teenage girls. Makes sense to me. Girls love to travel, girls love pants. This one's got it all! You go, girl's pants!
Howl's Moving Castle: Here's one for the entire family. It's a sumptuously animated cartoon from the director who brought you 2002's Spirited Away. Now, I didn't see that one. It actually looked a little too gay for me. But I heard it was great. And this one promises more of the same, but this time with the voice of Billy Crystal!
Tomorrow: July and August!
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Summer Movie Preview, Part I
The Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview came out last week and I can honestly say I haven't been this excited about a summer full of films in years. I'm not just talking about the big films, like Batman Begins or Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, that the entire world has heard of and awaits with baited breath. I'm talking about some smaller films of which I'd been completely unaware until EW opened my eyes...and my heart. Here's a run-down of what's on the cineplexion horizon:
Monster-in-Law: Apparently, Jane Fonda isn't quite as dead as I'd thought she was. And the even better news is that someone had the smarts to say, "Jane Fonda isn't dead? Well put her in a movie with J-Lo!" I know everyone is as concerned as I am with the trauma Jenny has had with her love life through the years. Now, she's done a film about it and it turns out the problem has been with her boyfriends' mothers. Who knew?
Jiminy Glick in Lalawood: Oh boy! When Comedy Central canceled Martin Short's hilarious program about an annoying fat guy a couple of years back, I was absolutely panicked that I'd never see the character again. Thankfully, I can take my head out of the oven at last, as Short has put together an entire feature-length movie about Jiminy bothering people! You might think it's silly of me, but I'm down on my knees praying that Short does some of that hilarious dancing he's so good at. It just never gets old.
Kingdom of Heaven: I was pretty sure Ridley Scott was spending all of his time working on NUMB3RS. Have you seen this? It's the riveting television drama about an FBI agent who sometimes (by which I mean every episode) has to call in his brother who's good with math. You'd have thought that it'd be tough to make math interesting or dramatic. But anyway, it looks like Mr. Scott found enough time in his schedule to helm a movie about the Crusades. And it stars Orlando Bloom! Yay! So often with these historic epics, they just throw in any old generic actor and let the period costumes be the star. But not this time! Orlando's going to make religious war pretty!
House of Wax: A horror re-make? Hurrah! Wait, wait...it stars two of my absolute favorite, incredibly talented teen actors, Elitha Cushbert and Murray Chad Michael? Wow! Hold on...it's also got...Paris Hilton!?! This is going to be soooo good! Man, after I saw the incredible range Paris displayed during her guest host stint on SNL, I was wondering when someone'd get around to casting her in a movie. The guessing's over. I'm betting she's so good that the entire audience will be caught up in what's happening to her character and not simply thinking, "That's the skank who I saw blowing that guy in the grainy night-vision video. What's she doing on screen?"
Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: I don't know why people have been complaining so much about the last few Star Wars movies. For my money, George Lucas just keeps getting better and better as a writer and director. And this is it, guys. After this, there are no more new Jedi flicks. So I think we all need to put aside our differences and just treasure this one. Hold it close to our hearts. Nurture and love it. Just the way it is.
Wow. All that good stuff, and that's just May! I guess I'll have to come back to the rest of the summer later, because I just don't have room in one little post to fit everything.
Monday, April 25, 2005
I've been spending a lot of time in bookstores lately, for some reason and I've been seeing a lot of good stuff in the Humor section. Here's some of the best jokes I've come across:
from Theater History Funnies by Oscar Brockett
Crown of squirrels!
from The Wit and Wisdom of Tom DeLay
How many activist judges does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Two. One to screw in the lightbulb and the other to overstep the boundaries of the judiciary and unilaterally legislate their beliefs.
from The Big Book of Cannibal Humor
Two cannibals walk into a bar. The first one sniffs the air and says, "Hey! It smells like Missionary in here." The second one goes, "Okay, who belched?"
from The Depressingly True Joke Book
Why did George W. Bush cross the road?
Because he'd already fucked things up enough on this side.
from 1001 Jokes for Diplomats
How do you disarm a Syrian?
Push for freer elections and a more representative form of government, thus eliminating the need for armed insurrection.
from Dennis Miller's Rants, Volume 4803
And now Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster if the 5% of Bush's nominees who they didn't pass come to the floor again. Listen, if I wanted to hear a Democratic senator talk nonstop, I'd just ask Teddy Kennedy to list all the Delta Gamma Delta gals he's banged in the last thirty years...Y'know, because he's promiscuous? He has a lot of sex outside of marriage? So, so he'd be talking for a long-- Is this thing on?
from How to Make Fun of Dick Cheney by Walter Cronkite
What's the difference between Dick Cheney and a baboon's ass?
Some people think baboons' asses are cute.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Sports of All Sorts
Today, my wife and I were out and about, looking for something nice to do on a Sunday afternoon. We went down to Union Square, because my wife thought there was a farmers' market on weekends. Turns out it's most every day except Sundays. Then we went to Chelsea to check out the galleries, but found every single one of 'em closed because of Passover. So, as we were in Chelsea, I suggested that we take a look at Chelsea Piers.
For anyone who doesn't live here, Chelsea Piers is a huge sports complex. Seriously, they've got everything. Bowling, skating rink, driving range, butt aerobics, etc. I hadn't been in a batting cage in about twenty-five years, so we bought a few tokens and tried it out.
It was fucking awesome. I suck, but it was awesome anyway. I haven't played baseball since high school and I was a third-string right fielder even then, but I love the sport. My swing was a bit rusty. I'm talking broken down Chevy sitting out in front of an Indiana trailer rusty. And, strangest thing, I started off relatively strong, missing on only a couple of pitches, then I got progressively worse. My wife, on the other hand, looked like Babe Ruth's re-animated corpse on Codeine at first, but, after practice, started hitting like Babe Ruth's re-animated corpse on steroids.
The point is, I had a great time and I wanted to keep going. It got me wanting to do something active on a regular basis. The question then becomes: What is it that I can do at least several times a week that will keep my interest while keeping me fit? I've got the list narrowed down somewhat.
Four-square: In elementary school, I was actually pretty damned good at four-square. I was usually able to put a pretty good spin on the ball and take out even the most wily opponents. The problem here is that I don't have two friends who can be in the number two and three squares and help me gang up on whoever's in the fourth.
Ultimate Frisbee: I love frisbee. Love it. And it's one sport at which I've got to say I'm pretty good. I have good aim and I can usually put some pretty good distance on the thing, too. There are Ultimate Frisbee leagues all over the place. Unfortunately, I'm old. The one time I tried playing Ultimate--a game that never fucking stops moving--I was left so winded they had to hook me up to an oxygen tank on the sidelines. I like the game, but I hate feeling quite that pathetic.
Swimming: I like swimming. I love being in the water. But most health clubs in New York have a set limit on how much back hair one can have and still be allowed into the pool. Being half-Sasquatch, they won't let me within a hundred yards of the shallow end, for fear I'm going to clog their precious filter.
Softball: This is, again, a sport that I love, even if I'm not very good at it. The problem with this is that you generally have to play in a league. You can't just kind of show up at a softball field with your sad little mitt and say, "Can I play?" Corporations have softball teams. Bars have softball teams. I'm not the corporate type and I don't hang out in bars, so I'm snake-eyes on that one.
Kayaking: Kayaking kicks ass. It's a great workout (at least for your upper body; it basically leaves your legs the same pasty, mushy things they were before you started, but it's great for arms) and it's on the water, which, as I've said, I love. However, I live in New York City. I don't have room in my apartment for a kayak, unless we keep it in the bed with us. And the only places I could use it on a daily basis would be the East River or the Hudson. I believe there's about two used diapers per gallon of water in both those rivers, so I'm not exactly eager to spend time in either.
Fencing: I've taken a fencing class in the past. It's a lot of fun. Also, if you get really good, you could potentially kill somebody, providing you have a sword handy and they aren't carrying a handgun. The problem with this sport is that giant strainer they have you wear over your face. It's not that it's uncomfortable or anything, it's just that I'm always paranoid that the person I'm fencing against is making faces at me under theirs.
Tai Chi: ...no. There's no way I can do this. I just have no desire to move that slowly in a park. People doing Tai Chi always look like they're line dancing to a funeral dirge.
See, there's just no perfect sport for me. I guess I'll stay fit the same way I've been doing it for years: pissing on strangers' shoes on the street and then running like fucking crazy.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Why Drug Companies Suck So Very Much
When I think of the truly awful, malevolent, soul-crushing forces at work in this country, pharmaceutical companies are right at the top of my list. When I write my brilliant paranoid action-thriller screenplay, a pharmaceutical company will be the villain. When I see lawsuits being filed against huge pharmaceutical companies, I smile and hope that they bankrupt the bastards.
"But why?" you might very well ask. "How can you harbor so much bile against the people who have worked, and continue to work, to cure disease and improve so many lives?" And I understand why these questions might be raised. I, too, have seen the commercials in which the Huber-sincere chemist tearfully explains that the fight against Alzheimer's is very personal for them and that they hope to someday find a cure and dedicate it to their late grandma, who passed away five years ago from the disease. I've heard, as well, the pharmaceutical companies spew forth their rationale for charging outrageous fees for AIDS drugs, reminding us that their ongoing research and development is incredibly expensive and must be funded somehow.
I don't buy any of that, though. Because I was on Accutane.
In my teenage years, to the best of my recollection, I had fairly normal teenage skin. My acne wasn't too horrible. I had the occasional zit-popping session in the bathroom mirror, but nothing that bad. Until I got to college. Once there, I developed some pretty bad blemishes. Not your average, run-of-the-mill pimples, but huge mothers. I had this one about the size of a Jelly Belly that seemed to migrate from one side of my face to the other. I also got big ol' zits on my chest, which could be somewhat painful from time to time.
My dad, who had suffered from really awful acne when he was younger, wanted to spare me what he'd gone through, so, since I was still covered by his insurance, my folks took me to a dermatologist in Boardman, Ohio. This guy's office was hopping. Always a whole bunch of people waiting and usually nothing to read except friggin' Highlights.
The first time he saw me, I was called into an examination room after a forty-five minute wait and then sat there with my shirt off for another quarter of an hour before he came in. I don't remember him asking any questions of me. He gave me the briefest of once-overs, prodding me briefly and then leaving. Before he left, he muttered something about putting me on a medication.
My mother got the prescription filled and I took the pills back with me when I went back to school. The package itself kind of raised my eyebrow. It was a box of two dozen pills, each sealed beneath a foil layer, a plastic peel-back layer and a padlock. Over each pill, there was a picture of a pregnant woman with a circle around her and a line through, which I took to mean that I shouldn't get any women pregnant, because our baby might be born with my horrific skin.
The pills were, evidently, very strong. They dried my skin out. Like, mummy dry. My lips became a little strip of Sahara on my face. If I didn't keep them slathered with Vaseline Lip Therapy, I had a hard time opening my mouth wide enough to eat. I suffered a good number of the side effects listed on the box: mood swings, rectal bleeding, all that sort of fun stuff.
I tried to raise these concerns when I would go in for check-ins with my dermatologist. The thing is, he never actually stayed in the room long enough for me to ask him anything. He would come in and look me over for, literally, thirty seconds, grunt and leave. I think I actually managed to raise a question about the rectal bleeding once. He said something along the lines of "No you're not" and left.
I was on these fucking pills for, if I remember correctly, about five months. When I was about four months in, I was so miserable that I went to another dermatologist for a second opinion. He asked me what I was on and I said Accutane and he did sort of a shudder take. He asked me how often my doctor was taking blood samples and I said, "...blood samples?" Apparently, this Accutane shit was supposed to be used only as a last resort, after everything else had failed. Your doctor was supposed to take blood samples before, during and after treatment and carefully monitor the effects this medicine was having on you. Apparently, my dermatologist was not exactly following protocol.
I opted not to stop taking the pills, as I'd already put in so much time and I only had a month or so to go. But it pissed me off. And I wondered why he immediately put me on this medicine. I wondered why he never bothered to do any of the things he was supposed to do. The best I could figure, and I admit that this is not giving him the benefit of the doubt, was that he was receiving some kind of kickback from the drug's manufacturer and he was putting his kids through college by prescribing Accutane for anybody he could.
A few years ago, a kid flew a plane into a building in Florida. His family says he was on Accutane. I've seen, in the last year or so, ads on the subway for ambulance-chasing law firms looking for former Accutane-takers to join a class-action lawsuit. And I have to wonder how much of my depression in college was heightened by this shit. Would the zits have gone away without it? Would I have been a little less morose and gotten laid more?
This is why, when I see commercials for drugs on television; when I read about drug companies fighting against seniors getting their drugs at a discount from Canada; when I see one miracle drug after another being pulled off the market because it kills people, it reaffirms for me the fact that pharmaceutical companies are evil, evil buckets of bile. Which is why I suggest sick people should just drink some tea.
Friday, April 22, 2005
In a Handbasket
Ever watch The Omen? There were actually three of 'em. I remember them pretty well, which is odd, because I was a cowardly kid and I tended to not watch a lot of scary movies unless I had the Mad Magazine parody with me so I could read ahead and know what to expect and also to make sure I didn't take it too seriously. Anyway, the first one you probably know, because that's the one everyone saw, with the creepy, suicidal nanny and all. The second one had the kid at a boarding school, because that's pretty evil. That one had a guy getting done in by a ruptured elevator cable. The third one, though, is the one that's on my mind lately. In the third one, Damien is grown up to become Sam Neill. Damien is a politician of some sort and he manipulates things to become President of the United States, thus ensuring a dark, dark age of evil.
This one is the one that I've been thinking about because I take a look around me lately and I think, "Hey...Bush sort of looks like Sam Neill. Logically, there's no fucking way he should be in the White House, so I guess his being Satan would explain things." Which means that we're living right now in that age of evil that 20th Century Fox predicted so long ago.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Surviving Ben Affleck
Dear fucking God, why won't Ben Affleck just go away?
Apparently, he's now engaged to Jennifer Garner. He proposed to her at her 33rd birthday party last week. Nice going, dickhead; way to make your girlfriend's birthday all about you. Selfish git.
The reasons why this marriage is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord and must not be allowed to happen are legion. Let's start with the fact that this union greatly increases the chances of a Daredevil II. Brrrrr. Sends shivers of fear up and down my spine. A sequel to that craptacular cinematic abortion isn't the only reason to fear this coupling. I mean, any publicity for Affleck increases his chance of continued work as an actor and that's just a crying shame. Any job that Affleck gets is another part that C. Thomas Howell doesn't get. And Howell is hungry, man. He's probably living off potatoes that fall off the truck at this point.
Then there's the fact that I actually kind of like Jennifer Garner. I don't watch her TV show and I can't recall any movies I've seen her in beyond her high-priced hooker cameo in Catch Me If You Can and that Big rip-off she did, in which she played that character who was a magazine writer in the same way that the mannequins on Melrose Place worked at an ad agency--vaguely. But as much as I was not thrilled with that movie, I thought she was appealing. If, however, she actually walks down the aisle and accepts a ring from that talentless piece of roach shit, I'll have no choice but to assume she's a flea-brained dipshit. And I don't want to think that. I really don't.
Here's the thing: after the whole J-Lo debacle, when Affleck was at his absolute nadir, appearing on television with five days beard-growth and kind of nodding his head when people automatically laughed at him for his public misfortune, he was a little easier to not hate quite as much. See, that's the direction I think he needs to go with his public persona. He needs to be the loser, the butt of jokes, the pathetic schmuck who has to sit there while people make fun of him. That's the only role I think he'd excel in. He needs to go on Letterman and just sort of grin and bear it while Dave says, "So, those transexual Siamese twins you were caught paying to blow you...do you stay in touch?"
Or else he needs to go Fat Elvis on us and just become bloated and eccentric. I think I could put up with him if he waddled down the red carpet in a muu-muu with a Colt revolver strapped around his waist eating pork rind soup out of a thermos. Hell, I might even go see Surviving Christmas III if it starred the guy who did that.
But a happy, married, smug Ben Affleck who takes himself seriously enough that he thinks he can act? An Affleck settled down into married life with Jennifer Garner, making more and more shit-sucking Jack Ryan movies? An Affleck who studios let direct? This I cannot take.
And so I'm starting a fund. I want to raise money to someday hire transexual Siamese twin hookers to let themselves be filmed blowing Ben Affleck. Who's with me?
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Aries: You have trouble convincing anyone that the new pope is, in fact, the tool of Satan and will bring about the apocalypse. That's because you're absolutely mistaken. The real tool of Satan is Michael Bay and he won't be bringing about the apocalypse for another fifteen years, when he attempts a remake of Citizen Kane.
Taurus: The fact that you're camping out in front of a theater in order to be among the first to see Revenge of the Sith is not the scariest thing about you. The scariest thing is that you're trying to pick up women after spending a shower-less week in a home-made Jango Fett costume.
Gemini: Your sexy plan to put a condom on your boyfriend with your teeth will work better when you don't do it in the back seat of a cab with bad shocks.
Cancer: No matter what your dipshit psychiatrist is telling you, mental illness is sexy, Cancer. Flaunt it!
Leo: You are not Johnny Cash. You don't sound a thing like him. So please, please, please stop singing "I Walk the Line" on the bus.
Virgo: Romance beckons, Virgo. Venereal disease beckons, too, and they look a lot alike, so take care.
Libra: Your Libran hunger for balance is upset today by the half-dozen shots of Jager you just downed.
Scorpio: Your idea to market a soy-based Matzo substitute? Probably not going to make you rich this Passover season. Or next Passover season. Or ever.
Sagittarius: Wax paper and hot glue are just not adequate tools to make pants, Sagittarius.
Capricorn: This week, Capricorn, you're feeling a strange compulsion to share your buttocks with the world. Resist the urge, my friend. The world is not yet ready for them. Give it time. Give it time.
Aquarius: You're feeling tremendous guilt this week, Aquarius, for having allowed peer pressure to make you vote for Ratzinger when, in your heart, all you were hearing was "Martini! Martini! Martini!" Time will salve this wound, my sweet, saddened cardinal.
Pisces: Remember the old saying, "Good deodorant makes for good neighbors"? No? That's because I just made it up to tell you to wear some fucking deodorant, Pigpen.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Arrivederci Joseph Ratzinger! Buon Giorno Pope Benedict XVI!
That's right! The sexy cardinal with all the 'tude is now the baddest pontiff of all time! He's as holy as he wants to be! Stop! Pope Time! Do do do-do, do-do, do-do. Can't bless this!
Pope Benny promises to take everything you loved about J.P. and kick in the afterburners! This pope will be taking no shit off of no body. But who is this mysterious man behind the raiment? We at Hairshirt wanted to know, so we paid an eensy little bribe to our inside man in the College of Cardinals and he made sure that the first thing His Holiness did as pope was to fill out the Hairshirt Questionnaire. So here is the inside skinny, straight from the pontiff's mouth.
Name: Pope Benedict XVI. Pope, baby! Yeah! In your face, Archbishop Martini!
Nicknames: Cardinal Sin, Joey Bighat, Rat Singer.
Hobbies: Blessing things; Thai cooking; hand-made candles; Jeet Kune Do.
Favorite Song: MacArthur Park. (The Donna Summer version.)
Last Good Book Read: The Bible. (Duh!)
Pet Peeves: Fags; nuns who don't know their place; Satan; Muslims (so not a real religion); undercooked steak; when things aren't gilded enough; underwear that rides up; old guys who take forever to die so that younger guys have to wait to start really cool jobs.
If I could be anybody in the world, I'd be...: Pope, dude!
I have never...: Had sex. But I've heard all about it and I've got a lot of really strong opinions on the subject, which I think you're going to find interesting.
Turn-offs: Ignorant muhfuhs who don't speak Latin; giggly girls.
Some day I want to...: Be pope! Yeah! Yeah!
There you have it. Pope Benny sounds like he's gonna be one partyin' pontiff. Go Catholics! It's your birthday! Gonna party like it's your birthday!
Sunday, April 17, 2005
White Man Speak With Forked Tongue
Listening to NPR this morning, I heard a story about a tribe in Washington State that's manufacturing their own cigarettes. Intrigued, I did a little investigating and discovered that cigarettes are just the tip of the iceberg.
I called an old friend of mine, Mike Running Deer, who's a member of the Okanagan tribe, and he filled me in on the details of what appears to be a major expansion of Indian business ventures, taking the tribes beyond the success they've enjoyed with their casinos. This spring will mark the debut in stores all over the west coast of the tribe's Complete brand of low-cost cigarettes. Complete will be attractively packaged, appealing to both the frugality and the aesthetics of whites. "We hope to create a hundred-thousand new white smokers per annum," Mike said, "that's why we're putting John Wayne right on the package. White guys love him."
Additionally, the tribe is busy test-marketing a high-fat mayonnaise. Mike tells me this mayonnaise is creamier and more flavorful than any brand currently on the market. "Yeah, there's people out there looking for healthier food, but what Caucasian is going to be able to resist smearing something this tasty on their BLT?"
Mike seems to feel, though, that sales of the cigarettes and the mayonnaise combined won't equal half of the profit the tribe's going to see when their new wine box hits the market. "Well, again," he says, "you guys are all about the bargains and this new five-gallon wine box is going to deliver that in spades. We're aiming for the stupid college binge-drinkers who want to be a trifle more sophisticated than their beer-drinking buddies. Low-cost, high-alcohol concentration. Should be a huge, huge hit."
Finally, Mike says, the tribes are going to be opening a discount clothing store, in direct competition to giant Old Navy. They expect to do a brisk business in blankets, especially. When asked if any of the blankets would be infected with small-pox, Mike turned cagey, saying, "I guess we'll have to wait and see, won't we?"
"The bottom line," he continued, "is that we're serving a need. It's not like we're getting you guys hooked on unhealthy stuff, we're just going to provide what you already want."
The tribe figures that, if sales reach expected levels, Caucasian life-expectancy should be cut by ten years, at least. "Not that that's our goal or anything. I mean, we love you guys. You've done so much for us."
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Aries: Yes, ketchup is delicious, but putting it in your coffee is just not socially acceptable.
Taurus: Beware the color yellow. It's not any sort of harbinger of evil or anything, it's just all wrong for your skin tone.
Gemini: The stars indicate a lot of Kelsey Grammer in your immediate future. Take that for what you will.
Cancer: A light-hearted spring picnic goes tragically awry this week when you accidentally set your blanket down on a sunbathing 87-year-old and fail to notice until half-way through your baked bean course.
Leo: This week, you are stunned by the sudden revelation that French fries don't taste nearly as good when re-heated. You're pretty easily stunned, it should be noted.
Virgo: Your purchase of the dress Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz is thwarted by a nearly-rabid Richard Simmons. Trust me, you really don't want to know what he's doing with it.
Libra: A friend you haven't seen in twenty years manages to track you down this week. Apparently, you still owe him five bucks, and he's pissed.
Scorpio: This week, Scorpios may find their minds overrun with thoughts of starting a family, to the point where they're looking to steal any child they see, so everybody watch out for these crazy bastards.
Sagittarius: This week, you run a serious risk of demonic possession. If this happens, do not panic. Simply go to the nearest video store and rent an Ed Burns movie, then come home, put it in the DVD player and sit down. Generally speaking, the demon will become so enraged by trying to figure out how this hack could appeal to anyone, let alone respected critics, that they'll storm out of your house and return to the fiery depths.
Capricorn: Just because you can wear the outfit you wore to your high school prom, does it really mean you should? Parachute pants are most definitely not making a comeback.
Aquarius: Spritzing yourself with Febreeze is not the wonderful alternative to bathing that you seem to think it is.
Pisces: This week, you find Christ. Then it's his turn to cover his eyes and count to twenty while you hide. Christ is just so much fun to play with!
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Only 1300 Shopping Days Left...
News today about Republican strategist Arthur Finkelstein, who has started a group called Stop Her Now, aimed at derailing a presidential run by Senator Hillary Clinton in 2008. Meanwhile, debate rages among Democrats about who the party's strongest candidate is going to be. There are those that would like to see Al Gore take another shot after the debacle that was the 2000 election. Many feel that John Edwards is far too ambitious to go back to private life after his failed 2004 veep run. Then there are perennial candidates Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt, who some Democrats feel are still viable options. Others feel that the party needs to go with fresher blood, like that of junior senator Barak Obama. Obama's detractors feel that he'll still be too new on the national political seen in the next election and should wait for 2012. There are even those in the party who think a popular political neophyte, perhaps a Hollywood actor like Alec Baldwin, should step up and put their money where their mouth is.
My feeling on all of this is...
IT'S FUCKING 2005! We just goddamn had an election! Why in the name of ping pong playing Christ is there any speculation about the next presidential election?
Are there not things that need to be done right here and now? Are there seriously people out there who are thinking, "Well, everything's running smoothly. Let's start worrying about someone who won't take office for almost four fucking years." This is basically like taking some time to plan what you're going to make for dinner tomorrow when you're in the middle of a car crash.
The Democrats need to be spending every second they have, every ounce of energy in their bodies, to stop President Chumbucket from moving forward on any one of the thirty or forty horrible ideas he's trying to implement. 'Cause you know who I'm going to vote for in 2008? I'm going to vote for anyone who does their best to minimize the damage caused by that twangy bastard. Don't tell me how you're going to fix things when you take over the oval office. Tell me what you're going to do right now to stem the tide.
This is where we're at in American politics. Both sides are too goddamn busy worrying about their own asses to remove their heads from them. The only thing that counts is getting elected and then re-elected and then re-elected and so on. Here's some advice: show some goddamn backbone, do the job we send you to do and then you won't have to fucking worry about being re-elected, because we'll actually want you to stick around.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
I've got this problem. (Actually, I think I've said before that what I have is basically a Payless Shoe Source of the Soul, filled to the brim with neatly boxed problems at discount prices, but for today I'm just going to focus on one of 'em.)
I get caught up in the excitement of the moment. I get really jazzed about stuff and come close to doing things that I really shouldn't do. The good thing is, I'm usually pretty good about pulling myself back from the brink before I do something really stupid, before I make that final commitment, sealing my stupidity in cement for all to see.
I remember once when I was in high school. A local community theater was doing a production of, I think, Life With Father. I'd been doing a lot of shows at the theater that season, somewhat to the detriment of my school work. I wanted to take a break. I had some major things coming up at school and I just really didn't have the time to put in on it. I didn't even like the play. But I went to the audition. If I remember correctly, and it's very possible that I don't, a friend of our family was directing it and needed guys at the audition for other people to read with. So I went. Halfway through the audition, I found myself getting into the idea. I remember thinking, "Hey! I can do this. I can rehearse from 6-9 and then go home and work on my calculus homework until midnight." [Note: this is a slight fabrication, as I never took calculus. It's more likely that I had to go home and work on my basket weaving or something, but calculus adds a little more weight to my thinking.] Basically, I was about yea close to screwing myself by over-committing for no reason other than that I got caught up in the moment. I had to literally run out of the theater to stop myself.
A couple years later, when I was in college, I had a good friend who had joined a frat. I was in the theater department and, for the most part, theater-folk had nothing but disdain for the Greek system. I had disdained them myself, railing on about the patheticness/patheticality/patheticosiousity/whatever of basically paying for your friends. Frats seemed to me to be a place you went to surround yourself with people just like you so as not to upset your fragile sensibilities. Also, they helped you have sex with drunken sorority girls.
But this friend of mine, who, up until he joined the frat, had been a pretty good pal and who I still really liked, talked me into going to a party at his frat. I got drunk. Really, really drunk. And I remember, at one point toward the end of the evening, wanting very much to join up. I suddenly got this whole frat thing. I remember thinking, "Hey! These guys are great! And there's all that beer! Who the hell wouldn't want to sign on?" When I took my leave of the guys that night, I was certain that I'd be back the next day to become a Tau Gamma BlahBlah.
I sobered up, thank God, by morning.
But this sort of thing has happened to me repeatedly in the years between now and then. Maybe you're acquainted with that voice? That stupid little voice in your head that tells you that something which you rationally know to be a truly stupid idea is actually a brainstorm? That voice that says Go For It? That voice that tells you that everything will work out, even when you understand fully that you're diving into a bug tub of quicksand? I got that voice.
This weekend, the voice struck again. Nothing huge this time. Just another one of those minor things that I had to struggle to put a stop to. The Fox Sports Networks had their Baseball Package Preview this weekend. You pay a buttload of cash and, in return, you get to watch baseball from all over the country for the entire season.
Now, I like baseball. I love watching a good game. I love watching it even more if it involves the Indians. But...I don't watch baseball 24/7. I'm not a stat-head. I have interests outside the game. And, for long stretches of the season, I'm likely to go a week or two without paying attention. I am...a casual fan.
And yet, as I sat there this weekend, watching the Tribe win, and then watching other games in which I had no real investment, but nonetheless found really great to watch, I started to think, "Hey! I should totally order this package! Sure, I'm relatively broke and, yeah, I should be spending time working on my writing instead of watching game after game, but I should just do this. For me. I deserve to treat myself. I should just do it." Fortunately for me, Cleveland went on to get spanked 11-1 and I realized that I probably couldn't make it through an entire season of that sort of thing without either having a coronary or diving out the window.
Still, there was a moment there where I was convinced. I fucking hate that little voice.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Greetings from the U.K.!
I flew over on the Red Eye Thursday night because an old friend of mine was getting married and--out of the blue, as I hadn't seen him in a long time--he'd asked me to be the best man. I was honored. I'd never met the bride before, although they've been together for a long, long time. She seems nice. Bit stiff, but whatever. Had a very informal sort of bachelor party Friday night. I hadn't had a lot of time to arrange anything, so my buddy and I just sort of hit a few strip clubs in Soho. I bought him a hummer.
I was really proud of my best man speech at the reception. I thought I'd reprint it here to kind of widen the audience. Here you go:
Charles. What the hell can I say about this guy? I guess nothing that the tabloids haven't already said in four inch headlines, huh? No, I tell you, I just met Camilla last night, so I have nothing but nice things to say about her. She's kind and giving and doesn't mind marrying a guy who looks like Dumbo's little brother. But actually, I look forward to getting to know Camilla over the next few years, until she finally decides to dump this guy and find herself a real man. Camilla, I added my cell number to your speed dial, so when you're ready, give me a call. I kid. I kid. Because I've known this guy, what, thirty-some years, now? I remember the days when Chuck was a handsome young officer in her majesty's service. Who knew looks could go down hill so fast, huh? But no, really, I was there the first time Chuck got married. I remember, before the ceremony, Chuck pulled me aside and he said, he said, "Joe, I'm in love. I'm so completely head-over-heels in love. I have the perfect woman. Too bad I gotta marry this Diana chick." No, stop. I'm just "taking the piss" as you pasty buggers like to say. Why, without Diana, Chuck wouldn't have these two wonderful young men sitting beside him. Okay, well, one wonderful young man and one swastika-sportin' dipshit. I joke with Harry. 'Cause I love him. Actually, I bought the kid his first joint, so we're tight. But now, Charles and Camilla are finally together. As they were always meant to be. And I know that they're going to be happy. And I know that I join the entire nation of...where are we again? I'm kidding! I know that I join the British people, and people from all over the world in wishing these two the best of luck. 'Cause with the look on the Queen's face tonight, they're sure as hell gonna need it! I kid! I joke with her royal highness. I joke because ol' Liz and I go way back. How well do I know the Queen? Let's just say I know how well she wields a royal scepter. Anyway, please join me in a toast: To Chucky and Camilla. May the new marriage work out better than the old ones. Not that that'll be difficult. Cheers!
I thought that, while I was over here, I might take in a show in the West End. I'm going to be one of the lucky bastards who gets to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang before it debuts on Broadway. Cheerio!
Friday, April 08, 2005
Numbers Don't Lie
President Bush is facing some of his lowest approval ratings yet, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press. The A.P. puts Bush's approval rating at around 44%, with 54% of Americans saying they actively disapprove of the job the president is doing. Analysts have suggested that the these figures are tied closely with soaring gas prices. While this easy explanation may work for some journalists, we at Hairshirt have always held ourselves to a higher standard. And so, we decided to go beyond the surface numbers to find out what precisely was pissing people off about George W.
Of those who answered that they were unhappy with Bush's performance, the breakdown goes like this:
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Checks and Balances My Ass!
What the hell is this country comin' to? Sweet weeping Jesus on a steamroller! How can the great legislators of this great, great land get anything done with all of these activist judges mucking up the works with their activist opinions, gettin' all activisty? Courageous Republicans in congress and the Bush administration are trying to do important things. Last November, they got an overwhelming mandate from the nearly 51% of the American public who voted for them and they've been doing their darndest ever since to spend that political capital.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Aries: The spring weather has you feeling exultant and energetic. Many would call this your "manic" phase.
Taurus: It is not a good idea to eat the Easter egg your kid just found this morning.
Gemini: As the tax deadline approaches, you need to stay rational. You can't list your bartender as a dependent, no matter how much you drink.
Cancer: You take advantage of the extra daylight this time of year brings by spending an extra hour watching your hot neighbor sunbathe naked. Good for you!
Leo: Your election as Pope is put into serious jeopardy when you decide to select Pope Stinky Bubblebutt I as your papal name.
Virgo: You are so upset by the outcome on the season finale of The Starlet that you totally forget that you're a dipshit if you care about the outcome on the season finale of The Starlet.
Libra: This week you find yourself tempted to undergo risky cosmetic surgery. Please, look into the facts before you commit to this. Eyebrow transplants are still in the experimental stage. Maybe you might want to consider an eyebrow wig as a temporary measure.
Scorpio: When your teenage daughter insists that her upcoming Spring Break trip to Mexico is going to be perfectly innocent, you may want to think back on the time you and your buddies were arrested in Daytona for doing body shots off a corpse in Screwie Louie's.
Sagittarius: In Spring, Sagittarius, the young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. The young woman's fancy, though, turns to thoughts of pretty much anybody except you.
Capricorn: You are elated as the Cubs begin a new season with a good shot at going into the post-season. This optimism will last until about Saturday.
Aquarius: This week, your intention to go see the Diane Arbus show at the Met is repeatedly thwarted by the fact that you're two years old.
Pisces: You are filled with an irresistible urge to fill your home with flagrant spring flowers. Unfortunately, you've forgotten that you should have gotten fragrant spring flowers and you're left with a bunch of really obvious posies.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Just Say No
Ah, abstinence-only sex ed. What a wonderful thing. I don't know how anyone could doubt its effectiveness. It's just common sense: if you don't tell kids about sex, they won't have sex. It's not like they're going to form horribly skewed ideas of sexual ethics or engage in risky sexual behavior because they've had facts withheld. Heavens forefend!
So they've released a study conducted in California in which a whole buttload of teenagers--as young as 14--say that they've engaged in oral sex; that they don't think that oral sex can spread diseases and that they don't consider oral sex to really be sex. The study says that, "one-third of the mutli-ethnic ninth-graders surveyed said they intended to have oral sex within the next six months." Now, I was in ninth grade once and I certainly don't remember planning that far ahead. The study says that boys were more likely to perform oral sex than girls. Again, I was in ninth grade once and I can tell you for damn sure that I wouldn't have been able to navigate my way around a woman's genitals if you'd given me a GPS system and a sherpa.
What the hell is going on here? Could it be that, in this culture where sex education consists of little more than an admonition to wait until marriage, young women think that they're maintaining their purity by only taking it up the ass? Do these young ladies feel that, while they're admittedly too young to handle the social and emotional consequences of intercourse, a beejay under the bleachers is a trifle? Is cunnilingus the new "holding hands"?
This has got to fucking stop. 'Cause the kids won't stop fucking.
For the love of fucking God, we need to inform these kids. They need to know enough to be able to manage their sexuality. They need to know how to avoid pregnancy when they finally succumb (and most of them will) to that irresistible urge to go for the full-on humpty. They need to know that blowing a dozen guys but remaining a "technical virgin" still makes them a "technical slut" in the eyes of their peers. They need to know that unprotected anal sex is a whole lot riskier than the old-fashioned kind of sex, because "But we just did it up the butt" is not an adequate defense against disease.
The religious right--that tiny group of loud, loud bastards--is dragging our sex education back to the stone age. Where's it going to stop? Are we going to have girls that think that an orgasm is demonic possession? We need to fight back. The best way to stop these kids from doing what's wrong is to teach them what's right. One of the most shameful things ever to happen to a public official in this country (in my opinion) is the backlash that hit Joycelyn Elders when it came out, as she was facing congressional hearings on her way to becoming Clinton's Surgeon General, that she had advocated teaching boys about masturbation. The fact that this issue brought her nomination to a screeching halt is despicable. If we taught boys that masturbation is okay, perhaps we wouldn't have so many repressed freaks turning into serial killers. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But we'd definitely have fewer 15-year olds who have to find out the hard way that Vick's Vapo-Rub is a bad choice for masturbatory lubricant.
Not that I ever did that.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Umbrella's Last Stand
I have some issues. A whole fucking boatload of 'em, actually, but I'm talking about a specific issue this evening. My issue this evening is that my umbrella is gone.
It was a nice umbrella.
I don't know how it is in every major city, but here in New York, life is cheap and so are umbrellas. Any time so much as a drop of rain tumbles earthward from on high, there're a dozen hucksters standing outside of every subway station, every museum, every movie theater, anyplace where people might have gone in when it was dry, only to emerge to a downpour. These guys (invariably knowing just enough English to say, "Umbrella! Five dolla!") make their living off of stupidity and chance. The prey on the stupidity of people who ignored the weather report and now want to avoid the consequences and the masses of poor schmucks caught unawares when nature does what the AccuView forecast said it wouldn't.
The umbrellas they sell are cheap. They're built specifically to get you from the point of purchase to your house and no farther. The first time you fold them up, they will commit hari kari. The mechanism that springs the umbrella into glorious full-sized life will disintegrate, leaving you with rain-gear that won't open. Or the metal ribs that stretch the fabric will fall apart like a Democrat on election night. However it happens, these things are built cheap, sold cheap and remain cheap for all of the one and a half times you use them.
I get sick of it, which is why I spent a few extra bucks and bought a semi-decent umbrella a few months back. Got tired of having a new umbrella every eight days or so. I decided that I'd go with something sturdier. I went into Rite-Aid and found myself a Raines Slimline. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't spend a hundred bucks or anything. I didn't buy a gold-plated bumbershoot. I didn't pick up the top of the line, makes toast and walks your dog, built in MP3 player umbrella at Sharper Image. But this was a solid, wood-handled, full-sized dealy. When it was up, you by god knew it was up and there was no way any god damn rain was gettin through.
And I kept it. I bought the thing in November, I think. It was at least that far back. Hell, it might have been earlier than that, even. I didn't leave it at a restaurant. I didn't lose it at school. I didn't inadvertently walk out of the crack house without it. I brought it home faithfully and put it in the same spot every time I used it. Every time.
I took pride in it. When the tiny little collapsible umbrella my wife got went belly-up, I sneered. "Should have gotten a burlier umbrella, tootsie," I said to her, as she was drenched by torrential rains. I was smug in my impressive dryness.
Then today happened. New York city was hit by a gusher. The rain came fast and furious. Subway rats were building arks out of used condoms, it was that wet. And the wind! Donald Trump had to put an extra coat of shellac on his hair to keep it in place during these gusts. I saw carpetbag-clutching nannies being blown all over the place, shouting "Supercalifuck!"
As my wife and I headed down to take advantage of a rare two-for-one deal at the Guggenheim, we (the umbrella and I) got caught in a nasty wind as it whipped around the corner of the building. My wife's coat billowed out like a sail and she actually started to parasail down the street. I felt like a big-wave surfer being flung about in the white-water (yes, I've recently re-watched Stacy Peralta's Riding Giants) and I couldn't for the life of me figure out from which way the wind was coming. I tried turning the umbrella this way and that to shield myself. My confusion cost me. Oh, it cost me big-time.
A particularly strong gust--let's just agree at this point to call it a wind-shear, as I'm certain it also ripped the wings off of several low-flying planes today--caught my umbrella just wrong and it flipped it inside out. "This can't be," I thought, "that's for lesser umbrellas." But it was happening. To me. I spun around and the wind turned my umbrella right-side-out again. But the damage was done. The spokes of my Raines Slimline had been bent out of their natural position, never to be right again. I tried bending them back, but had no luck. When I folded it, the thing was lumpy and unappealing. When I opened it back up, one side of my umbrella was as limp and flaccid as Jose Canseco after an injection. Nothing I could do would restore it to its former glory.
I briefly considered accidently-on-purpose leaving it in the coat room at the Guggenheim, which I though would be a very dignified end for the old trooper. Then I was seized by the same inexplicable guilt I felt as a child when I would toss the unwanted licorice-flavored Good-n-Plenties out the car window. (I knew I didn't want to eat them, but I shuddered to think that they would be run over and in some sort of candy version of pain.) I brought Old Faithful home with me until I figure out some sort of proper burial.
And this is the issue to which I earlier made allusion. This sad habit of anthropomorphosizing everything I own is bad. It's why I have the same shitty frying pans I bought ten years ago. It's why I still haven't thrown out the desk chair with the missing (and most definitely irreplaceable) wheel. I should get rid of everything I own except for maybe my Snackmaster Sandwich Maker. That, I can't get rid of. It makes lower-calorie toasted cheese, you see. Mm.
Friday, April 01, 2005
So the pontiff is dying, huh? Yeah, right.
Folks, let me tell you, it's not a coincidence that John Paul was "given his last rites" on the first of April. I know the guy. We go way back. And if this doesn't turn out to be the biggest practical joke he's ever pulled, I'll eat that big tall hat he wears.
Allow me to tell you a story. Middle of May, 1981, I fly to Rome to check in on him after he was shot.
Now, bear in mind that J.P. and I first met in the mid-seventies when he was a cardinal. He stopped in at Catch a Rising Star and caught my act. Vinnie, the guy who was emceeing, saw that he was out there and, after I wrapped my set, called this guy--who he called "the Cardinal of Comedy"--up on the stage. He did this bit about a nun sucking off a leper that almost made me crap my pants with laughter. When he finished his act, I grabbed him backstage and demanded that he let me buy him a drink. Well, he let me buy him about a dozen drinks and he returned the favor. We ended up closing down McCaffrey's down on 18th. We've been tight ever since.
So, '81. I land in Rome and make a bee-line to the hospital. I'm escorted up to his room and I look in--I'll never forget how freaked out I was when I got my first look at him--he's got these tubes up his nose. The nurse waves me over to the bed and tells me he's sleeping, then she makes herself scarce so J.P. and I can have some time to chat. I pull a chair up to his bed. I take his hand and he says, "Fag. Let go of my fucking hand." He opens his eyes, looks at me and says, "Can you believe this shit? Fucking prick shot me." I tell him, "Yeah, life's a bitch, Johnny." He gets all serious. He says, "I was so fucking scared, Wack. I was freaked. I still don't know the extent of the damage. I'm having a hard time moving, man." This flips me out, 'cause this is a vibrant guy, you know? This is a top-notch beach volleyball player. (Didn't know that, did you? Yeah, he almost went pro.) So this strong guy is laying there telling me how weak he is. He gets tears in his eyes. He says, "I wouldn't ask this if you weren't my compadre. I get so fucking embarrassed having the nurse down there looking at my privates. I just filled the bed-pan. Is there any way you could change it?" And I feel so bad for the guy, who I'd do fucking anything for. I say, "You got it, J.P." I lift up the sheet and he kind of lifts his butt off the pan and I pull it out...
Fucking spring-loaded novelty snakes fly outta the goddamn bed-pan. One of 'em hits me in the face. Scared the living crap out of me. John Paul is laughing his holy head off. I couldn't even speak. He's like, "I cannot believe you fell for that. You fucking idiot!" Maybe I shoulda been pissed. He's such a fun guy, though. I couldn't stay mad at him.
I got him back, though. I put a "Honk if You're Horny" bumper sticker on that Popemobile of his. He was ticked.
So. The world press can be suckered in all they want. I know this joker. This is a gag. He's going to pop up in cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, yelling "Gotcha, ya lame-asses!" at the top of his papal lungs. I love that guy.