Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Friday, July 29, 2005
Old Man, Look at My Life
The depressive mind is not a rational creature. I'll clarify a bit here: I'm not talking about clinical depression. I'm not talking about the kind of depression that leaves the sufferer curled up into a ball, unable to function. I'm talking about the type of person who just tends to get depressed and, if not checked by something, goes through great periods of wallowing. There's a big difference between the two, I think. Clinically depressed people need to get help from a professional, or they stand a chance of being a danger to themselves. Depressives need to lighten up or they're going to annoy everyone around them.
I've always had depressive tendencies, and it's really annoying. A tiny thing can set me off and my mind is suddenly filled with reasons why my life sucks and reasons why there's nothing I'll ever be able to do to make it better. Let me give you an example.
Yesterday, I was looking at Google News and there was a story about a stuntman on the TV show Smallville who was injured. The injured guy was the main stunt double for star Tom Welling. His name is Christopher Sayour; he's 35 and, in addition to being Welling's stunt double, he's the show's stunt coordinator. The article I read described him as a "veteran stuntman". He's in critical condition after taking a nasty fall on the set. Really awful thing to happen to him.
So how the hell, you might ask, does this make me depressed? Is it that I feel incredible empathy for the poor guy's suffering? No. Is it that, as a comic book fan, I worry that the "Superman curse" that seems to have plagued many television and movie actors involved in bringing the Man of Steel to life has struck again and will somehow derail the franchise? Not even a little. Is it the self-indulgent habit of asking questions just so I can answer them? Probably a little, but that's not important right now.
The reason this is depressing to me is that the guy's a "veteran stuntman" at age 35. I'm going to be 35 in a few months.
I will never be a stuntman.
Do I want to be a stuntman? Hell no. I've not had the slightest desire to become a stuntman since a brief two week period when I was really into Lee Majors' brilliant stuntman/bounty-hunter series The Fall Guy in 1981. Even that had less to do with any romanticizing I had of the profession than with Majors' melodious singing of the theme song.
So why does the fact that I'll never be a stuntman depress me? It depresses me because, if that was something that I really, really wanted to do with my life, I now couldn't. I'm too fucking old to do it. It's a young man's profession. At 35, you're a "veteran" stuntman, moving into stunt coordinator jobs. So, no matter how much I trained; no matter if I was able to get into really great shape; no matter how strong my desire, there is no way I could do it for a living. And it's just one of many jobs--whether I have any desire to do them or not--that are now closed off to me.
I'll never be a cop. I'll never be a professional baseball player. I'll never be an ice dancer. That's the one that really stings.
And, again, it's not that I'd ever be the slightest bit interested in being any of these things. It's the fact that I now can't. And every year older I get--hell, every day older I get--I add more jobs to that list. And that'll keep on happening until the only job on the list is the one I'm doing and I'll look at the list and I'll go, "Hey, how the hell did I wind up with nothing on the list but 'Manager of the Newark Mall Orange Julius'?"
The depressive mind is not rational. If you want to be depressed, you can't let logic get in your way.
Here, by the way, is a picture of me, looking old.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
That's Where I'm a Viking!
My wife dreamed last night that we split up temporarily and, while we were apart, I married and divorced four other women. Why is it that I seem to be an asshole in other people's dreams? In real life, I'm not Mary Poppins or anything, but I don't think I'm the type of person who'd marry and divorce four women in a few months' time. What does it say about me, then, that my wife seems to dream that I would, for example, put our dog in a rocket and launch him into space. To what degree should we be held accountable for our behavior in other people's dreams?
Because I think many of us have had that experience of being the object of someone's anger when we know we've done nothing wrong, only to find out that we took a shit on their grandma in the middle of the Yellow Brick Road. I always get fairly indignant in these situations. Dammit, I didn't shit on anybody, in Oz or in New York, so leave me alone.
But, there has to be a reason, right? There has to have been something we did that would make the dreamer believe that we're capable of, say, turning into a werewolf and anally raping a nun. They have to, somewhere deep inside of them, think of us as a nun-raping werewolf. And that's just depressing, man.
So I want to put this out there right now: If, when you fall asleep tonight, you dream that I jump out of your toaster with a blowtorch and start setting fire to your giant box of Frosted Flakes, don't tell me about it. Just think what I may have done in real life that causes you to imagine me as a cereal arsonist and then tell me about that. In return, I won't tell you about the dream I had about you in which you stripped off your clothes and got it on with Chuck Woolery.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Aries: This is a great day to curl up in a nice cool room and read a good book. Or, in your case, some porn.
Taurus: This week, your life seems like an episode of 227. Sadly, you're neither Marla Gibbs, nor Jackee. You're really more like the old lady who sat in her window all day.
Gemini: Your anxiety over keeping your children safe in our increasingly dangerous world is understandable. There are, though, better ways than gluing them into their beds.
Cancer: No matter how much you try, you will never be the Girl from Ipanema, unless you're willing to move and to have your nuts chopped off.
Leo: This week, you're all about the pancakes.
Virgo: Your crush on Donald Rumsfeld only grows stronger after his macho trek to Tajikistan.
Libra: This week sees you dancing to a Salsa beat. Wait, sorry, I got that wrong. This week sees you spilling salsa on your pants.
Scorpio: Like the deadly creature for whom your sign is named, people will fear and shun you this week. This will not be so much because you have a poisonous, stinging tail as because you don't wash your feet.
Sagittarius: Jesus loves you, this I know. For the bible tells me so. It also tells me that people can turn into pillars of salt just for looking behind them, but let's not dwell on that now.
Capricorn: You receive a call from an old friend. A drunk old friend at two in the morning. Man, you need to get some new old friends.
Aquarius: You're feeling like people expect you to be Lucy when you're Peppermint Patty on the inside. Basically, you need to face up to the fact that Charles Schulz is dead and find a new metaphor for your life. Perhaps Funky Winkerbean.
Pisces: While most people would agree with you that tuna is delicious, fewer people share your view that it makes a good hat.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
I'm a little nervous this morning. The Space Shuttle is scheduled to launch in a little under two hours and I don't want to get my hopes up like I did earlier this month, only to drown in disappointment if they call it off.
I am a big believer in the exploration of space. I was raised on the shuttle program. I remember how excited my dad was when the first shuttle went up. I remember one of my elementary school teachers rolling a television into our classroom so we could watch a launch. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the Challenger explosion (algebra class). I remember the first time a shuttle hooked up with Mir.
I know a whole lot of people--my wife included--who just don't see the need or justification for our space program. Their argument (and I think it's a valid one) is that we have so many problems in our country that aren't getting the attention or the funding they need, why aren't we putting the money that currently goes to the space program toward solving some of them? I think people who feel this way tend to see supporters of the space program as little boys who haven't grown up. They feel that we think it's "neat" to see people floating in space and drinking globs of liquid that float in the air in front of them. And it is neat, dammit.
But that's not why I support the shuttle program.
Our universe is a vast place. We know so little about it. Think what there is to learn by exploring it. Think about the infinite variety of planets out there. Think about the fact that there are so many billions of stars and then think about the odds that some of them have life on them. How the hell can you not be curious about what's out there? How can you not want to know?
Then there's the fact that our planet will have a finite life span. I'm not being a doomsayer here, I'm just saying that, eventually, our planet will stop being capable of supporting life. Whether this happens at a quicker pace because of all the damage we're doing to it with our fucked up environmental policies or whether it happens hundreds of thousands of years from now when our sun goes nova, it is inevitable that earth will not be here for us forever. When that day arrives, if we want humankind to go on, we're going to need a way to get the fuck out of here.
And yes, that day is so far away that none of us, nor our great-great-great-grandchildren will be here to see it. So I understand people who ask why the hell we need to worry about it now. But we have to start some time. The space program as it exists right now is still in the tiny, recently-fertilized egg stage. We can't even send anyone to another planet in our solar system at this point. But we need to keep working on it. That's why I'm such a strong supporter of President Bush and his "let's go to Mars" program.
No, I'm just kidding. He's full of shit on every level.
Now, I agree that maybe the way we're going about space exploration right now isn't the most effective. If there was a good way to privatize space exploration and keep NASA as a (powerful) regulatory agency, maybe that would be better. Then, public money could go to taking care of the public and some of these naysayers would shut up their whining. There's something of a trend toward this right now, with the interest there was in the X Prize.
However we go about it, though, I truly believe we need to continue to explore the universe around us. If only so we can find a planet that Scientologists can call their very own.
EDIT: I just watched the launch and the first ten minutes or so of flight. I actually cried. Which may mean that I've got some sort of bizarre male PMS or may mean that I'm a huge fucking geek. Or both. Go Discovery!
Monday, July 25, 2005
Alternate History in the Making
If there's one thing that I love, it's Alternate History books. Wow, I just dig 'em. I spend hour after hour on my couch, reading Harry Turtledove and...uh...Durtle Hairytove and whoever the hell the rest of those guys are. They're just fantastic. You see, they blend the imagination of a science fiction or fantasy book with the obsessive detail of a Civil War Re-enactment. Who wouldn't love that?
In case you're unfamiliar with the genre, the basic idea is that you take an historical event and you make a small tweak. Let's say that Brutus has a horrible bladder infection on the Ides of March and can't make it to kill Cesar. So Cesar lives and the Roman Empire never falls. Boom. One bladder infection and the entire course of history is changed. Or let's say that, instead of being a Quaker, Richard Nixon is a robot. So he's not filled with all the paranoia and doubt that the "historic" Nixon was, so he stays in office for his second term and, during that second term, he and his robot allies take over the world.
But, though I've been a fan of the genre for years and years, I've never tried writing one. I simply don't have the patience to sit in the library for hours and hours doing research. I think history's kind of dull. ("Real" history, that is.) But after reading a really great alternate history book about what might have happened had George Washington been left-handed instead of right-handed, I was moved to take a stab at it.
I still don't have the patience to do a lot of research, so I just kind of skimmed through a documentary on World War II that I DVR'd from the History Channel. (Very useful, that History Channel.) While my book may not have the attention to detail that you'd expect from, say, an alternate history by Newt Gingrich, I think the story and characters are nonetheless riveting.
What I've got here, then, is an excerpt from my new novel Reich Here, Reich Now. It's the story of what might have happened if General Patton had caught the clap from an English hooker. Instead of leading the troops on D-Day, he's in the bathroom, dealing with a painful discharge. America and her allies, subsequently, fail to liberate France and the Axis goes on to win World War II. The world as we know it is gone. Enjoy.
Hasselhoff walked down 42nd Street. He'd come to think of it as his street, and who could argue that point, really? He was finishing his first year as star of the smash hit Nazi, Get Your Gun. The cast recording was seemingly welded to the top of the charts and you couldn't spend any amount of time in public without hearing someone one the street singing, "Anything Jews can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than Jews."
I think the alternate history community is going to eat this one up with a spoon. I feel like a whole new career is lying ahead of me.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Still Crazy After All This Year
It's my one-year blogiversary!
I looked it up and, according to Ms. Manners, the one-year blogiversary is the "paper blogiversary, which means anything you want to buy me should have a "paper" theme. This would include checks and lucrative writing contracts.
So, how have I grown and matured in this last year? How much progress have I made toward the realization of my goals? How have I made the world a better place? Answers: I haven't; fucking none and in no way whatsoever.
In fact, the only thing I think this blog has done is to give people a greater appreciation for the comedic stylings of Sinbad, through my weekly "Sinbad as He Wants to Be" segment. You go, Sinbad.
I want to thank both of my readers for their support over the last year. I would also ask that one of them--I won't say which--stop sending me naked pictures, as I'm just not interested.
I won't go into any deep mushy thing about how much I love my wife--although I do--because you've heard it all before. I will, though, give her credit for my starting this in the first place. She did this mostly by pointing out that I couldn't truly call myself a writer if my only justification was that I sat around the house in a smoking jacket and a beret. (This still seems like writerly behavior to me.)
What does the next year hold for Hairshirt? Glad I asked.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Let it Go
I read a little news blurbule yesterday in which someone interviewed Lynda Carter. They were talking about the Wonder Woman movie that Joss Whedon is going to direct. Basically, the piece was Carter talking about an internet campaign to get her a part in the new movie. I can't really tell from the blurb if this is something she's seriously interested in doing, but the quotes seem to point that way.
Okay: hands up everyone who has a burning desire to see Lynda Carter cram her thirty-years-older butt into a star-spangled one-piece.
This is the dark side of popularity and success, people. I could populate an entire season of Love Boat with actors who were on long-running hit shows; who were fucking icons for a few years and then, once the shows left the air, vanish from our national radar entirely. It happens all the time. Jennifer Love Hewitt was so huge while Party of Five was on that they tried to give her a spin-off. They tried to put her in movies. But the strategy of using TV success to launch a long-lasting movie career only works if you're a good actor, or at least somewhat charismatic. If you're not, you end up turning up in Garfield five years down the road. Feel pity for the cast of Will & Grace. Their time in the sun will soon draw to a close.
So what do these actors do when we no longer want to watch them as Shirley Feeney and can't accept them as anything else? Well, the smart ones will have saved up some money so that they don't have to worry about what to do. The others will do low-rent tours of Deathtrap with Elliot Gould. (I use this as an example solely because the last time I saw Cindy Williams' name in print, it was on a marquee in Seattle advertising this very show.) Those that sink lower still will turn to accepting money to turn up at fan celebrations of their shows, where thirty-eight year old men who collect vintage lunchboxes will yell at them to say their famous catch-phrases again.
Let me be clear: I don't think that this is that horrible a path to take. These people are getting paid. It's not like they're having to mine coal to put food on the table. They get to see the country. The problem I see stems from the actors' interaction with the fans.
Now, I've never been to one of these things. Never been to a Trek Convention. Never been to a car show featuring David Hasselhoff and the car from Knight Rider. And I've certainly never been the "special guest" at one of them. But let's look at this for a minute: The people organizing these events are fans. To say that they like these shows would be a massive understatement along the lines of saying that getting involved in Iraq was "maybe not a great idea." For someone who cares so incredibly deeply about the shows, the actors who were on them are hugely important people. If you spend enough time around people who feel that you are hugely important, I would imagine--to use an almost Spockish logic--that you would start to believe it yourself.
And this is where we come back to Lynda Carter lobbying for a part in Wonder Woman. Or Adam West saying--and meaning it--that Tim Burton should consider writing him into the movie as Uncle Batman. Or Ben "Cooter" Jones going on the Today show to bitch about the Dukes of Hazzard movie desecrating the memory of something sacred, then admitting that he'd auditioned for it. Actors who've had semi-deluded fans confusing them with the characters they played come to have an overblown sense of propriety over those characters. So when a movie exec with absolutely no imagination decides to yet again raid pop-culture history for a half-baked idea, the actor thinks, "Well, there's no way they can do a big screen version of Three's Company without me, Joyce DeWitt."
But, Joyce, they can. And should. It's not you the audience wants to see. If they want that, they'll order the Complete Season 1 DVD. For the remake, they want Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson. They want movie stars. And you're not one. Let it go.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Here Comes the Judge
So John Roberts. All this talk about, "He's gonna nominate a woman"; "He's gonna nominate a Latino"; "He's gonna nominate a gay, paraplegic Inuit." Nope. He nominated another conservative white guy. Shocking. How's this going to affect our country? Well, it ain't gonna be good if you're a liberal non-Christian. Although, we'll definitely be seeing less french-fry eating on our nation's mass transit.
But we need to get beyond the ridiculous bullshit about how Roberts is going to send us back to the era of the Salem Witch Trials with his conservative decisions and get to the heart of who he is as a person. Which is why the well-connected buggers at Hairshirt have, once again, beaten the rest of the journalistic world to the punch with an exclusive.
Many people saw Roberts and his happy, dancey family return home after the press conference where the president smirked his announcement. What they didn't see was that, the second Roberts went into his house, he was met by a Hairshirt reporter, who had the Nominee fill out...the Hairshirt Questionnaire.
Name: John G. Roberts.
Nicknames: J-Ro; Whitey; Judge Cracka; Christy Goderson; Mr. Bigcock (only used by my wife in the bounds of holy matrimony).
Hobbies: Pinochle; stamp-collecting; overturning things; light bondage.
Favorite song: Baby Got Back.
Last good book read: Harry Potter and the Illegal French Fry
Pet peeves: Abortion; gay marriage; privacy laws; things that stand in the way of successful business; whiney terrorist prisoners; judicial activism.
If I could be anybody in the world, I'd be...: A marshmallow taster.
I have never...: Gone naked under my judicial robes. (But there's always a first time.)
Turn-ons: Good Jell-O Salad; gavelling; Pat Boone music.
Turn-offs: The Senate.
Someday, I want to...: Seated at the right hand of God, judging the shit out of people.
So there you have it. It sounds to me like this guy is perfect for the job. He'll bring the perfect amount of diversity to our judiciary: absolutely none. Plus, do we really need all of those "constitutionally-protected freedoms"? I think not. Let's just hope that Roberts can get a fair hearing. (That is, of course, using Bush's definition of "fair", in which no tough questions are asked and he's just rubber-stamped on into office.)
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Hairshirt Harlequin Horoscopes
I'm feeling a little lazy this week, so I'm going to let another writer do the speaking for me. I've decided this morning that, instead of writing specific predictions for every sign, I'm going to quote passages from my favorite romance novel, Unbridled Hearts by Kayla Sinclair. Unbridled Hearts is the story of Jade, a lawyer who inherits a ranch from her uncle. When Jade takes possession of the ranch, she turns to a grizzled cowboy, Stone, to figure out how to tame a herd of wild horses. Readers can figure out for themselves, from Ms. Sinclair's beautiful prose, what the stars have in store for them this week.
Aries: Jade looked over the ranch house, her eyes caressing every deer head, every ashtray. These things had belonged to her beloved Uncle Sancho. She closed her eyes and breathed in his memory.
Taurus: The horse, which Jade immediately came to think of as "Magnifica", ran at the head of the herd, proud, wild and untamed, much like Jade herself.
Gemini: "Listen, lady," said Stone as he put down the whiskey bottle and spat on the dirt floor, "I don't care who the hell you are, you don't come in my bunkhouse barkin' orders. Now why don't you take that cute New York butt of yours back to the city?"
Cancer: Fear filled Jade's soul as the stampede thundered all around her. Was this how she was to die? Trampled to death by wild beasts so far from her beloved Lincoln Center?
Leo: Jade awoke to a cool feeling on her forehead. She immediately sat up and saw that she was in a humble shack, an old Navajo woman sitting beside her. The crone eased Jade back down on the bed, saying, "You rest now, White Woman."
Virgo: McQuincy sneered. "Look, you know and I know that you're never going to know anything about ranching. You should save yourself time and grief and just take our offer now. The next time we speak, when I'm betting you'll be a good deal more desperate, we might not be so generous."
Libra: A shot rang out. The mirror on McQuincy's jeep exploded. Jade spun around to see Stone on the porch with his shotgun. He called out, "I think you'd best get your ass off Ms. Cleary's property, McQuincy. My aim's kinda wild and I wouldn't want to see you shot."
Scorpio: Jade's nipples were erect now, aching for Stone to touch them. He stood up and undid his buckle. Jade gasped as he freed his manhood from his pants.
Sagittarius: Jade rolled over and ran her fingers over Stone's hairy chest. "Nobody's ever loved me like that, Stone," she whispered. Stone turned away from her. "I know," he said.
Capricorn: The smoke rose from the ashes of the ranch house. She felt as if her life, too, had just gone up in smoke. She was so lost in her reverie that she startled when Stone spoke. "McQuincy. That bastard's gonna pay."
Aquarius: McQuincy lay on the ground, bloody. "Stone, no!" Jade screamed. He looked at her, blood dripping from his fists. His voice came in a husky rasp. "I done told you, Jade. I'm like them horses. I can't be tamed."
Pisces: Tears welling in her eyes, Jade stammered, "What are you doing in New York, Stone?" Stone tossed his cigarette to the sidewalk and ground it out with his boot. "I realized I'd gotten to like wearing a saddle, Jade. You feel like going for a ride?"
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
R.I.P. Jim Aparo
Jim Aparo died today. He's the comic book artist who drew Batman when I was a teenager and completely into collecting comic books. Over the course of his long career, he drew most of the DC heroes in one book or another. At the time, I wasn't all that crazy about his work. It seemed kind of dull in comparison to Todd McFarlane and other younger artists who did showier stuff. It wasn't art that grabbed a reader by the throat and said, "Hey! I'm an amazing comic book artist! Look at me! Look at me!" That's not the kind of artist Aparo was. He was more interested in telling the story.
Today, when I think of Batman--which is often, by the way--I think of Aparo's version. A thin man with a longish face and sad eyes; long, pointy bat ears atop his cowl. He also drew a great Aquaman, often with his wavy hair blowing in the sea breeze.
There are a lot of comic book artists--especially today--whose work is indistinguishable from a dozen others. But when you see a Jim Aparo drawing, you know who did it. He had his own style and it influenced generations of comics artists that came after. I realize anyone who's never picked up a comic book doesn't know who the heck Jim Aparo was. They missed out.
Monday, July 18, 2005
A Word About Movie Violence
While scanning the AP stories on Salon today, I came across the story of a movie-goer who had his nose bitten off during an argument over the quality of a film.
I realize that the general reaction to this story will be disbelief. People around the world are going to say, "This is simply ridiculous; how could someone overreact to this degree?" I beg to differ.
I know that, personally, I have come out of several movies in the last few years feeling quite capable of disfiguring someone. When I walked out of the theater after a showing of The Life of David Gale a couple of years ago, I rabbit punched an usher. I was just so incredibly pissed that someone could waste Laura Linney and Kevin Spacey to that degree that I had to find a release for my violence.
I went to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and was so enraged at how badly it sucked that I had to leave half-way through and scald two orphans with boiling vegetable soup. Sure, I suppose I could have just "let it go", as those peace-loving hippie therapists the parole board makes me see keep suggesting, but I don't believe in bottling up my emotions.
Think I'm being too sensitive to incompetent film-making? Bullshit. Do a little test on yourself: watch Lethal Weapon 4 and just see if you don't get an urge to stuff a hand grenade down someone's shorts. There are some movies that are just so completely unwatchable that it cries out for violence.
Now, I haven't seen Sin City, the movie that caused this nose-biting-off incident. Having some knowledge of Robert Rodriguez movies, I know that he's capable of making films both excellent and turd-smokingly awful. There very well may have been justification for a low-tech rhinoplasty.
I want to make clear that I'm not saying the world should be this way. I'd much rather leave a movie holding hands with strangers and singing Kumbaya. But until Hollywood stops cranking out the kind of shit I've seen flushing through multiplexes this summer--Bewitched, I'm looking at you--I'm predicting that we'll see a whole lot more of this sort of thing. You might want to bring some brass knuckles or nunchaku along if you plan on seeing Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo next month.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
The Hairshirt Book Corner
Like all good muggles, I picked up my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince yesterday. I started reading yesterday afternoon and, god help me, I stayed up all night reading it. I just finished and I'm so excited that I just have to share some of the excitement with you. Here's a list of the surprises I found in this latest volume:
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Things That Suck
I'm feeling a trifle misanthropic today. Maybe it's the unresolved health issues I whined about yesterday, maybe it's the fact that I just spent twenty minutes scraping dog hair out of the carpet with my fingers so that I could vacuum. Maybe it's the fact that my computer's sound card seems to be fucked up and I can't write while playing some happy music to lift my spirits.
Whatever the reason, I decided that I'd keep it short and simple today and just do a list of things that suck.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Adventures in Medicine
I've said here before that I don't particularly like going to the doctor. I laid my reasons out fairly clearly. But I left something out.
Another reason I don't rush to the doctor when something is wrong with me is that, sometimes, they don't really help all that much. Case(s) in point:
I had several appointments this week with various doctors around the city. It started off as just an acknowledgement that I'm getting older and, as I have health insurance and can afford it, I should make regular medical/dental examinations part of my routine. It so happens that these appointments came at a time when I was experiencing a few problems.
The bronchitis I contracted toward the end of the school year was not knocked out by the codeine-laden cough syrup prescribed by the Doogie Howser-esque physician at the DOCS clinic I saw over a month ago. In fact, the infection seemed to spread to my sinuses (sini?) which left me with ten metric tons of mucus coming out of my lungs and nose at all hours and a cough that, while maybe less frequent, was just as violent as before I saw anybody.
As I've mentioned previously I started having fun, fun back problems last weekend, for no readily-apparent reason. This always makes every day just a joy to live through.
I still had water trapped in my ear from an Independence Day Weekend swim, which didn't really hurt, but did piss off my wife when I have to ask "What?" after every comment she makes.
Additionally, I'd experienced some tooth agony last week, which I'd chalked up to the wisdom teeth I was supposed to have removed four years ago, but didn't, pressing against my other teeth.
Well, I told myself, at least this will all go away after I see the doctor.
Not so much. My main physician gave me two pricey prescriptions, a muscle relaxant and an antibiotic. He recommended upping my consumption of Advil and applying hot compresses. I did this diligently for two days, taking more pills than Jose Canseco in the playoffs, to no avail. My back is as twingy as it was before I saw him and I'm coughing as I type this.
He told me that I had wax in my ear, which was probably serving to trap the water. He set me up with his Ear, Nose and Throat colleague, who I saw yesterday. The guy jammed his ear-pliers, or whatever the hell they are, into the side of my head and started poking. I really thought he was going to come out the other side. I swear I heard him say "oops" at one point, although I can't be sure because I couldn't hear, what with all the activity in my ear. He pulled out a bunch of wax, some ancient cotton from a q-tip and a fucking ham sandwich I'd lost in '87. When he was done, he said, "That feels better, doesn't it?" Y'know, I gotta say it doesn't. I still feel like the water's in there; my hearing is still impaired on that side. He said it was clear, but I don't know how much I trust him.
Then there's the dentist, who did the fastest cleaning I've ever experienced and told me that my wisdom teeth didn't need to come out. I said, "Okay, but what about the pain that I'm getting from time to time that feels like my wisdom teeth are pressing hard against my other teeth." He said, "I think it's tension." Interesting theory.
See, I don't want to think that the medical community is full of shit. Why, that would make me no better than Tom Cruise. But when I have experiences like these, all I can say is, if it looks like a quack and quacks like a quack...
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Boy Meets Girl
She set her drink down on the bar and reached for the pretzels. I followed the progress of her hand as she reached for the low-fat snack food, noticing that her fingers were lacking anything resembling a wedding ring. "So what is it you're asking?" she said, as she brought a twisted brown bread product to her mouth. As she waited for my answer, she bit off a piece of salt, exalting in its non-sweetness.
I sipped my coconut wine cooler and smiled. "You caught me," I admitted. "Actually, I don't care about woodchucks or how much wood they can chuck. I just thought you looked like the type of girl who enjoys alliteration."
"Some say it's so sexy," she said, alliterating.
My eyes narrowed. I'd played it perfectly. Or had I?
Her look turned serious. "But not me." With that, she spun her bar stool around haughtily, coquettishly slamming her knee into the thigh of an old bald guy who was standing on the other side of her. She fixed the newly-injured Kojak with a look that said, "Yeah, I hurt you. And you're going to shut up about it." Uncle Fester took his beer and slunk off to be rejected by some other woman. I wasn't in that kind of mood, though, so I decided to press my luck.
I waited patiently until she'd finished her pretzel. I figured her for the type of woman who isn't satisfied with just one. My hunch paid off when, a hundred and eighty-seven seconds later, she reached for the Mr. Salties. I was too quick for her. I moved the basket just out of her reach and she was forced to turn around to locate it. We locked eyes.
"Long time, no see," I said, my hand lolling amongst the buttery twists. "Did you want one of these?" The game was on.
"Possibly," she said, crossing her leg. Not that she didn't have two legs, but she really only moved the one. "The question is, do I want one enough to talk to you?"
I looked her directly in the eyes, although not both at the same time, because I can't focus quite like that, so I picked the left one. "If that's the question, what's the answer?" I cocked my head, like Benji.
"Actually, 'what' is an interrogative." Grammatically, she had me.
"I'll tell you what," I said breathfully, "I'll make a bet with you."
"You're a gambler?" she asked, scraping some spinach from her tooth.
"Not in the Kenny Rogers sense," I replied. "Here's my proposition: If I can fit all of these pretzels in my mouth, you and I have a date tomorrow night. Maybe miniature golf, maybe a crochet class, I'm flexible."
"But are you bendy?" She flung the spinach to the floor and looked me directly in the eyes, although not both at the same time, because she couldn't focus like that, so she picked the right one. "You've got a deal."
I called to the bartender, an old Navajo whose life I'd saved years before in a shrimping accident. I told him to bring me a rolling pin and a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, which he produced from below the counter. I emptied the basket of pretzels into the Ziploc, then pressed the yellow strip and the blue strip together until they made green. With the bag thus sealed, I took the rolling pin and pounded on the pretzels, breaking them first into small, salty pieces, then reducing them to a fine powder. When there was no trace of the interesting shapes that had once filled the bag, I opened it and dumped the contents neatly into my mouth.
She brought her hands up in that slow applause that sometimes denotes sarcasm, but in this case meant acquiescence.
As my throat was now filled with a mound of salty powder that rendered me unable to speak, I emptied the rest of my drink into my mouth. This did little to solve my immediate problem and, in fact, turned the powder to a thick, strangling paste. I leaned over the bar and stuck my head under a tap, mainlining half a gallon of Coors Light, which, being very near water, rinsed things out nicely. She was still clapping when I finished.
I took a bow. "Game, set and match, baby. I don't have a car, so pick me up tomorrow at five-thirty. I don't like to wait. "
"I don't like spiders," she riposted. "It's a date."
She picked me up the next night and we went to see Susan Sarandon and an all-star cast in The Client, taking time before the show to chat with a guy with a big soft spot in his head. Eight years later, we were married. Three years after that, we celebrated our third/eleventh anniversary.
Happy Anniversary, baby.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Aries: A trip to the dentist will reveal that you've got a tiny little demon living in you mouth who likes to drink schnapps and sounds exactly like Oprah Winfrey. It's possible that your dentist is on acid.
Taurus: As a conservative who doesn't believe America needs to do anything about global warming, you spend this week marveling at how much faster it is to get a tan these days.
Gemini: You don't need to feel like a freak. Everybody picks their nose. Just don't put it in your hair after.
Cancer: You find more and more people staring at your breasts today. That's because you left the house without a shirt. Again.
Leo: Elton John's Don't Go Breaking My Heart is running through your mind incessantly today. Sadly, the only way you're ever going to get it out of your head is to hunt Elton down and beat him with his own rhinestone-studded underwear.
Virgo: Be careful today, as there is a good chance that you'll step in something disgusting on the street, then have to spend an hour and a half digging it out of the treads of your shoe and scraping it on the sidewalk with a twig.
Libra: An overheard conversation in which someone compliments your looks will lead to a horrifically embarrassing episode in which you put your tongue in the mouth of someone who really doesn't want it there. It's all very Three's Company.
Scorpio: Yes, summer barbecuing is fun, but ice cream does not benefit from a "couple minutes on the grill".
Sagittarius: The outfit you've picked out for your blind date this evening is mostly really good. You might want to get an objective opinion on the moon boots.
Capricorn: Special to Capricorn Karl Rove: Karmically, you are so very, very fucked.
Aquarius: Your current drive to gain financial wisdom will probably lead you to rethink your frequent use of prostitutes.
Pisces: You need to stop viewing the high score you achieved on Tapper in 1984 as the apex of your life's achievement.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Bush's Brain Damage
It's now becoming increasingly clear that Karl Rove, President Bush's closest advisor, is responsible for leaking the identity of a CIA agent to the press. The Bush Administration has said, over the course of the investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame as an undercover agent, that the person responsible for this leak would be fired. The administration has been notoriously opposed to leaks from its first days in office. And yet, press secretary Scott McClellan refused to say yesterday whether the president intended to take any disciplinary action if Rove is, in fact, proved to be the source of the leak.
A Hairshirt investigative report has now uncovered still more leaks for which Karl Rove is responsible, including the following:
Monday, July 11, 2005
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Al-Qaeda?
After the horror of last week's bombings in London, American officials are doing a lot of thinking--or at least a lot of blabbering on news shows--about how to prevent that sort of thing here. In New York, the answer is apparently to position over-worked cops on trains. Elsewhere around the country, people have other ideas. On Meet the Press yesterday, Tim Russert made reference to a poll in which something like 69% of respondents said they'd favor putting metal detectors on mass transit.
These are both awful ideas. First off, what the hell good is it going to do to have cops working extra shifts on subway trains? It's not like they're bomb-proof. The Bush administration's got everyone so paranoid that Americans are hyper-vigilant to every stray backpack and misplaced alarm clock as is. No cop's going to be any better at spotting suspicious packages. As for the metal detectors, I think that's one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. You know how often I miss a train because I'm stuck on the stairs behind some dawdling nincompoop? You add in a Laguardia-esque frisking and I'm never going to get anywhere. Fuck that.
You want to know how we should combat terrorism on our mass transit systems?
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Question of the Day
I've been up since 4:30 this morning and my brain hasn't quite kicked in yet. I don't seem capable of a lot of coherent thinking. I'm just reacting to things; slowly reacting.
There is, for instance, some joy creeping up in me since I found out that the Indians finally took a game from the Yankees last night, after dropping the first two games. I hate to see Cleveland lose, but there's just something exceptionally depressing when they get beaten by New York.
My thinking isn't being helped any by a lower back that has started inexplicably hurting. Most of the time, when I have back issues, there's an awareness; a moment when I know it's happening. For example, I'll be picking up a hundred-pound bag of dried garbanzos and suddenly realize that I didn't bend properly and there'll be a sort of snapping sound and I think, "Say, I think I'm about to experience massive pain." This thought is generally followed by massive pain. This time, though, it snuck up on me. So I'm being distracted by that.
I'm also trying to write while listening to Weekend Edition. Normally I write while playing my favorite Debbie Gibson album, so this news thing is distracting. I don't, however, want to miss The Puzzler, so I'll have to put up with it.
Another thing that's freakin' me a little--and keeping my mind from being as razor sharp (or at least butter-knife sharp) as it normally is--is the dream I had last night that I was in the kitchen at McDonald's. I wasn't working there in this dream. I was there for one of those undefined dream reasons, like I was writing a story on it or God told me I had to be there. The kids who worked at McDonald's (the "Crew Kids") were teasing me about something. I was, at least, wearing pants in the dream. A pantsless dream set in a McDonald's kitchen would just raise way too many issues about my subconscious mind. In the dream, McDonald's was test-marketing a Thai Burger. That's a scary thought, no?
Anyway, I write all this as an explanation for why I'm not writing much today. Instead of attempting to examine an issue or weave a story of some sort, I thought I'd take today to simply pose a question. You don't have to answer; just let it play in your mind. I'm not looking to start a dialogue, but to spark thought. So here it is:
If the technology existed during his life-time, what would Christ have Tivo'd?
Saturday, July 09, 2005
A Short Story Written By Looking Around the Room
George W. Bush was melancholy. Even his favorite beaded necklace wasn't picking up his spirits. He'd started reading the book Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella, but just couldn't get into it. He put it back on top of the television and grabbed his cat toy. He didn't have a cat, he just liked shaking the cat toy around. He briefly considered huffing some Windex, then abandoned the idea as unworthy of the leader of the free world.
He wished he could be more like Spider-Man or The Flash, who always seemed on top of things. Even in rest, they seemed ready for action. But he, George, was not a superhero. For one thing, he looked awful in spandex. Not that he was fat or anything, it just made his ass look huge.
He wished he could hang out with his friends Jesus and Sumo, but they were in New York, visiting the Statue of Liberty.
Maybe a concert would take his mind off of things. He could have somebody come to the White House and play just for him. A command performance. What good was being president if you didn't order people around every once in awhile? Who should he command? The Beta Band? Nah, they broke up. Edith Piaf, Miles Davis, Mozart, Tommy Dorsey and Johnny Cash were all dead. Perhaps The Who, Fountains of Wayne or the Shins? He'd invite U2 to play, but he didn't like that Bono. The Beastie Boys leaned pretty far left, too. And Outkast just scared him. Too much to think about. To hell with music.
There was laundry to be done. Hey! That'd make a nice surprise for Laura. If she came home and he'd washed all of her clothes? Pretty darn nice president, huh? Except that he'd never washed any clothes before. He'd always had a maid to do that. He didn't know what all those knobs on the washer were for. It kind of scared him.
He had a lot of shoes. Maybe he could spend the afternoon pretending he was a shoe model. He could walk back and forth in the Oval Office, dazzling everyone with his shoes. But that wouldn't be fun unless he had an actual audience. So he called a cabinet meeting. And everyone was impressed with his shoes.
Friday, July 08, 2005
I'm so damned excited! Today, one of my all-time favorite comic books comes to the big screen after a long, long wait. I speak, of course, about...
The Fanatic Four!
Four normal, politically moderate adventurers journey into space, where they encounter strange cosmic rays which change them into super-powered idealogues.
Sue Storm is
The Invincible Womyn
Happy, buxom Sue becomes the embodiment of humorless feminism. Capable of finding offense when absolutely none is intended! Blessed with the ability to gripe endlessly about patriarchal oppression even when she looks down on minorities. Look out, world, 'cause she's perpetually crabby!
Johnny Storm is
The Human Burning Cross
Young, idealistic Johnny is transformed into a racist asshole. Upon shouting "Blame on!" Johnny becomes a being of pure hot rage, directed at anybody who isn't the exact same ethnicity as himself, making them responsible, in his mind, for depriving him of all sorts of opportunities which he's actually too stupid to achieve.
Reed Richards is
Incredibly intelligent Reed's DNA is altered, causing him to become a neo-con defender of the Bush administration's policies. He can stretch logic almost infinitely thin to "prove" a point. Mr. Fanatic uses his incredible intellect and rubbery ethics to invent spectacular new excuses for an out-of-control president.
Ben Grimm is
Jovial jock Ben is transformed into a health-obsessed jagoff who can overpower everyone around him with his relentless screeds on proper nutrition. Exercising 23 hours a day and receiving wheat-germ enemas twice weekly, Ben becomes the healthiest man on the planet, and the least tolerable to be around.
Together, this pack of overbearing blowhards are out to prove that everybody on the planet is wrong except them. They are...
The Fanatic Four!
Thursday, July 07, 2005
What a Bunch of Dicks
What the hell is wrong with these guys?
I don't get terrorism. I just don't. You create terror. Wow. Well done. I mean, do these people seriously hope to accomplish something with this? Other than pissing off a bunch of countries with guns? It's not as if they're going to blow something up, killing dozens of people, and suddenly the British government is going to say, "Hey! Y'know, you might be right about our policies. We'll just pull our troops from Iraq and break off our alliance with the U.S."
Terrorism isn't going to accomplish your goals, it's simply going to make you look like a bunch of crazy assholes that nobody wants to listen to. Thirty-seven people (that's the latest count I've seen) dead--and more injured--because they dared to commit the heretical sin of going to work.
Maybe our response isn't appropriate. Bush spoke and talked about how these guys are cowardly and we're not intimidated and we'll hunt them down and blah blah blah. Perhaps we should, instead of trying to scare them or insult their machismo, maybe we should just say, "Man, you guys are dicks." If someone threatened me or called me a coward, I'd probably just want to hurt them. But if someone called me a dick, I might stop and think, "Say, am I being a dick?"
So I'm making a stand against terrorism right here. Listen up, terrorists: I'm not going to hunt you down. I'm not going to destroy you. God knows America hasn't been able to do it so far, so my mouth isn't going to make any promises my fists can't back up. Your tactics don't make me want to understand you better; nor do they make me want to get to the bottom of why you feel the way you do about us. Just know that you are a bunch of dicks. You're doing shitty, shitty things and nobody likes you, except for maybe some really crazy motherfuckers who whip themselves and jerk off while looking at your picture. You suck.
I'm thinking that ought to take care of that.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Aries: Your world spins apart
No New York Olympic games
Damn you, Tony Blair!
Taurus: It's almost that time
San Diego Comicon
God damn, you're a geek
Gemini: Gentle summer breeze
Blows through your thick lustrous hair
In your dreams, baldy
Cancer: Your porn collection
Is now at your son's friend's house
Not real well hidden
Leo: You are the king here
Ruler of all you survey
In your mom's basement
Hallmark of your glory days
There's always sumo
Libra: Finding a doctor
Who's accepting new patients
Huge pain in the ass
Scorpio: That blonde might like you
She might want to jump your bones
But probably not
Sagittarius: Kindness drips from you
Like honey from a beehive
But not as sticky
Capricorn: No, you cannot fly
You're just incredibly high
You hippie dipshit
Aquarius: That clam you just ate?
So salty, rich, delicious?
Yeah, that was tainted
Pisces: Your great summer tan
Will deepen as years go by
To wrinkly leather
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
The Rubber Baby Bottle Nipple
I don’t trust doctors. There are a good half-dozen reasons why this is the case, ranging from the dermatologist who prescribed Accutane for my relatively mild acne and then never did any of the blood tests that are meant to accompany the prescription to the podiatrist who treated my ingrown toenail by killing off a quarter of the nail on my big toe, leaving me with a permanently misshapen Franken-foot.
The greatest reason I don’t go to doctors, though, is simply my belief that I don’t really need them. This all stems from an incident from my junior year of high school.
It was Halloween and I wanted to do something really memorable for my costume. My dad had a couple of old uniforms from his days in the Air Force and I thought Battle-Scarred Soldier sounded like a cool costume. I grabbed a book on stage make-up and found a way to make some scars on my face. I bloodied myself up. And for the piece de resistance, the book had a way to simulate a broken nose.
Basically, you take the rubber nipple from a baby bottle. You cut it off, then you cut the tip off of it, leaving you with a short rubber tube. You put this little tube up your nose, which displaces the nostril, making it look like your nose is broken, but allowing you to breathe freely. I tried it out and found it to be a smashing success. I looked like I’d had the crap beaten out of me.
I went to school. I got some good reactions. I was pleased. Third period, I was in the computer lab and my nose was starting to get uncomfortable. I’d already shown my cool costume off and figured that I could go ahead and disassemble it. I stuck my finger up my nose to pull out the rubber baby bottle nipple, but it was a little hard to get ahold of because it had been up my nose for a few hours and had gotten a touch snotty.
So I’m digging for it. I’m digging for it. I almost have it out. And then all of a sudden, I can’t feel it anymore. I think, “Hmm. Must have fallen out.” I look around on the floor, but I don’t see it. I get down on my hands and knees and look below the computer tables, but it’s not around. Being something of an optimist at the time, I figured that it must have tumbled away. It was, after all, very bouncy. I went on with my business.
As the months went by, I began to notice a very unpleasant odor. It followed me wherever I went. No one else ever seemed to smell it. Also, one of my nostrils had developed a tendency to run. A lot. I put two and two together and came to the conclusion that I had a rubber baby bottle nipple lodged in my sinus.
I went to a doctor. She couldn’t find anything. She shined a flashlight up my nose and stuck this pair of ribspreaders up there, all to no avail. She told me that she couldn’t do anything for it, but suggested that I go to the hospital for x-rays. Images of a surgeon cutting my face open floated in my head. I weighed that against a slightly runny nostril and a moderately unpleasant odor. I decided to skip the hospital.
Months later, spring of my senior year, I caught a cold. A nasty, raw-throat, scorched-lungs, nose-packed-with-concrete kind of cold. I had a research paper due, so I couldn’t just lie in bed and convalesce. I sat at my desk with a bag of Hall’s Mentholyptus and my notes spread out in front of me. I grabbed a can of Coke from the fridge to keep myself hydrated and I made a cup of strong, hot lemon tea to sooth my throat.
This was in the days before everybody and their toddler had their own pc, so I was using my trusty old Smith-Corona electric to type this puppy up. I’d finished probably three-quarters of my paper. I paused to take a gulp of tea. I started to swallow and the first bit of it went down the wrong pipe.
If you’ve never had hot lemon tea go down the wrong pipe, I should explain that it causes an immediate and violent reaction. I started to cough. I still had a mouthful of tea, so to allow myself to really cough would mean that the liquid would spew out, all over the research paper that I’d spent weeks completing.
Not willing to make that sacrifice, I kept my mouth shut and tried to ride it out. So my lungs are erupting wildly, trying to expel the liquid that had gotten into my trachea. My lips are clamped shut, holding back the flood of tea that might ruin my work. My cold-weakened body is shaking with the effort of it all. The pressure is building in my head. Something has to give. All of a sudden I feel something shift and something flies out of my nose. The pressure is relieved. The coughing fit subsides.
I got my breath back and recovered my senses. I looked around my desk to make sure that my research paper was unharmed. Then I saw it. There, perched atop my can of Coke, covered in a greenish slime and somewhat greyed with age, sat the rubber baby bottle nipple that I had put up my nose approximately a year and a half earlier.
I needed no x-rays. I required no surgery. My body had healed itself. With the help of a cup of tea.
Friday, July 01, 2005
I'd been hopeful, over the last four-plus years--rather in the manner of a Jenga player--that the Supreme Court, delicately balanced--much like a tower of Jenga logs--would be able to maintain its tenuous position until Bush was out of the White House. This was, I suppose, a little absurdly hopeful, when you think of it. I mean, they're mostly old as hell and a lot of them have cancer or gout or artificial hips or what have you, so it was really just a matter of time. Still, I wanted to think it was a matter of enough time. Nope.
What the hell is wrong with O'Connor, anyway? She has to know that Freedom of Choice is going to be up on the chopping block, and she's always been on the right side of that issue. Couldn't she hold off for a bit? It's not like it's that fucking tough of a job. If she was loading and unloading cinder blocks at her age, maybe I'd say she should pack it in. But she's sitting on her ass behind a bench all day. They only work for, what, a few months out of the year. She couldn't continue to sit on her ass part-time for the rest of Bush's term?
So now the question comes up, who's that retard gonna pick? There's already names being floated, including Samuel Alito, a guy who's been sitting on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals since Bush's dad put him there. That can't be good. Also being talked about is Emilio Garza, who Reagan put on the District Court of Western Texas in his second term. These guys are worrisome, as is pretty much anybody that Bush might want on the court. That's why I'm thinking we need to start doing this differently.
I say from here on out the American people need to have a greater say in who gets to sit on the highest court in the land. So I'm thinking what we need to do is, instead of having Bush pick whoever the hell he wants, Americans should get to give him a list of people who we would find acceptable and he's got to choose someone from that list. Sound good? I think so, too.
Here's my list:
Charo. She seemed so wise on all of those Love Boat appearances. She would maintain the gender balance, as well as being the first Latina ever to sit on the court. Plus, how could anyone argue with a majority opinion that ends in "Coochie-coochie!"?
Judge Joe Brown. That man does not put up with any shit in his courtroom.
Tom Cruise. Apparently, Tom is all-knowing. We need someone like that on the bench; someone who knows everything about every subject and isn't afraid to call you on your mental shortcomings. Also, he'd be the first justice that America has seen in tighty-whities.
Clone of Thurgood Marshall. Let's face it, justices haven't been getting any better over the last few decades. Why not bring back one that we know works?
Satan. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Wouldn't God be a better choice?" I don't think so. With God, you've got all the "separation of church and state" issues. You run into less of that with the Prince of Darkness, and you have the same amount of moral certainty. Whatever side Satan comes down on, you just have everybody else vote opposite. This might be the clearest-thinking court we've ever had.
Bill Clinton. Since he can't be president again, why not? He's popular. And it'd be really funny to watch him try to get into Ruth Bader Ginsburg's robe.
Osama Bin Laden. Now, just hear me out: We nominate him and get him confirmed, then he's got to show up for work, right? But when he does, we take him into custody. He would be so pissed.
Bunson Honeydew. He's the smartest of the Muppets.
George W. Bush. A risky plan, I admit, but it would get him the fuck out of the White House.
I think one of these people should be acceptable to the American people. Here's hoping the government has the wisdom to see how perfect my new way of doing things is.